Those of you who follow my blog know that my primary ham radio passion is operating above 50 MHz. But I also enjoy getting on the HF bands for POTA and chasing DX. I’ve also done a few holiday-style DXpeditions: V29RW and ZF2NR. Compared to my friends that are serious about DXing, I consider myself a Slacker DXer.
The Sun Is Your Friend
You are probably aware that we are approaching the peak of the 11-year solar cycle, which means that the propagation on the higher HF bands is great. When I do operate HF, I really enjoy having 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m and 10m open worldwide. Back in December, I noted that the ARRL 10m contest was happening and I decided to give that a try. Because we have been doing some renovation at our place in the mountains, I had pulled down my HF antennas (all wires in trees). No problem, I just strung up a J-pole antenna I have for 10 meters. I got on the air during the contest using SSB and had a great time working DX all over the world. This gave me the bug of trying to accumulate a few more countries/entities for DXCC. At the time, I had 140 entities confirmed in Logbook of The World (LoTW). I also set up FT8 and FT4 and worked quite a few stations on digital.
Later, I started to think about the other high HF bands (20m and up), so I took down the 10m J-pole and put up a random-wire end-fed antenna. See my previous post to learn more about it.
The wire length on this antenna was 36 feet, so it is nearly vertical when strung from our tall pine trees. I was pleased to find that the antenna worked well on 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m and 10m. It was at this time that I realized I had hardly used 12 meters, so it was fun to try out a new band. I was working a lot of stateside stations and DX at this point on these 5 bands. One day, I was pondering the 30m band, which I had always thought of as a CW-only band. Actually, it is a CW and digital band, so FT8 is commonly used. (I sometimes operate CW but it is not a focus for me.) So I checked out my antenna on 30m and the IC-7610 tuned up just fine. In fact, I tried using 40m with the same antenna, and it also works on that band. So now I have a basic wire antenna that works well on 40m and up. Very nice.
Worked All Zones (WAZ)
I have often found that having a particular operating goal, usually some kind of award or certificate, can help motivate and guide my radio activity. Driving up the DXCC count is always good but I am also intrigued by the CQ Worked All Zones award.. The 40 CQ zones are distributed worldwide, providing a more consistent way of measuring how well you have worked the world. (In contrast, DXCC is strongly influenced by the history of world and how the various governments are organized.) LoTW supports WAZ so a check of my LoTW log revealed that I had 30 zones confirmed. So my operating objective became adding new DXCC countries and WAZ zones, on any band.
In the past few months, my DXCC count has increased to 158, as confirmed in LoTW. Being a Slacker DXer, I don’t spend the time chasing down QSL cards. It is either confirmed via LoTW or nothing. For WAZ, I have 38 zones confirmed, still looking for Zone 22 (Southern Asia) and Zone 34 (Northeast Africa). For me, it is important to “stay in the hunt” but not get overly obsessed with working a particular country. If you aren’t having fun, you are doing it wrong.
I emphasize to newer hams that I am doing this with the classic 100 watts and a wire station. Working DX does not require a huge tower and amplifiers. Using FT8 really helps but CW and SSB are also viable modes. Take your pick. Now is the time to get on HF and enjoy the excellent propagation.
Work any DX lately?
73 Bob K0NR
Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) is a unique organization in the world of amateur radio. ARDC is organized as a foundation with two main roles: management of 44Net and a grants program. The foundation has assets a bit over $100M and funds grants roughly at the $5M level each year. (These are very rough numbers. For the specifics, take a look at the audited financial statements.)
I started out serving on the Grants Advisory Committee and told my ARDC story here:
I am honored to be asked to join the ARDC Board of Directors and I look forward to serving in that volunteer role. See the ARDC announcement here:
I am new to the Board but have worked with them as a member of the Grants Advisory Committee. I can tell you that they are a great bunch of people, all motivated to do the best for amateur radio and digital communications. ARDC also has a small paid staff that makes things happen on a daily basis, all great folks to work with.
