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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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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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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LNR Precision MTR-3B Power Test

I’ve had the Mountain Topper for a couple of weeks now, after having wanted it for a long time. I’ve been really happy with it, and I’ve even already done three SOTA activations with it and lots of SOTA chasing from my back yard. One thing I noticed when doing my pre-purchase research is that not many people report on the power output (probably because it doesn’t matter that much). Well, I got curious! Here’s my extremely inaccurate and non-scientific report.

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