Posts Tagged ‘Mountains’

VHF Range From SOTA Summits

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).

VHF coverage prediction for Pikes Peak (W0C/FR-004)

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.

VHF coverage prediction for Mount Herman (W0C/FR-063)

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.

VHF coverage prediction for Threemile Mountain (W0C/SP-107)

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.

Conclusions

So what conclusions can we draw from this analysis?

  1. Radio Mobile does a good job of predicting typical 2m FM coverage. My experience on these summits aligns well with the Radio Mobile predictions.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

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How Far on VHF SOTA?

Adam/K6ARK recently posted this video of his 2m SOTA activation in California. Adam does a really nice job with his videos and this one is no exception. During this activation, he worked KE9AJ in Arizona at 256 miles. This was an FM QSO, with KE9AJ running 6 watts and K6ARK running over 120 watts.

In the video, he shows the 8-element 2m Yagi antenna, which has a clever folding boom design (homebrew, I assume). You’ll notice that he is carrying quite a bit of gear in his pack, including a 160w amplifier, a Yaesu FT-857, several batteries, the Yagi antenna, and antenna masts. Adam has posted other videos of VHF SOTA activity, so check out his YouTube channel for them.

Note that at 256 miles, this is definitely propagation beyond line of sight. We’ve talked about this before: The Myth of VHF Line-Of-Sight.

This has me thinking about some of my best VHF SOTA activations, which I will list here.

Sneffels to Pikes

In 2012, for the Colorado 14er Event, Joyce/K0JJW and I climbed Mt Sneffels (W0C/UR-001) at 14,150 feet in elevation. I worked Stu/W0STU on Pikes Peak (W0C/FR-004). We both were running 5 watts on 2m FM, with 3-element Arrow II antennas. I had an FT-817, while Stu used an HT. We made the QSO without too much difficulty, at a distance of 160 miles. Stu put together this video that shows the action on both summits.

 

Capulin Mountain

Capulin Mountain (W5N/SG-009) is out in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, a long distance from populated areas. My goal was to activate it (and get the points) on VHF, but I knew it would be a challenge. I put the word out to the weak-signal VHF community and used my FT-817 (5 watts) and 3-element Yagi to make contacts. My best DX was with Arne/N7KA at 184 miles. I could hear him fine on SSB but he could not copy me, so we switched to CW to complete the QSO. Arne used a 2M12 Yagi antenna with 700 watts of power vs my 5 watts.

This turned out to be a good lesson in what happens when the two stations are imbalanced with respect to RF power. My 5 watts vs his 700 watts is a difference of 21 dB. No wonder I could hear him just fine but he was struggling to copy me. Flipping over to CW narrows the receiver bandwidth, improving the signal-to-noise ratio, and was enough improvement to make the QSO.

Capulin Mountain (W5N/SG-009) VHF SOTA

Mount Scott

Mount Scott (W5O/WI-002) is a drive-up summit (elevation 2464 feet) in the Witchita Mountains of Oklahoma. It sticks up high enough to have a good radio horizon in all directions. We stopped there to do an activation in March 2018, using the Yaesu FT-90 (set for 30 to 50 watts) and the 3-element Yagi antenna.

We easily worked a bunch of stations on 146.52 MHz FM, including K5RTN in Brownfield, TX. Later, I checked the distance to Brownfield and found that it was 245 miles, which is still my best SOTA DX on 2m FM. There was probably some favorable propagation that morning, perhaps some ducting, for this to occur. K5RTN was operating from home and I am not sure about his power and antenna.

Threemile Mountain

During the 2021 January VHF Contest, we decided to activate Threemile Mountain (W0C/SP-107), which is usually accessible, even in the winter months. Because it is in the Pike National Forest (K-4404), I did a combo operation of SOTA, POTA, and VHF contest. At 10,020 feet in elevation, it is not the highest summit in the region but it has a good radio horizon in all directions.

