Griswold Euro Vacation: DL, DM, GM, G SOTA edition; or SOTA in Eu, where most all qso are dx :)

This is a LONG write up since it covers the SOTA highlights of a three week EU tour.

img_1319So time for the annual family trip, and this year we decided England and Germany ftw. I was not sure how much SOTA I would get to do, but I took my gear anyway!! After spending a few days in London we took one of those awesome cheap flights on Ryan air to Germany and landed in Memmingen, picked up a rental and away we went. Stop one was going to be Neuschwanstein, and would you not guess but yes there was some SOTA action to be had. There is a trail up by the castle that accesses two different SOTA peaks and that being Branderscrofen (DL/AM-031) and Säuling (OE/TI-448). There are a few other peaks in the area, but these can both be accessed from the town of Schwangau Germany. Oh if I could have had one more day, I could have had two associations. :).

img_1343The hike from Neuschwanstein to Branderscrofen is ~5.5 miles of which the first 2.5 miles gains 80% of the elevation. Once we reached the cruising altitude, (I mean flat stretch) up high the hike went pretty quick. There is also a tram you can take to reach an area that is ~25 minutes from the summit, and also has a restaurant, and heli port for hang gliders and paragliders. The summit is a knife edge ridge, and there is not a lot of room for what is a very popular summit. I ended up tossing my vertical for HF off the side and radials deployed as normal. A few folks showed interest in what I was doing and as usual I obliged.  I ended up getting three s2s one of of which was a gentlemen who was 15km away in Austria (vhf). In less then an  hour I ended up with contacts in the UK, Munich, Sweden, Austria and Poland.

Time Call Band Mode Notes
10:36z DD5LP 14MHz SSB 58 into Munich.
10:42z OE/DJ2FR 144MHz FM S2S
10:45z SA4BLM 14MHz SSB Sweden!! s57, r55
10:46z MC0POG 14MHz SSB 55, 55 wales
10:49z G0RQL 14MHz SSB r44, s57 South England
10:54z SO9EWA 14MHz SSB S2S, SP/BZ-046 s55
11:02z DG1EHM 14MHz SSB S2S, DL/AL-107 s/r 55

We decided to hang a 2nd day in Schwangau since it was so much like home.

Next up we rolled to Stuttgart with the intention of heading to Heidelberg after checking out the Porsche museum.  As a last minute effort i opted to snag Königstuhl DM/BW-114. (Soapbox time): So here is where I have to bag yet again on google maps and those that use it as a sole means of navigation off the beaten path. This is the first time I have looked to GM to route me to a summit and I did it without a backup map, and I dare say it looks like GM either uses the wrong datum, or has poor coverage of Germany (well they suck in the US too) because the actual summit and lat long for Konigstuhl vs where GM sends you is off by a mile. I guess Google is not really the cartographers they thought they were and they should either hire pro cartographers, or leave it to the pros. (i have rescued plenty a hiker in the Sierras who thought GM would get them safely to/from many a backcountry spot and failed to do so…). More over for folks who rely soley upon GM, good luck.. Soapbox aside, once on Summit it was a lot of work to get just 4 qso. No one was listening (or they did not hear me) on 2m, and same with 20/40. I managed 1 cw contact with Guru in Spain, another Spanish contact on SSB, Southern England, and a Sweden also on SSB. at this rate it was time to head on but it took me ~90 minutes to get those four contacts.

We spent the next few days  heading to Hamburg for our flight to Edinburgh where I was planning to activate Arthur’s Seat; however I had not received word back from HES with approval to operate on the grounds.   I later found an individual from HES and they said that there was added security in the area because of some upcoming events they were way behind on approvals etc.   So we headed West towards the Battle of Bannockburn as well as Stirling.  I was hoping to find some way to get the “GM” association in the books, and I was surrounded by some 4 pointers, and further to the west getting into the highlands some 6 and 8 pointers.   The daughter was wanting to see Loch Ness and some of the other lakes in that area, and I thinking the Scottish Highlands would be a cool place to visit, plus we needed a down day to do some laundry headed to Fort William.  After scoping the SotaGoat app of the area near Fort William I realized, oh snap that’s the launching point for Ben Nevis!  Yes the UK highpoint :D.  Funny too because a couple of days before I’d read an article about how the local SAR team refused to come rescue an individual complaining about his feet being too wet.

I wimg_1477ish our SAR team could get away with that, we have had calls similar to that in our area.   So, with all that in mind, and the fact that Ben Nevis is socked in more days then not I checked the weather and noticed that Scotland was under a high pressure and was going to be the warmest day in some 100+ years etc.

So with a gallon of water and my gear (and some spare clothes in case) I headed up from the Glen Nevis trailhead.  Made the summit in 3hours and 15 minutes, not too shabby.   The summit of Ben Nevis is quite impressive actually!  It’s easily an acre in size on top, and there is what looks like the remains of a fort built up top and a weather station as well.

 

Top of Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis

I had not even dropped my pack before I heard the first “cq sota” on 2m, so I responded with S2S and we QSY’d to something off the calling freq.  The other guy had a buddy that was also able to hear me, so I picked up my second QSO.  To boot someone else could hear my side of those QSO, but not the S2S, so I snagged that contact..all told within 4 minutes I had 3 of the 4 needed for the activation.   I setup the HF gear, but did not have a way to get my vertical “up”.   I did manage 1 on 20m for the 4th.   Checking in with the family, they were about to finish up at Loch Ness and thinking I’d need about 3 hours to walk down I tore everything down, finished up my lunch and starting to walk off the summit.  Kept the HT in my hand and kept hearing folks calling “cq sota” and I was more then willing to oblige with the S2S.  I think I walked another 10 minutes still in the AZ picking up four more 2m contacts, 3 of which were S2S.

