SOTA on my Mind

Just a very quick update to let everyone know I’m still alive and still very much into SOTA or Summits on the Air.  If you follow my main amateur radio blog and my amateur radio podcast, the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast then you know for the past year I’ve been seriously focused on my health. 

One of the last updates I posted on my SOTA blog was to report having lost approx. 25 pounds.  I was excited to see the first 25 pounds go because that is the approx. weight of my SOTA pack.  Today, I’m really pleased to report that I’ve now officially (as of last week) dropped another 25+ pounds for a total of 51 pounds of weight loss since this time last year. 

While I’m told I look great, the important factor is I feel great.  Also, the diet and exercise has naturally lowered my total cholesterol which is one of the primary reasons I became so focused on my health. 

The past couple of weeks (and weekends) we’ve had typical  Colorado Spring weather.  Most days during the week are nice weather days with weekends being cold and wet.  This trend will eventually change and when it does you can expect me to start calling CQ SOTA from the Colorado Rocky Mountains. 

Thanks to all who stop by to read my SOTA blog. 

Until next time…

73 de KDØBIK

Posted in Other Stuff Tagged

Portable Power Solutions for SOTA

In my last two blog postings I discussed suggestions and ideas for what might make the best radio and antenna setup for a typical SOTA activation.   In both articles (as is also the case for all content on this blog) I share my opinions.  As is the case with most things in life, alternative methods and solutions exist.  My goal for this blog and these “how to” articles is to provide an honest opinion on what has (and even what hasn’t worked) for me.  

Once you figure out what type of radio and antenna you will use, the next important item to consider is portable power.   If you are opting for a V/UHF SOTA activation and only plan to pack along a hand-held transceiver, then the battery pack which comes with the transceiver should work fine.  It may also be helpful to have another battery pack or two for extended operations.  Most all hand-held transceivers will have an accessory option to purchase additional battery packs.  Some manufactures offer a pack option which will accept AA batteries. 

If you have decided to operate HF (or packing along a mobile V/UHF transceiver) you are going to need portable power.  How much power you  pack along will really depend on how long you plan to operate and how much output power you plan to run.  Remember, QRP power levels at altitude works well in most situations.  Said in another way, you don’t need to run 100 watts of power when you are standing on top of the world.

Now if you have operated portable (picnic table portable) perhaps you have used a deep cycle marine battery or even a typical 12v car battery.   Both work well when you only need to carry them a few yards from the car to the picnic table.  However, these options just aren’t practical for SOTA.  The good news is we have a lot of options for 12v power without breaking our back carrying around  a heavy car battery.

Sealed Lead Acid/AGM/Gel-Cell Types

I’ve used these types of batteries for many of my portable and even SOTA activation operations.   There are both advantages and disadvantages to these types of batteries.  Cost certainly is an advantage.  I’ve found the 12v 7.5 Ah batteries available for under $25 USD.   The weight of the battery is a slight disadvantage, another important disadvantage is the overall output life of the battery. 

A123 Nanophosphate Technology

The semi new nanophosphate battery technology is impressive.   If you’ve looked at my SOTA Gear List, you’ll see that I use an A123 battery pack from the Buddipole company.   I won’t lie to you, the cost of these packs may certainly be viewed as a disadvantage.  But my opinion is the advantages far make up for the investment.   

I own the large 4S4P model (10.0 Ah).  If I had to do it over again, I would have purchased two of the 4S2P (5.0 Ah) or two of the 4S3P (7.5 Ah) models.  This would have provided more flexibility on hiking and camping trips.  Or would have allowed for one pack to charge while using the other. 

Final comment about the A123 packs.  Unlike a traditional SLA or AGM type battery which may start off providing 13.2 volts then slowly begins to decrease as you use the battery…the A123 packs deliver a constant and steady 13.2 volts throughout the use. 