Also, the hike is relatively short, so I packed the Yaesu FT-991 and a 20 Ah battery, which gave me more power (50 watts) on 2m and 70 cm. Not only that, I actually fired it up below 50 MHz and made some HF contacts, using single-band end-fed halfwave antennas.

I was working a few stations in Denver on 2m SSB when I heard Larry/N0LL calling me from Smith Center, KS. Larry is a well-known Big Gun on VHF with excellent antennas. I’ve worked him in past contests on various bands and modes but I was surprised how strong he was coming in at Threemile Mountain. We probably had favorable conditions on 2 meters that day but nothing exotic, to make a 372 mile QSO. I’ve worked longer distances on 2 meters but this is my best DX for SOTA.

Radio Fun on Threemile Mountain (W0C/SP-107)

Power and Antenna

Most ham transceivers have decent receivers, so the choice of radio on the receive side is not that critical. (OK, you can add a preamp in front of the receiver to improve it.) The big difference for making QSOs (or not) on 2 meters is antenna and power level.

Improving your antenna is normally the first step in improving your VHF SOTA station, because it helps on both transmit and receive. Joyce/K0JJW and I almost always use the 3-element handheld Yagi from Arrow Antenna. Arrow does not specify the gain, but various sources have measured it at 6 dBd. We have made many QSOs over the years where the extra 6 dB made the difference. An omnidirectional antenna would have come up short. I’ve been looking for a higher gain antenna to use for SOTA but have not found one that I like. Adam’s 8-element antenna is tempting but longer antennas pretty much require a mast, which adds weight to the pack. One of the benefits of the 3-element Arrow is that it is handheld, so we don’t carry a mast. Of course, having two of us activating together really helps…one person can hold the antenna while the other operates and logs. A handheld antenna with a single operator can be a challenge.

Concerning power level, the Capulin QSO with N7KA illustrates what happens when two stations are imbalanced with respect to RF power. After this experience, I did purchase a small 2m amplifier that boosts the 5 watts from the FT-817 to 35 watts. It is compact and not too much of a DC power hog.  I think we also heard an imbalance with the QSO between K6ARK and KE9AJ. KE9AJ’s signal was a bit noisy at K6ARK while K6ARK’s signal was full quieting 59 at the other end. This is not a surprise with K6ARK at around 120 watts and K6ARK at 6 watts (13 dB difference).

For higher power on 2 meters, you generally need to bring a bigger radio or an amplifier. The popular HT is generally limited to about 5 watts. For 2m FM, we’ve been carrying the Yaesu FT-90, which is a pretty compact radio and can put out 50 watts of RF power (FM only). On the Threemile Mountain activation mentioned above, we took the FT-991, which is not very SOTA friendly, but it also does 50 watts on 2 meters…and all modes.

Battery capacity also comes into play as higher power requires more DC current. The FT-90 manual says it draws 9.5 amps at full 50 watts of power on 2 meters. (We usually run it at lower power but will punch it up to 50 watts when required.) The FT-991 manual says it draws 15 amps when transmitting at full power on 2m or 70cm. My 160 watt 2m (Mirage) amplifier can draw up to 30 amps on transmit. Wowzy, that’s some real current! The point is that as you increase power, you need to look at your battery situation more carefully.

It might sound like I am suggesting that we should maintain a power balance between the two stations. That’s not the case and is often not even practical. When one station is much stronger than the other, it can be used to advantage. The stronger station is easily heard and the weaker station can point the antenna in the right direction to peak up the signal. The weaker station consistently hears the stronger station, so now the challenge becomes to just get a few seconds of successful transmission in the opposite direction. You keep trying until the weaker station manages to get through. Compare this to having two lower power stations trying to make a contact. They may not even hear each other at all because the antennas are not pointed optimally. When they do hear each other, they are both struggling to hear the other station and complete the QSO. This lowers the probability of completing the contact.

