Tuesday, December 13, 2011

ARRL 10 Meter Contest - Half the Height, Twice the Fun

Chinook System December 9th & 10th, 2011
My long time friend and old neighbor Sean, KL1SF headed back to Alaska for a week on a work related trip here at Denali. Sean stayed with us and we got to spend a few hours with him last week. Sean arrived after our last blow and departed prior to this one on Friday night. As noted in an earlier post, I watch the Weather Underground Infrared data close for these systems. The last two systems will be ones you will be hearing about in next seasons Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers not to mention maybe Alaska State Troopers and any of the other handful of Alaska reality shows. Weather is always a topic of these shows and winters here are tough on most everything and everyone. Weather can changed very quickly here so I check it several times daily. The map above shows the approaching system as viewed last Friday. I knew my weekend attempt in the ARRL Ten Meter Contest was going to be a challenge.

I started the contest off with calling CQ and working a few stations eventually moving upward doing some S&P (Search & Pounce) only to stop and call CQ again. At about 0205z, I threw in the towel as I wanted to spend a bit of time with Sean, KL1SF before he had to rush north to catch his plane. I also wanted to drop my antennas for the approaching storm. The band was still active with lots of JA's (Japanese stations) as well with West Coast USA stations.

The next morning, I waited for the band to open up and I got my start at 1739z or so. I basically S&P operated until 2004z when I squeezed into a hole and called CQ. The funfest began as it was not long before I acquired a pile-up. I ran stations until 2145z and I was surprised at what I could work with my beam at around the 20 foot level. The winds were cranking and I had lots of QRN (Noise) from local powerlines and other sources but I managed the best I could. Again, pile-ups are nothing like a DXpedition type but when you are not a seasoned contester, they can be brutal at times. Some of the frustrating parts were getting a partial call, then asking for that station only and others just continue to call. I even had a W2 station call me, I sent my report and then he wanted MY callsign prior to sending his exchange! I'm thinking to myself, aren't you supposed to know who you're calling before you call? I sent his exchange again and he once again asked for my call. I manually typed my callsign slowly and sent it twice and he sent his and then moved on. During these runs, I had stations move directly next to me, one a JA7 and another time a W8 station which forced me to finally move off and find another frequency. Not sure how they could not have heard me or the many others calling me. I knew low power was going to be a challenge but adding QRM and then QRN on top of it all made for a stressful weekend.

Saturday was good considering the weather, wind, and band conditions. By the time I ended on Saturday night, I was missing the following USA states; MS, MO, ND, and SD. Canada, I was missing several but that's not uncommon for me as I normally don't come close to a clean sweep of the Provinces. As far as Mexico, I had not even started to work those multipliers! I had the worst luck finding XE stations this past weekend and not sure why. It was not for a lack of looking for sure but I was happy a few called in.

Sunday started out then fell out. I heard W3UA on 10 meters working stations with a marginal signal. I tried call him but no luck so I just listened for a bit. KL2R was the strongest on the band, ironically. I listened to Larry call CQ for a bit with no luck. I then tuned the band and found it flat. It was that way until around 1740z. First station worked was K5KFT and after S&P'ing for a bit, I found a frequency to call CQ again. It was not long before the masses showed up and I was once again faced with working through a pile-up. I wanted to make an attempt to do more S&P'ing in hopes of finding multipliers in between runs. Each time I did, I added a few more to the log.

The highlight for me was working everyone that called! So many familiar weekend friends and it's always a pleasure to hear them on (too many to list). The cool DX contact was 9M6XRO calling me near the end of the contest. Over the course of the weekend I also seemed to have worked several new stations for the first time. Glad to see some new blood enjoying the CW mode.

Some of the lowlights for me are for sure the weather and of course the QRN on Sunday. I was able to put my beam back up on Sunday morning once the winds died down a bit. I had 60 Mph wind gusts here over the weekend so that really stirred up the neighborhood. I had a K9 station park next to me and his station sounded horrible. I could not filter out his very wide and nasty sounding station so I eventually had to move. All in all, it was your typical contest weekend with crowded bands. I always complain about dupes, which I again experienced this weekend and I myself owe N5ZK an apology. I called him after mistyping his callsign into my contest program. I typed K5ZK by mistake and of course, it said I had not worked him before. Well, after working him I realized my mistake. I always work dupes as I know it's gonna happen but the annoying ones are those who just yell and work me after clicking on a bad DX Cluster spot listing me as KL7DX. I think folks just need to listen for a second to verify the callsign before sending. I send my call after 99.99% of my contacts and this time, I even slowed my call down after sending TU after each contact to help pick out the "8" in my call but it seems it did not help. Sadly, I do this for them as it will be the other station most of the time that loses the points or multiplier.

So, Saturday was a blast, half the height but twice the fun as far as my antenna and operation was concerned.  It was great to get my beam back to its normal 42-43 foot mark on Sunday for sure. Oh, and I had to laugh. I had an 8 station call me and his old rig was drifting more than my driveway. I normally lock my VFO and hit my RIT button on my Icom when I'm running stations. I had to tune up the band and follow him just to get his exchange. I noted it in my notes log of the contest and had to chuckle when VE8EV also mentioned the same station in his 3830 post.

Contest overview from Win-test
Before each and every contest I, like I'm sure all the other Alaska stations have to do, is check the rules. Any good operator should check them before each and every contest for changes, etc. Alaska is one of those states that sometimes we are a state and sometimes we are DX. It just depends on the contest. I had a K6 station keep asking me for my "NR" in my exchange since in this contest, the exchange I sent was the canned "599 AK" and not a number like the DX stations had to send. It was frustrating at first but I just wanted the K6 to know, it's confusing to us at times, too.  So, before each contest not only do I check the weather, I check the rules. I would suggest the same :0)

My final score is listed below. I'm happy with it for the amount of time I was able to operate. I'm hoping next year will see a all night opening to Europe! Could be wishful thinking but after working the contest last December, I would have never guessed that this December was going to be this good! Even running low height and low power for most of the weekend, it was still a blast! I did venture up to SSB for a few minutes just to listen. That was enough for me and I headed south for the rest of the weekend.

Thanks to everyone for each and every contact! I want to wish you the safest of holidays and a DX filled New Year! It was one to remember for me and another busy one as well. The QSL's continue to flow in at a steady pace each week so the administrative work is a bit more than I would like, but all part of the fun.

So what's my plans for 2012? Gotta wait and see but we may take a trip back to Ohio and even considering Dayton 2012. I have family who lives nearby so having a place to stay is half the battle. At lot can happen between now and then but since our oldest daughter has made us grandparents for the very first time, I have a desire to head back and right around the Hamvention, would be perfect timing I would say. Just gotta wait to see what plays out with work and life as that's several months away. 73 my friends and thanks for a memorable year!

Contest         : ARRL 10 Meter Contest
Callsign        : KL8DX
Mode            : CW
Category        : Single Operator (SO)
Overlay         : ---
Band(s)         : Single band (SB) 10 m
Class           : Low Power (LP)
Zone/State/...  : AK
Locator         : BP53LU
Operating time  : 15h12

   CW      883   9     16     63     3532      4.00
  SSB         0    0      0       0       0         0.00
TOTAL   883    9      16     63     3532      4.00
         TOTAL SCORE : 279 028

Dupes are not included in QSO counts neither avg calculations

Operators       :
Soapbox         : 10 Meters continues to amaze me!

Powered by Win-Test 4.8.0        http://www.win-test.com

1 comment: