Two First-Time Activations: Harry Watkins and Gray Rock Dome

Quick Info:

Activation Date: 18 July 2020Summits: W6/NW-069 and W6/NW-076
Transport: HikeDistance: 4–8 miles
Elev. Gain: 2000–3000 feetTime: 2.5–4 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3B, VX-6rBands: 40, 20m CW. 2m FM
Antenna(s): Tri-band EFHWAntenna Support: Rocks
RF Noise: NoneCell Service: Fair (T-Mobile)

On a backpacking trip with some close friends, I decided to get these two summits. They’re locally named “Harry Watkins” and “Gray Rock Dome,” so even though they have different SOTA names, that’s what I’m calling them here. Getting to the first peak was pretty uneventful, and most of the people on the trip with me actually joined me for that one. I got injured on the the way to the second one and decided to carry on for some crazy reason!

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Activating in the Rain: Kelly Butte, W7W/KG-060

Quick Info:

Activation Date: 8 July 2020
Transport: HikeDistance: 3.5 miles
Elev. Gain: 1060 feetTime: 1 hour 20 min
Rig(s): Yaesu FT-891, VX-6rBands: 20m CW, 2m FM
Antenna(s): Linked DipoleAntenna Support: Lookout Tower
RF Noise: MediumCell Service: Fair (T-Mobile)

Ahhh – a nice, rainy hike into the clouds in my home turf of the Pacific Northwest. This was originally going to be a joint activation with Josh, WU7H after work on a weekday. But as things go, sometimes work gets in the way of other things! So, while I ended up doing this one on my own, it was nonetheless a very enjoyable outing.

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Antenna Ideas from Fred Maas – KT5X

Fred, KT5X – AKA WS0TA, recently put together this document with a lot of antenna ideas (and what led him there). I’ve used information Fred shared with me to make the antenna traps for my tri-band EFHW antenna (I really gotta write about that sometime!). Fred asked me to post this PDF so he can share this info for anyone that might need it.

One of the particularly intriguing (to me) ideas in this PDF is the “beam” antenna on page 4. Enjoy!

Eastern Sierra Fun: Mount Gould, W6/SS-066

Quick Info:

Activation Date: 20 June 2020
Transport: HikeDistance: 1.5–11 miles
Elev. Gain: 1200–3400 feetTime: 1.5–5 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3BBands: 40, 30, 20m CW, 2m FM
Antenna(s): Tri-band EFHWAntenna Support: None
RF Noise: LowCell Service: Fair (T-Mobile)

It’s good to get out and get some fresh air once in a while. Even if the air is a little thin! Having been invited by Adam K6ARK on a trip to the Eastern Sierra was something I just couldn’t turn down. The plan was to hike up from the Onion Valley trailhead and camp at a lake, and do a few summits while we’re up there. We ended up just doing this one, but a fun one it was!

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Camping on a Summit (again!): Mount Stevenson, W6/SS-399

Quick Info:

Activation Date: 16-17 May 2020
Transport: HikeDistance: 4.2 miles
Elev. Gain: 800 feetTime: 1.75 hours
Rig(s): FT-891, MTR-3BBands: 160–2m, CW, SSB, FM
Antenna(s): Random Wire, EFHWAntenna Support: Many Trees
RF Noise: LowCell Service: Good (T-Mobile)

In need of some fresh air, and trying to keep with my self-imposed goal of some kind of camping at least once per month this year (including once in the back yard due to COVID), I decided to do a quick overnight trip to this summit. I wasn’t able to find a whole lot of information on it, so I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to make it to the summit. As it turned out, there weren’t any issues.

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I’m still here!

I know, I know. It’s been a while! I keep thinking to myself, “I should write some blog posts and/or trip reports!” And before I knew it, I looked back and noticed my last post was in January—6 months ago! Quite a lot has happened in the world since then.

I’ve still been doing SOTA, at an average of 1 or 2 summits per month. I’ve had some adventures, and I’ve even still been playing around with radios.

I have a post on some great antenna ideas from Fred, KT5X that I’ll be doing soon, and I may even do a post on Adam, K6ARK’s EFHW antenna build.

I also have a couple of summits I’d really love to do trip reports on. I’ve done a few summits this year that were first-activations. I like to give people info on these so they can do them as well.

So, I expect to get some more posts done soon. Thanks for reading!

Camping on a Summit: Willson Peak, W6/NC-182

Quick info:

Activation Date: 04-05 January 2020
Transport: HikeDistance: 9.2 miles
Elev. Gain: 2,250 feetTime: 3.5 hours
Rig(s): FT-891Bands: 160–20m, CW+SSB
Antenna(s): Random WireAntenna Support: Some oaks
RF Noise: LowCell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)

I’m always trying to combine radio fun with my various outdoor activities—including backpacking and camping. But for quite a while, I’ve wanted to do a camping/backpacking trip with the primary purpose being radio fun—on a summit! With the SOTA “Flavours” Challenge 2020 going on, I also needed to get some contacts made on 160 and/or 80 meters—bands that work best at night. So, without much planning, I decided to do a quick overnight trip! Henry Coe State Park has lots of backcountry campsites, and also allows dispersed backpack camping in all but the western section of the park.

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Ultralight Masts for SOTA and Portable Operations

How do you quickly, easily, and inexpensively get your antenna wire up in the air? This is one of the first things I wanted to solve when I first set out to do portable operations.

There were several options that were easy to find, but didn’t quite fully fit what I had in mind — most notably from SOTABeams. They have some great masts, but the weight and cost weren’t quite in the range I had in mind.

SOTA Mast Solution Found

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New Equipment! QRPGuys EZ-WSPR Pi

Back in January of this year (2019), QRPGuys announced a new kit: the EZ-WSPR Pi, based on a public-domain circuit by HA7DCD. TAPR also has a fully-assembled surface-mount version. Both are “simply” a combo LPF (low-pass filter) and BPF (band-pass filter) with a buffer (and amplifier) for the clock output of the Raspberry Pi, which is what creates the WSPR signal.

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New Equipment! QRPGuys Mini 80m-10m No Tune End Fed Half Wave Antenna

Yeah, that title is a mouthful! And for something with such a long name, it sure is a tiny little kit. Several weeks ago, Doug Hendricks from QRPGuys handed me a prototype kit to try. It’s now available for sale on their site. The QRPGuys Mini 80m-10m No-Tune End Fed Half Wave Antenna.

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