SOTA Activation Report: Bare Mountain, Amherst MA (W1/CR-014)

The KX3 isn’t getting much use as I would like. So far I only used it one other time this year while camping in Vermont. I need to get out more so I took advantage of mild day and decided to go out and activate a local mountain. I decided on Bare Mountain located on the Amherst, South Hadley and Granby border here in Western Mass.


Mt Holyoke Range State park had two SOTA summits on the property. I’ve chosen Bare over Mt. Norwottuck because it’s a faster hike even though it’s more rocky. It allowed me to get up the mountain with time to spare to setup the antennas

Bare mountain is approx 1018ft (309m) height in elevation

The Hike

Since I haven’t done any hiking in a long time, the hike up was not great. I was huffing and puffing. The last time I did Bare Mountain, it was covered with snow and ice. I can tell I am out of shape because I felt I hiked up much faster in the wintertime even with the trying to navigate through ice. I really need to get out. I managed to make the


View of the CT river from my operating position.


APRS Track of my activation. I used the Internet Gateway along with my phone to let people know I am at least moving around.

Getting on the air.

Soon as stopped huffing and puffing, I was up and running within a few minutes. I currently use an Elecraft KX3 with the internal Antenna Match, internal batteries and for the antenna I use a G5RV jr supported by a 31ft fiberglass pole. The antenna is setup in an invert V configurations. I secured the ends of the antennas to near-by trees using bungee cords.  The mast was also secured to a smaller tree with elastic cord as well. It allows for a quick setup and everything breaks down to fit into my pack with the exception of the mast that I use as a walking stick.


Once the stations was setup, I found what I thought was a clear frequency and posted it up on SOTAwatch. Sure enough, soon as I sent the spot, someone came on frequency. My QRP signal was not going to compete with a DX station constantly going “Ooooola, OOooooooola”. After a couple more frequencies, I found a nice spot and went on the air.

Here is a video I made of my SOTA experiance.

Contacts Made

Time Freq Callsign Sent Rcvd Notes
23:48 14.307 K4MF 59 56 FL
23:49 14.307 KC5CW 59 57.TX
23:50 14.307 NG6R 59 43 CA
23:50 14.307 K1MAZ 59 59 MA
23:50 14.307 KK1W 59 59 MA
23:51 14.307 KK4ASA 59 59 MA
23:52 14.307 K5IIK 59 59 AR
23:52 14.307 K5IIK 59 59 AR
23:55 7.198 KF7MQZ 59 59 NY
23:57 7.198 K2JB 59 59 NC
23:57 7.198 WW1X 59 57 GA

Since it’s 0:00z, it’s considered a new day so people get to work me again for an additonal point. However I won’t get credit for it since technically I already activated it the day before even though it was only a couple of minutes.

Time Freq Callsign Sent Rcvd Notes
00:01 7.198 KK1W 59 55 MA
00:01 7.198 WW1X 59 57 GA
00:02 7.198 K2JB 57 59 NC
00:02 7.198 K1MAZ 55 55 MA
00:03 14.307 KC5CW 59 44 TX
00:04 14.307 K4MF 59 57 FL
00:04 14.307 NG6R 59 32 CA
00:05 14.307 KG5EIU 57 33 TX
00:10 146.520 N1FTP 59 58 MA
00:11 146.520 N1TA 59 59 MA
00:15 146.520 N1IVT 59 59 MA
00:16 146.520 N1FDC 59 59 MA

Not too bad. This was all using AA’s in the KX3 so the power was around 5W. I started getting battery low alarms towards the end of my activation. I’ve since “blew up” my lipo pack so if I keep doing activations, I will get my hands on a battery pack so I can run up to a whopping 12 watts.

Hike Down


View of Hadley, Amherst and UMASS from the summit

There was twilight on top of the summit made me think I can navigate down the mountain before it gets too dark. I was very wrong due to the thick amount of trees that blocked out any possible light. I was almost pitch black with the exception of the street lights at the base of the mountain. However I knew this was possible and packed flashlights and headlamps that made the hike enjoyable. I also used my cheapie HT to talk to locals on the repeater that made the hike feel much faster.

