Call Search
     

New to Ham Radio?
My Profile

Community
Articles
Forums
News
Reviews
Friends Remembered
Strays
Survey Question

Operating
Contesting
DX Cluster Spots
Propagation

Resources
Calendar
Classifieds
Ham Exams
Ham Links
List Archives
News Articles
Product Reviews
QSL Managers

Site Info
eHam Help (FAQ)
Support the site
The eHam Team
Advertising Info
Vision Statement
About eHam.net

   Home   Help Search  
Pages: [1]   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: 2-meter mountain top weak signal ops  (Read 6312 times)
K7PEH
Member

Posts: 1125




Ignore
« on: January 21, 2013, 08:55:21 AM »

I am new to this forum and have no idea if this topic has had a lot of discussion.  I am thinking of getting into portable mountain top 2-meter weak signal ops this summer.  I plan to create a means of rigging up a moderately higher gain beam (not sure how I will do this but I can carry things in my pickup truck) and drive to the tops of some of the higher peaks here in Washington state such as Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, maybe Mt. Hood.

Main reason for this is that I would like to get into weak signal VHF but my home QTH does not easily provide for towers or even space for a higher gain antenna.

My plan is to use maybe a 10-foot mask with something like an 6 or 7 element beam.  Better if I had more elements but then it would be too awkward as a portable antenna.  Building my own beam that is light and possibly ease of breakdown and assembly is my plan.  Power would probably be about 100 watts due to the need for portable power generation limitations.

Has anyone else done such mountain top ops?  I once had my 2-meter HT with me on a hike up above Paradise on Mt. Rainer and worked some distant repeaters but not as far as I thought possible (~75 miles) especially for elevated repeater antennas.

Paradise  at Rainier National Park is 5400 feet and Sunrise, the other area, is 6400 feet elevation.

Anyone else do similar things.
Logged
WB2WIK
Member

Posts: 20547




Ignore
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2013, 09:37:44 AM »

Many have done this lots of times.  I certainly have, from coast to coast.

I'd recommend some stuff:

-Make sure the road you've chosen is drivable in advance, since mountaintops are often snow covered or worse.

-A 10' mast is a nice start, but taller is better; and a drive-on mast stand to secure it makes setup go very quickly.  Remember, even on a mountaintop there are usually local obstructions including your own vehicle, maybe some trees, and often established radio towers that can really get in the way.  I have a 40' Wil-Burt telescoping mast which collapses down to six feet and goes "up" in ten seconds, and it mounts on a drive-on mast stand: Just roll a tire over the stand, and that secures the mast.  Elapsed time between "parking" and having a 12 element 2 meter beam, with coax, up 40' above ground is about three minutes.

-Elevation alone doesn't necessarily make for VHF-DX.  Height above average terrain, or what mountaineers call "prominence" does.  Mt. Rainier is a huge prominence, but not if you are parked at 5400 or 6400 feet -- I think you'd have to be much higher up than that.

I've operated the past couple June VHF contests with a small group (N6VI) from Frazier Peak, CA, which overlooks both L.A. and the San Joaquin Valley and is 8,013' above sea level.  But parking on its access road at say 7,000 feet is a terrible location -- can't work anybody, really.  You have to be "at the top," and even there is not a great prominence because Mt. Pinos is 8,831' and just west of it.  Problem is, you can't drive to the summit of Mt. Pinos, so we settle for Frazier Peak.  Here in CA, virtually all mountains above 10,000 feet elevation have no summit roads at all -- this was decided a long time ago and remains that way; so if you have summit roads higher than that up your way, you're lucky! 
Logged
WQCC256
Member

Posts: 23




Ignore
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2013, 10:04:52 AM »

I was just talking to Maine via Mt Washington W1NH repeater yesterday from a "mountain", Mad River Glen, around 3600 ft-- Mt Washington is 6000+ feet.  I believe through the clouds there is LOS to Mt Washington from Mad River glen.  This was on a 5 watt handheld with stock 4 or so inch duck antenna,  I think it is approximately 75 nautical miles.   I did not catch  how strong my signal was unfortunately.  The signal from Mt Washington was full quieting at elevation.  I'm going to see if I can even hear it down here at 1000 ft ASL.
Logged
K7PEH
Member

Posts: 1125




Ignore
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2013, 10:12:31 AM »

Steve, thanks for the comments.  I don't plan on hiking up to higher elevations but rather only to drivable spots.  And on Mt. Rainier, the 5400 and 6400 Foot elevations are the parking lot elevations at the ranger station locations at each of Paradise and Sunrise.  Actually, both are still covered in snow until late July, sometimes into late August.  Although Rainier is over 14,000 feet these are the highest elevations you can drive to on that mountain.  Roads are paved and in excellent condition, these are national parks.  And all the tall drivable peaks here are volcanoes so there are not other competing mountain range peaks getting in the way.