Time Call Band Mode Notes
11:01z GM3YSA 144MHz FM S2S, GM/SS-034
11:03z MM0XPZ 144MHz FM r52, s57
11:05z GM7PKT/P 144MHz FM s55, r44
11:46z DJ5AU 14MHz SSB s59, r56
12:19z GM7VAU 144MHz FM s57, r52
12:27z MM3ZCB/P 144MHz FM S2S SI-153
12:28z M1MAJ/P 144MHz FM S2S, SI-153
12:29z GM0UDL/M 144MHz FM S2S, GM/WS-079

We had a July 1 deadline of reaching Bovingdon UK where my son was looking to go to Tankfest.  So we opted to head down towards Glasgow, regroup and then roll down south.  I have always wanted to see the Lake District, so we cut off at Penrith and started working our way south by Ullswater lake.  While at lunch, I whipped out SotaGoat again to see what might have been around, and oddly enough a peak I had favorited for some reason popped up.   Red Screes was right off the A592 and looked like a pretty short hike overall (despite the warmth).   So once we reached Kirkstone Pass we parked, I tossed a spot on sotawatch, snagged the HT, downed a liter of water and pushed up this peak in about 30 minutes.   It is definitely an interesting hike up, as well as an interesting summit area.

 

img_1535

 

This one being a 2m only, I still tossed a spot up since I was near some local areas, and it seems like the UK really love their SOTA activators!  I managed to get the contacts I needed in about 20 minutes, and given that I had folks waiting on me down the hill decided to hike down.

Time Call Band Mode Notes
15:28z G0JDM 144MHz FM s59 r57
15:29z G4WHA/A 144MHz FM s57 r55
15:30z G4RQJ 144MHz FM s57 r59
15:33z G7GQL 144MHz FM s57, r59
15:34z M0SPI 144MHz FM Steve, s57, r56
15:40z G0HRT 144MHz FM Rob, S58, r57

 

After the Lake district all of my planned SOTA was taken care of, I’d been hoping for G, GM, DM and DL and accomplished that.  Not to be completely done though since Tankfest was sold out, and I had not planned on going anyway I drove down to a nearby peak, setup my vertical and chased S2S for about 5 hours.  (ie..I was not looking to activate said peak for points, so just operated as a chaser getting the S2S/Chaser points).  Managed a few cw contacts, and spent about 90 minutes trying to get into the pile up for K2I during the July 4th checkin.  20m was real long as I also heard some EA calls trying to make contact with K2I.  All in all, did more SOTA then I had hoped for, and at the end of the day the only peak that was on my original list was Branderscrofen, everything else was the result of flying by the seat of our pants, and making it up as we go :D.

A few other parting shots from the various activation hikes..

 

73 and talk to you on the next summit! — N6JFD

 

W4G/W4T/W4C, 2 days 4 peaks, no sleep :D. Spring my ass!

(From April) Time for my spring trip to TN to visit the homestead, and I wanted to pick up some W4G action since I just finished mapping the SOTA peaks on the AT.  I will post that as a separate blog, as that was a very interesting planning effort, and maybe in a couple of years I’ll take the 4 months it will take to do the AT+SOTA as a single thru hike mission.

Anyway back to this trip, landed in Knoxville and picked up a 4wd since I’d heard that there was going to maybe be some snow in the area..  Wait, did I hear that right?  Snow?  it’s April, it’s the Southeast, again, SNOW?  Like they always said when I was growing up, do not like the weather, wait 10 minutes.   Dropped the son off at my dad’s, picked up a sleeping bag, pad and wool blanket then rolled down to the Blood Mountain trailhead for some sleep.  Finally drifted off to sleep around 6am, but woke up at 730 to start the hike up.. snagged some breakfast, downed a liter of water and hit the trail around 800am.   The crazy thing about the AT is that you do a LOT of UP climbing, and the folks that built the AT did not believe in doing switchbacks, I bet adding switchbacks to most of the major climbs would add another 500 miles to the AT ;-).  Anyway, so UP I climbed, to hit the summit of Blood mountain. It had rained the day before, then got cold overnight and a freezing fog moved in which made from some really cool rime ice on the trees and spider webs.  <insert frozen web here> While on the hike up the temps warmed up enough that the rime ice started falling off the trees, and dropping a fresh layer of frost on the ground.  The view was not that great today because of the heavy fog in the area, but I found a nice rock platform to sit on only to realize I was sitting on the Blood Mountain marker <insert marker here>

Contacts from this activation: 20m: K6MW, W7RV, N5ZC.  40m: KG3W, W0MNA, W9MRH, KD9JJE, K3TCU.

I was a bit early for the west coast on this peak, and ended up getting more 40 then 20 today.  Now that the contacts were slowing down, decided I wanted to snag a second summit, and realized I was very close to Brasstown Bald (NG-001) so opted to book it down the hill and hit that on the drive up to Carvers Gap.  FYI, this is a fee area with a good lookout platform up top kind of like Clingmans Dome, but it also has some towers on top that can inject some RFI..   You have the option to take the shuttle up, but this is SOTA, and the hike from the parking lot is ~6/10 of a mile and a couple hundred feet.  NOTE:  the parking lot is NOT in the AZ, so do not try and activate from there..(not that you should be activating from a motorized vehicle anyway 😉 ).