Overall thoughts

I always to learn from anything I do. I’ve learned that I need to get out more (doi!) but I also see the importance of a “Go Bag”. I often don’t plan my SOTA adventures until the last second. Because of other vacations and other portable operations, all my gear was spread around in different places. I’m going to purchase a dedicated pack just for summits on the air. I’m not going to make the typical whacker go-box. I like to pack minimal so it will be just what I need to get on the air. I don’t need the kitchen sink. Funny thing is that I tend to make more QSO’s with the less gear I bring. However self spotting on SOTAwatch does make things a lot easier. I still want to try a SOTA activation without advertising it. I had an excellent time like usual.

Thanks for reading. Hope you like the youtube video.

– Jeff NT1K

NEQP 2015 Soapbox

This past weekend was the New England QSO party (NEQP). There was also 7th area QSO party, Indiana QSO party, and Delaware QSO party happening during the same weekend. Even though I love contesting, I really don’t do much from my house because it does create a disturbance and I would like to keep that at a minimum. However I do make an effort to participate in CQWW SSB and NEQP. I really like NEQP because I’m the wanted station and a lot of local operators are active on HF. Now that I have a new beam and a new radio, I wanted to really see what I can do with it compared to years past.

QSO Party VS. Contest

Some people put QSO parties into a different category when compared to contests like CQ World Wide. QSO parties are advertised to be more laid back and welcoming to new hams and new contesters. So you will see a lot of different operating habits. You will see more conversation, real signal reports and you will see a mix of seasoned contesters, new contesters, award chasers and even old timers. Large contests like CQWW are about making the contact as fast as possible and as many as possible.

Getting Ready

There wasn’t much I had to do to get ready. I’ve recently installed the DVK/DVR in the K3. It’s a device that can record and play audio clips. This is a great tool in contesting because I can record things like calling CQ and even the exchange and play them over and over. I much prefer using the recorder in the K3 than using wav files over my soundcard. I found that when using .wav files and a soundcard interface, the audio sounds much different from the radio’s microphone. With the DVR/DVK built into the K3, I can control it using the logging software and the audio is pretty much match up.  It helped out quite a bit during the contest as my voice was dropping out.

Let’s Go!

What I like about NEQP is that it starts at 4pm local time. I am not sure if they do it because of the New England Amateur Radio Festival  (NEARfest) or for other reasons but I had plenty of time to get stuff done around the house.  Soon as 4pm rolled around, I was on the air.

(Me During NEQP 2015)

I didn’t spend the entire time on the air. I’m not as serious as other contesters that have an iron butt and won’t move from the chair. I went to the park, fixed some things around the house and did some other things instead of contesting. Even when I was on the air, I wasn’t really serious as some others might be. I was chatting it up with people, giving honest signal reports, trying to help people with audio issues and even ragchewing with other operators. Even though I would like to win my county, it was more about having fun. I’ve received many compliments and tried to give out as many as well. The last 20min of the contest I was in “contest mode” trying to hand out contacts as fast as possible. I have yet tried to participate in a contest from home that involved fast contacts. I’ve only done “Contest Mode” during multi operator events at other stations

Pan adapter usage during contesting

Even though I was mostly calling CQ and not bouncing around looking for contacts, I had the pan adapter running and I felt it made a big difference. I can switch to a band and see that it’s not alive instantly. I could also find “holes” in the band much easier for me to park and call CQ. It made it much more easier and faster to get up and running.