Reasonable one day driving distance gives me the following volcanoes: Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, Mt. St. Helens, Mt Adams (maybe), and Mt. Hood in Oregon.  With the possible exception of Mt. Adams, they all have goof roads up to the 5000 to 6000 foot level.  I know this is not 10,000 feet but it is better then 250 feet which is my home QTH.
Logged
K7PEH
Member

Posts: 1125




Ignore
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2013, 10:15:21 AM »

I meant to say "good" roads, not "goof" roads in my previous post.  My iPad sometimes takes control of my spelling.
Logged
WB6BYU
Member

Posts: 13038




Ignore
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2013, 10:38:27 AM »

At one point there was a program where you could rent old fire lookouts from the
BLM or USFS for a weekend.  Not as high as the tallest peaks, but they would have
road access, and are usually in a place with a good view in all directions.
Logged
K7PEH
Member

Posts: 1125




Ignore
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2013, 10:52:46 AM »

At one point there was a program where you could rent old fire lookouts from the
BLM or USFS for a weekend.  Not as high as the tallest peaks, but they would have
road access, and are usually in a place with a good view in all directions.

As a summer job in 1964 I worked for the Coos Forest Protective which patrolled logging
roads up in the deep forests of Coos County.  One of our jobs was servicing the needs
of the fire lookout tower in our region.  This meant mostly bringing in bags of food goods
and carrying up canisters of drinking water.  The road to that tower was the worst part
of it -- basically a raw logging road that had not been kept up.  A raw logging road is
nothing more than a pathway cut by a huge "cat" and then prepared mostly due to the
heavy truck traffic.  This one was long ago abandoned.  Our 1-ton 4-wheel drive
pumper truck could barely make it.  But, that tower would be a great transmitting
location.  I wonder if it is still there.  Also, as we approached the tower, it was our
job to radio ahead and warn the young women who was manning that fire lookout.
This is because most of the time she worked totally nude!
Logged
KM3F
Member

Posts: 497




Ignore
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2013, 11:02:14 AM »

Here is something for consideration.
Build a base mount for the antenna mast you can drive the rear wheel of the truck onto to hold it upright.
For antenna, a 12 element M2 is a breakdown in 3 sections, has good gain without an excessively sharp pattern.
Use a Channel Master TV rotor with 3 conductor cable.
The rotor control has digital readout. Set up for north direction and your ready to go.
Power it with a 140 watt 12 to 120 ac small converter.
Powering the rest of your equipment depends on how much power you need.
Will have to keep the motor running for larger currents, longer times and use heavier wire for longer runs.
Good luck.
 
Logged
WB2WIK
Member

Posts: 20547




Ignore
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2013, 03:31:43 PM »

Steve, thanks for the comments.  I don't plan on hiking up to higher elevations but rather only to drivable spots.  And on Mt. Rainier, the 5400 and 6400 Foot elevations are the parking lot elevations at the ranger station locations at each of Paradise and Sunrise.  Actually, both are still covered in snow until late July, sometimes into late August.  Although Rainier is over 14,000 feet these are the highest elevations you can drive to on that mountain.  Roads are paved and in excellent condition, these are national parks.  And all the tall drivable peaks here are volcanoes so there are not other competing mountain range peaks getting in the way.

I guess the way to find out is to try it!

Around here, although we also have 14,000' mountains, you can't drive to the summit, or really anywhere near the summit, of any of those.  The roads all stop around 10,000' or so, and operating from those 10,000' spots doesn't work well for VHF at all -- here -- because you're 4,000' below the top, and obviously severely blocked in that direction, and also usually most other directions because by the time you get up to 10K feet on a road, you're surrounded by all sorts of higher stuff.  Here. 

San Gorgonio peak is 11,499' and still in Southern California, not all that far from L.A.  However, no road to the summit or anywhere near the summit.  It's a fabulous VHF location and an enormous prominence, but you can't drive there.  Having hiked it, though, I was able to work from San Luis Obispo (200 miles northwest) to Phoenix (300 miles east-southeast) using 5W on 2m FM, and signals weren't weak. Wink  I'd love it if there was a road, but then if there was one, the mountain would probably be on fire half the time from the traffic and people doing things they shouldn't.

Now, there are some dominant VHF portable locations that are quite a bit lower; it's all a matter of prominence.  One very good VHF location is Saddle Peak at only 2,830' above sea level...but it's right on the ocean, with about a 180 degree view over water, and a lot of that is "up and down the coast."  It's also prominent looking down towards the Los Angeles basin, where most of the population is.  So, although not all that high (only a 15 minute drive from my home, so quite convenient), it's very popular with weak-signal VHF-UHF ops.



Logged
K7WCB
Member

Posts: 7




Ignore
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2013, 11:09:35 PM »

I did some of that this last summer at a family reunion. We camped out of our car at 7100' at the Anthony Lakes, OR campground. The next day my sister and I hiked up Gunsight Mtn, which peaks out around 9,000', the last 1,000 vertical feet you end up picking your own trail up to the peak. I used a 20' telescoping fiberglass kite mast as a hiking stick and packed a rolled up N9TAX dual band slim jim antenna with a 20' coax lead. I hooked it up to my Yaesu FT-60r and called on 146.52. I made a few contacts and got invited to some nets that were meeting throughout the week. At camp I set up the mast and antenna and did a lo of rag chewing on local repeaters. All in all it was a good experience.

