KLA/MC-599 in Alaska. Bodenburg Butte

Hello group,

I’m posting info about this peak for anyone who might want to do an activation while in Alaska. This one is only about an hour outside of Anchorage, and is pretty easy. It’s a good choice if you’re up here on a trip and have a few hours to try putting a peak on air.

Note that local contact options are limited unless you pre-plan. Anchorage is the largest city up here and it’s only about 350k people. You’re also pretty far away from everywhere else, so SSB and 5 watts isn’t going to get you down to the lower 48 unless you have a really good band opening.

The strategy that I’ve developed for activating up here is two-fold:

  1. Time the activation to occur during the Alaska VHF-Up Group Saturday morning SSB net on 144.200. (I’m the VP of the club.) Make a handful of contacts there to ensure that the activation is good.
  2. To make the peak available outside of Alaska, switch to HF digital. (CW might also work.) I ran FT8 on this activation with excellent results on 20 meters.

This peak has two different trails that go to the top. The one going up the south side is more natural, windy, and prettier, in my opinion. This post covers the West Butte Trail that goes up the north side of the peak, which is more developed. Note that there is a $5.00 parking charge for the lot.

Be sure to travel in a group, or bring bear spray or a gun on the hike. The area is rural, but there are still moose and bear that travel through the area. On this hike there was actually fresh moose poop at the top of the peak. Moose are mean . . . leave them be. Ending up as moose toejam or bear poop doesn’t get you extra activator points.

The trail is flat-ish for about a quarter of a mile, but then starts going straight up. Since this area gets heavy use there are stairs that go up the steep sections. Expect to see other hikers, joggers, etc. Bring ice grippers or flexible crampons if you’re here in the winter. Other than that it’s a pretty easy trail.

The Peak
The top of the hill is pretty rounded, with some boulders sticking up to mark the true top of the peak. It took me about 45 minutes of slowly moving to reach the top. There is a lot of real estate on the top where you can choose to set up. Try to set up away from the main trail though so that you don’t disturb the locals. Up here people tend to take an interest in radio (it’s an outdoors-oriented culture) and you’ll be playing ham radio ambassador all day.

Your target for the activation is Anchorage and the Mat-Su valley. On this peak you’re on the edge of the Mat-Su, but Anchorage is a bit off in the distance and partially obscured by the Chugach Mountains. In the picture below, Anchorage is in the distance where the mountains slope down to ground level.

Like I mentioned, reach out to the Alaska VHF-Up Group (or to me directly) and we’ll make sure there are operators available to give you contacts over VHF. The Matanuska Amateur Radio Club is also pretty active, and a good resource in this area. That will ensure you get your minimum of four for the activation.

After you get your minimum over VHF try switching to digital. It took a while. but I was able to work FT8 and get another eight contacts over HF.

Power out was 5 watts, and the antenna was a linked dipole on a fiberglass fishing rod.

QRP from Alaska can definitely be done.

Brandon Clark, KL7BSC


Nice write-up, Brandon. Useful information for someone visiting the state, and very kind of you to invite them to contact you.

I had to chuckle at your comment that 5 watts SSB was not going to work in Alaska. I am sure you are right, but I have to tell a story about 5 watts SSB and me visiting California. During the week I had successfully activated several peaks before I climbed Ryan Mountain (W6/CD-016) in Joshua Tree National Park. I set up my FT817 and linked dipole, started calling CQ, then tried to post a spot. No cell-phone coverage! After an hour I was desperate, no-one could hear me, or perhaps just didn’t want to talk to me. Then a marvelous thing, a religious net started calling for check-ins. I was on it like a shot and they heard me and KL3DO was in my log-book. It was only later I found out that KL3DO was operating from Fairbanks, Alaska.
So occasionally 5 watts SSB does work from California to Alaska, thank goodness!



Thanks for sharing Brandon! Its posts like these that help others to get out and explore and enjoy the activation even more because some of the guess work has been lifted by a well written post. See you on the air. 73 GL SOTA
Mike NS1TA

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Cool story about reaching Fairbanks on that net. I’m interested to see how things change as the sunspot cycle progresses and we get more solar activity. I’ve only been a ham radio operator during the minimum part of this extra-long cycle. I’ve heard lots of stories just like yours about good openings. Goes to show: if you don’t call you won’t get contacted. Might as well give it a shot!


Great write-up about operation in KL7 land. My first trip to Alaska in 2016 was the typical tourist land trip via bus and train and then cruise ship. Seeing this beautiful state had me regretting not coming sooner as with my line of work, I could have easily been posted up to the Last Frontier. However since 2016 was the NPOTA event, I was able to activate Denali Natl Park via FM satellite with an HT and Yagi to Washington and Utah.

My second journey in 2018 was a road trip from Fairbanks to Homer. While I used 2 meters simplex on the three SOTAs I activated, I also operated 20 meter SSB and CW with a KX2 and wire antennas. From the Fairbanks area, I was able to activate KLF/FN-182 and KLF/FN-204 with an S2S with KX0R and from over the pole, a chaser contact from OK2PDT. From above Homer, I activated KLA/KS-622 with chasers from 8 states. The one thing I realized about activating from Alaska is that with over 18,000 SOTA peaks, unless you are prepared for a major expedition you will most likely be doing a drive-up. So your description of an actual hike to activate KLA/MC-599 near Anchorage is good.

My third trip was in 2019 to watch the starts of the Iditarod 1,000 mile sled dog race but did no SOTAs. My next trip is scheduled for the first week of June this year on a Natl Geo vessel with 62 passengers for a close up tour from Sitka to Juneau. No SOTAs are planned although I will have an HT with APRS capability. With the coronavirus event, I will have to see if the cruise will even happen.

Prior to my first Alaska trip, I became active on the Alaska Pacific Emergency Preparedness Net on 20 meters. See: http://alaskapacificnet.org/ . For several months I was one of the Lower 48 net controls. Getting to know some KL7 hams resulted in KL7EDK visiting me on my Fairbanks SOTA, KL7IQQ coming to hotel in Kenai, and KL2EC meeting me at the Willow Iditarod start. I still check in to the net when propagation allows.

As for Ian’s VE6IXD comments about activating from Ryan Peak in Joshua Tree Natl Park, I have done that SOTA. There is a UHF linked repeater system that covers from the Mexican border, east to Arizona, and north to San Luis Obispo and Ridgecrest which includes the high points from Joshua Tree. The repeater is called PAPA and its website is http://papasys.org/ While the PAPA system is a member dues supported repeater, there are 10 regular SOTA activators who are members. The repeater owner is familiar with SOTA and allows visiting hams from outside of Southern California to use the PAPA repeaters during their activations. If anyone plans on being in the area, send me an email and I can explain more about using the system to aid in your activations.

Scott WA9STI
Los Angeles