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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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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Mount Davidson – W6/NC-423

Activation Date: 15 August 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 0.5 miles
Elev. gain: 140 feet Time: 10-15 minutes
Rig(s): MTR-3B, VX-2R Band(s): 40m, 20m (cw), 2m, 70cm (fm)
Antenna(s): End-Fed Half-Wave
Cell Service: Excellent (T-Mobile)
Parking: Dalewood Way
Trailhead: South Entrance
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Walk to the top
Dogs: Yes Toilet: No
Antenna Support: Lots of tall trees RF Noise: Medium

This is one of those urban summits that are great to do if you happen to be in the area. I’d driven my car up to San Francisco (I normally take the train) and decided to do a quick activation of this summit on the way back. I’d done it once before, so there was no mystery as to the length of time it’d take, or where I’d set up.

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Little Round Top – W6/NS-087

Activation Date: 4 August 2018
Transport: Hike/Run Distance: 11.3 miles
Elev. gain: 2,380 feet Time: 3.3 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3B, VX-2R Band(s): 40m (cw), 2m (fm)
Antenna(s): QRPGuys Tri-band Vertical
Cell Service: None (T-Mobile)
Parking: Big Meadow Tahoe Rim Trail Trailhead or Meiss Trailhead
Trailhead: Big Meadow TRT
Fees/Permits: None
Route: TRT to PCT to Schneider Camp
Dogs: Yes Toilet: No
Antenna Support: Short trees RF Noise: Low

On a backpacking trip with some friends, I planned this beautiful Sierra summit as a little side-trip for one of the mornings. Last time I’d come to Round Lake, I did Red Lake Peak and Stevens Peak.  This time around, I wanted to get another unique summit in the log, and do something a bit easier.  This isn’t an easy summit, but it isn’t super hard, either!

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Vollmer Peak – W6/NC-298 – 2018

Activation Date: 28 July 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 1.25 miles
Elev. gain: 220ft Time: 20-25 minutes
Rig(s): VX-2R Band(s): 2m FM
Antenna(s): 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
Antenna Support: Trees
RF Noise: Moderate

After attending the Bay Area SOTA meet-up, I still had time to do a quick activation on the way home. Keeping with my clockwise trip around the Bay Area to avoid traffic and tolls, I chose Vollmer Peak. It’s a quick east-Bay summit with the parking a little over a half-mile from the top. It turned out to be a little bit of a rough activation!

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Richardson East Benchmark – W6/NC-407

Activation Date: 28 July 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 1.9 miles
Elev. gain: 590 feet Time: 40 minutes
Rig(s): MTR-3B Band(s): 40m/20m (cw)
Antenna(s): QRPGuys Tri-band Vertical
Cell Service: Good (T-Mobile)
Parking: Spencer Ave Park & Ride
Trailhead: Morning Sun Trail – across the street
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Morning Sun, Alta Trails. Dirt road to summit.
Dogs: Yes Toilet: No
Antenna Support: None – bring your own RF Noise: Moderate

As you’ll see in this report, the featured photo is not from this trip. It’s from the first time I went – early last year. This year, I did this summit as a quick little activation prior to our SF Bay Area SOTA meet-up.  Jeff, AA6XA (see his blog), had the idea of starting up a quarterly meet-up for Bay Area SOTA people.  We change locations each time, since the Bay Area is pretty big, and we’d like to be able to activate different summits in the various areas.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do a summit after the brunch, so I picked this one to do on the way to our meeting.

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Mount Scott – W7O/CS-003

Activation Date: 24 July 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 4.5 miles
Elev. gain: 1,205 feet Time: 2 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3B Band(s): 40m/20m (cw)
Antenna(s): Linked EFHW 40/30/20m
Cell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)
Parking: Mount Scott Trailhead
Trailhead: Mount Scott
Fees/Permits: Crater Lake National Park – $25/car for 7 days in the park
Route: Mount Scott Trail
Dogs: No Toilet: No
Antenna Support: Short trees RF Noise: Low

I’ve wanted to visit Crater Lake National Park for a long time. Having planned my visit to Washington state as a road trip, I planned a two-night stay in the park on the way back.  The original plan was for me and my two sons to camp (my wife had to be at work), but we ended up adding my brother-in-law and one of my nephews to the mix, too!  Despite nearby wildfires creating a lot of smoke in the area, we went ahead and did this summit hike up the volcano known as Mount Scott — the highest point in Crater Lake National Park.

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