N7NGO W7 Activation Report

It has taken me a long time to get this report written. I went on vacation and activated some summits but have been busy since returning home.


My wife and I presently live in Indiana. However, we used to live in Washington, and my wife was born and raised in Oregon. So from time to time we take a vacation and go visit friends and family in Washington and Oregon. We also like to get in some hiking, if possible. This time I also wanted to activate some summits.

I have been calling CQ from summits, always on VHF and UHF, since 1989 when I received my technician license, which allows for operation on the VHF bands and higher. Most of the summits I have operated from in the past are now SOTA summits. Last year was the first time I tried using HF from a summit, when we took a vacation to the Adirondacks.

Equipment Used

Radios: FT-817ND, IC-W31A
Batteries for the 817: 2500 mAH aftermarket NiMH internal pack, sixteen 2100 mAH NiMH AA cells (used 8 at a time internally in AA battery tray).
Antenna Support: 28 foot Jackite pole (only 26 feet tall, not using top section).
Antennas: 40m – 6m link dipole, 3 element SOTA style 2m beam, 2m/70cm dual band whip, (half-wave on 2m, 5/8 over 5/8 collinear on 70 cm).

17-July-2011, Naches Peak, W7/RS-022:

I originally wanted to go to Tolmie Peak, W7/RS-035, for the CQ World Wide VHF Contest, and in fact I put an alert on SOTAwatch for Tolmie, which I later changed to Naches. However, the road to Mowich Lake was not open due to snow. I could have walked from the closed gate, but this would have added an extra 5.5 miles each way, so I chose to go to Naches Peak instead.

Got a late start due to rain, finally the rain stopped and we headed up to the peak hoping the rain would stay away. The whole route up the mountain was on snow. It was a heavy snow year this last winter in the Pacific Northwest, and a cool spring, so the snow has been slow in melting. I carried my ice axe on all of our hikes this year. My wife carried her ice axe on Naches but just used her trekking poles on the rest of hikes.

I had been up Naches peak for a VHF contest in 1998. What I didn’t remember, I did not operate from the top of Naches Peak. We are hikers who will do a little scrambling from time to time, but nothing too difficult or exposed. When we arrived where we could really see the peak it became clear that it would take some climbing/scrambling to get into the activation zone and it wasn’t entirely clear we would be successful. I made the decision to set up on a high point on the ridge to the south of the summit, out of the activation zone. It also happened to be one of the few spots without snow. After all, I was here to work the contest and time could be spent working stations or trying and perhaps failing to get to the top. The contest would be over before long.

Used the dipole on 6m and the 3 element beam on 2m. I made 18 contacts in 5 grid squares on 6m, 11 contacts in 5 grid squares on 2m, and also worked 2 DXCC entities on each band. The rain started again on the way back down. The elevation gain today was 1050 with about 1.1 miles traveled one way.

18-July-2011, Dege Peak, (not enough prominence to be a SOTA peak)

We get a late start, so we eat lunch at the vehicle, and then start up the trail. I want to do Mount Fremont, but the weather forecast is better for tomorrow. We start from Sunrise Point. We go up the ridge on snow. Near the summit we find the trail to the summit. Here it is clear of snow and we follow it for the last 75 feet of the climb.

I have the 817 and the dual band whip with me, so I use that. Call on 144.2 MHz SSB (calling frequency) and work 1 station. I next call on 146.52 MHz FM (national simplex frequency) and work 4 more stations. I also call on 446.0 MHz FM (national simplex frequency), but get no response. The first station is in the log at 23:09, and the last station at 00:00 UTC (17:00 local time).

The clouds have been blowing over the peak all day, but there is some clearing while we are on top, and the sun comes out for a while. We retrace our steps and follow the ridge back to Sunrise point.

