Posts Tagged ‘SOTA’

June QST: SOTA, POTA and VHF Contest

My article that describes last year’s SOTA/POTA/VHF contest activation from Pikes Peak appears in the June issue of QST magazine. This VHF/UHF activation occurred on the Saturday of the ARRL June VHF Contest and qualified for Summits On The Air (W0C/FR-004 Pikes Peak) and Parks On The Air (K-4404 Pike National Forest). The article highlights the use of the North America Adventure Frequency of 146.58 MHz.

I made 80 radio contacts that day, on the 6m, 2m, 1.25m, 70cm, and 23cm bands. Not a great score for the VHF contest but quite nice for a VHF SOTA and POTA activation. My primary piece of equipment was the ICOM IC-705, which enabled all modes on the main VHF/UHF frequencies.

If you are an ARRL member, look for the article on Page 58 of the print edition of June QST or the online version. Not an ARRL member? Darn, you should fix that if you want to read articles published in QST.

If you are an ARRL member, please look at the article and consider voting for it in the QST Cover Plaque Award. Thanks!

73 Bob K0NR

The post June QST: SOTA, POTA and VHF Contest appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Exploring a New SOTA Summit (W0C/SC-102)

We were looking for a SOTA summit to activate near Salida, so I started to poke around using SOTLAS. There is still plenty of snow at the higher elevations, so we wanted to stay lower. SOTLAS has some useful filtering features that allow you to show only the summits of interest. Initially, I looked for a summit that Joyce/K0JJW and I had not yet activated.

Bob/K0NR and Joyce/K0JJW with SC-102 in the background.

Then I noticed that an unnamed summit (W0C/SC-102) had never been activated, not by anyone. When a summit has never been activated, it is often because it is really difficult to access or it is on private land. Using Gaiagps, my preferred mapping software, I checked out land ownership and the surrounding terrain.

A map of the area around SC-102, which is indicated as the 8380 waypoint.

The summit is on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The box labeled Sand Gulch is Colorado State land. This area is clearly on public land without any private property to deal with. We considered two routes to get to the summit. One option is to hike up from the west, which would probably work. But we noticed a 4WD road that approached from the north side that might provide better access. We weren’t sure how difficult the road would be to drive but we decided to give it a try. The road turned out to be easy 4WD, with just a few steep sections that might prove troublesome if the road were muddy. It presented no problem for our stock Jeep Wrangler. There were several side roads not shown on the map that could be a diversion, so having Gaiagps on my iPhone was helpful.

The red line is the 4WD road and the blue line is the hike to the summit.

The parking spot for the Jeep is shown on the map above. We were careful with the route finding for this summit, even though it is only a mile or so. We wanted to stay on top of the ridgeline and not get lost in one of the side drainages. Gaiagps on my phone recorded the hike as 1.1 miles one way with an elevation gain of 360 feet, so not very difficult.

The Jeep Wrangler parked at the “trailhead”.

The photo below shows the typical terrain as we hiked along the ridge. There was plenty of pinion pine and juniper, along with a surprising number of small cacti. Since the summit is unnamed, we decided to call it Cactus Ridge.

There is no established trail but the bushwacking is relatively easy. This photo shows the typical path with not-so-dense pine trees.

We made contacts mostly on 2m FM (146.52 MHz) using the 50-watt Yaesu FT-90 transceiver driving a 3-element Yagi antenna. I was curious to see how far we could work because the summit is not that high and sits roughly in the canyon of the Arkansas River, between Salida and Canon City. As expected, Salida stations (KD0VHD, K0LPR) were close by and easy to work. Stations in Buena Vista (KF0IHL, KD0MRC, W0BV) also came in quite strong. Our best DX for the day might be N0KM near Center, CO at a distance of 55 miles. But we also worked K0EEP, N0CFM, and KA0SDE camping somewhere near Jefferson, perhaps 60 miles or so, not sure exactly. Although they were due north of us, we had to point the Yagi antenna to the south to work them, apparently getting a nice reflection off one of the high peaks. Similarly, when we worked K0LTH in Guffey (to the north), we had to point the antenna south. We tried to work Amanda/K1DDN in Canon City but were unsuccessful. I thought we might be able to funnel a signal down the canyon to her with a few favorable reflections. No luck with that, but you never know until you try.

