Archive for category Mountains
Many of you have gotten to know Rooster and Peanut, through the videos by Steve WG0AT, the Alpha Goat. Some of you have been fortunate enough to meet the goats in person, which is always a real treat. I blogged about Steve and his goats a number of times, see this posting that highlights one of Steve’s videos.
Today we received the sad news that Rooster has died, a Silent Key in ham radio jargon.
Steve sent this message:
It’s with deep sorrow I have to make this announcement …”Rooster” goat died suddenly last night of unknown causes …his trail buddies will soon be scattering Rooster’s ashes on many SOTA peaks throughout western NA
73, Bob K0NR
One of my favorite rigs is the Yaesu FT-817, the QRP transceiver that covers HF through 70 cm. I use it for mountaintop VHF, including Summits On The Air (SOTA) activations.
There are cheaper solutions out there but this is the best one I’ve seen.
73, Bob K0NR
Today, Joyce K0JJW and I decided to hike Midland Hill (W0/SP-117) near Buena Vista, CO (otherwise known as “BV”) and do a SOTA activation on VHF. I call this a “classic SOTA hike” because it is a real hike that requires some exertion, a well-maintained trail to the summit and some great views at the top. By my GPS, it was 2.4 miles one way, with 1600 feet elevation gain.
This hike starts at the trailhead on the east side of BV, where a footbridge crosses the Arkansas River. The SummitPost trail description is very helpful, so be sure to check it out. I checked quite a few topo maps of the area and most of them do not show the trails accurately. I found them more confusing that helpful. I’ve included my GPS track on the map below.
We started at the trailhead, immediately crossing the footbridge to the east side of the river. Then we followed the Midland Bike Trail which parallels the river. Very soon after the bridge, there is a trail leading off to the left (east) uphill that is tempting but we stayed on the main trail that parallels the river. At about 0.5 miles in, we crossed County Road 304 (38.843508 deg N, 106.112297 deg W) onto the clearly marked 6032 trail, which goes up to Midland Hill. Just follow the trail and do not turn onto 6032A trail as it goes off to the left.
If you are pressed for time, you can start the hike where 6032 intersects CR 304, but that only saves 0.5 miles. You’ll miss the bridge and great views of the Arkansas River.
Once we reached the summit, I set up on 146.52 MHz using my VX-8G connected to the 2M Arrow Yagi. Joyce stayed back outside of the activation zone, so I worked her as soon as I made the summit. Then Walt WZ0N came up on frequency and gave me a second contact. I contacted a couple of mobile stations: Ryan KD7OHA on Highway 50 near Texas Creek and Bud NP2CT on Highway 285. Other contacts where with some of the local hams: N0OFQ near Nathrop, Jerry N0VXE and Skip W9GYA near Salida. Not bad for a Monday afternoon in the mountains. Thanks, guys, for the contacts!
Lately, some of the SOTA hikes I’ve done have involved bushwacking up the side of a steep hill to get to the summit. It was great to have a real trail this time. The 1600 vertical feet did get me huffing and puffing but that’s part of the experience. I highly recommend this summit!
73, Bob K0NR
Perhaps this should be called The Slacker’s Guide to Activating Pikes Peak since I am going to describe the easy way to do a Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation on America’s Mountain. If you plan to hike up, you have my complete support but this post is not meant for you.
Pikes Peak (W0/FR-004) is about 10 miles straight west of downtown Colorado Springs. See the Pikes Peak web site for useful tourist information. At an elevation of 14,115 feet, the mountain towers over Colorado Springs and the other front range cities. (You may see the elevation listed as 14,110 but it was revised upward in 2002 by the USGS.) This means that is has an excellent radio horizon to large populated areas. On VHF, it is common to work stations in Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming and New Mexico. See VHF Distance From Pikes Peak and Pikes Peak to Mt Sneffels. On HF, you’ll do even better.
