South Arm Stage NEFR Radio Challenge

South Arm NEFR – A Tough Radio Challenge

The South Arm and Icicle Brook stages of the NEFR present challenging communications issues for radio operators.

What is the Primary Problem?

Look at the topographic map below and pay attention to the steep hill/mountain inside the red circle. The top of it is 1,200 feet higher than the roadway at the start and finish of both stages.

This map includes the South Arm and Icicle Brook stages of the NEFR. The red balloon at the bottom is at the approximate start of South Arm and the finish of Icicle Brook. The purple star is the finish of South Arm and the start of Icicle Brook. The blue hexagon is an ideal location for a radio relay position. The red circle identifies the wretched mountain that tops out around 2,700 feet above sea level (ASL) while the stage roadway hovers around 1,500 feet ASL. Do you think for a moment a 5-watt HT has a chance to conquer this conundrum? Copyright 2019, Google, Inc.

What Can Be Done to Ensure Clear Communications?

You need a tall antenna and lots of power to get a signal from the start to the finish if you intend to conquer the mountain using simplex transmissions. The distance between the start and finish as the crow flies is just under ten miles!

A repeater could be located across Upper Richardson Lake about 2/3rds of the way between the start and finish of the two stages. At this location, it would have a very clear shot of all radio operators along both stages. The tall mountain would not hinder communications whatsoever.

You can also put a repeater in a circling airplane or suspended from a tethered balloon. Both of these options create their own set of very specific problems, not the least of which is cost.

What About an HF Solution?

Yes, you might have great success using high frequency (HF) on 80 meters. All operators would have to have HF equipment and be able to deploy an 80M Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS) antenna. These are somewhat easy to deploy as they work well horizontal with the ground about 6-8 feet in the air.

If you have ideas, put them in the comments below.



4 thoughts on “South Arm Stage NEFR Radio Challenge

  1. Again I can provide a repeater I have one on 145.45 PL of 100 with cans and probably can scare up an Auston antenna. Now it will need either a bank of batteries or a generator a Honda 2000 would do with a power supply. It is a mobile Motorola unit so either would work. We did a high gain Antenna one year and a mobile unit as communications point at the highest location it did pretty well. Unless people can park with their mobile units with some type of gain there are going to be dead spots. This is not something I can throw together quickly as the cans are on top of Mt Cranmore in NH right now so if you are interested I would need to know.

  2. Well, if you can pull this off, fantastic. I’d say go for it. The best place for the repeater is across the lake as I describe above. You NEED to get in touch with Matt Kennedy the stage captain if you want to make this enormous investment of resources. I don’t have batteries nor the generator.

    • I can probably borrow a Honda EU2000i from work but if not I own my own 6000 watt generator I’d be willing to haul up.

  3. I functioned as a relay on South Arm a few times – the location we used was close to where you suggested (North of the hexagon along that same road about even with the “2200” marking at a small dirt road that intersects from the East) it worked pretty well, but was not full coverage of the stage, even with my collinear. I wonder if the hexagon would be a bit better due to proximity to the stage start, which were the harder stations to stay in touch with. My setup compensated for a lot of the HT crowd, but some folks disappeared from time to time mostly due to DC power issues and not understanding how to ‘tune’ and maintain their position once I was in place as far as I could tell

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