Other options to consider

There are some lightweight options which might be worth considering.  In our cars the most important dashboard gauge is the gas gauge.  This important indicator tells us how much fuel we have and a general idea of how many miles we can drive before we end up walking.   I highly recommend using a lightweight in-line meter like the Doc Wattson Meter

What about Solar?

This option is certainly one to think about.  I have a small roll-up solar panel which I’ve used from time to time.  Most of my activations are fairly short and the extra weight isn’t worth the effort for me.  However, if you  want to combine SOTA with some overnight camping, then this might be worth having.   I use the Buddipole Solar Battery Charge Controller.  This is a small, compact and very lightweight solar charge controller which works great with my rollup solar panel and my 4S4P battery pack.

The Future?

I believe the future is very bright in the areas of portable power charging solutions.  You may have seen small cook stoves which can be used to charge devices and batteries.  Here’s a new Kickstarter project for a water powered charger.  What will they think of next?

Until next time…

73 de KD0BIK

Posted in How To Tagged , ,

Health, Diet and Exercise Content

Hello fellow hams,

Based on the amount of emails I’ve received with both questions and encouragement, I know many have been inspired by my blog updates on my own progress to better health.  Since my amateur radio blog is picked up by a few different blog sites I don’t want to post material which is off-topic to amateur radio.  If you are interested in learning more about my quest for better health through diet and exercise, please follow my personal blog.   You can subscribe to the RSS feed via this link

Now I return you to your normal amateur radio blog content already in progress.

73 de KDØBIK (Jerry)

Posted in Other Stuff

What Antenna should I use for SOTA?

I figured it best to follow the “What Radio should I use for SOTA” posting with one about antennas.  Of course, the answer to this question really depends on what you have selected as your radio type. 

Keeping it simple with V/UHF Operations only.

Understand, there is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving the clunky and heavy HF gear at home and just heading up the hill with a hand-held or HT radio.  I’ve often discussed on my podcast, the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast, those just starting out in the hobby can get on the air with an HT type radio as everything you need to do so is in the box.  Meaning, most (if not all) HT’s will come with the hand-held transceiver, power source (battery) and antenna.  But understand that the rubber duck antenna which is provided with new hand-held transceivers is a compromised antenna. 

If you are going to conduct a V/UHF SOTA operation, I would consider upgrading the rubber duck antenna with a better and more efficient antenna.  Antenna manufactures such as Diamond and Comet both make replacement whip style antennas that will improve the efficiency of the hand-held transceiver.   I own the Diamond SRH-77CA and use it with my Yaesu VX-8 while hiking for APRS tracking purposes and if I’m close enough (35-40 miles of the Denver area) will use just this antenna to work stations below me in the city. 

But perhaps you want an even better solution.  This is where the Elk log periodic five element antenna or the Arrow II Portable Satellite antenna will provide you a little better gain while providing the ability to control the direction of your signal.  Of course, don’t forget about polarization as you orientate your antenna.  Check out this YouTube video from Ham Radio for a practical explanation regarding polarization.   The Elk is certainly my favorite and accompanies me on most of my SOTA operations. 

But I want to work the world on HF from a mountaintop.

Got HF?  As previously discussed, a number of rigs are SOTA ready and with the right antenna and under the right band conditions, YES, you can work the world from a mountaintop running QRP power. 

Perhaps the most popular SOTA antenna in use by hams here in North America is the Buddipole/Buddistick antenna.   I use a modified Buddipole vertical and what I mean by modified is while I have all the full Buddipole Deluxe package, I only carry certain pieces/parts out for SOTA and other parts I’ve replaced with other items which serve more than one purpose.   I replaced the tripod and mast with a monopod which doubles as a hiking staff.  This supports the Buddipole Versatee which then connects the shock cord whip.  I run a single counterpoise wire in this setup and use guy ropes to support the antenna. 

Why not just use a lightweight wire dipole?  This would certainly be acceptable for SOTA summits below tree line.  Here in Colorado that would be below  ~10,500’.  Even then, you may not be guaranteed of having anything to use to support the dipole.   This is where some lightweight wire and a crappie pole might come in handy. 