Access to the summit has three options: hike up, drive up via the Pikes Peak Highway or ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. Most people will probably choose the highway since the cog rail only gives you 30 to 40 minutes on the summit. (Normally, you return on the same train that takes you to the top. You can try to schedule two one-way trips but that is a challenge.)
The highway is at a well-marked exit off Highway 24, west of Colorado Springs. There is a “toll” to use the highway (~$12 per person, check the Pikes Peak Highway web site for the latest information and a $2 discount coupon.) The road is now paved all of the way to the top and is usually in good shape. The only caution on driving up is that some people get freaked out by sections of the road that have steep drop-offs without guard rails. It is very safe but I know some folks just can’t handle it. The main caution driving down is to use low gear and stay off your brakes. There are plenty of signs reminding you to do this and during the summer there is a brake check station at Glen Cove where the rangers check the temperature of your brakes.
It takes about an hour to drive to the summit, assuming you don’t dawdle. It is best to drive up during the morning and avoid the afternoon thunderstorms. Once you get to the summit, you’ll find a large circular parking area, the summit house and a few other buildings. To do a qualifying hike, I suggest you proceed down Barr Trail which is the main hiking trail coming up from the east side of the peak. Do not try to walk along the road, as the rangers will stop you. The trail starts on the east side of the summit house (towards Colorado Springs) and is marked with a sign. You have to cross over the cog rail tracks to get to it. (Please try to avoid getting run over by the train as it scares the tourists and makes a mess.)
The summit of Pikes is broad, flat and rocky, so pick out a spot away from the buildings for your SOTA adventure. There are quite a few radio transmitters on the peak so expect some interference. Since this is way above treeline, your antennas will have to be self supporting. For VHF, giving a call on 146.52 MHz FM will usually get you a few contacts and sometimes a bit of a pileup. Be aware that on top of Pikes you are hearing everyone but they can’t always hear each other. It can get confusing. Some other VHF simplex frequencies worth trying are 147.42 MHz (The Colorado 14er frequency) and 146.46 MHz (a local 2M hangout frequency). If you have 2m SSB, call on 144.200 MHz USB. On the HF bands, pray for good ionospheric conditions and do your normal SOTA thing.
Your body and your brain will likely be moving a little slower at 14,000 due to the lack of oxygen. Don’t be surprised if you have trouble deciphering and logging callsigns. Take it slow and monitor your physical condition on the peak.
Bring warm, layered clothes even in the summer, since Pikes Peak can have artic conditions any time of the year. Keep a close eye on the weather since thunderstorms are quite common during the summer months. Lightning is a very real danger, so abandon the peak before the storms arrive.
73, Bob K0NR
Although I’ve operated a number of VHF contests from the summit of Mount Herman, I had not yet activated it as a Summits On The Air (SOTA) peak. Mount Herman is a 9063 foot mountain just to the west of Monument, Colorado, pretty much in ”my back yard.” Steve WG0AT did the first SOTA activation of Mount Herman, back in May 2010, chronicled here in one of his famous videos. There is a sometimes rough Forest Service Road 320 that leads to the trailhead, then it’s a little more than a one mile hike to the top with 1000 feet of elevation gain. I call it a tourist hike, since it has just enough challenge to make it feel like a climb and there’s a great view at the top. At least on most days.
I was not expecting much of a view today since low rain clouds were dominating the sky. I was just hoping I would not get completely drenched by rain. The weather was definitely marginal but from my house I saw the clouds lift a bit, so I thought it was worth a try. The ARRL September VHF Contest is also this weekend, so it was a great combo opportunity: SOTA + VHF Contest.
I hopped in the Jeep and quickly made the drive to the trailhead. Then I scooted on up the trail, making it to the summit in about 30 minutes. Just as I reached the summit, the rain really kicked in. I set my gear down under a tree, got out my HT, attached the 1/2-wave antenna and started calling on 147.42 MHz. I wanted to bag my four SOTA qualifying contacts in case the weather turned worse. I quickly worked Frank K0JQZ and Steve WG0AT. Then George AB0YM, operating as a rover in the VHF contest called me from grid DM78, so I worked him as well.