So how much power should you run on 2 meters for SOTA? Of course, More Is Better, except for the extra weight in your backpack. The difficulty of the hike comes into play…on shorter hikes, weight does not matter so much. I am finding that 5 watts is on the skimpy side. On the other hand, going much above 50 watts requires larger batteries, so I am thinking the sweet spot is around 30 to 50 watts. If I do happen to work a base station running 1kW, my signal will be 13 dB lower with 50 watts (worst-case scenario). This is just my opinion, your mileage may vary.

Summary

So can we all agree then that VHF signals can go beyond line-of-sight? These examples are basic tropospheric paths and do not include the exotic propagation modes such as meteor scatter, sporadic-e, aurora, EME, etc. I’ve used most of those modes to work longer distances but not during a SOTA activation. Most hams know that SSB and CW are more effective than FM when signals are weak. In fact, FM weak-signal performance is lousy. Still, we see multiple examples of making some long-distance contacts with FM.

73 Bob K0NR

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Yellowstone and Grand Teton: SOTA and POTA

Visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks is a favorite trip for us. It is a 9-hour drive to get there from Colorado, so we can make it in a day.  In September, we visited these two parks with a blend of activities in mind: RV camping, hiking, viewing wildlife and ham radio. The ham radio part means Summits On The Air (SOTA) and Parks On The Air (POTA).

The Teton mountains tower above the Snake River.

Our trip started from Monument, CO, followed by a stop at our cabin near Trout Creek Pass. Heading north, we spent one night at Steamboat Lake State Park (Colorado), which broke up the road trip into smaller sections.

A few of the many buffalo (bison) in Yellowstone National Park.

Grand Teton NP

Grand Teton NP listed 27 activations for POTA (POTA K-0031) which is really not that many activations for such a well-known national park. The park and the surrounding national forests have many SOTA summits available, some quite difficult to climb (such as 13,770 foot Grand Teton).   We camped two nights at Colter Bay RV Park, inside the park. This is a decent RV-style campground with full hookups and campsites packed in a bit tight.

Joyce/K0JJW campsite operating POTA from the Grand Teton campsite.

Our usual POTA station is the Yaesu FT-991 driving a single-band end-fed halfwave (usually 40m, 20m or 17m) supported by a fishing pole and powered by a 20 Ah Bioenno battery. Joyce/K0JJW likes to use a paper log but I usually log my contacts with HAMRS, either on my notebook PC or an iPad. HAMRS is a relatively new logging program that runs on most operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, etc.) It is tuned for portable operating, with templates for SOTA and POTA. Check it out, if you haven’t tried it.

One unfortunate surprise while operating from the campsite was a ton of RFI coming from the electronic devices in use by the herd of RVs. The noise floor on 20m was S5— not so good.  It seems that today’s RV enthusiast brings along complete wireless network support with internet access points, WiFi routers, and their associated Part 15 emissions. Oh, well.

After setting up on 20m SSB, K0JJW and I both completed 10 QSOs with some difficulty. We were clearly being heard but we had trouble digging signals out of the noise.

Next up was a VHF SOTA activation on Signal Mountain (W7Y/TT-161). This is an easy-to-access drive-up summit with a great view, highly recommended with or without a SOTA activation. We debated on whether to use HF for SOTA on this trip. Normally, we’ve stuck to VHF/UHF on SOTA summits, as part of the Height-Above-Average-Terrain experience. However, knowing that Northwest Wyoming is a bit sparse for VHF activity, we could easily get skunked on a SOTA activation (less than 4 QSOs). Despite that, we opted to stick with VHF for SOTA and focus on a successful activation (1 QSO or more), with or without the SOTA points. On Signal Mountain, we worked two stations on 2m FM, including Steven/KB7ITU in Rexburg, ID, about 60 miles away. (Hey, we worked another state on VHF!)

