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. 

photo (3)

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.

photo (4)

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.

photo (5)

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

Posted in SOTA Expedition Reports, Tagged , ,

Activation Alert: WØ/FR-185 (Centennial Cone) –2640m / 8661ft


Date:            29 September 2012
Time:           Approx.    1600 UTC – 1800 UTC
Region:        CO-Front Range
Elevation:    2640 m / 8661 ft – 2 Points
Call Sign:     KDØBIK & KDØSPY
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


Perhaps this planned SOTA activation could be compared to a fisherman and the one that got away.  You might remember I attempted to activate Centennial Cone this past April.  This activation was to  be the maiden voyage for my (at the time) less than 48 hour old Elecraft KX3.  While I was unsuccessful at activating Centennial Cone, I was successful at getting the new Elecraft KX3 on the air from a Colorado SOTA summit that day.  To say I hadn’t thought about Centennial Cone would be an understatement.  This SOTA summit has remained on my list of activations I wanted to complete in 2012.  With the new basement ham shack, podcast studio, home office and man cave finished, it is time to take advantage of the cool temperatures and take in the colorful beauty of Colorado in the Fall. 

I will be sharing the trail and the activation with my fellow ham and good friend, Tom KDØSPY.  I was introduced to Tom by a fellow ham who lives outside the state of Colorado.  Tom was interested in getting started in amateur radio and his friend was a listener of my amateur radio podcast, the practical amateur radio podcast (available at  He introduced us via email then Tom and I setup a time to meet for lunch. 

Since that first lunch meeting, Tom and I have become great friends and Tom earned his technician class license in July of this year.  Not only does Tom share my interests in amateur radio…he’s also an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast.  This makes Tom the perfect SOTA companion.  But no jokes about our names OK (Tom and Jerry).


Centennial Cone is a two point SOTA summit and is located just slightly NW from Genesee Mountain (WØ/FR-194) which I first activated in early April.  

You can expect to hear me mainly on 20m SSB via the KX3.  We will also setup and attempt to make contacts on 10m SSB should the band open.  Otherwise, expect to hear Tom mainly on VHF Simplex. 

73 de KDØBIK

Posted in SOTA Activation Alert Tagged , ,

First Aid and SOTA

When I was a Boy Scout, a first aid kit was something you never left home without.  I remember building my own small first aid kit (FAK) and packed the contents into a Sucrets tin.   By the way, Sucrets have returned to using their famous tin as of last year.  This is great news as these little containers have numerous uses.

Today, there are many discussions centered around preparedness and terms such as every day carry, get home bags, bug out bags etc. are very commonplace.  However, in relation to SOTA and Summits On The Air…much of the discussion is centered around what radio, what antenna, what battery etc.  In the scheme of things, a first aid kit or FAK should be the very first thing we pack.

There are many “off the shelf” first aid kits available from just about any retailer.  In other words, you don’t have to go to an outdoor sporting goods store to purchase a pre-made FAK.  Your local grocery store will probably have at least one small kit which will include some of the more common items found in pre-packaged FAK’s.  You can start off with one of these kits and add additional items as necessary.

Places like REI, Gander Mountain and Cabela’s (just to name a few) will have small kits packaged in either a nylon pouch or some type of waterproof container.  Prices will range anywhere from under $10.00 up to $25.00.  These smaller kits are intended for individual use and for a single day trip.

Larger kits from these same type of outdoor retailers will cost anywhere from $25.00 up to over $100.00 and are designed to treat multiple individuals for a couple of days.

You can also BYOK (Build Your Own Kit) from items you already have around the house and add other items as necessary.    Items including antiseptic wipes, antibacterial ointment, assorted adhesive bandages, medical adhesive tape, blister treatment, pain relief medication, insect-sting relief, antihistamine medication along with a quick reference first-aid manual are considered just a few of the required basic items.  A comprehensive First-Aid Checklist is available from the REI website.

Another alternative (which I like very much) is the iFAK or individual first-aid kits from Amp-3.  Amp-3 is the Austere Medical & Practical Preparedness Project.  Amp-3 is operated by fellow ham, David Pruett – KF7ETX and his wife Beth.  David knows a thing or two about emergency first-aid.  David is a residency trained board certified emergency physician practicing in the Pacific Northwest.  David spent 11 years as an emergency physician with the US Navy.  He designs his various kits with outdoor adventure and preparedness in mind.

