Propagation to/from the far north (Alaska)

I’ve just added anderson powerpoles to the multimeter leads, so it will be easy to get you some figures…

Drive on summits? :wink:

I use one of these with my FT 857D and get several hours use at ~30W. I carry a second and can do 3-5 summits reliably with 2 of them. Being able to put out 100W to help a chaser who is in a noisy envionment is a real plus of the FT 857D. I’ll happily walk this plus all the other stuff I put in the on average12 KG pack for 20 KM in a day if needed. Its not that heavy, certainly half the weight of what I used to carry on mutli day wilderness bushwalks. SOTA 'for me isnt about the lightest set up, what radio uses the least power on Tx or Rx etc etc etc its about activating and chasing with what you have/want to use.


LiFePO ones? I am contemplating an FT 857 setup. (I too appreciate being able to crank up the wattage for spotters with lots of noise. My own noise floor at home is atrocious).

I operate with a FT-891. Using a 12 Ah LiFePo battery and abt. 20W output, I have not managed to drain the battery yet, even after I switched to 100W for some DX on the last activation. Trying an activation with 100W for an hour, I charged 1/3 of the nominal capacity when returning home.
Weight of the TRX is less than 2 kg, the battery weighs abt. 2 kg, too. Total weight of the backpack includung some drinks and snacks is less than 10 kg. Acceptable for me for a hike less than a day.

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Plenty of them here in G, Dave. G/TW-004, G/TW-005, G/SE-013, G/SE-005, G/SC-005 et al.

Of course, it is necessary to get out of your vehicle and carry your station away from it, and set-up and operate entirely independently of it in order to remain with the SOTA rules.

Some others only have the tiniest of walks from the car park to the summit: GW/NW-070, G/WB-005, G/CE-005, GW/MW-029, GW/MW-037, GW/SW-036 et al.

It is probably still possible to carry the bigger and heavier gear these short distances for a SOTA activation.

CW for SOTA activating is considerably easier and less demanding than CW generally. You can be very QRSS (slow), and need to have only the most limited vocabulary. Worth considering, whether used conventionally, or in the style of a digital mode. 5w CW from an FT-817 and a resonant efficient aerial will get you all the same DX as 100w SSB from an FT-857. Don’t automatically rule it out as an option.

yes they are the ones i use (4.2Ah) with the FT 857D. I do have some larger ones that I use occassionally with the IC 910H.

I run with pretty much this exact same setup except I carry a 9 Ah LiFePO4 battery. It works very well for me. When I ramp up the power I routinely can reach the other side of North America and have gotten stations in the South Pacific and Europe as well. I have yet to drain the battery even after an hour of working at 100w.

All that said, I do enjoy lighter weight activations, especially those I can crank out with just a 2m HT.

Hi Guys,

All the different input helps out a lot. There’s a lot to be said for not trying to “reinvent the wheel” and getting input from others in the hobby. Anyway, I think I’ll go with the following activation plan to start with:

  1. Pick up one of the eBay amplifiers that were mentioned: It’s a much cheaper first step than going straight to an 891 or 857. It does add some more connections, but I can work with that (I may just build it all into an integrated case). I already have good LiFePo batteries I can use to power it.
  2. Put together a wire yagi for field use: I’ll have to modify the design to make it backpack-portable and mountaintop-ready, but if I can make it work though having some gain on HF should be a game changer for getting a signal down to the lower 48.
    3: Modes.
    3.1: I’ll hit the local contacts on VHF FM voice, and maybe 40 M SSB for coverage of Alaska and the Yukon.
    3.2: With a WolphiLink interface and my smartphone I can run PSK31 or RTTY to get more reach - hopefully down into the lower 48. I can probably also find an app to generate CW via keyboard, which will be helpful for spotting via RBN.
    3.3: I’ll start keeping an eye on satellite passes to see how often we get a favorable one up here. Satellite QSOs could be very handy for certain peaks and certain times of day, but will probably be a secondary mode to running regular HF. I don’t want to fail activating a peak because I don’t get on top in time to catch the bird as it goes overhead.
  3. I’ll also have to lose some weight so I can carry all this $#!t up the mountain, lol.

It’s going to take some effort to get all this stuff put together, but I think it can work. With as many never-activated summits as there are up here I would be a fool to not work on it.