Thanks to everyone that listened for us and worked us!

The weather report was sketchy for the day but conditions were cloudy and warm (50 deg F) when we were on the summit at 11:30 AM. Later in the day, after we were back in Salida, we had rain and snow coming down. Springtime in the Rockies.

This was a very enjoyable summit, partially because it had the experience of exploring something new. The easy 4WD road was a pleasant surprise and made us wonder where the other roads in the area lead. At 8280 feet, this summit is only worth two SOTA points. But it’s not about the points, right?

73 Bob K0NR

The post Exploring a New SOTA Summit (W0C/SC-102) appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

How About An Icom IC-905?

Being an enthusiast for bands above 50 MHz, I suppose I should weigh in on the new IC-905 from Icom. The street price for the basic unit is ~$3500, with various options and accessories at additional cost.

Let’s be clear about one thing, this radio is one impressive piece of technology. There is no other radio on the market that comes close to covering these VHF/UHF/SHF bands: 144, 430, 1200, 2400, and 5600 MHz (and optional 10 GHz). I won’t mention all of the features and specs covered here. I really appreciate that Icom is investing in equipment for VHF and higher, as evidenced by the IC-9700 and this radio.

For me, there are two main uses I would consider for the IC-905: Summits On The Air (SOTA)  and base station use:


I focus on VHF/UHF for SOTA with 144 MHz always carrying the load in terms of making radio contacts. Lately, I have put more effort into 432 MHz and 1.2 GHz. I’ve also been trying to get out of the FM rut and work more SSB and CW on those bands. I really should get going on a portable digital station for FT8 and other modes. I have a good collection of gear to choose from, ranging from basic 5-watt FM handhelds to an IC-705 and an IC-9700. OK, the IC-9700 is a bit large to drag up most summits but I have taken it on some easy hikes and drive-up summits. Joyce/K0JJW and I also have a pair of Alinco triband handheld radios (DJ-G7T) that have 1.2 GHz FM. These radios are popular with SOTA enthusiasts due to their affordability and compact size.

What does the IC-905 offer for SOTA? Well, obviously it is a reasonable way to get on 5 or 6 bands with all modes. However, I already have the IC-705 that covers 144 and 432 MHz (and 50 MHz). Having CW/SSB on 1.2 GHz is very attractive to me but 2.4 GHz and 5.6 GHz are rarely used for SOTA. Sure, maybe the introduction of the IC-905 will change that. Maybe, but probably not. Someone commented in an online forum that you better buy two IC-905s and loan one out so you have someone to work. For my interests, I would much rather have a VHF/UHF-only variant of the IC-705 that covers the 50, 144, 440, and 1200 MHz bands. But I have come to accept the fact that radio manufacturers don’t develop radios just for me.

Base Station

The other option is to use the IC-905 to get on the higher bands from my home station. I am in the process of building a VHF+ station at our cabin in the mountains, which is in a good VHF/UHF location. Honestly, my focus is on getting a tower up with good size Yagi antennas for 50 MHz and 144 MHz. Although I have operated a lot on these bands, it has usually been from portable and rover stations, during one of the VHF contests, or as a SOTA activation. I am looking forward to having an effective permanent station on the two most popular VHF bands.  I am debating how much effort to put into the 430 MHz and 1200 MHz bands at the new station, and 2400 and 5600 MHz are not currently in my plans. Besides, the IC-9700 has me covered for 144, 430, and 1200 MHz. So right now, I don’t see the IC-905 being part of the home station, but that could certainly change with time.


