Posts Tagged ‘POTA’

A Reason To Get On The Air

I don’t need much but I do need a reason to get on the air. This can take many forms as I wrote in this blog post some time ago. I see quite a few new hams struggling with the problem of “I got this license but now what?”

Operating goals or awards are a fun way to keep focused on accomplishing something via ham radio. Really, it’s a specific reason to get on the air and make radio contacts. I am not big on idle chit chat via the radio (“the weather here is 65 deg and raining”) so having a reason to make contacts helps me get on the air. I’ve tended to pursue awards in a serial manner…once I hit some level of accomplishment, I usually declare victory and move on to something else.

Way back in the wayback machine, the first award I pursued was Worked All States (WAS). It does take some effort but I was pretty active on the HF bands at the time, so many of the states just showed up in my log. But to really drive it home, I kept track of which states I still needed and actively looked for opportunities to work them. Later, I pursued Worked All Continents (WAC), which obviously requires working some DX. But then I decided that if I had any DX cred at all, I needed to get DX Century Club (DXCC). Recently, the popularity of FT8 has been a game changer and I currently have about 175 entities confirmed (thank you, Logbook of The World). I don’t chase paper QSL cards anymore, which is just too much trouble for a Slacker DXer™.

The VHF and higher bands have always been a passion for me, so I pursued the VHF/UHF Century Club (VUCC) awards. First, it was 6 meter VUCC, the easiest one to get. A really good run during the ARRL June VHF contest can produce the 100 grids you need for the award in one weekend. Later, some mountaintop activity resulted in 10 GHz VUCC. At one point, I got into working the LEO satellites and confirmed the required 100 grids for satellite VUCC. (Hey, Technicians, this is something you can do right now!) I still don’t have very many grids confirmed on 2 meters, so that one is still calling to me.

Summits On The Air

If you read my blog, you know that Summits On The Air (SOTA) is my number one activity lately, both activating and chasing summits. This is a natural fit for me as I’ve enjoyed mountaintop operating in various forms, mostly on VHF and UHF. (See my SOTA blog postings.) My hiking partner and wife, Joyce/K0JJW is almost always activating with me. Her #1 ham radio activity is also SOTA. We both achieved Mountain Goat status (1000 activator points) using only VHF and higher frequencies. (Technicians can have a lot of fun with SOTA on VHF!)

The SOTA program has a wide variety of awards, supported by a comprehensive database used to record SOTA radio contacts and keep track of the scores. It is not really a competition but there is friendly rivalry between SOTA enthusiasts as they monitor each other’s posted scores. Here are the “badges” that pop up when I check my SOTA info.

Parks On The Air

In the past few years, we have added the Parks On The Air (POTA) program. It turns out that not all regions of the country have interesting SOTA summits but they all have state or national parks. This fits nicely into our outdoor hiking/camping/4WD activities.

Many of our SOTA activations are in parks (national forests, national parks and state parks), so we usually try to make the SOTA activation count for both programs. This means that many of our POTA activations are done using VHF/UHF only, if from a summit. More commonly, we use the HF bands for POTA activations. Our standard POTA setup is a Yaesu FT-991 driving an endfed wire antenna, usually on SSB or FT8.

POTA also has a great database, good tools and plenty of awards available. Here’s what shows up on my POTA awards page. Just like SOTA, POTA is not a competition but it is interesting to see what other hams are doing and compare you level of activity.

So those are my thoughts.
What motivates you to get on the air?

73, Bob K0NR

The post A Reason To Get On The Air appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Commemorating the RCAF Centennial

The Royal Canadian Air Force celebrates 100 years of service and Amateur Radio marks the occasion with special event stations

Surrey, BC – The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is celebrating 100 years of service this April, marking a significant milestone in Canada’s military history. This centennial event offers a unique opportunity to honour the RCAF’s rich heritage, recognize its dedicated personnel, and generate enthusiasm for its promising future.

Throughout 2024, the RCAF will be showcased in a past, present, and future context, emphasizing its contributions to national safety and security, international peace, and global stability. The RCAF 2024 Team is curating a year-long program that includes international, national, and regional events. These events include the RCAF Run, RCAF Gala, Legends of the Sky, and participation of allied air demonstration teams in Air Shows across Canada. The program also includes initiatives to inspire future generations of Canadians through Science, Technology, Engineering  and Mathematics (STEM) activities.


To commemorate this occasion, Amateur Radio operators across Canada and beyond are invited to participate in a month-long event. They will have the opportunity to make contacts around the world on all amateur radio bands and modes using special event RCAF callsigns. These callsigns have been granted to provincial amateur radio groups specifically for this event. In British Columbia,
Surrey Amateur Radio Communications is the proud sponsor for VE7RCAF. This callsign will be available for use by all British Columbia ISED certified operators by booking time slots during April 2024.

