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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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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W6/SC-155, Mount Bielawski

Activation Date: 4 July 2017
Transport: Hike Distance: <1 mile
Elev. gain: 175ft Time: <30 minutes
Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 40m, 20m SSB
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave, MFJ Long-ranger
Cell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)
Parking: Free roadside, $8 in parking lot
Trailhead: Castle Rock State Park Main Entrance
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Castle Rock Trail
Dogs: No  Toilet: Yes

Mount Bielawski, also known as Mount McPherson, is located on private property. It’s probably possible to get permission to go to the summit proper, but for me it’s a good excuse to visit Castle Rock State Park—a beautiful park on the west side of the Santa Cruz mountains, and a very popular spot for rock climbers.

I had looked at various ways I might activate this summit—including the possibility of just hanging out on the road right below it. In the end, I decided it would be most enjoyable to hike up the Castle Rock Trail—a short trail that starts at the entrance to the state park and loops around right by the park’s namesake peak, Castle Rock.  Having looked at the contour map(s) for this area repeatedly, I decided that most of the ridge along the southeast little corner of the park was within the activation zone.  I wasn’t going to be completely certain until I saw for myself. Continue reading →

W6/SN-039, Leviathan Peak

Activation Date: 4 June 2017
Transport: Hike Distance: .5 miles
Elev. gain: 100ft Time: 15 minutes
Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 40m, 20m SSB; 2m FM
Antenna(s): SOTABeams linked dipole, 12.5 inch flex whip
Cell Service: None (T-Mobile)
Parking: Side of dirt road, near gate
Trailhead: N/A
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Leviathan Lookout Road
Dogs: Unsure  Toilet: No

This was the second of the two “drive-up” summits I had planned for my trip back from the White Mountains. How could I resist the chance to drive through Monitor Pass—perhaps one of the most scenic mountain passes in the United States?  How could I resist activating a summit with a name like Leviathan Peak? The weather sure didn’t plan on stopping me!  What a beautiful day.

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W6/WH-008, 10940

Activation Date: 2 June 2017
Transport: Hike Distance: <100 yards
Elev. gain: 100ft Time: 15 minutes
Rig(s): FT-817 Band(s): 40m, 20m SSB
Antenna(s): SOTABeams Linked Dipole
Cell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)
Parking: Free – roadside
Trailhead: White Mountain Road
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Cross country
Dogs: Yes  Toilet: No

Out of the several peaks I planned to activate in the White Mountains, this unnamed peak “10940” was the easiest to get to, and one I had planned on doing last.  That planned changed, as plans often do in the mountains.  First of all, I brought my VW Passat wagon, rather than my AWD Honda Pilot. So once White Mountain Road went from paved to unpaved, things got slow—really slow. The road doesn’t seem to get much maintenance, and it’s probably a difficult road to maintain with the harsh weather conditions and remoteness of it. So it took me almost 40 minutes to cover the 5 miles of unpaved road. A high-clearance vehicle (even not 4×4) would have a much easier time. Either way, make sure your spare tire is ready!

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