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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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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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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Chalk Mountain, W6/NC-521

Quick info

Activation Date: 7 November 2018
Transport: Trail RunDistance: 5.5 miles
Elev. Gain: 1850 feetTime: 1.5 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3BBands: 30m, 20m, 40m (cw)
Antenna(s): EFHWAntenna Support: Trees
RF Noise: LowCell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)

I got this mid-week run done while staying in Santa Cruz for a week. I took the day off in the middle of the week for other reasons, and did this little trail run bright and early. Chalk Mountain used to have a fire lookout and now lies within the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. It’s beautiful!

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Peak 8580, W6/ND-028

Quick info:

Activation Date: 14 October 2018
Transport: Hike (off-trail)Distance: 1.7 miles
Elev. Gain: 870 feetTime: 1.75 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3BBands: 30m (cw)
Antenna(s): EFHWAntenna Support: Bring your own
RF Noise: Very LowCell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)

This summit was on the way back from the mini SOTA expedition Jamie N6JFD and I did mid-October of 2018. I’m writing this in April 2019 and back-posting it since I realized I never got around to writing it up last year, so some of the detail may be missing. The summit hadn’t yet been activated, and it was directly on our route back from Nevada, right off the highway. Research showed there wouldn’t be any hinderances to access, other than it being in the middle of nowhere.

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Mustang Mountain, W7N/EM-005

Quick info:

Activation Date: 14 October 2018
Transport: Hike (off-trail)Distance: 2 miles
Elev. Gain: 900 feetTime: 2 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3BBands: 30m (cw)
Antenna(s): EFHWAntenna Support: Good trees
RF Noise: Very LowCell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)

This summit was part of the mini SOTA expedition Jame N6JFD and I did mid-October of 2018. I’m writing this in April 2019 and back-posting it since I realized I never got around to writing it up last year, so some of the detail may be missing. It’s a fairly insignificant summit, in the middle of nowhere. It’s hard to even get to the place where we started hiking. But there are some fairly nice views to be had.

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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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