Amp-3 offers a selection of kits which I feel are perfect to include in a SOTA activation pack.  The Amp-3 EDC (Every Day Carry),  Amp-3 Scout and Amp-3 iFAK.  All include the basic first-aid items you would expect to find in a first-aid kit in three different sizes and all packaged inside a LokSak re-sealable and element proof storage bag.  All first-aid items are grouped and packaged individually in modules to make it easier to locate just what you need.

On the surface, the Amp-3 kits may look expensive.  However, when you factor in the the quality of the supplies provided, the experience in putting these kits together and the LokSak packaging to help protect the contents from moisture, dirt and just about anything else which could shorten the life of the supplies…it’s pretty clear the Amp-3 kits are the way to go.

I carry the Amp-3 iFAK in my SOTA pack.  This kit weighs in just under 11 ounces and provides a nice mixture of wound care, medications and tools I might need out on the trail.   The items are grouped together and packaged into individual zip lock bags.

photo (3)

All the individual zip lock bags are packaged inside the LokSak bag.  These LokSak bags provide a leak-proof and airtight seal to help protect the items from moisture and dirt contamination.

photo (4)

The LokSak package then fits into a 4×6 “Molle” bag.  I keep this bag in one of my outside/external pockets on my pack.

photo (5)

In summary, in addition to the radio, the antenna and power supply for your SOTA activation pack….please make sure you are just as prepared and protected by a first-aid kit.  First-Aid Kits are available in multiple sizes and varieties.  Leaving home without a FAK is just simply foolish.

Until next time…

73 de KD0BIK

Posted in How To Tagged , ,

Plan B?

Do you have a plan B?  What about even a plan C?  Here in the WØ association there are many SOTA summits which have never been activated.  Do we know why?  Sometimes, but not always.  Of course the obvious reason might be due to the summit (or access to the summit) is on private land.  But even though we do our “due diligence” ahead of time, we may not always know exactly what obstacles lay in front of us once we reach the trail.   If these obstacles read NO TRESPASSING will this cause your SOTA expedition to be a bust? 

Of course, NO TRESPASSING means NO TRESPASSING.  Our SOTA Code of Conduct along with good amateur practice will tell us to stop, turnaround and leave.  This is of course the only thing we can do in a situation like this.  But again, does it have to mean no SOTA activation for the day?  Absolutely not.

Of course, what I’m going to say next really only applies if you have neighboring SOTA peaks nearby.  But while you are planning for the SOTA known as “Plan A”.  Also think about your plan B and even plan C.  The Adventure Radio website actually makes this very easy for us. 

As an example only, let’s say I’m planning a SOTA activation of Green Mountain (WØ/FR-1Ø7).  If I view the WØ Front Range region (WØ/FR) on the Adventure Radio website and click on Green Mountain, this will bring up a profile page which contains information about the SOTA summit.  The important information I want to direct your attention to is at the bottom listed as “Near By”. 


This “Near By” information shows other SOTA summits in the area.  As you can see from the list above, there are six additional SOTA summits from 5.0 to 14.2 km away.  If I were planning a SOTA activation of Green Mountain, I would also make sure I had information available for Mount Morrison, North Table Mtn and perhaps even Genesee Mountain.  This would give me plenty of options in the event Green Mountain was unavailable.  Of course, Green Mountain is open to the public and no fees are required.  It is actually a very nice hike with beautiful views of the Denver skyline to the East and the Rocky Mountains to the North and West. 

Oh…and one more thing.  Should you find a SOTA summit is on private land, please make sure you visit the SOTA Watch site and add a new article under the corresponding summit to indicate it is on private land.  This will help in future activation attempts.

I realize this may all sound extremely obvious to some.  Perhaps it is.  However, if this helps just one person salvage what would have been a busted SOTA expedition, then it was all worth it. 

Until next time…

73 de KDØBIK

Posted in How To Tagged , ,

Choosing a Backpack for SOTA

I’m often asked the question of what backpack I use for SOTA activations.  I gladly answer the question, but will also encourage the individual to conduct their own research into what will work best for them.  Also, much like the topic of hiking boots (to be added later), I recommend you visit an outdoor specialty store and speak to their sales staff who can help size you for the correct fitting pack.

A little more fine print.  The information I’m providing in this blog post is going to be general in nature.  While I’ve been hiking/backpacking for over 30 years and have owned and used many different styles of packs, I encourage you to do your own research and again….I encourage you to try on many, many different packs before making your purchase. 

For this example, I’m going to discuss ideas for backpack selection for the typical SOTA or Summits On The Air activation.  This does not include the addition of camping and the need to carry a sleeping bag, tent, food etc. 

Internal or External?

Backpacks have changed significantly over the years.  Today there are essentially two main types of packs.  External frame packs and internal frame packs.   As you might guess, the supporting structure of the pack (frame) is on the outside for an external frame pack and inside for internal.  The picture below is an external frame pack made by Kelty.  External frame packs are still sold today, however the selection is limited compared to internal frame packs. 

Here’s an example of a typical internal frame pack style.

Deciding between an internal or external frame backpack might be as simple as looking in the corner of your basement to your old camping gear.  What ever you have already on hand, will certainly do the job.   However, if you don’t currently own a pack and need to purchase something, then I would recommend you go with the internal frame option. 

Does Size Matter?

Again as I mentioned at the top of the article, I’m talking about single day SOTA activations and not overnight or multi-day backpacking/SOTA activations where additional camping equipment would need to be considered.

Backpack size categories are usually referenced as day packs, weekend (1-3 days), multi-day (2-4 days) and extended (week+).

When I set out for multi-day backpacking adventures (with or without ham radio) I’m carrying a much larger pack with a capacity of some 75-80 liters and an empty weight of almost 5 pounds.  As you can imagine, a pack of this size is overkill for a typical single SOTA activation.

A pack around the 40-50 liter range would probably serve you well in most situations.  But of course, this really depends on the type of radio gear and batteries you are packing.  Smaller QRP rigs like the Elecraft KX3 and Yaesu FT-817 are small and compact.  Portable rigs like the Yaesu FT-897 will obviously require more space.

Seasonal Considerations

If you’re a four season SOTA activator like I am, then you may need to carefully think about pack size selection or simply purchase and use two different packs. 

Dressing in layers in the winter months is certainly recommended.  However, even at cold temperatures you may perspire.  This will especially be true along the areas of your body touching the back of the pack and shoulder straps.  Packing additional dry, warm weather clothing is a must if you expect to stay warm on the summit.

Internal Frame Loading Types

Internal frame packs are divided into two common categories consisting of top loading and panel loading.   There are also hybrid models that feature both top loading functionality along with panel loading features.   So what’s the difference?

Most top loading internal frame packs (shown above) require all items placed inside the pack to enter and exit through the top.  Other than the top pouch/cover, there is very little organization. 

However, panel loading packs will generally feature one large main compartment and one or more zippered pockets (shown below).  These additional pockets can help  better organize gear and accessories.  The pack shown below may very well become a favorite for SOTA activations with some of the features available (more about this later). 


Other Important Features to Consider

Just as important as the packs ability to carry and protect your gear.  Today’s modern backpacks do offer features to help make them more comfortable and more versatile.


Many packs will offer adjustable torso settings and some do not.  This is why it is important, really important to visit your local outdoor specialty store and have an associate measure and fit you appropriately.  

Hip/Waist Belt

Some packs in the small day-pack category do not provide a padded hip/waist belt.   I recommend the use of a padded hip/waist belt.  This will help alleviate some of the weight off the shoulders and place it on the hips.  It also helps provide stability for the pack to keep it from sliding and moving around.

Exterior Attachment Points

Depending on the type of gear you plan to carry on a typical SOTA activation, and the pack style you choose…it might be of benefit for the pack to feature attachment points on the exterior of the pack.   The ability to lash antenna masts, snow shoes etc. could be of benefit.

Hydration Compatibility

This was a key consideration in the next pack I purchased.  Many packs feature an internal pouch/pocket/compartment that is designed to hold a hydration reservoir of some type along with a tubing port to route the hose up and out of the pack. 


Some packs do include a somewhat built-in raincover or provide an external raincover that can be used.  The built-in raincovers are typically concealed in a small pouch on the pack and be be quickly retrieved and slipped over the pack.  A raincover will just help protect your valuable gear from getting soaked should you find yourself in an afternoon storm.

The SOTA Pack???

The pack I referenced earlier and said it “may very well become a favorite for SOTA activations with some of the features available” is the Kelty Redwing 50.  This pack is an internal frame, panel loading and falls into the daypack category of packs.  While it may not be suitable for an overnight camping trip, I feel it may work well for SOTA activations.

Unlike a top-loader, the Kelty Redwing 50 has a large internal main compartment and five additional pockets to help organize and protect your gear.  On the exterior (next to the two side pockets) an open slot or pouch would certainly work well for short antenna mast sections and other similar longer items.  The side pouch features a Velcro closure which allows longer items to pass through to the mesh water bottle pockets on each side.


