QCX-Mini: Quick Recap of Mount Mitchell activation

First of all, thank you to everyone who tried to hunt me this morning while I activated Mount Mitchell Summit and Park!

When I posted an announcement about the activation this morning, I didn’t expect much of a response due to the short notice. I don’t typically announce my activations, but the Mitchell SOTA activation was a special one for me because it’s my favorite NC park and also fairly local (well, as the crow flies from the QTH).

This was a “welcome back to winter conditions” SOTA activation and I knew it would be in advance.

The drive to the summit, starting around 1,000M ASL (3,000′) was in heavy, heavy fog. The ceiling was low and I thought perhaps the summit would peak through, but I was wrong. It was also foggy on the summit and about 33F (0.5C) per my car.

It was a gorgeous site though as the summit was covered in rime ice.

There were maybe two other visitor cars in the park–after all, most go to Mitchell for the views and there were none this morning.

I found a nice spot in the woods well within the activation zone, but not at the observation deck on the summit.


I’m not sure if I called CQ more than twice with the QCX Mini before I was slammed with a steady pile up with many stations from Europe.

The QCX performed well and obviously the PackTenna 20M EFHW did as well, but the little amplified speaker connected to the QCX-Mini struggled with the variation in signals and tones. It sort of fell apart on me and after logging, perhaps, 30 stations, I switched out with the KX2.

If you chased me and I wasn’t able to copy you, my apologies. It was tough to hear signals via that little speaker–everything simply blended together.

I’ll be writing a full report in due time once I have the video uploaded in a couple weeks, but suffice it to say, 5 watts and a wire worked this morning. Here’s the QSO Map:

Click to enlarge.

The QSO map doesn’t include a number of stations on the west coast either.

A struggle for K4SWL

My hands were a wee bit stiff as they dealt with the cold/damp conditions, so my fist was (as I had predicted) rather sloppy. 🙂

I was also struggling to type in callsigns correctly into the HAMRS app on my phone and that certainly messed with my rhythm handling QSOs.

This was my first cold activation since March. I’ll get back into winter mode soon and toughen up again!

The little speaker, combined with so many contacts zero-beating me, turned into a 5-7 second long  steady tone in the pile-up.  I seriously contemplated running split to spread everyone apart, but I’ve never seen that done with POTA or SOTA so didn’t attempt it.

Seasoned SOTA CW activators would’ve certainly found the pile-up much more manageable.

When I went QRT, I happened to turn on my HT and had the SOTA simplex frequency locked in. Two second after turning on the HT I heard KN4LRO on Round Mountain (W4T/SU-029) and worked him S2S. My first VHF S2S!

The SOTA/POTA/WWFF activation was AMAZING fun, though. One of my favorite SOTA activations to date. Again, I made a video of the activation and will write up a proper field report within the next couple of weeks.

As I left the park, I found it odd that I was the only visitor there. As I approached the front gates (again, in heavy fog) I saw why: they had closed the park and were only allowing people to leave, not enter.

I felt pretty darn lucky to snag Mount Mitchell this morning.

I’ve said this before, but Mount Mitchell is truly my special, happy place.

Speaker suggestions?

In the meantime, I’d love your suggestions and links to proper, capable amplified portable speakers. I need something much better to pair with the QCX Mini, MTR3B, and KX1.

12 thoughts on “QCX-Mini: Quick Recap of Mount Mitchell activation”

  1. I heard the pile up but you were fading in and out so I just bowed out.
    I have and used JBL GO2 – Waterproof Ultra Portable Bluetooth Speaker – Blue. There is a 3.5mm plug on this which is why I bought it. Never actually tried to use the blue tooth.
    But, I did hear some dx stations calling you. I just couldn’t hear you. At least we’ll enough to waste your time.

    de AD8EV

    1. Same heard. The times I heard him it was weak and I knew his signal was going right over me. However, I was amazed at the number of signals I did hear from the western U.S. and Europe. Didn’t notice you writing what antenna you were using but whichever one, it was a great support four the QCX Mini

      de N4JAW

  2. The best speaker is none at all, especially for CW. Use headphones. Use a mixer to mix your microphone and the headphone output of the transceiver into the audio input of whatever your are using to make your videos. In particular that would avoid the noise you had the other day from passing automobiles, and where you locate the transceiver would no longer be critical for audio, just for video. MIxers are small and lightweight, easily added to your pack for SOTA and of course no problem for POTA, and if you don’t want to build one yourself then can be bought fairly inexpensively.

    David VE7EZM and AF7BZ

    1. Yeah, when not doing videos, I only use earphones for activations. I need to look into a mixer. I would even be willing to record the audio separately and add it back in during post, even if it added a bit of time.

  3. Thanks for the initial report, Thomas. I look forward to your full report and video. Your QSO map is impressive with contacts from West Coast USA and Europe on QRP levels. I have the QCX-Mini on order and am eager to receive it. I hope you thaw out soon.

    73 Bill K6HB

  4. I’d be interested in the speaker you end up with. I just purchased one that was suggested in a qcx mini review by someone else.


  5. Tried to work you but I think we were too close for 20 meters. I could tell you were busy. Maybe next time.

  6. My plan to “Work From Home” didn’t go as planned! I was unable to chase but it sounds like you had plenty of company. With winter steadily encroaching on our fun it will take hearty souls to activate northern parks from outside of a vehicle.

  7. Sounds like you can chalk that one up as a success. Pity you were just a bit too early for me as I was still at work. As David suggests, a simple splitter will let you record a clean audio feed from the radio while listening on headphones although I’ve found the QCX-mini to be quite susceptible to any stray RF on the headphone and other connections.

    Looking forward to seeing the video.


  8. Hi Thomas,
    Looks like you had a fun and fresh morning. Couldn’t see you on the RBN spotted in Europe but nice to see you work across the pond. Hope to get a qso with you one day.
    How did you generate your QSO map? Which service/program did you use?


  9. Hi Thomas,
    Looks like you found the only weakness I can find with the QCX – no real AGC, the audio gain control is also *kind of* your RF gain as well. I’ve learnt to ride this control to get the most out of the rig. A *Quality* Portable/Bluetooth speaker with an aux input is good, but i find a good set of headphones to be far superior…looking forward to the Video!
    de Andy, VK5LA

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