In 2018, Joyce/K0JJW and I did a trip to the Black Hills area of South Dakota to do some SOTA activations: Dakota SOTA Adventure. We really enjoyed that part of South Dakota and figured we would be back. The Black Hills top out at ~7200 feet and the climbs are usually interesting but not very difficult. There are plenty of SOTA summits to choose from and the scenery is beautiful.
This summer we found ourselves on a road trip returning to Colorado from Wisconsin, so we decided to swing by South Dakota for a couple of days. Joyce is getting close to achieving the coveted SOTA Mountain Goat award (1000 activator points), so we were looking to add to her activator score. I’m not saying we only did easy summits but we pretty much did easy summits.
Looking at the SOTA database, we scanned for summits with 6 points or higher that also had a significant number of activations. On this trip, we were driving our Class B RV (basically a big honkin’ van with RV gear in it). This limited our choice of SOTA summits to ones that can be accessed via reasonably good roads. We were fine with the typical gravel US Forest Service road in good condition but not anything worse.
We connected up with Don/K0DAJ who we met at a hamfest in Loveland, CO earlier this year. Don reviewed my list of potential summits and provided valuable feedback and additional summit suggestions. Don also alerted the local hams that might want to get on the air to work us. We use VHF/UHF exclusively for SOTA, so it is easy to get skunked if there isn’t anyone around. (I found out later that Gary/KT0A also passed along the word for us.)
The SOTA Summits
We identified seven summits that we wanted to activate, which would provide 56 new activator points. They ended up being clumped into three northern summits, around Deadwood, and four southern summits southwest of Rapid City. We camped at a USFS campground in between the two clumps, activating the northern three on the first day and the southern summits on the second day.
Terry Peak (W0D/NW-002)
Terry Peak is a drive-up mountain with a short hike up to an observation platform. We approached Terry Peak from the south on Terry Summit Road, off of Hwy 85/Hwy 14A. The Black Hills National Forest map is very helpful for finding all of these summits.
We discovered that Terry Peak is quite the tourist spot and several groups of people showed up while we were there. It is also a big radio site with over a dozen towers and many more transmitters. When we parked, I noticed that the VHF/UHF mobile transceiver in the RV had both S meters pegged at full scale on all frequencies. Rut Roh, there is probably some RF around here. As usual, we had the Yaesu FT-90 transceiver which has a robust receiver in it, and it performed well. Still, I noticed that strong signals would abruptly drop down to being almost unreadable when some transmitter on the site turned on.
Mount Theodore Roosevelt (W0D/NW-023)
Mount Theodore Roosevelt turned out to be a pleasant surprise with a really good trail to the summit (0.4 miles one way, less than 200 feet elevation gain).
Also, at the summit, there is a tower that was built in honor of President Roosevelt. This is a fun little hike with a monument at the summit.
Unnamed Summit – 5110 (W0D/NW-038)
For a third summit, Don suggested an easy-to-access unnamed summit (5110), W0D/NW-038. We got there by driving south from Sturgis on Vanocker Canyon Road (26), then west on Galena Road to USFS 171.1. Driving a short distance north on 171.1 got us to an open area where we parked. Then it was just a bushwack up the hill (no trail), 0.3 miles one way with an elevation gain of 400 feet.
Day 2 was a repeat of summits that we did in 2018, so I won’t repeat all of that here: Odakota Mountain (W0D/BB-002), Bear Mountain (W0D/BB-029), Coolidge Mountain (W0D/BB-012) and Rankin Ridge (BB-089). Refer to the 2018 trip report for more info.
This time, Odakota Mountain was extra special because Don/K0DAJ joined us on the summit.
There is an actual summit marker for Odakota, so I had to get a photo of me standing there.
Most of the contacts were on 146.52 MHz, a few on 446.0 MHz. Joyce’s log and my log are pretty much the same but I did work a few more stations. In summary, we had QSOs with these stations during the two days: AD0HL, K0DAJ, KB0QDG, KC0WC, KD0AYN, KF0AFX, KF0ARA, KF0XO, KF7ZQL, NC0K, W0LFB, W0NIL, W0SEB, W0SSB, W5LJM, W7LFB, WN6QJN and WS0V. Thank you to each and every one of you for getting on the air!
In Colorado, we pretty much work Colorado stations on VHF from the summits, so it was fun to contact other states on this trip. From Bear Mountain, we worked W0NIL and W0SSB in Chadron, NE, about 90 miles away. Not too shabby. From Terry Peak, we worked Clem/KF7ZQL in Carlile, WY at a distance of 50 miles. Not as far, but another state in the log.
We caught AD0HL and KF0ARA on unnamed summit 6167 (W0D/BB-008) from both Odakota Mountain and Bear Mountain, for two Summit-to-Summit (S2S) contacts. We also got two S2S contacts with Don/K0DAJ: Crooks Tower from Terry Peak and Terry Peak from Mount Theodore Roosevelt. It was kind of an S2S festival!
Don/K0DAJ and Terry/AD0HL worked us on 6 of the 7 summits, so they were our most prolific chasers. Thanks, guys! Finally, special thanks to Don for the helpful advice and joining us to play radio in the Black Hills.
We were able to get our minimum 4 QSOs on each summit and usually had many more. This resulted in 56 activator points, so we are quite happy with that. We have just sampled a few of the many SOTA summits in the Black Hills area, so I suspect that we will be back for more.
73 Bob K0NR