Posts Tagged ‘SOTA’
For the Colorado 14er Event, Joyce/K0JJW and I decided to do one activation per day during the four-day event. We focused on 2m and 70 cm FM but also took along handheld radios for 1.25m and 23 cm. Our standard 2m/70cm portable station is a Yaesu FT-90, powered by a Bioenno battery, driving a small handheld Yagi (either a single band 2m or 70cm antenna).
On Friday, we activated Castle Rock, a short but challenging climb with plenty of nasty brush to scar your arms and legs. This is a summit that we’ve done before but not in the last few years. It is relatively close to our cabin so we decided to give it a return visit. Frankly, it is a lot of work for only 4 SOTA points, but it definitely gives you the feeling of a real climb. We each made about 14 QSOs, mostly 2m FM, including 2 Summit-to-Summit (S2S) contacts.
On Saturday, we returned to Mount Antero at 14,269 feet. I did the first SOTA activation of this summit in 2011 and this latest one is my fifth activation. Dennis/WA2USA, W9 Mountain Goat from Indiana, joined us for this effort. Dennis worked CW on the HF bands while Joyce and I worked VHF/UHF.
We drove the Jeep to 13,800 feet and hiked up from there. This turned out to be the most fun summit of the weekend, because 1) it was a 14er with an excellent radio horizon 2) the weather was perfect 3) we had WA2USA along for the ride and 4) we took our time on the summit and just enjoyed the experience. Overall, I made 28 QSOs, 10 of them S2S. I caught Jon/KM4PEH on South Monarch Ridge on all four bands: 2m, 1.25m, 70cm, and 23 cm. It was a pleasure to work Terry/WB0RBA as he did the first activation of Mount Sopris (W0C/SR-039).
Wander Ridge (W0C/SP-042)
On Sunday, we headed to one of our favorite summits, W0C/SP-042, known as Wander Ridge. See my previous trip report for more detail. This activation starts with a hike on the Continental Divide Trail (and Colorado Trail) from Cottonwood Pass. It really is walking on top of the world.
The weather was sunny and warm but the wind was a bit of a challenge. We made good use of the rock shelter at the summit, sitting in comfort while we made radio contacts. When we stood up to leave, we were almost knocked over by the high winds.
I made 19 QSOs, including 4 S2S. Steve/WB5CTS showed up on 2 meters from Slumgullion Pass, but also had 1.2 GHz gear along, so we made a contact on that band (about 63 miles). I was not expecting 1.2 GHz activity but I did have the Alinco HT, so I used it with just a rubber duck antenna. Hey, it worked!
Finally, on Monday we activated The Pulverizer, near Wilkerson Pass, which is a new summit for us. See my trip report for more info: Activating the Pulverizer.
The first three summits are in San Isabel National Forest and The Pulverizer is in Pike National Forest, so we also submitted our logs as Parks On The Air activations.
We had a great time doing these summits. I enjoyed hearing the other stations having a good time making VHF contacts. It warms my heart when someone makes a VHF contact that they did not think was possible. That is exactly the point…you never know where the signal will go so give it a try and prepare to be surprised!
73 Bob K0NR
There is a SOTA summit next to Wilkerson Pass called The Pulverizer (W0C/SP-092). With such an inviting name, of course, we had to activate it.
According to its Summit Post page, this summit was named by well-known mountaineer and author Gerry Roach. Apparently, this name is an adaptation of the name of a nearby summit, Pulver Mountain. The Pulverizer does not have a trail to the summit and is known for having a lot of downed timber in the way. I found a trip report that said,
Overall, this is the kind of “hike” you only do if you really, really want to get these summits. It’s the kind of hike that you take someone on if you never want them to go with you on a hike ever again. Miserable downfall for pretty much the entire hike.
Having climbed the summit, I think this is an exaggeration but we did encounter plenty of downed timber. Many of our SOTA activations involve off-trail hiking, so we have been conditioned to expect the all-too-common dead trees on the ground.
Joyce/K0JJW and I followed the route identified by Walt/W0CP that starts at the Wilkerson Pass Visitor Center. (This summit can also be accessed from the east, via County Road 90.) We parked the Jeep on the east end of the parking lot and walked the trail (actually a sidewalk) to the south. At the “trailhead” waypoint, we left the sidewalk and headed south on a trail that quickly faded away.
Most of this area is in the Pike National Forest but there is a large piece of private property as shown on the map. The route to the summit is not critical but you need to avoid the private property, well marked with No Trespassing signs. The northeast corner of the property is shown on the map below as Fence Corner #1 (39.03252, -105.52364). We aimed for that corner, then followed the fence line heading south to Fence Corner #2 (39.02911, -105.52373). After that, you pretty much head to the summit, adjusting your route to avoid the worst sections of downfall.
The hike is 1.5 miles one way, with about 950 feet of elevation gain. There is a bit of up and down so the accumulated elevation gain may be higher than this. It starts out downhill, then flattens out but then provides a steep uphill section at the end. On the return trip, head for Fence Corner #2 and then follow the fence line north.
On the summit, we had good luck with making VHF & UHF radio contacts. This was during the Colorado 14er Event, so we had other summits on the air for S2S contacts. Sitting right above Wilkerson Pass, it has an excellent radio horizon in all directions. Here’s the view from the top, looking east:
So the real question is did we like the summit and will we do it again? We are glad that we did it, kind of a check-the-box item for SOTA activations in the South Park area. This is not our favorite SOTA summit but we might do it again sometime. You might say “We Have Been Pulverized” and we are not in a hurry to do it again.
73 Bob K0NR
The Ham Nation folks invited me on to talk about the Colorado 14er Event last night. Thanks for the invite! This turned out to be a concise look at the 14er event with lots of great photos of past operations.
Here’s the video (my segment was 20 minutes long):
We have lots of information on the event at ham14er.org.
73 Bob K0NR
August 4 through 7, 2023
www.ham14er.orgAmateur Radio operators from around Colorado will be climbing Colorado Summits On The Air (SOTA) peaks and communicating with other radio amateurs across the state and around the world. Join in on the fun during the annual event by activating a summit or contacting (chasing) the mountaintop stations.This event is normally held the first full weekend in August. Again this year, we will add two bonus days to the Colorado 14er Event. The main two days remain Saturday and Sunday (Aug 5 & 6), while the bonus days are Friday Aug 4 and Monday Aug 7th, for those SOTA enthusiasts that need more than two days of SOTA fun! Be aware that many mountaintop activators will hit the trail early with the goal of being off the summits by (1800 UTC) noon due to lightning safety concerns.
The 14er event includes Summits On the Air (SOTA) peaks, which provide over 1700 summits to activate. (See the W0C SOTA web page or browse the SOTA Atlas.) The Colorado 14er Event was started in 1991, about 19 years before the SOTA program was set up in Colorado. As SOTA grew in popularity, this event expanded from just the 14,000-foot mountains (14ers) to include all of the SOTA summits in the state. We still call it the Colorado 14er Event because, well, that’s where it all started and the 14ers are the iconic summits in the state.
Important: The recommended 2m FM frequencies have been changed to 146.58, 146.55, and 146.49 MHz, to align with the use of the North America Adventure Frequency for SOTA (146.58). The National Simplex Calling Frequency (146.52) may be used as appropriate. There will be plenty of action on the other ham bands, for more information see the operating frequencies page.
Colorado 14er Event webpage – Everything to Know About The Colorado 14er Event
Beginner Guide – For the first-time activator
Ham14er Groups.io – Discussion Group for the event
Colorado SOTA groups.io – Colorado SOTA discussion group
Colorado 14er Event Task Force
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
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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
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.
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.
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