Dakota SOTA Adventure

Most of our Summits On The Air (SOTA) activity is here in Colorado but every once in a while, Joyce/K0JJW and I get the opportunity to branch out to other locations. It’s a fun thing to do with SOTA…do a little hiking, sightseeing and ham radio operating. On this trip, we decided to visit the Black Hills region of South Dakota, a place we had enjoyed many years ago.

Bob/K0NR operating 2m FM using a Yaesu FT-90 driving a 3-element yagi antenna.

Our general approach was to identify a list of SOTA summits that were not too difficult, with reasonable activator points (>6) and in locations we wanted to visit. (One good method is to use the SOTA database to sort summits by points, then look for ones that have been activated the most. Those are usually easy to access.) I noticed that Gary/KT0A had activated all of the summits on my list so I emailed him and received some great advice. Gary has also provided most of the activation notes in the SOTA database, which proved to be helpful. Thanks, Gary.

We use VHF and UHF exclusively for our SOTA activations, so I was a bit concerned about whether we’d find enough VHF activity in the area. Typically, we can work 100 miles or so on 2m FM from a summit without too much trouble but if no one is out there, it’s kind of difficult to make radio contact. South Dakota is not the most populous state, so it was a concern.

We spent three days in the western South Dakota area: did three summits the first day, three summits the second day and two summits the third day. The Black Hills are about a 6 hour drive from the Denver area, which makes for a good SOTA destination from Colorado.

Scotts Bluff (W0N/PH-005)

Hey, wait a minute, this one is in Nebraska, not the Dakotas. It turns out Nebraska (W0N) has 15 SOTA summits, most of them in the pan handle of the state. Scotts Bluff (4649 feet) is located in Scotts Bluff National Monument and has historical significance as an important landmark on the Oregon Trail. This is an excellent example of the SOTA program providing that extra incentive to visit a new location that we otherwise would have skipped.

summit photo Scotts Bluff
Joyce/K0JJW, Bob/KC0OZ, Bob/K0NR and Leeloo on the summit of Scotts Bluff.

We drove to the parking lot near the summit followed by a short hike to the actual high point. (Yes, you can hike up from below if you’d prefer.) We ran into Bob/KC0OZ who is a volunteer at the national monument (and his dog Leeloo).  I wasn’t sure how much VHF activity I would encounter on a weekday but we found quite a few friendly folks lurking on 2m FM in the area. I think Bob knew everyone that we worked on the 2m band.

Rankin Ridge (W0D/BB-089)

Inside Wind Cave National Park, Rankin Ridge is a 1-mile (200 feet vertical) loop trail in good condition, providing an easy hike to a lookout tower. (The lookout tower was marked “no entry”.) This was a very enjoyable hike and should be on the “must do” list for this area.

Rankin Ridge lookout tower (not in use).

Mount Coolidge (W0D/BB-012)

Mount Coolidge is a drive-up summit (good gravel road, 2WD), easily accessible from Highway 87 in Custer State Park. It is the site of an historical rock lookout tower which is now encroached on by many radio towers. The Custer State Park web site says the road to Mount Coolidge is generally open 9 am – 5 pm from Memorial Day into late September.

Mount Coolidge lookout tower

This summit is easy to access and provides some very good views of the Black Hills. Even though I’m a fan of radio towers and antennas, the way they surround the historic lookout tower really detracts from the summit. Don’t come here expecting a wilderness experience.

Odakota Mountain (W0D/BB-002)

This summit is a relatively easy bushwhack hike through grass and over some downed timber, less than a 1/2-mile in distance and only 100 feet vertical. You’ll want to have the Black Hills National Forest map guiding yourself to this summit. Actually, that map is useful for all of these summits in South Dakota.

Bob/K0NR cranking out CW on the 2m band using the FT-817.

Bear Mountain (W0D/BB-029)

Next up was Bear Mountain, another summit that has a lookout tower now accompanied by radio towers. (Not as bad as Mount Coolidge.) There is a good gravel road to the summit suitable for 2WD vehicles. Again, the Black Hills National Forest map is a great resource for access information.

Atlantic Hill (W0D/BB-037)

This summit was a reasonable bushwhack hike with lots of tall grass and significant downed timber. My GPS app measured the distance at 0.45 miles with 450 feet vertical.

Joyce/K0JJW standing near the summit of Atlantic Hill.

We followed KT0A’s instructions from the SOTA website which took us to the west side of Atlantic Hill. Again, use the Black Hills National Forest map for guidance. The map below shows the road as “297 1G” but it was just labeled “G”. Also, note that the road is gated closed for part of the year. The “G” road looked a bit sketchy but turned out to be easy to navigate with our crossover SUV. The map below shows the track we took. There was no trail and at times the grass was very tall. All things considered this was a good hike and the summit is quite pleasant.