The bands either dropped out in the 2 hours since I left the summit of Blood, or there really was a good amount of RFI on the peak.  Quite a few folks though showed interest in what I was doing though, so I was helping “spread the gospel of Amateur Radio and SOTA”. while playing with various antenna angles and setups.  I started on the platform itself since no one was up there, but it did start to get crowded, so I moved across the road to the top of the walking route and setup there on a nice park bench.  Not that it helped much.  I managed to eek out 4 contacts with 1 being an S2S on 18m while on the peak today but even 2m was a challenge as I was trying to S2S with a guy who was on a peak 20 miles crowfly away.  I could barely make this guy on Clingman’s dome as well, (he was not doing SOTA, but was trying to act as a relay).  I’ve hit S2S on VHF for Clingman’s from Black Mountain in Kentucky, but yes I know conditions change, and other factors apply..still I was not that far from either the activator I was trying to hit, nor Clingmans dome in the grand scheme of things.

If you happen to be driving by Brasstown Ga, and have your gear by all means go bag this summit.

contacts for Brasstown Bald: S2S: KJ6HOT on 18m we had to work it hard, but ended up getting 2×2 to each other so digging each other out of the QSB.  20m W0MNA, K6HPX, and 40m W9MRH.

So this adds W4G to the association list, and I am finally silver on the Mountain Hunter.  (SOTA is not a competition, SOTA is not a competition).

Growing up the section of AT from Carvers Gap to 19E was always one of my favorites, I’d managed a lot of volunteer trail hours and numerous hikes “across the balds”.  Hump mountain was always fun because it really is a hump up it when you are schlepping a pack.  I guess i’ve always enjoyed hiking UP mountains :D.   Anyway I decided early on I wanted to go ahead and snag Roan High Knob and Grassy Ridge as well on this trip to the East coast.  Leading up to this trip I’d been talking to KI4SVM hoping to meet up either OTA, or at some TH, and as an awesome turn of fate he joined me for the RHK and GR activations.   I love getting out with other folks as it allows me to see how others setup, and maybe how to change my own setup to improve my QSO count per activation.   Carvers Gap has always had some of the strangest weather in contrast to the region around it.   It can be 70 or 80 down in Knoxville and cold, blowing and snowing up there.   This trip was no different.  Woke up on Monday morning with an inch of fresh snow.  Needless to say, I broke a few of my own rules on preparedness today, but even if I had gotten in a pickle I was not that far from the trailhead, and I knew the area well enough that I am able to navigate it in the clouds pretty well.  Lets face it the AT is more of a trough in the ground, definitely well past the “well worn in path” stage at this rate of it’s life, so it’s kind of hard to get lost in the context of being on the AT.   So KI4SVM and I headed up to Roan High Knob with the intention that I would take the first hour for my own activation, and then I would book it over to Grassy Ride while Pat worked his own activation and then we would S2S and I would also get the SOTA complete for RHK.  The hike up to RHK is about less then an hour or approximately 2 miles (and is not as steep as Blood Mountain) from the trailhead at Carvers Gap, in the summer you can access from the upper parking lot and it’s shorter.  KI4SVM setup his antenna setup and it is based upon a setup I’d learned back in EC-001 so this may be one thing I am looking to add to my own kit depending on the weight it adds.   He also showed me how to properly work with the HAM log APP to make it efficient for SOTA, so I am looking to use that method in the future when my hands are not too frozen to use the iphone for logging.    Had a lot of local contacts directly beneath us on 20, gotta love that LOS etc.  I managed more QSO on RHK then the other three summits, I’m beginning to think it’s operator error.  

Contacts here where: 80m: N4EX, KW4R, 40m: K4MF, KG3W, KE8CYC, W2SE, W0MNA, W0ERI, K3TCU, and K9ER, and on 20m: K1LIZ, KI4TN, KB1RJD, KB1RJC, and KX0R.

Since we used KI4SVM rig for the setup here, all I needed to do was grab my pack and drop down and over.  On a good day, with good weather this should take you about 90 minutes, I kept bumping into thru hikers, so I would chit chat while making progress.  It took me just under 2 hours to cover the 4 miles.  Spent about 15 minutes talking to one person about SOTA, and why I always carry an HT even when I am backpacking etc.. So we may have a new operator in our midsts some time soon.   For not having my normal antenna mast, there was a decent enough area to setup between the rock on the summit and a nearby tree.  My EFHW was just long enough to make that span, although I am not sure if it improved my ability to make contacts by much b/c it seemed after an hour EVERYTHING including 2m and my iphone all stopped working right.  Maybe the cold, maybe some other atmospheric condition, but something changed for the negative overall.

I would comment about how pretty this hike is, and if you can get a hike up there in June/July when the Gray’s lily is in bloom (please do not pick it) and when you can see more then 10 feet ahead; it really is an awesome hike, but today, like so many times before when I hit this in early season I was shrouded in the clouds and winds so visibility was non-existent.  .   I’ll be coming back later this year to bag Hump Mountain for sure, so maybe I can get some good images in then, I’ll even do the Carvers gap long approach just for the sake of good views (and maybe images).

As noted above, something changed during the activation, but I did manage enough QSO for a good summit, and as noted the S2S with Pat for a SOTA complete!  anyway QSO info: 2m: KI4SVM, KJ4ZFK KI4AAU, WX4ET (i’ve been trying to contact this guy forever!).  20m: K0RS, K6MW, and K5WLT who happened to hear my CQ.  and 40m: KG3W.  The hike out was more clouds, winds, and chit chatting with the thru hikers.

Just a couple of observations from this and the last couple of East coast trips.  Once you get chased by someone that’s normally out of your reach, they tend to try and extend it when you are back in your home activating region.  Folks that I made QSO with last year when doing W4K/W4V now chase me when I’m on the W6 and other peaks out west, so that is good!  Also have noticed just as a general observation the number of W6, W7W and W7O activators does seem to be increasing, so glad to see that more and more folks in the W regions are getting on the air as well as on the air on summits!!!.  Ham Radio is NOT a dying art.