The next time I do it, I'm going to pack some sort of beam antenna for longer distance, and maybe try some mountain top satellite work with the big horizon from the peak.

About 3 years ago i took the same radio to a lesser peak in the area. Using nothing but the stock rubber duck and about 2.5 watts out I worked a ham in a fire lookout in the next National Forest over, about 60 miles LOS. Fun stuff!
Logged
WB6BYU
Member

Posts: 13038




Ignore
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2013, 09:21:28 AM »

As Steve points out, what matters isn't so much the altitude, but the fact
that you are higher than most of the stuff around you.  So a hill that juts
up all by itself is a good site, even if it isn't all that tall.  For example, the peaks
along the South side of I90 just below Lake Sammamash (Cougar Mtn., Squak Mtn.,
Tiger Mtn., Rattlesnake Ridge) are higher than most other points for several miles
around.  This is the type of topography that is particularly useful.  If you are
mostly interested in a particular direction, then an overlook on the side of a hill
looking in the desired direction can be effective even if you aren't at the top.

One problem with such sites that have road access, of course, is that they will
probably be full of radio equipment already.  That will be a limiting factor in many
cases for hilltops near any major population center.


If you are using a short mast (like 10') then you will also want to make sure that
you install it close enough to the edge of the site where the ground drops off.
If you're 100' back on a parking lot on a 3000' hilltop, then it will act more like
an antenna up 10' than one up 3000'.  The antenna needs to have a clear view
off the top of the hill without the impact of ground reflections.  My rule of thumb
(which is probably conservative) on HF is to plan that the mast must be longer
than the distance from the base to the edge of the cliff.  You probably can double
that set-back distance on VHF, but plan on being close to the edge for maximum
performance.


Regarding portable antennas, I like the WA5VJB designs, and have built them using
aluminum ground wire stuck through holes in PVC pipe.  (Rotate the driven element
90 degrees around the wire axis so both ends stick through the pipe in the same
plane.)  I color-code the holes and the elements, then it is simple to stick the
elements through the holes in the boom, and the boom can be broken into sections
using PVC couplers.  The whole thing comes apart into a bundle about 42" long and
6" in diameter.

http://wa5vjb.com/yagi-pdf/cheapyagi.pdf

Here are some other portable antenna ideas:
http://www.mydarc.de/dk7zb/PVC-Yagis/PVC-details.htm
http://www.geocities.jp/jk7tke502/yagi_uda_album.html
     (I like the design using plastic clothespins mounted on the boom to hold the elements.)
Logged
KB1GMX
Member

Posts: 714




Ignore
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2013, 03:51:12 PM »

Can only comment on the east coast where hills are bumps in comparison.

Height above average terrain is a big adder.  The local bump here get me
400ft above everything in the county a big adder.  Then we have the
biggest bump in the region Mt Washington.


First rule is you have to get it up there and back down.

If you can drive bigger is better and if it fits in the car or
truck you're likely not thinking big enough.   Wink

If your walking a light collapsible pole more is better, at least 10ft
more is better.  Antenna, a yagi, that can be packed small for walking
is the ticket. An example is the Arrow as it can even do two bands (V/U).
Power LiPO or LiFE  for power and light weight, think  small on TX power
so a KX3 or maybe FT817 as it all goes in the pack.  If the location is
good 5W will do very well.


Allison
Logged
WB2WIK
Member

Posts: 20547




Ignore
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2013, 03:51:34 PM »

Can only comment on the east coast where hills are bumps in comparison.

Height above average terrain is a big adder.  The local bump here get me
400ft above everything in the county a big adder.  Then we have the
biggest bump in the region Mt Washington.

And for those of us who have operated portable all over New England like I have, we well know that a mountaintop often isn't the best place to work VHF-DX. 

It can be, but often isn't.

The Mt. Greylock group goes there for contesting mostly because it is a very good prominence, has a paved road to the top, and they have permission to use it.  But when there's a good duct, it's often too high to even be in the duct (as are Mt. Equinox, Mt. Mansfield, Mt. Washington, Mt. Monadnock and lots of places in the 3000 foot+ range).  I worked more of the duct from Pt. Judith, RI (sea level) than those guys could work.

Likewise, Mt. Agamenticus, ME (less than 1000' elevation) can be an amazing spot due to its proximity to the sea.  It's interesting operating from Cadillac Mtn., ME also -- only about 1600' elevation but surrounded by water in all directions.  I worked mobiles on 146 MHz FM at the shore of NC from there under completely "normal" conditions.

Operated some VHF-UHF contests back 40+ years ago from Shannock Hill in Carolina, RI -- only about 400' asl but overlooking the sound to the south, and almost everything around it in all directions, and that was an amazing location for VHF DXing.

Likewise the Chatham Bars on Cape Cod.

I think to find the "good spots" it pays to ask a lot of people who already have found them, and then go exploring.  Can take thousands of miles of exploring over a period of months or years to determine what's really best most of the time.


Logged
Pages: [1]   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!