Mount Whitney, W6/SN-001

Activation Date: 14 October 2017
Transport: Hike Distance: 22 miles
Elev. gain: 6200ft Time: 12-16 hours
Rig(s): Yaesu FT-817 Band(s): 40m, 20m SSB
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave
Cell Service: Marginal to moderate (T-Mobile)
Parking: Whitney Portal
Trailhead: Whitney Portal
Fees/Permits: $15 – lottery/quota system
Route: Mount Whitney Trail
Dogs: No  Toilet: Yes

Mount Whitney is the highest summit in the contiguous United States and the Sierra Nevada, with an elevation of 14,505 feet (4,421 m). Last year, I summited it by doing it as a trail-run, getting the round trip done in 9 hours. This time, I wanted to experience it as a more traditional hike, with an overnight stay with friends along the trail before going up the summit.  With the exception of losing my antenna to the mountain, it was practically a perfect trip.

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Update on my CW Journey: First QSO!

I’ve been doing CW Academy for about 4 weeks now—I’m officially at the half-way point. We’ve got most of the letters/numbers, and we’re starting to move into prosigns and typical QSO lingo.  Having recently gotten my end-fed antenna back up at my house, I saw a SOTA spot on 40 meters last night, Keith KR7RK on CW.  I figured I’d give it a shot!

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Chabot 2 Benchmark, W6/NC-432

Activation Date: 30 September 2017
Transport: Hike Distance: 1.8 miles
Elev. gain: 300 feet Time: 40 minutes
Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 2m, 70cm FM
Antenna(s): 12.5-inch flex whip
Cell Service: Excellent (T-Mobile)
Parking: Small lot at trailhead, or side of road
Trailhead: Fairmont Ridge Staging Area
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Fairmont Ridge, stay right of eucalyptus trees
Dogs: Yes (off-leash area)  Toilet: No

Well, it finally happened: I forgot a critical component of my system.  I hiked up to the activation zone, got my antenna nicely set up in a tall tree, hooked everything up and went to turn on the radio—no power!

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Mount Umunhum, W6/CC-052

Activation Date: 20 September 2017
Transport: Hike Distance: 159 stairs
Elev. gain: 100 feet Time: 10 minutes
Rig(s): Yaesu VX-2R Band(s): 2m, 70cm FM
Antenna(s): 12.5 inch flex whip
Cell Service: Moderate (T-Mobile)
Parking: Summit Lot
Trailhead: N/A
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Walk up the stairs
Dogs: No  Toilet: Yes

Ever since moving to the SF Bay Area, I’ve wanted to explore this summit. When I first moved here about 10 years ago, I wondered what the big “cube” was on top of the mountain. After finding out what it was, and that it was closed to the public, I really wanted to go there. Having patiently waited years, the time finally came—it opened to the public on September 18th, 2017.

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North Peak W6/CC-051 and Mount Diablo W6/CC-045

Activation Date: 16 September 2017
Transport: Hike Distance: 3.8 miles
Elev. gain: 1600 feet Time: 1.5 hours
Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 40m, 20m SSB, 2m FM
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave, 12.5 inch flex whip
Cell Service: Moderate (T-Mobile)
Parking: Side of road, at North Peak trail trailhead
Trailhead: North Peak
Fees/Permits: $10 vehicle day use
Route: North Peak trail, un-named ridge trail to Mt Diablo
Dogs: No  Toilet: Yes

There are lots of ways to save time on an activation. One of them is to hike quickly and/or run. I often do this just for the fun of it, but also to save time and keep in shape. There are also lots of ways to waste time on an activation, such as getting half of your 63-foot antenna wire into a completely tangled mess!

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Bailey Ridge, W6/NS-219

Activation Date: 2 September 2017
Transport: Drive/Hike Distance: 3.5-5 miles
Elev. gain: 500 feet Time: 1.5 hours
Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 40m, 20m SSB
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave, 12.5 inch flex whip
Cell Service: None (T-Mobile), Marginal (Verizon)
Parking: Drive-up (high clearance), or side of road
Trailhead: Forest Route 6N45
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Forest Route 6N45
Dogs: Yes  Toilet: No

I was on a camping trip in nearby Calaveras Big Trees State Park and this looked like a fairly easy activation that would allow me to slip away for a couple of hours and have some SOTA fun.  That wasn’t quite on the mark—the road ended up being a little rougher than expected.

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Santa Rosalia Mountain, W6/CC-062

Activation Date: 26 August 2017
Transport: Hike Distance: 5.6 miles
Elev. gain: 850 feet Time: 2 hours
Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 40m, 20m SSB
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave, 12.5 inch flex whip
Cell Service: Marginal/None (T-Mobile)
Parking: Side of road, Highland Way and Buzzard Lagoon Rd
Trailhead: Buzzard Lagoon Rd
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Buzzard Lagoon Rd, Aptos Creek Fire Rd
Dogs: Not sure  Toilet: No

Hot, hot, hot!  Well, for the SF Bay Area, at least. I chose this as a relatively easy, nearby summit that I hadn’t done yet.  And with the hot weather in Silicon Valley, I figured I might have a chance of some cool ocean air, by getting closer to the ocean. Not so. I had decided to bring my 8-year-old son on this hike, after asking him if he’d like to go (and if he’d be happy working the radio with me, or finding something else to do for 30+ minutes).  He said he’d like to look at trees and bugs. OK!  I also asked my 6-year-old son if he’d like to go but he wasn’t initially interested. Come the morning of the hike, he changed his mind and they both wanted to go!

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American Morse Equipment “DCP” Paddle

OK, so saying “DCP Paddle” is redundant.  “DCP” stands for “Dirt Cheap Paddle.” While this paddle is inexpensive compared to a lot of morse/CW paddles out there, I would definitely not call it “cheap.”  It is exquisitely designed and expertly machined by Doug W6AME of American Morse Equipment.  I don’t remember where I first heard about his paddles and keys, but I knew I had to have one as soon as I saw it.  The DCP is the least expensive paddle he makes (hence the name) but doesn’t lack quality.  I have a pretty tight budget for my ham activities and equipment, so I was holding off on getting one until I really needed it.

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Oak Hill, W1/HA-179

Activation Date: 14 August 2017
Transport: Car Distance: 25 yards
Elev. gain: N/A Time: 5 minutes
Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 40m, 20m SSB
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave, 12.5 inch flex whip
Cell Service: Excellent (T-Mobile)
Parking: At the top of the hill
Trailhead: N/A
Fees/Permits: None
Route: N/A
Dogs: Yes  Toilet: No

For my family reunion, most of my siblings and I stayed at a chalet in Madison, New Hampshire. Very near where we were staying was this drive-up SOTA summit. I actually ended up visiting several times, and doing SOTA operations twice. The view is absolutely amazing.  The day I activated this summit, I tried twice. The first one, at sunrise, was completely unsuccessful with zero contacts made.  The second one, at sunset, was successful, but zero points with only three contacts made.

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