WS Communications Support
Whether you are a licensed HAM operator or a laptop
reporter, there are a few general requirements and demands that the event will
place on you as a member of the Communications Crew at a checkpoint:
- HAM License: Obviously, a ham license is a
great asset for communications crew members, however it is not mandatory!
Both Event Control and the checkpoints are busy places, and having
unlicensed helpers (family members/friends) with you can really help with the
workload. In fact, at Event Control, we have database/webcast technicians and
EC Assistants who perform critical functions tracking runners, assuring
injuries get handled correctly, and correlating the radio information with the
paperwork from the checkpoints to make sure we account for each and every
runner/rider. In our experience, family members 12 years or older can make for
very effective teams at checkpoints.
- Remote Checkpoints: Many of the checkpoints are
remote and do not have the normal "creature comforts" found in more civilized
locations. Some will have portable toilets, but even then, we urge you to carry
some toilet paper, sun screen, insect repellant, and other survival items.
- Clothing: Regardless of how nice the weather is
in the valley, or what the TV weatherperson said on Friday night, you can
expect that it will be cold (maybe very cold, depending on the
elevation) early Saturday morning, Saturday night, and early Sunday morning.
Therefore, you should bring a good jacket, gloves, a warm hat, and warm pants
You can also expect that it will be quite warm (as in hot)
during daylight, especially at the mid and downtrail sites. A change of clothes
into shorts, light shirts, and a hat for the daytime is a good idea.
If you have a large umbrella and/or EZ-up and can bring it as a sun shade, it
will help a lot. Wear really comfortable hiking shoes.
- Food/Drink: There will be water at every
checkpoint and most will have various combinations of runner food. (For the
uninitiated, runner food tends to be snack items that the runners can eat while
running ... not real filling) Regardless, we encourage you to bring enough of
your favorite foods to keep your stomach quiet for the duration of your shift.
And, please bring bottled water (and drink it!) as well. It's very easy to get
dehydrated in the field.
Volunteers who report runner/rider status info from
checkpoints that have Web access (dial-up, DSL, WiFi and WinLink) should be
aware of the following:
- Equipment: Unless other arrangements have been
made, you will be using your own computer equipment. You will be briefed in
advance on the type of Web connection that will be available. One or more of
your laptop reporting team members may be providing support equipment, such as
power strips, extension cords, WiFi routers, Ethernet cables, etc. Please make
every effort to coordinate with your team members to assure that you have a
- Web Access: If your connection to the Internet
involves a direct dial-up, you will be provided with a local phone number and
account information. The User ID's and passwords are good for the weekend of
the Event but do not include email support.
- Email: It is often helpful during the Event to
exchange email or chat messages with the webmaster at Net Control. It should be
possible to configure your personal email browser to work with the checkpoint
web access so as to send and receive email the same as you would at home.
- Web Reporting Form: The status reports that you
will be sending are based on information given to you by the Checkpoint Timers:
Entrant ID (Runner Bib# or Rider#), Time, Checkpoint ID, and status (IN, OUT,
Finished or Dropped/Pulled). You will be keying this info into an on-line form
that collects up to 20 such reports in a batch. When you submit a form, it's
contents are processed by a server in Foresthill and then forwarded to the
webmaster as a formatted email. A link to this form will be provided to you in
advance of the Event.
- WinLink Reporting Format: This low-bandwidth
method of sending status reports uses emails that are transmitted via HAM
circuits. Formatting standards are worked out in advance with the Event
webmaster to permit automated loading of the data into the tracking
Please note: The UHF systems are
part of a large, linked and closed network. Please do not use them other
than on event-day without prior coordination with the Sierra Radio Association.
For reference, we use the following repeater systems:
- CH 1, Squaw Peak (K6SRA): 443.975 (+) PL 114.8
Squaw covers the northern parts of the Tahoe basin, the WSER/TEVIS Start and
climb to the Summit, and much of the trail down to Robinson Flat.
- CH2, Mt. Rose (WA7DG): 147.150 (+) PL123.0 Used
as a backup system only. It requires NCS to use 100 watt plus transmitter and
Yagi antennas to do the job. NCS only what's to use it as emergency backup
only. It basically shuts down the rest of NCS' radios. Covers from Watson's
Monument to Start at Robie Park.
- CH3, Robinson Flat (W6YDD): 443.900 (+) PL136.5
A portable repeater setup for the events only. Covers from Lyon's Ridge to
- CH 4, Bald Mt (RAMS): 146.625 (+) PL127.3 Bald
Mt is located in El Dorado County, across the Middle Fork Canyon from the
Western States Trail. It provides very good coverage from the summit down to
Rucky Chucky with overlap to Squaw at the top. Bald and Squaw may be connected
by a link as needed, so that they will appear to be one system. This link can
be severed in real time to separate them into two systems if required by event
- CH 5, Bald Mt UHF (K6SRA): Used only as a backup
now. Only on during events. Search PAV PAWS on the internet.