I had my trusty Arrow Yagi antenna with me but I didn’t want to bother with assembling it in the rain. I got out the FT-817, put a vertical antenna on it and called on 144.200 USB. I found stations working the VHF contest and completed QSOs with them: WB0RRU and K3ILC.
The rain intensified so I abandoned the summit and headed back down. All in all, it was not a great hike but I was successful in activating Mount Herman.
73, Bob K0NR
Lately, I have been focusing on activating the SOTA (Summits On The Air) peaks near our cabin in the mountains. The basic idea is to identify a SOTA summit, hike to the top and make a few contacts on VHF. On Friday, my spousal unit (Joyce, K0JJW) and I decided to head out to an unnamed peak (W0/SP-099), southeast of Buena Vista, CO. By no coincidence, this summit had not been activated yet, so we’d get the esteemed honor and glory of being the first.
For lesser known summits, a bit of research is required to figure out the route. My first stop is to check the SOTA database for basic information on the summit. I’ll usually have to dig further using ListsOfJohn and SummitPost. ListsOfJohn is an incredible database of topographical information, listing every summit along with information such as elevation, lat/lon, rise, etc. (The Colorado SOTA information was gleaned from ListsOfJohn.) SummitPost will usually have more detailed information on a summit but only for the more popular ones. The SOTA Mapping Project is another excellent resource with very useful interactive topo maps. And, of course, I also dig out the US Forest Service map for the area, which often gives the best view of access roads.
We drove the Jeep to within a mile of the summit and started hiking up. I posted our route information on ListsOfJohn, so take a look there for that information. The summit is unnamed, so it is referred to by its elevation: 10123. I had my Yaesu VX-8GR burping out APRS packets which were plotted on aprs.fi when we reached the summit.
When we reached the summit, I spotted myself on the SOTAWatch web site using the SOTA Goat app on my smartphone. More importantly, the night before the hike, I sent an email to some of the radio amateurs that were likely to be within VHF range. That paid off and I worked Jim KD0MRC, Walt WZ0N and John K3NOQ on 146.52 MHz FM. Jim was hiking to Harvard Lakes above 10,000 feet, so it was special to be able to contact him on the trail. A little later, I caught KV4AL who was mobile near the top of Mount Evans. While only one contact is required to “activate” a summit, four contacts are needed to earn SOTA points, so I was happy to make these four QSOs. My gear was a Yaesu FT-60 driving a 3-element Arrow yagi antenna.
In addition, Joyce and I generally work each other on the SOTA the summit. The SOTA rules say that “QSOs with others within the same Activation Zone do not count towards the QSO total” which means that one of us needs to hike down a bit to get outside of the activation zone (75 feet vertical feet from the summit). We take turns doing this so that each of us activates the summit and makes a contact with the summit.
We took a round about path back to the Jeep and headed for Bald Mountain. At this point, we were both very tired and the thunderstorms were moving in. We decided to at least check out the access to Bald Mountain (Wo/SP-115) even if we didn’t climb it that day. It turns out that there is a 4WD road that goes to the top of the mountain, so we drove to the summit. The road is very rough in a few spots but the Jeep handled it nicely. At the top, we hiked back down a bit to meet the non-motorized ascent requirement for SOTA. We also did our “work each other” technique while on the mountain so that we each had a contact. I was not able to raise anyone on 146.52 MHz but I did catch Carl K5UK on the 146.745 MHz repeater and worked him on simplex. By this time, it was raining with lightning getting closer, so we abandoned the summit and headed back to the cabin.
Thanks to the guys that took the time to contact us on the two summits.
73, Bob K0NR
While digging through the archives, I came across some previously unseen video from the 2012 Colorado 14er Event. Joyce KØJJW and I operated from Mount Sneffels (SOTA W0/UR-001) and this video shows a radio contact with Mark KTØAM on Mount Shavano.
The 2013 event will be held August 4th, see www.14er.org.
