City Lights Ridge site

Yesterday was the Golden Gate Dirty 30 ultramarathon. It’s always an annual highlight for Colorado amateur radio emergency organizations because it takes many of our teams coming together to support this complex event. Hundreds of crazy runners (this year it was about 300) attempt the 30 mile/50 kilometer course through 7,000 feet/2,100 meters of elevation climb and descent in a mountainous park with very little cell phone coverage. The ham team’s job is to make sure every one of them comes down off the mountain before it gets dark.

On Thursday, the Rocky Mountain Ham tech team was on-site early setting up our IP-over-microwave network. We use the network to connect the 4 aid stations and one mountaintop checkpoint to the command center at the start/finish line. Each of these sites has RFID readers that can read the runners’ bibs and check them in as they run past. We also need one more site that the runners never see: a central point that can see most of the others by line-of-sight which gets set up on City Lights Ridge.

This was the second year that City Lights Ridge was my responsibility. About six of us hiked equipment up to the site and got it all set up and aligned with the other sites. After that, it was my job to monitor the network and make sure everything stayed running through the race Friday.


For monitoring the network, I made use of cping written by one of my mentors, Willem AC0KQ. It’s a command-line utility that will simply ping a number of configured IP addresses every so often (default 2 seconds) and display the latency over time as different colored characters. It’s simple and effective at looking for problems on a medium-size network like this. Since our network runs almost all MikroTik networking gear, I also made heavy use of MikroTik WinBox for configuring radios and routers.


On Friday, the race went mostly without a hitch. Toward the afternoon we started getting some thunderstorms, and that caused me to pack up my personal belongings and leave the site unattended earlier than I expected, and also caused the Windy Peak checkpoint folks to pack up before a couple of the runners made it. But we kept accountability of everyone and accomplished our mission, which in turn allowed the runners to have fun and made the event a success. That’s all we can ask for!