Our hiking route up Atlantic Hill.

Cicero Peak (W0D/BB-009)

Cicero Peak has a rocky road (FS 338) to the summit, OK for high clearance 2WD vehicles. There’s a small radio site at the summit. The views are probably wonderful but we did not see any because of the low hanging clouds when we were there. This road also has a gate at the bottom and is closed seasonally.

Cicero Peak map
Road to Cicero Peak.

Custer Mountain (W0D/BB-010)

Custer Mountain was the toughest hike of the trip…a bushwhack through tall grass, downed timber and plenty of rock near the summit. Actually, the worst part was the swarms of gnats that followed us everywhere — they were out in full force after the rainy weather. Actually, I think it was the gnats that wore us out…difficult to step over rocks and logs when you’re swatting the little buggers.

Bob/K0NR on the summit of Custer Mountain.

Again, we followed KT0A’s activation notes on the SOTA web site. There is really no “good” way to ascend the mountain but the map below shows the track we used to descend the mountain. It has a few less rocks and downed trees to climb over. The key is to approach the summit from the west/northwest. The distance recorded on my GPS app was 0.83 miles and 650 feet vertical.

Custer Mountain map
Hiking route up Custer Mountain.

Radio Operating

Our radio gear varied from summit to summit but we always carried a Yaesu FT-90 2m/70cm transceiver, an Arrow 3-element yagi for 2m, dualband j-pole for 2m/70cm and a gaggle of handheld transceivers. On most of the summits, we also had the FT-817 so we could work CW/SSB on 2m and 6m. As usual, most of the contact were on 146.52 MHz FM, using the FT-90.

NC0K and W0FUI were listening a lot and worked us on 5 summits, KE0LXT snagged us on 4 summits (and met us in person on Bear Mountain). We worked  KD0UST from 2 summits.

Our longest distance QSOs were with Jim/WD0BQM in Mitchell, NE (grid DN81cw). From Scotts Bluff we both worked Jim on 2m FM at relatively short range. On Odakota Mountain, we worked Jim/WD0BQM in Mitchell, Nebraska (Grid DN81cw) on 2m at a distance of 139 miles. I initially worked Jim on CW with very good signals. Joyce also worked him on SSB but she had to work a bit to complete that contact. From Bear Mountain, I worked Jim on 2m CW again with some difficulty because signals were clearly weaker but Joyce was not able to complete using SSB.  Thanks for getting on the air with us, Jim!

I made one 6m ssb contact with K0CX from Bear Mountain. Other stations worked during the trip: KC0WVE, N8XBD, WB0VAO, KB0ZXH, KL7MH, N0SQ, W0SSB, KD0QDG, KD0ZIP, AF0DJ, KD0ZIR, W0NIL, W7REA, K0CX, WB0PZQ, N0DUX, N0DUW, KC0GWU, W3MEB, W7LFB, W0LFB, KF0XO. We managed to make at least 4 QSOs on each summit without too much difficulty by calling on 146.52 MHz. On Custer Mountain, we got impatient and went over to the 146.85 MHz (Bear Mountain) repeater to beg for a simplex contact. Thanks, KF0XO.

It was a great trip to a beautiful part of the western United States. We met some really nice hams along the way. Thanks to everyone that took the time to work us on the summits.

73, Bob K0NR

The post Dakota SOTA Adventure appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

AmateurLogic 119: Field Day 2018

AmateurLogic.TV Episode 119 is now available for download.

Join the AmateurLogic crew for Field Day 2018. We assembled and raised a Hex Beam, Cobweb, and Off Center Fed Dipole this year. Jocelyn Brault, KD8VRX/VA2VRX talks about licensing requirements for operating in another country and Field Day at VOA. Arne Carlsson, K5ARN/SA7CAR added a little Swedish flavor to the topic. Emile leads the Field Day charge in South Louisiana. Plus it turns out the real Swedish Fish is not a fish at all. It’s a horse!



George Thomas, W5JDX, is co-host of AmateurLogic.TV, an original amateur radio video program hosted by George Thomas (W5JDX), Tommy Martin (N5ZNO), Peter Berrett (VK3PB), and Emile Diodene (KE5QKR). Contact him at [email protected].

LHS Episode #236: Kinky Jedi

Hello! Welcome to Episode 236 of Linux in the Ham Shack. In this episode, the hosts discuss South African (and elsewhere) youth events in amateur radio, LIDs, satellites in the amateur radio spectrum, online tools for testing Linux distributions, malware in the repos, OpenRC, networking via high-altitude balloons and more. Thank you for listening.