There is a very jagged peak just east of Buena Vista, CO called Castle Rock (not to be confused with the city by the same name). I knew this was a SOTA summit (W0/SP-112) and I had my eye on it for a while now. It is extremely rocky and jagged near its summit, so I was not sure if it could be ascended without a technical climb. A little research revealed that it was climbable but quite steep near the top. SummitPost.org has a good description of how to ascend this peak.
My hiking partner and wife, Joyce K0JJW, joined me on the climb. We managed to get off the preferred route and got into some very steep rock scrambling. Good judgment prevailed and we regrouped and found a more reasonable path but probably cost us an extra hour of hiking. As advertised, it did get very steep at the top. (Study the SummitPost information more carefully than I did.)
Recently, I picked up an Arrow 3-element Yagi antenna for 2 Meters (Model 146-3). This antenna can be dismantled and carried inside a reasonable size daypack (or strapped on externally). The boom has two threaded holes for mounting the antenna on a camera tripod. I used a MountainSmith trekking pole that can double as a camera monopod and mounted the antenna on it.
For this SOTA activation, I kept it simple and just used my Yaesu FT-60 to work 2 Meter FM. Accordingly, I configured the Yagi antenna for vertical polarization. (There are two mounting holes on the boom, so you can choose vertical or horizontal orientation.)
The trekking pole is not self-supporting and does not provide much additional antenna height but it makes the antenna a lot easier to point for extended periods of time. I like to use a trekking pole for hiking, so this is a good way to get a little extra utility out of it. I am pleased with how this antenna system performed and will use it again.
73, Bob K0NR
Here’s a great set of Summits On The Air (SOTA) links from Steve WG0AT:
|Official SOTA Site||Web||SOTA UK||Gateway to all official SOTA resources|
|Rules & Guidelines||SOTA UK||General Rules & Guidelines for SOTA|
|WØ SOTA Site||Web||WØ Assoc.Mgr||A good place to start for SOTA info for the WØ region|
|WØ Association Reference Manual (ARM)||WØ Assoc.Mgr.||Defines all summits and rules for the WØ Association|
|SOTA Activator Guidelines||SOTA UK||The rules summarized on one page|
|SOTAwatch: Alerts||Web||SOTA UK||Create activation alerts for the world to see (You have to sign-up for a free account)|
|NA SOTA (Yahoo Group)||Web||3rd party: Yahoo||The NA-SOTA Group on Yahoo is a great place to meet fellow Chasers/Activators, announce activations and share experiences. You have to submit a ‘join’ request before getting access|
|Results & Summits Database||Web||SOTA UK||Submit activation logs, search for summits, view results etc.|
|Adventure Radio: Mapview||Web||3rd party: Mario/DC7CCC||Google map overlay. Allows to search for SOTA summits based on Assoc./Region or grid locator.|
|How to Activate a SOTA Peak||3rd party: Guy/N7UN||Guy/N7UN’s helpful 4-page summary of the steps involved from planning, posting an activation Alert, conducting the activation itself and post-activation activities.|
|WØ Summits||Web||WØ Assoc.Mgr.||Find a summit in your WØ region|
|Colorado 14er Event||Web||14er Event||The web site for the Colorado 14er Event (includes SOTA activations)|
|SMS Gateway||Phone||SOTA UK: Andy||SMS gateway for selfspotting. You have to register with Andy: mm0fmf_sota (at) intermoose dot com|
|SOTA Goat iPhone appy||iTunes||iTunes||Spotting app for your iOS device at the iTunes store|
|SOTA Spot Monitor App||web||Eric KU6J||SOTA spotting app for Windows PCs|
Thanks to Steve WG0AT, we now have a new design for the Colorado 14er Event Shirt. Steve gen’d up a new logo that has the Colorado 14er Event blended with Summits On The Air (SOTA), that is available on a variety of t-shirts, a coffee mug and maybe a few other items. The logo, shown to the left, is a fantastic graphic featuring Ham Radio at Altitude.
Go to Cafepress to view and purchase the items that are available.
