I need to start writing trip reports for my Summits On The Air, SOTA, activities again, I have not done much updating since moving to Broomfield, Colorado. This hike on Lily Mountain was my 68th SOTA activation.
March 8th, 2020 I hiked Lily Mountain, SOTA W0C/FR-050, for the first time. I have seen many spots for KX0R, WA6MM, and others on Lily Mountain and have wanted to hike a summit near Estes Park. To get to Lily Mountain, from Broomfield, I drove through Boulder, Lyons, and partly though Estes Park before turning south on Highway 7 and driving to the Lily Mountain Trailhead. I arrived a few minutes after 8:00 AM and I was the third vehicle at the trail head parking. Today, Monday March 9th, part of Highway 36 just closed for a month of maintenance. If I go back to this are for another summit, my route will change.
Lily Mountain trail is a two mile hike to the summit, so a four mile round trip. The first half of the trail is a little strange in that you are descending more than climbing, this means at the end of the hike you will be climbing back to the parking area. I will have to look at the elevation profile. You are climbing a little.
I had my alert on Sotawatch.org/alerts.php set for 1700 UTC or 10:00 AM Mountain time. In the amateur radio world, almost all logging is done in UTC time. I am not a fast hiker and the trip took my over an hour and I arrived about 9:45 AM.
I first pulled out my HT, or handheld VHF, UHF radio. I tried calling out on the national simplex calling frequency of 146.520 MHz. I had a local Estes Park ham come back to me quickly. I then called out on Colorado repeater Association 145.145 repeater. A net had just ended on the repeater and I asked people to change frequency to 146.520 to make SOTA contacts. I could hear a few stations calling me but a nearby mountain, “The Crags” was blocking my VHF path to the Denver area. I could hear N0SFW and my YL, KA0JKZ calling me but they could not hear me. This is not a good VHF summit. I should tried calling on UHF, at 446 MHz. I need to remember to try that frequency more often.
A newer antenna that I have been using for Parks On The Air (POTA), is the Wolf River Coils (WRC) Take It Along (TIA) antenna. The TIA is a small vertical antenna with a loading coil at the bottom. The antenna consists of the coil with a SO-239 UHF connector on the bottom. There is a sliding tuning collar on the coil to electrically shorten or lengthen it. A collapsible whip antenna screws to the top. Three tripod legs screw to the base for some relief to the coax screw to the UHF connector at the bottom. Coax then runs from the base of the antenna to your transceiver at the operating position. Three 33 foot wire radials are included. One of these is screwed to each tripod leg and strung out at 120 degrees from each other. One of the pictures shows the antenna. Using this antenna successfully requires that you have an antenna analyzer with you for tuning. tuning can be a little tedious as it is a combination of adjusting the coil and adjusting the whip length. I use the RigExpert AA-54 analyzer. The weight of this antenna and the analyzer will mean this system is for shorter hikes. I was able to get an acceptable Standing Wave Ratio (SWR) on 20, 30, and 40 meter ham radio bands. Two pictures of the Rig
Expert show the low SWR dip for the frequencies.
I set up the Yaesu 817 radio and battery, tuned the antenna for 40 meters and started calling CQ using CW, or Morse Code. I was spotted quickly by the Reverse Beacon Network. However, soon after I started, someone started interfering by sending a lot of “dits” in CW. Not everyone appreciates the SOTA program. I made four contacts on 40 so I could say the jerk did not ruin my day. I then tuned the antenna to the 30 meter band for contacts, then moved to 20 meters for several more before I decided I was too cold to continue. I finished with 22 contacts for the trip. One VHF and 21 HF CW contacts.
I had my bothy bag, and probably should have climbed into that. My toes were cold enough and going numb and I had to get up and scramble around the rocky summit a little to keep them warm. My fingers were cold and made working the CW paddles difficult. I put on gloves, then had a problem with Velcro and writing in my log. I have my battery attached to the radio and the battery wire secured to the radio with Velcro. The gloves kept sticking to the Velcro. Another issue to find a solution for. One reason I did not deploy my bothy bag is every time I need to change frequencies, I need to walk over to the antenna and adjust it. It take several adjustments to obtain an acceptable SWR. Each time I adjust, I have to move back to my operating position to take the reading. Standing next to the antenna will interfere with and give me a bad SWR measurement, unless I plan to operate from that position. The WRC TIA is not going on very many hikes and will be more of a POTA antenna. I need to build more traps for my SOTA end fed antenna before going out again.
I saw probably a dozen other hikers on the trail and summit this day. I asked another hiker to take my picture. I do not have many pictures of myself on summits.
I am enjoying writing this and need to start documenting my trips again. Last January 5th, 2020, I hiked the 14er Quandary Peak again and was successful in activating it for SOTA. I hope all the 14ers do not require two trips!