Microwave Sprint 2019

Wes Hayward, w7zoi, May 6, 2019.

Those of you who have read much of my web site will know that I have a  passion for outdoor ham radio from portable locations.   It's even more exciting when it makes sense to be in a good location.   There is no better reason to take ham gear to the hills than when a high, in-the-clear location really makes a difference.   The best location  is higher than most surrounding terrain, offering a line of sight view to the location of the folks we wish to "work,"    Last Saturday an event occurred that encouraged us to take to the hills with microwave ham gear.   This contest was restricted to frequencies of 900 MHz and higher!    

Those of us lucky enough to live in the Pacific Northwest often see clear cuts, areas where trees have been removed for logging.  We appreciate the wood used for our houses, but it's hard to deny that clear cuts are ugly, for they are devoid of the previous tree cover.    The radio amateurs among us view the cuts with another, perhaps more positive thought:   Would that deforested hill be a good place for microwave hamming?     That was the thought that motivated John, K7CVU.    He found a great location in  Oregon's Coast Range.   The trek was not a difficult drive and gave us good views to populated areas where one might find microwave experimenters. 

This photo shows John operating the 1296 MHz band.   Here he is tuning a Yaesu FT-817 transceiver that serves as an IF for the 2 watt output transverter that hangs in a cloth pouch under the peak of the tripod.    The red object is a water bottle also hanging from the tripod.  This was needed to keep the antenna from blowing over in the morning wind.     The many stumps serve as tables for the gear and as a place to sit.

This photo shows John with a microphone in his hand.  Two antennas can be seen here.   One is a 12 element Yagi for 1296 MHz.   The large red and heavy water bottle is clear in this photo.    Behind this tripod is Stu, K7VGQ, who joined us on the trek.   I think that this was a new experience for Stu.    The left side of the photo shows another tripod, this one holding the 2304 MHz gear.   The antenna is a stack of two 5-element Yagis.   The transverter hangs from the tripod and provides the weight needed to keep the rig from blowing over.    The transverter is homebrew with an output of about 0.9 watt.   This rig has an IF of 432 MHz, also provided by the FT-817.

  We brought a second antenna for 2304 MHz, along with another, more robust tripod.   This was an antenna built with 1/4 inch pitch hardware cloth as a stressed parabola.   Aluminum strips are attached to a tin pie plate.   The feed is inside a food can.  (K7CVU photo--tnx John)

Setup with the 2304 dish.   This view shows the feed structure.   This is not a dish that can be dismantled, so it is not intended for a lot of outside use.       It was used for a contact with K7ATN.    In retrospect, we might have been able to work Fred and Susan (WA7TZY and WB7BST) on 2304 with the dish, but missed the chance.   Next time.

  Here's a copy of John's log. 

There were several thoughts that emerged from our little walk.

1.  It was amazing to be listening to 1296 MHz CW with actual QRM that was 3 signals deep.    All we could do is to listen and marvel at it.
2.  Sunspots don't matter for microwave communications.
3.  Portable operation is something that we can all enjoy, even if we live in a noise infested neighborhood.  
4.  It's still fun to be on a mountain top with views, even if there is not a lot of effort required to get there.
5. We monitored 2M FM as part of an allowed contact set-up mode.    While listening to 146.52, there was an amazing amount of activity from SOTA (Summits on the Air) activators and chasers.    Our summit would not have qualified for SOTA, for there were higher peaks on our ridge system.   
6.  This contest differed from the VHF contests where you have a LOT of participants who are inexperienced with CW.   Here, there seemed to be a lot of CW action, even though most of our contacts were on SSB.   I had the feeling that we would not be shunned for CW use.   
7.  Many of our contacts happened when we pointed the antennas at some of the peaks.   Fred and Susan were pointed at Mt. Rainier when we worked them.
8.  Microwave hamming offers much more potential than we might expect.

Anyway, many thanks to John for inviting me to the event.   It really was great fun.