That is quite the move from Cal to Alaska especially mid winter!!

I had heard indirectly and possibly incorrectly that the activating season is quite short in Alaska given the conditions, remoteness of peaks and challenges getting to peaks. Snow mobiles might be a viable way into the AZ and then lug your gear by hand to comply with SOTA AZ rules.

Have you reached out to your local AM, Shannon KL3JI to team up with locals and get pointers on best practices?


Hi Paul,

Yep, we jumped in with both feet for sure. Sometimes that’s how it goes though. When opportunity comes knocking it doesn’t do to leave him at the door, lol.

Anyway, to answer your question, yes, I’ve been reaching out to the local hams for advice. So far most of the advice has centered around, “HF stinks from up here!” But I’m persevering. The good thing is all the hams are very friendly so far. I’ve only been here for about two weeks though, so I still have a bit more searching to do to find the contesters, portable guys, field day aficionados, and other fellow oddballs of the local community.

Hi Brandon,

As a suggestion, if you have a spare couple of hours, take a look at the very useful, “Light at the End of the Tunnel” thread. It’s probably the definitive thread on the Reflector, with regard to working DX and DXCC’s, band conditions, reports, different modes. There’s plenty of VHF stuff on there too…The list is endless. It includes contributions from experienced Activators and Chasers from all over the world.



Hi Brandon

Your activation plan sounds way more ambitious, involved and heavy (in terms of pack weight) than it need be.

Just start off by keeping it simple. Take a basic antenna for 20m or 40m, and your FT-817 (5w is plenty from a quiet location with a great take off - like a summit!). Maybe a VHF handheld as a back up. Just get your 4 contacts and treat anything more as a bonus.


I think I’ll go with the following activation plan to start with: […]

Sounds more like preparing for an MI6 mission than a SOTA activation. :wink:



Hi Brandon, One suggestion that might guide your selection of band, power level, antenna, is to look at WSPRnet. There are a couple of receiving stations in the Anchorage area that sometimes hear me when I am using my WSPRlite in Calgary, Alberta. So there may be data already available on who is making contacts from Alaska into the contiguous states. It is also easy to set-up a receive-only WSPR station of your own, or to use a WSPRlite to transmit your own signals.
My bet is that the higher frequencies will be most successful for you, during day-light hours. 20M and 17M for sure.

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The bands might be open more than you think, especially with chasers looking for you.
About a week before christmas I was able to make contacts with John, ZL1BYZ, on 20, 17, 15, and 12 meters from a summit in the San Francisco Bay Area. Signals were rather weak on 12, but we knew where to look for each other, and made the contact.


Hi guys,
Yeah, I think I tend to engage the hobby with a heavy emphasis on tech, but I enjoy it. I have as much (or more) fun building gear and planning projects than I do actually making contacts, lol. And I always like to do something different, so for me a big, ambitious, complicated plan is actually fun. Sometimes it even works . . . .

Going to definitely do some on air tests from home before going into the mountains though. My radio gear should be here early next week and so I can start getting on the bands and trying things out. The results of that will get incorporated into my first SOTA outings. Cool stuff.

The funny (or sad?) thing is that this project is one of my simpler radio adventures. I’m about halfway finished with my new APRS station and Rx-only IGate. Of course . . . it’s built using a twelve year-old pentium 4 laptop with the hard drive wiped and replaced with Lubuntu Linux running a manually-compiled instance of Xastir being fed packets by DIREWOLF and (when my stuff gets here) an RTL-SDR dongle handling the RF side. Yeah . . . I definitely know how to do complicated, lol.

So far it’s working through: search for N6BSC-1. Score one for MI6. Although, it’s probably a little more Doc Brown than James Bond, I’m sorry to say.
Doc Brown



Yeah you know, the ones that you can drive onto or very close to - i.e. no serious walking needed to get to them. Other comments as per what Tom said re operating completely indepently from the vehicle of course.


I am in Northern California, and never worked with Alaska from here. I worked with Alaska on 20 meter CW from Utah.

Hello all,

Going to try a short activation tomorrow from the Anchorage area. 5 watts SSB on 20, 40, and 2 meters, so I doubt I’ll be heard outside the state, but I wanted to put the word out anyway.

The full alert is up on SOTAwatch under my new call sign, KL7BSC.