As always images below, thanks for stopping by, 73 and hope to hear you OTA, or hike with you at some point!

Easter weekend SOTA(s): W7N/WC-005 and W6/NS-290 and a companion

Saturday: Was a productive and beautiful spring weekend in the Tahoe area!    Miracle March has left and the temps are warming, and the difference in one week in the Mount Rose area was very noticeable. If you remember/read, last weekend I did W7N/WC-003 Tamarack Peak in waist deep powder, this weekend I was literally on the other side of Mt Rose highway walking on hard pack easily going 2mph faster…  Looking back at Tamarack on Saturday, what was covered the weekend before was already showing bare.  So Spring is here, and while MM delivered an awesome 12 feet to help our meager snow pack, it’s already melting off.  Before I get into the SOTA side of things, lets rehash this for a second.  At the end of January, we were at a 30% snow pack percentage for the ’17/’18 season.  At the end of the March we were at 85% of our average… Even with the amazing ’16/’17 season we are still not out of the woods, and we could easily slip back into a drought scenario if we keep having these 70-90% snow pack years.  Hopefully we do not accept this as the new norm..   Okay hippy tree hugging climate change PSA is out of the way!!  So on Saturday I decided it was time to finish off the Mt Rose section and consequently have finally finished WC-001 thru WC-005 in the process.  This is an unnamed peak listed as 9225 (W7N/WC-005).  This like Tamarack is one of those i would suggest is easier in the winter then the summer, especially if snowshoeing on hard pack snow..

 You can go directly to the peak off trail, there is only really one hard ascent at the end, which you would have to do in the summer too, but the hard pack snow with good grip snowshoes (or crampons would be a good option too) will make the ascent easier to deal with.  I would not actually call the ascent that hard, it’s ~800 feet long with 280 feet of climbing for that last final push.  The route is 1.7 miles each way.  GSP Track image below:

This day was definitely getting warm, and the avalanche danger was getting moderate, however the ascent route is on the north facing side, so that did keep the avy danger down some during the afternoon warming/wet slide concerns.

 

Easy to get to this location:  drive up Mt Rose Highway, and park on either side of the side of the road at Tahoe Meadows/Ophir Creek. (1/2 mile shy of Rose pass).

 

 

So next up is an apologies to the chasers, I tend to get a little ADD on Saturdays with the S2S chasing myself.  It is hard to focus on just the activation when I am seeing regions i know are reachable, so a lot of times I tend to go try S2S chase while leaving my working freq.   If it seems like i have wandered off, it’s bc I’m probably S2S someone.

I spent two hours on the summit on Saturday between chasing S2S (and waiting for a few folks from some of the alerts) and working the activation. I ended up getting S2S with KI4SVM, KH7AL, and VE6IXD.  All in all 14 QSO for this summit.  Trying to get my QSO count per activation up too!

 

 

 

Time Call Band Mode Notes
18:22z N4EX 14MHz SSB s3x3, r4x4. into NC
18:23z W0MNA 14MHz SSB 5×7 to Ks, thnx Gary
18:25z W0ERI 14MHz SSB 5×7 to Ks
18:25z K9IR 14MHz SSB s5x5 r3x3 chicago
18:37z KH7AL 7MHz SSB s2s, 3×3.
18:39z NS7P 7MHz SSB r5x6, s5x5, Thnx Phil
18:57z K8TE 14MHz SSB r5x5, s5x9 NM
18:59z WA2USA 14MHz SSB 2×2, 5×9 IN
19:00z KD0YOD 14MHz SSB 5×7 to Minn
19:07z KI4SVM 14MHz SSB s2s to w4g
19:12z WA9STI 7MHz SSB weak 3×3, 5×7 to LA
19:14z NG6R 7MHz SSB r4x3, s5x7, thnx Jerry
19:15z KK7BV 7MHz SSB 4×5, 5×7 in AZ
20:12z VE6IXD 14MHz SSB s2s, 2×2, s3x3

 

 

Sunday: 

The snow capped peaks include Pyramid Peak, Price, Little Pyramid. I am standing just below Big Hill on the Big Hill Helispot.

So earlier in the week I’d been talking with N6DNM (Dmitry) about his upcoming Tahoe weekend and working to get a chase on him as well as hopefully doing a double activation with him.   Saturday night we agreed we would do Big Hill (W6/NS-290).  He’d need to finish up a couple of things, and then he would roll down and meet me in South Lake, and we’d fight the Easter Sunday traffic out of Tahoe down the 50 and to our peak..  So this is one of the few drive up peaks I’ve done.  I keep telling myself to explore this side of Desolation, but seem to barely get past Wright’s Lake road headed West.   FWIW, I am planning a trip in August to Loon Lake for camping, there I will go after McKinstry and Guide peak. That assumes i do not go buy a side-by-side or some other OHV and approach them via the Rubicon.

It was yet another amazing Sierra Nevada day, and even though the peak is at 6100 feet, no hoody was needed, just shorts, hat, sunglasses, and away we went.

This peak is doable all winter long technically as they keep the road to Big Hill plowed since it is an NFS Fire Tower:   Not a lot to write about, so here is my QSO log, and then pictures from the rest of the weekend will be below.  13 contacts, N6DNM and I changed positions for SOTA complete and 1 S2S.

