What started out last week as a plan to activate one SOTA summit on Saturday, 3 November ended up becoming two activations and twelve activation points and a beautiful Saturday spent in the Rocky Mountains.
While I realized both Squaw Mountain (W0/PR-082) and Chief Mountain (W0/FR-030) were less than a mile or so apart, I’ve never attempted more than one activation in a single day. The main reason for this is I’m just starting to get back into the physical shape I was 10 years ago and I’m also 10 years older. Funny how that works huh? But also time is usually lacking as well.
Anyway, I woke up much earlier than expected on Saturday morning. I’m guessing my body clock was preparing for the extra hour of sleep it would get the following night. I gathered up my gear and was on the road well before sunrise. As a matter of fact, I watched the sun rise from near the trailhead.
When I arrived at Squaw Mountain (just before 7 AM), I realized the one mile hike up the fire service road would place me on the summit much too early for my planned activation time of 1600 UTC. So I opted instead to activate Chief Mountain first and if time and energy permitted, I would activate Squaw Mountain second.
There are two trails which will lead you to the summit of Chief Mountain located off of Squaw Pass Road. I didn’t see the first trail which is marked with a concrete post, but found the second trail down the road. Starting from this trailhead adds another mile or so to the hike, but it was worth it.
The trail starts around 11,000’ and slowly climbs about 100’ before descending another 150’ or so for the first mile. At this point the trail joins up with the first trailhead which I couldn’t find. This main trail then takes you all the way to the summit. From this point the trail is 2 miles with approx. 750’ of elevation gain.
While the weather forecast for Denver was calling for daytime highs in the 60’s, the temperature at the trailhead just after 7 AM was a brisk 32 degrees. The trail was in fine shape with just a little snow pack. As I approached the summit just after 9 AM (1500z) the temperature was around 25 degrees with an estimated wind chill around the low-teens, perhaps even single digits. Brrrrrr
The summit of Chief Mountain is a pile of boulders which requires some basic scrambling to gain access. I positioned my Buddipole Versatee Vertical and guy ropes off to one side as not to prevent others from safely enjoying the summit. This was perhaps the strongest wind I had experienced on a SOTA summit, but I managed to wedge the bottom of my mast between two large boulders and then anchored the guy ropes with rocks.
I setup the Elecraft KX3 and began calling CQ at 1600z, but just as I discovered when I activated Centennial Cone a net was active around 14.343 which prevented me from using the HF Pack QRP calling frequency of 14.342.5. No worries as I’m a firm believer that NO ONE owns a frequency and my VFO knob functions, so I dialed it down and found a clear frequency of 14.330 to begin calling CQ. I logged my first QSO at 1601z and number twelve 1625z.
Thanks to WB9QDL, KE5MHV, N4EX, N1EU, W5DLD, WA2USA, K6TUY, N4MJ, KC3RT, K7AGE, WB9QDL and W0STU for chasing me on Chief Mountain.
When I worked K7AGE (Randy Hall) he indicated that he would record my second activation to turn into a YouTube video about Summits On The Air. So I quickly packed up my gear and signed the summit logbook. Before starting my descent back to the truck I took a few photos and admired the views. You can see all my photos from this double SOTA activation here.
The descent down from Chief Mountain was slower than normal as the snow packed trail was slick. I reached the truck and headed over to Squaw Mountain. Much to my surprise the gate which was closed earlier in the morning was now open. I wasn’t sure just how far the road was open, but decided to check it out.
The road was in fair shape with only some snow pack. My four-wheel Ford Escape handled it just fine and I was able to drive within a half mile of the summit. I carefully checked my altitude to ensure I was below 100’ of the summit and hiked the half mile with approx. 180’ of gain fairly quickly.
The summit of Squaw Mountain is a popular transmitter site for Colorado Public Television and others. There is also a forest service fire lookout tower (shown below) and I setup my operations from the wooden observation platform that wraps around the rock structure.
I began calling CQ around 1830z and logged Randy Hall, K7AGE at 1842z. He recorded our QSO and asked me to describe my SOTA setup including transceiver and antenna. As the temperature was beginning to fall back down below freezing again, I worked another five QSO’s and packed up.
Thanks to K7AGE, W5LKB, W0SUN, AJ5C, K6TUY and KD9KC for chasing me on the summit of Squaw Mountain. Additional many “Thanks” to Randy who recorded my activation of Squaw Mountain and turned it into a YouTube video. (watch the video below)
Again, you can see all my photos from this double SOTA activation here on my Flickr page. By the way, the photos were taken with my new Sony DSC-HX30 camera. This is the first digital point-and-shoot camera I’ve owned. I’ve been an SLR and DSLR user since I was a teenager. However, I was growing tired of packing the extra weight of my Nikon DSLR and as a result rarely used it along the trail. I wanted something which would bridge the gap between my iPhone 4s and my Nikon. I’m really pleased to say that I love this Sony camera and it has me excited again about photography.
OH…I almost forgot. In addition to the new camera, I also had a new pair of hiking boots along for this journey. My new boots are the Salomon Quest 4D GTX. I plan to write a more detailed account in why I selected these boots. But just let me say that I was not disappointed in my selection and my only regret is I didn’t buy these a long time ago.
In closing, I had so much fun activating my first double activation. At this time I won’t say whether I would do it again. I guess it just depends on the situation. The reason I activate SOTA summits is a shared love between multiple hobbies of hiking, amateur radio and photography. Once I setup on a mountain summit, I’m in my own little world and love working as many QSO’s as I can. Of course, in the example of this double activation…the weather wasn’t conducive for just kicking back and relaxing.
Anyway….please watch Randy’s YouTube video to hear the audio from my second activation. Thank you again Randy. I’m tentatively planning another activation for Saturday, 17 November 2012 (weather and time permitting).
Until next time…
73 de KDØBIK