- CH 9, Auburn (K6ARR): 145.430 (-) PL162.2 This
is our primary VHF repeater, and covers the course below Rucky Chucky to the
finish. Certain other checkpoints uptrail from the river will have good paths
to it, and we attempt to migrate as much traffic to VHF from those sites as
possible to free the UHF system for the mounted sweep riders on the trail.
- CH 11, Bowman (KI6TE): 146.355 (+) PL94.8 This
is our secondary VHF system, often used for off-net conversations and
event/runner logistics communications.
- CH 16, Foresthill (W6RWL): Portable Repeater at
443.225 (+) PL110.9 Covers the Foresthill Area and CP's both up and down trial
as a backup and the main link to NCS for Runner/Rider Traffic.
- CH 6 and 7, (W6YDD): Cross Band Repeaters
147.555, simplex, pl 136.5 - Tx's to Robinson Flat Portable Repeater and
443.125, simplex, pl 162.2 - Tx to Auburn's 145.430). These two Cross Band's
cover the American River Crossing at the Swing Bridge past Last Chance and the
El Dorado Canyon Area.
We can now cover the trail with two systems and almost
100% of the trail with 2M and 440 communications
Radio Requirements (Checkpoints)
Note about handhelds: While HTs are very useful and
should be included in your equipment list, they will provide only marginal
communications from many sites. Worse yet, their batteries will die soon if you
are required to transmit much. A vehicle-powered mobile is required at many
sites, and is best for all of them.
Radio requirements for licensed folks vary between
checkpoints, however the following will generally apply (listed in
- Above Robinson Flat, all voice communications
will be on UHF using either the Squaw Peak or Bald Mt. repeaters. Under normal
circumstances, these systems are linked and behave as one repeater. Handhelds
will work quite well. Mt Rose is a good backup to Squaw Peak if it has a
- Robinson Flat, will require at least UHF
capability, and VHF is highly desirable. Handhelds will work now we have the
Robinson Flat portable repeater. The site is large, and much of the campground
area is down in a bowl area where handhelds will now work.
- Below Robinson Flat, (Miller's Defeat, Dusty
Corners, and Last Chance) you will require UHF capability. Handhelds will work
fairly well into Bald Mt, although a good mobile is desirable.
- Devil's Thumb normally uses UHF, and handhelds
will work into Bald. Occasionally, we employ VHF, and a mobile is required as
the path into the Auburn repeater is not great.
- El Dorado Canyon is generally immune to RF
penetration from anywhere except straight overhead (satellite?). We use
cross-band portable repeaters to get a signal into and out of this location. If
you are interested in ED, indicate it on your Signup Form, and drop an
to us and we'll discuss the possibilities with you.
- Michigan Bluff has a fairly good VHF path to
Auburn, and, when possible, we try to use that to free up the UHF systems.
Handhelds are generally inadequate on VHF, but will work on UHF. The Foresthill
Portable repeater is an option on UHF.
- Bath Rd/Foresthill are generally on UHF with use
of the new Foresthill Portable repeater, however since Foresthill is a major
checkpoint, and the destination of all runners who drop out above it, UHF is
still a critical need on Bald Mt. as well and a mobile is desirable. Handhelds
now work well at both sites.
- Dardanelles (CAL-1), Peachstone (CAL-2),
and Ford's Bar (CAL-3) are remote and you need both UHF and VHF, with
the use of Foresthill Portable and Balds VHF and UHF repeaters.
Ford's Bar is rarely staffed with radio personnel due to access
- Rucky Chucky/Francisco's (near/far) is a large
site, deep in the Middle Fork canyon, and is the site of the river crossing. A
mobile radio on UHF will work well from this site; however handhelds are
marginal at best. Because of its size and the need for the communications staff
to move around it, we generally try to establish a cross-band repeater.
Consequently, both UHF and VHF capability are required.
- Green Gate, ALT and Brown's Bar are on VHF.
Handheld coverage is not great, but is useable if you're willing to find the
"sweet spots." Small tower or rope in the tree works wonders to get your
antenna to the elevation and to the sweet spot.
- Lower/Upper Quarry & Highway Crossing uses
both VHF (preferred) and UHF (backup). Handheld coverage is so-so, pretty good
from some locations. This site is a bit unique in that it is on the downtrail
side of SR49, but the telephone line for Internet access is on the uptrail side
(Quarry Office). Additionally, it is adjacent to the highway, is late in the
race, and gets an inordinate amount of crew and spectator traffic that it can
ill-afford. A real challenge! Lower Quarry uses mostly VHF with a mobile.
