Picture of mountain landscape, looking toward Mount Lewis, with Parker Peak off in the distance to the right.

Backcountry Activation: Mount Lewis, W6/SS-146

Quick Info:

Activation Date: 18 August 2023Summit: W6/SS-146
Transport: Hiking (half off-trail)Distance: 6-7 miles
Elev. Gain: 1950 feetTime: 3.75 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3B, VX-6RBands: 40m CW
Antenna(s): Tri-band EFHWAntenna Support: Mast in rocks
RF Noise: NoneCell Service: Marginal to None (T-Mobile)

Whenever possible, I like to plan my backpacking trips around summits I’d like to activate. This summit and the other summit I did on this trip are best activated if you’re already in the area, since it cuts down the mileage and time needed to get to the top. Doing these summits as a day trip would be very difficult, at best. So it’s fun to backpack in and set up base camp nearby, enjoying the fresh, thin air!

On this backpacking trip, I camped near Upper Sardine Lake with some friends, having hiked in from the Mono/Parker Pass trailhead in Yosemite NP. The other way to get to Upper Sardine Lake is via the Bloody Canyon trail, but that route is harder, and apparently had been blocked by avalanche debris over the winter.

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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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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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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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W6/SC-261, Pinyon Peak – Success!

Activation Date: 28 May 2018
Transport: Hike/Run Distance: 7.8 miles
Elev. gain: 2,200 feet Time: 2.25 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3B Band(s): 30m (cw)
Antenna(s): QRPGuys Tri-Band Vertical
Cell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)
Parking: Free
TrailheadCarmel Valley Ranch, Oak Pl Ln
Fees/Permits: None
RouteHuff n’ Puff, Snively’s Ridge trails
Dogs: Yes Toilet: No
Antenna Support: Bring your own RF Noise: Low (HF), Very high (VHF)

Almost exactly a year after first attempting this summit, I came back. This time, I had an HF radio with me, so the excessive VHF RF and isolation on the summit would not be an issue.  Last time, I ran with one friend. This time, I brought along 3! And more dogs, too!  So I’d have less time for the activation as a result. Oh, and it was hotter, as well!  In the time since I’d last attempted the activation, my SOTA friend Jeff AA6XA had managed to get out there and get first activation on this somewhat obscure peak. Now it would be my turn!

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Red Lake Peak, W6/NS-062 and Stevens Peak, W6/NS-375

Activation Date: 5 August 2017
Transport: Run/Hike/Climb Distance: 10 miles
Elev. gain: 2750ft Time: 5 hours
Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 40m, 20m SSB, 2m FM
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave, 12.5 inch flex whip
Cell Service: Good (T-Mobile)
Parking: Big Meadow Tahoe Rim Trail Trailhead
Trailhead: Round Lake
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Tahoe Rim Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Off-Trail
Dogs: Yes  Toilet: No

While on a backpacking trip to Round Lake with friends, I wanted to see if I could squeeze in a little bit of summit action.  Originally, I was only going to attempt Stevens Peak, by heading up to a nearby ridge and approaching from the north. Upon doing some more research, I realized I could add a little bit of distance and grab both Red Lake Peak and Stevens Peak in one go.  I looked at several trip reports on PeakBagger.com—most of them consisted of a day hike to both peaks, approaching from the south. So I put together a hybrid of that approach and planned to get an early start on the second day of our backpacking trip, and do it trail-running style.

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W6/NC-182, Willson Peak, and KFF-1161, Henry W. Coe State Park

Activation Date: 29 July 2017
Transport: Hike/Run Distance: 8.3 miles
Elev. gain: 2100ft Time: 2.1 hours
Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 40m, 20m SSB
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave, 12.5 inch flex whip
Cell Service: Moderate (T-Mobile)
Parking: End of road
TrailheadEnd of Gilroy Hot Springs Road
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Timm Trail, Steer Ridge Road
Dogs: No  Toilet: Yes

This summit was originally planned to be part of a 2-summit trip along with Wasno Ridge. After forgetting one of my water bottles, that trip turned into a single-summit trip (it was a hot day!).  I wanted to come back and get Willson Peak, and also get some more WWFF/POTA contacts for Henry W. Coe State Park.  So this return trip was made.  And what a great morning for a run!

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W6/NC-174, Wasno Ridge and KFF-1161, Henry Coe State Park

Activation Date: 8 July 2017
Transport: Hike/Run Distance: 7 miles
Elev. gain: 2000ft Time: 2 hours
Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 40m, 20m SSB
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave, 12.5 inch flex whip
Cell Service: Barely (T-Mobile)
Parking: Free roadside
Trailhead: End of Gilroy Hot Springs Road
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Grizzly Gulch, Rock Tower trails going up; Jackson, Anza trails going down
Dogs: No  Toilet: Yes

This is my first full combined SOTA/POTA activation. Wasno Ridge sits inside Henry Coe State Park, WWFF/POTA designator KFF-1161.

This trip was meant to be a loop, inspired by AA6XA’s trip report for Wasno Ridge and Willson Peak. This would be one of my trail-running trips.  However, I forgot one of my water bottles and decided it would be safest to just do Wasno Ridge.  The temperature was forecast to rise sharply and I didn’t want to mess with potentially life-threatening heat issues.  My planned route would take me up the shorter, steeper way to Wasno Ridge.

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W6/NC-367, 1502

Activation Date: 2 July 2017
Transport: Run Distance: 7.5 miles
Elev. gain: 1,270ft Time: 1.5 hours
Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 40m, 20m SSB, 2m FM
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave, 12.5inch whip
Cell Service: Solid (T-Mobile)
Parking: Free, dirt parking lot
Trailhead: Bear Ranch Parking Lot
Fees/Permits: None for this entrance
Route: Willow Springs, Harvey Bear, and Ed Willson trails
Dogs: Yes  Toilet: Yes, trailhead/parking lot

Yes, even early July can be cold. This is what I found out, doing this early-morning trail run in San Martin (between the cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy). When conditions are right, a nice marine layer moves in to this part of the valley, bringing plenty of moisture and cool air up from the south. The conditions were right this morning! In this case, the marine layer was sitting at around 500 feet above sea level, which meant I’d be ascending into the clouds to activate W6/NC-367 (unnamed peak 1502). Continue reading →

Trail Running SOTA with Yaesu FT-817

I like running, hiking, summits, and ham radio. Well, lots of other things, too. But this is about those four things.  Since I started doing SOTA, I’ve wanted to try to put together an HF summit activation kit for use on trail runs.  I’ve done a a few SOTA activations while trail running, but it had always been with just a hand-held radio—usually my tiny Yaesu VX-2R with a 12-inch ultra-flexible whip antenna, or an MFJ “Long Ranger” telescoping antenna.

On most of my activations, I’ve used a SOTABeams “Band Hopper” with my FT-817.  It’s a resonant dipole for 40 and 20 meters, with a nice convenient bag, stakes, guy lines and 1:1 balun.  It’s a very nice antenna, easy to set up. But it’s a bit on the heavy side compared to an end-fed half-wave (EFHW) antenna. And not quite as easy to throw into a tree. Continue reading →