Posts Tagged ‘POTA’

Four Days of SOTA Fun

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).

Bob/K0NR on the trail up Kaufman Ridge.

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.

Bob/K0NR sitting down on the job, getting ready for a 23 cm activation.

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.

A view of Mount Antero, on the way up.

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).

Bob/K0NR working 2m FM from the summit of Mt Antero.
The 70cm Yagi-Uda antenna is vertically polarized for FM operation.

 

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.

Bob/K0NR on the Continental Divide Trail and Colorado Trail, headed to Wander Ridge.

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!

Bob/K0NR and Joyce/K0JJW on the summit of Wander Ridge.

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

The post Four Days of SOTA Fun appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Universal Digital Voice

Bob/K0NR operates VHF/UHF FM from Pikes Peak for the June VHF contest.

For the June VHF contest, I operated Single-Op Portable from the summit of Pikes Peak. I combined this with Summits On The Air (SOTA) and Parks On The Air (POTA) activations. In a few hours, I made 80 QSOs on 6m, 2m, 1.25m, 70cm, and 23cm bands. It was a fun time.

Quite a few of the contacts were made on 2m FM, The Utility Mode. Even though CW, SSB and WSJT modes are more efficient (especially with weak signals), FM is still the least common denominator for modulation. Everyone has it, so there are more QSOs available with that mode.FM is the default choice for easy VHF simplex communication.

Where Be Digital?

Perhaps it was the lack of oxygen in my brain, but I started to wonder:

Why the heck, in the year 2022 are we still using an analog mode for so much of our amateur communication?

FM was invented in the 1930s, which is ancient history from a technological point of view. Of course, we do have many handheld and mobile radios available that support digital voice (DV) modulation. In fact, we probably have too many digital formats to choose from, all incompatible, which has fragmented the market. The three dominant digital voice modes are D-STAR (first out of the chute), DMR (a commercial standard) and Fusion (Yaesu’s C4FM offering). I think these all have their advantages and disadvantages which attract various people to support one or more of them. However, none of them is dominant and universal, like FM. It is interesting that virtually all DV radios on VHF/UHF include analog FM because it is The Utility Mode, the fallback modulation that keeps us all compatible.

Universal Digital Voice

For this post, I am primarily looking at this from a SOTA and POTA perspective, which means simplex operation and not repeaters. (However, you could extend this idea to repeaters, too.) I am also not so concerned about keyboard modes, just DV plus some basic digital telemetry that goes with it. It can’t be too complex or it will not be fast and easy to use.

I propose a universal DV mode that is implemented in all VHF/UHF transceivers (think in terms of your typical handheld or mobile transceiver for 2m and 70cm). And yes, go ahead and also implement D-STAR, DMR, Fusion, or whatever, but give us a universal digital format that just works. The key idea is to have a digital least common denominator mode that replaces FM. This mode can be the defacto standard for “meet me on simplex” and become the Next Generation Utility Mode. How cool would it be to get on top of a summit and push the DV Call button and work stations on digital many miles away? The station’s callsign should be embedded in the digital stream along with location data (lat/lon or grid locator) and some user-defined fields ( SOTA reference or other information). This format should also have really good weak-signal performance, significantly better than FM, for when the signal-to-noise ratio is low. All the technology must be open, to encourage wide adoption, with no proprietary codecs or modulation schemes.

The technology for this already exists and it would not be difficult to implement. The real challenge is the lack of industry coordination and collaboration between amateur radio manufacturers. Unfortunately, I don’t see this changing any time soon.

That’s my thought for today. What do you think?

73 Bob K0NR

The post Universal Digital Voice appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway

Typical photo of the Blue Ridge Parkway

In May, we met up with our friends Paul/KF9EY and Beth/KB9DOU for a trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Joyce/K0JJW and I had been on the parkway before but had not completed the whole route. We all thought it would be a great trip to do together, in about a week, so we would not be in a rush. Both couples have Class B RVs (camper vans), which are well-suited for such a trip.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is part of the National Park Service, construction started in the 1930s and took decades to complete. The basic concept is a scenic road with a maximum speed limit of 45 MPH connecting Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Shenandoah National Park. We met at the Smoky Mountain end of the parkway and traveled north to Shenandoah.

