Today was a monumental day in PAPA repeater history. With lots of hard work, and after weeks of planning, the ailing repeater antenna system was replaced with a no-compromise high-performance antenna system. The results speak for themselves with dramatically improved coverage from this important site.
Working at 9000ft. ASL is no easy task. Physical exertion on the tower can become exhausting in short order. Thanks to the outstanding efforts of Ira (KI6TPX) and Angel (KD6AFA), the tower work was accomplished quickly and efficiently. Dave (KF6ATP) and Miguel (M1GUEL) were ground crew and quickly pulled the 50lb. antenna up to the 60ft. level on the tower. We used a gin pole to increase safety and reduce the workload.
Speaking of safety, any time tower work is scheduled for a PAPA project, safety is the first priority. All tower crew must have approved safety harnesses and sufficient experience with tower work. Any time anyone is on the tower, everyone on the ground must wear a hardhat. Gloves must be used on the tower and when handling ropes. The work plan is fully briefed before beginning and work is immediately stopped if any crew member is uncomfortable with the current situation.
The tower work was not complete with the installation of the new antenna. The old antenna system was removed from the tower along with the old microwave dish. The existing feedlines had to be tested for loss and characteristic impedance before they could be repurposed for the new installation. Everything checked out fine saving countless hours of additional work. Cecil (WD6FZA) prepared new jumpers cut to length for each antenna.
The new antenna system was tested using a scalar network analyzer to ensure proper electrical performance. After the antennas were connected to the repeaters (analog and DMR), initial reports from La Quinta, Chula Vista, and west LA quickly verified that the system was performing dramatically better than the prior antennas. The new antenna system is top mounted to the tower. It consists of two 6dBd gain antennas in a common fiberglass radome. The antenna is very rugged and should be able to withstand the harsh winter weather conditions experienced at Toro Peak. Thanks to Steve (WD8CIK) for providing the antenna. It’s exactly what we needed at this demanding site.
Inside the shelter, Mike (N6JVH) helped get the levels for the analog repeater properly set on the repeater and network interface. Due to some test equipment difficulties during a prior trip, the audio was not optimized until this trip. We cleaned up the rack and labelled all of the point-to-point network cables to help with troubleshooting in the future. A new data receiver was installed to support the Mt. Carmel High School balloon group.
As with any PAPA mountaintop effort, it is the teamwork of dedicated PAPA members that benefits the membership by keeping our network in good operating condition. The trip to the top and home alone is six hours of driving time for Cecil. Even more for Ira who came from Simi Valley. You don’t have to spend an entire day at 9000ft. to keep the PAPA system working well. Member donations are used to pay for the feedline, connectors, and other consumables needed for regular maintenance.
We’ll make one more trip to the site later next month to button up the rack for the long winter season. Give the Toro Peak repeaters a try and let us know what you think of the improvements.