A bunch of old goats plus one new goat (W4GI-Ryan, KW4JM-Scott, N4LAG-Andy, KI4SVM-Pat, K2JB-Dean, KC4WZB-Joel, and NY4G-Ariel) set out this week to activate a pair of rarely activated summits (W4C/WM-019 - Breakneck Ridge & W4C/WM-035 - Hyatt Ridge) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Since these summits have been activated so infrequently we split into two groups so everyone would not only gain two uniques but completes on these summits as well. We set out from separate trailheads hiking to our respective summits. Both summits require off-trail hikes through dense forest to reach the actual summits, which probably explains why they have not been activated much. Both groups met up at the McGee Springs campsite in the evening to enjoy some time around the campfire, get some rest and then head to the other summits and trailheads in the morning.
Andy-N4LAG, Scott-KW4JM and myself, Pat-KI4SVM climbed up the Hyatt Ridge Trail to the intersection with the Enloe Creek Trail where we turned off-trail to head up to the SOTA summit of W4C/WM-035 - Hyatt Ridge. We dropped our heavy packs a short ways into the woods to lighten our load a bit for the summit push.
After a steep climb to gain the ridgeline, it was a nice off-trail hike to the summit. This large rock marks the edge of the activation zone for Hyatt Ridge, but the true summit is not far ahead and has a long, flat and narrow profile where we had no problem setting up three stations.
Despite a few technical difficulties (bad cable for my paddles and gear left in backpack) we all had a successful activation. Our planned timing worked more or less as expected, with the other group reaching W4C/WM-019 - Breakneck Ridge as we wrapped up our activations with 2m S2Ss with them.
While the other group activated Breakneck Ridge, we continued our hike on to Campsite #44 - McGee Springs along the Hyatt Ridge trail. There were no real view points along the trail bit it was a very nice ridgeline hike and the gentle breeze was very welcome. The other group had already stopped by camp and set up camp en route to Breakneck and not long after we got situated, they returned to camp. After an evening of backpacking meals ,a campfire and swapping SOTA stories/lies, we all retired to our tents and hammocks.
After a good night’s sleep and breakfast, we packed up and made our way to the next summit. The off-trail hike to Breakneck Ridge starts almost directly from camp so we left our big packs suspended on the bear cables that the park has at every campsite (but not laying on the ground as depicted ). The vegetation was thicker on this hike and there was more blow-downs but we avoided most of the bad stuff and made good time to the summit.
We had decided that for this summit we would just use one radio and swap out operators per band. We ran into other technical issues on this summit than the first, but like any good or maybe lucky SOTA activators we were able overcome them (we should have brought two rigs regardless and I knew better but…). A finicky feedline to antenna connection and a broken power lead were our problems du jour. We were able to strip the wires for the battery, pry up the metal tang on the powerpoles on the power cable and use them as makeshift alligator clips. With a strict ‘don’t touch the radio unless absolutely necessary’ policy, we were able to avoid any issues with the feedline. Just as planned, we were able to make S2Ss with the other group on Hyatt Ridge just as we were finishing up our activation. And just in the nick of time! I looked down a few minutes later and saw that the ancient battery on my HT had just died.
We retraced our steps back to camp to reclaim our packs and start the slow walk back to the trailhead. The mileage covered was not great but with the elevation gain and off-trail hikes both days, it was more than plenty and we had a full two-days of outdoor adventures. We were barely out of the woods and we are already making plans for the next trip!
A few more pictures of mine can be seen here - https://flic.kr/s/aHsmQHeDiT
I will let SOTA Team B will add their account of our trip.
73, pat - ki4svm