Ugh, what happened to 2020? (and looking forward)

Activation of Mt Whitney (W6/SN-001) on Dec 5, 2020

Well shoot, I did not do very much blogging last year. So, I think for most of us 2020 started with high hopes, and then the ‘Rona happened. The big highlights of last year were I still kept marching forward on a few of my classes for the Wilderness Ed program, was certified as an LNT trainer and spent some time backpacking. Yes I still did plenty of SOTA too, quite a few Uniques and FAs. Picked up 3 new Associations (W5T, W7Y and W7W), I activated the tallest peak in the lower 48 in December, which in and of itself was a pretty fun feat, but very last minute (W6/SN-001); it was also my 200th activation. That was a happy accident to say the least and was not the least bit planned. I wound up just shy of 300 points, a very middle of the road year for me. Even with CV-19 I still managed at least one activation in every Month, but reality is we were pretty busy with Search and Rescue with lots of new people trying out the backcountry for the very first time in March and April. At the end of May I left the job I was at and decided to take a sabbatical for the summer. I could no longer deal with the toxicity of the company I was working for at the time, and Covid was only making those people that much crazier, so I felt it was time to take a break and reassess the direction I wanted to go in.. One thing was for sure is that I was done with large company corporate America. That said while I was off for those 4 months I spent some time doing out of county Search and Rescue support (mutual aid), and spent a lot of time camping and out and about.

The country pretty much went on lockdown after the wife and I did a trip down to El Paso to take our son his truck, and visit him. I still swear he brought ‘Rona home with him on his December block leave in 2019. While there I did an activation of South Franklin Mountain. It was kinda humorous at the time, but I watched all kinds of folks slipping and falling on the switchback cuts, while folks were actively asking me “why you taking the long route?” I do not like to fall, and I hate slippage :P.

Camp setup for the night on a week long overlanding trip in Nevada

I had also been planning since October of 2019 to go and hike/SOTA activate the West Highland Way in Scotland. I had a really solid plan/map/spreadsheet and was really looking forward to that. For those not aware, the WHW starts in the suburbs of Glasgow and heads north up thru the Highlands to Fort William up by Ben Nevis (GM/WS-001) Once we got into April though it was obvious that was not going to happen. I am still going to do the West Highland Way, just not sure if it is going to be 2022, or 2023. I have plans to do a much longer long trail in the very near future but I will need to save a bookoo dinero to pull that one off. Around April time and realizing the world was going to be on hella lockdown, I decided to give glamping a try and used some of the refunds on our planned travel to pickup an RTT for the Tacoma. All in all I did spend more than a months worth of nights in the thing, but only a few of those it actually made a difference. After looking back at the number of nights I spent in the tent, only about 3-4 of those nights the tent made a positive impact on my sleeping, and those were mostly SAR related.. That said the RTT is already up for sale.

Left to Right: Myself (N6JFD), Mark (M0NOM), Paul (HB9DST), and another Paul (W6PNG/M0SNA)

Wow, I just realized i never actually finished the write up I did for the Lake District Weekend in May of 2019 (two years later :D). I only bring it up because one of the coolest things I had experience to date occurred. I had the highest number of S2S ever on a single summit, and all of them were 2M, and on one summit, 4 of us ended up on top of the same summit at the same time. This picture was later included in the UKs version of QST. Much like Ham14er in Colorado, the Lake District Weekend is a lot of fun, and can be done mostly 2m only and there is a lot of S2S to be had. I managed to finish the trifecta of UK high points on this trip. I’d already done Ben Nevis (2018), and on this trip I managed Scaffel Pike and Snowdonia over in Wales. Maybe one of these years I should try for the Three Peaks Challenge with SOTA as part of the mission (because just doing those three peaks is not hard enough :P).

So, back to 2020 I took a week in May and overlanded from an area near Tonopah back towards the Ghost Town of Bodie, and activated quite a few first activations along the way. In the process almost stepped on a rattlesnake. This is the first time I’ve encountered snakes in this part of California, and my first time dealing with them in SOTA too. I finally finished off “the Sisters” which is nearby as well. The mountain range is called the Sweetwaters and it contains Mt Patterson (W6/ND-001) as well as East (W7N/TR-001), South (W6/ND-002) and Middle Sister (W6/ND-003). This is one of those interesting areas that a line of peaks that split regions/associations have differing bonus seasons. The W6/ND peaks all have a summer bonus, and W7N/TR has a winter bonus yet there is a mix of both on this same mountain range. Needless to say, it was not Bonus season when I finished this mini project off. Also nice to see that after I did the FA on South Sister in 2017 that Paul (W6PNG seen in the UK picture above) came and activated it this summer. Unfortunately that peak is in a bad location for me to chase short of getting in the car and heading to a nearby pass, so no complete as of yet. Also of note was an FA on Mt Dubois (W6/WH-001). This was an all off trail, LONG day extravaganza, and was my blown activation of the year. I managed 3 QSOs on 2m but because I was not able to get a spot out at all and I’d missed the RBN SOTAWATCH window for my alert no one knew to chase me up there, so no HF love. I’d started that walk in the dark and finished in the dark. Not the first time I’d be doing that this year :D. In October I activated W6/NS-099 Boulder peak off the PCT in between Sonora and Ebbett’s pass, but I accessed it from Highland Lakes. Still a lot of unique and FA peaks for me to go after in this zone in 2021 as well. It also would not be an exciting year if I did not get almost struck by lightning too. Well this has only happened on one occasion to date, on Dunderberg peak, but in this case it’s hard to tell if I was going to get struck or not. I was on Mt Gibbs (W6/SS-101) in Yosemite and it started snowing. I deployed into my Bothy Bag and was feeling a big static charge build up. There was thunder though and even after tearing down I was still “buzzing” while I was hiking off. That was fun b/c it was a summer time snow encounter. This was one peak that did not want to give up the activation easily. Adam (K6ARK) and I had tried to do this peak in 2018 as part of a two-fer with Dana Peak to the North. After we started hiking from Dana to Gibbs a huge storm built up so we had to bail.

