So this is my son’s last year in HS and in July he heads off to the Army, so we decided to go REAL BIG for our last “Ski Week” (Presidents Day/mid winter break) trip. Time to head down under to Australia. As usual we were not looking to hit the standard tourists sites, we were just going to go hang out, I would grab some SOTA, he would do some fishing etc. It also helps when a friend from my childhood was living somewhere in country.
I do not get impressed by man made things, humans will never make something as impressive as the (real) Matterhorn, or El Capitan, but here is the opera house
After walking around the Opera House we took a walk thru the Royal Botanical Gardens and then headed back to the airport for our domestic flight up to Ballina where we would setup our base camp for the week.
My plan was to knock out some Summits on the Air before really getting setup, but I wanted to get a place setup for staying, so we booked at the Reflections Holiday Park in Shaws Bay. The view was great I’ll say 😀
We headed up to a camp area near Mt Warning so that Jason and I could roll up the hill first thing in the morning. Mt Warning VK2/NR-001 is a sacred mountain and the climb up used to be a right of passage for one of the local native tribes. I was walking on hallowed ground, and I was reverent the whole way up. We hit the trail head around 5am, and started the 3.3 miles up. Everything I had read said this trail should take about 5 hours total to do. It took us 4:45 including me spending an hour on the summit doing SOTA. It is always fun getting that first QSO on a new summit/continent! I tossed out a CQ SOTA on 2m 146.500, and VK4IB came back to me from Brisbane. Well that pretty much helped me feel like this was going to be a successful activation. I kept calling CQ on 2 while setting up the KX2. Got my four contacts, closed down and down we hiked. The Feature image is the sunrise from the summit! Definitely heed the sign below.
After we got down, we checked out of our cabin and proceeded to the next summit on the list which was Springbrook Mountain VK4/SE-011 which is for all intent and purpose a drive up. What is funny is that it took us almost as long to drive here from Mt Warning as it took to hike up Mt Warning 😀 even though Warning and Springbrook are only separated by 13 miles/20km crowfly. I noticed that there were two ZS calls nearby also doing the VK thing on a nearby peak, so I S2S’d them. I really should have popped up to that peak too just for the complete :D. I think I helped them get the complete for Springbrook as well.
With some SOTA in the books we traveled on down to the coast coming in just south of Surfer City, checked out the Byron Bay lighthouse for sunset and stayed the night in Lennox Head. It was pretty cool seeing sunrise from a mountain where I could see the ocean, and then seeing the mountain I had climbed that morning from the ocean during sunset! Full Circle
The next morning, Jeremiah and I did a coastal walk the 6 miles from Lennox Head back to Ballina, got setup in our cabin and fished, and chilled out. By Wednesday I was itching for some more SOTA, so Thursday morning I got up at 8am and headed to the airport to pick up a car and then headed inland towards Tenterfield. I had somewhere else in mind, but while at lunch I started looking for two more peaks close together, and there were two such peaks. One being VK2/NT-025 (Mount MacKenzie) (SotaDB has it as just NT-025). I ended up with 5 QSO overall with a mix of ZL and VK calls. After 50 minutes I figured, lets maybe squeeze in one more peak (which would have pushed me past GOAT). I headed over towards VK2/NT-033, and got pretty close until I found the “Please check in with management before venturing onto these lands”. I am not a fan of folks who trespass without permission, and I was not about to break my own rule, so I turned around and looked for another peak. There was a peak over in VK4/Queensland that looked like it would have a short hike, so I headed that way. (Norman Peak VK4/SD-002). Stymied again, this time a road closure due to the fires in the area. So here I sit 7 points away from Mountain Goat. Reality is, I was not really wanting to get GOAT outside of NA because I want to get GOAT with the chasers that have chased me the most so I was not that bummed that I did not get my two-fer today. Headed back to Ballina just in time to get caught in some TORRENTIAL downpours as a result of Cyclone Oma. Had a wonderful evening dinner with friends both new and old.
We were supposed to fly back down to Sydney midday Friday so we would have some time to relax, repack, and maybe catch a few more gardens in Sydney however Oma had other plans. All flights in and out of Ballina had been cancelled due to the high winds. We got a new one way rental, and headed off down the M1/A1 (wait was I in the UK, or AU?) to Sydney. I do love road tripping, and road tripping in a foreign land is also an amazing experience! Jeremiah finally got to see some kanga’s in the wild. That sums up the SOTA portion of that trip, the rest was just me relaxing, and enjoying a break away from the snow of Tahoe.
Now I am back in W6 land and ready for my 120th activation for Mountain Goat! Stay tuned when I finally get it, but who knows when. Maybe this Saturday as part of the Tahoe/Reno meetup being hosted in Sparks NV.