19-July-2011, Mount Fremont, W7/RS-005

The weather is supposed to be better today, but the weather man is wrong. We get an earlier start, but it begins to rain shortly before we enter Mount Rainier National Park. The rain continues until about 0.25 of a mile before reaching the parking lot at Sunrise. We debate about what to do, since it looks like it could rain at any time. After about 45 minutes we decide to start hiking and if it gets too bad we can turn around. We go up through the snow to Sourdough Ridge and then west along the ridge to Frozen Lake. The Sourdough Ridge trail is about 50% free of snow. At the lake we follow the trail toward the Mount Fremont lookout. The Mount Fremont trail is mostly free of snow. We follow the trail to about 7120 feet and then go up the west ridge to the summit. The lookout is not on the summit. We have been to the lookout before, but this is our first time to go to the summit. When we arrive we were hungry, so the first thing to do is eat lunch.

I set up the dipole for 20m and use the 3 element beam for 2m. Since the wind is from the north, I am setup to the south of the summit, but close enough to the summit, so that the 2m beam is higher than the summit. For the most part visibility is about 100 feet, but occasionally we can see the trail and Frozen Lake, and sometimes Burroughs Mountain from our vantage point. The wind is blowing quite hard with occasional gusts that can knock you off balance. Between eating and setting up my hands have become very cold, even though I am wearing light gloves. I wish I was carrying my heavy gloves, so that I could put them on. I get my hands warmed up and eventually get on the air about an hour after the alerted time. I spend quite awhile calling on 14.285 and 14.3425 but no one responds. I then switch to 2 meters and make 2 contacts on 144.2 SSB and 9 contacts on 146.52 FM. During these contacts the weather begins to clear and we occasionally get good views of “The Mountain”, Mount Rainier, W7/RS-001 and W7/RS-002. The sun comes out enough and warms us up so that I even take my gloves off. (I don’t remember taking them off, but we have pictures of me operating the radio without gloves.)

My wife leaves the summit while I work on packing everything. We both go southeast from the summit along the ridge and then drop down to the Mount Fremont Lookout trail. I catch up with her near Frozen Lake. We return from Frozen Lake by the route we followed this morning. Today’s elevation gain is 910 feet with 2.3 miles of walking each way.

20-July-2011, Pinnacle Peak, W7/KG-126

The weather man predicted rain, but it isn’t happening, so at the last minute we decide to do Pinnacle Peak. The hike to the top is a short 1 mile hike. It is also 1000 feet of elevation gain. We used to do this hike from time to time when we lived in the area. We are surprised at the number of vehicles at the trail head on a weekday morning. We find a place to park along the road and start up the trail. It is a good workout, which some of the locals use as their daily workout.

We arrive at the top and I get setup and ready to operate 25 minutes before the alerted time. Call on the alerted frequencies 14.285 and 14.3425 but make no contacts until 18:31 UTC. The alerted time was 18:30. I make 6 contacts on 20m with the dipole and 1 contact 146.52 MHz FM with the 3 element beam.

This is the first and only peak I have qualified on HF. I think it would probably be easier to qualify a peak using CW. However, my CW skills need to be improved before I am ready to try that.

The return trip is uneventful, and since it was not a long drive back, we are able to go to town and get some things done and still make our evening appointment.

Change of Location

On July 21 we leave the Seattle/Mount Rainier area and travel to a ham gathering in College Place, WA. I have an opportunity to give a talk on operating a portable amateur station, and show them the link dipole and 3 element 2m beam.

I had hoped to put some alerts for next week on SOTAwatch, but I didn’t have internet access. We don’t have a firm plan for what we will do each day at Diamond Lake, but there are plenty of peaks nearby and we want to hike each day. While we are out hiking we might as well hike to a summit. We like to have a good objective and we like good views.

On the 24th we travel to southern Oregon and camp at Diamond Lake. On the 25th we do some hiking but not to any peaks. The next four days we hike to a peak each day, most of them are located in Crater Lake National Park.

26-July-2011, Mount Scott, W7/CS-003

My wife, my brother and his three daughters, and I set out to go to Mount Scott, the highest peak in Crater Lake National Park. The trail is 2.5 miles one way and there is 1240 feet of elevation gain. The trail begins on snow, but as we get around the south side of the peak it is mostly snow free for awhile. As we climb higher we eventually lose the trail under the snow. No problem, since we can tell where the top is and we have an idea of where the trail goes. We work our way up higher until we find the trail near the summit ridge and follow it to the top.