73 de The LHS Crew

Russ Woodman, K5TUX, co-hosts the Linux in the Ham Shack podcast which is available for download in both MP3 and OGG audio format. Contact him at [email protected].

Weekly Propagation Summary – 2018 Jul 16 16:10 UTC

Weekly Propagation Summary (2018 Jul 16 16:10 UTC)

Here is this week’s space weather and geophysical report, issued 2018 Jul 16 0150 UTC.

Highlights of Solar and Geomagnetic Activity 09 – 15 July 2018

Solar activity was very low throughout the reporting period. The visible disk produced several plage regions but no visible spots were observed.

No proton events were observed at geosynchronous orbit.

The greater than 2 MeV electron flux at geosynchronous orbit was at normal to moderate levels. Moderate levels were reached on 09-11 Jul and 13-17 Jul.

Geomagnetic field activity was mostly quiet with several periods of unsettled observed on 11-12 Jul. A slow-moving transient signature was observed in the solar wind midday on 10 Jul from a CME first observed in STEREO AHEAD COR 2 imagery early on 05 Jul. A decrease in solar wind speeds was observed, after the onset, which lowered winds from near 385 km/s to 309 km/s at its slowest point on 11 Jul. Total magnetic field strength peaked at arrival with 13 nT. Bz was mostly oriented either near neutral or northward which produced a quiet to unsettled geomagnetic response throughout the duration of the transient.

Forecast of Solar and Geomagnetic Activity 16 July – 11 August 2018

Solar activity is expected to remain very low throughout the outlook period.

No proton events are expected at geosynchronous orbit.

The greater than 2 MeV electron flux at geosynchronous orbit is expected to range from moderate to high levels. Moderate to high level are expected over 21-31 Jul and normal to moderate levels are expected through the remainder of the outlook period. All enhancements in the greater than 2 MeV electron flux are due to the anticipated influence of multiple, recurrent CH HSSs.

Geomagnetic field activity is expected to range from quiet to G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storm levels. Unsettled levels are expected on 16 Jul, 21 Jul and 24 Jul; active levels are expected on 20 Jul and 22 Jul; G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storm levels are expected on 23 Jul. All increases in geomagnetic activity are in anticipation of multiple, recurrent CH HSSs.

Don’t forget to visit our live space weather and radio propagation web site, at: http://SunSpotWatch.com/

Live Aurora mapping is at http://aurora.sunspotwatch.com/

If you are on Twitter, please follow these two users: 1. https://Twitter.com/NW7US 2. https://Twitter.com/hfradiospacewx

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Be sure to subscribe to our space weather and propagation email group, on Groups.io


Spread the word!

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Links of interest:

+ Amazon space weather books: http://g.nw7us.us/fbssw-aSWSC
+ https://Twitter.com/NW7US
+ https://Twitter.com/hfradiospacewx

Space Weather and Ham Radio YouTube Channel News:

I am working on launching a YouTube channel overhaul, that includes series of videos about space weather, radio signal propagation, and more.

Additionally, I am working on improving the educational efforts via the email, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, and other activities.

You can help!

Please consider becoming a Patron of these space weather and radio communications services, beginning with the YouTube channel:


The YouTube channel:


Tomas Hood, NW7US, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Nebraska, USA. Tomas is the Space Weather and Radio Propagation Contributing Editor to 'CQ Amateur Radio Magazine', 'The Spectrum Monitor', and 'RadioUser UK Magazine'.

My new ham radio passion revealed.

My new adventure arrives
  IARU contest was in full swing and I felt it was a great time to see if my I.P. address both static and dynamic as well as the good old Subnet mask was going to bring me joy! I started the PC and with the pushing of a few buttons I was up and going. I am the proud owner of a new Expert Electronics SunSDR2 Pro. So the cat is out of the bag as some had already guessed my new adventure is SDR radio. For real VFO spinning and button pushing I still have my Elecraft KX3.  Expert Electronics has currently 4 transceivers, the MB1, SunSDR2 Pro, SunSDR2 and SunSDR2 QRP. I chose the SunSDR2 Pro for a few reasons first being the MB1 was way out of my price range. I wanted a bit more than QRP power so the SunSDR2 QRP was out of the question. The U.S dealer is NSI communications and on their site the SunSDR2 Pro was on sale as well! I order the rig and it took about a week to make it up to me in Canada. Before it was shipped Yuri from NSI communications called me just to let me know if there was any issues with setup to call him. He also advised me to download and start reading the manuals.

