Maury Island, W7W/KG-143

Quick info:

Activation Date: 13 April 2019
Transport: HikeDistance: 2.4 miles
Elev. Gain: 300 feetTime: 30 minutes
Rig(s): FT-891Bands: 20m, (cw/ssb), 40m (cw)
Antenna(s): EFHWAntenna Support: Good trees
RF Noise: LowCell Service: Good (T-Mobile)

While visiting family in Gig Harbor, Washington, I wanted to get a summit activation done. Ideally, it would be with the whole family (including my sister’s family). So it had to be a relatively easy outing. To top that off, we had plans later in the day. Maury Island fit the bill pretty perfectly, since the park contains not only a summit, but a beach, too! And the added bonus of a ferry ride. The weather wasn’t looking very favorable, but we went for it!

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Waterhouse Peak, W6/NS-092

Quick info:

Activation Date: 6 April 2019
Transport: Hike/snowshoeDistance: 4 miles
Elev. Gain: 1,750 feetTime: 3 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3BBands: 40m, 20m (cw)
Antenna(s): EFHWAntenna Support: Good trees
RF Noise: LowCell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)

I’ve been wanting to do this one for a long time!  I’d been camping/backpacking in the snow nearby, three times in the past three years. Each time, I’d loosely intended to climb and activate this summit, approaching from the southwest. It never quite worked out.  So I decided to make a trip up to the South Lake Tahoe area just to get Waterhouse Peak.

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BayCon 2019 Presentation: Successful SOTA Strategies

I was recently invited to do a SOTA presentation at the annual Bay-Net conference (BayCon).  This was my first SOTA presentation, so I had to create it from scratch and (hopefully) refine it on my own prior to the conference.  Fortunately, planning for this started several months ago, so I had plenty of time to get it together. It went well!

I’m not sure of the exact count of attendees, but it seemed like it was somewhere between 100-200 people.  It was held at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, in their dedicated event space.  It was a very professional setup, with two projectors, good sound, and a good layout.  This was actually the first BayCon I was able to attend.  It usually happens right on or around me and my wife’s anniversary and I’m not able to go!

The Presentations

There were several presentations, starting with an opening/welcome by George, KJ6VU.  He updated everyone on the status of the Bay-Net repeater system and activities.  He also did some light-hearted pressing the crowd for cash, since the club had to invest in a lot of equipment last year.

Following George’s intro part, Reilly K6YAP did a very informative Intro to DMR presentation.  It was followed by a great Q&A period.  George did some raffle giveaways after that, then it was my turn to speak!

My Presentation

Here are the presentation slides: Successful SOTA Strategies – BayCon2019 – KE6MT.  Now, I don’t do a lot of public speaking.  In fact, this may have been my first time doing a big presentation.  With the exception of trying to cram 60 minutes worth of info into 40 minutes, I think it went fairly well!  I was hoping to have time for Q&A and a little bit of show-and-tell of my equipment afterwards, but I ran right up to (and possibly past) the clock.  Nonetheless, it seemed well-received, with several people coming up to me afterwards, wanting to know more.  Works for me!

More Great Presentations

After my presentation, there were some more raffle giveaways.  Then Paul KM6LH gave his “The Origins of Silicon Valley: Roots in Ham Radio” presentation – definitely not one to be missed. Following that, we broke for lunch.

There were several more excellent presentations, including:

Doug’s talk was a very entertaining and informative finale, with a high-level overview of current QRP activities as well as a pretty hard sell for people to take up SOTA chasing as a favored QRP activity.  Doug’s recently been quite active doing SOTA chasing with mostly portable operations.  He recently hit the SOTA Shack Sloth award (1000 points) and kept on cruising.  So he’s really loving SOTA and it shows.   He didn’t have enough good things to say about it.

After Doug’s talk, he did some raffle giveaways of some QRPGuys kits, then auctioned off two of his radios—proceeds generously going to Bay-Net.  After seeing his amazing auctioneer skills, George KJ6VU decided to have Doug auction a couple of other items for Bay-Net.  This was absolutely entertaining and fun—a great finish to the day.

 

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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