Beginning with Mount Scott I am carrying the W31A as well as the 817. This is because I can readily attach the handheld to the shoulder strap on my pack and can check easily and make sure its batteries have not run down. I am using 146.52 to communicate with my dad back at camp. When we arrived at the top I call my dad to give him an update. As he starts to reply Bob, WB6ZVW calls me. Since Bob’s signal is stronger he captures the receiver. Bob is excited because he has been listening to 146.52 while on vacation for the last 2 weeks, and I am the first person he had heard. Bob is traveling on US-97 to the east of me, and says “You sound like your right next to me”. I didn’t tell him I am using a rubber duck and only 2.5 watts.

Once I finish the first 2 contacts I began to unpack and set up. About half way to the summit I remembered that I left my coax back at camp. I have as short pigtail for each antenna so that I can carry one coax instead of two, to save weight. So, I can connect the radio to the antennas but I cannot put the antennas up at full height.

I put the dipole up for 20m with the center at 8 or 9 feet. I select a frequency and then connect the radio to the coax. I have to hold the radio above my head and then call CQ if the frequency I have chosen is clear. I try this for maybe 10 or 15 minutes, but my arm gets tired quite quickly.

I take down the dipole and then put the 2 meter beam together, and hold on to the boom behind the reflector. Even though the beam is light, holding on to the beam this way gets to be tiring quite quickly. I put the beam on the pole so that the boom was about the same height as my head. The pigtail is long enough that I can sit on the ground and operate. I make 10 contacts on 146.52 MHz FM including one with a mobile station in Medford, OR.

We don’t exactly retrace our steps on the way back. We follow the trail somewhat farther down the mountain than we found it on the way up, but still we lose it under the snow again. We find it again at the place where we lost it on the way up, and then return to the parking lot without difficulty.

27-July-2011, Llao Rock, W7/CS-011

My wife and I want to do another hike today. My brother is busy out 4 wheeling with his family. We passed by Llao Rock on the way to Mount Scott yesterday. It looked interesting. We go and look it over and decide to go up the west ridge. It is more gentle going up the north side, but that is quite snow covered. We park at the crater rim and go up the west ridge to the top. It is about a mile to the summit with 790 feet of elevation gain.

I set up the dipole for 20m. Since I had last used the radio on Mount Scott the day before it was still on 2m. As I change bands from 2m towards 20m I notice that there is activity on 6m. I quickly adjust the dipole for 6m and make a couple of contacts. 1 contact is via sporadic-E and the other I believe is a standard everyday contact via the troposphere. Both stations tell me I am a new grid for them, CN82.

I then try 10m but everybody I can hear is already busy talking to someone and nobody responds to my CQ calls. On the 12m band I have the same problem. I finally find a station calling CQ in southern Utah and respond to him. He is surprised to learn I am only running 5 watts.

There is some activity on 15m, but the band does not appear to be in really good shape. I make one contact with difficulty since he has a high noise level, but nobody else responds to my CQ calls. I then respond to my dad and also work another station who hears me on 146.52 using the dual band whip on the handheld.

Next I go to 20m and call on 14.3425. There I make a contact with N7KGA who is on frequency looking for another summit activator. I call CQ for awhile hoping to work others as well as perhaps make a summit to summit contact, but I make no further contacts. The final contact is made on 2m, again using the dual band whip. I brought the 2m beam with me, but did not use it.

The QSO tally is 2 contacts 6m SSB, 1 contact 12m SSB, 1 contact 15m SSB, 1 contact 20m SSB, and 3 contacts 146.52 MHz FM. This outing was an opportunity to work the bands much like I might do from home. However, my ham shack just happens to be located on a summit, today. I also got some exercise getting to and leaving my shack.

28-July-2011, Mount Bailey, W7/CS-004

We had talked about doing Mount Thielsen W7/CS-002 today, but it is a long walk to Thielsen (11 to 12 miles round trip) and the last 80 feet is a scramble with exposure. So we opt to do Mount Bailey instead. I have decided I am carrying more battery than I need, so today I leave the 2500 mAH pack at camp.