Of course, we included some Summits On The Air (SOTA) and Parks On The Air (POTA) activations. The Blue Ridge area is target-rich with SOTA and POTA opportunities.

Clingmans Dome

Our first Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation was from Clingmans Dome (W4C/WM-001), the highest spot in the Great Smoky Mountain NP. This is an easy activation with a half-mile hike (one way) to an observation tower. See my previous trip report here.

We opted for a simple VHF SOTA activation, using a Yaesu FT-2DR handheld transceiver and an RH-770 whip antenna. The observation tower was not too crowded and we were able to make a surprising number of 2m FM radio contacts. We just called CQ on 146.52 and raised a number of home stations, mobile stations, and a few campers.  Joyce, Paul, and I all completed at least 10 contacts so we decided to submit the activation for both POTA and SOTA.

Joyce/K0JJW makes 2m FM contacts from Clingmans Dome while Bob/K0NR stands by.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Then we headed up the parkway, stopping along the way for photo opportunities, a winery visit, lunch stops, and short hikes. We stayed at different campgrounds for three nights along the parkway. To activate the parkway for POTA (K-3378), we stopped at a picnic area for lunch and set up for 20m SSB. We used our typical POTA setup: Yaesu FT-991 driving an end-fed-halfwave antenna supported by a fishing pole.

Bob/K0NR making 20m SSB QSOs on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Note the two Class B RVs in the background.

The station worked well for us but it was a little slow completing contacts on 20m. A 20 AH Bioenno battery supplied the DC power for the FT-991 and we kept the RF output at around 50 watts. I used HAMRS on my Windows PC for logging and it worked well for me. (That logging program keeps getting better with each revision.) Paul and Joyce preferred to log using old-fashioned pen and paper.

 

Paul/KF9EY worked 20m POTA while Joyce/K0JJW does the logging.

Loft Mountain Campground

We camped the last two nights of our trip together at Loft Mountain Campground in Shenandoah NP. This is a rather unique spot in that the campground is located on top of a broad SOTA summit and is inside a national park. The SOTA summit is appropriately named Big Flat Mountain (W4V/BR-009), while Shenandoah NP is park K-0064. This makes for an easy SOTA plus POTA activation.

The summit is located inside the National Radio Quiet Zone, which may require you to coordinate with the NRQZ before operating. However, the W4V Association Reference Manual says that “the typical SOTA activation does not require coordination,” mainly because it is a short-term, temporary radio activity.

Once again, we operated midday on 20m SSB and had reasonably good propagation. Joyce and I made some stateside contacts but when Paul took over, he snagged a couple of European stations. That might be due to his superior operating skill or maybe the band just shifted. Between the three of us, we made 45 QSOs in about an hour or so.

Summary

We had a fun time on this trip, which is another example of blending SOTA and POTA activities with a camping vacation. Our “leisurely pace” strategy worked out well and we were never in a hurry. Of course, there are always more things we could have done. The Blue Ridge Parkway has plenty of interesting tourist, hiking, and SOTA/POTA opportunities. Too many to do in a week.

73 Bob K0NR

The post Cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Combined Logging for SOTA and POTA

Doing a simultaneous activation of a Summits On The Air (SOTA) summit and a Parks On The Air (POTA) park is becoming more common. There is a lot of crossover between the two programs. Here in Colorado, many of the SOTA peaks are in national forests or national parks, making them an ideal double activation.

Creating one file for logging both programs can be a challenge but I’ve settled in on an approach that works for me. I’ve decided to use HAMRS for this, whether it is real-time logging or transcribing a paper log after the event. HAMRS provides useful templates for both SOTA and POTA, but not both simultaneously. HAMRS still has a few quirks on entering callsigns and timestamps, but I am hopeful those things will get addressed in the fullness of time. If you are using a different logging program, you can probably still benefit from this post.