We're hoping to have all bands and modes worked, including GOTA, POTA, and whatever else you can activate. If you are a VE7 or VA7, you can reserve a time slot. Go to the direct calendar link which is now live at: https://bit.ly/VE7RCAF and look for April 2024. The operating rules are at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_fkPdYJ7DDDSLRVGY6822hJ_gd0nEfy6/view?usp=drive_link. Please use your own callsign as the operator, but VE7RCAF as the station callsign for the log.

The VE7RCAF and several other provincial QRZ pages are also active now. QSL cards and awards will be available to commemorate contacts, and special recognition will be provided to those who contact all the RCAF special event stations across Canada during the month.

The RCAF Centennial is more than a celebration; it’s an opportunity to showcase Air Force personnel and their accomplishments, demonstrate air and space power, enhance the reputation of the RCAF, and proudly honour its distinguished history and heritage.

For more information on the RCAF 2024 Centennial, please visit the official website at RCAF 2024 Centennial: https://rcaf2024arc.ca/

Contact Information: [email protected]

~ VE7SAR



Parks on the air

 


 I had the opportunity to get on the radio this afternoon and at the same time, I had called up the DX Heat cluster on my PC to see what was happening on the bands. I noticed a few POTA (Parks on the Air) stations being spotted and I know of a POTA site that gave more info regarding the activations. I was shocked that in all of 10 minutes, I made 3 contacts. From reading my blog roll Parks on the Air and Summits on the Air are very popular. All these contacts I made were CW but SSB is very popular as well. There were more that I heard but was unable to make contact with as they had a pileup and their signal slowly faded away. I give these ops lots of credit, they pick up and go, have a minimal setup and its very cold this time of year as well.

ARRL POTA Book

I was happy to contribute an article to the recent ARRL Parks On The Air (POTA) book. This piece is based on my Pikes Peak mountain topping article that appeared in the June 2023 issue of QST. This book is a collection of articles about POTA from 14 different authors, each writing about a different aspect of the program. The articles are all easy to read and generally provide a first-hand account of how the author has experienced POTA operating. There is plenty of beginner information and operating tips sprinkled throughout the book. More experienced POTA enthusiasts will probably pick up a few new ideas as well.

The Table of Contents below lists the articles and authors, giving you a good idea of the material covered. The meat of the book is only 118 pages long and it is quite easy to read.

My piece covered the triple activation I did from the summit of Pikes Peak, combining POTA, SOTA, and the June VHF Contest into one mountaintop adventure. For POTA, the park was the Pike National Forest (K-4404). I’ve done this type of combo activation in the past, sometimes just SOTA + POTA or just SOTA + VHF Contest. This time I did all three.

The book is available directly from the ARRL or from the usual book outlets such as Amazon.

73 Bob K0NR

The post ARRL POTA Book appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Another Continental Divide Summit (W0C/RG-169)

A view of the W0C/RG-169 summit from the Continental Divide Trail. Look closely to see the game trail heading up to the right towards the saddle.

Lobo Overlook is an excellent summit and tourist spot near Wolf Creek Pass, one of the most scenic passes in Colorado. I’ve been up there for VHF contests and other mountaintop operations and initially thought it might be a SOTA summit. No such luck, as it is superseded by a higher summit nearby (W0C/RG-169). Lobo Overlook is accessed via an easy 3-mile gravel road just off the pass. The road leads to two small loops at the top, one of which is the actual Lobo Overlook while the other goes to an obvious radio site. The trail to RG-169 is best accessed from the radio site, so we parked there. Wolf Creek Pass and Lobo Overlook sit right on the Continental Divide and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) passes through here just a bit to the west.

The Lobo Overlook road starts slightly east of Wolf Creek Pass.

Lobo Peak

This unnamed summit is listed as 11820 in the SOTA database. However, Lists of John (which was used to create the W0C SOTA database) shows this summit as 11831. My topo map seems to agree with 11831, so this might be an error. Of course, such a cool summit near the CDT deserves a name, so Joyce/K0JJW and I decided to call it Lobo Peak, for obvious reasons. (I looked for an existing nearby Lobo Peak and did not find one.)

Near the radio site, we started at the marked trailhead and headed west on Lobo Trail (878), actually going downhill to intersect the CDT about a half mile down the trail. At the trailhead, it was not obvious which summit we were headed to and it might not even be visible at that point. The summit did reveal itself as we headed down the CDT (see first photo above). We followed the CDT to a visible game trail that takes off steeply to the right (lat/lon 37.49765, -106.81515). There are several game trails that split off, heading up towards the saddle to the left of the summit and we stayed on the most established one. We set up our station within the activation zone just below the actual summit, avoiding the rock scrambling to get to the top.

The trail from Lobo Overlook to RG-169 mostly follows the Continental Divide Trail.