Differences between years past

Having a new antenna and a new radio does make things feel different. The K3 performed well as expected. I think the K3’s DVK/DVR (Digital Voice Recorder) is worth getting even if you have a soundcard interface.  I also purchased the 1.8 Khz filter knowing that I will be doing contesting where the bands could be packed. At first I wasn’t a fan of how the filter sounded until it was suggested by Jim (KK1W) to shift the filter. Adjusting the shift made a world of difference and I was able to enjoy what the 1.8kHz has to offer. The bands weren’t as packed compared to the likes of Field Day or CQ Worldwide but it helped with stations that were QRP or in the noise. I purposely setup shop near other stations calling CQ for NEQP and didn’t get much interference from strong near-by stations. Every once in a while someone would setup shop in my passband. Most times it’s an accident but sometimes they do it on purpose with hopes that I would move. depending on the band, I might move slightly up or down but most times I just stay on the frequency and eventually it will clear up. However it does cost me potential points.

Having a beam also made a huge difference of course. When it was just the G5RV, I had a hard time working West Coast stations but that changed. It seemed like I had a pipeline into the Southeast as the majority of my contacts where from 4 land. I’ve also worked some South American DX stations and a couple EU stations off the back of the beam. Even though I was communicating with a narrow signal both in TX and RX, I still received many compliments about my audio with the exception of one person who said I was too narrow for a QSO party. I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes using a wider bandwidth.

However the biggest difference compared to previous years is that I didn’t have to fight anyone on the air. Every previous NEQP, I would end up getting into an argument with someone because I dared to operate near their precious net or someone would purposely jam me. This year I had none of that. Everyone I contacted was nice and wasn’t interrupted by a net or some other type of rag chew. I am not sure if was because the bands weren’t in great shape, that I have new gear, more experience or a combination of everything? Who know, maybe my previous setup was causing more harm during contests.

Getting Spotted


With NEQP, I didn’t use the cluster or any kind of spotting assistance.
I had no idea that I was being spotted but I had an idea when I was getting a trickle of contacts then all of a sudden I was getting pileups out of nowhere. Thanks to those who spotted me.

Overall Experiences

I had a great time. It would have been better if my voice wasn’t cutting out but it was great.


Overall I made 664 contacts. Most of them were on 20 meters. However I am impressed with my 40m contacts as I was using my G5RV to make them. 40m helped out with a lot of local counties. My claimed score is 36,521 points. I didn’t think that was a good score until I started comparing them against other claimed scores on 3830scores. I also need to look at my log a little closer because you will see that I made 619 SSB points but yet I made 664 contacts. I feel that something is not correct with my log. It’s possible that the DE contacts I made for DEQP are counted as errors because I put their county as part of the exchange. So it’s possible I have 39K points.

Improvements for the future

After looking at what’s coming through 3830 scores, I have a high amount of SSB contacts. At this point in time, I have the most SSB contacts on 3830 for my category. but yet I have half the points compared to the CW only ops. This means I really need to know CW in order for me to place higher in future contests. I have now set a goal to make at least 60% of my contacts in next years OSO party on CW. I can’t really do much to improve my signal or my SSB rates so I will have to start looking at CW for the points.

I had fun, thanks for reading.
Jeff – NT1K


Congrats to the New Hams and upgrades!

Congratulations to those who attended the Ham Radio Classes at the Moose Family center in Chicopee MA.  It was great to see a lot of people interested in either getting a license or upgrading to a general or extra.

Rich, N1KXR is in the middle of teaching a class

The classes seem to go okay. It’s pretty difficult to cover all the sub elements with the time that we have but everyone stuck around and put their best foot forward.

We now have

  • 9 New Technicicans
  • 9 New Generals
  • 5 New Extras

Some of the new generals started off with no license at all and it’s great to see all the hard work pay off. There were some who didn’t pass what they wanted to get but it’s not the end of the world. You have the book, and there are a lot of places you can ask questions for the areas you’re having trouble with. If you stick with it, you’ll have your license or upgrader sooner than you think.

From a VE Standpoint,  It was the Biggest VE exam I’ve taken part in. It started off real slow as the candidates we’re all testing but then a big surge of tests started coming in which made for a busy afternoon.

Overall it was great. I’ve learned a lot about how these classes go and If I have the chance to do it again, I most likely would.

Hope to hear all the licensees on the air