Archive for category Mountains

Colorado 14er Event – August 3, 2014

Colo14er SOTA logoDuring the Colorado 14er Event, Amateur Radio operators will be climbing many of Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains and SOTA summits to set up amateur radio stations to communicate with other radio amateurs across the state and around the world. Join in on the fun on Sunday August 3 and see how many of the mountaintop stations you can contact.

The new Colorado 14er Event logo is now available on t-shirts and more.

Starting in 2012, Summits on The Air (SOTA) is part of this event. This means there are over 1700 summits that you can activate in Colorado, with a wide variety of hiking difficulty. This opens up the event to a lot more people and a lot more summits. See the new SOTA page.

Radio operators with 14er climbing experience who plan to activate a summit should log their name and intended peak at the Ham14er Yahoo group. This is also the email list for discussing the event and asking questions.

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Farewell, Rooster

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.

Rooster and Peanut, the most famous SOTA Goats in the entire world

Rooster and Peanut, the most famous SOTA Goats in the entire world

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

Rooster, we sure are going to miss you!

73, Bob K0NR

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A Great Bag for the FT-817

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.

At Pacificon, I came across this bag by AMP-3 which is custom designed for the FT-817. David KF7ETX did a great job designing this bag, which he explains in this video.

There are cheaper solutions out there but this is the best one I’ve seen.

73, Bob K0NR

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A Classic SOTA Hike: Midland Hill (W0/SP-117)

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.

Midland Hill route

GPS track for Midland Hill

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.

Bob K0NR on the trail

Bob K0NR on the trail

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

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How To Do a SOTA Activation On Pikes Peak

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 2

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.

Pikes Peak map

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

Resources

SOTAwatch web site
Pikes Peak Tourist Information
Pikes Peak (W0/FR-004) SOTA Page
Pikes Peak Web Cam
Pikes Peak Highway Information 

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A Soggy Mount Herman SOTA Activation (W0/FR-063)

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.

Mt Herman map

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.

K0NR HT in the rain

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

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Two SOTA Activations: W0/SP-099 and SP-115

Bald Mountain (W0/SP-115)

Bald Mountain (W0/SP-115)

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.APRS K0NR-7

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

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A Little Mountaintop Video

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.

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Summits On The Air (W0/SP-112) – Castle Rock

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.

Castle Rock

Castle Rock

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.)

Assembling the Arrow 2-Meter antenna

Assembling the Arrow 2-Meter antenna

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.

Operating with the Arrow antenna mounted on the trekking pole

Operating with the Arrow antenna mounted on the trekking pole

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

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The WG0AT List of SOTA Resources

Here’s a great set of Summits On The Air (SOTA) links from Steve WG0AT:

Name: Medium: Source: Description:
Official SOTA Site Web SOTA UK Gateway to all official SOTA resources
Rules & Guidelines PDF 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) PDF WØ Assoc.Mgr. Defines all summits and rules for the WØ Association
SOTA Activator Guidelines PDF 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 PDF 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

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New Colorado 14er Event Shirt

Colo14er SOTA logoThanks 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

 

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A Simple Wilderness Protocol: 146.52 MHz

when-all-else-fails-logo“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.

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SOTA Activation: Aspen Ridge (W0/SP-084)

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.

K0NR on Aspen Ridge IMG_1553

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.

K0NR on Aspen Ridge IMG_1557

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

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What’s All This SOTA Stuff?

w0sotaThe 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:

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

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VHF SOTA Activation (W0/ SP-081)

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

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Ham Radio Action Next Weekend – Sept 8/9

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.

  1. ARRL September VHF QSO Party – noon MDT on Saturday until 9 PM MDT on Sunday    http://www.arrl.org/september-vhf
  2. 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
    http://www.qsl.net/k0yb/Colorado_FM_Sprint.html
    Suggested frequencies: 146.58, 146.55, 223.5, 446.000, 446.100 MHz FM simplex
  3. North American Summits On The Air (SOTA) Weekend
    SOTA activations all over North America
    http://na-sota.org/NASOTA_Weekend.html
    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

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A Great SOTA Weekend

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

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Pikes Peak to Mt Sneffels – 160 Miles

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.

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A Great Day of Mountaintop Radio

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.

Radio Log

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.”

This was a Summits On the Air activation, the first ever for Mount Sneffels (W0/UR-001). All in all, a good day playing ham radio in the mountains.

Thanks to everyone that came out to play.

73, Bob K0NR

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Colorado 14er Event This Weekend

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

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