For this outing we have 7 people in our party. Our group consists of my wife and I, my brother and his three daughters, and Lori, a friend of ours who came to join us for a few days. We want to start part way up the mountain rather than at the normal trailhead. This requires traveling up a 4 wheel drive road and in this case over snow. This cuts off 2.2 miles of trail each way. My brother has a jeep with wide tires which allows it to mostly float on top of the snow. Lori also has a jeep, but it is heavier and doesn’t have the wide tires. We start out with both jeeps until we arrive at the first snow bank. Lori makes it through the snow bank, but we can see more and deeper snow just ahead, so her jeep is parked and we all squeeze into the one jeep. There are a couple of intersections where we have to choose the correct road. We make the correct choices and soon arrive at the signed trailhead.

Our hike for today has 2310 feet of elevation gain and is 2.7 miles one way. There are mosquitoes that bother use at camp, but there are more of them and they are more ferocious at the beginning of the trail. We hope that as we climb up the mountain the mosquitoes will quit bothering us. They have not been a problem on the other peaks. The trail is obvious at first, but soon there is quite a bit of snow which makes following the trail more difficult. There are blaze marks on the trees and it is a cross country ski trail in winter, so there are blue diamonds on trees that mark the trail as well. We arrive at a place where the trees are smaller and fewer and we cannot find the next blue diamond or any blaze marks and the trail is under snow. Fortunately at this point the mosquitoes are no longer a problem.

We know where the summit is and we know about where the trail goes. So we head up mostly following a ridge. As we climb up on snow and volcanic rock the toe of the sole on one of Lori’s boots comes loose. We stop and try to fix it with a strap I have for attaching my antenna pole to a post and some tape. We don’t have any good tape and the strap always comes loose. As we keep going up the ridge the sole on the Lori’s other boot falls off. We should probably turn around, but Lori keeps pushing on, not wanting to disappoint any of us. Soon, the sole also falls off the second boot. The leather upper part of her boot is still attached to the foot bed of the boot. It’s just that the soles are now missing.

By now we are near the false summit. We contour around the south face of the slope and arrive at the east side of a crater or bowl. This is the contour circle I saw on the map. But from the map it is not clear it is a crater. The west side of the crater is full of snow. We work our way around the south side of the crater and find the trail on the west side. Some of our party are getting hungry so we stop for lunch. We are relatively close to camp so I have been using low power (0.5 watts) on the handheld to communicate with my dad at camp. Even though we are now on the south west slope of the mountain and camp is due east he can still hear me fine on low power. We are at about 8000 feet and he is at 5200 feet and 4 to 5 miles away.

After lunch we continue up onto the summit ridge. There are a few humming birds flying around. We are surprised to see them up here. The first part of the ridge is small lava rock. Farther along the ridge is a rock spine. The trail goes along the west side of the spine on loose soil and small rock. We arrive at the window in the rock spine. As you look through the window you can see Mount Thielsen and Diamond Lake framed by the window. The trail continues along the west side of the ridge. There is a band of snow that has melted away from the rock spine and so there is room to walk between the snow and the spine. Then we come to a place where the snow has not melted back. We could try and go below the snow but then we would be on steeper looser ground. We find a way to climb up on the rock and get around the problem area. We then come to an area where we can climb up the rock spine and on to the final summit ridge. Soon we are on the summit.

I call my dad to let him know we have made it, and he is the first contact in the log. While I set up the dipole for 20m everyone else lays down around the summit and rests. I call at length on 14.285 and 14.3425 but get no contacts. By now my wife has figured out that I do not want to leave the summit until I have at least 4 contacts. Today she is carrying her radio and she and Lori begin their decent. She calls me on the radio and asks when she becomes a valid contact. I tell her to call me when she reaches the window. That way I will know she has made it safely past the iffy parts of the trail (she will also be well out of the activation zone). I am not sure my mother was thrilled to overhear this conversation about the trail her sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughters are walking on.

I switch to 50.125 and call CQ but still get no response. My wife calls on 146.52 from the window. She is the second entry in the log. Time is running on and it is time to be leaving. I brought the 2m beam with me, but I don’t want to take the time to get it mounted on the pole. I put the dual band whip on the 817 and call CQ on 146.52. I get a couple more contacts. One of those contacts suggests 50.125. Since I am set up for that already, we go there and make a contact on 6 meters. Contact summary for Mount Bailey, 4 contacts on 146.52 MHz FM, 1 contact on 50.125 MHz SSB.

