Posts Tagged ‘vhf/uhf’

Mt Ojibway (W8M/UP-002) – Isle Royale National Park

Joyce/K0JJW and I enjoy visiting the National Parks in the US, an activity that naturally combines with Summits On The Air (SOTA) and Parks On The Air (POTA). While planning a visit to Isle Royale National Park in upper Michigan, we decided to activate at least one SOTA summit as well as activate the park for POTA. The park is one large island surrounded by many smaller ones, accessible by boat or airplane. The park is actually closer to Canada than the US mainland.

Isle Royale in Lake Superior.

There is quite a bit of information about visiting the park on the Isle Royale National Park website, so I won’t repeat that here. We opted to take the Isle Royale Queen IV ferry from Copper Harbor, MI to and from the island and stay for three nights at Rock Harbor Lodge on the northeast end of the park.

The closest SOTA summit to Rock Harbor is Mount Ojibway (W8M/UP-059), which soon became the objective for our SOTA activation. This summit had been activated only once, by Scott/WA9STI in 2017. I contacted Scott, who was very helpful in sharing his experience on Ojibway. (There are three other SOTA summits in the park, with first activations by Mark/NK8Q.)

We had four friends join us on this trip, including the hike to Mount Ojibway. Two of them were licensed radio amateurs: Paul/KF9EY and Beth/KB9DOU with Paul joining us in doing the SOTA activation.

Trip Planning

We normally do SOTA activations using VHF/UHF, so this raised the issue of whether that was possible given the remote nature of the island. I poked around on the interwebz and reached out to radio clubs on both the US and Canadian sides. Randy/VA3OJ in Thunder Bay and Bill/KD8JAM on the Keweenaw Peninsula were particularly helpful and they both confirmed they can work stations on Isle Royale from their locations using 2m FM. The distance is not that far, especially to the Canadian side, and it is a straight shot over water.

There were two things that I worried about on this activation: bugs and rain, neither of which were under our control. For bugs, we loaded up on a variety of insect repellents and head nets. However, once we arrived at the island, it was pretty clear the bugs were not bad at all, probably because we were late enough in the year (late August). For the rain, we made sure we had rain gear and synthetic clothes, with the attitude of expecting to get soaked and being able to survive it.

There was no internet on the island (the lodge says they have it but it was not working). Occasionally we would get 1 bar of Verizon LTE service at Rock Harbor but is was not reliable. This meant that we were very limited in sending any email updates out to people. I emailed our plans to interested parties and posted an Alert on SOTAwatch before we hopped on the ferry.

We took the water taxi from Rock Harbor to Daisy Farm Campground.

For equipment, we decided to take our Icom IC-705 and an external battery pack for 10 watts of RF on all bands of interest. Our priority was VHF but we also took along antennas for 40m through 10m. In addition, I configured an iPad for FT8 but we did not end up using that capability.

Mount Ojibway is about a 7-mile hike from the Rock Harbor Lodge, so we decided to have the water taxi drop us off at Daisy Farm Campground and hike in from there, which is about 2 miles one way. We also scheduled the water taxi to pick us up for the return trip. So this set us up for a 4-mile round trip hike with modest elevation gain.

Activation Day

On the morning of our activation, a thunderstorm rolled into Rock Harbor delivering a good dose of lightning to the area. I checked on the status of the water taxi and it was uncertain whether it would be running due to the storm. We sat tight and the weather cleared up enough such that we could go. Still, it was cloudy and the forecast included some rain in the afternoon. I told our group, “We are going to get wet today.”

Mount Ojibway at 1150 feet is part of the Greenstone Ridge that runs along the top of the island. It is also the location of an observation tower, now used as a radio site. The SOTA database shows the summit a bit to the northeast of the tower and the ridge is quite flat with a broad activation zone. My GPS app showed our hike as 1.9 miles one-way, with 540 feet vertical. The trail is well-established and in good condition. There were several narrow boardwalks (narrow planks) over marshy areas that were unnerving for some of our group.

The Mount Ojibway Tower, as seen from the trail.

At the summit, we appreciated some blue sky and nice weather that appeared while we set up the IC-705 and 3-element Yagi for 2 meters. We called CQ SOTA on 146.52 MHz and soon worked KD8JAM and VA3OJ. We kept calling and picked up two more 2m FM contacts: W9GY and VA3DVE. About this time, we set up the endfed antenna for the HF bands and (just barely) worked W0BV in Colorado on 20m SSB. (My phone was not able to spot us but I used my Garmin inReach to message W0BV and he came up on frequency.) I also worked W4GO, who had a decent 55 signal at the summit. But 20m was not working very well for us and I started to consider what changes I should make to the station. However, the dark clouds approaching from the northwest made that a moot point as we packed up our gear and headed down the trail. Sorry, we were not able to do more on HF.

Totally Drenched

On the way down the summit, things got a bit more exciting, and not in a good way. The storm clouds moved in and the light rain we experienced off and on during the day turned into a downpour. My warning of “we are going to get wet today” became all too true. This is the kind of rain that turned the nice, well-developed trail into a river of flowing water. With the rain came lightning, not close by but close enough. We were walking through a well-established forest so the lightning exposure was not too bad. The muddy trail definitely slowed us down as we did not want to add injury to our adventure.

We all were thoroughly drenched by the time we arrived at Daisy Farm Campground. At that point, the storm quit and we hung out on the dock waiting for the water taxi to pick us up. The water taxi apparently had its schedule adjusted and arrived over an hour later than expected. I guess we were on island time.

It was a successful but wet activation. Thank you so much to the radio amateurs who worked us, especially KD8JAM and VA3OJ. We couldn’t have done it without you.

73 Bob K0NR

The post Mt Ojibway (W8M/UP-002) – Isle Royale National Park appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Four Days of SOTA Fun

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).

Castle Rock (W0C/SP-112)

Castle Rock is just east of Buena Vista near Hwy 24.

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.

Mount Antero (W0C/SR-003)

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.

Ascending the ridge line to Mount Antero.

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).

Dennis/WA2USA, Joyce/K0JJW and Bob/K0NR on the summit of Mt Antero.

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.

Wander Ridge (W0C/SP-042) is accessed from Cottonwood Pass via a 2.5-mile hike along the Continental Divide Trail.

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.

Bob/K0NR sitting down on the job to avoid the wind, working 2m FM.

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!

The Pulverizer (W0C/SP-092)

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.

A view of The Pulverizer from just west of Wilkerson Pass.

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

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

Activating The Pulverizer (W0C/SP-092)

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.

The Pulverizer (W0C/SP-092) viewed from east of Wilkerson Pass

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.

Wilkerson Pass

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.

Head south from the parking lot on the trail (sidewalk, actually) that loops around the picnic area.

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.

Avoid the private property by skirting around it, then head to the summit.

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:

The view to the east with Pikes Peak off in the distance.

Final Impression

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 post Activating The Pulverizer (W0C/SP-092) appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

FT8 Dominates VHF Contests

The FT8 mode was first released as part of the WSJT-X software in 2017. This new digital mode was adopted relatively quickly and is now a major force in amateur radio. You’ve probably heard the praises and complaints about it. On the plus side, it enables radio contacts under very poor conditions while detractors say that it is not real ham radio because the computer is making the contact. FT8 is an excellent example of a disruptive technology, impacting daily ham radio operations. This summer, I had two operating experiences (VHF contests) that really drove this point home.

My temporary station setup on the porch for the VHF contest.

ARRL June Contest

In the ARRL June Contest, we had very good sporadic-e propagation on 6 meters (and even 2 meters). I used my IC-7610 for 6 meters and usually had one receiver listening on the SSB calling frequency and the other sitting on the FT8 frequency. My strategy was to operate FT8 while keeping an ear on the SSB portion of the band. If signals were present on SSB, I switched over to that mode. The idea is that the run rate on SSB is inherently faster (and more fun), so it is my preferred way to make contacts. 

There was definitely activity on the SSB portion of the band, but it came and went throughout the contest. There were times that I was able to run on a frequency, calling CQ and having a steady stream of stations to work. Other times, I had to search and pounce, tuning around the band to find a new station to work. The FT8 story was different: most of the time there was consistent activity and new stations to work, but at a slower rate.