The Pros

In my opinion, this pack is the perfect size for my SOTA activations.  Inside the main compartment I have plenty of room to pack my KX3 (inside my Zagg Aluminum box)  along with my Buddipole 4S4P battery pack and other smaller Buddipole antenna accessories.  I also have additional room in this roomy main compartment for extra clothing for cold weather activations.

The smaller compartments on the sides and back of the pack are also perfect to store The Ten Essentials along with other items which have normally just floated around inside the main compartment of my older top-loading pack.

Finally, in the smaller front pocket I can keep pens, paper and it is also roomy enough for my iPad.  This pack is also hydration compatible and my Nalgene bladder and tube fits and functions beautifully.

The pack fits really well and is comfortable to carry for long periods.  I really like the waist belt adjustment straps.

The Cons

There is no major adjustment for this pack. I took the time to visit REI (where I purchased the pack) and was properly measured.  My torso size is 20” and this pack fits torso sizes from 17.5 to 21 inches.  Since I’m almost 46 years old, I am pretty sure I’m done growing any taller and hopefully this pack and my enjoyment of SOTA will assist me from growing any wider.  The good news for me is the pack fits like it was made custom just for me.  Your mileage may vary.

Also, I really wish this pack had a built-in raincover.  While it doesn’t, Kelty does make one that fits the pack nicely.

In closing, I really enjoyed writing this how to article.  I realize the only connection to amateur radio is through SOTA, but I have been wanting to write this article since it is a common question I’m asked. 

Also, just as a reminder.  I mentioned earlier that the best pack for your use might just be the one you already have.  I truly mean this.  The intent of this article is not to get you to rush out and purchase a new pack and certainly it is not intended to direct you automatically to the Kelty Redwing 50.  It’s purpose is to help educate you on a few of the points and features of backpacks available today.  I hope this helps you.

Until next time,

73 de KD0BIK

Posted in How To Tagged , ,

W0/FR-003 (Mount Evans) 4347m / 14,264ft

My fifth activation is complete.  On Tuesday, 3 July 2012 I successfully activated Mount Evans.  My wife and I were on vacation (or a staycation as we called it) and decided to take a day during our 9 day break to attempt this activation. 

Mount Evans is one of two Colorado 14’ers (14,000 + foot summits) with a paved road to the top.  The second is Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs.  The paved road for Mount Evans takes you within approx. 100’ of the summit.  To make sure my GPS and Google Earth calculations were accurate, I walked down the paved road (away from the summit) to an approx. elevation of 14,100 then hiked to the summit which is 14,264. 

As we were just arriving to the parking area near the summit around 1715 UTC, I could see dark clouds forming to our south.  So I knew the activation would need to be a quick one.   On the way up we met up with one of the locals who posed for a quick photo.  I explained how I was friends of Rooster and Peanut, and he allowed us to pass. 

I reached the summit around 1745 and began assembling the Buddipole Versatee Vertical antenna.  I would estimate the summit was at capacity (it was difficult to find a parking spot) and perhaps the summit was being shared by 60+ people (some hiking up, some hiking down and others just sitting around).  I attracted a lot of attention and some approached to ask what was going on. 

I began calling CQ SOTA around 1800 UTC and within just a few seconds had Bob, AJ5C answering me.  Bob gave me a 55 and he was a strong 59+.  I quickly worked five other stations before I began feeling it was time to pack the gear up and head back down to the truck. 

According to the SOTA Results and Summits Database, Mount Evans had never been activated for Summits On The Air.  I am honored to have had the opportunity to be the first SOTA activator to activate Mount Evans.  The name Evans is a family name of mine.  My Grandfather was Snub Evans and I dedicate this activation to his memory.

I would like to thank AJ5C, W7CNL, K0LAF, N7UN, N4LA and K0REW for chasing me and helping me to make this a successful activation. 

Until next time…

73 de KD0BIK

Posted in SOTA Expedition Reports, Tagged , ,

Activation Alert: WØ/FR-003 (Mount Evans) –4347m / 14,264ft

Date:            3 July 2012
Time:           Approx.    1700 UTC – 1800 UTC
Region:        CO-Front Range
Elevation:    4337 m / 14,264 ft – 10 Points
Call Sign:     KDØBIK
Frequencies:     14.342.5-ssb, 18.157.5-ssb,  +/-  146.52-fm

Equipment: Elecraft KX3 (2nd activation / Buddipole versatee vertical

APRS Track: On Road / On Trail

My wife and I are on a staycation (vacation at home) this week and while I’ve spent some time working on the new basement ham shack, I also wanted to take a much needed break and go and explore a portion of Colorado I’ve never had the opportunity. 