Time Call Band Mode Notes
20:10z AE0AX 14MHz SSB S2S, r3x3, s4x4
20:16z KK6YYD 14MHz SSB 2×2, just above me in Placerville
20:17z K8HU 14MHz SSB r2x2, s5x7 VA
20:35z KG7LR 144MHz FM FQ to LOdi s5x4
20:50z W6JMP 7MHz SSB r5x5, s5x7 SAC ground skip
21:08z WB6DZJB 144MHz FM r5x5, s5x7 Oakley California
21:12z WJ6N 144MHz FM Barry down in Galt, FQ
21:28z KD0IPI 14MHz SSB s5x9, r5x7 MN
21:28z VA2MO 14MHz SSB s5x7 r5x3 DX to QC
21:29z N1EU 14MHz SSB r5x6s5x5, NY
21:32z WD4CFN 14MHz SSB s5x7r3x3QSB, TN
21:35z KF5ZFL 14MHz SSB r: 5x7s5x9 AR

Some parting shots from Saturday:

talk about an easy approach, head across that meadow, hit the first ridge, shoot along the ridge line right to left, hit the saddle and do the final push up to the top of 9225.
Rose (WC-001) on the right, Tamarack (WC-003) and Houghton (WC-002) behind and left of Tamarack.

 

 

You let mother nature give you a way to string your wire and hang your flag..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some parting shots from Sunday:

 

another show with Pyramid on the left, then Price, Little Pyramid, and 9240. I think McKinstry or Guide are all SOTA peaks in this image.. all 8 pointers too..

W7N/WC-003, Tamarack Peak…Finally!!!

Mt Rose backcountry

So, this peak has stymied me four times in the past.  Twice due to weather, and twice because I ran out of time trying to pull a two-fer with Rose, and Houghton.  What is funny is that I originally wanted to do those three peaks as a three-fer..I’m wondering if a two-fer with Rose or Houghton is even possible at this rate..(camp in the area, leave at first light, sure!), but as noted, even in summer with easy access to Mt Rose I still had a hard time getting back to Tamarack in time to get a same day activation..

So all that aside it was time to finally push for this peak today.  The weather was going to be awesome, the avalanche danger was low for the aspects I was ascending, all I had to deal with was snowshoeing up the fresh powder from the previous week.  Fresh untouched powder being the main caveat.  The GPS says it’s only one mile from the parking area to the summit, however I logged two miles each way.  It took three hours to cover the two miles.  The first 1/2 mile was pretty easy thanks to the snowmobiles packing down the snow. Above the forest service road, it was fresh tracks the rest of the way.  Even with floaty snowshoes I was sinking up to my calves.  Definitely glad I do TRX mountain climbers and buzzsaws.   Three hours up, but 45 minutes down.  The climb from where I started is approximately 1300 feet.

So to note, this was a winter ascent (yah Winter Bonus!)  The summer route is much different, I had been scoping just coming in on the Rim Trail from the pass on Mt Rose highway and then grabbing the ridge before the Rim Trail passes under the shadow of Tamarack on ti’s way to Rose.  For a winter ascent, you can either do a backcountry ski/snowboard route from the North that is most definitely a fun route down, or as I did snowshoe straight up from the Tahoe Meadows parking area.  In more firm snow conditions it is possible to get up the hill faster.   Also note you can access W7N/WC-005 (9225) from this area, it is South along the Rim Trail.   Slide Mountain is in the area too, but that is better coming out of the Rose Parking lot (or just cheat and take the lift up during the ski season ;)..

Chasers you all are awesome, I think my alert was for 930, I left the trailhead at about 930,  Once I made it to the fresh tracks I added a new spot/alert saying “ETA 11”, but as noted I started my activation just after 1300 PST.  Although it’s not the first time I’ve blown my start time.  For some reason I decided to start with 40m today, and kind of glad I did, when I finished up with 40, and moved to 20 there was some sort of big contest going on.  I could not even find a freq to post up, so I called CQ on 2m and got one reply from a guy out in Fallon.  I counted it about 60 miles crow fly.   After that, I just wrapped it up and headed down…If you normally chase me on 20 (W0MNA/W0ERI as an example) sorry i did not try for 20, but I was not about to compete with the contesters.

QSO for this activation..

Time Call Band Mode Notes
20:14z NS7P 7MHz SSB R5x7, S5x5 Thanks Phil!
20:15z K6EL 7MHz SSB R 5×8, QSB, S:5×5 Thanks Phillip!
20:17z N6DNM 7MHz SSB R5x7, S5x5 Thanks Dmitry!
20:18z NG6R 7MHz SSB R5x4, S5x9. Thanks Jerry
20:19z W6TDX 7MHz SSB R55, S44 Thanks Chris, new chaser..
20:22z W7RV 7MHz SSB 5×2, to AZ.. Thanks Thomas
20:24z W3WJL 7MHz SSB R58, S52 to OR, Thanks Walter
20:36z K7NNV 144MHz FM FQ to Fallon… that’s a long QSO for HT

 

 

And now some parting shots.

that I still cannot get to fly right 😀
There is a lake down there somewhere..

W7N/WC-001, Mt Rose, and then some snowboard/ski tracks leading off Tamarack below me..
with Rose in the background..

N6JFD/AE is now live :D

I spent the last year reading the big green book a couple of times, and studied the exam pool questions (especially E7 and E9 those gave me the most trouble) easily a hundred times.    I finally ponied up to take my Extra, and passed on the first try.  Only missed 7.    That was my first goal for 2018, and I’ll be able to operate full CEPT in Germany in April and UK in June/July.  Next up..starting back in hot and heavy on CW…I want to be able to activate a peak via CW by the summer time!