What about the price? $3500 is a serious piece of change but probably not unreasonable for what this radio can do. Some people have said it is worth it and some think it is way too expensive. Price is always an issue, but for me it probably doesn’t matter that much. For the most part, I am saying the radio doesn’t fit a need I have. OK, if the price were a lot lower (like $1500), it would affect my point of view. But at that price, Icom would be leaving money on the table with the folks that really want to get on 2.4, 5.6 and 10 GHz.

So my conclusion is that I probably won’t be buying an IC-905 at this time, but things can always change.

What are your thoughts?

73 Bob K0NR

The post How About An Icom IC-905? appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Close to Denver: Green Mountain (W0C/FR-107)

Sometimes you just want a close-in SOTA summit that is easy to access and allows you to get on the air. On the west side of greater Denver, a few summits meet that requirement. One of them is Green Mountain (W0C/FR-107), near the intersection of I-70 and C-470. This would make a good beginner summit or an easy-access summit for visitors to the area. Joyce/K0JJW and I activated this 1-point summit today.

The blue line marks our route up Green Mountain, starting at the trailhead on South Rooney Road.

Access is easy and convenient, the trailhead can be found by going west on Alameda Parkway, off C-470, then north on S Rooney Road. There is a large parking lot there and an obvious trailhead with pit toilets. From here we hiked east over C-470 into William Frederick Hayden Park. We followed signs for the Green Mountain Trail, which is basically an unimproved road, to the summit of Green Mountain (see map above). This is not the only option because the park has an extensive trail system to explore. Check out the Lakewood parks map here. Also, you can check the trail conditions here. My mapping app recorded the hike as 1.6 miles (one way) with an elevation gain of 800 feet, not very difficult but still a decent hike. On a cool Saturday afternoon, we met many hikers and mountain bikers on the trail.

The view looking west from Green Mountain.

This hike starts out with a lot of road noise from C-470 but things soon quiet down as we left the highway behind. On the summit, we could see many higher summits to the west and downtown Denver to the east. We only had a couple of handheld VHF/UHF radios with us and made a bunch of contacts on 2m FM. This is usually the case when you have line-of-sight to the Denver area, with plenty of activity on 146.52 MHz.

This summit is not the best SOTA summit in the state but if you are itching to do a SOTA activation without driving deep into the mountains, this one will work!

73 Bob K0NR

The post Close to Denver: Green Mountain (W0C/FR-107) appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Most Active SOTA Summits in Colorado

Previously, I wrote that Mount Herman (W0C/FR-063) is the most radio-active summit in Colorado. Here is a fresh look at the data, with seven Colorado SOTA summits that have at least 100 activations. The W0C page on is quite handy for viewing this information. Mount Herman still leads the pack by a wide margin, with many activations by Steve/WG0AT.

A view of Pikes Peak from Mt Herman.

Pikes Peak is still in second place but Genesee Mountain is essentially tied with it. Pikes Peak is a 14er but has a road to the top and most of those activations are probably aided by a vehicle. Genesee is a much lower, easy-to-access summit just west of Denver. Chief Mountain has edged out Mt Evans for fourth place.

The summit formerly known as Squaw Mountain has been renamed Mestaa’ehehe Mountain (W0C/PR-082). There is a gated road to the top so most activators hike that road.

Thorodin Mountain made the list as it seems to be gaining in popularity, with Carey/KX0R as a frequent activator.

Most of these summits are in the Front Range section of W0C, close to the major cities which aids their popularity. The other two are listed in the Park Range and the Sawatch Range, but they are also not far from the large urban areas.

First in North America

In North America, Mount Herman is second to Mount Davidson (W6/NC-423) which currently has 522 activations, many of them by Ellliot/K6EL. Davidson is a small summit in the middle of San Francisco, so it has easy access for a large population. This video by W6DFM provides a tour of that summit.

So that’s your update on SOTA activations in Colorado.