Mount Evans is very near I-70, I’ve driven past many times and I can see it from my office building in the Denver Tech Center.  It is much like Pikes Peak in the sense that there is a paved road almost all the way to the top.  I’m going to take my wife along for this SOTA adventure.  We’ll drive to the top and I’ll hike down far enough and then back up to call it a legal SOTA activation and hopefully make a few HF contacts and take in the beauty of Colorado.   We’ll then probably go to lunch in Idaho Springs.  Perhaps Beau Jo’s Pizza.

Please listen for me on 20m around 1700 UTC (11 AM MT).  I look forward to working you. 

By the way.  My Grandfather’s family name (and my Mom’s maiden name is Evans).  I’ll be dedicating this SOTA activation in my Grandfather’s memory.  If successful, this will be the first SOTA activation on Mount Evans. 

Until next time….

73 de KD0BIK

Posted in SOTA Activation Alert Tagged , ,

SOTA Fail, SOTA Success–All in one day

As I posted on Friday, I had every intention of activating Centennial Cone, W0/FR-185 on Saturday.  However, it just wasn’t to be.  But I turned a failed activation into some “lessons learned” and still managed to have my first QSO on my brand new Elecraft KX3 on a Colorado mountain top. 

Everything on Saturday morning was going extremely smooth.  I woke up before the alarm sounded and was out the door slightly ahead of schedule.  I’ll admit, I didn’t do enough research on Centennial Cone.  However, I did read several trip reports on Lists of John website and even telephoned the Jefferson County Open Space office on Friday afternoon to inquire about two questions I had. 

Question #1 had to do with the notice on the website stating trail closure.  The lady I spoke with told me there were no trail closures.   Even asking the question again, and making note that I had seen a notice on their website, she explained I would not have an issue with trail closures.

Question #2 had to do with the alternate use schedule.  This just basically means they separate hikers and bikers on alternating weekend days.  I could tell the lady I was speaking with wanted to get back to her “Words with Friends” game session or whatever she was doing before I telephoned. 

After arriving at the West trailhead, I grabbed my pack and headed over to the trailhead and began my hike along the Elk Range Trail.  I was no further than 1/4 of a mile down the trail when I came across a big gate blocking the trail with the words TRAIL CLOSED.  The signage referenced more or less the same reasons as the notice on the website, stating the trail closure was due to Elk calving in the area. 

While some may have ignored the gate closure (and there certainly was evidence of this with human foot tracks just on the other side), it is the strong connection with the radio amateur’s code along with following the law of the land (with respect for God’s gift to all of us) which simply caused me to turn around and head back the other direction.  

Unfortunately, what happened next was where I made my mistake.  My initial thought was to pack up and go to “plan B”.  When I plan a SOTA activation, I typically also research at least one alternative summit in the area.  While I had a list of alternate summits in the area, I had failed to research them prior to Saturday morning.  

Centennial Cone had been on my list of alternate SOTA summits for some time.  I actually planned to activate it in December.  But this plan fell apart when I got sick.  I didn’t activate again until April and that was Genesee Mountain for the SOTA demonstration to the amateur radio club.

When I returned to the trailhead I studied the large map and devised an alternative plan where I would take another trail (fully open) and access Centennial Cone from the other side.  I had read reports on List of John that others had done this before, but it was the longer and more difficult route. 

I know what I’m going to say next may not always apply for hiking, backpacking and mountaineering.  It’s sort of like traveling.  I always find it counterproductive to fly South, to then fly West.  (example fly from Denver to Dallas to then fly to LA).  In any event, the alternative trail was downhill for the first mile.  Again, despite my gut telling me to pack it in and go somewhere else…I set off down the trail. 

I hiked about 3 miles to the point where the trip reports talked about bushwhacking and scrambling.  I could visualize the route as it was a common route for whatever wildlife in the area routinely used it.  This route would take me up and over a mountain, then down a saddle and then up the side of Centennial Cone.  Yep…it’s sounds better and easier on paper.

After about 30 minutes of scrambling and wishing I had my gaiters with me, I began to realize this plan was starting to fall apart.   I was already behind schedule and had promised the wife I would be home in the early afternoon as we had plans.  However, at the same time…I so wanted to operate the new KX3 in the environment I had purchased it for.

