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.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

New Equipment! LNR Precision Mountain Topper MTR-3B

I’ve been wanting to get a good CW-only lightweight rig since I started really getting into SOTA. Especially trying to do HF summit activations while trail running! I saw a good deal for this used Mountain Topper QRP transceiver, and I went out of my way to get it! I actually even sold my LDG Z-817 tuner to help provide the funds, making my home station temporarily non-functional.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

CW Academy Level 1 – Complete!

Well, I did it! I finished CW Ops’ CW Academy, Level 1.  I even got a certificate.  I’ve made a few QSO’s and although I struggle to copy full sentences, the world of morse code / CW operation is now a whole lot less scary.  This was a really enjoyable course, and I strongly recommend it to anyone starting out with morse code / CW operation.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

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!

Continue reading →

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!

Continue reading →