73, Bob K0NR
“The Wilderness Protocol” (ref. June 1996 QST, page 85), recommends that stations (fixed, portable or mobile) monitor the primary (and secondary if possible) frequency(s) every three hours starting at 7 AM local time, for five minutes (7:00-7:05 AM, 10:00-10:05 AM, etc.) Additionally, stations that have sufficient power resources should monitor for five minutes starting at the top of every hour, or even continuously.” The primary frequency is the National Simplex Calling Frequency…146.52 MHz. The secondary frequencies are 446.0, 223.5, 52.525 and 1294.5 MHz.
Here in Colorado, the summer months mean that many people head for the mountains. Mobile phone coverage has improved in many parts of the high country but is still not reliable in all areas. Amateur radio VHF/UHF repeater coverage is extensive but also does not cover the entire state.
The Wilderness Protocol is a good idea but is overly complex for practical use. Here’s my proposal to make it much simpler for practical backcountry use:
Principle #1: Don’t ever rely on a radio or mobile phone to get you out of trouble in the backcountry. Your primary strategy must be self-sufficiency. Avoid trouble. Be prepared for the unexpected.
Principle #2: Know what repeaters are available in your area. We have many wide coverage repeaters available but you need to know the frequency, offset and CTCSS tone (if any). The Colorado Connection is a linked repeater system that covers many remote parts of the state.
Principle #3: In remote areas, monitor 146.52 MHz as much as possible. This applies to backcountry travelers, mobile stations and fixed stations.
I’ve been making it a habit to monitor 146.52 MHz in the backcountry. I often come across hikers, campers, fisherman, 4WD enthusiasts, SOTA stations, mobile operators and others monitoring that frequency. It is fun to chat with other radio amateurs having fun in the mountains.
Just my opinion.
73, Bob K0NR
Note: This is a repost of an older article with minor edits.
Spring is finally coming to the Colorado high country so it was time for a SOTA (Summits on the Air) activation. I don’t know which idea comes first: let’s go hiking or let’s play SOTA. I suppose it doesn’t really matter.
I’ve had my eyes on activating Aspen Ridge, which is near our family cabin but I wasn’t sure if the road was open. It turned out to be an easy Jeep ride down Forest Service Road 185 to get close to the summit. Then a half mile hike around and over the occasional snow patch got Joyce K0JJW and me to the summit.
My portable station was a Yaesu FT-60 handheld and a couple of antennas. Shown above is my dualband Arrow II antenna with only the 2 Meter elements installed, resulting in a 3-element Yagi antenna. My other antenna is an omni-directional MFJ-1714 1/2-wave whip antenna, which is a little easier to handle for general use. Often that is the only antenna I bring along but this time I decided to add a few more dB of signal by using the Yagi. I also take along a Yaesu VX-8GR that pings my location on APRS (www.aprs.fi/k0nr-7).
After a few calls on 146.52 MHz FM, I worked KC8I in Woodland Park. A few minutes later, I caught Steve WG0AT operating from another SOTA peak (Mt Herman, W0/FR-063) for the QRP To The Field contest. A little later, I worked Ted N0ZPX who was fishing at Antero Reservoir, then N0VXE mobile near Salida and Ron N0MQJ in Ranch of the Rockies.
This photo shows the beautiful Collegiate Peaks in the background, with plenty of snow still showing. Needless to say, it is a gorgeous view from Aspen Ridge!
73, Bob K0NR
The Summits On The Air (SOTA) program is seeing increased activity in the US. SOTA represents another one of those crossover activities that combines amateur radio with another activity, in this case hiking. The whole idea is to operate ham radio from a designated list of summits or to work those radio operators on the summits.
I’ve always had this fascination with Height Above Average Terrain (HAAT) and how that can really make a difference for radio operating, especially on VHF and higher. This means that on most hikes of any altitude, I’ve got some kind of radio gear with me.