The SDR radio is a learning experience for me and I’m sure it is going to be the way of the future and I’m a slow learner so I wanted to get on the wagon soon. I “tried” to set the radio up on my own to have it communicate with my PC and it just went from bad to worse. I had to get the rig to communicate with my PC via the Ethernet card. I have two Ethernet cards and was getting them intermixed until I was lost. I didn’t want to get frustrated as this is a huge learning curve BUT I did give in to emailing Yuri about my situation. He promptly called me and set up a time to use Team viewer and take over my PC to figure out the issue. Within 15 minutes he had my PC and SDR radio “talking” with each other.

SunSDR2 pro 

The SunSDR2 Pro tops out at 20 watts and includes VHF and a lot more that you can read about from this LINK. As I was saying at the start of this post the IARU contest was on this weekend and I threw my SDR rig into the action. This contest gave me an opportunity to see how the receiver stacked up on a busy band. I was impressed and very much enjoyed using the second independent receiver/transmitter.
I was not an active participant in the contest I was there to see how the receiver preformed. Next I want to get my contest software and logging software on board with the SDR radio. Some draw backs I have found with this rig is.....at this point in time there is no QSK and there is no one button split operation. For split it involves a few button pushes. I have been told and read on the forum that these issues are known and solutions are being worked on.
Using the 2  receivers 

Mike Weir, VE3WDM, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Ontario, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

Amateur Radio Weekly – Issue 211

Ham radio technology used in Thailand cave rescue
UK radio amateur John Hey G3TDZ (SK) designed the special low frequency radio equipment, the Heyphone, used in the recent cave rescue in Thailand.

SDR: Direction finding techniques
Public KiwiSDRs distributed around the world can be used to pinpoint the physical locations of any 0 – 30 MHz transmitter using the TDoA technique.

New: No Nonsense Amateur Radio Podcast
The No Nonsense Amateur Radio Podcast is a discussion of where we are in amateur radio and where we’re going. It is a production of Dan, KB6NU, and Tom, KB5RF.
No Nonsense Podcast

A short guide on baluns
Unless precautions are taken to minimize it, all coax fed antennas will have significant current flowing on the outside of the coax shield while transmitting.
Surrey Amateur Radio Club

ARRL contest award certificates now available for download
This new online certificate feature will offer enhanced content over what has been offered previously on ARRL certificates.

88 MHz Trans-Atlantic signals heard in Ireland
Northern Ireland managed to hear a Canadian radio station across the Atlantic at 88 MHz.

W6/NC-353, Burdell Mountain – 2018
I did this summit late last year as my first morse code activation. Last time it was a combo POTA/SOTA activation. This time would be only SOTA. And it was a heck of a lot warmer too!

Shortwave radio listening continues its steep decline
Shortwave audiences are virtually disappearing in Pakistan, and down substantially in Nigeria.

3D printed 10KV tuning capacitor
I will show you how to build a super-cheap tuning capacitor that will tolerate up to 10,000 Volts of RF and allow you to use up to about 100 Watts of RF into my 14MHz (20m) antenna.
The SWLing Post

Directive Systems 2 Meter Rover Yagi
With an 8 foot boom, it’s just the right size to fit on the roof of my SUV for transport and works great on the fiberglass push-up mast.


Make your own LED battery level indicator
In this video I will show you how we can use the classic LM3914 IC to create an LED Battery Level Indicator.

Get Amateur Radio Weekly in your inbox.

Sign-up here

Amateur Radio Weekly is curated by Cale Mooth K4HCK. Sign up free to receive ham radio's most relevant news, projects, technology and events by e-mail each week at http://www.hamweekly.com.

My New 80 / 40m Antenna

80 / 40m wire vertical groundplanes, now removed

For the past several years I have employed wire vertical groundplane antennas for both 80 and 40m, mounted a few feet from the ocean.

In the fall I layout the ground radials on the grass and in the spring, roll all of them up again. The main reason for going to the vertical was to eliminate problems with my 80 / 40m half-slopers when using my 1929 single tube power oscillators during the windy conditions usually encountered during the mid-winter '29 BK QSO Party.

The flexing between the tower's telescoping mast sections and the Yagi antennas that form part of the sloper's 'top hat' , cause the half-sloper's impedance or resonance to change ever so slightly. The directly-coupled oscillators respond to these minute antenna changes by constantly shifting frequency by several hundred Hertz, as their output load changes. These high winds can make the low-power oscillator difficult to copy under weak signal conditions as it suddenly jumps frequency. The verticals were immune to this 'wind effect' and performed very well ... sort of.

