Activated before SOTA

Back in the day in the late 1980s when I had the occasion to drive from Minnesota to California to visit relatives, I took the time to go on a few day hikes along the way. It was mostly uphill to see the vista from the top, or to be able to say that I had been there and climbed that. Mostly I did it without any radio gear, but on two peaks I did drag along a 2 meter HT just to see what I might hear.

In the Sierra Nevada range in California in Sequoia National Park I went up Alta Peak, some 12200 feet (3718 meters) altitude. I can’t find Alta Peak in the W6 lists, even though there are lesser mountains nearby listed as SOTA peaks. On the rock field on top the trail fizzled out and it was just scramble as you please to the high point. On the very top boulder was a USGS survey marker, akin to a trig point in the UK. I turned on the radio and was rewarded with a solid contact on 146.520 FM with a mobile station driving up I-5 over by the coast range. It was my first real introduction to what a bit of height can do for VHF signal range. Understand that my home territory in MN is a flat plain to the horizon in all directions. The HT I had was a huge, heavy monster by today’s standards, an Icom 02AT with the biggest NiCad battery available on it, and (gasp) a “rubber duck” antenna.

The other place was W7N/WP-001 Wheeler Peak in Nevada. That one is 13063 feet (3982 meters). I went up on a whim, totally unprepared for any bad WX, but dragging along that 02AT handheld. It was a nice scramble on top with some snow and ice underfoot, but there was clear skies and low humidity and great views all around. On 146.520 I worked a mobile some 70 miles off in Utah, but with in and out signals as he was going through hilly country. There was a container of some sort with a notebook inside and so I added my name and callsign at the time - WQ0J - and then hiked back down. I wonder how long that notebook survived up there. I doubt that W7IMC found it on his 2013 activation.

73, Alan, AI0Q

Alta Peak is listed with a height of 11,260 feet, with a drop of only 200ft in between it and “Winter Alta” known as Pt. 11328 in USGS which is the SOTA summit W6/SS-212. For Alta Peak to be a SOTA summit that drop to the col/saddle would need to be 500ft.

I remember back in the late 70’s and early 80’s taking an FT290, an HB9CV and a “lightweight” 20-foot aluminium mast up several summits including a few of what would later become SOTA summits, and getting some good contacts. Of course, in those days I was used to taking rucsacs full of climbing gear up mountains so the radio gear didn’t seem much of a burden, a 290 full of NiCds was a heavy beast by modern standards! I think quite a few people used to do that sort of thing from time to time, looking back it seems a little strange that it took so long for the idea of SOTA to occur, the ground was well prepared for it. I suppose it was the internet that it was waiting for.

Another memory was helping a friend, Geoff G3NAQ, set up a 160 metre transceiver on top of Greenlowther, GM/SS-056, we got permission to drive up, set up near the radar station and then had to do a test transmission to see if we interfered with the radar - and if I remember correctly, in the end got just two contacts!


Whoops, my memory is faulty about the altitude, but it was a nice hike up there regardless of its current SOTA status. Thanks for the correction.