SOTA, POTA, and a Total Solar Eclipse Adventure: Conrad and Peter Pack It In!

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:

QRP POTA & SOTA on Killington Peak, Vermont

By Conrad Trautmann (N2YCH)

Peter (K1PCN) and I decided to travel from Connecticut to Vermont to view the solar eclipse that occurred on April 8, 2024.

We got an early start on Sunday morning April 7th to drive to Rutland, Vermont where we stayed overnight. This positioned us well for a short drive the next morning to drive North towards Burlington, where we’d be under the path of totality.

Knowing we’d have some extra time on our hands on Sunday afternoon, Peter planned two park activations. Our first stop was Calvin Coolidge State Park (POTA US-5541 & SOTA W1/GM-002), which encompasses Killington Peak and is also a two-fer with the Appalachian Trail (US-4556). We also activated Gifford Woods State Park (US-3115), which isn’t too far from Killington.

For the trip up the mountain, we “walked-on” the K1 Gondola ski lift to get up most of the way.

From the top of the ski lift, we hiked another 360 feet, up 100 feet in elevation, in the snow, to get to the actual summit at approximately 4,230’ above sea level.

Photo of Peter and me on the summit

Our kits needed to be self-contained and not too heavy for the hike. Peter packed his Icom IC-705 along with a fiberglass mast and an end-fed half wave wire antenna to do a sideband activation. I brought my Elecraft KX-3, 3Ah Bioenno LifPo battery, and the Elecraft AX-1 antenna to do a digital activation. We both activated on 20 meters and were far enough apart that we didn’t interfere with one another. We also tried 17 meters.

Conrad, N2YCH’s equipment list

Peter, K1PCN’s Equipment List

After the hike up, we surveyed the area to see where the best spots would be for us to set up. Peter took one side of the summit while I set up on an exposed rock so I wouldn’t be sitting in the snow. Peter wore his ski pants…I, on the other hand, ended up with wet jeans by the end. I’ll re-think my attire the next time I do this. I got the radio equipment right but not the clothing selection. Priorities!

Conrad, N2YCH on the summit of Killington Peak in Vermont
Peter, K1PCN with EFHW antenna, which you can see if you look very closely
Peter, K1PCN and his radio and antenna

In addition to the HF radios, we both brought our VHF/UHF handhelds to make contact with each other as well as anyone who might be nearby. Peter brought a Baofeng UV-5R and I brought a Kenwood TH-D72. I was lucky enough to complete a QSO with someone who was mobile and driving along US Route 89, which at its closest point to Killington Peak is a solid 20 miles away. I verified that via email with the other ham after the fact.

In the spot I set up, I was literally the first person others visiting the summit saw when they emerged from the forest trail.

As with many POTA activations, I found myself being an ambassador for amateur radio and explained to many people what I was doing, who I was contacting and all about parks on the air. Everyone was very nice and supportive, wishing us good luck.  Many were curious as to whether we were there because of the eclipse. I was surprised how many people were completely unaware of amateur radio at all. Hopefully we sparked some interest in our hobby.

Snowboarders interested in ham radio

With the exception of the VHF contact I made, where our height certainly had its advantages on that band, I was again surprised that being up on the summit didn’t make getting HF QSO’s easier.

Many people ask if the height is good for radio transmissions and reception. You might think that clear line of sight to the sky would be helpful. However, I’ve done a few other summits including Mt. Washington (which we could see from where we were up on Killington) and it’s not so easy. I had an immediate pile up using QRP Power from the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC,  using a similar setup, but not up at 4,200 feet.

I was lucky anyone was hearing me at all. Both Peter and I struggled to get in our minimum 10 QSO’s from up there. We did have cell phone coverage up at the peak, so we were able to spot ourselves.

Here’s my coverage map from the summit:

We had great weather for a hike and clear views from the peak in all directions.

Once we completed the activation, we carefully made our way back down to and visited the restaurant by the ski lift to warm up and dry off before heading back down the mountain.

In case you were wondering, we did get to see the eclipse from Ferrisburgh, Vermont the following day. We activated Kingsland Bay State Park (POTA US-3231) and had spectacular weather for the event. Here are a few photos of our activation there as well.

Peter, K1PCN sitting at his portable table and SOTAbeams Bandhopper III antenna overhead
Conrad, N2YCH’s setup with Buddipole vertical and tripod secured to barbecue grill

The reason we went, the eclipse at the moment of totality

Until next time…73

7 thoughts on “SOTA, POTA, and a Total Solar Eclipse Adventure: Conrad and Peter Pack It In!”

  1. Very nice report. Sitting in the snow on top of a mountain to activate is hard-core! Well done. An eclipse activation with totality is also an awesome experience! Thanks for sharing.

      1. Conrad
        I am retired and just starting with POTA & SOTA. I live on the Canadian border in NW VT in a little town called Alburgh (grid square FN-35ja). Do you have a list of park and summit numbers for Vermont? I can’t find anything posted here.
        Joe WA2SPL

        PS-My two sons are Scott KB2DGA and Kevin N2YCA. Both in the Albany NY area.

        1. Hi, Joe,

          I looked up Alburgh to see if any POTA sites were nearby. You’re very much in luck! Each of the yellow dots on this map correspond with a POTA site:
          Alburgh POTA Sites
          Looks like you can roll out of bed and do POTA!
          To find this map, go to this link and navigate to Vermont. There are many, many sites within a 1 hour drive; in VT, NY, and QC!
          Thomas (K4SWL)

  2. This is a great report, Conrad! Looks like a fun trip with snow, sunshine, and an eclipse!

    I know all too well the feeling of sitting on a cold rock on a summit, too! 🙂 Typically, one of my legs falls asleep and I only find out when I try to stand up! 🙂

    Thanks again–I always enjoy your reports.


    1. Thank you Thomas. I’ve learned a lot from regularly visiting I hope sharing these field reports can help others.

      Thanks for everything you do for ham radio and POTA!

      73, Conrad

  3. I can always count on Joe N3XLS to help me make 10 regardless of band. We are both about 2 miles from Lackawanna State Park US-1368. I’m sure we’ll talk about that at our May club meeting.

    My son and I just built a 160 meter dipole to activate the Monongahela National Forest in August.

    73 Shawn WS0SWV

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