73 Bob K0NR

The post Most Active SOTA Summits in Colorado appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Microphone Hanger for Backpacks

My standard SOTA setup is a Yaesu FT-90 compact VHF/UHF transceiver stuffed into a fanny pack with its Bioenno battery pack. The fanny pack is a pretty nice flyfishing pack that I position on the front side of me so I can easily see and operate the radio. I am usually holding the 2m or 70 cm Yagi antenna and talking on the microphone.

Clip for microphone
These clips used to be quite common on older cellphones (pre-Smartphone) and they fit the standard microphone button.

I’ve been looking for a way to clip the microphone onto the pack. Typically, what happens now is I drop the microphone and it gets banged up when it hits the rocky ground. I needed a way to easily hang it on the side of the pack. I recalled having an old cellphone belt clip that accepts the standard button on the back of a mobile microphone, but I couldn’t locate it. However, I did find one on Amazon.

Typical Yaesu mobile microphone hanging from the clip.

I clipped it onto my fanny pack and the Yaesu microphone hangs quite nicely on it. This clip can be used for other applications…anywhere you want to hang a microphone onto a backpack, belt, or whatever. Depending on your station configuration, this may be useful for all kinds of portable operating: SOTA, POTA, and satellites.

73 Bob K0NR

The post Microphone Hanger for Backpacks appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Who Does VHF SOTA?

Who really uses the VHF and higher bands (>50 MHz) for Summits On The Air? Last year, I pulled some data from the SOTA database and provided some analysis.

Looking at VHF/UHF SOTA Data

Here is the short story:

Roughly 20% of the SOTA contacts worldwide are on VHF/UHF frequencies and about 90% of these are on 2m FM.

So that’s the information that is in the official SOTA database. For SOTA, I pretty much operate on the VHF/UHF bands so over time I’ve noticed that four types of operators use VHF/UHF for SOTA. Of course, this is based on my own observations, mostly in Colorado but also in other states.


Many newer hams or new-to-SOTA hams just grab their handheld radio and go do a SOTA activation. This makes a lot of sense, assuming there is reasonable 2m FM simplex activity around. Summits that are within VHF range of large population areas usually work quite well. A Technician license is sufficient to have fun with this mode (both activating and chasing). If you are new to ham radio, like the outdoors, and have SOTA summits in your area, this is a fun activity to pursue!


Many SOTA activators are after longer distance contacts so they naturally gravitate to the HF bands. Some leave VHF behind, as they focus on HF operating. However, many SOTA activators and chasers keep a VHF radio in their toolkit, often treating it as an add-on to their HF activity. Sometimes the VHF radio becomes the fail-safe mode if things are not working well on the HF bands. Sometimes, I hear activators say something like “the HF gear was just not working for me today, so I had to use my HT to log four contacts.”

Non-SOTA Ops

There are quite a few hams out there on 2m FM that are not really focused on SOTA. They like to hang out on 2m FM simplex, especially 146.52 MHz, to chat with whoever comes along. In the backcountry, this may include hikers, snowshoers, skiers, 4WD enthusiasts, campers, etc. It also includes hams just hanging around the shack with a radio or scanner monitoring 2m FM. Announce that you are on top of a summit and these folks are happy to contact you.

VHF Enthusiasts

Finally, there are VHF/UHF enthusiasts that like the combination of higher frequencies and mountaintop operating. The effect of Height Above Average Terrain (HAAT) has a huge impact at these frequencies. A 5-watt handheld (HT) might be limited to a few miles on flat terrain, but from the top of a summit, the range extends dramatically (50 to 100 miles). Improve your station and 200-to-300-mile contacts are achievable. Most of this action is still on 2m FM but adding in additional bands (70 cm, 23 cm) and modes (CW, SSB) provides another challenge. Chasers are included in this category as well…there are VHF/UHF enthusiasts that are challenged by working distant summits from home.


These are the four categories of folks I usually encounter on the VHF/UHF bands when doing SOTA. Do these match your experience? What did I miss?

73 Bob K0NR

The post Who Does VHF SOTA? appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

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