WS Communications Support

Volunteer Requirements

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General Requirements

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 and socks.

    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.
  4. 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.

Internet-Related Requirements

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:

  1. 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 workable configuration.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 database.

Radio-Related Requirements

Repeaters

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 Dusty Corner's.
  • 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 circumstances.
  • 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 trail-order).

  • 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 problem.
  • 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 email 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 Bald’s VHF and UHF repeater’s. Ford's Bar is rarely staffed with radio personnel due to access requirements.
  • 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 various combinations.

    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!