I've noticed, over the years, that the verticals seemed to produce a much better signal out on the eastern edges of the continent than they do in the central states and in the closer western (PNW) states. I decided to see if an inverted-V might produce a higher takeoff angle and give me a better signal in mid-continent and an 'OK' one on the east coast. The half-slopers on the other hand, always seem to produce a good signal both near and far, but could usually not be used with the one-tube power oscillators when it was windy ... which, during winter here on the coast, is a lot of the time!

Following the removal of the old wire verticals and several days of antenna building, the new 80 / 40m dual inverted-Vs were hoisted to the top of my 85' Balsam. After pruning for resonance, I have been able to run some comparisons between the 40m V and my present 40m half-sloper. The 80m half-sloper had already been decommissioned as it required the changing of a jumper to use and I was never able to resonate it properly for some reason. Oddly there was no problem with either the 40m or 160m half slopers, fed at the same point, as both resonated easily.

The new 80 / 40m dual inverted-V dipoles

The dual dipoles, both resonated to the CW portion of each band, are separated every 10' by 24" varnished and painted hardwood spreaders.

The old 40m sloper has always been a really great performing antenna (except for the power oscillator / mast flexing problem) and it was the one used for my 300mW Tuna Tin Worked All States, back in the fall of 2000. I've had good success with both the 40m version and the 160m version, with 159 countries now confirmed on topband using the diminutive 130' wire.

The 'Half-Sloper' was given a close analysis by antenna guru Jack Belrose, VE2CV, and described in QST of May, 1980. In his article, "The Half Sloper - Successful Deployment is an Enigma", he found that the radiation pattern was almost identical to that of a top-loaded monopole, fed against ground. The radiation field was largely vertically polarized and omni-directional while a lesser component, about 10db down, was horizontally polarized and coming from the sloping wire. The horizontal component had a figure-eight radiation pattern, slightly favoring the direction of the wire. He suggests that this antenna should be avoided due to the difficulty in getting it properly tuned.

My own experience with half-slopers have been mostly very positive, in spite of the tuning problems with the 80m version. To me, it seems like an ideal low band antenna for the small backyard, if you can get it to tune correctly. Assuming you already have a tower with some beams to add top-loading, hanging half slopers for the low bands takes up very little space. With omni-directional low angle radiation along with some higher angle horizontal radiation, all in a small footprint, what could be better for a simple wire antenna? Well, hopefully, my new high inverted-V!

For the past couple of weeks, as described earlier, I have been comparing the new 40m inverted-V against my 40m half-sloper, 'A-B' style, in real time, using the KiwiSDR network of online receivers. It seems that about 75% of the time, my old half-sloper, is just a few db better than the new V ... after all of the work involved, these results were both surprising and somewhat disappointing!

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised after all, since the inverted-V configuration for a dipole is certainly less than ideal and the included angle in my antenna's normal position is only about 90 degrees. As well, the feedline attenuation losses for the new antenna are about 1db higher than those of the sloper. During the winter, I will be able to move one leg over to the far side of my neighbour's property which will open the apex up to a full 180 degrees. Recent testing at this angle has made the antennas neck and neck with one beating the other about 50% of the time, but the inverted-V is always better to the closer states.

Unfortunately, I have nothing to compare the new 80m antenna against but from listening to the signal on various SDR's around the continent and into the Caribbean, I have every confidence in it providing a much better signal than I have previously been able to muster on that band ... it should really help during the '29 BK QSO Party and the next NRR CW Party.

So what has been accomplished with the new installation? I have gained what appears to be a very good performer on 80m, as well as a 40m antenna that seems to be as good as the known good performing half-sloper, and should not cause any frequency-hopping with the one-tube power oscillators. My signal into the nearby PNW and central states has been improved. As well, now I can also avoid the annual radial deployment and retrieval needed for the wire verticals.

I'm still testing both antennas but conditions have been less than co-operative over the past few weeks. Hopefully when propagation picks up again, some of the European and far out Pacific SDRs can be used to further compare the two antennas ... there may yet be more to come!

Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

Subscribe FREE to AmateurRadio.com's
Amateur Radio Newsletter

We never share your e-mail address.

Do you like to write?
Interesting project to share?
Helpful tips and ideas for other hams?

Submit an article and we will review it for publication on AmateurRadio.com!

Are you a reporter covering ham radio?
Find ham radio experts for your story.

How to Set Up a Ham Radio Blog
Get started in less than 15 minutes!

  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor

Sign up for our free
Amateur Radio Newsletter

Enter your e-mail address: