Posts Tagged ‘Colorado’
Last year, Joyce/K0JJW and I tried to activate Red Mountain Number 3 (W0C/UR-016) for SOTA in the San Juan mountains. The map showed there was a road to the top, so we were expecting easy access. However, the road is gated off about 2 miles from the summit, requiring a hike. So we hiked almost to the summit but turned back when the thunderstorms rolled in. We retreated to safety and vowed to return another day.
This week, we went back and activated the summit, along with Stu/W0STU and Liz/KT0LIZ. Red Mountain No. 3 sits just southwest of its sister summits: Red Mountain No.1 and Red Mountain No. 2. (Red Mtn 1 is also a SOTA summit, so we’ll need to activate that one sometime.)
We accessed Red Mountain 3 (RM3) by taking Highway 550 to Red Mountain Pass. The road for RM3 is County Road 14 but is not well marked. The turnoff (shown on the map above) is just south of Red Mtn Pass, going to the east (37.89587, -107.71369). County Road 14 is a narrow but easy road, barely 4WD, that leads to the gate (37.89476, -107.70774). We parked there and hiked up the road.
I don’t usually like to hike on roads but this one turned out to be just fine. It was a nice, easy grade and was flat without a lot of rocks poking up. My GPS app shows that we hiked 2 miles one-way with 1400 vertical feet. We met about a dozen people on the hike, so this seems like a popular summit. We noted other trails and roads in the area and wondered if some of them might provide a better route but everyone we saw just used the road.
Stu/W0STU examines his VHF/UHF handheld, positioning it for optimum signal level.The San Juan mountains are remote, with not a lot of people within VHF range. We were all using just VHF/UHF for SOTA, so I was concerned we could get skunked on making our four SOTA contacts. There are a few smaller towns within range and we might be able to work Grand Junction from there. I knew that Lloyd/W7SAO in Delta usually monitors 146.52 MHz and we worked him right away. After that, we called our fellow campers, James/KD0MFO and Vic/KD0OGE, working them mobile near Ridgway. We kept calling for a fourth contact and sure enough, Mike/KE5YF showed up on 2m FM. Mike is from Sweetwater, TX and was driving his Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) over Engineer Pass. So we made our four contacts to qualify for SOTA points.
The four of us had a great day on the summit. We took our time and enjoyed the hike and the radio operating. The easy access and excellent views from the top make this an attractive SOTA summit if you are traveling in this area.
73 Bob K0NR
There are over 50 summits in Colorado with an elevation of 14,000 feet or higher. These are commonly called fourteeners (or 14ers) and get a lot of attention from outdoor enthusiasts. Some folks have climbed all of them, which quickly leads to the question of What Is A Fourteener? This question is really about what is a distinct fourteener versus when is a summit just a subpeak of another fourteener. The Colorado Mountain Club list of 14ers shows 54 peaks, while other lists include a few more summits. Doing a search on Lists Of John reveals there are 74 locations in the state that exceed 14,000 feet. What constitutes “the correct list of 14ers” is often debated in the climbing community but I won’t try to sort that out here. I’ll use the Colorado Mountain Club list of 54 summits for this posting.
Summits On The Air (SOTA)
Obviously, if these are the 54 highest summits in Colorado, they are all going to be SOTA summits, right? Not so fast, Sir Edmund. The SOTA program generally requires summits to have 150 meters (492 feet) of prominence, a measure of the elevation of a summit relative to the surrounding terrain. From peaklist.org:
Prominence is the elevation of a summit relative to the highest point to which one must descend before reascending to a higher summit.
There are exceptions in the SOTA program that allow for summits of 100-meter prominence, but this does not apply to Colorado. Paul/VK5PAS has a webpage that explains prominence as applied to SOTA.
In recent history, the folks that set up the SOTA Associations have done a great job of sorting through what is a valid summit. In the US, there are excellent databases of geographic information that make this possible. Which is to say that in a particular SOTA Association, a consistent method is applied for determining “what is a summit”? This is all documented for Colorado in the W0C SOTA ARM here: https://sotastore.blob.core.windows.net/arms/ARM-W0C-3_3.pdf
Lincoln, Bross, Democrat, and Cameron
Now, back to the Colorado 14ers. There is a popular trek that allows a climber to summit four 14ers in one day, without extreme effort. The trail starts at Kite Lake, heads up to Mount Democrat (14155 ft), then over to Mount Cameron (14222 feet), and on to Mount Lincoln (14293 feet). The return trip passes over Mount Bross (14178 feet) and back down to Kite Lake. (There have been access issues in recent years concerning private property on this loop, so be sure to check that out and respect any closures).
If we check out the official list of SOTA summits, we will find Mount Democrat (W0C/SR-059) and Mount Lincoln (W0C/FR-001) listed but not Mount Cameron and Mount Bross. Per Lists of John, Cameron and Bross have prominences of 152 and 315 feet. The col between Lincoln and Cameron, does not drop down enough to provide Cameron with sufficient prominence. Same with the col between Cameron and Bross. Mount Lincoln has the highest elevation of those three summits and wins the honor of being listed as a SOTA summit. Note that Democrat, with the lowest elevation of the four summits, does qualify for the SOTA list due to its 770 feet of prominence. (There is a big enough dip between Democrat and Cameron.)
Now back to the list of 54 Colorado Fourteeners: Mount Cameron is not on the list but it often shows up on other 14er lists. Mount Bross is shown on the list of 54 but is not a SOTA summit. There are seven other Colorado 14ers that don’t qualify for SOTA:
You don’t need to become an expert on calculating prominence to do SOTA activations. Really, the key thing is to check the SOTA list and make sure your intended summit is on the list before you hit the trail.
73 Bob K0NR
This year, the Colorado 14er Event had the normal two-day (Saturday and Sunday) schedule plus two bonus days (Friday and Monday) for four activation days. Of course, Joyce/K0JJW and I decided to activate all four days using VHF/UHF frequencies. Frankly, we have not been doing that much hiking this year, so we were careful to lay out a plan that would work for us over four days.
Kaufman Ridge (W0C/SP-081)
On Friday, we hiked up Kaufman Ridge, which is a relatively easy summit near our cabin. I had an online meeting in the morning that caused us to get a late start this day, but we did chase some activators in the morning. On the summit, we worked a number of stations on VHF/UHF using the IC-705 transceiver. It was clear that most of the activators left their summit before noon, as is the usual practice for the 14ers and high peaks.
Normally, we focus our SOTA fun on VHF/UHF but this time I brought along an end-fed halfwave antenna for 20m and made a few 20m SSB contacts, including one with Elliot/K6EL on Mount Davidson (W6/NC-423). That’s right, a rare HF SOTA activation by K0NR. Joyce and I also turned in a log for Parks On The Air (POTA), which was San Isabel National Forest (K-4407).
Pikes Peak (W0C/FR-004)
On Saturday, I wanted to focus on making some 1.2 GHz (23 cm) contacts so we chose Pikes Peak as a good platform for that. Pikes is always fun because of its easy access (yes, we drove up) and its high location towering over eastern Colorado. We had Jon/KM4PEH and his wife join us on the summit, taking turns using the VHF/UHF bands. I made 42 QSOs on the various bands but my 23 cm contact with N0OY was the most exciting. I worked him in Salina KS on 1296.1 MHz using CW for a distance of 627km (392 mi). This is my new personal best for SOTA on that band.
Saturday was a good day for Summit-to-Summit (S2S) radio contacts, as I picked up 13 of them, all on VHF/UHF in Colorado. Joyce and I both worked Dave/W0ADV on Capitol Peak (W0C/SR-060) using 1.2 GHz FM. Capitol is a challenging climb, as shown in Dave’s video here.
Pikes Peak is in the Pike National Forest (K-4404), so we submitted our logs for POTA.
Mount Antero (W0C/SR-003)
On Sunday, we got up early and drove the Jeep up Mt Antero Road, parking at about 13,600 feet in elevation. This cuts a large chunk of the distance and elevation off the ascent to 14,268 feet. Besides, who wants to hike on a 4WD road anyway? It is still a decent climb over the rocky trail to get to the top.
This was my fourth SOTA activation of Antero, including its first activation back in 2011. (Actually, I’ve activated this many more times during the Colorado 14er Event, which predates SOTA in Colorado.) The activity was down a bit from Saturday and we were much further away from the large population centers, which is a factor on VHF/UHF. Still, we both made 17 QSOs, including five S2S contacts. We submitted our logs to POTA for San Isabel National Forest (K-4407).
Wander Ridge (W0C/SP-042)
On Monday, we activated one of our favorite summits near Cottonwood Pass, SP-042. Usually, I would refer to this as an Unnamed Summit (12,792), which is the name the SOTA database shows. Dave/W0ADV pointed out this summit does have a name: Wander Ridge, so I’ve adopted it for this special peak. The USGS approved that name in 2017 but it has not yet made it into the SOTA database.
From an outdoor hiking perspective, this was the best summit of the weekend. The hike starts at Cottonwood Pass and follows the Continental Divide Trail south toward the summit. Then, a short off-trail hike takes you to the summit. The weather and views were excellent!
The activity was a bit light but we both made 10 contacts, enough to qualify for a POTA activation (in addition to SOTA). This summit is right on the border of San Isabel NF and Gunnison NF, and we chose to activate it from the San Isabel side (K-4407). We only had one S2S contact, with Steve/K5SJC on Pikes Peak.
All in all, it was a fantastic weekend with four excellent summit activations. It was wonderful to work our old and new SOTA friends on the VHF/UHF bands. My special thanks go to Pete/N0OY for firing up his mega 23cm station to work me on Pikes Peak.
73 Bob K0NR
August 5 to 8, 2022
Friday to Monday
Amateur Radio operators from around Colorado will be climbing many of Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains and Summits On The Air (SOTA) peaks to set up amateur radio stations in an effort to communicate with other radio amateurs across the state and around the world. Join in on the fun during the annual event and see how many of the mountaintop stations you can contact. Be aware that many mountaintop activators will hit the trail early with the goal of being off the summits by noon due to lightning safety concerns.
This event is normally held the first full weekend in August. Following up on the success of the 10-day W0C SOTA event in 2021, in 2022 we will add two bonus days to the Colorado 14er Event. The main two days remain Saturday and Sunday (Aug 6 & 7), while the bonus days are Friday Aug 5 and Monday Aug 8th, for those SOTA enthusiasts that need more than two days of SOTA fun!
The 14er event includes Summits On the Air (SOTA) peaks, which includes over 1800 summits! If you aren’t up to climbing a 14er, there are many other summits to choose from (with a wide range of difficulty). See the W0C SOTA web page at w0c-sota.org.
Important: The recommended 2m FM frequencies have been changed to 146.58, 146.55, and 146.49 MHz, to align with the use of the North America Adventure Frequency for SOTA (146.58). The National Simplex Calling Frequency (146.52) may be used as appropriate. See the operating frequencies page.
See the very cool Colorado 14er Event gear available at https://www.cafepress.com/mtngoatwear
Radio operators who plan to activate a summit should post their intent on the ham14er group via the ham14er groups.io website. Also, be sure to check out the event information at http://www.ham14er.org
For a complete list of suggested HF, VHF, and UHF frequencies see this web page.
And there is more!
On the same weekend, SOTA enthusiasts in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon will activate summits for the Pacific Northwest Not-Quite-Fourteener (PNW-NQF) event. Also on the same weekend, the Southern California SOTA group will hold their SOCAL SOTAFEST. So there will be plenty of SOTA stations to work that weekend.
Warning: Climbing mountains is inherently a dangerous activity.
Do not attempt this without proper training, equipment and preparation.
Sponsored by The Colorado 14er Event Task Force
When doing VHF activations for Summits On The Air (SOTA), the radio range is dependent on the height of the summit and the surrounding terrain. The Radio Mobile website from Roger/VE2DBE is a great tool that can be used to estimate the radio range from a particular site. Repeater system owners often use tools like this to predict the coverage of their repeaters. I don’t normally do this type of analysis for SOTA…I just look at a topo map and get a rough idea of how far my signal will go. Then, I decided to spend a little time analyzing a few summits in Colorado to see what I could learn.
Pikes Peak (W0C/FR-004)
Pikes is a 14,115-foot summit that towers over the eastern plains of Colorado, making it an ideal radio site. The Radio Mobile plot shown below shows the solid radio coverage in blue and the fringe area in yellow. I won’t go into how to use Radio Mobile on this post. As you’d expect, you enter the location of the radio site (summit) along with various parameters such as frequency, minimum detectable signal level, transmit power, and antenna gain. I entered some nominal parameters consistent with typical SOTA stations on 146 MHz (2 meters).
Pikes covers about half of the state of Colorado, reaching out to the Kansas state line. To the west, the coverage does not go as far because the radio signals are blocked by other mountain ranges. In particular, the signal tends to drop off at the Sawatch Range, west of Buena Vista. I’ve activated Pikes many times and this plot lines up well with my general experience. The blue area can be worked quite reliably with a decent station on both ends. By “decent” I mean a 20-watt transmitter on the summit with a small Yagi antenna and a 40-watt radio with an omnidirectional antenna at the chaser station. Working stations near the Kansas state line is usually easy on 2m FM. The highest spot in Kansas (Mount Sunflower, not a SOTA summit) can usually be worked without much trouble. However, longer distance contacts are possible, especially using SSB or CW. I’ve written before about the Myth of VHF Line-Of-Sight.
When using VHF for SOTA activations, It is important to consider the potential stations that will be within range and on the air for you to work. Besides being a high summit, Pikes overlooks the major cities in Colorado, from Fort Collins to Pueblo, so finding someone to work on 146.52 MHz is usually easy. It is common to have a pile up of stations calling you.
Colorado has over fifty 14,000-foot mountains and all those are workable from Pikes Peak on 2m FM.
Mt Herman (W0C/FR-063)
Mt Herman is another popular SOTA summit, with an elevation of 9063 feet, not nearly as high as Pikes Peak. This summit also looks out over the eastern plains of Colorado, as shown in the coverage plot below. Although the range is not as good as Pikes, it still covers the major cities, so again it is easy to do a 2m FM activation from Mt Herman. It is more difficult to work stations to the west. I can usually work stations in Woodland Park and Divide from Mt Herman, but reaching Buena Vista is a challenge.
Threemile Mountain (W0C/SP-107)
VHF activations can be much more challenging when the summit is further away from populated areas. Let’s consider Threemile Mountain, which is 10,020 feet in elevation, located about 20 miles south of Hartsel, CO. This summit tends to get blocked to the east by the Front Range and to the west by the Sawatch Range. Even though the summit is higher than Mt Herman, its radio range is not as good.
In particular, it does not cover Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo very well, so the number of available stations to work drops dramatically. There are a number of stations that monitor 146.52 MHz up in the mountains, so if you are patient you can usually make some VHF contacts. This can be a source of frustration for VHF activators, or you can take it on as a challenge. I have activated Threemile five times and I don’t think I’ve ever worked a Denver station on 2m FM. I have worked some Denver stations from there using 2m SSB, during a VHF contest. Oh, I did manage to work Larry/N0LL in Smith Center, KS on 2m SSB for a distance of 372 miles. See Radio Fun on Threemile Mountain (W0C/SP-107). So you never know what you’re going to get on VHF/UHF.
So what conclusions can we draw from this analysis?
- Radio Mobile does a good job of predicting typical 2m FM coverage. My experience on these summits aligns well with the Radio Mobile predictions.
- But much longer distance contacts are still possible. VHF is not limited to line of sight. Radio Mobile is intended to predict reliable radio coverage, not the exceptional radio contact.
- Be aware of the population density of the coverage area because that is a huge factor for making radio contacts. New VHF activators should start on summits that overlook the major Colorado cities.
- Improve your VHF activator station. Every additional dB of signal improves your ability to make those weak-signal contacts on the edge of the coverage area.
As always, get off the couch, gather your radio gear, and head for a summit.
73 Bob K0NR
We had a great time going after the W0C 10-10-10 SOTA Challenge. (See 2021 Colorado SOTA and 14er Event ) For activators, the objective was to activate 10 summits higher than 10k feet in 10 days. It turned out that some previous commitments would not allow us to do 10 days of activating, so we smushed 10 summits into 6 days. With careful choice of summits and doing multiple summits in a day, we put together a plan.
Saturday and Sunday started off with the Colorado 14er Event, so we opted to do Pikes Peak on Saturday and Mount Evans on Sunday. These are both drive-up summits, so not a lot of hiking. As previously reported, we had some good luck with 1.2 GHz from those summits. Then, on Monday we hiked Puma Peak and Little Puma, two 11k summits in South Park. On Tuesday, we did three summits on one day: Dicks Peak, 10090 and 10715. These three hikes were not particularly difficult but doing all three made for a full day.