Another popular antenna with some portable and SOTA operators is the Alex Loop Antenna.  While I do not have personal experience with this antenna, Steve wG0AT has used it with success.   Visit Steve’s Youtube channel as I believe he has a video or two on the Alex Loop antenna.

Finally, another company providing SOTA antennas which might be of interest is SOTAbeams.  This will be similar to the lightweight wire and crappie pole idea.  If you search for SOTAbeams on Youtube, you’ll find many videos demonstrating their products. 

Should I pack along a tuner or antenna analyzer?

Efficiency matters…and even more true when operating QRP.  Before the days of my KX3 and it’s lightweight built in tuner, I never packed my LDG Z-817 tuner.  Instead I packed my little and trusty iP30 Antenna Analyzer.  Weighing in at a feather weight of just 7 oz.  I would rather take the time to adjust my antenna and counterpoise to a resonant frequency (optimum SWR) then have a tuner trick the radio.   But certainly use what works best for you.

A Dry Run

I’d certainly recommend performing a dry run with your entire SOTA setup prior to investing the energy of hiking up a SOTA summit.  Head out in the backyard or a nearby park and completely setup your gear and get on the air.  The idea here (or reason for suggestion) is if you forget something…it’s easy to walk back to the shack from the backyard versus from the mountaintop. 

Next time I’ll discuss my thoughts on portable power and share what has and hasn’t worked for me.   I truly hope these articles are helpful. 

Until next time…

73 de KD0BIK (Jerry)

Posted in How To Tagged , ,

What Radio should I use for SOTA?

The short answer….It Depends!  When I decided to create my amateur radio podcast titled “The Practical Amateur Radio Podcast”, it was to be a mechanism to deliver practical content to the radio amateur.  The Podcast and my other new media efforts centered around blogging about amateur radio and my SOTA adventures along with my YouTube Channel are the overall result of my wanting to entertain, encourage, educate and inspire others in a truly practical way.

Before I get into this discussion, perhaps I should point you in the direction of previous articles I wrote regarding “Choosing a Backpack for SOTA” and “A Good Hiking Boot”.  I suggest these two articles as a starting point only for the sake of comfort.  If your first SOTA activation is less than enjoyable because you don’t have the correct footwear or a properly fitting backpack, then it probably won’t matter much what radio you use for additional SOTA activations.  Keep in mind that SOTA is different from the perspective that reaching the summit or activation zone has very little to do with amateur radio, but more to do with basic mountaineering concepts. 

What Radio do you own today?

I ask this question simply to say, that it is possible the radio you own today will work perfectly fine for your first SOTA activation.  It may actually work perfectly for many SOTA activations.  Really the only requirement is that the radio must be able to operate on battery or solar power AND be something you can carry to the summit.

Many radios fall into the category of portable and will work just fine for a SOTA activation.  While the Yaesu FT-817 and Elecraft KX3 are popular QRP SOTA rigs, many activators are using the portable 100w offerings from Yaesu including the  FT-857/FT-897,  ICOM IC-7000 and Kenwood TS-480 just to name a few.  While these rigs are bigger and heavier than the QRP offerings, once on the mountaintop and with power throttled down to QRP levels, these rigs can provide hours of mountaintop enjoyment.

SOTA does not have to mean HF Operations

That’s right!  A SOTA activation does not have to be on HF using an HF transceiver.  If all you own is a hand-held (often referred to as an HT), that little radio along with a better antenna setup, can get you on the air from a SOTA summit. 

While I’ve never attempted a V/UHF only SOTA activation, I have made plenty of 2m Simplex contacts from mountain top locations.   Many of the summits I’ve activated for Summits on the Air are less than 40 miles from the greater Denver metro area.  This means even with a slightly better vertical antenna like the Diamond SRH-77CA, one can have reasonable success working nearby stations. 

