Saturday, July 26, 2014

WQ6X joins team W6SW for 19th Field Day on Mt. Abel

It was the best of time, it was the worst of times - for me, that is how I would categorize Field Day 2014 with the San Andreas Fault-line Survivors (W6SW). This year's Field Day on Mt. Abel brought together a number of interesting people in a number of interesting ways.
Field Day 2014 marked the 19th year that W6SW has set up on Mt. Abel in S/W Kern County - San Joaquin Valley (SJV) ARRL section.  Since last years Field Day the "back way" to the mountain from highway 101/166 had been renamed to Hudson Ranch Road and the sign indicating the turnoff to Mt. Abel has disappeared.

As a result, I drove past the turnoff, ending up in Maricopa.  Thanks to 2-meter radio contact I was able to figure things out, arriving at Campo Alto just before sundown.  At the final turn for the 7.5 mile ride up the mountain, the road name was back to what I had expected.  The winds on Abel were so horrific I could not pitch a tent, even with assistance.  So I opened up the 2-minute setup operator tent for the 1st night there.

A number of last minute operator cancellations relegated our operation to a "3A" battery powered event.  Because the Pine Mountain Radio Club (N6P ) claimed our usual setup locations we ended up operating in a 4 station cluster near the mid-south area of Campo Alto.

Station #1 (manned by W6KC) operated from a campsite I have used for many Field Day and All Asian contest operations in the past.  Station #2 (manned by W6SW himself) setup in the area where I operated Field Day and All Asian last year.  Fortunately, the bear who visited my site last year did not return to that area.  I manned Station #3 across the road from Station #1, and the GOTA station was setup across the road from Station #2.  The stations were in close enough proximity that we were able to link Stations 1, 2 & 3 via an ad HOC wireless LAN network, allowing us via N1MM to keep tabs on each others progress, which is always good for morale.

Unfortunately, during radio testing on Friday, an inadvertent reverse battery hookup to the ICOM 7000 resulted in an unfortunate smoke test, sidelining the radio and requiring a spare Kenwood TS-450 radio to be brought to the mountain at the last minute after lunch on Saturday afternoon.
While waiting for the replacement radio, I spent about 90 minutes at station #2 on 20-meter SSB, eventually running a frequency (which was video-captured and posted on YouTube).  Afterwards, Randy (W6SW) took over station #2 and operated 20-meters like a maestro.
Antenna-wise, we put up a pair of wire beams for 20-meters (one for Station #3 on CW and one for Station  #2 on SSB) and of course a wire beam for 15 meters, each about 60' up into the trees.  Amazingly there was virtually no interaction between stations 2 & 3 on 20-meters.   For non 20-meter work, I ran my usual ground mounted HF2-V vertical and 8JK Cobra Sloper.  Because of the intense winds I double-guyed the HF2-V - it never moved from its location. The other stations used a variety of dipoles for the lower bands.

Due to our limited number of operators, almost everyone operated past midnight.  I managed to keep Station #3 going until 3am when I finally called it and got 3 hours sleep.  By 6am, thanks to some strong Kona coffee I was back in the operator chair until the event ended at 11am PDT.  However, during the last hour I made the rounds between our stations and the N6P setup to snap Necktie QSO party photos for their Facebook page.

This year we accumulated a number of bonus points.  Saturday morning with the aid of a tape recorder I copied the annual Field Day message (worth 100 points).  Later in the day, Dennis (KJ6UVQ) managed to pass an official QTC message for another 100 points.  Saturday evening (about 03:30z) we received a visit from the  ARRL Southwest Division vice-director N6VI.  My picture with Marty gave us another 100 point "PR" bonus.  The 300 bonus points is the equivalent of 150 Cw or 300 Ssb QSOs.

In the end, according to the 3830 Scores website it would seem that we have taken 4th place for the "3A" category and possibly 1st place for the SJV section - not bad for an operation that was "different" from the start.  Additional pictures of our operation can be found on my Facebook page.

Did you participate in 2014 Field Day?  How did it go?

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