Speaking of VHF, we used our dualband mobile (IC-2730A) to listen to the national park repeaters while we travelled through the park. Our dual-receive radio always has 146.52 MHz on one side and “something else” on the other side. When inside large national parks, we’ll set the second receiver to a national park frequency. These are generally conventional FM in the 162 to 173 MHz range. I won’t list the Teton and Yellowstone frequencies here but you can find them with a little searching on the interwebz. For example, see wiki.radioreference.com for Yellowstone NP frequencies.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone ( POTA K-0070 ) had only 22 POTA activations, not that many considering it is the nation’s first national park. It also has quite a number of SOTA summits of varying difficulty.

We camped two nights at Grant Village campground, a basic national park campground. The campground had no hookups but the campsites are well spaced with many trees and flush toilets. (The only problem we had was when the park service booked another group of campers onto our campsite one night.)

Joyce and our RV (Rocky Victoria) at the Grant Village campsite.

During a previous visit to Yellowstone, we activated Lake Butte (W7Y/PA-219). On this trip, we had our eye on Mount Washburn (W7Y/PA-163), a well-known 10k summit and popular hike, but the road that provides access to it was closed for the summer due to construction. (OK, maybe next time.)

Bob/K0NR operates 2m FM from the unnamed summit W7Y/TT-139.

Instead, we decided to try an unnamed summit 8770 (W7Y/TT-139) that was relatively easy to access but had not been activated for SOTA. We found some trip reports that said there is a nice trail to the summit and the only complaint was that the summit does not have a view due to the many trees.  We parked at the Divide Trailhead, about 12 miles west of Grant Village. The trail is 1.8 miles in length (one way) with 700 feet of elevation gain. So not too difficult but a real hike.  The summit is broad and sure enough with lots of trees, so no view. Practice normal bear precautions on this trail.

Practice standard bear precautions in this area.

Again, we opted for VHF SOTA, knowing that we might not get enough radio contacts for points…but we only needed one contact to qualify as the first activation. We worked two mobile stations passing through the park on 146.52 MHz. Yes, it is good to always be monitoring the calling frequency. You never know who is going to show up.

For POTA, we noted that the Continental Divide Trail National Scenic Trail (K-4558) passes through Yellowstone NP, which would allow for a double activation.  The CDT has always been special to me as it passes through Colorado and provides some of the most scenic hiking in the state. It only had 15 activations listed at that time, two of those were ours from when we activated it a month earlier, in Colorado. We choose the Old Faithful area as a good place to activate Yellowstone NP ( K-0070) and the CDT. We set up near the edge of the parking lot, away from the crowds. Again it was the FT-991 driving the endfed halfwave on 20m SSB. It was midday, so we expected good 20m propagation (and a nice pileup for Yellowstone) but the band was not cooperating. We both made at least 10 QSOs for a successful activation, so we count that as a win, but the pileup never happened.

Besides the radio operating, we had a good time touring through the park and looking for wildlife. We saw tons of buffalo, not quite so many elk and deer, but no bears or wolves. We have had better wildlife viewing on previous trips but it was still fun.

Heading South

Then it was time to start home, heading south out of Yellowstone back through Grand Teton. Of course, we were monitoring 146.52 MHz, when we heard Lorene/KG6MWQ  on unnamed summit 7586 (W7Y/TT-164). She was on the summit with AE6NH, operating both HF and VHF. It was great to catch a VHF activator in Yellowstone. This was the first activation for TT-164, so congratulations to both of them.

Two POTA activators smiling for the camera (Joyce/K0JJW, Bob/K0NR).

We decided to make a stop at the Colter Village area on the way through Grand Teton NP. Our first priority was to use the shower facilities there. Our second priority was doing another POTA activation.

Yaesu FT-991 set up on small camp table, with microphone and two sets of headphones.

This time we set up in a large parking lot, away from anything that might produce RFI. Again, it was 20m SSB using the halfwave antenna supported by a fishing pole. We sat near the RV on our camp chairs and table. Our typical configuration is to have two sets of headphones so both of us can copy well. We just use the standard handheld microphone which is easily passed between us when we change operators.