If you have feedback or suggestions for ARDC, my door (and inbox [email protected]) is always open. If you want to apply for a grant, working directly with the ARDC staff is best. The grant process is described well here.
73 Bob K0NR
My ham radio pursuits have tended towards the VHF/UHF bands and the 6-meter band (50 MHz) has always been interesting to me. I like to think of 6 meters as a VHF band with some strong HF tendencies. Most of the time, propagation is local, certainly beyond line-of-sight, but also not long distance. When sporadic-e and F2 propagation show up, 6m tries its best to act like an HF band, skipping the signal off the ionosphere.
We call it the magic band because magical propagation occurs just when we least expect it. A more accurate name might be the fickle band because 6 meters provides short periods of random excitement followed by long periods of severe quiet. And that is why we like it so much.
Jim Wilson K5ND recently completed the third edition of the book Magic Band Revealed. Of course, I had to read it and I surely did enjoy this book. Jim hits all of the different operating and propagation modes that hams use on 50 MHz: sporadic-e, F2, TEP, meteor scatter, ionoscatter, etc. The WSJT-X modes have had a huge impact on what’s possible on the band, so Jim provides a good overview of the various options (FT8, FT4, MSK144, Q65). Jim also provides some helpful information on VHF contests and operating as a rover.
The best attribute of the book is that it is primarily written as a first-person account of K5ND’s operating experiences. Reading the book is just like having a friend tell you about what they’ve experienced on the band, along with some great operating tips. Great work, Jim!
The book is available as a free PDF download from Jim’s website or in print version via Amazon.
Go to https://k5nd.net/2023/11/magic-band-revealed/
73 Bob K0NR
When radio amateurs get ready to put an HF station on the air, they often have questions about what antenna to use. The good news is that there are many options to choose from. The bad news is that there are too many options to choose from. It can be overwhelming. This post describes an antenna I just installed that is easy to put up and works well.
Having 30-foot tall pine trees on our property, my usual approach for HF antennas is “wires in the trees.” I have several ropes strung up over these tall trees so that I can raise and lower wire antennas as needed. These ropes were installed using a slingshot to launch a fishing line over the top of the tree, and then pull up a lightweight rope.
End Fed Long Wire
The antenna is the EFLW-1K from MyAntennas.com, which is an End Fed Long Wire Antenna. (This should not be confused with an End Fed Half Wave antenna.) This antenna is intentionally cut to not be a resonant length on any of the bands. The 9:1 UNUN transforms the high impedance at the end of the wire down to something closer to 50 ohms. The match is not perfect so an antenna tuner is required to cover all of the bands. MyAntennas offers this antenna with different lengths of wire, with longer wires required to support the lower HF bands. I purchased the 53-foot version but decided to shorten the wire. My interest is working 20 meters and higher and I wanted the antenna to be mostly vertical, so I shortened the wire to about 30 feet. The MyAntennas products are good but any 9:1 UNUN on the end of a wire will work.
An endfed antenna like this needs some kind of counterpoise to balance out the antenna operation. Many people have written about this and there are many different approaches. The MyAntenna UNUN has a connector intended to support adding a short length of counterpoise wire. A decent length of coaxial cable lying on the ground can function as this counterpoise and that’s what I decided to use. I have a 50-foot length of LMR 400 connected to this antenna, lying on the ground.
I also added an inline isolation transformer to minimize the common mode currents getting back to the transceiver. I don’t know that this is required but I had one available so I used it. The antenna has 50 feet of LMR coax to the inline transformer and then another 25 feet of RG-8X to the transceiver. The internal antenna tuner in my Icom IC-7610 handles this antenna quite well, tuning up on 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m and 10m. This means I can instantly switch between the bands and be ready to go.
I’ve been running SSB, FT8 and FT4 on this antenna, working many stations in all regions: Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa, North and South America. Conditions are great and I keep telling newer folks: now is the time to be on HF! This basic antenna is a great way to get on the air and work some DX.