To get an idea of how the SOTA program operates, check out these web sites:
- W0 – SOTA (Zero call area in the US): http://w0-sota.org/
- North America SOTA: http://na-sota.org/
- Main (worldwide) SOTA web site: http://www.sota.org.uk/
The SOTA program provides some structure for this activity and a method to keep score. I’ve noticed throughout my ham radio experience, having a specific goal (usually in the form of an award such as WAS, WAC, DXCC, etc.) has been a good motivator for me. In some ways, I don’t like the notion of “keeping score” entering into a fun hobby, but I have to admit that sometimes it helps. The SOTA database is a robust system that keeps track of summit activations and contacts made. I don’t have a specific goal yet, other than to activate summits when I have the opportunity and to work as many of summits on VHF. (Yes, my VHF/UHF bias comes through again.)
To get a feel for the action, take a look at the Activator Scores, click the Filter selection to W0-USA (or other call area of interest), click on Show!. You’ll see the list of hams that have been activating summits, such as K0MOS, WG0AT, N6UHB and KD0PNK. You will find my callsign a ways down the list. Similarly, you can look at the Chaser Scores, also selecting the call area of interest and clicking on Show!
But wait, there’s more! The SOTAwatch web site provides a way to spot active summits and to alert people of future activations. Clicking on Summits, leads you to a useful set of data about each summit. For example, Devils Head (designated as W0/FR-051) is a summit that I activated on 15 Jul 2012, with SOTA info available here.
So check out SOTA…you might find it fun to activate summits or you may just decide to be a chaser. Or maybe both. Anyway it works out, it will be fun!
73, Bob K0NR
It was another great day for Summits On The Air (SOTA) activity. I hiked up to Kaufman Ridge HP (W0/SP-081) with Joyce K0JJW to do the first SOTA activation of that summit. This summit is just south of Kaufman Ridge North (W0/SP-085) mentioned in this post.
Unlike some of my previous SOTA activations, I actually kind of sort of planned this one. I had my Yaesu FT-60 HT with a decent omni antenna for 2 Meters (the MFJ-1714). I also took along the VX-8GR handheld for use as an APRS station. Note the innovative In The Tree mounting scheme for the FT-60:
On the way up, I heard Steve WG0AT on the summit of Mount Rosa (W0/FR-034) calling on 146.52 MHz. I gave a quick call to Steve to let him know I was hearing him but that I was not at the summit yet. About 20 minutes later, I was on top and worked Steve and his hiking partner Frank K0JQZ, for a summit-to-summit contact.
A call on 146.52 MHz got a reply from John N0EVH who was operating mobile. Then I worked Bill KD0PFF who was driving up a 4WD road to Red Cone Peak. Later, I worked his 4WD partner Stan KD0PFC. Fred WA0SIK, a regular in the various VHF contests, came up on five two to give me another contact. Then I got a call from Dave K0HTX who spends many weekends over on the other side of South Park. Finally, I caught Randy KN0TPC and Jeremy KD0MWT on 147.555 MHz, near Divide at a Boy Scout Camporee.
It was really cool to catch all these folks out having fun in the mountains. It was a glorious fall day and the aspen trees were at their peak fall color.
73, Bob K0NR
There are three excellent ham radio activities going on this coming weekend. Check these out and see if there is an activity that catches your interest. This is written for people in Colorado but items #1 and #3 are North American wide.
- ARRL September VHF QSO Party – noon MDT on Saturday until 9 PM MDT on Sunday http://www.arrl.org/september-vhf
- Colorado FM Sprint – a mini version of the September VHF QSO Party,
using FM only on these bands: 146 MHz, 222 MHz and 440 MHz
Saturday from noon to 7 PM MDT
Suggested frequencies: 146.58, 146.55, 223.5, 446.000, 446.100 MHz FM simplex
- North American Summits On The Air (SOTA) Weekend
SOTA activations all over North America
Go here to see announced summit activations: http://www.sotawatch.org/
VHF contacts are usually on 146.52 MHz
(Note: this frequency is NOT allowed for contacts in the
Sept VHF QSO Party and Colorado FM Sprint)
HF contacts are on frequencies listed on sotawatch.org
Wow, lots of stuff to choose from!
