I started hiking with the SOTA program in November 2008, and I have been getting more fit the whole time, but I was not sure I could take on the Catskill’s highest peak, 4,000+ foot Slide Mtn.
This week I got an invitation from an old friend who was hiking up nearby Hunter Mountain (also a SOTA peak) with a non-ham group, but I decided not to join him on account of the fact that I did not want to slow them down with my gear/contacts.
But my friend did sow the seed, and I started to think about taking on Slide. I found a reasonable path up the peak and the plans were set and even my wife got excited. A 10AM departure from my home with 12:30PM arrival (2.5 hours drive each way) at the base and 2:45 arrival at the peak. Unfortunately driving and other events forced my wife (KC2JOS) and me to arrive late at the base at about 1:30PM, and trail conditions slowed us down for an approxiamte 4:45 arrival at the peak.
It was fun but rocky hike with plenty of loose stones and several small stream crossings. The views were breath taking, so much so that they did not look real. 34 of the 35 highest peaks in the Catskills Mountain range are visible from Slide’s summit. Slide’s summit still had some limited snow & ice, despite a few 80 F degree days in recent weeks.
The summit was free of radio noise, but initially I did not find any prop to the EU…
I was using the 706MKIIG and hybrid LiFePO4 battery pack with a NiMH single F cell for an extra voltage kick along with the 2m/440cm Arrow Antenna on a 12 painter’s pole mast and pac-12 for HF with modified 50 foot long magnet wire ground radials.
I worked KC2EUS (W2 head), on 2m ssb to start with and then a bunch of contestors on 20m, then I happened across some EU stuff on 17m…very exciting and very rare for this time in the cycle. The Europeans were in long ragchews or too weak for me to work, but I did work a KI6MWN on 17m who is in the SOTAUSA group. He was on a summit at 5,000 feet, summit #6, in his program. Very exciting!
Seeing 17m open (10m was also opening up), I tried 6m and found it was really hopping, but we were running out of time. 2m was opening a bit as well. My new homebrew 50ft magnet wire ground wires for the pac-12 deployed easily and wound up easily. The Arrow & SOTA flag flew proudly on the summit which was adorned with Tibetan prayer flags. 17m-2m conditions were improving rapidly as we ran out of time and had to pack up.
Conditions on HF were very odd. The weather chick on 60m (5.450Mhz) out of the UK was rapidly fading in and out. I have not heard that before. Also I have never seen 17m, 10m, 6m, and 2m all opening up together as if they were reacting to the same event. 17m is too low to be connected with the others in that way typically, but perhaps at this super nadir in the cycle 17m can act like a higher band.
We were concerned about getting down in daylight as the trail was pretty tricky at its start. The trail at the start goes into and out of different dry and wet riverbeds. I was glad I had my painter’s pole mast for support as we stepped across rocks in flowing streams where a Boy Scout was swept away to his death a few years ago. The streams were calmer today but this was still a hike where you had to keep your head down for safety.
On my last hike with Dave, W2VV, up South Beacon I admired Dave’s new backpack and Dave looked at my 20 year old external frame pack and knew that I needed to get a modern pack. My back agreed.
Saturday’s hike up Slide was my first hike with the new pack…fantastic. Pack technology has come a long way in the past 20 years…imagine that.
APRS coverage was nil to nothing on Slide, and cell phone coverage was even worse. Looking at the APRS map, I am not at all surprised I had such a hard time on APRS as the closest digipeater was better then 15 miles away. I had the beacon (TH-D7AG) running the whole time on a 3 min clip with the rig on my shoulder strap and a long antenna. I was also running the new SpotAPRS protocol for SOTAwatch self spotting. My beacon was only being digipeated after we broke through 3,500 feet, and then only sporadically.
At the summit while packing up two through hikers struck up a conversation with us about all of our gear. They were very interested in ham radio so I jotted down the ARRL’s web information and told them a little about how to get licensed. They were very friendly, nice guys. One hiker was slim and trim while the other was rather large; we were surprised the large one was fit enough for the hike.
I am glad to report I am now fit enough where the hike did NOT put me on death’s door, although I am a bit sore today.
On the way down from the summit we had an uplifting experience. From behind us we heard someone running…it was one of the through hikers. Our minds immediately went to the worst case scenario…we envisioned the slim hiker’s friend collapsing from a heart attack and his friend running to us to get help.
Instead the slim hiker had decided to run downhill to meet us 15 min after our departure from the peak, because he misunderstood our apprehension of going down in the dark and assumed that we did not have a flashlight. He offered us his custom flashlight for safety as he was worried about us making it down the hill. We were really touched.
Of course we had 2 GPS units, a compass, trailmap, 2 flashlights, excess water…the works. But what a thoughtful hiker. We were uplifted.
Traffic and construction conspired on the way home to delay us, and we did not arrive home until after midnight.
Pictures and video of me and the XYL Liz, KC2JOS to follow soon on the Youtube and Flickr SOTA group areas.