Mountain Topping

 I started VHF/UHF mountain topping as a way to enjoy ham radio while living in a small apartment while working in the Los Angeles, California area. My apartment manager did let me have a few antennas on the roof but nothing that would allow me to work DX on the VHF/UHF bands or allow me to experiment up into the Microwave part of the radio spetrum.

The following pictures are my attempts to come up with an ultimate portable VHF/UHF station that would be competitive, cost effective and still fit into my 1989 Mercury Lynx Hatchback car. So, size constraints for the antennas and such were limited by the total of 8 feet between the front windshield and the back hatchback window only because this was all I had to transport the station from one portable site to the other. The radios used in the first station were the ICOM book radios for 6 meters, 2 meters and 70cm. They put out about 3 watts each and only covered portions of the radio spetrum on those bands. (The SSB/CW portions.) Earlier attempts at mountain topping involved a truck full of equipment, towers, and Generators. But with my limited space and equipment, everything had to be run off of a good deep cycle 12VDC RV battery. After each contest weekend, I would re-evaluate my stations performance and start the necessary modifications so that I could improve my score for the next contest. It was amazing what evolved as the improvments made me more competitive, even against the "big gun" stations in the Los Angeles Area.

This was my first attempt at settingup a mountain topping station. A card table in the back of a pickup truck. A portable tower, Generator, cables, wires, key, mikes, etc. It ended up that I spent more time setting it up and tearing it down that I was too exhausted to operate. The generator was a constant problem getting it to run right even when it was tested numerous times a home before the treak to the mountain. So, after this disasterous start. I started "engineering" for success. The following pictures and commentary explain the evolution that I went through to "get it right".  
  After the experience of trying to mountain top with a "pile" of equipment cobbled together the night before the contest, hauled up to the mountain and operated. I started building "contest specific" radio setup. I built the station box shown here. It contains the three ICOM book radios, a tape recorder for a voice CQ message, Antenna rotator controls, Microphone switching controls, a boom headset and foot switch, a small dos computer for logging. All the power, antenna and rotator cables plug into the back. Everything is prewired so it can be plugged together quickly and easily. This was a "dream setup" to operate in a VHF/UHF contest. It was very quick to setup and tear down and I was 6th in the Nation QRP Portable twice with this setup. I think I was now on the right track for making a winning station that was easy to use.
 Here I am operating one of the VHF/UHF Sweepstakes from a "concrete mountain" in the Los Angeles, California area. This whole station could be setup in about an hour and a half and be ready to operate. I made an operating table top that clipped onto the back of my car and I didn't place nationally on this contest but I was the first place QRP Portable station in California. The Tripod supported the antenna and the deep cycle RV battery was the counterweight for the antenna. I put the 6 meter 3 element beam on top followed by the 2meter beam and the 432Mhs beam. This was to provide the lowest frequency the most height above ground. The 6 meter beam is 16 feet off the ground. By evaluating the operations and score, More improvements were needed if I was going to score higher than 6th in the nation with this setup, which I did twice.  
   This was my next "Contest Radio Box" for the VHF/UHF contests. It used a Yaesu FT-726 Satellite Radio Transceiver which put out 10 watts on 6 meters, 2meters and 432 Mhz. I added a 220 FM 10 watt transceiver a 2 meter all mode rig that was driving a Down East Microwave 1296 transverter with a preamp and 3 watt PA amplifier. It used the same tape recorder with a 20 second endless tape in it to provide the voice CQ. I also had to add a delayed keying system to provide all the switching for the 1296 transverter. The switch panel on the right provided the microphone and keyline switching and power control for the radios and preamps. I still used the old laptop for logging and boom mike from the first unit. I did have to add another deep cycle RV battery for the extra power requirements and a small 12V battery in series for some 24 volt relays. I was 4th in the nation twice with this setup. I operated from a friends house on the side of Palos Verde Mountain in Lomita, California.
This is a picture of how my Antenna System changed with the new radio box. The top antenna was still the 6 meter 3 element beam. Next the 2 meter beam and 432 at the bottom. The cross arm holds the 220 and 146 Mhz FM vertical beams and the horizontal and vertical 1296 Mhz beams. There was also a 440 Mhz vertical FM beam on the main
pole just above the 432 Mhz horizontal beam. The flat plate in the middle is the 1296 transverter. By mounting it on the antenna eliminated the need for a long expensive coax to get the 1296 transmitter power to the antenna.
 I had to later put the 1296Mhz transverter in a waterproof plastic box to protect it from the morning dew or rain. Since this setup was only up for the weekend of the contest a lot of extensive waterproofing was not necessary.

   So, This is the reward for all the study, work and preparation. The ARRL 4th place QRP Portable Plaque that I won in the December 1994 VHF/UHF contest. I was told by a lot of west coast VHF'ers that it couldn't be done. Since I won mine a number of others have won from out there and broke the strangle hold that the East Coast VHf'ers have had on these contests. I have operated from my new home in New Mexico but now am just getting too old to drag all that stuff up a 9000 foot mountain top. But don't count me out. I now have a really neat Yaesu FT-817 all mode qrp radio and with the right antennas, coax, batteries, and other nice small solid state devices. I just may be back to give it another go from some neat mountain top in New Mexico.

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