I began thinking how I could salvage the day.  I had two options.  Option #1 was setup on the top of the mountain I was climbing (not a SOTA summit) and just operate for an hour and head back.   While I would not earn any SOTA points, I could still have fun with my new radio.  However, those who were waiting for me to come on the air also would not earn any chaser points.  Option #2 was to return back to the trailhead, drive over to Genesee Mountain.  This option wouldn’t earn me any SOTA activation points, but reward my chasers with points and still allow me to have fun with my new KX3.

While I do enjoy the competitive nature of operating in amateur radio contests and yes, even accumulating chaser and activator points, that is only one very small element of why I enjoy the Summits on the Air program.  For me, it was more important to make sure anyone I worked would gain something versus only thinking about myself.  So without further hesitation I began the trip back to the truck.  Boy was that last 1/2 mile (uphill) difficult.

I reached the truck and drove over to Genesee Mountain.  Genesee Mountain is an easy SOTA summit.  The parking area is less than one mile from the top and the elevation gain is about 200 feet. Even with tired, sore legs and back, I was on the summit of Genesee Mountain within an hour of leaving the Centennial Cone parking area and quickly began setting up the Buddipole vertical.


I setup the Buddipole Versatee Vertical for full 1/4 wave on 20m (no coil) and connected the new Elecraft KX3.  I listened for a few minutes on the 20m QRP calling frequency of 14.342.5 and heard another SOTA station calling CQ.  It was AE7LD operating from W7/LC-146.  I answered his CQ and logged the first KX3 QSO at 1847 UTC.  My second QSO was one minute later and was a line of sight contact with W0RW who was operating pedestrian mobile from about 13,000 feet on the side of Pikes Peak. 

I moved down the band and found a clear frequency and began calling CQ.  I also quickly spotted myself on Twitter and my third contact was with Randy Hall, K7AGE.  You may know Randy from his Youtube videos.  Randy’s video series on PSK-31 was what encouraged me to study and upgrade to general three months after earning my tech. 

I also worked WA2USA, AJ5C, KB6COF, K6ILM, NS7P, N1EU, KE5VTD, NX9B, N0WY, WD0GTY, K4CIA, WT5RZ and VE1WT. 

A few noteworthy items from that list of QSO’s. 

This was my 4th activation and I’ve worked WA2USA on each of them. 

AJ5C, Bob in Arkansas.  When I activated Mt. Herman on 19 November, I worked Bob.  I was his very first SOTA contact as a chaser.  Today, 23 April he earned his 1000th SOTA Chaser point and earned the title of Shack Sloth.  Congrats Bob and thank you for your friendship.

Finally, NX9B informed me that I was also his first SOTA contact.  I wish Jeff the best of luck with future chasing and perhaps activations.  As many will admit, SOTA (both chasing and activating) is highly addictive.

As for me, I’m ready and excited for the next opportunity to get out and activate a SOTA summit. I hope to spend the first couple of weekends in May working on the basement ham shack and then take a weekend off (or at least a Saturday) for SOTA. 

Until then….

73 de KDØBIK

Posted in SOTA Expedition Reports Tagged , ,

Activation Alert: WØ/FR-185 (Centennial Cone) –2640m / 8661ft

Date:            21 April 2012
Time:           Approx.    1600 UTC – 1800 UTC
Region:        CO-Front Range
Elevation:    2640 m / 8661 ft – 2 Points
Call Sign:     KDØBIK
Frequencies:     14.342.5-ssb, 18.157.5-ssb, 28.327.5-ssb,  +/-  146.52-fm
I may also try PSK31 on 20m (14.070) 

Equipment: Elecraft KX3 (maiden activation / Buddipole versatee vertical

APRS Track: On Road / On Trail

The more I played around with my brand new (less than 48 hour old) Elecraft KX3, the more I knew I had to plan an activation for this weekend.  This will mean I’ll probably miss the combined QRPTTF + SOTA event scheduled for Saturday, 28 April. 


Centennial Cone is a two point SOTA summit and is located just slightly NW from Genesee Mountain (WØ/FR-194) that I activated just a few weeks ago.  At the present time Centennial Cone has had no other activations.  So this will be my second summit where I was the first to activate. 

I’m going to setup and operate on 20m SSB.  However, I may also attempt to operate PSK31 via my iPad and the PSKer iOS App. 

Well I need to wrap this up as I need to double check my gear and get it all ready to go.  I look forward to working you on my fourth SOTA activation.

73 de KDØBIK

Posted in SOTA Activation Alert Tagged , ,