SOTA activators in Virginia and West Virginia have what we can now call a tradition of enjoying a summit-to-summit QSO party on or about New Year’s Day. This year was the third out of the last four years that we’ve had good enough weather and trail conditions to make it happen. Thanks to Allen, @AG4VA, the W4V association manager, for organizing the event.
What follows is my view of our humble hills as captured on January 1st, 2023.
Given the decent weather and the 2 PM start of the S2S party, I opted to squeeze in a quick activation that morning of Crawford Mountain, W4V/HB-014, 3780 ft (1152 m). I departed at 5 AM on the two-hour drive to the trailhead and made the 2.7 mi (4.3 km) hike up.
The apex of my dipole on the unremarkable, wooded summit:
With 27 Qs in the log, I made the same hike down and drove 20 minutes to the trailhead for Elliott Knob, W4V/HB-001, 4462 ft (1360 m).
The hike to the summit is 2.4 mi (3.9 km) each way. The elevation gain is 2072 ft (632 m) with essentially no counter-climb:
Apart from some brush blown down across the trail here and there and a few short stretches of lingering ice toward the top, it was an easy hike though unbroken forest. A patch of moss encountered in a north-facing hollow about two-thirds of the way up:
At last, a view of my destination through the trees:
If you look carefully at the above image, you can just spot a structure at the summit. It’s an old fire lookout tower which I will be commandeering for this afternoon’s VHF exploits:
The gates are open, there are no keep-out notices, and the structure’s in good shape:
The floor of the cabin made for a cleaner, flatter work surface than I usually get for assembling my 2 m summit Yagi. I lashed it to the one corner of the deck railing not already occupied by a permanent antenna, along with the IC-2300H mobile rig and 6 AHr lithium battery:
The other transmitters at the site fortunately caused very little interference during my time there. Some of this was the luck of minimal activity on the 2 m repeater whose antenna is mounted at another corner of the deck.
Goal number one of the day was fulfilled in making summit-to-summit QSOs on 2 m FM with most of our group. I managed to work seven of the 12 summits activated in W4V and W8V that day, ranging from 26 to 77 mi (42 to 124 km) distant. Apart from the two I activated myself, the ones not worked either wrapped up before I was on summit or were pretty far to the northeast and hence on the wrong side of the tower cabin.
I also succeeded at the secondary goal, the one that had prompted my dragging a 65 W mobile rig and suitable battery up a 2000 ft climb: working beyond 150 mi or so on 2 m FM. This is something we generally only manage from the minority of summits in Virginia with no trees obscuring the horizon.
My perch atop Elliott Knob delivered three QSOs with distant fixed stations at 154 to 197 mi (248 to 317 km). Also worked were a good smattering of mobile and fixed stations out to 90 mi or so who happened to be listening to the 2 m calling frequency.
Taking breaks here and there to share the agreed-upon frequencies with other activators was no hardship given the fine prospect to be surveyed. Looking northeast down the Shenandoah Valley:
Looking west across Deerfield Valley at some interesting late afternoon light on Shenandoah Mountain and, beyond it, W8V-land:
Having gotten a total of 42 QSOs in the log on this summit, I put my phone’s camera in panorama mode and captured this image, which I would later annotate with the activations of the day as well as several other visible summits:
Thanks for reading. Belated wishes for good summitting in 2023!