So those are the big highlights worth calling out of 2020, so now to 2021. International travel is still a bust, so the West Highland way is still out but I need a backpacking trip in May. If you’ve been following me a while on here you know I love building maps and spreadsheets and doing SOTA projects. Well this years is going to be a dry run for a much larger project that I have planned in the next couple of years. I’m going to depart from Springer Mountain (after I activate it) in North Georgia and walk to the Southern end of the Smokies/Fontana Dam. There are a little more than 20 peaks on this stretch of the AT good for 202 points. Speaking of points I am also marching full speed towards Double Goat. In fact IF I have planned my points well and if I get everything I intend to get on my AT jaunt then I’ll be setup for Double Goat on W4C/EM-003 Hump Mountain a few days later. I’d originally intended for that peak to be my first MG, but time of year was wrong, so I opted for something local.

Also of note, I am going to try the video thing out this year too. That channel name is N6JFD Treks. A fun little play on words there. Not sure I’ll be any more active doing video because well, lets face it, editing videos takes longer than a SOTA activation, but if I want to find a way to increase interest in my AT project then I’ll need all the revenue income streams possible ;-). I am also playing with LoTW finally. I started playing with FLE (Fast Log Editor) as a way to prep log files for importing into SotaDB, and realized i could also fast upload into LoTW. I’d not uploaded anything since 2016, and it was pretty interesting that spot checking a few of my past activations I ended up with more then 100 confirmed QSLs . So going forward I will do all my SOTA logs into LoTW as well.

So I’ll leave you with a few other parting shots from the past couple of years and say 73s for now, feel free to just follow the video channel, although I’m sure if i have something more to say in text format, or have some fun pictures to show those will end up here.


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

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



Genoa Peak, TRT/SOTA challenge part 1b

Walking back down the road from Genoa

Ah Big Blue: Looking down at the lake while walking back to the trail. Genoa Peak, this is the 2nd peak of the Nevada half of the TRT that I am working on for the summer challenge.. Although I have enough other fun peaks on the list, I am beginning to wonder if I am going to complete it..oh who knows we have till November. That said, I opted to skip the trail here and head up the road, probably a mistake given the fact that I saw mountain bikes drop into the trail and ended up hiking thru snow.
Even on the Eastern side of the lake on the normally dryer side.
The snow is plenty firm though given the melt refreeze cycles we go thru.
I am also learning quickly do NOT trust Google maps. GM said it was 2.2 miles to the summit. Even with me taking a short cut (across the snow), it was 4.4 miles to the summit. overall I did 9.8 miles, I guess PhD’s do not know much about mapping and navigation when it comes to non-pavement surfaces. Yet another reason to NOT rely solely upon technology and smart phones.. Soapboxing aside, it took about two and half hours to make the summit. Down below me at the lake the AMBBR was going on so I was listening to the NR7A repeater to the comms as things went on. If you are interested in EMCOMM I highly suggest you go sign up and volunteer for an event like that. While these biking events are not EMCOMM, a lot of the same principles apply. The last two years I’ve done the California Death Ride (Tour of the Cali alps) and this year I’m doing the Pony Express re-ride thru NV as well as the Tour-de-Tahoe in Sept. On the summit there are a lot of radio structures, so do get a tad off peak to setup. Since I was not in a hurry to get off the top I decided to play around w/ some different antenna setups. I managed three QSO’s in like 2 minutes, then things slowed down, and I shifted over to 2m. So my first antenna setup was my typical straight wire in a N/S orientation so I could throw E-2-W. After a bit I shifted direction slightly. On 2m, I could hear a local guy operating another SOTA activator that I could not hear etc. Reached out to him, got him some chaser points, and then got the details on KE6MT who was working a peak about 30 miles crowfly south of me (On Leviathon Peak W6/SN-039). We could not hit each other on 2m, but we did manage a contact on 40m. By then I’d shifted my antenna to an NVIS setup b/c I was also trying to reach activator W6SAE who was working a peak down towards San Francisco. I could hear him buried deep, but he was unable to pull me out. Oddly enough with an NVIS setup, I managed to snag W0ERI and W0MNA out in Oklahoma. They could hear me using an NVIS setup, but could not hear me when I was pointed specifically in their direction. I think I noted this in my previous post, but damn the bands have been acting funky so far this year.
All in all I made 10 contacts, and added one “SOTA Complete” thanks to the S2S with Leviathon peak. Funny too, Monitor pass only recently opened, and last I heard the road to the antenna towers still had a fair amount of snow on it. Break out your snowshoes!

Couple of parting images from the activation!

KX2, Watts UP Batter meter, Zippy 4200 battery. 4 activations since I last charged it, that thing can go and go..

This marker has seen better days. Either folks have tried to break it off to steal it, or it just gets a lot of weather..

Can see the inlet to Emerald Bay, Fallen Leaf Lake, Tallac and Pyramid in this image. The Sierra are awesome!