Archive for category SOTA
I made it to the Dayton Hamvention this year, after a multi-year absence. Due to that four-letter word known as work, I was not able to arrive until really late Friday night. That left all day Saturday and the half day on Sunday to partake of the event.
I’ll start with the obligatory dig at Hara Arena, repeating my tweet:
Hara Arena continues to be everything that I wish it wasn’t.
I spent some time helping out at the HamRadioSchool.com booth in the north hall. Wow, what a positive response we got from that effort. Stu W0STU’s Technician and General Class books have really hit their mark, finding a good balance between covering the material to pass the FCC exams while also helping students to really get it. We heard quite a few instructors stop by and say “This is what I have been looking for!” If you are teaching a ham radio licensing class, you need to check out the HamRadioSchool.com books….and the companion web site and iOS apps.
One of the high points of the weekend was discovering the poster-size front cover of Spring 2013 CQ VHF with my mountaintop photo on it. Joyce K0JJW took a great shot of me operating from Mt Sneffels last August (Colorado 14er Event and SOTA), so it was an excellent complement to my article: “A Little Mountaintop Operation”.
So I leave Dayton, thinking about the highs and lows for the weekend. There was not much new that really caught my attention. (Disclaimer: I am sure I didn’t see everything there.) I am still looking for an FT-950 with 2 Meters, an Android HT and a D-STAR radio from Kenwood, Yaesu or even Alinco. Also, there is a real trend of vaporware instead of products. I’ve gotten really jaded about this. If a company can’t quote price and delivery, then it doesn’t exist in my world.
As K9ZW pointed out, much of the fun of Dayton is being with great people: some old friends (like my bud Denny KB9DPF) and some new ones, too.
How was your Hamvention?
73, Bob K0NR
It is about time I updated one of my more popular posts, The Incomplete List of Ham Radio iPhone Apps from 2011. This was a challenging task back then and has gotten more difficult as the number of ham radio apps for the iPhone has greatly expanded. Still, I will give it a shot and appreciate your feedback to make the list better. I am only evaluating iPhone apps, not iPad apps, since I don’t use an iPad.
In general, I will focus on free or low cost (less than $5) apps that I am actively using.
From the Simple Utility Category:
Maidenhead Converter (Author: Donald Hays, Cost: Free) Handy app that displays your grid locator, uses maps and does lat/lon to grid locator conversions.
Ham Radio Handbook (Author: Antonis Miliarakis Cost: Free) This app provides some basic ham radio info: Q Signals, Country Prefixes, Band Plans and RST signal reporting.
UTC Time (Author: Michael Wells, Cost: Free) A simple app that displays UTC time and local time.
Ham I Am (Author: Storke Brothers, Cost: Free) A handy app that covers some basic amateur radio reference material (Phonetic alphabet, Q Signals, Ham Jargon, Morse Code, RST System, etc.) Although I find the name to be silly, I like the app!
There are quite a few good apps for looking up amateur radio callsigns.
CallBook (Author: Dog Park Software, Cost: $1.99) Simple ham radio callbook lookup with map display.
Call Sign Lookup (Author: Technivations, Cost: $0.99) Another simple ham radio callsign lookup with map display.
CallSigns (Author: David Fleming W4SMT, Cost: $1.99) This is my favorite ham radio callsign lookup. The features are not much different than the others I have listed but the graphics are nicer and the user interface a little cleaner. I am sure this is mostly personal preference.
There are a few repeater directory apps out there:
iHAM Repeater Database (Author: Garry Gerossie, Cost: $4.99) Geolocation repeater directory. This seems to work well.
RepeaterBook (Author: ZBM2 Software, Cost: Free) I’ve only used this one a bit but it seems to work well and its free.
If you are an EchoLink user, then you’ll want this app:
EchoLink (Author: Synergenics, Cost: Free) The EchoLink app for the iPhone.
There are quite a few APRS apps out there. I tend to use these as my needs are pretty simple….just track me, baby!
iBCNU (Author: Luceon, Cost: $1.99) The first APRS app I was able to get running. It just turned on and worked. It integrates the aprs.fi mapping into the app, so it is easy to use. I recommend this one for most casual APRS users.
Ham Tracker (Author: Kram, Cost: $2.99) APRS app, works OK, uses external maps such as Google and aprs.fi. “Share” feature allows you to send an SMS or email with your location information.
Satellite tracking is another useful app for a smartphone:
ISS Lite (Author: Craig Vosburgh, Cost: Free) A free satellite tracking app for just the International Space Station. It has annoying ads but its free.
ProSat Satellite Tracker (Author: Craig Vosburgh, Cost: $9.99) This app is by the same author as ISS Lite, but is the full-featured “pro” version. Although it is a pricey compared to other apps, I recommend it.
For Summits On The Air (SOTA) activity, there are a few apps:
Pocket SOTA (Author: Pignology, Cost: Free) A free app for finding SOTA summits, checking spots and accessing other information.
SOTA Goat (Author: Rockwell Schrock, Cost: $4.99) This is a great app for SOTA activity. It works better when offline than Pocket SOTA (which often happens when you are activating a summit).
For Technician License training, I like the HamRadioSchool.com app. (OK, I am biased here as I contribute to that web site.)
HamRadioSchool (Author: Peak Programming, Cost: $2.99) There are a lot of Technician practice exams out there but this is the best one, especially if you use the HamRadioSchool license book. They also just released the General practice exam, too.
For a mobile logbook:
HamLog (Author: Pignology, Cost: $0.99) I am not too keen on the idea of keeping a log on an iPhone, but it does come in handy once in a while. More importantly, HamLog includes a bunch of handy tools including UTC Clock, Callsign Lookup, Prefix list, Band Plans, Grid Calculator, Solar Data, SOTA Watch, Q Signals and much more.
Well, that’s my list. Any other suggestions?
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
I decided to operate from our cabin near Trout Creek Pass in Park County, which is considered “rare” by most folks. My station was a Yaesu FT-950 running 100W to a trap dipole up in the trees. I mostly operated phone since I don’t consider my CW skills up to that challenge of a contest. I did make a few CW contacts at the request of a few folks than wanted Park County on CW.
Thanks to all of the mobile stations out there, both in Colorado and out of state. I was surprised how many people were mobile or operating portable (often camping out for the holiday weekend). I normally monitor 146.52 MHz while up at the cabin for anyone out hiking or mobile. I heard Eric W0ECE doing a SOTA activation on Mt Evans and worked him for QSO Party points and SOTA points.
The score below includes the CW contacts so the score will drop a bit when I submit in the phone only category (77526, I think).
I was disappointed with the Qs on 15 Meters but I looked in my log from last year and it was also light on 15 Meter contacts. Twenty meters is always a bit crowded and I really like when 15M and 10M open up. I almost doubled my score from last year, so I was happy with the result.
Band Mode QSOs Pts Sec Mul 7 CW 3 12 2 0 7 LSB 93 186 23 1 14 CW 1 4 1 0 14 USB 400 802 41 0 21 USB 23 64 5 0 28 USB 1 2 0 0 144 FM 4 8 3 0 Total Both 525 1078 75 1 Score : 81,928
Thanks to the Pikes Peak Radio Amateur Association for sponsoring this event.
73, Bob K0NR
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