January VHF - W9RM
After a 55 degree day on Saturday, the weather closed in and by sunrise Sunday, it was 22F, snowing and blowing a gale out of the NW. The few "local" stations vanished, along with most activity from the east side of the mountains where the storm had really taken hold. However, I worked who I committed to work and accomplished the tasks I had set out, mainly to work AC0RA/R in 5 close in grids I needed for the 6M FFMA award - EN01, EN02, DN90, 91 & 92.
Activity was pretty representative of a January contest. I hung out on 144.200 for the first hour of the contest to reward those few guys in range with a multiplier, then spent the rest of Saturday in and out of the shack successfully chasing AC0RA. I hit meteor scatter hard starting around 1230Z until the 39 degree shack temperature finally chased me back into the house around 10AM. I probably put in 6-7 hours of effort, total, and ended up with about 45 QSO's and 41-42 mults split between 6 & 2.
There were some interesting observations.
* The few guys in the ABQ area I worked were LOUD on 2M. Same goes for front range stations, including a very loud QSO with DN81 on 2.
* There was some sort of 'out of the ordinary' 2M enhancement early Sunday morning. Not only did I work several SLC stations I don't normally hear, I also worked W7OUU in Idaho at 455 miles on some terrestrial mode. We started off on a meteor scatter run when I realized I was copying him every sequence with no meteor enhancement. I asked him to switch to FT8 and we easily worked, again with NO meteor pings and signal levels around -5, which is pretty loud on FT8, easily speaker copy on CW. It sounded like typical upper midwest troposcatter, but I know how rare that is out here. I'm wondering if there was some temperature inversion action as a result of the drastic temperature change when the front went through and we worked on a tropo duct. Ducting was not uncommon back east in early wintertime over the Great Lakes, before the water temperatures got too cold. I worked all the way to Maine and VE2 several times in December on bands through 432. Those paths approached 800-900 miles.
* Speaking of FT8, I worked 4-5 guys easily on 2M FT8 on 250-300 mile paths. It's not as good as JT65 for weak signals but a QSO can be completed in less then a minute vs 4-5 minutes on JT65. Certainly some of these QSO's could have been made on CW (and at least one on SSB) but it's become difficult to convince people to go to CW. FT8 is a easy sell for semi-weak signal runs now that many more people are into WSJT meteor scatter. FT8 has some promise to push out the limits of ones VHF range and not just for sporadic E.
So, the contest had some excitement. I needed it as I'm currently fighting a serious powerline noise problem on 6M which has shut down any attempt at making QSO's to the SE from DM58. I'm zeroing in on the root cause but it's going to take some local power co-op involvement to fix, involvement they really have little interest in. Hopefully it will be resolved by June, but I'm already making back-up plans for portable operations in the June contest.
Keith J Morehouse
Calmesa Partners G.P.
Calmesa Partners G.P.