The one-way distance on the trail is 1.2 miles with an up-and-down profile. Lobo Overlook is only slightly lower in elevation from “Lobo Peak”. The trail starts at about 11,770 feet, descending to a low point of 11,500 and back up to 11,800 at the summit. So that produces a net ascent of about 300 feet, maybe more, one way. Of course, you get to repeat this on the way back.

The sign at the trailhead calls this Lobo Pass.

SOTA and POTA Activations

Once in the activation zone, we deployed the IC-705 on 2m FM, driving the 3-element Yagi antenna. We worked Travis/KB9LMJ on 146.52 MHz, who was mobile in Pagosa Springs. Further calling on 2m FM did not yield any contacts, but K0JJW and I did work each other on VHF/UHF. We had anticipated that this might be a tough place to activate on VHF, so we brought along the HF gear and set up an EndFed Halfwave antenna for 20m. Propagation was good and we soon worked 11 stations on 20m SSB.

This summit sits right on the dividing line between the Rio Grande National Forest and the San Juan National Forest, both valid for Parks On The Air (POTA). We opted to operate from the Rio Grande side (K-4405) because that was a new one for both of us.

This is the radio site as seen when you return from the summit, so no excuse for getting lost.

Continental Divide Trail

I’ve hiked sections of the Continental Divide Trail before, including some pre-SOTA backpack trips with Denny/KB9DPF. It is a great trail because it runs along the backbone of the Rocky Mountains. It is often accessible via roads to high mountain passes. (Another example is Wander Ridge, just off Cottonwood Pass.) Once you hop onto the CDT, you are hiking an established trail that is literally on top of the world.

This is an excellent, easy-to-access summit in the Wolf Creek Pass area. So if you are in the area, this might be one to activate. The road to Lobo Overlook is closed during the winter.

73 Bob K0NR

The post Another Continental Divide Summit (W0C/RG-169) appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Argentine Pass and Argentine Peak

Argentine Peak (W0C/SR-019) is a high 13er (13,738 ft) in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. I had my eye on this summit for a Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation for quite some time now. This summit is a short distance from Argentine Pass, which is the fourth-highest road in Colorado at 13,207 feet. A non-radio goal I have is to drive the Jeep up the twenty highest roads in Colorado, so Argentine Pass is on that list. Not only that, Argentine Peak sits on the Continental Divide, separating the Arapaho National Forest and the White River National Forest, so it can also be activated for Parks On The Air (POTA).

Bob/K0NR and Joyce/K0JJW on the way up Argentine Peak in the background.

So the plan emerged: Joyce/K0JJW and I would take the Jeep to Argentine Pass and then climb up to Argentine Peak for a SOTA and POTA activation. The road is usually blocked by snow for much of the summer, making it a late summer/early fall adventure. Somehow September slipped away and it is now October, but fortunately, the road is still open. Note that the more common way to hike Argentine Pass is from Silver Dollar Lake trailhead (see KX0R trip report).

The 4WD route is shown above in orange, starting out as FS 248.1 leaving Guanella Pass Road.

The Road

The 4WD route starts with FS 248.1 as it leaves Guanella Pass Road, about 3 miles south of Georgetown, CO (see map above). The forest service road takes off at a point where the Guanella Pass Road takes a very sharp bend. You should have a good topo map to guide you on this route as there are quite a few roads in the area. In general, you follow FS 248.1 which has some subvariants such as 248.1B and 248.1K. The exact choice of roads is not critical but, eventually, you need to get on FS 724.1 which sports a few wide and steep switchbacks up to Argentine Pass. The one-way distance is 9 miles and it took us about 1.5 hours to make the drive.

This road and route is considered moderate 4WD and FS 248.1 provides a good taste of that right after you leave the paved road. Many other sections of the road are easy 4WD but there are some challenging spots along the way. This is a real 4WD road, so you’ll need a decent high-clearance 4WD vehicle in the class of a Wrangler, Bronco, 4Runner, etc. We drove a stock Jeep Wrangler and had no trouble. However, at one spot, the wheel placement was very critical, so Joyce spotted me as I drove through it. Not that difficult…unless you screw it up.

The Climb

As shown below, the climbing route up Argentine Peak (blue line) follows the Continental Divide ridge line as it heads south from Argentine Pass. The road up Argentine Pass ends kind of high in the pass, so at first, we were walking downhill. A faint trail follows the top of the ridge but fades out in many places. Looking at the topo map, I underestimated how much up and down there would be on the ridge but it was not too difficult.

The route to Argentine Peak follows the Continental Divide ridge line from Argentine Pass.

The hike is about 1 mile with 650 feet vertical (one-way). We had fantastic weather in October: sunny, with temperatures in the 40’s F and some light wind (10 to 15 mph). This is one of those top-of-the-world hiking experiences, right along the Continental Divide.