If you aren’t opposed to packing along a little extra weight, a directional antenna like the Elk log periodic five element antenna or the Arrow II Portable Satellite antenna will provide you a little better gain while providing the ability to control the direction of your signal.  Of course, don’t forget about polarization as you orientate your antenna.  Check out this YouTube video from Ham Radio for a practical explanation regarding polarization.  

Work the World on HF

There are many reasons why I enjoy the SOTA program.  I do love being outdoors and I equally love our hobby of amateur radio.   During my first SOTA activation, I set the bar fairly low.  I was hoping to work some US stations on HF and had many waiting for me on 2m Simplex.  However, what I didn’t realize was the DX contacts I would make that day. 

About half way through my SOTA activation and battling a cold wind, I heard stations responding to my CQ from Germany, Spain and a brand new DX entity for me at the time of Czech Republic.  I worked them all from my Yaesu FT-817 running 5 watts.


Interested in building your own radio?  There are many QRP kits to choose from.  Many range in size from a tuna can and will operate on a single 9v battery for hours.  I’ll be honest, I really don’t have much experience or knowledge with which kits are popular.  Please consider conducting additional research before selecting a kit.

What About Digital Modes?

Yes…digital modes are gaining in popularity and I hope to one day operate PSK-31 from a mountain top SOTA station.  There are a few different directions you can go with running digital modes during a SOTA activation. 

If you own the KX3 AND know code, you can operate both PSK-31 and RTTY via CW.  You send the dots and dashes, the KX3 converts that into PSK or RTTY signals on transmit.  Then on receive the KX3 will decode and stream the text across the KX3 screen.

Another option is to use the Pigtail or Piglet device from Pignology.  These small devices along with the HamLog app running on an iOS or Android device, can utilize the KX3’s CW decode features and allow you to operate PSK or RTTY even without the need of learning CW.  I recorded a short Youtube video of how this works last summer.

Of course, a small netbook type laptop and a Signalink USB along with software such as DM780 (part of Ham Radio Deluxe) and you also have a pretty powerful data setup.  But of course, this will add extra weight to your pack.

The Bottom Line

As with many things in life and certainly amateur radio, there are many different choices when selecting your radio.   You have even more choices when planning the antenna setup.  But I’ll leave that for another blog update. 

Until next time…

73 de KD0BIK (Jerry)

Posted in How To Tagged , ,

Sorry for the long hiatus…

I’m starting to bring life back into my amateur radio podcast and my blogging.  I released PARP episode 61 today and also updated my main blog site with my results from my 2012 challenge of having a QSO each day. 

I’m planning to get some granite under my boots soon with a few SOTA activations this fall.  I might even try to do a SOTA activation in early August for the 2013 14er event

I also want to thank those who took time to send emails and send messages regarding my absence from podcasting and blogging.  I appreciate it and look forward to once again becoming active with this blog. 


Posted in Other Stuff Tagged

A good hiking boot

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before (and is my opinion), the type of radio, the type of antenna and the type of battery is not as important as the boots you wear on your feet and the pack you carry on your back.   I discussed my quest for finding a better fitting and more SOTA functional backpack a few months ago.  Now I’d like to share the research, information and tell you about the boots I decided to purchase.

Just as I stated in the blog post about my backpack, I do encourage you to conduct your own research and by all means go visit an outdoor specialty shop or two and try on many different types and styles.

Types of Footwear

Much as I tried to do in my backpack article, I want to just briefly share what I’ve learned regarding the various types and styles of footwear available for outdoor adventure.   You’ll find trail footwear listed in the following categories of shoes, boots and even sandals. 

Most may automatically associate the hiking boot as the best form of footwear for hiking/backpacking/SOTA.  I agree with this philosophy primarily because I have bad ankles.   However, some outdoor enthusiasts prefer the trail-running style of footwear.   New footwear technology is helping make these types of shoes as durable as hiking boots without the extra weight and mass. 

My Dilemma

Prior to starting my recent research, I owned two pair of what I called hiking boots.   The first pair really are hiking boots, but are approx. 18 years old.  My Asolo Globaline boots were purchased back in the mid 90’s and what I’ve used on many backpacking and hiking trips.  The boots were heavy and didn’t fit very well.  This improper fit was really noticeable when hiking downhill. 

The second pair of boots are a leather Timberland hiker which really is more for looks than functionality.  They worked well for a casual day hike with a very light pack load.  However, I could feel almost every rock and pebble under my boots on the trail.  Not good.

As I’ve grown older (I’m currently 46), my arches have fallen and the ligaments in my ankles have been stretched, torn and rolled more times than I care to remember.  I’m also looking for a lighter weighted boot that will provide me 3 1/2 season use.

My Research

I’ve been reading reviews from various online outdoor bloggers as well as information in magazines such as Backpacker and Outdoor Magazines.  Over the past several weeks I read extensive reviews on various models by Asolo, Lowa, Merrell and Salomon.   After making a few visits to my local REI and speaking with REI staff, I shortened my list down to Lowa and Salomon.  Specifically the Lowa Renegade II GTX and the Salomon Quest 4D GTX.

The Lowa Renegade and Salomon Quest are both very close in feature and functionality.  Both feature over-the-ankle height and Gore-Tex waterproof breathable materials.  The Lowa Renegade average weight is 2 lbs. 7 ounces with the Salomon Quest weighing 2 lbs.13 ounces.

The more I researched, the more places on the interwebz I began to find positive information for the Salomon Quest 4D GTX boots.    The tipping point came after I found many of our armed forces were wearing these same boots in Afghanistan.  I’m a firm believer that if something is good enough for our military, then it is certainly good enough for me. 


My Purchase

I returned to my local REI to continue my research, try on a pair and eventually purchase the boots.  While I do make some purchases from online retailers, I really do try to support businesses in my local area.  Plus the staff at these outdoor specialty shops really know what they are talking about. 

I decided to play slightly un-informed as I really wanted to make sure that what I needed and what I researched online would be what I would purchase in a new hiking boot.  I explained to Thom at my local REI that I needed a boot which fit well, would provide the ankle support I lacked in my other boots and would be durable for the type of hiking I do. 

Thom carefully listened and within about two minutes he had pulled the Solomon Quest boot from the shelf and said “This is what you need”.  He also recommended the Superfeet Orange insoles to help support my aching arches. 

After measuring my feet and setting up a pair of new Solomon’s with the Superfeet insoles, he told me to walk around the store for a half hour or so.  I did just that and realized within about 15 minutes these boots would be going home with me.

My New Boots

Once home with my new Salomon Quest hiking boots and Superfeet Orange insoles, I wore them around the house and out and about in the neighborhood as much as possible to break the boots in.    After wearing them for about 3 weeks I was itching to get them on a SOTA summit trail.

The first opportunity to introduce my new boots to Summits on the Air came on November 3rd with my first double SOTA activation of Chief Mountain and Squaw Mountain.   I hiked for  approx. 7 miles for the two combined activations and my feet felt like they were walking on a cloud. 

This double activation allowed me to test the boots for both comfort, durability, stability and traction on trail conditions varying from dry to snow packed and even ice.  

In addition to the new Salomon Quest boots, the Superfeet Orange insoles…I also splurged on a new pair of socks.  I picked up a pair of Smartool hiking socks.  Not only were these socks comfortable and kept my feet dry…they also provided the right cushion in the right places making everything related to my feet a perfect trail experience. 

Final Thoughts

As I stated at the top of this article (and also mentioned in the backpack post) please do your own research and by all means, try on many different types and brands.  Visit outdoor specialty shops and speak to knowledgeable staff.  Places like REI will take the time to listen to what your needs are and help you make the right choice. 

If SOTA is something you’re interested in participating in, I promise you’ll care more about what type of boots and pack you use and less about the radio, antenna and power source.  But those are important as well. 

Until next time…

73 de KDØBIK

Posted in How To Tagged , ,

First Multiple Activation – WØ/FR-030 and WØ/PR-082

What started out last week as a plan to activate one SOTA summit on Saturday, 3 November ended up becoming two activations and twelve activation points and a beautiful Saturday spent in the Rocky Mountains.

While I realized both Squaw Mountain (W0/PR-082) and Chief Mountain (W0/FR-030) were less than a mile or so apart, I’ve never attempted more than one activation in a single day.  The main reason for this is I’m just starting to get back into the physical shape I was 10 years ago and I’m also 10 years older.  Funny how that works huh?  But also time is usually lacking as well. 

Anyway, I woke up much earlier than expected on Saturday morning.  I’m guessing my body clock was preparing for the extra hour of sleep it would get the following night.  I gathered up my gear and was on the road well before sunrise.  As a matter of fact, I watched the sun rise from near the trailhead.

When I arrived at Squaw Mountain (just before 7 AM), I realized the one mile hike up the fire service road would place me on the summit much too early for my planned activation time of 1600 UTC.  So I opted instead to activate Chief Mountain first and if time and energy permitted, I would activate Squaw Mountain second.

There are two trails which will lead you to the summit of Chief Mountain located off of Squaw Pass Road.  I didn’t see the first trail which is marked with a concrete post, but found the second trail down the road.  Starting from this trailhead adds another mile or so to the hike, but it was worth it.

The trail starts around 11,000’ and slowly climbs about 100’ before descending another 150’ or so for the first mile.  At this point the trail joins up with the first trailhead which I couldn’t find.   This main trail then takes you all the way to the summit.  From this point the trail is 2 miles with approx. 750’ of elevation gain. 

While the weather forecast for Denver was calling for daytime highs in the 60’s, the temperature at the trailhead just after 7 AM was a brisk 32 degrees.  The trail was in fine shape with just a little snow pack.   As I approached the summit just after 9 AM (1500z) the temperature was around 25 degrees with an estimated wind chill around the low-teens, perhaps even single digits. Brrrrrr

The summit of Chief Mountain is a  pile of boulders which requires some basic scrambling to gain access.  I positioned my Buddipole Versatee Vertical and guy ropes off to one side as not to prevent others from safely enjoying the summit.  This was perhaps the strongest wind I had experienced on a SOTA summit, but I managed to wedge the bottom of my mast between two large boulders and then anchored the guy ropes with rocks.  

Summits On The Air (SOTA) KD0BIK

I setup the Elecraft KX3 and began calling CQ at 1600z, but just as I discovered when I activated Centennial Cone a net was active around 14.343 which prevented me from using the HF Pack QRP calling frequency of 14.342.5.  No worries as I’m a firm believer that NO ONE owns a frequency and my VFO knob functions, so I dialed it down and found a clear frequency of 14.330 to begin calling CQ.  I logged my first QSO at 1601z  and number twelve 1625z. 

Thanks to WB9QDL, KE5MHV, N4EX, N1EU, W5DLD, WA2USA, K6TUY, N4MJ, KC3RT, K7AGE, WB9QDL and W0STU for chasing me on Chief Mountain. 

When I worked K7AGE (Randy Hall) he indicated that he would record my second activation to turn into a YouTube video about Summits On The Air.   So I quickly packed up my gear and signed the summit logbook.  Before starting my descent back to the truck I took a few photos and admired the views.  You can see all my photos from this double SOTA activation here

The descent down from Chief Mountain was slower than normal as the snow packed trail was slick.  I reached the truck and headed over to Squaw Mountain.  Much to my surprise the gate which was closed earlier in the morning was now open.  I wasn’t sure just how far the road was open, but decided to check it out. 

The road was in fair shape with only some snow pack.  My four-wheel Ford Escape handled it just fine and I was able to drive within a half mile of the summit.  I carefully checked my altitude to ensure I was below 100’ of the summit and hiked the half mile with approx. 180’ of gain fairly quickly.

The summit of Squaw Mountain is a popular transmitter site for Colorado Public Television and others.  There is also a forest service fire lookout tower (shown below) and I setup my operations from the wooden observation platform that wraps around the rock structure.

Summits On The Air (SOTA) KD0BIK

I began calling CQ around 1830z and logged Randy Hall, K7AGE at 1842z.  He recorded our QSO and asked me to describe my SOTA setup including transceiver and antenna.  As the temperature was beginning to fall back down below freezing again, I worked another five QSO’s and packed up.

Thanks to K7AGE, W5LKB, W0SUN, AJ5C, K6TUY and KD9KC for chasing me on the summit of Squaw Mountain.  Additional many “Thanks” to Randy who recorded my activation of Squaw Mountain and turned it into a YouTube video.  (watch the video below)

Again, you can see all my photos from this double SOTA activation here on my Flickr page.  By the way, the photos were taken with my new Sony DSC-HX30 camera.  This is the first digital point-and-shoot camera I’ve owned.  I’ve been an SLR and DSLR user since I was a teenager.  However, I was growing tired of packing the extra weight of my Nikon DSLR and as a result rarely used it along the trail.  I wanted something which would bridge the gap between my iPhone 4s and my Nikon.   I’m really pleased to say that I love this Sony camera and it has me excited again about photography.

OH…I almost forgot.  In addition to the new camera, I also had a new pair of hiking boots along for this journey.  My new boots are the Salomon Quest 4D GTX.  I plan to write a more detailed account in why I selected these boots.  But just let me say that I was not disappointed in my selection and my only regret is I didn’t buy these a long time ago. 

In closing, I had so much fun activating my first double activation.  At this time I won’t say whether I would do it again.  I guess it just depends on the situation.  The reason I activate SOTA summits is a shared love between multiple hobbies of hiking, amateur radio and photography.  Once I setup on a mountain summit, I’m in my own little world and love working as many QSO’s as I can.  Of course, in the example of this double activation…the weather wasn’t conducive for just kicking back and relaxing.

Anyway….please watch Randy’s YouTube video to hear the audio from my second activation.  Thank you again Randy.  I’m tentatively planning another activation for Saturday, 17 November 2012 (weather and time permitting).

Until next time…

73 de KDØBIK

Posted in SOTA Expedition Reports, Tagged , ,

Activation Alert: WØ/PR-082 (Squaw Mountain) – 3501m / 11486ft

Date:            3 November 2012
Time:           Approx.    1600 UTC – 1800 UTC
Region:        CO-Park Range
Elevation:    3501 m / 11,486 ft – 6 Points
Call Sign:     KDØBIK
Frequencies:     14.342.5-ssb, 18.157.5-ssb, 28.327.5-ssb,  +/-  146.52-fm

Equipment: Elecraft KX3 / Buddipole versatee vertical & Yaesu VX-8 / Elk Log-Periodic Antenna

APRS Track: On Road / On Trail

I’m itching to get my new hiking boots dirty and looking at the upcoming weather window, this weekend is looking fantastic for a SOTA activation.  By the way, I’ll post more information about these new boots in the coming weeks.  I truly believe these new boots will be a joy to wear and improve my overall enjoyment of hiking/SOTA immensely.   At least I hope so.

Anyway, I’ve had Squaw Mountain (WØ/PR-Ø82) on my list of SOTA prospects for some time.  It was only when suggesting Squaw Mtn as a possible candidate to K7ATN (who planned to visit the Denver/Boulder area) that I moved it up on my list.

This will also be my first activation outside of the Front Range region and the highest activation (under full human power) I’ve attempted.  Should be a lot of fun. 

This will also be the  first activation with my new Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30 camera.  I purchased this camera almost exclusively for SOTA as I was growing tired of carrying along my heavy Nikon DSLR and lenses.  This compact camera should work just fine for helping me document my SOTA adventures and share the beauty of Colorful Colorado with you.

73 de KDØBIK

Posted in SOTA Activation Alert Tagged , ,

WØ/FR-185 (Centennial Cone) 2640m / 8661ft

My sixth SOTA activation is in the books and just as I mentioned in the activation alert last week, a fisherman who keeps trying for the one that got away, may eventually land it.  So unlike my first attempt of Centennial Cone back in April, I finally caught it.


I’m not sure I could have picked a better day weather wise to try this summit.  When I arrived at the trailhead just before 7 AM, it was a brisk 42 degrees.  I started out with just a lightweight jumper and gloves.    Much of the hike up I was on the shadow side of the mountain. 

The trail from trailhead to summit is 2.1 miles.  The first 1.5 miles of trail (Elk Range Trail) is actually a park service road/double track mountain biking trail.  The trail was in great shape and makes up part of a loop trail which goes all the way around the open space park.

Unfortunately, there is no official defined trail to the summit of Centennial Cone.   I chose an approach which I had read about and even found some helpful GPS tracks and waypoints someone else had posted online.   The last half-mile to the summit requires bushwhacking your way to the summit. 


I reached the summit just after 9 AM (yes I’m a slow hiker) and just spent the first 10  minutes or so taking in the beauty.  From the summit I could see the Denver skyline to my east and had a nice view of several snowcapped 14’ers to my west. 

I had read about the possibility of seeing ladybugs on the summit of Centennial Cone.  In the late summer, ladybugs make these lower Colorado summits home in the late summer.    The ladybugs I did see were huddled in between the cracks of the rocks when I first arrived. 

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While I’m a slow hiker, I did arrive with plenty of time to spare so I took time to sign the summit log and snap a photo of the USGS summit marker.

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Once I managed to catch my breath and take in all the sights, I began setting up the HF gear.  I found what was left of a dead tree stump and secured the mast around it which saved some time and avoided the need of setting up guy ropes.  This is one advantage to the lower summits. 

After a quick check and minor adjustments for optimum SWR readings, I connected the Elecraft KX3 and powered on.  The 20m band was alive with signals up and down the band.   This was both a good thing, but also bad as a strong net station was operating on 14.343 and causing a little QRM problem on the HFPack QRP calling frequency of 14.342.5. 

I made a slight adjustment to my plan and found a clear frequency  around 14.332 and began calling CQ.  Also, while there are no restrictions of self-spotting SOTA activations and having data access on my iPhone, I sent a tweet to Twitter announcing my location.

The first QSO went into the log at 1600 UTC (10 AM local) and was with K5BAH in Louisiana and 10 minutes later I logged my 4th QSO which made this activation official. 

Around 1630 UTC the net taking place on 14.343 had wrapped up and I started calling CQ on 14.342.5 which worked out nicely as I logged another 20 QSO’s to total 24 for the morning and began packing up around 1715 (11:15 AM local).

While I didn’t work any DX, I did work stations in the following states: LA, MI, AR, NV, TX, KS, AZ, CO, CA, NY, NC, MO, VA, IN, NJ and Alberta Canada. 

On the way back down I stumbled across this large skeleton of what I believe is the remains of an elk.  While there were the normal signs posted at the trailhead alerting users that black bear and mountain lion could be in the area.  I really didn’t think about this until I found this guy.  I decided to quickly vacate this area just in case it was used as a regular food cache.

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All-in-all, this was a great day for a hike and SOTA activation.  By the way, this was the maiden trip for my new Kelty Redwing panel loading pack.  I recently blogged about “Choosing a Backpack for SOTA” and must report that the pack worked out great and was very comfortable.  My next quest is in finding some better fitting hiking boots. 

Until next time…

73 de KDØBIK

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