Hot Desert Activation: Murray Hill, W6/SD-368

Quick Info:

Activation Date: 6 September 2021Summit: W6/SD-368
Transport: RunDistance: 7 miles
Elev. Gain: 1900 feetTime: 2.25 hours (running)
Rig(s): MTR-3B, VX-6rBands: 20, 30, 40m CW
Antenna(s): Tri-band EFHWAntenna Support: Tables, bushes
RF Noise: NoneCell Service: Adequate (T-Mobile)

I’m not sure how it happened, exactly. But in our desperation to get away from the incessant smoke caused by wildfires all over California, I ended up in Palm Springs. My family, and the family of some close friends rented a house with a pool and spent Labor Day weekend pretty much constantly in the pool. Daytime temperatures exceeded 110F, with overnight temps barely dropping below the 90’s.

Nonetheless, I put plans into motion to get some SOTA action. My initial hope was to take the Gondola up above the heat and hike up to San Jacinto Peak. But that would’ve taken too long – I would be gone for most of the day when I’m supposed to be hanging out with my family. So I decided I’d do an early-morning activation of Murray Hill. And when I say “early,” I mean I wanted to be done before the sun came up, since overnight low temps were in the upper 80’s, Fahrenheit.

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Backcountry Activating: Parker Peak, W6/SS-090

Quick Info:

Activation Date: 15 August 2021Summits: W6/SS-090
Transport: HikeDistance: 13 miles (from camp)
Elev. Gain: 3300 feetTime: 6 hours (from camp)
Rig(s): MTR-3B, VX-6rBands: 40, 20m CW. 2m FM
Antenna(s): Tri-band EFHWAntenna Support: Rocks
RF Noise: NoneCell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)

There’s nothing like a good SOTA backpacking trip. Hot off the heels of a backpacking trip with my wife and two boys, I planned a trip into the Ansel Adams Wilderness, just east of Yosemite. This ended up being a solo trip, with 3 or 4 summits planned. But you know, it’s all well and nice to draw lines on a map – it’s an entirely different thing to actually do it! I ended up “just” doing this one summit – Parker Peak.

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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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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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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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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.