SlothGoat in the books!

SlothGoat
Head of a goat, body of a sloth :D. About sums up my hiking, crazy, slow and steady…

Huh?? SlothGoat? What award for Summits on the Air is called SlothGoat?? So I finally hit “Mountain Goat” (1000 Activator points), but on that same activation, I also hit Shack Sloth (1000 chaser points) via an S2S. Shack Sloth if you are a full time chaser is pretty easy to get, but the only time I would chase is to practice some cw or via summit to summit contacts (Log your S2S if you dont). Last fall I realized my chaser points were very close to my activator points, so with a lot of planning, and luck I managed to hit Sloth and Goat on the same activation on top of W6/NS-264 Boca Hill. There was nothing really significant about why I chose this peak. Leading into the weekend and watching the wx forecast, I knew there was a chamce for snow, so I had built 4 different plans/routes based solely upon various outcomes including reactivating the first peak I ever did as a SOTA activator (W6/NS-086 9614), which I activated under my original callsign (KK6TXU). Boca offered me the quickest exit if wx kicked up, and was the safest from an avalanche forecast perspective. It would also have been nice to do a unique peak too, and this activation put me at 110 unique peaks in 120 Activations; a pretty good percentage.

img_3466The approach to this peak is not too hard, and another one of those where winter time makes the ascent easier.  Honestly I like the snow covered peaks for approach, I really should just bring all my winter modes with me (BC Ski, BC Snowboard, Snowshoes) and make a command decision on which ascent mode to run.  Sometimes it is nice getting down the hill faster then up.    I parked at the Boca dam and snowshoed over the dam.  In the summer you can actually drive across to the NFS roads in the area.  Looks like there is an area you can park when there is no snow.

 

Today marked the most number of contacts I have made on a single activation, I also managed quite a few S2S, and the bulk of the activation was CW.

Callsign Band Mode Notes
KI4SVM 18mhz cw S2S, Complete and Sloth!
K0RS 7mhz cw
K6ARK 7mhz cw S2S, booming in with your QRO
NS7P 7mhz cw
K1LB 7mhz cw
N0OI 7mhz cw
K6CPR 7mhz SSB (I still phone occasionally :D)
KD6EOD 7mhz SSB
NW7E 7mhz SSB
KD6EOD 7mhz SSB
K6MW 10mhz CW
KB7HH 10mhz CW
K1LB 10mhz CW Reno on 40 and 30
AA7DK 10mhz CW
K6HPX 10mhz CW
N4EX 14mhz SSB Nice to hear you again Rich
W0MNA 14mhz SSB
W5BOX 14mhz SSB
W0ERI 14mhz SSB
AA1VX 14mhz SSB
KX0R 14mhz CW S2S/ Bennett Mountain
KE6MT 5 mhz CW might be my first 60m QSO
KG3W 14mhz CW
K3TCU 14mhz CW
K0GWR 14mhz CW
NJ0U 14mhz CW
VE2JCW 14mhz CW
W2SE 14mhz CW
AB0BM 14mhz CW
N1AW 14mhz CW
N6DNM 7 mhz SSB

 

Some other images..

Desk Rock
The rock I was sitting on behind here made for a perfect SOTA DESK in the BC 😀 used my vertical today..

SOTA down under! VK[2,4]/N6JFD/P

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

meh

 

 

 

 

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

Mt Warning is pretty much dead center under the clouds.
Byron Bay lighthouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

73 de N6JFD

Tahoe OGUL list (SOTA-fied)

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”.

If you would like more information on the history of the Tahoe OGUL list by all means check out http://www.tahoeogul.org/.      Summits on the air can be found at http://sota.org.uk

And now the table:

9735′ / 2967m

Peak Name Elevation SOTA Reference Lat/Lon
Adams Peak 8197′ / 2498m W6/NS-158 39.9106, -120.1001
Anderson Peak 8683′ / 2647m Not SOTA 39.2591, -120.2971
Basin Peak 9015′ / 2748m Not SOTA 39.3822, -120.3645
Black Butte 8030’/2448m W6/NS-170 39.3950, -120.5579
Castle Peak 9103′ / 2775m W6/SN-038 39.3655, -120.3492
Desert Creek Peak 8969′ / 2733m W7N/TR-009 38.6139, -119.3160
Devils Peak 7704′ / 2348m W6/NS-197 39.2824, -120.4406
Dicks Peak 9974′/3040m W6/NS-068 38.9004, -120.1510
Duane Bliss Peak 8658’/2638m W7N/TR-014 38.0806, -119.8781
East Sister 10402′ / 3171m W7N/TR-001 38.5232, -119.2901
Ellis Peak 8740′ / 2664m W6/NS-133 39.0684, -120.198
English Mountain 8373′ / 2552m W6/NS-141 39.4463, -120.5510
Freel Peak 10881′ / 3317m W6/SN-034 39.4463, -120.5510
Genoa Peak 9150′ / 2789m W7N/TR-007 39.0430, -119.8813
Granite Chief 9006′ / 2745m W6/NS-115 39.1983, -120.2868
Haskell Peak 8107′ / 2471m W6/NS-162 39.6624, -120.5522
Hawkins Peak 8107′ / 2471m W6/NS-065 38.7384, -119.8726
Highland Peak 10934′ / 3333m W6/NS-033 38.5438, -119.7558
Jack Peak 9856′ / 3004m Not in SOTA 38.8905, -120.1542
Jeff Davis Peak 8990′ / 2740m W6/NS-114 38.6366, -119.8965
Jobs Peak 10633′ / 3241m W6/NS-047 38.8579, -119.8616
Jobs Sister 10823′ / 3299m Not in SOTA 38.8625, -119.8847
Lookout Peak 9584′ / 2921m W6/NS-088 38.5107, -119.8730
Lyon Peak 8891′ / 2710m Not in SOTA 39.2068, -120.3157
Markleeville Peak 9417′ / 2870m W6/NS-096 38.6617, -119.8979
McConnell Peak 9099′ / 2773m Not in SOTA 38.9485, -120.2430
Middle Sister 10859′ / 3310m W6/ND-004 38.5080, -119.2952
Mokelumne Peak 9332′ / 2844m W6/NS-103 38.5380, -120.0948
Mt Elwell 7812′ / 2381m W6/NS-182 39.7082, -120.6883
Mt Fillmore 7715′ / 2351m W6/NS-194 39.7302, -120.8525
Mt Mildred 8398′ / 2560m W6/NS-142 (Same Ridgeline) SOTA pk is taller 39.1460, -120.3300
Mt Patterson 11673′ / 3558m W6/ND-001 38.4366, -119.3051
Mt Price 9975′ / 3040m W6/NS-377 38.8641, -120.1743
Mt Rose 10776′ / 3285m W7N/WC-001 39.3437, -119.9171
Mt Siegel 9450′ / 2880m W7N/TR-003 38.8896, -119.5016
Mt Lola 9143′ / 2787m W6/NS-111 39.4329, -120.3644
Mt Tallac 9735′ / 2967m W6/SN-036 38.9060, -120.0987
Needle Peak 8971′ / 2734m Not in SOTA 39.2007, -120.3008
Old Man Mountain 7789′ / 2374m W6/NS-184 39.3705, -120.5219
Phipps Peak 9234′ / 2815m Not in SOTA near NS-105 38.9546, -120.1499
Pyramid Peak 9983′ / 3043m W6/NS-067 38.8445, -120.1577
Ralston Peak 9235′ / 2815m W6/NS-108 38.8333, -120.1015
Raymond Peak 10011′, 3051m W6/NS-066 38.6040, -119.8333
Red Lake Peak 10061′ / 3067m W6/NS-062 38.7142, -119.9873
Red Peak 9307′ / 2837m Not in SOTA 38.9254, -120.2214
Reynolds Peak 9690′ / 2954m W6/NS-081 38.5793, -119.8377
Round Top 10380′ / 3164m W6/NS-055 38.6635, -120.0015
Rubicon Peak 9183′ / 2799m Not in SOTA 38.9886, -120.1335
Sierra Buttes 8587′ / 2617m W6/NS-139 39.5937, -120.6460
Signal Peak 7841′, 2390m W6/NS-179 39.3390, -120.5352
Silver Peak 8930′, 2722m Not in SOTA 38.9347, -120.2306
Silver Peak 10774′ / 3284m Not in SOTA 38.5641, -119.7603
Snow Mountain 8014′ / 2443m W6/NS-171 39.2412, -120.4639
Snow Valley Peak 9214′ / 2808m W7N/TR-006 39.1538, -119.8830
South Sister 11339′ / 3456m W6/ND-002 38.4824, -119.3001
Stevens Peak 10061′ / 3067m W6/NS-375 38.7336, -119.9827
Tells Peak 8872′ / 2704m Not in SOTA 38.9600, -120.2545
The Nipple 9340′ / 2847m W6/NS-102 38.6402, -119.9332
Tinker Knob 8949′ / 2728m W6/NS-121 39.2448, -120.2851
Twin Peaks 8878′ / 2706m W6/NS-128 39.1124, -120.2317
Wade Benchmark 9367′ / 2855m Not in SOTA but near W6/NS-100 38.8166, -119.8425
Waterhouse Peak 9497′ / 2895m W6/NS-092 38.7762, -119.9655
Wheeler Peak 11664′ / 3555m Not in SOTA near W6/ND-001 38.4186, -119.2881

Yet another list of peaks I was aware of, but did not really bother to look into until I realized I have completed about 60% of these peaks (as of Nov, 2018) including a lot of the non SOTA peaks.

I may reach out to the Association Managers for W6 and W7N to see if a dual state list based award similar to the Tahoe Ogul pages, but SOTA specific is possible.

Hear you on the next one
73 de N6JFD.

 

The push for Mountain Goat, and other new happenings.

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.

Some images from the past couple of months.

Picketts and Hawkins, more backyard peaks

A quick write up and alternative option for bagging this two-fer.

