Copernicus Peak, W6/NC-029

Activation Date: 9 December 2017
Transport: Drive-Up, Short Walk Distance: .4 miles
Elev. gain: 180 feet Time: 15 minutes
Rig(s): LNR Precision MTR-3B, Yaesu VX-2R Band(s): 30, 20, 40m CW, 2m FM
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave, 12-inch whip
Cell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)
Parking: Side of the road, CA-130
Trailhead: N/A
Fees/Permits: Permission needed
Route: Up road, trail past lookout
Dogs: No  Toilet: Yes, near observatory

I’d been wanting to do this activation before the end of the year, but kept putting it off because it’s easy, but also kind of a long drive for something that looks so close. It’s easily visible from my house on most days, being the only summit around with several big telescopes.  But it’s an hour or more to drive there.  This one had several firsts for me! First European DX—Spain. First aeronautical mobile contact. First time getting more than 50 QSOs in a single activation. My timing turned out to be quite good!

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Ben Lomond Mountain, W6/NC-178

Activation Date: 29 November 2017
Transport: Drive-Up Distance: N/A
Elev. gain: N/A Time: 5 minutes
Rig(s): LNR Precision MTR-3B Band(s): 30m CW
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave
Cell Service: None
Parking: Side of Empire Grade
Trailhead: N/A
Fees/Permits: None
Route: N/A
Dogs: N/A  Toilet: No

I was over in Santa Cruz for work, so decided to make a “quick” detour on the way back over the hill so I could activate this summit. I’ve had my eye on it for a while, so I posted an alert on SOTAWatch and squeezed in some time to do it. The detour isn’t actually very “quick,” but it’s within reason.

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San Benito Mountain, W6/CC-021

Activation Date: 18 November 2017 (local time)
Transport: Drive-Up, Short Walk Distance: 0.8 miles
Elev. gain: 200ft Time: 15 minutes
Rig(s): LNR Precision MTR-3B Band(s): 20,40m CW
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave, Linked dipole
Cell Service: Marginal LTE (T-Mobile)
ParkingSide of road R10
Trailhead: Side of road R10
Fees/Permits: Multiple permits—see post on Peak 4850
Route: Park near summit, short walk to top
Dogs: Yes  Toilet: No

Out of the three summits we did on this trip, this one was the easiest. Parking a short distance from the summit, it’s an easy walk up a gentle grade. There are abundant places to set up antennas and the summit area is fairly large. There’s even a little bit of cell service! After the (mis)adventures of the earlier summits (4850 and Santa Rita Peak), it was nice to have a little break.

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Santa Rita Peak, W6/CC-022

Activation Date: 18 November 2017 (local time)
Transport: Drive-Up, short hike Distance: 1 mile
Elev. gain: 250ft Time: 20 minutes
Rig(s): LNR Precision MTR-3B, Yaesu VX-2R Band(s): 20m CW, 2m/70cm FM
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave, 12-inch whip
Cell Service: None (T-Mobile)
ParkingSide of road R11
Trailhead: Side of road R11
Fees/Permits: Multiple permits—see post on Peak 4850
Route: Dirt road to summit col, small trail to activation zone
Dogs: Yes  Toilet: No

This (almost) drive-up summit was one of the most difficult “easy” summits I’ve activated. After having completed the intense bushwhacking on Peak 4850, I was looking forward to an easy summit. This one would turn out to be deceptively hard, thanks to a crazy guy on a dirt bike.

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Peak 4850 – W6/SC-047

Activation Date: 18 November 2017
Transport: Hike Distance: 5.5 miles
Elev. gain: 1700ft Time: 3+ hours
Rig(s): MTR-3B Band(s): 30m CW
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave
Cell Service: None (T-Mobile)
ParkingSide of road R11
Trailhead: Side of road R11
Fees/Permits: Multiple permits—see “Preparation and Permits”
Route: Jeep trail, use trail along ridge, turns into thick bushwhacking
Dogs: Yes (not recommended though)  Toilet: No

Having activated this peak once, I may not go back, unless I’m equipped with a machete or good pruning shears. This was the first of three summits in a day of activations with Jeff, AA6XA.  It’s a pretty straightforward hike followed by a nearly impassable chaparral-covered ridge.

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Mount Burdell, W6/NC-353 and Olompali State Historic Park, KFF-3527

Activation Date: 11 November 2017
Transport: Hike Distance: 4.8 miles
Elev. gain: 1225ft Time: 2.2 hours
Rig(s): Yaesu FT-817 Band(s): 40/30/20m CW, 40/20m SSB
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave
Cell Service: Good (T-Mobile)
Parking: San Andreas Drive
Trailhead: San Andreas Drive
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Middle Burdell, Cobblestone fire roads
Dogs: Yes – off-leash on fire roads  Toilet: No

My first CW activation!  Having completed CW Academy, I wanted to put my new skills to use. With my wife out of town for the weekend, my plans would have to include my two boys and our dog. I wanted to do a peak I hadn’t yet activated, and ideally also do a POTA/WWFF activation. Mount Burdell (called Burdell Mountain in the SOTA database) fit the bill.

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W6/NC-298, Vollmer Peak

Activation Date: 21 October 2017
Transport: Hike Distance: 1.25 miles
Elev. gain: 230ft Time: 25-30 minutes
Rig(s): Yaesu FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 40m, 20m SSB, 2m FM
Antenna(s): Linked Dipole, 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

After attending the SOTA lunch at Pacificon, I wanted to go grab a quick/easy summit. Vollmer Peak has been on the list for a while. It’s a very short hike and it was relatively close to San Ramon, where lunch was.  It’s not the most exciting summit, but it does have a couple of nice views.

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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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