Activation Report, W2/EH-003 South Beacon Mountain

This was the first mountain I ever activated for the SOTA program in 2008. In Feb. 2009 I returned with Gerd and this past Saturday I returned with Dave, W2VV.

W2VV had never activated South Beacon so when our schedules opened up for this past Saturday, we started making plans for an activation.

Unfortunately as the days went by the temperature forecast for the hike kept on climbing; the originally forecast 60+F climbed into the 70s and finally settled at a whopping 85 F. This for the hike that had me sweating bullets with Gerd in February’s 40F.

I was a little concerned about the high forecast temperature, but after warning Dave that we could only attempt the hike if we took it at a very slow pace we decided to go for it.

Dave took the train an hour from Brooklyn to meet me near my home in Tarrytown, and then I drove us to Beacon, NY about an hour north of my home.

We found the Mt. Beacon parking lot 99% full, and were a bit concerned that there would be large crowds at the peak. I turned on my APRS beacon (TH-d7ag) and away we went.

I brought along 4.5L of cooled and frozen water & some nuts, along with a new LiFePO4 pack I am working on as well as my K3, FT-817, Arrow Antenna, 12 foot painter pole mast, pac-12 antenna & brand new SOTA flag!
Dave had an even heavier pack with his FT-857, 2 NiMH batteries, buddipole + 21 foot mast + tripod, antenna analyzer + netbook, water & sandwiches.

The normally 1.9 or 2 hour hike stretched out to 3 hours plus as we really suffered through the first steep hour of the climb. While others were hiking up and down in biker shorts without shirts, Dave and I wore shorts, t-shirts and heavy packs. We made plenty of water/rest/sunscreen stops. In the first hour we climbed about 1000 feet vertically and .6 of a mile horizontally, and I drank 1.5L+ of electrolyte enhanced water. During the rest of the hike I drank just about all of the 4.5L I brought along. Looking back I was impressed that I could complete this hike at all in these conditions, and I think my performance is a tribute to the good health effects of regular SOTA hikes. I could not have achieved this a year ago.

Once we reached the ruins of the Casino and Beaconcrest Hotel the trail leveled off a bit. With South Beacon’s fire tower visible in the distance and the trail leveling off, we were reinvigorated and a fresh breeze started to pick up.

Dave and I took time to inspect the different aged car wrecks along the hike to the tower, and I believe Dave successfully identified one as a Volkswagen, see Volkswagen Type 3 - Wikipedia .

Other wrecks seemed to date from the 1990s.

On the way up we passed several hikers on the way down who had mixed reports as to whether the fire tower was open or closed, and I was concerned that after all this work I would not be able to setup ontop of the fire tower with its fantastic VHF operating location.

Once at the peak, we were relieved to find the tower open and few people at the summit. I believe most visitors that day had only hiked to the lower North Beacon Mountain.

Once on top of the fire tower, Dave set up his buddipole on his 21 foot mast, and I put the SOTA flag on top of my 12 foot painter’s pole with 2m 3el Arrow beam on top. I found what used to be the remnants of the fire tower’s roof on the ground as it had finally completely blown off.

We experienced growing noise on HF, topping out at s9++ that even my K3 with its fantastic NR and NB struggled with. Noise on 2m was not too bad, but there was almost no 2m propagation on VHF. We did manage a few SSB EU 20m contacts and even a couple CW contacts.

The wind picked up to violent levels while we were on the tower, and for a short time I considered leaving the tower but the wind never got to the point where I felt truly threatened. We had some great views of circling vultures and hawks from the fire tower.

As the sun set, Dave and I packed up and made the much easier hike down the mountain and returned by flashlight. My flashlight batteries died suddenly without warning (as LED lights can), but I try to operate most of my equipment from AA cells so that I always have spares and I just took extra cells from unused equipment in my pack to get my light on again. Flashlights are important on South Beacon as the trail is uneven and rocky at points.

After the hike we toured the nearby Retro Arcade Museum

and had dinner in Beacon. I then drove Dave to Manhattan and got home at a late 3 AM…

A fun but exhausting day. Pictures and videos soon to follow on the SOTA areas on flikr and youtube.


In reply to N2YTF:

Well done on the activation under such conditions. We don’t usually have that problem with heat here in the UK, but even on slightly warm days it can be easy to underestimate how much water you need, particularly when carrying a large pack.

You may be interested to hear that at times you were almost readable here. I heard you give your callsign and a report to an ON station(I think)and Dave repeat his name to someone. I was using an 80m/40m trap dipole and got the impression that with a 20m beam you would have been workable. Considering the present poor levels of propagation I am convinced that when we get out of the present lull in solar activity regular cross pond SOTA chasing will be common place. Thanks for being the first SOTA USA I can say I heard. I look forward to working you some time soon.

Regards Steve GW7AAV

Hi Tom,

Good report and I hope to work you on the international SOTA weekend. Please could you make a correction on your activation log, at 20:53 UTC you worked Mike 14MHz SSB and you typed his callsign as G0BTU. Mike’s callsign is G0BPU so please could you change the T to a P.

Jimmy M3EYP

In reply to M3EYP:
Thanks Jimmy, correction made.

I am really glad I have figured out (almost completely) how to export and import CSV files without re-entering everything…


In reply to GW7AAV:
Thats great Steve…I love hearing that.