So for those that do a lot of peak bagging in the Tahoe area you may have heard or read about the Tahoe OGUL list. “Ogul” is the Washoe word for Bighorn Sheep. That is kind of fitting since Cali/W6 has an award called the California Bighorn Ram
“The Bighorn Ram Award is available to those activators who have accumulated 500 points activating W6 summits.” –W6 ARM.
The Tahoe OGUL list is 63 peaks in the area of Lake Tahoe, Carson Pass, Ebbetts Pass, the Sweetwater range and a few others dotted here and there. Please note that not every peak on the OGUL list qualifies as a Summits on the Air summit. SOTA adheres to the P125 meter standard for prominence, and some of the peaks on the OGUL lack the prominence compared to other nearby peaks. Case in point Basin Peak and it’s proximity to Castle Crags, the prominence is only 337 feet and on the same ridge as Castle Crags. I will include those peaks as well just for the sake of keeping the list correct as it exists at the OGUL pages but the SOTA Ref will just say “Not in Sota”.
That’s right, I’m getting to the stretch to make Mountain Goat. As of Nov 5 I am sitting on 841 points. I’ve already set the date for Mountain Goat on a peak back east. W4C/EM-003 (Hump Mountain) This mountain has special meaning from the childhood. I have already booked my tickets for Martin Luther King Weekend. I am thinking Sunday. I’ll use Saturday to pick up any extra points needed on the way. As much as this next part saddens me, so long as winter in the Sierra continues to be warm and dry, I am going to keep taking advantage of the open roads, and working those double peak days on drive ups or peaks with a < 1 mile hike. Obviously not as fun as the 20 miles it takes for Pyramid peak, or a long overnight just to get to the launching point for a SOTA summit, but I am close so it is time to push on with a lot of efficiency.
The last time we spoke I had just finished some more Hope Valley peaks, since then I have done 216 points, and have been out almost every weekend. Nothing to epic, although I did do 3 peaks on the same weekend I ran a half marathon. That was interesting given the half was down in Joshua Tree, but all the peaks I did were up in the Whites. Had a few other firsts, I went out on Grouse Ridge on a Friday night for the specific purpose of chasing and/or getting chased by VK/ZL land. I had a contact with VK on SSB, I could hear a couple more, and almost had an S2S with VK. No ZL calls came back to me. That same night I did have a cross-mode SOTA contact with KB6B. For those not sure what cross-mode is, I was operating SSB on an SSB frequency and this individual contacted me via cw. I was able to get the data I needed for the contact. On a different activation I was chased by someone from JP land as well, so I know have Asia, Australia and Europe for SOTA contacts. I have also managed to go out with a few different activators, K6ARK for an activation, and KE6MT and I both also went out for a weekend. Now that we are both involved with the leadership for W6 we did a lot of planning conversations while we were hiking and such. The W6 ARM will be getting updated soon enough.
So, from this point, I have 8 weekends I can do SOTA to get the 149 points I need to be setup to push past 1000. I only need 3×8 pointers, or 2×10 pointers per weekend to accomplish the task. December 1 is the start of the +3 winter bonus for most of the regions I activate. I’ve got most of the weekends filled up with which peaks, but somewhere in there I know it’s going to snow..Hopefully we get enough snow to make it possible to snowmobile come mid December, because that will open up a LOT of territory for me. For now I will keep plugging along hitting the 8/10 pointers that I know I can get 2 – 4 peaks per weekend. One of those weekend’s the Thanksgiving weekend I will head to the Crowley lake area; with that being a 3-5 day weekend I can snag 50+ points as there are quite a few peaks that have very short hikes to reach. That weekend and the rest of Nov should help out with the goal. The reason why I have put such a close timeline is I am heading to Australia in Feb, it will be my last trip with Jeremiah for ski week before he heads off to the Army next August, I did NOT want to make GOAT while on another continent, and since I knew which peak I wanted to do I wanted a three day weekend. what’s yet another challenge? Maybe I can get some more EU contacts that weekend.
So lets also discuss the SLOTH in the room. No I’ve not hit Shack Sloth yet, however i am at 860 chaser points, so long as I do not go out of my way to chase, AND I get an S2S here and there along the way I can actually hit Sloth and Goat on my Hump mountain activation. I’ll probably run my chaser points up to 995 leading into that weekend. Hopefully someone is getting out that weekend somewhere to help me hit 1000 chaser points. Apparently it has not been done yet either. The funny thing is I was not even aware of how many chaser points I had, I was more into the S2S points, and just happened to notice how close my numbers were. Those chaser points add up when you try and work S2S a lot. I’ve had a few activations along the way where I did not post a single spot and just chased S2S.
I will update as time goes on to see how I am doing (even if only monthly). Maybe toss out a quick note if there are some more epic outings etc.