Alternative access for HawkinsAfter spending all day on SAR duty Saturday, it was time to do some SOTA on Sunday, but I wanted to be in range of the basin if a SAR did break out. I goto the Burnside area a lot for camping and was thinking that since both peaks are near drive up i would see if I could snag em both in a single day.. Reality was I woke up Sunday morning without that as a plan, and just decided over breakfast to get after it.   I had tried to drive up to Hawkins back in May to do a “sleep on top and activate overnight” activation, but the road was still blocked by snow, and the winds picked up with some sort of incoming weather so I had to bail on that idea.  Similar with Pickett’s I’d hiked up from the gate at Pickett’s junction to scout the road, and since I had Lola (my pup) with me, I did not want her on that rock as it would tear up her pads etc..  This was a pretty straight forward activation though.  Drive out Burnside road grab the road that goes up Hawkins, park past the solar station and walk up the 15 minutes it takes to get to the summit.   Another option that is probably faster is before the road loops around on the north side, there is a pull out/sort of road on the right that goes straight up.  I am thinking that might save a few minutes on approach.  Regardless see my notes below about doing a 2-fer here so you wont even be on this road ;-).  About the time I was realizing I left my cell phone in the truck was about the time I was topping out.  Oh well, I had my HT with me, APRS ftw yet again!  (just no summit pics).

Solar Farm

So once on top there is a large-ish flat area that is away from the antenna installation that sits on top.  This almost looks like it could be a heli-pad if a helicopter needed to bring stuff in.   I setup my vertical there and ripped thru the activation pretty quick.   In 20 minutes I had 14 contacts between 20 ssb, and 30 cw.   20m was real strange today, folks that would normally be reachable on 40 were giving me 59 on 20 (Oregon as an example) while others that I would normally get in the midwest were giving me 33 etc.  While tearing down I took this time to look over the landscape to see if there was a better way to get to Pickett’s that did not involve driving all the way down, almost all the way out, and up Pickett’s Peak road which I remembered being a bit more rough then the NFS road up to Hawkins peak.

Time Call Band Mode Notes
18:44z N1GB 14MHz SSB s53, r52
18:44z W0MNA 14MHz SSB S53, R33
18:45z ND0C 14MHz SSB S55, R33
18:47z W0ERI 14MHz SSB S55, R55
18:48z N6DNM 14MHz SSB S53 R55
18:49z N0TA 14MHz SSB S55, S2S W0C/FR-179
18:50z NS7P 14MHz SSB S57 R44
18:51z W7TAO 14MHz SSB S55, R44
18:53z KE0HNW 14MHz SSB S2S, W0C/SJ-026, S57, R33
19:02z K6HPX 10MHz CW 55N, 52N
19:03z K6EL 10MHz CW 599, 55N
19:04z NQ7R 10MHz CW 55N, 5NN
19:05z KB7HH 10MHz CW 55N, 55N
19:07z K0MT 10MHz CW 55N 55N

 

img_1642It took me about an hour to drive around and up to an area that could access Pickett’s peak.  I ended up with about a 30 minute bushwhack, so not that bad.  It sounded like a SAR was about to break out so I made it to a flat spot in the AZ, and setup and started my activation on 20ssb.  The SAR worked itself out, and I opted to relocate onto the summit proper. (this explains the break in QSO times in the chart below).    I ended up with 10 contacts between 20 and 17 ssb, and 30 cw.  I was not getting any responses on 40 hear either.   17m seemed to give me the longest QSO of the day.

Time Call Band Mode Notes
21:30z WW7D 14MHz SSB 59, 57
21:34z K5RHD 14MHz SSB s53, r32
21:35z K7MK 14MHz SSB s55, r55QSB, ID
21:36z K6HPX 14MHz SSB 52, 51
22:15z K6MW 14MHz SSB s59, s59
22:20z WW7D 14MHz SSB S2S, W7W/cw-074
22:26z NS7P 10MHz CW 55n, 55n
22:47z VE6CC 18MHz SSB 53, 44, Calgary
22:48z KD0YOB 18MHz SSB S2S, W0C/PR-090
22:49z W7MSX 18MHz SSB s57, r57

I had no intention of doing any S2S (because my chaser and activator points are about even), but I still got hit up 5 times.  I have a loose goal to make Shack Sloth and Mountain Goat on the same activation if possible.  I always welcome S2S though!

From both peaks, AT&T Cell service is there but spotty because you can see down into Carson Valley/Minden/Gardnerville.  There is a Verizon tower on the antenna structure on Hawkins so that should serve those folks well.

So enough about the activation, this is just a suggestion, and I included it on the SOTA page for both peaks as a way to just drive up to a high point in between and access both summits with not that much hiking and less pain on your vehicle’s suspension.

At Pickett’s Junction drive in on Burnside road about 4 miles to NFS road 31019B.  Follow that road up to a flat area that has both Picketts and Hawkins peak visible.   When I look at maps and sat imagery, it almost seems like this road should connect to Picketts peak road somehow, but I could not figure it out after my activations.   Once you park just figure out which order you want to hike them.   Picketts is closer to this saddle then Hawkins is.  I am guestimating 1.5 to 2 miles to Hawkins, and maybe 30 minutes from car to the top of Picketts.

Hawkins from Picketts
Hawkins from Picketts

 

Thanks for stopping by, de N6JFD 73

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!