I wrote about the different ADIF fields that POTA and SOTA use here:

More Logging Tips for SOTA & POTA

Simplest Case: No P2P or S2S

For an activation that does not involve making contact with other parks or summits, the logging requirements are simple. POTA refers to these contacts as Park-to-Park or P2P, while SOTA refers to them as Summit-to-Summit or S2S. Same basic idea.

The ADIF file for POTA needs to have the usual logging information but the special POTA fields (MY_SIG_INFO, SIG_INFO) can be left blank. The filename will indicate the park you are operating from and must meet the standard POTA format. (Example: K0NR-K-4404-20211017.adi for K0NR operating from K-4404 on 17 Oct 2021). If you do have some simple P2P QSOs in there (one park contacting another single park, no double activations), the POTA database will attempt to identify these contacts by comparing the logs of the two POTA activators. I believe this works pretty well but I have not tested it extensively.

For the SOTA log, you must provide your SOTA summit using the MY_SOTA_REF field. If you use the HAMRS SOTA template, it will take care of this for you. Then you can use the same ADIF file for POTA by setting the filename to the right format. If you need to add the MY_SOTA_REF manually, ADIF Master is a good tool to use.

With P2P or S2S

When there are P2P or S2S contacts, things get a bit more complicated. The ADIF log needs to have MY_SIG_INFO for each QSO set to your POTA number and SIG_INFO set to the other station’s POTA number. If the other POTA station is activating more than one park, this can be handled by entering multiple QSOs in the file. (I think this is the cleanest way of handling it, but let me know if you have other methods.)

The SOTA logfile requires something similar, with MY_SOTA_REF set to your SOTA summit and SOTA_REF set to the other station’s SOTA summit.

One ADIF can be created that has all four SOTA/POTA fields set correctly but you’ll probably have to use ADIF Master or a text editor to get this all entered. HAMRS can help you with either SOTA or POTA, using the corresponding template. Normally, I try to determine if I have more P2P or S2S contacts and choose the template (POTA or SOTA) with that in mind. Then, I use ADIF Master to add in the other -OTA program logging info.

POTA does allow for simultaneous activations of more than one park. For example, the Continental Divide Trail is considered a park and it often runs through a national forest, so both can be activated together.) If you are activating more than one POTA park, you will need to create a log file for each park and submit them individually. A SOTA activation can only be from a single summit.

Wrap Up

I treat my SOTA/POTA logs as separate files but I also import them into my master logging program, which is currently Log4OM2. I also upload the file to Logbook of The World (LoTW). It is important to set up a new LoTW location with the grid locator, state and county set correctly. This may create a long list of locations in your LoTW account but provides proper confirmation for stations chasing grids, states, and counties.

These are some things I’ve learned along the way and I hope you find them useful.

73 Bob K0NR

The post Combined Logging for SOTA and POTA appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

How’s That North America Adventure Frequency Working?

In January 2021, I wrote about the North America Adventure Frequency (NAAF) which originated in the North America SOTA community. About a year later, how is this working out? Is anyone actually using it?

 

 

A few key points to remember:

  • The NAAF is 146.58 MHz.
  • This frequency is in addition to, not a replacement for, the National Simplex Calling Frequency 146.52 MHz.
  • Local usage will likely vary depending on needs.
  • Program 146.58 MHz as The Other Simplex Frequency in your radio.

I’ve noticed that quite a few SOTA activators are posting Alerts and Spots with 146.58 MHz. For example, K2CZH and KN6OUU posted these SOTA Alerts:

Here N8FN and WJ7WJ are spotted on 146.58:

Of course, the National 2m FM Calling Frequency (146.52 MHz) still gets a lot of use. I tend to use Five Two when I am activating in rural areas, some distance from the major cities. The frequency is usually quiet AND there are a number of folks that tend to monitor it. I use the NAAF when I’m near the big cities (Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder, …). Putting out a Spot is usually important, to get the attention of the more dedicated SOTA chasers watching SOTAwatch. That is, I don’t think there are a lot of people monitoring the frequency (compared to 146.52), so a spot on SOTAwatch gets them on frequency.