At the very least, I’d suggest getting on the air Saturday afternoon to see if you can work some of the VHF contest stations. They are likely to be some mountaintop SOTA stations active at that time, too. Some of these folks may try to work the VHF contests AND do the SOTA thing on the same expedition.
73, Bob K0NR
For the long Labor Day weekend, Joyce (K0JJW) and I headed to the cabin in the mountains. My main objective was to work the Colorado QSO Party. See previous post.
When in the mountains, I try to remember to monitor 146.52 MHz. You never know who might show up on that frequency…some of the locals chatting, a mobile station passing through, people camping or…a SOTA (Summits On The Air) station.
Sure enough, on Saturday, I heard Eric (W0ECE) calling from the summit of Mount Evans on 146.52 MHz. Joyce and I gave him a SOTA contact (and I got a new county for the CO QSO Party). Then, on Sunday morning, we heard Dave (KI6YMZ) calling from the summit of Mount Shavano, also on 146.52 MHz. We were mobile at the time and both of us worked Dave to give him two contacts. Then on Monday morning, again listening to 146.52 MHz, we heard Bob (AD6QF) on Quandary Peak. We handed out two more contacts.
Sometime on Monday morning, we started thinking of doing a hike. That led to the idea of hiking up Kaufman Ridge North (W0/SP-085), a SOTA peak about 2 miles from our cabin. It had not been activated before, so that seemed like a good idea.
Except for the fact that I did not bring along any of my SOTA gear. (Note to self: whenever you are in the mountains, take along the SOTA gear.) I scrounged around the cabin and found a dualband HT with fully charged battery. Unfortunately, the only antenna was the rubber duck. (The World’s Most Convenient Crummy Antenna.)
Oh, what the heck, we gave it a try anyway. It was an easy climb to the summit. I got out the HT and called on 146.52 MHz. I quickly got a reply from Ben (KD0ELP) and Mark (KE0P). A little more calling and I raised Jerry (N0VXE) in Salida, CO. To get the minimum four contacts, I tried calling on two of the local repeaters and found Dave (K0HTX) who QSY’d to 446.00 MHz for a simplex contact with me. That made it an official SOTA activation, so we headed down the mountain.
A good weekend for SOTA activity. Keep listening on 146.52 MHz.
73, Bob K0NR
Here’s a video of my contact from Mt. Sneffels with Stu W0STU on Pikes Peak during the Colorado 14er Event. The QSO was made on 2M FM with 5W of transmit power on both ends.
Here is the report on the Colorado 14er Event operation from Mount Sneffels. Joyce K0JJW and I drove our Jeep up to the “upper trailhead” for Sneffels, arriving at 6 AM. The 14ers.com web site describes the trailhead and route.
On paper, the climb is not that difficult but there is quite a bit of loose rock that you have to navigate…annoying on the ascent and very tiring on the descent. We reached the summit at 9AM and fired up the radio gear.
Mt Sneffels (and the other peaks in the San Juans) is a long distance from many of the fourteeners. Take a look at the fourteener map on 14ers.com. Previously, I had operated from Pikes Peak where you hear tons of stations calling and Mount Antero which is centrally located so you can easily work all of the 14ers. Operating from Mt Sneffels is different — kind of like you have fallen off the edge of the earth.
We soon found that the omnidirectional antennas were not that effective at pulling out the other 14er stations and that the Arrow II yagi antenna was the way to go. I’ll so some more analysis on this later.
Most of the contacts were made with the Yaesu FT-817 but we also used a pair of HTs. Note that we used both FM and SSB.
I had my Yaesu VX-8GR burping out APRS packets for the upper half of the hike but it appears they only made it to an IGate when we were on the summit.
The weather was awesome so we stayed on the summit until 11:40 AM. After we finally worked Pikes, we decided to head down. The clouds were building but we did not expect it to amount to much. But the storm moved in quickly and we did get snowed on while hiking down.
