Photo of Trail Canyon Peak and Boundary Peak by Rex KE6MT

Boundary Peak, W7N/EM-001 and Trail Canyon Peak, W7N/EM-002

Activation Date: 13 October 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 9 miles
Elev. gain: 4,200 feet Time: 8 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3B Band(s): 40m, 20m, 30m (cw)
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave
Cell Service: None (T-Mobile)
Parking: Kennedy Point Saddle
Trailhead: Kennedy Saddle
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Use trail past Trail Canyon Peak, route-finding to Boundary Peak
Dogs: Not sure Toilet: No
Antenna Support: Bring your own RF Noise: Very Low

This was originally planned to be a three-summit multi-state hike. We’d be summiting Montgomery Peak, Boundary Peak (Nevada state high point) and Trail Canyon Peak. Due to various challenges, it turned into just two summits. With high elevation, snow, exposed ridge lines and freezing temps, this became an adventure not soon to be forgotten.  On this trip, I was joined by Jamie N6JFD. We had talked about this trip for months and it was finally happening!

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Ultra-lyte Summits on the Air by Fred KT5X

There are a lot of different types of SOTA operators out there. Some like to bring a lot of equipment, some like to bring very little.  For most, it depends on the type of activation they’re doing, or perhaps what equipment they have.  Personally, I like to do a little bit of everything, including lightweight minimal equipment.

I’ve conversed with Fred Maas, KT5X, a number of times on some of the incredible things he’s doing to minimize his SOTA setup.  He has a great trapped end-fed half-wave (EFHW) setup he’s come up with for an antenna.  It uses two small traps to get multi-band function out of a single wire.  Traps certainly aren’t a new thing in the ham world, but tiny traps like his are certainly an original concept.  After getting info on how to build my own, I collaborated with him to design tiny PCBs for the traps.  After feedback from him and a couple of revisions, we had a functional WS0TA trap PCB.  And this thing is tiny!

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Photo by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

Front Page of Hacker News!

Wow!  While enjoying a day off for my 40th birthday on Wednesday, someone submitted my post, HF Ham Radio on a Budget, to Hacker News with the title “We’re in a Golden Age for Amateur Radio.” It then proceeded to make it to the front page!  I suddenly (and happily) had to deal with making sure my website would stay up.

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Red Star Ridge – W6/NS-396

Activation Date: 1 September 2018
Transport: Drive/Hike Distance: 1.2 miles
Elev. gain: 280 feet Time: 25-30 minutes
Rig(s): MTR-3B Band(s): 40m, 20m, 30m (cw)
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave
Cell Service: Fair (T-Mobile)
Parking: Junction of FS96 and Tevis Cup Trail
Trailhead: Tevis Cup Trail, Red Star Ridge
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Take trail up several switchbacks, then off-trail to summit
Dogs: Yes Toilet: Yes
Antenna Support: Tall trees RF Noise: Very Low

I usually try to squeeze in a little SOTA action on most of my trips, even if they’re not SOTA-related.  I have an annual group camping trip my family and several other families go on.  This year, it was at an area called “French Meadows” tucked away in the wilderness east of Lake Tahoe. I looked at a few different summits. Originally, I was planning on getting a more difficult one, but the more I looked at it, the more it looked like an all-day excursion—not very good when I’m supposed to be with my friends and family.  I ended up setting my sights on this one—a previous un-activated drive-up summit with a very short hike.  But the road to it is a rough one!

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Lowell Hill Ridge – W6/NS-306

Activation Date: 25 August 2018
Transport: Drive/Hike Distance: 0.9 miles
Elev. gain: 140 feet Time: 20 minutes
Rig(s): FT-891 Band(s): 40m, 20m (cw)
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave
Cell Service: Fair (T-Mobile)
Parking: Wide spot in the road
Trailhead: N/A
Fees/Permits: None
Route: South from parking, turn east up overgrown road, find trail thru woods
Dogs: Yes Toilet: Yes
Antenna Support: Trees – lots RF Noise: Low

This was the second (and final) summit of the day with my boys and the dogs, after Grouse Ridge.  I had an optional third one planned, but things always take longer when kids and dogs are involved!  This summit is another easy one, with most of the difficulty being the drive there. It’s something that could theoretically be done in a sedan (as Jeff AA6XA can attest), but I’d definitely feel more comfortable getting here in a higher clearance vehicle, ideally with AWD.  That’s what I did for this trip.