Been a while since i have blogged about SOTA but I have still been getting out there (365 points so far this year). Part of that time though has also seen the usual increase in SAR activity. For those that do not know I am a member of a SAR team located in the Sierra Nevada. So this is going to be a soapbox post, more for the general public then for SOTA people, and most SOTA people seem to be in the know and I hope they are in the know! Still think this is worth talking about though as a nice break from a SOTA trip report
When you read an article in your paper/online whatever and it says “hey go check out this NOVICE trail” do a bit more search then what that article supplies. We’ve had 5 SARS in the past month at a trailhead we maybe see 1 SAR in a year at that this was a direct contributing factor. Oh I’ll pick on more subjects then just these 5, but we’re going to start here! It was nice that some local paper/news outlet/whatever covered a trail to help get some exposure for it (or maybe not since increased use means increased damage) but that should not be the end of it from a research perspective. In the case of this trail maybe ask yourself some other questions like… “This is in the Sierra, what is the elevation, have I ever hiked at this elevation before?” Will my cellphone and google maps/alltrails/gaia GPS/whatever map app you use be enough in an area that probably does not have cell coverage? Have I left a plan with someone? That is the one that most people miss. They do not leave a plan. What supplies will I need? sure it’s warm during the day, but at night, when it’s 50, 40, or even down to 30 degrees, if I do end up being over due will I be warm? Which leads me to my next question, do I have a light? do I have food, enough water, or a way to treat water if I pull it from the streams? That water may look cool, clear and tasty, but chances are if it’s in the mountains it’s probably had some marmot fecal matter in it, or donkey/horse where trail crews use pack animals to take supplies in etc. Unless you want to lose 20-30 pounds FAST, do not drink the water untreated!!! I will not recommend any product or what to carry beyond perhaps consult the 10 essentials. Oh and also, IF you are taking your pup figure out things like what is the longest hike I have taken my dog on? Have I ever had my pup walk on Sierra Granite? Maybe I need shoes for my dog? SAR teams technically are not allowed to rescue animals, some districts may try and fudge it via some other various justification like “the owner was not going to leave the animal, so the owner was going to put his/herself in harm”. Be advised too that if a SAR team comes to help you with your four-legged friend, IF animal services/Humane Society/whatever happens to be in tow there is a chance you might get cited for animal negligence (yes I have seen this happen first hand. That owner started crying b/c of the overall ordeal and this last minute surprise). Sorry but as an animal lover, I concur with AS’s action in this case. The owner should have known better. ” stated they had never heard of shoes for a dog”
So back on the weather angle for a second, and I think I have ranted on this particular group of subjects in the past, but the employees from a large technology company who own a mapping division who thought it would be a great idea to go bag a 9000 foot peak in the Sierras in January. They had nothing more then 2 16oz bottles of water each, no food, blue jeans, their company schotzky jackets, and IIRC one individual of that group of three was actually wearing canvas VANs shoes. If I really need to explain even a few things that are wrong in the above, do yourself (and your local SAR teams) a favor, and stay on the couch. Sorry if I am sounding elitist, but I’ve seen enough folks not using the massive lump of gray material between their ears that just asking themselves a few basic questions would have saved themselves some possible embarrassment..
So what I will recommend is that you at least understand what the 10 essentials are. I have heard a few people often refer to this as “some arbitrary list that does no good” and well there is some truth to that statement IF you do not know how to effectively use the items, you can technically survive for a few days with just these supplies.
What are the 10 essentials? https://www.nps.gov/articles/10essentials.htm
A Pack while not on the list, is needed for carrying this stuff, so might as well put this at the top of the list. They also do not list some sort of knife (I call out a multi-tool below) but I can do more with a 4 inch full tang blade for survival then I can with a multi-tool. (Full tang means the entire length of the knife is a single chunk of steel, it’s not a folding knife etc). If you have to cut on trees to build a shelter you will end up possibly breaking a folding knife etc.).
Navigation: A cell phone alone will not cut it. Even with external battery/recharge capabilities, you are going to be in some areas where you may not have access to a cell tower. (Sometimes you do need Data to pull that map down). A GPS unit, or even just a paper map is a good back up. For you weight weenies out there, paper is pretty darn light.. The important thing here is whatever your nav method, KNOW HOW TO USE IT, or it is basically trash in your pack.
SUN PROTECTION: Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses etc. This is pretty self explanatory, and I’d almost say the sunglasses are more important in winter then summer.
INSULATION – Jacket, hat, gloves, rain shell, and thermal underwear: The weather report may say “0% chance of rain and sunny” but the mountain does not always listen to the weather forecasters. The mountains are capable of making their own weather, and storms can come up out of no where. Even in the Sierras in the middle of July it can snow at night and if you are out there with nothing more then shorts and a t-shirt, you are going to have a long, cold, miserable night.