That is all -73.. N6JFD

 

W6/NS-380 Pk 9347 (snowmobile approach)

Hope Valley, Lost Lakes, and Upper Blue Lake (NE to SE direction)

TLDR version:

  • SOTA summit: Pt 9347, W6/NS-380
  • Activation Date: Jan 13 2018
  • Radio(s): Elecraft KX2 operating at 10 watts SSB, Yaesu FT1DX
  • Antenna: LNR Trailfriendly
  • Bands used: 2m for S2S (see below), 20m and 40m
  • Total QSO: 19, 2 on 2m, 7 on 40m, 10 on 20m
  • Furthest QSO:  N4EX (North Carolina) and he’s ticking his way up my most active chasers..but NS7P will probably keep the lead for a while :D..

 

I have been eyeing this peak for a while, and figured it would be a summer approach.  However with Carson Pass area being the only area with a semi decent amount of snow for snowmobiling I figured I would use this opportunity to try a snow machine approach for a summit..park about a 1/2 mile out and walk into the AZ.  This time out Forestdale road was actually covered in snow all the way to 88.   A nice change, but still needed to drop the scratchers to keep the hyfax/track lubed up..  Did not want a repeat of my last snowmobile outing..   This makes my third time ever heading out on a snow machine, and a few friends were like “do you really wanna go solo” .  Play it safe, assess the risk and do not do anything to beyond your limits.  Basically my same philosophy when I’m solo hiking.  Today it really mattered to for while the avy danger was low when I started, as the day warmed up and the snow softened I could tell I was not going to get a two-fer so had to abandon my attempt on the Nipple.

It took me about 30 minutes to get to the Divide.  There I parked and started my hike up the hill.  1/2 mile and 400 feet of elevation gain… Did not need the snowshoes as the snow was wind buffed and plenty firm, also other snowmobilers that had ridden to the summit and on the final approach the rocks were exposed so that made it super easy (and safe) to make the summit.

I was aware that KK6YYD and WC6J were going to be on Tahoe Mountain (W6/NS-397).  They were also the first to activate this peak, so I made it a point to get to the summit while they were on Tahoe Mountain so we could get the S2S and they could both get the complete!  Success.

I had originally intended to do the Nipple too (I have activated it before, but unfortunately I split UTC midnight so 2 before, and 2 after, no points :(.  That said by the time I reached Upper Blue Lake the snow was turning too soft and lacked coverage to run the machine up the hill to where i had intended to park, and I was thinking it was going to be a bit too slide-ish to make the summit safely, so I played my way back to Red Lake to get some snow time on the sled playing in the variable snow.

All in all a successful day. I am finally starting to learn how to ride that snow machine in deeper snow, and make it do what I want, but gotta remember the throttle is your friend.  Another summit accomplished, and there seems to be some new chasers out there these days!   Next up..who knows..it all depends on the snow.

And some images from the summit:

and looking towards Deadwood peak (W6/NS-073) (which I will be doing as soon as the summer permits!
Making gains from the sled to the summit
Decided to try something new this year for winter since snowboarding is getting a bit long in the tooth.
That snow line is still way to high for this being January 😦 (more like Junuary)

LIttle Round Top W6/NS-087

Pano from top of Little Round Top

It’s been a pretty low snow year, this is not a peak I would have gone after this time of year normally. I would have waited till Feb/March time frame when there is more snow for snowshoeing and the avalanche danger was LOW.  I think it’s pretty obvious from the featured image that the snow was pretty much no consequence this trip.   In a nutshell, parked at the lower Carson Pass lot and walked the 1.5 miles of the PCT before it starts to drop down into the Meiss Meadow/Showers Lake area, and just hooked up towards the spine that makes up the Alpine/El Dorado county line.  One way is 5.8 miles.   If you are doing this between November and May and parking at Carson Pass make sure you have a California Sno-Park pass ($96.00 fine).  Also if it is a good snow year parking can be tough because you are competing with a lot more backcountry skiers/snowboarders who like to ride the Red Lake Bowl, or if parking at the upper lot is full. There are some closer options too, or you can always backpack into Showers Lake area, but that will be a pretty tough side trip because you have a lot more elevation to climb to get back to the ridge.  So the bulk of the elevation is gained in the first 1.5 miles, and once you reach the first high point/unnamed peak and make the spine the elevation gain/drops are all pretty small.  I managed to not need my ice axe even though I carried it thru the day.

The top of this peak is a pretty large flat area, and the rock make up is the same as Pyramid peak, the reflection is pretty good.  I had 8 QSO on 20m in 12 minutes (most came within the first 5 minutes).  Picked up a few new chasers on this trip, W5GAI in Mississippi and KH2TJ for an S2S up by Portola, CA.  (I love me some Summit to Summit!!). Also had W7BET who was sitting on a beach in South Tahoe (Beaches On the Air needs to be a thing 🙂 ).

I only found 2 contacts on 40m, and picked up a 2m contact while actually looking for a fellow SLT SOTA activator in the area.

BTW, hiking with the flu in a heavy sustained wind is hard, I think the windburn I had on my nose (wore a balaclava) was more harsh then any sunburn I received this summer. I have had 20 mile day hikes that did not make me feel this rough :D. Oh well stop your bitching, you were outside enjoying the sun and unseasonable warmth! As Todd Offenbacher would say…”Never waste a day!”.

 

This peak is across the valley from Kirkwood Ski Resort, and has a couple of cell towers available (but you will need to move around for it).  Actually Kirkwood’s larger cross country ski area is directly below the ridge crest you walk in.  I had contemplated scouting that parking area but .

 

 

 

 

This is what I have been using for a setup of late.  Antenna in an inverted vee off of a 15 foot telescoping Crappie Pole.  KX2, 4200mAH battery, and well using the sit pad to keep the radio gear off the snow..(found a nice rock to sit on).

15 foot crappie pole and NVIS EFHW antenna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some other images taken from the summit.  It’s definitely got some good views to the North, South and West (blocked on the east by the Stevens/Red Lake peak spine.  BTW those are also SOTA summits too.  I have yet to get RLK, but have completed Stevens peak.