I pack up and begin the decent. When we get past the window and onto the lava rock ridge I call camp and ask if they can see us standing on the ridge waving. They are using binoculars but do not see us at first. I direct them on where to look and then they are able to see us. My wife and Lori have followed the trail until it disappeared under the snow. She calls us to say that they are waiting for us to catch up with them before they continue.

Lori is going slow because of no soles on her boots which gives her very poor traction. Each time she comes to snow she stops to put bags over the toes of her boots. The leather upper is coming loose from the foot bed near the toe on one of her boots. Soon the bags begin to wear out and Lori quits putting them on. Now snow is getting into her boot when she walks. Fortunately it is a warm sunny day and also Lori’s wool socks help keep her feet from getting too cold.

We don’t retrace our steps exactly and eventually we come out on a ridge. I marked the jeep on the GPS so I get it out and turn it on. We are a little over a mile away but as we work our way down the ridge we come to a place where we can see the way ahead is getting steeper. We contour to the east in an attempt to find a better route and we find the trail. There is a reason why the trail goes where it does. We return to the jeep without incident. Lori’s boots held together enough to get out before coming completely apart.

30-July-2011, Hillman Peak, W7/CS-008

Today my brother is leaving. Check out time is 13:00. We stay around camp until afternoon. We don’t get to the mountains often, so we want to go do some hiking today. We decide to go to Cinnamon Butte, W7/CS-055. My wife, Lori, and I get in Lori’s jeep and go towards Cinnamon Butte. There is a sign where we turn off the highway that says the Butte is closed due to construction by a cellular phone company. At least we didn’t have to go too far off the main road to find this out. We decide to go into Crater Lake National Park and perhaps climb Hillman Peak.

Lori has not been to Crater Lake since she was small, so this is also an opportunity to see the sights. We stop at a few of the overlooks near Hillman to look down and across the lake. We also study Hillman and decide to go up the west ridge. The ridge is steep but we can get up it. It is not clear whether we will be able to get up on the summit block and into the activation zone. We start up the ridge and about halfway up meet someone coming down. We ask about getting to the summit. He tells us there is a trail of sorts on the north side and it is not difficult to get on top. We continue and as we near the summit we work our way to the north side. There is a lot of loose rock here, but if you take your time and find good locations to put your feet and hands it is not difficult.

I work my way to the northeast of the summit, there is a rock wall between me and Crater Lake. The wall is just high enough so I can’t see over it. I climb up so that I can see over it. There is the lake 2000 feet below pretty much straight down. The wall is fairly thin and I am not sure how firm it is. It also leans toward the lake a little. I do not feel comfortable here and quickly get back down beside the wall. My heart also starts beating quite rapidly. I keep going toward the summit which is close and soon all of us are on the summit area. The actual highest point is on a rock that overhangs the north face. Not a place I want to stand, but you can easily reach out and touch it. It is only a few inches higher than other rocks in the summit area.

I brought the 817 and the dual band whip with me in addition to the handheld. The way things have been going for me without alerts or the ability to self spot, I see no reason to try HF. I put the whip on the radio and begin calling CQ on 146.52. I begin calling at about 23:57 UTC. I get the first response at 00:03. Soon I have worked 5 stations. My wife and Lori begin their decent. I change to 144.2 SSB and hold the radio over my head so the antenna is horizontal and call CQ. I get no response. Once my wife is well out of the activation zone she calls me on 146.52, and she is the last entry in the log. I pack up and begin my decent. I catch up with them before too long and we continue down the ridge till we get to a place where we can safely slide down the snow field to a place near the vehicle. The stats for today, 510 feet of elevation gain, 0.5 to 0.75 miles one way, 6 contacts on 146.52 MHz FM

In reply to N7NGO: I activated Tolmie Peak on 26 Aug 2011 on 2 meters with rubber duckie. There was snow about but all gone on the trail. The mosquitoes were relentless; biting right through the mosquito spray. Made 7 contacts in 30 minutes and headed back down. Wx was beautiful day. 73 NZ7B