Illumination: Another one of those “and your cell phone alone will not cut it” items. I remember once i was backpacking somewhere and I was on a nearby peak to my campsite. It was nearly sunset (I had run up to watch sunset) and this group of 6 day hikers were just making the summit obviously very tired. They asked me “how long will it take us to go down?” I replied with “45 minutes quicker then it took you to go up” (which is true for most people). I could see that did not settle well with them, and I went into the “and you have a light and warm clothes? it gets cold and dark up here”. Hit our SAR coordinator via the radio on my way back down the trail to my camp.
First Aid Supplies: This does not need to be that exhaustive; mole skin, some aspirin, some bandaids etc..basic first aid you might keep in your house. Not looking for you to be carrying SAM splints and being able to reset a dislocation here, just enough to deal with the minor discomforts that can happen.
Fire: This is one of those, that depending on where you live, I hesitate to say “be able to make a fire AND control it”. Over the past few years fires in the backcountry end up being banned in a lot of the western states during late summer/fall. Reality is, if you have a jacket, and the rest of the stuff on the list you can go without a fire. While I do love a good campfire I’d rather my house be standing then burned down from a wildfire I caused while trying to stay warm while lost. The Cedar Fire (2003, San Diego) and Rim Fire (Groveland/Yosemite 2013) which is the 5th largest in CA history as well as many others were all started by individuals who were lost and cold, and their fires got out of control. There are others but most folks will have heard of these (if they live in California). Again, I’ll re-iterate, if the fire danger is anything but Green/Low use your clothing layers that are in this list and skip the fire. Winter, by all means do what you can to stay warm.
REPAIR KIT AND TOOLS – Duct tape, knife, screwdriver, and scissors: A multi-tool is enough there, and if you happen to use trekking poles, that is a great way to hold duct tape for emergency use.
NUTRITION – Food: You may only think you are heading out for a couple of hours, but part of being out there is enjoying nature and taking some time, so might as well have enough food to last you 24 hours just in case, besides a salami and cheese tastes great when hanging by that alpine lake. Sure we can go 5 days without eating, but if it’s cold out, you’ll stay warmer if you have some extra calories, even something as simple as a few extra trail bars can make a difference.
HYDRATION – Water and water treatment supplies: I think I ranted on this above, just because that water looks clean does not mean it is. Giardia, Cryptosporidia etc. They all exist in our water. If your destination is a popular one, you can believe your water will be contaminated with something.
EMERGENCY SHELTER – Tent, space blanket, tarp, and bivy: This can be anything from a Bothy bag, to the emergency blankets that are the size a deck of cards, reality is, if you have your emergency clothing listed above, you can survive the night (unless you are stuck in torrential rain/heavy snow).
That is the list of things that most backcountry travelers will tell you you cannot live without (with the exception of building a campfire if in a high fire danger area). However it is one thing to carry it, it’s totally another thing to know how to use it when it’s time. So take the time to understand what you are carrying and why.
So when you get to that trailhead, it’s worth it to sign the permit/log book on where you plan on hiking. SAR teams do have access to the permit box/log. Heck I was in the backcountry once when a wildfire broke out, and because the NPS had my travel plans on the permit, they used that to call my cell phone (which I was not carrying on that trip) and leave a message asking me to call them when I got out of the BC. We have done similar. Since that time, I now carry a radio, and I do have it open on part 90 frequencies so I can listen to fire crews in the field, and if needed get beta on where I need to go to stay safe. (as an amateur radio operator I would never advise anyone to just pick up a radio and start yelling into the microphone beyond to say “do what you have to do to ensure the security of human life and limb”). The FCC is not going to fine you if you found someone injured and called “SOS” on whatever frequency they might have programmed in.
While I am at it, I might as well mention and IF you do get lost, STAY PUT! There is a wonderful thing that is being taught to kids now: “If you get lost ‘S.T.O.P’ Stop. Think. Observe. Plan. If you did leave your plan with someone, and you are not that far off your intended path by staying put we will be able to find you quicker.
Good luck and enjoy the nature, be safe, be prepared and PLEASE LEAVE NO TRACE!
This is a LONG write up since it covers the SOTA highlights of a three week EU tour.
So 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. :).
The 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.
58 into Munich.
Sweden!! s57, r55
55, 55 wales
r44, s57 South England
S2S, SP/BZ-046 s55
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 wish 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.
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.
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.
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.
Steve, s57, r56
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..
(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!
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!
s3x3, r4x4. into NC
5×7 to Ks, thnx Gary
5×7 to Ks
s5x5 r3x3 chicago
r5x6, s5x5, Thnx Phil
r5x5, s5x9 NM
2×2, 5×9 IN
5×7 to Minn
s2s to w4g
weak 3×3, 5×7 to LA
r4x3, s5x7, thnx Jerry
4×5, 5×7 in AZ
s2s, 2×2, s3x3
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.