The FT8 operators tended to stay on FT8, even when the signals were strong. If they wanted to maximize their score, they probably should have switched over to SSB to make contacts at a faster rate. But they didn’t and that is their choice. (One thing I’ve come to accept is that I don’t control the choices that other radio hams make in terms of operating mode and band.) On 6 meters, I made 428 contacts with 80% of them on FT8. Radio operator decisions affect the types of QSOs made and if I focused only on SSB, I would surely have had more SSB contacts (but how many?)

CQ WW VHF Contest

In July, the CQ Worldwide VHF Contest was even more striking. While I was hoping for a repeat of the band conditions from June, the CQ WW conditions were not very good. However, I did manage to make QSOs using FT8 on 6 meters. The run rate was low and I often struggled to complete the exchange before the band shifted. Again, I listened on 6m SSB and picked up contacts there whenever possible. My QSO total for 6m was 164, with 90% of them via FT8.

After the contest, I heard from contesters that used only analog modes (SSB and CW) who reported that the contest was a complete bust. Even with hours of operating time, some folks only made 10 or 20 QSOs. This clearly tees up the choice: if you don’t want to work digital, you can severely limit your number of contacts. On the other hand, if you use FT8, you can make contacts under weak conditions, but at a slower rate with a computer in the loop.

Like many contesters, I would much rather have a nice run of QSOs on SSB filling up my log. It is just way more fun than sitting there watching the computer screen report the slow progress of FT8. But in the end, we all have the same choice when conditions are poor: actually making contacts using FT8 or sitting there hoping that band conditions improve enough to support SSB.

2 Meter Band

I did make some FT8 contacts on 2 meters, but found only a small number of operators using that mode. I expect that FT8 activity will increase on that band as people figure out they can squeeze out a few more contacts & grids using that mode.

73 Bob K0NR

The post FT8 Dominates VHF Contests appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

2023 Colorado 14er Event (Summits On The Air)

Amateur Radio Fun in the Colorado Mountains
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  – Discussion Group for the event
Colorado SOTA – Colorado SOTA discussion group

Colorado 14er Event Task Force
[email protected]

The post 2023 Colorado 14er Event (Summits On The Air) appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

About That UHF Connector

I caused a minor kerfuffle on Twitter recently, when I posted this:

This connector, properly called a PL-259, is the most common RF connector for ham radio use. The female counterpart is called the SO-239 connector. While these connectors are often “UHF” connectors, they actually don’t perform very well at those frequencies (300 to 3000 MHz). So I feel justified in disparaging that name.

The tweet generated a large number of replies, mostly in support of my anti-UHF-naming sentiment. It seems that other highly-educated and thoughtful radio amateurs agree with me. (It seems that the wise hams out there always agree with me.) You should be able to view the thread here:

Some people pushed back on the anti-UHF sentiment, usually saying that it is the common name for this connecter. A few folks pointed out that Amphenol calls these things “UHF Connectors”, which did surprise me. Who am I to disagree with this manufacturer of high-quality connectors? Of course, Amphenol also says this:

Originally intended for use as a video connector in radar applications, UHF coaxial connectors are general purpose units developed for use in low frequency systems from 0.6 – 300 MHz. Invented for use in the radio industry in the 1930’s, UHF is an acronym for Ultra High Frequency because at the time 300 MHz was considered high frequency. They can be used when impedance mating is not required.

Well, there you have it: the connector was named UHF back when UHF meant up to 300 MHz. (Today, UHF means 300 to 3000 MHz). I particularly like the comment “They can be used when impedance mating is not required.” What? That does not sound good for RF applications. I do agree that these connectors can generally be used to 300 MHz, but these days the ITU calls that VHF (30 to 300 MHz).

Wikipedia provides a more complete explanation, worth reading.

OK, so the name “UHF” is archaic but it has kind of stuck, the way old terminology sometimes does. I am still going to avoid using this term because it really should be deprecated.

And don’t use these connectors above 300 MHz (UHF frequencies). Unless you have to. Which I did last weekend when the only cable available for my 440 MHz antenna had a PL-259 connector on it.

73 Bob K0NR

The post About That UHF Connector appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

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.

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