Typical antenna setup with fishing pole inserted into a plastic pipe attached to the RV ladder. A wire antenna is hung from the end of the pole.

Later in the day, we exited the park and headed south through Jackson, WY. We stayed overnight at a farm near Afton, WY which is surrounded by Bridger-Teton National Forest (K-4535). Of course, we needed to do one more POTA activation. We searched around for a usable spot to park and then fired up on 20m SSB. Propagation was OK but not great but we got it done.

The next day, we were up and going early, driving the rest of the way home to Monument. It was a wonderful road trip that blended sightseeing, hiking, camping, and ham radio. Let’s go do it again!

73 Bob K0NR

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SOTA W0C 10-10-10 Challenge Report

Joyce/K0JJW climbing London Mountain, with Mosquito Peak in the background (right).

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.

Bob/K0NR and Joyce/K0JJW on Puma Peak.

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.

Map of the ten summits that were activated.

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.

Bob/K0NR standing next to the Jeep with Mosquito Peak in the background.

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.

The Bands

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

Challenge Results

The results for the W0C 10-10-10 Challenge have been posted, for both activators and chasers. Here are the Activator results:

W0C 10-10-10 Activator List

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

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Using 1.2 GHz in the Colorado 14er Event

Last weekend we held the Colorado 14er Event (Aug 7 and 8), the annual mountaintop event in Colorado. A group of us used this weekend as an opportunity to make 1.2 GHz (23 cm) Summits On The Air (SOTA) contacts: K0NR, K0JJW, KM4PEH, K5RHD, W0ADV, KL7IZW, W0RW, KC5RW, and K0BEJ.

The Alinco DJ-G7T

Many of the 1.2 GHz operators used the Alinco  DJ-G7T triband handheld transceiver. This radio covers the 2m, 70cm and 23cm bands. The RF output on 23 cm is only 1 watt but it is the lowest-cost way of getting a signal on that band.

 

 

Pikes to Uncompahgre

On Saturday, Joyce/K0JJW and I were on Pikes Peak (W0C/FR-004) and worked Randy/K5RHD on Mount Evans (W0C/FR-003) at a distance of 97 km (60 miles). Signals were strong and we had no problem making those contacts.

We also worked David/W0ADV on Uncompahgre Peak (W0C/RG-001) at a distance of 227 km (141 miles). David used the Alinco HT driving a 16-element Comet Yagi. We had a bit more power (10 watts) from our Kenwood TM-541A transceiver, also driving a Comet Yagi antenna.  Signals were strong in both directions and these QSOs were a new personal best for both Joyce and me on 1.2 GHz.

Evans to Sunshine

On Sunday, we moved to Mount Evans and Randy/K5RHD activated Pikes Peak. We worked Randy on that peak, the reverse of the QSO on the previous day. Meanwhile, David/W0ADV was climbing two 14ers in the San Juan Mountains: Redcloud Peak (W0C/RG-002) and Sunshine Peak (W0C/RG-004). These two summits are close to each other, separated by a saddle, so it is common to climb them as a pair.

David/W0ADV aims his 16-element Yagi on Sunshine Peak.

David’s route had him climbing Redcloud first and then continuing on to Sunshine, then returning to Redcloud on the way back down. We worked him on Sunshine and on the return trip over Redcloud, as he headed back to the trailhead.

Map of the radio contact between Sunshine Peak and Mount Evans.

We had trouble hearing David on Sunshine Peak but his signal was just strong enough that we could complete the contact. His signal was stronger from Redcloud, a surprise because the two summits are close in elevation. I expected them to be about the same in terms of signal path and strength. David reported that there was a ridge to the northeast of Sunshine that might be blocking the signal, but it was not in the way for Redcloud.

So these contacts with Sunshine Peak set a new personal best for both Joyce and me on 1.2 GHz (244 km, 152.6 miles). David clearly did the hard work, summiting two 14ers in a day. (We were on a drive-up mountain with a short hike.) Thanks, David/W0ADV!

