SOTA Activation Planned: Mount Locke (UT McDonald Observatory)

Greetings Amateur Radio Operators! I’m excited to announce that I will be activating Mount Locke (W5T/DE-003) for a Summits on the Air Activation on Sunday, November 19, 2017 (ETA 1700UTC)....

Greetings Amateur Radio Operators!

I’m excited to announce that I will be activating Mount Locke (W5T/DE-003) for a Summits on the Air Activation on Sunday, November 19, 2017 (ETA 1700UTC). Still a ways away, but wanted to announce nonetheless & get the word out! Mount Locke is the home to the University of Texas McDonald Observatory, which has one of the darkest skies in the U.S. Not too far away from the Big Bend area which I visited recently. I’ll be taking this trip with my good friend Jon, N5CFB who has already cleared permission for us to operate near the McDonald Observatory that Sunday!


I’m so excited about this trip I can barely wait! In the meantime, I’ll be working on a new antenna setup for this activation. The great group of operators over in the POTA Facebook group started talking about this antenna they call the ‘Vertzilla’ Antenna which is basically an elevated 1/4w vertical with one radial. I’ve been searching for something that will be self supporting, and something that’s a bit more directional to give a bit more gain in the desired path. The problem with the SOTABeams link dipole is that it’s a bit of a cloud burner, depending on the height that you can get it at. Several POTA folks suggested that I try this antenna, & that I might be surprised with the results. So figured I’d give it a go. The Buddipole shock cord mast is a bit expensive, especially compared to the MFJ-1979 telescopic whip, but it looks to be much more rugged. The MFJ-1979 is already starting to show signs of wear & tear. Here’s a quick sketch of what I’m planning to assemble:


Being that this activation is on a summit, there will be practically nothing to strap a telescopic pole to, so best that I choose a different type of antenna. I’ve tried the elevated 20m vertical before, but I don’t think I got it far enough off the ground to be effective. Thinking either a speaker tripod, or the buddipole tripod so that I can get the antenna further off the ground and not loose too much stability. I’ll be setting this antenna up specifically for 20 meters, & Jon will be deploying an identical setup, yet for 40 meters. So we’ll be able to switch quickly back and forth between the two without having to setup each. Since this summit is mostly accessible by vehicle (must make the final ascent by walking), i’ll take my 100w radio with me, as the walking distance to the activation zone isn’t too far from where you park.


Lots of activities planned for this trip though! We plan on stopping at the Fort Davis Fire Department to give their HF station a check & tune up while we’re out there. The  station operates a Kenwood TS-2000 and a few antennas that we’d like to check out for the station. Jon & some other members of our club are good friends with folks out that way!

Then we’ll head south towards the border to take the infamous trip through the Chinati mountains, one of the most remote & outback trails you can take in the U.S. with a vehicle. I’ll have to be sure to check my spare tire & bring a can of fix a flat as a backup!

I’m already looking forward to the footage that I’ll capture during this event to share with you all… West Texas is like a world of its own. We plan on doing some other casual operating during the trip as well. It’s not too often that I get to experience a noise floor as low as this!

More to come on the activation as the date comes near!



SOTAVertical Antennas
4 Comments on this post.
  • Scott
    27 September 2017 at 9:47 PM

    I’ve done that one. A shortened vertical with a raised counterpoise is a good low profile choice for that highly trafficked summit. There is actually a railing that you might be able to attach to and use as a counterpoise as well.

    • K5ACL
      27 September 2017 at 11:11 PM

      I saw you activated it Scott, looks like a popular summit, someone just activated it a few days ago in fact. I can’t wait to head back out that way!

  • N4BRM
    26 September 2017 at 3:19 PM

    How close to those Observatory’s will you be setting up ? Looks like a fun time !!

    • K5ACL
      26 September 2017 at 4:44 PM

      I’ll be about 80 feet from the 82 inch telescope! It’s at almost 7k feet elevation.