My birthday, 100th point and a first activation of W7A/MS-023

When I woke on March 12th, it was my 45th birthday and I had 99 SOTA points. My wife Lauren presented me with some fancy RevolutionRace hiking clothes. We had breakfast, jumped in our 1994 Isuzu Trooper (licence plate Arizona KK7BCO) and hit the road.

The trailhead for Saddle Mountain (W7A/MS-023) is 75 miles (120 km) from our house, and a short drive off pavement on public (BLM) land. It is not far from the I-10 which links Arizona and California; this time of year the area is still reasonably busy with RV snowbirds who live out in the desert on public land when it is snowing further north. It was warm, and due to recent rains, the wildflowers were starting to carpet the landscape in flows of color. A quick check with the man with a dog who had camped the night before alerted me to the fact that the Saddle Mountain area is rich in agate, and he showed me a piece.

The trail to the top is about a mile and a half (2.4 km), and the first half mile is relatively flat and easy. As soon as the gradient picks up, the pretty stones start to appear, and I became very distracted by agate and wildflowers. Lauren struggled with heat exhaustion on the way up, which kept our pace down (and meant that I collected more pretty pebbles).

The third quarter of the climb is the hardest, with steep gradients and some zig-zagging up a talus wash, followed by a little scramble and some scree. The terrain encountered really reminded us of hillwalking in Scotland with the addition of saguaro and cholla cacti. Comparing it to other local SOTA climbs, it felt equivalent to Camelback (both sides as one hike), but where you are the only person there. Exposure is limited, there is not much scrambling and the views are incredible all the way up.

The top quarter is on the top of the outcrop. The walking is pretty easy, with more vegetation, including a lot of grass and agave. The summit is right on the edge of a precipice, and marked with three geodetic markers, two from 1945 and one from 1947, and a logbook in an old biscuit tin (complete with first aid kit).

As I started to set up my station, I heard “CQ SOTA” come across on my HT from KA9JDE/7 who was 82 miles away on Pass Mountain W7A/MN-063: I think this is my longest distance QSO on a 5w HT (Yaesu VX7R, with the multiband Yaesu Q3000174 antenna). I set up a 10m dipole which ended up oriented NW/SE in the hope of hitting Europe. I plugged the FT-817nd in, found a clear spot on the band, spotted myself and the first contact was with F4WBN in France, about 5500 miles (9000 km) away, 5w SSB and a homebuilt wire antenna.

I only operated on 2 m and 10 m, earned my 100th point and gave the summit its first activation. A hell of a 45th birthday.

The walk down is a little more hazardous, since scree is magically more slippery on a descent. The landscape had changed in little time as the light shifted and new wildflowers opened. We got back to the truck and headed into Tonopah for street tacos at one of the excellent taco shacks.

The hike is 2.9 miles (4.75 km) round trip, 1750 feet (540 m) ascent. I made 13 contacts in half an hour.


Happy 45th Tobias. Great story and pictures. I share my birth month with you and often have a birthday expedition too, although it generally snows that day!

Congratulations on the Century!


Wonderful pictures and rocks but looks hard work so a richly deserved first activation and 100th point as birthday presents. Keep them coming!
73 Viki M6BWA


Now that was a great birthday and a great writeup! Congrats on the 100th point; I have a long way to go but I am slowly getting there. Not sure what was cooler, your 82 mile S2S on 2M or the DX QRP contact. I use an FT-818 myself and haven’t scored any DX from a summit YET, more reason to keep getting out there. Well done and thanks for the report.

Belated Happy Birthday and well done to you both for activating the summit in the heat of the day. Thanks for the report and wonderful photos.

73 Allan GW4VPX