Dave and I like to fantasize about kite/ballon lofted antennas. We could have raised any 160m-80m-40m antenna you could think of with a kite from the fire tower on this past activation…

I was a bit disappointed when my 60m vertical did not want to resonate while mounted to the top of the fire tower. Perhaps the location I chose for it had too much capacitence to a certain projection from the tower (this was the only convienent spot at the time). Had 60m worked out I would have tried 40 & 80…

Be sure not to confuse what I think is a splinter group, SOTAUSA, with the W2 section which is a part of SOTA proper as listed at

Of course I work the hills in the W2 section…


In reply to N2YTF:
Hi Tom

Thanks for the nice report… You peaked 57-58 on my low G5RV here. I couldn’t break your pile/noise when calling though… and then signals went down gradually and I missed your move to CW (that might have worked for us). Great to hear some US activating in action.

Edit: Aha… now I see the pictures of the tower and the antenna location, I can see why your signals were good!

73 Marc G0AZS

In reply to N2YTF:

Hi Thomas and David,

Pretty for me, a first U.S SOTA station in the log. You had a very good signal that evening here: S7-9 sometimes 5-10 over QSB. I have the same RST back from you. There was good propagation on the moment to ON. I work with a FD4 antenna about 12 m up and 100 W. No beam, so I was surprised that I could get it to the states.
I have also worked W2VV/P David when you run after your logbook that was fly away with the wind.
Hope to work you sometimes again.
QSL on the way via buro. QSL O.T.W BURO


In reply to N2YTF:
Thanks for a super SOTA DX QSO, I had only popped into the shack to switch off the gear before going off to bed, noticed the spot on sota watch, dialled up the the 857 and found your signal.
At first you were 5/9 but after the qsy to 14.345 the signal dropped to 5/7, then shortly after our qso dropped into the noise.
Sorry I missed the chance of a cw qso but as I had been up at 03:30 am for work,was well past my best and bed was calling hi.
Thanks for correcting the log entry and thanks to Jimmy of course.
73 Mike G0BPU

In reply to N2YTF:
Hi Tom,

Thank you for a very interesting report. We don’t get many from USA. It sounds like you had quite a climb and I don’t envy you the heat! I remember activating Mount Attaviros on the Greek Island of Rhodes in 1995. I took the same quantity of liquid that you took; being terrified of dying from heat stroke! You took electrolytes too, which are essential and probably widely neglected in the UK.

It is unusual to get noise on a summit so you were unlucky.

I don’t know what a USA-style fire tower looks like. In our forests, they are 4-legged wooden structures with a box on top. No doubt your photos will help as did the extra height for your (what sounds like) vertical HF antenna.

The car wrecks sound fascinating. I can’t resist a car wreck either and usually crawl all over them photographing. There should be more car wrecks!

I assume you made the EU QSOs using QRO and not the 817. Noted your choice of ‘new type’ battery. I am currently using Li-Po’s for QRO SOTA and find that I can do more-better-easier than with Lead-Acids. What a difference, but they are expensive and a bit temperamental.

Dave sounds like a dedicated ‘pack mule’ with his QRO and an ‘antenna analyzer’ no less!

This was a very good effort in such hot condx.

S2Ss from USA to EU will become easier with time. I for one, would love to be part of one!

73, John. G4YSS.

FYI both Tom and I have uploaded some photos to flickr. You can see the tower and some panoramic shots from different spots along the way to the summit:

The QRM on 20m was quite annoying. I’m used to dealing with it in New York City but I was surprised that it was so strong up there considering how isolated we were. It could have been related to the antenna farm on North Beacon Mountain. It looked like we were dead center in the path of a directional microwave dish so who knows what effect that would haved on our rigs, although curiously aiming the dipole broadside to those antennas dropped the noise down to almost nothing. Unfortunately that was also close to the worst possible orientation for working Europe so we spent most of the day in the noisy orientation.

73, Dave W2VV

In reply to N2YTF:

Be sure not to confuse what I think is a splinter group, SOTAUSA, with the W2 section which is a part of SOTA proper as listed at

More of a typo than confusion ;0) Now corrected. SOTAUSA have what must be the worst logo in the whole Internet hopefully it is a place holder. Hopefully someone can get them on board with SOTA.

Steve GW7AAV

In reply to W2VV:
Great pics Dave and Tom, that tower gave me disco knee when i saw the pic taken looking down at i think Tom?

If your activating at the weekend i hope to work you S2S but first i have to finish my hybrid SOTA station! Sean M0GIA

In reply to W2VV:
Your photos provide a good insight into the terrain, trails, old railway and car wrecks but wonder of wonders; that Fire Tower!! What a structure it is. The photo looking down makes me feel a little queasy! I bet it moves a little in a high wind. Excellent activation,
John G4YSS.

Yes it was somewhat vertigo-inducing to peer over the edge. The tower is a bit rickety and the wind was very strong up there.

BTW I wrote up a little article about our activation and posted it at

Everyone should feel free to add comments to it. Anything we can do to build awareness and excitement about SOTA in the states is a good thing.

73, Dave W2VV

In reply to W2VV:

Anything we can do to
build awareness and excitement about SOTA in the states is a good

Hi Dave

How about sending QST an article about your exploits?



In reply to G3CWI:

That’s a great idea Richard. After I have a little more experience I will probably give that a shot. Thanks.

73, Dave W2VV