On Wednesday, we took the Jeep up to Mosquito Pass and hiked two 13ers: Mosquito Peak and London Mountain. We had previously activated those two summits in 2018. Finally, on Thursday, we did our tenth summit with Walt/W0CP and Jerry/K0ES, one of our favorites: South Monarch Ridge. Walt and Jerry worked the HF bands while we did VHF/UHF. That was a slacker day, because we rode the tram up from Monarch Pass.
The weather was consistently fantastic, with no thunderstorms in sight. The smoke from western wildfires was thick at times and can be seen in some of the photos.
As usual, we operated above 50 MHz, focusing on 2m, 70cm and 23cm FM operation. Most of the contacts were on 2m FM but we had significant activity on the other bands. The 1.2 GHz work was really fun: Using 1.2 GHz in the Colorado 14er Event. I made 162 contacts and Joyce made 94, for a total of 256 for the week. Not bad!
Thanks to all of our chasers and fellow activators: AC0FT, AC0FY, AC0V, AD1CT, K0AVU, K0BEJ, K0EHR, K0ES, K0FYR, K0GPA, K0GPA, K0MGL, K0MOS, K0REW, K0SJP, K0TRD, K1DDN, K5RHD, K6TUY, K7ASB, KA4EPS, KB0KQI, KB6VHF, KC0PBR, KC3BHI, KC5CW, KD0MRC, KD0VHD, KD0YOB, KD8EQA, KE0BTX, KF0DGK, KF0FOG, KG5APL, KJ4DER, KL7GLK,
KL7IZW, KM4PEH, KM5TY, KN0MAP, KX0R, KX3DX, N0DET, N0EMU, N0IPA, N0IVN, N0KM, N1SMB, N1XCO, N8XBD, W0ADV,
W0BV, W0CP, W0JSL, W0OOD, W0RW, W1KGH, W3REM, W5IG, W6AUN, W7UM, WA0KXO, WB0JNS, WB0TNH, WZ0N
The results for the W0C 10-10-10 Challenge have been posted, for both activators and chasers. Here are the Activator results:
Six activators met the challenge of doing at least 10 summits during the event. That was our goal…not pursuing the top of the list but we did want to get 10 summits done. I am fifth on the list and K0JJW came in at sixth. We had the same number of SOTA points because we did the same summits. I had more QSOs though.
It was a fun event and we were happy to be able to activate 10 summits. Fortunately, the weather was good, otherwise we might have gotten rained out on the longer days.
73 Bob K0NR
The Summits On The Air (SOTA) program originated in the United Kingdom but has propagated to most countries around the world. The program came to Colorado on May 1st, 2010 with Steve/WGØAT sending a CQ from Mount Herman, just west of Monument. Today, the SOTA program in Colorado (called WØC-SOTA) is very active with roughly 180 activators that operate from Colorado summits.
To celebrate our 10th Anniversary, WØC-SOTA is organizing a 10-10-10 Event with a challenge for Activators and Chasers alike. (Activators operate from summits, Chasers try to contact them.)
Activator challenge: Activate 10 (or more) 10K feet (or higher) summits (in Colorado/WØC) within 10 days.
Chaser challenge: Chase Activators on 10 different (or more) qualifying WØC summits (10K or higher) within the 10 days.
Event Date: We will kick-off the event in conjunction with the Colorado 14er event on August 7th, 2021 and conclude on August 16th.
Everybody is invited to participate, either as an Activator or a Chaser. Block off these days in your calendar now and start planning for how you can participate. Feel free to operate as much or as little as you would like. It is all about having fun messing around with radios. Any HF, VHF or UHF band can be used for making SOTA contacts, with the most popular ones being 40m (CW & SSB), 20m (CW & SSB) and 2m (FM).
Note that the recommended 2m FM frequencies for the 14er event have changed to:
For more information on the SOTA program in general, see the worldwide SOTA website.
Full Disclosure: May 1 is actually the 11th Anniversary, but the COVID-19 Pandemic interfered in 2020, so we are catching up.