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Grouse Ridge – W6/NS-195

Activation Date: 25 August 2018
Transport: Drive/Hike Distance: 0.5 miles
Elev. gain: 180 feet Time: 10-15 minutes
Rig(s): MTR-3B, FT-891 Band(s): 40m (cw+ssb), 20m (cw)
Antenna(s): Linked Dipole – 40/20m
Cell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)
Parking: End of Grouse Ridge Road
Trailhead: N/A
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Go up the road, past the gate
Dogs: Yes Toilet: Yes
Antenna Support: Some trees below summit / lookout RF Noise: Low

This was the first summit of two for the day. Being just a little bit crazy, I decided I’d take my two sons and our two dogs up to the Sierras for a day of SOTA fun. I wanted to do summits that involved little to no hiking, to save time and make it easy on the boys and our older dog.  Also, I really wanted to get this summit done after missing an opportunity to get it last year.  So up we went!

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New Equipment! Yaesu FT-891

It’s been a few weeks (or maybe more) now, but I’m catching up on my blog posts!  I sold my trusty and beloved FT-817 so I could get a non-QRP rig!  This isn’t about “life is too short for QRP.”  I’m not a believer of that statement.  I love the challenge and magic of QRP.  I’ve been pretty much solely QRP for quite a while.  Not because of a love of the challenge primarily, but because of the many other benefits. Nonetheless, I decided to get a 100-watt rig. But there’s more to it than just the power.

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Mount Davidson – W6/NC-423

Activation Date: 15 August 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 0.5 miles
Elev. gain: 140 feet Time: 10-15 minutes
Rig(s): MTR-3B, VX-2R Band(s): 40m, 20m (cw), 2m, 70cm (fm)
Antenna(s): End-Fed Half-Wave
Cell Service: Excellent (T-Mobile)
Parking: Dalewood Way
Trailhead: South Entrance
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Walk to the top
Dogs: Yes Toilet: No
Antenna Support: Lots of tall trees RF Noise: Medium

This is one of those urban summits that are great to do if you happen to be in the area. I’d driven my car up to San Francisco (I normally take the train) and decided to do a quick activation of this summit on the way back. I’d done it once before, so there was no mystery as to the length of time it’d take, or where I’d set up.

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Little Round Top – W6/NS-087

Activation Date: 4 August 2018
Transport: Hike/Run Distance: 11.3 miles
Elev. gain: 2,380 feet Time: 3.3 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3B, VX-2R Band(s): 40m (cw), 2m (fm)
Antenna(s): QRPGuys Tri-band Vertical
Cell Service: None (T-Mobile)
Parking: Big Meadow Tahoe Rim Trail Trailhead or Meiss Trailhead
Trailhead: Big Meadow TRT
Fees/Permits: None
Route: TRT to PCT to Schneider Camp
Dogs: Yes Toilet: No
Antenna Support: Short trees RF Noise: Low

On a backpacking trip with some friends, I planned this beautiful Sierra summit as a little side-trip for one of the mornings. Last time I’d come to Round Lake, I did Red Lake Peak and Stevens Peak.  This time around, I wanted to get another unique summit in the log, and do something a bit easier.  This isn’t an easy summit, but it isn’t super hard, either!

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Vollmer Peak – W6/NC-298 – 2018

Activation Date: 28 July 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 1.25 miles
Elev. gain: 220ft Time: 20-25 minutes
Rig(s): VX-2R Band(s): 2m FM
Antenna(s): 12.5-inch whip
Cell Service: Strong (T-Mobile)
Parking: Seaview Trailhead
Trailhead: Vollmer Peak
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Vollmer Peak Trail
Dogs: Yes Toilet: Yes
Antenna Support: Trees
RF Noise: Moderate

After attending the Bay Area SOTA meet-up, I still had time to do a quick activation on the way home. Keeping with my clockwise trip around the Bay Area to avoid traffic and tolls, I chose Vollmer Peak. It’s a quick east-Bay summit with the parking a little over a half-mile from the top. It turned out to be a little bit of a rough activation!

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