Hot Desert Activation: Murray Hill, W6/SD-368

Quick Info:

Activation Date: 6 September 2021Summit: W6/SD-368
Transport: RunDistance: 7 miles
Elev. Gain: 1900 feetTime: 2.25 hours (running)
Rig(s): MTR-3B, VX-6rBands: 20, 30, 40m CW
Antenna(s): Tri-band EFHWAntenna Support: Tables, bushes
RF Noise: NoneCell Service: Adequate (T-Mobile)

I’m not sure how it happened, exactly. But in our desperation to get away from the incessant smoke caused by wildfires all over California, I ended up in Palm Springs. My family, and the family of some close friends rented a house with a pool and spent Labor Day weekend pretty much constantly in the pool. Daytime temperatures exceeded 110F, with overnight temps barely dropping below the 90’s.

Nonetheless, I put plans into motion to get some SOTA action. My initial hope was to take the Gondola up above the heat and hike up to San Jacinto Peak. But that would’ve taken too long – I would be gone for most of the day when I’m supposed to be hanging out with my family. So I decided I’d do an early-morning activation of Murray Hill. And when I say “early,” I mean I wanted to be done before the sun came up, since overnight low temps were in the upper 80’s, Fahrenheit.

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Backcountry Activating: Parker Peak, W6/SS-090

Quick Info:

Activation Date: 15 August 2021Summits: W6/SS-090
Transport: HikeDistance: 13 miles (from camp)
Elev. Gain: 3300 feetTime: 6 hours (from camp)
Rig(s): MTR-3B, VX-6rBands: 40, 20m CW. 2m FM
Antenna(s): Tri-band EFHWAntenna Support: Rocks
RF Noise: NoneCell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)

There’s nothing like a good SOTA backpacking trip. Hot off the heels of a backpacking trip with my wife and two boys, I planned a trip into the Ansel Adams Wilderness, just east of Yosemite. This ended up being a solo trip, with 3 or 4 summits planned. But you know, it’s all well and nice to draw lines on a map – it’s an entirely different thing to actually do it! I ended up “just” doing this one summit – Parker Peak.

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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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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.

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