Joyce/K0JJW on the summit of Argentine Peak.

As you can see from the photos, there were some patches of snow on the ground, but it was not an issue for hiking. A real Mountain Goat (not a SOTA Mountain Goat) wandered by and paid us a visit.

This mountain goat wandered by while we were on the summit.We used our standard 2m/70cm FM station: Yaesu FT-90 running 30 watts to a 3-element Yagi for 2 meters or a 7-element Yagi for 70 cm. We worked stations mostly on 146.52 MHz FM and a few on 446.0 MHz. With downtown Denver about 45 miles away, we easily worked stations in the greater Denver area. We were also successful working stations out to 60 or 70 miles, often with good signal reports in both directions. We both made 20 QSOs using VHF/UHF.

For POTA, we were right on the dividing line between White River NF and Arapaho NF but needed to choose one for our activation. We had previously activated Arapaho, so we chose to operate from White River NF on this trip (K-4410) which is a new park for us.

Summary

We had an absolute blast on this activation. I think it was the combination of a Jeep trip, hiking, SOTA, and POTA all wrapped into one adventure that made it so good. As a bonus, we had excellent weather and a visit by the mountain goat!

73 Bob K0NR

The post Argentine Pass and Argentine Peak appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Why Use FT8 For POTA?

The FT8 station consists of an iPad, Icom IC-705, MFJ-902 tuner, a battery pack, and one of many wire antennas.

In a previous post, I described getting the IC-705 set up for FT8 using the SDR-Control app on an iPad. My objective was to have a portable FT8 station for use during SOTA and POTA activations.

To save time, let me get this out of the way:

Yes, I do know that making contacts via FT8 is not as personal and may not be as much fun as running a pileup on SSB or CW. Still, it is Real Ham Radio and enjoyable in a different way.

I’ve used this station on multiple activations now but I have to admit that these have been mostly for POTA. It seems that whenever I get on top of a SOTA summit, I tend to focus on making VHF contacts which consumes the available time and the HF gear remains stashed way in my pack. This is more about my operating habits than anything else. Looking at spots though, there is a lot of FT8 on POTA and not nearly as much on SOTA. The SOTA crowd tends to have a lot of traditional CW enthusiasts and maybe POTA has fewer of them. Also, SOTA operating is usually backpack portable so carrying a compute device for FT8 may be considered an unnecessary hassle. POTA stations are often in or near a vehicle, so station size/weight is less of a concern.

For POTA, I make sure my activation is posted at pota.app, indicating the park number I am activating. When calling CQ, I modify the standard FT8 text to be “CQ POTA” to indicate that I am doing an activation. When my signal is detected by the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN), a spot is created that shows me doing a POTA activation from that park. Pretty cool. If I have an internet connection, I monitor my spots using the Ham Alert app. This provides useful feedback about where my signal is showing up around the world.

But what are the main reasons that FT8 is useful for POTA?

FT8 is popular

In case you haven’t noticed, FT8 has emerged from being just a niche activity to now being very popular on most ham bands. At times this can be a problem with the standard FT8 frequency slice being overloaded with signals. There is a lot of FT8 activity on the bands, for general ham use and SOTA/POTA.

FT8 works well with low power

FT8 and the other WSJT-X modes are designed to work well with weak signals, so they are a great match for low-power operation. Of course, QRP power levels are very common for backpack portable activations, mostly due to the limitations of carrying a reasonable-size battery.

FT8 signals are spotted on RBN

As mentioned earlier, FT8 signals are picked up and spotted by RBN. For better or worse, people have come to rely on spotting for many types of ham radio operating. When on a SOTA or POTA activation, you really want to be spotted as such. For phone activations, I usually do that with a smartphone but that requires some extra effort and a mobile phone connection. FT8 and RBN take care of that for you.

FT8 logging is automated

The various FT8 software applications automatically log the QSO information, which means it is easy and less error-prone. After the activation, I just pull up the ADIF log file, check it for obvious errors, add in the SOTA/POTA info, and submit it to the appropriate websites.

FT8 is campsite friendly

This last one may be a bit subtle but I’ve found FT8 to be campsite friendly. By that, I mean I can get on the air at any time (early, late or at nap time) and not disturb anyone else. (On SSB, I would likely be enthusiastically yelling into the microphone trying to work a pileup.) Besides the audio noise factor, FT8 operation allows for multitasking. I can converse with my fellow campers while still keeping up with the FT8 flow. Alternatively, I can cook dinner, make a fire, or pack my backpack while the FT8 QSOs roll in. This may sound a little bit like cheating but, hey, whatever works.

Wrap Up

So clearly, I’ve been having fun with FT8 for POTA. I consider it to be another tool in the toolkit. There are times when I will make good use of it but there will also be times to use other modes.

73 Bob K0NR

The post Why Use FT8 For POTA? appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.


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