 

Two other SOTA peaks there. (Oddly enough I have done the harder of the two
Round Top (W6/NS-055)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting view looking north towards big blue and the SLT Airport visible too.

Followup to 2017 Challenge (Tahoe Rim Trail)

Since I did not keep up with all the blogging for my whole challenge and the year is coming to a finish I wanted to throw up some basic information about how the challenge went.

In re-reading that blog post I left ALL the Desolation peaks off the list, not sure why especially since I decided to do a week long backpacking trip in Desolation to take care of those.  Desolation has 13 peaks in total..of which I accomplished 10.  Dick’s Peak I was the first to activate. Also managed to activate 9310 during the solar eclipse.  The peaks I did not accomplish were 9420, Little Pyramid, and Mount Price all on the western spine of Desolation.

In total I count 36 peaks and I finished 25 of them, that leaves me with 11 peaks.

I also realized now that I have knocked off most of my local peaks that I will have to do a bit of planning and driving now to start getting more..  All part of the fun!

Complete list of peaks:

  • Little Round Top W6/NS-087 yes
  • Red Lake Peak W6/NS-062
  • Stevens Peak W6/NS-375  yes
  • Freel Peak W6/SN-034 yes
  • Monument Peak W6/NS-061
  • Jobs Peak W6/NS-047 yes
  • 9647 W6/NS-084 yes
  • 9614 W6/NS-086 yes
  • Genoa W7N/TR-007 yes
  • Duane Bliss W7N/TR-014 yes
  • Captain Pomin Rock W7N/TR-027 yes
  • 8728 W7N/TR-013
  • Snow Valley Peak W7N/TR-006 yes
  • Herlan Peak W7N/WC-008
  • 9225 W7N/WC-005
  • Slide W7N/WC-004 yes
  • Tamarack Peak W7N/WC-003
  • Houghton W7N/WC-002 Yes
  • Rose Mount W7N/WC-001 yes
  • Gold Star Peak W6/NS-189 yes
  • Mount Pluto W6/NS-138 yes
  • Watson W6/NS-147
  • Ellis W6/NS-133
  • Begin Desolation Wilderness: (some fall outside the trail cooridor)
  • 7860 W6/NS-390 yes
  • Lost Corner Mountain W6/NS-154 yes
  • 9269 W6/NS-107 yes
  • 9310 W6/NS-105 yes
  • South Maggie’s Peak W6/NS-135 yes
  • Tallac W6/SN-036 Yes
  • Dick’s W6/NS-068 yes
  • 9420 W6/NS-095
  • Little Pyramid W6/NS-094
  • Price W6/NS-377
  • Pyramid W6/NS-067 yes
  • Ralston W6/NS-108 yes
  • Echo W6/NS-127 yes

My Winter SOTA packing list

I’m sure most of the SOTA folks out there who go summiting in the winter have the right gear.  This is intended for those that may be new at the venturing in the cold and limited daylight of the November – March month time frame in alpine areas.  Reality is, this is just paying homage to the old Boy Scout mindset of be prepared (I myself was never a scout) but just thru dumb luck, memorizing the Mountaineering bible and years of playing I’ve come to always carry the following things so I never have to rely on the kindness of strangers, search and rescue or more dumb luck. The goal here is that I could survive for 24 hours (minimum) IF things did not go to plan.  As always though YMMV based upon where you are, experience, tolerance to cold, weather etc.  To be clear, I have done a ton of hiking and backpacking in the winter, so this list is based upon that..This will be the first year where SOTA is going to be the primary goal of my outings this winter.  Who knows, I may even get some summits via snow machine, but not sure yet..

For those that know me, or just looking at my TOC you can see I spend a lot of time in W6/NS and W6/SN, and I do love venturing out into the snow (although 2017/2018 is not shaping up to be very wintry at this rate)..but it’s conditions like this that I would consider are more dangerous for the inexperienced mountain topper.  To illustrate the point, during the winter of 2014/2015 (the worst year of the California drought) we had a SAR where some folks on a low snow year thought climbing Pyramid Peak (W6/NS-094, and no not doing SOTA) was a great idea in Vans and blue jeans with 3 16 oz bottles of water between the group and NO food or other supplies.  Needless to say we found them…200 yards from the road, they never made it far even though they wandered thru the woods for 8 hours.  A lot could be said about their preparation, but the main point I am looking to illustrate here is do not let benign conditions, and technology create a false sense of security.  This is not an isolated incident by any stretch of the imagination.

I use my older backcountry snowboarding pack (DaKine poacher 45L) as it has plenty of room.  I am still using a lowepro camera case to carry my SOTA gear, it’s not broken yet, and I see no need to replace it as my entire HF kit and amish logbook (pencil and paper) all fit.  This is also my base SAR pack for what it is worth.

I’ll link a short write up on my radio gear separately but like most of us it is probably an ever evolving list of toys so it will be out of date tomorrow.

I am a bit OCD when it comes to organization in my backpack, a stuff sack for every purpose, and every purpose with a stuff sack (also referred to as ditty bag, or just bag).

I will start with what I consider my second most important bag… I call it my “butter bag”:

Content of the butter bag

 

 

It basically carries Justen’s butters and trail bar of choice (currently for me is the Tahoe Trail Bar).  I smear the butter on the trail bar for 500 calories of awesomeness (pretty sure i’ve talked about that before).  I call it important, and in winter I put a bit of priority around food..(warmth always comes first, but food is harder to come by in the snow and snow can be melted for water).

I have enough bars and gooey peanut butters that I could survive 72 hours if I had to.

