Archive for category Mountains
“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