73 Bob K0NR
The Technician license is your gateway to the worldwide excitement of Amateur Radio, and the very best emergency communications capability available! This is the entry-level class for people who do not currently have an amateur (ham) radio license.
The Tri-Lakes Monument Radio Association (Monument, CO) is introducing a new approach to teaching the Technician Level ham radio license class. We have completely overhauled the delivery format of our Tech Class to make good use of both in-person and online training methods. The biggest change is that most of the core material will be delivered to the student via bite-sized online videos, ebook sections, and additional content from Ham Radio School. This dramatically increases the flexibility on how and when the student views this material, eliminating long, all-day classroom sessions. We will have three live Zoom sessions along the way to review the material and answer any questions you might have.
We understand that in-person training is extremely valuable for certain types of activities. Accordingly, we will have an in-person kickoff session (Feb 17) for the instructors to meet the students and show them how ham radio equipment is used. The licensing exam session (Mar 9) is another in-person event. Finally, after you receive your new license, we will have an in-person Get On The Air event (Mar 16) where you will make your first radio contact. To help guide you through this process, an experienced radio ham will connect with you, monitor your progress, and help you through the class.
The cost of the class is $50 ($40 for anyone under 18 years old), which includes everything you need for the class. A non-expiring subscription to the Ham Radio School Technician resources is included. We used to require you to have a printed copy of the Ham Radio School Technician book, but that same material will be delivered to you online as an ebook. Proceeds from this class go to support the Tri-Lakes Monument Radio Association, a non-profit organization.
You still need to pay a $35 license fee directly to the FCC after passing the license exam.
More details are in the attached flyer.
To register, go here:
You can probably tell I am excited about the new format for this class. It will make it easier on the instructors to deliver the material AND easier for the students to learn it. If you have questions, let me know!
Closing out 2023, here are the top five blog posts at k0nr.com during the year. Some people may see this as a lazy way of creating one more blog post for the year without much effort and they would be right. These posts are the top five viewed during the year but may have been written earlier than that.
Top Five Blog Posts
Leading the list is this blog post…a perennial favorite that seems to make the top five each year. This particular article is tuned for Colorado but also provides a link to an article covering the topic for the USA.
Moving up to second place, this post explains how the FCC rules get in the way of having one radio that does everything.
In third place, this is another popular article that provides an introduction to 2m SSB operating.
This article that announced the North America Adventure Frequency continues to get much attention.
This article talks about the many things you can do on the 2-meter ham band, beyond just FM.
Just for good measure, I am including one more post that I think is notable.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
73 Bob K0NR
While investigating some potential Summits On The Air (SOTA) peaks, someone sent me a link for the FAA weather cam that was on a particular peak. I was able to get a real-time look at the snow on the summit and see the terrain. Of course, the world is full of many different webcams providing real-time video but somehow I had overlooked the FAA webcams. (I am sure some of the pilots out there are thinking “duh, everyone knows about these.”) This caused me to spend some time looking at the various FAA webcams available.
There is a weather cam at the radio site on South Monarch Ridge (W0C/SP-058), a popular SOTA summit. It is labeled Monarch Pass, which is located below the summit. The orientation of the four cameras is indicated on the map. Besides being on a SOTA summit, this camera is in a great spot to see Monarch Ski Area, the south end of the Sawatch Mountain Range, and the north part of the Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range.
Here’s the camera view looking northwest from South Monarch Ridge. You can see towers and cables for the tram that goes up to the summit during the summer months. The Continental Divide and the Monarch Pass Ski Area are in the center of this image.
Another popular SOTA summit, Badger Mountain (W0C/SP-072), has a weather cam on it, labeled for Wilkerson Pass, just below the mountain. Shown below, the SW camera from Wilkerson looks out over South Park with the Sawatch Range off in the distance.
There are many more weather cams around the state and across the USA. They provide a real-time look at what is happening in the mountains which is complementary to a good weather forecast. Take a look to see what cameras are in your area that can be helpful.
73 Bob K0NR