I was very pleased with the results from the 14er weekend. Now I am wondering what’s next for us concerning 1.2 GHz. We can probably make radio contacts further out but it is going to depend on the topography of the path. We will have to do some investigation on additional summits to try.

73 Bob K0NR

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2021 Colorado SOTA and 14er Event

Steve/WG0AT operating from the summit of Mount Herman (W0C/FR-063)

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 AnniversaryWØC-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:

146.580 FM   North America Adventure Frequency
146.550 FM    Simplex Alternate
146.490 FM    Simplex Alternate
146.520 FM    National 2m FM Calling Frequency
(as needed, please don’t hog the calling frequency)

There will be a leaderboard on the W0C-SOTA website showing all participants who meet one of the challenges. More details will be announced on the WØC-SOTA Website as soon as they are hashed out.

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.

The post 2021 Colorado SOTA and 14er Event appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Radio Fun on Threemile Mountain (W0C/SP-107)

Lately, for the ARRL January VHF contest, I try to find a SOTA summit to activate. Operating time is usually just a few hours, so it does not make for a big score. The main advantage is for VHF SOTA (Summits On The Air) because there is a lot more activity on 2m CW and SSB. This year, I wanted to go for the mountaintop trifecta of SOTA, POTA (Parks On The Air) and VHF contest in one activation.

Threemile Mountain is an easy SOTA summit: easy to access via forest service roads and an easy hike.
Joyce/K0JJW operating the portable station on 2m FM.

Threemile Mountain (W0C/SP-107) emerged as the activation summit because it is not too far from our cabin and accessible in the winter. (This time of year, the roads to many of our favorite summits are blocked.) For POTA, it is located in the Pike National Forest (K-4404). Because it is a short hike, I concluded that I could carry the Yaesu FT-911 and the 20 Ah Bionno battery. This would cover all the bands, give us more RF punch and still have plenty of battery capacity.

The portable station with 100 watts on HF, 50 watts on 2m/70 cm.

I carried quite a collection of antennas which gave us plenty of operating choices. We started out on 2m and 70 cm FM, working mostly local stations. This quickly got us enough contacts for SOTA and POTA points. We used a rollup J-pole for 2 meters and 70 cm, until it became intermittent and the SWR went wild. Then we switched to the Arrow 3-element Yagi for 2 meters.

Bob/K0NR operating from Threemile Mountain.

About that time, I decided to see what was happening on 2m SSB. There were a number of contest stations on the air, mostly from the front range cities (Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, …). I worked a bunch of them using 50 watts from the FT-991 to the 2m Yagi antenna (horizontally polarized).

The QSO between K0NR on Threemile Mountain (DM78) and Larry/N0LL near Smith Center, Kansas (EM09).

Suddenly, I was surprised to hear N0LL from Kansas calling me. I’ve worked Larry before from Colorado but it usually was from a really good location such as Mt Herman or Pikes Peak. Even then, we often had to switch to CW to complete the contact. Today he was louder than many of the Denver stations. We easily worked on SSB, which turned out to be a new personal best DX for me from a SOTA summit (372 miles).

We deployed both the SOTA and POTA flags today.

After things slowed down on 2m SSB, I decided to make some HF contacts. The North American QSO Party (SSB) was active, so I decided to set up for 20m and see who I could work. Running 100 watts to an endfed halfwave kept me competitive with the contest stations. Then I moved up to 17m SSB and worked non-contest POTA and SOTA chasers.

Bob/K0NR and Joyce/K0JJW hanging out on the summit of Threemile Mountain.

We both accomplished the three-in-one mountaintop activation for SOTA, POTA, and the VHF contest. I also worked the NA QSO Party, so that makes it four-in-one, but who is counting?  The January weather cooperated with us with almost no wind on the summit, about 28 degrees F. We sat there in the sunshine and just enjoyed the view before hiking back down.

73 Bob K0NR

The post Radio Fun on Threemile Mountain (W0C/SP-107) appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.


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