Some of the Parks On The Air (POTA) activators are also using NAAF. Here’s an activation alert by KD7DTS from the POTA website:

So I think the NAAF is working as intended. It is not a replacement for 146.52 MHz but a standard choice for portable operating when you want to stay off the calling frequency. Thanks to everyone that has given it a try.

73 Bob K0NR

The post How’s That North America Adventure Frequency Working? appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

More Logging Tips for SOTA & POTA

I previously wrote about some of the tools I use for managing SOTA and POTA logs. See Tips and Tools for Managing Logs. I continue to learn about the file formats and various tricks for generating the logs. Some of this is not well-documented…at least I haven’t found it…so I am sharing what I’ve figured out. My apologies in advance if I get any of this wrong. Reader Beware!

Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out how to do one log file for both SOTA and POTA. I am not aware of a logging program that will handle both simultaneously. (Let me know if you do.)  The ADIF file format can handle this and is the way to go for such a log file. Also, an ADIF file can be imported into other logging programs and Logbook of The World. The complete documentation for ADIF can be found here: https://www.adif.org/

SOTA Logs

Our combination SOTA + POTA activations usually start out as a SOTA activation. Then, if the SOTA summit is inside a POTA-designated park, we may try to do both simultaneously.

The SOTA database supports uploading ADIF files, including support for Summit-to-Summit (S2S) contacts. The figure below shows a recent SOTA log, in ADIF format, displayed by ADIFMaster. The 6th column is MY_SOTA_REF, which is the SOTA reference for the summit I was activating. In this case, it was W0C/SP-084 and is the same for all of the QSOs. The 9th column is SOTA_REF, which is the SOTA reference of the other station’s summit, if any. Most of the rows are blank, because the other station was not on a summit. However, N0TZW and N3ALT were on W0C/PR-031 that day resulting in a pair of S2S contacts. If you get these fields set correctly in the ADIF file, the SOTA database will log the activation and the S2S contacts correctly.

POTA Logs

For simple POTA activations, you just need to get the QSO information correct and the file name indicates the park you were operating from. For example, the file name K0NR-K-4404-20211017.adi indicates the station callsign (K0NR), operating from park K-4404 on 17 Oct 2021. The POTA system will try to identify Park-to-Park (P2P) radio contacts in the file, by comparing activator logs. My understanding is that this works only for the simple case of two activators, each operating from only one park.

The figure below shows a POTA log using ADIFMaster. The 7th column is MY_SIG_INFO, which is the POTA designator (K-8295) for the park I was activating. This is the same for all of the rows. The eleventh column is SIG_INFO, which is the POTA designator for the other station. Most of these are blank because the other station was not in a park. However, there are six QSOs shown that were Park-to-Park. Note that the QSO with N7OOS was entered twice, with two different park numbers. This is because he was doing a double activation that day…putting two parks on the air at the same time. Yes, activating multiple parks at once is possible, even common, in POTA. A good example is when a national scenic trail runs through a national forest. One operating location is in both parks simultaneously.

It might be possible to have two POTA designators tagged to one QSO, I am not sure. But I think it is cleaner to just enter it as two separate QSOs. I know the POTA database will interpret it correctly. When I imported the file into Logbook of The World, it complained there were duplicate QSOs, which were easily ignored.

The 6th column in the figure is MY_SIG, which indicates a special interest activity or event (e.g., POTA). In the general case, the logging program would use this field to interpret the meaning of SIG_INFO and MY_SIG_INFO. It appears that the POTA system does not require MY_SIG to be set to POTA and will just go ahead and interpret SIG_INFO and MY_SIG_INFO for POTA use. Not shown is another field called SIG, which is the special interest activity or event of the other station.