- No Hands Bridge/Robie Point are small
checkpoints fairly close to the finish. It all happens on VHF. Handhelds will
work quite well here.
- The Finish is at the football/track stadium at
Placer High School for WSER and Overlook Staging Area/McCann Stadium for the
TEVIS CUP, both near downtown Auburn. It's about a mile from the K6ARR 2m
repeater. It tends to become a zoo about 9 PM on Sat night as the first runners
and riders arrive, and remains so (or more) as the evening/night/morning
progresses. VHF handhelds will be just fine here ... although the crowds
sometimes make it hard to hear the receive audio unless you have headphones.
A dual-band handheld and a mobile are probably the
best all-round combination for most of the checkpoints. If your mobile will do
a full-duplex cross-band repeat, we ask that you coordinate with the
communication leader in advance of the event before attempting a cross-band
configuration. There are a number of issues, including frequency selection and
carrier delay that can really foul up the radio network.
Radio Requirements (Event Control)
All of the Event Control equipment will be supplied.
Please do not transmit on 2m or 440 MHz from either your handheld or mobile
inside or in the vicinity of Event Control. We have taken some extreme
measures to minimize the interference between the Event Control radios, and
transmissions from even handhelds can desense the radios. Further, within the
Event Control building, Please turn HT receivers OFF at all
times. We already have an acoustic noise problem in the building.
General Operational Considerations (Checkpoints)
- Location: At Red Star, Devil's Thumb, Michigan
Bluff, Foresthill, Rucky Chucky, and the Hwy Crossing, you will likely set up
close to the runner/rider entrance where in-times are recorded. At other
checkpoints, it's generally a decision between you and the Station Captain ...
they tend to want the communications facility close to their operations base.
- Support Equipment: Some folks operate from their
vehicle or off the tailgate of a pickup; however it helps a lot if you have a
card or other light weight table to set up. An umbrella or EZ-Up is also
valuable at the sites below Robinson Flat. You should also bring a supply of
pencils/pens, and scratch paper.
- Power: There will generally be commercial AC
power available at Michigan Bluff, Foresthill, and the Finish. Additionally,
some other checkpoints will have a generator running, although there is no
guarantee you'll be able to locate close enough to use it. If you have a small
(1 KVA) generator, it might be a good idea to bring it, along with a long
extension cord and whatever power distribution your gear needs. Many folks
operate off their vehicle or outboard batteries ... just don't forget to start
the truck periodically, and make sure it's running before everyone leaves the
site! Its best to plan to work off grid, full BATTERY OPERATION.
Inverters: We recommend against
using inverters powered from 12V sources for the RADIO power, ONLY for laptop
power. If you plan to use a inverter for your laptop power use a high quality
unit. With cheaper units their output waveforms are square and full of
harmonics, and we've found a number of radio and laptop power supplies will not
work with them. Their efficiencies are also very low, and they'll drain your
vehicle battery in no time at all.
- Operations: Voice operators at all checkpoints
will transmit the numbers of all runners/riders as in-time (arrive), out-time
(if any), total number of runners/riders out of checkpoint and last 10 to
depart before the cut-off time needed also by Sweep Riders. The numbers, times,
and reasons for all runners/riders who drop at your site. In general, you will
transmit all arrival times to be in real time. Every 15 mins to 30 mins
transmit runner/rider information, even if you only have one entrant on your
timer sheet. WSER and TEVIS have a commitment to the WORLD to get runner/rider
information to the WEB CAST in 30 mins or less if possible. Communications and
Timers need to work closely together to get this information to NCS as soon as
possible. You will also handle messages regarding logistics for the event,
possible conversations between event officials, and of course, any emergency
traffic involving your site. It is our policy to refer to runners/riders by
their number only to provide some measure of privacy for them. This is
particularly true for runners/riders involved in emergency situations or with
medical problems. See the Voice
Operations Guide for more operations information.
General Operational Considerations (Event Control)
- Equipment: You will require no equipment. Event
Control is located in a heated and air conditioned building at ARD's Overlook
Park with restrooms, and a small kitchenette area. There is plenty of parking,
and you can park your RV there overnight if you wish.
- Voice Operators:
In recent years, we had
used two operating positions: Primary control (mainly for the checkpoints), and
Mounted Control (for the mounted sweep riders). Frequencies were shared in
Currently, there is one primary control position
with radios for all channels. This position communicates with both the
checkpoints and the mounted sweep riders, and handles the management of the
Event and its logistics. A second position with selectable access to both UHF
and VHF channels is provided elsewhere in the NCS building. This position is
used for voice reporting of timer reports and other designated communications.
So, if you've read this far, you must be
interested, so click on over to our Communications
Volunteer Signup Form and get yourself into our database. We'd love to
have you on the team!