GP-COMERS - Comers Rock
Comers Rock Recreation Area Elk Creek, VA
Comers Rock is located SE of Wytheville in an ideal location that has a rare view between mountains back to Roan Mountain with no obstructions and also has a view to the Northeast to Apple Orchard Mountain. It has a gravel road along the ridge so it could be operated from a mobile if a 50 foot mast was used to get above the trees. But it has a great campsite and walk-up access to the actual Comer’s Rock lookout platform with 360 degree views. Prior to finding Comers Rock, Sand Mountain was considered for this part of the chain, but it is full of commerical RF equipment, locked access road, requires off-road vehicle and hams have difficult access ot the 2m repeater and APRS digipeater there. For these reasons and to avoid RF intermod, we are now planning on using Comers Rock for its easy drive-up access and pleasant surrondings
Altitude: 3785 feet
Position: 3645.61 N / 08113.17 W to road
Link northest: Apple Orchard Mountain
Link southwest: Roan Mountain
APRS-IS Object: GP-COMERS
During the 2014 Golden Packet event, once the APRS system was operating, Matt (KF4WZB) deployed his Blade 350QX Quadcopter with 1080p Mobius Actioncam recorder and 5.8 GHz 200 mW video transmitter for some aerial video of the site. He could fly it easily in GPS lock (safe) mode and only flew it straight up and back down, though he did set advanced mode and flew to 400’ above his location to look around above the very low clouds!
Golden Packet Event Reports
Matt (KF4WZB) met with Zach (KJ4QLP) in the Virgina Tech Amateur Radio Association ham shack to go over the equipment (all owned by VTARA) that was used during the 2013 ATGP event. This consisted of a 35 Ah sealed lead acid battery, D700, and Diamond X-50 antenna mounted on a tripod. Matt received information from John that the main even ton the 20th would be from 1200 to 1600 (it actually should have been 1100-1500).
He left his campground with his family at Altamons (near Shawsville, VA) at 1000 and made it to Comers Rock at 1150 (He had absolutely no cell service at the campground). As he was approaching the mountain top, Roan Mountain and Lynn (Shack Potato) both called on the cell asking when he was going to be on the air (apparently everyone was nervous that CR would be a no show). Matt and family hauled the gear the rest of the 100 ft from the dirt road turnaround to the outlook (which had recently been renovated with new timber guard rails). He quickly assembled the station within 5 minutes and had Comers Rock up at 1158. He had the D700 digipeater sending traffic upstream and downstream.
At about 1220, he noticed GD hill had not seen COMERS and then noticed that his BEACONS button was not enabled on the D700. Fixing that, he began to appear at all stations. The X-50 aantenna was mounted on a 3 foot tall tripod that was on the lookout concrete slab. The D700 ran at low power (5 Watts) for the first hour and made it great to both AO and Roan. He later increased the power to high so that other stations not part of the exercise might hear him better.
Matt noted the confusion regarding when to shut down. Bob sent the message stating that the mission was a success and to go ahead and tear down (maybe between 1300 and 1315). Stations 1-3 started to relay voice traffic north to have #15 send another message back to #1 and to continue to relay that message north. Soon thereafter, the shack potato called Matt on his cell phone to say #15 had already shut down. He suggests next year, there needs to be made clear how the event is going ot play out, what is considered mission success, and who makes the call to “break link.” Matt stayed on the air until 1400 and then broke down the station within 5 minutes and was off the hilltop by 1405.
Matt suggests a better investment in (lighter) Li-based batters and more buy-in from local hams within the Comers Rock area. It would be best if there was more publicity before the end of the spring semester and everyone leaves the area. There were some hams that volunteered to assist, but it turned out that just Matt and his family were able to do it.
Zach (KJ4QLP) is again leading the Virginia Tech Amateur Radio Association team this year.
Zach Leffke (KJ4QLP) organized for the Virginia Tech Amateur Radio Association. He was joined by Glenn (N4AZR) woh had some prior Roan experience. This should be an exciting year with the combined Golden Packet and Scouting’s Operation ON-TARGET on Saturday July 21.
We got a bit of a late start from Blacksburg, but got out to the site by 11:30. We hauled the gear up the hill, and managed to get voice on air around noon I think and packet on air by 12:15.
It’s my fault, but I didn’t realize we’d need a computer to program our D700 to do everything. Fortunately, one of our group members had a D72 Kenwood HT, which he promptly configured and got on air. The setup was extremely simple: D72 into a Diamond X50 antenna, and a Kenwood F6A into a Scala 450 Yagi pointed at Roan. Turns out Apple Orchard could hear us off the back of the yagi! No external batteries, no generator, just two HT’s and two antennas.
In terms of the site, no major problems at all. All gear could be carried up to the lookout point, nobody complained about us being there, and the road was okay (not as good as Bob led me to believe, but we got a Ford Focus up there).
As a plus, I think I found a good site for VHF contesting in the future!
Thanks to Hunter Long (KJ4YQP), Andrew Kriz (KK4APR), and Ben Rice (N4BTR) for tagging along with me on the trip.
Will forward photos form the event to whoever wants them.
Mike Benonis Graduate Assistant, Wireless @ Virginia Tech Staff Engineer, WUVT-FM KI4RIX
I made the trip to Comers Rock this morning. All the way up I listened for packets. Got to the top and found the house form the pictures but could not find the overlook. I didn’t get out and look though since it was pouring rain :(. Had I found it, I could have taken the equipment and made an attempt with my vertical. I stayed a bit and then figured it was a bust so headed back. Sorry.
73 Mike K4IJ