I also carry a not quite full cook kit:

The stove and such are in the mesh bag, edibles are in the ziplock..
  • snowpeak gigastove and canisiter.  note: A single 110ml canister lasts for a week of boiling water.  IF my stove ever gives out I may move to a Jetboil system, but my stove is running rock solid at the moment so no need to replace it.  I have had it since 2003.   In the cold warm the canister before trying to use it.
  • GSI outdoors Micro dualist cook kit.
  • bag of soups, teas, instant coffee for warmth.
  • sometimes I carry a full thermos of hot water too just to skip cook time.

 

 

 

 

 

So next up is my clothing.  My clothing is based upon my known tolerance for cold, and I tend to run warm. I use a 13L stuff sack for my clothes.  Other things get in and out but these are always in this sack:

  • Synthetic puffy pants (not putting these on is a mistake I make often for some stupid reason).
  • Patagonia R1
  • Pair of wool socks: one thing I did learn from my dad was take care of your feet and everything else will be all right.
  • Pair of lightweight legging base layer (capilene 1)
  • Down jacket based upon possible summit temps. I have a lightweight OR 600 fill down sweater as well as a heavier Cloudveil 800 fill down jacket.

Some things you may not see in pictures but that always are somewhere in my pack

  • balaclava (I picked up the coolest merino wool balaclava made by a Japanese company named Oyuki last winter.
  • gloves that are weather specific
  • headlamp, spare batteries
  • spare radio battery
  • knife
  • tyvek
  • 2 person bothy bag (these things are great wind break shelters that pack down VERY small).  I would not want to backpack for a week in one, but I have spent the night in mine just to see what it was like.
  • GPS as well as map and compass  (I still am not willing to trust a cell phone as a means of navigation..I rescue way to many people who do). 1 extra set of batteries.  A pair of Duracell Quantums last about 24 hours of constant use in my GPSMap62s
  • fire starter (#1 priority in survival is staying warm).
  • basic first aid kit
  • water treatment in case I do find running water
  • Avalanche kit (beacon, shovel, probe).  Never head to avy country without them.
  • Rain jacket for wind break
  • Ziplocks and some Toilet Paper (please if you have to drop a deuce in the cold do not leave it).

 

Other things you will see in the pictures at the bottom include:

  • Ice Axe
  • Sit pad..part of staying warm is get off the snow
  • crampons if conditions require it
  • snowshoes, but they are not being carried, they are being worn.  I have done used my backcountry snowboard for SOTA too.

And that is it.  all told the base weight is about 20lb, but winter is a time where I would definitely rather have it and not need it then start yelling CQ SOS and hoping someone gets to me soon.   What I can share is in the county where I volunteer, from the time you call 911 to the time we are at the trailhead and ready to move to you is about 2 hours.  It takes time to get the right folks involved and the teams built, blah blah.  Once we are on the move we move at anywhere from 2.5mph to 4mph; however snow does slow groups down.   So again, better to have it and not need it then test fate and get REAL COLD!

Given my summit success during the late running winter and snow coverage in early 2017 I plan to do some more summits this winter (and take advantage of that winter bonus to get my points per activation up).

-73 and hope to hear you out there in the coming months

 

Time to catch up..

Been a while since I have posted a SOTA post, and since my last one (Freel peak) I’ve actually knocked out a few different peaks and added three new associations (W7O, W4K, and W4V) and added the W6/CN region with Lassen Peak (was kind of a happy accident as part of a camping trip) .  I have done 242 points this year, but what is funny is that i know there are others that have more.. (and we still have 6 weeks to go, and I still have a few more Rim Trail peaks to knock off.

Anyway for the sake of shortness I’ll summarize the highlights..

I went on a camping trip Halloween weekend with the intention of adding W7O, and doing some exploring up the 395 corridor.  That was a fun trip, and got my first snow driving of the year heading up to the Crane Mountain (W7O/EC-001) fire tower.  Phil (NS7P,) again apologies for not trying harder to pull you in…).  One could really get lost on those forest service roads back there, and I will do a dedicated blog post to that so I can share the approach road info that I learned (which does not match very well some of the other trip reports on both Summit Post and SotaData).   Plus that one was cool b/c that weekend I think we were still in the Geminid meteor shower, and for the hour that I watched and waited to doze off (at 8200′ elevation) I was seeing some 50-60 meteors per hour.  It was an amazing light show.  That same weekend while camping I ended up on Lassen Peak (added W6/CN);  totally a happy accident.

In September I took a trip to TN to visit my dad and picked up W4K/EC-001 (Black Mountain) and W4V/GC-001 (High Knob) for my first two-fer in a day and those two associations.  Man those drive up summits really can spoil you.  The cool thing about W4K/EC-001 is I bumped into a fellow SOTA person on the summit.  (I had chased him on Clingman’s Dome the day before;  yah SOTA complete)  DL6AP (Andreas) from Germany who was on a 6 week US SOTA tour.  Very funny hearing your own callsign not OTA…  He was also doing the W4V/GC-001 and W4K/EC-001 same day double activation..(we did them in reverse order).  I had a feeling and should have checked my spots earlier in the day.  we could have both totally SOTA completed each other for those two peaks..  That same day I ended up hanging out with a few SOTA folks from Kingsport TN.  Damn you do not even need HF if you are near Kingsport.  There is quite the SOTA community there in Kingsport.  W4K/EC-001 is a challenge to activate with all those antennas, W4V was my first ever real pile up.. and because I was killing time waiting for a 1:1 with my boss, I opted to hang out and S2S chase some folks too.

 

Anyway, that’s a quick synopsis, I have enough notes and pictures from all these that I will probably do some individual blog posts, but wanted to put something online since it’d been a few weeks.

 

Thanks and -73 N6JFD