Creating a SOTA/POTA Log

When doing a combination activation, I’ll set up the logging program for SOTA or POTA based on whether I expect to have more S2S or P2P radio contacts. For example, if I just expect to work a few summits and many parks, I’ll use HAMRS with the POTA template. That way, all of the parks get entered correctly from the start. I will note any S2S contacts in the comment field and come back later to fix them.

The easiest way to manage ADIF files is via ADIF Master. You can also edit the files manually using a basic text editor but that can be error-prone. To add a new field in ADIF Master, you insert a new column (right-click on a column, then left-click insert column). Then create a label for the column by right-clicking the top of the column, followed by Custom, entering the name of the new ADIF field.

Here’s the short list of ADIF fields that may need to be used:

MY_SOTA_REF is your SOTA reference, the summit you are activating

SOTA_REF is the SOTA reference for the other station, assuming its an S2S radio contact. If you submitting a Chaser log, this is the SOTA reference for the summit you are chasing. Your MY_SOTA_REF would be left blank.

SIG is the name of the contacted station’s special activity or interest group (e.g., POTA)

MY_SIG is your special interest activity or event (e.g., POTA)

MY_SIG_INFO is your park number that is being activated.

SIG_INFO is the park number for the park you are working (P2P).

By editing my log files using ADIFMaster, I’ve been able to create log files that can be submitted to SOTA, POTA and LoTW without errors. It takes a little bit of work to get the file right. Before you submit a log file, it is always a good idea to view it using ADIFMaster, to try and spot any obvious errors. This is especially useful for POTA logs, when the turnaround time can take up to two weeks.

This is what I’ve learned. How about you?

73 Bob K0NR

The post More Logging Tips for SOTA & POTA appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Power Box for Bioenno Battery

When operating portable, I use Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries from Bioenno. Most of my portable operating is for Summits On The Air (SOTA) and I wrote about it here:

My SOTA Battery Journey

For POTA activations, I purchased a larger, 20 Ah Bioenno battery and use it to power a Yaesu FT-991 (and other radios). This battery has worked out really well. It is a bit large for backpack portable and weighs 5.4 pounds, but I have taken it along on a few SOTA activations.

Powerwerx PWRbox

I decided the battery could use a case to protect it while being tossed around in the back of the Jeep. Powerwerx has a really good battery box that includes a digital voltage readout, automotive (“cigarette lighter”) socket, dual PowerPole plugs and high-current binding posts.

The Powerwerx PWRbox

Initially, I did not think I needed the extra gizmos, and I did not want to take up more space with the battery system. Later, I figured that I could always pull the battery out of the box and use it in its original form.

The top of the battery box, with the connector covers open.

The power switch is handy for turning on/off the battery power and the digital voltmeter provides a simple view of the battery condition. Most of the time, I use the PowerPole connectors to connect up my radios but occasionally the automotive socket comes in handy.

The 20 Ah Bioenno battery sits inside the box with plenty of room to spare.

I used some of the plastic packing material that came with the box to hold the battery in place. A little bit of cutting with a sharp knife produced a good fit. There is enough room above the battery for the Bioenno charger, so it makes for a nice kit. The charger connects to the original charging plug on the battery.

The wiring underneath the lid of the box.

As expected, Powerwerx did a good job of wiring up the various components and included fuses in both the positive and negative cables. The box is big enough to hold a 40 Ah battery and I am tempted to upgrade it for larger capacity, but the 20 Ah battery has been sufficient, so far.

I’ve used this battery box for multiple POTA activations and a few other situations when I just needed to power up a radio at home. It works great. The voltmeter gives me a quick check of the battery status and the PowerPole connectors make for easy hookup.

The PWRbox costs $109.99, battery not included.

73 Bob K0NR

The post Power Box for Bioenno Battery appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.


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