Local Time Freq Callsign Location Comments 0934 144.200 USB N0KE near Silt Phil, 100 miles away 0949 432.100 USB N0KE near Silt 0954 147.420 FM W0NX Quandary Keith, strong signal 1006 147.420 FM WE7C near Cortez Glen, 70 miles away 1018 147.510 FM WO9S Mt Evans Jon 1049 147.450 FM KM5TY Huron Strong signal 1058 147.435 FM KD0EGE Lincoln 1100 147.420 FM KC0VFO aeronautical mobile 1110 147.420 FM KT0AM Shavano Mark, strong signal 1115 147.420 FM KI6ASW Blanca Strong signal 1130 144.200 USB KB0SA Pikes Peak Eric 1132 144.200 USB W0STU Pikes Peak Stu 1135 147.480 FM W0STU Pikes Peak Stu
Joyce ended up logging for me and pointing the antenna, so she only worked Glen WE7C on 147.42 MHz. She also got to explain to the other hikers what the heck we were doing. People seemed genuinely interested and when we told them we just talked to Quandary or Evans, they’d say “that’s cool.”
Thanks to everyone that came out to play.
73, Bob K0NR
Just a quick reminder that the Colorado 14er Event is happening this Sunday. I am going to try to make it up Mt Sneffels down in the San Juan range and operate 2 Meters and 70 cm. This will also be a SOTA activation (W0/UR-001).
For more information, see http://www.k0nr.com/wordpress/2012/07/colorado-14er-event-now-with-sota/
73, Bob K0NR
confessed blogged about a not-that-well-executed SOTA (Summits on The Air) activation, in How Not to Do a SOTA Activation. This past weekend, I made another run at it with much better results. Still, I did use a slacker low impact approach to the activation.
My hiking partner spouse and I decided to go for a hike on Sunday afternoon. It had been many years since we had climbed up to the fire lookout on Devils Head in Pike National Forest, so that sounded like a great destination. There is an excellent view at the top (fire lookouts tend to be like that) and the weather was awesome. I checked the SOTA list, and sure enough, Devils Head is a legitimate SOTA peak (W0/FR-051).
The hike is about 2.8 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 950 feet. I put this in the category of a good tourist hike…with just enough huffing and puffing to make you think you worked for it but not so much that it kills you. Here’s the topo map and route taken from everytrail.com:
As I put together my daypack, I tossed in my Yaesu FT-60 handheld radio and a 1/2-wave vertical whip antenna. This was going to be a 2M FM operation only. (I don’t have anything against HF, but there is something magic about VHF propagation with a little altitude.) Then I sent a quick message to a couple of the local email lists asking for people to try to work me on the summit. We drove to the trailhead and started our hike up the trail, which is heavily used but well maintained.
The fire lookout is not a tower. It sits on top of a large rock formation with stairs leading up the side of the rock.
When we got to the top, we spent some time enjoying the view and catching our breath. As the sign says, the stairs have 143 steps which take you to an elevation of 9748 feet.
I got out the radio and started calling CQ on 146.52 MHz. Ted (NØNKG) came right back to me…I think he probably saw my email message. Over the next half hour, I worked a total of 7 contacts: NØNKG, N2RL, NØGWM, W7RTX, WB9QDL, KØDEN and WXØPIX. I even remembered to bring along a log book and a pen to write it all down.
Bill Ellis staffs the fire lookout for the US Forest Service most of the time during the summer. He handed me a card that certifies that I climbed up to the lookout station. Note that this card indicates that it is the 100th anniversary of the fire lookout! And Bill’s been doing this for 26 years. Cool!
Various people have said that Devils Head is a must do hike in Colorado and I have to agree (whether you are doing a SOTA activation or not). It turns out that I was the second person to activate Devils Head as a SOTA summit, with Chuck (N6UHB) having done it in October 2011. I’ll probably do some more of this since it is a nice blend of ham radio, hiking and enjoying the view from a high spot.
73, Bob K0NR