The Misadventures of W6SAE

It has taken me over a month and half to post this; the explanation follows below.

Back in July, we had a lively discussion going in the pre-planning category. It was in a thread that I started about an activation that I had planned for Mt. Tamalpais (W6/CC-063). The main topic of discussion was my intention to test my new Efactor Dual-Band 144/432 MHz antenna, as well as the matter of which peak of Mt. Tamalpais was the correct one. A small buzz had been created, with a number of area SOTA operators planning to listen for me on 2m and/or 70cm SSB. Well, to make a long story short, on July 29 I forgot the main component of the Efactor antenna and was unable to complete that part of the activation. I was able to log enough 2m FM and 20/40m SSB contacts to qualify. The real story here starts with my next activation, in which I again intended to test the Efactor antenna.

I set out on Thursday, August 31, for Point Reyes Hill (W6/CC-071), which is located in the Point Reyes National Seashore. The normal access point is at the top of Mt. Vision Road, from which one hikes approximately one-half mile to the activation zone at the top of Point Reyes Hill. On this day however, Mt. Vision Road was closed and gated due to extreme fire danger, with no public access to the hill. Luckily, there was an easy Plan B: W6/NC-542, known simply as “Point Reyes” is located at the extreme end of the peninsula, near a popular lighthouse.

The activation went fine. The Efactor antenna worked well, although I was only able to log one contact on 2m SSB: Joe, AA0BV, who happened to be on Mt. Tamalpais. Conditions were not too good, so it took me almost three hours to log enough contacts to qualify; I ended up with five, four of which were on 20m/40m SSB.

After packing up, I successfully “bushwacked” my way back down through the brush to the trail back to the lighthouse parking lot. When I was just a few hundred yards away from the parking lot, I tripped on something on the trail and fell. I landed hard on my left shoulder; I suspect the weight of my backpack with the radio equipment contributed to the force of the fall.

To make a long story short, I fractured my humerus (upper arm bone) just below the shoulder. It was an impact fracture and required a metal plate with a number of screws to repair it. I have been out of work, recovering since then and expect to be until at least mid-December. I have only recently been able to use my left hand while typing; it has helped me to be motivated to revisit the incident and post this. I’m going through physical therapy to recover full use of the arm and am still essentially only able to use my right arm for most tasks. I posted a more-detailed account of my experience in my blog at: W6SAE Station Blog: Activation Report: Point Reyes, SOTA W6/NC-542 (and the aftermath)

I have not yet been able to bring myself to open my backpack and see how my FT-857D and antenna tuner fared. The Efactor antenna (which I was carrying in my right hand) is pretty bent; I think it can be straightened, though.

73, Steve W6SAE

P.S. I would like to thank Joe, AA0BV, who called me personally to check on me as soon as he heard what had happened. It really made my day.

Ouch, sorry to hear that Steve. Wishing you a steady and complete recovery!

I’m not sure if they would’ve help you, but I always hike with a pair of trekking poles to help stay upright, among other things.

73, Barry N1EU

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Thanks, Barry. I’m sure they would have helped!

Steve, I feel for you. That’s really rough. None of us wants to add that sort of experience to our SOTA resumé.

But good on you for writing it up!

I do hope you get back 100% use of your arm very soon and that the hills treat you better in the future.

73, Simon

Hi Steve,
Thanks for sharing your story, and best wishes for a full recovery. You might find that the FT857 was protected by your “crumple zone”, though that itsn’t much comfort, I guess!


Steve - When you are ready give me a call and we will do a drive up summit together! (San Bruno, Diablo, Big Hill)

By the way, I understand how easy it is to fall. I have slipped and fallen on layers of pine needles, wet grass, and mud. I now descend some slopes quite slowly. Since most of my summits are solo ventures I carry my APRS HT with me so that my XYL can see my location and progress.

Great narrative of your misadventure. Point Reyes Hill (Mount Vision) and Point Reyes were two of my first activations and I have returned to them as my local summits for practice and experimentation.

Joe - AA0BV


Thanks Adrian! You may be right. The 857 is in the innermost compartment of the pack, farthest from the outside. Plus, it’s seems like it is built pretty tough. The LDG tuner, though, is closest to the outside and not built as stoutly.

I hope so too. While I may get some resistance from the XYL, I plan on getting back out there as soon as I’m able.

Thank you again, Joe. It’s still going to be a few months, but I’ll keep your invitation in mind! As far as the XYL is concerned, she doesn’t think I should do any more activations solo. I’ve gotten used to working solo, but I may try to tag along with any W6 or W7N SOTA hams who will have me in the future.

I’ve slipped a number of times, usually while coming down a steep trail. I usually just land on my butt, though!

Sorry to hear about your accident, but I’m glad you’re on the mend
Hope to hear or see you on a summit soon!

Jeff, aa6xa

WHOA! That’s one nasty fracture! I totally empathize, multiple fracture of my left humerous at the shoulder + dislocation. Wishing you the best for recovery!! Gotta love those range of motion stretches & strengthening…well, more like love-hate. Wishing you the best on recovery/rehab Steve, gotta keep your range of motion & strength as best as possible. Please don’t end up with a useless wing as did I.

Howard KE6MAK

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Dang that sucks. I trashed my ankle coming off a SOTA summit in Shenandoah National Park in VA this past spring, so I feel your pain. Shenandoah SOTA Summits and Xrays | KB1HQS

Get better soon! At least you can still chase.

Stuart, KB1HQS

Thanks, Howard. In a week or so, I think I’ll be moving on from the “passive” stage of therapy to the strengthening. As painful as it has been so far, I definitely have mixed feelings about what’s to come. I know I have to do it, though.

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I just read your account of your injury. In retrospect, you probably should have done what I did and call for help. I’m glad to see you’re back in action, though.

Thanks to all for the good wishes!

Nah, pure stubbornness and grit got me out, lol. I could walk, just not very fast. Besides as a former SAR team guy I would never live it down. In all seriousness, if I needed help, I would use my InReach or cell depending on the availability.
Stick with the PT, it’s not fun, but it will get you back climbing mountains before you know it.

Sorry to hear about your accident Steve, but on the plus side - Welcome to the metal-enhanced body club! :slight_smile:

I broke my ankle (actually the lower leg bone that is usually attached there) whilst hiking in Madeira a couple of years ago. A nice titanium plate and selection of screws later, my insurance company were €5k worse off eeek!

My advice to you is to stick to what the physio tells you to do, no matter how annoying or silly it sounds. I was really surprised at just how long it took to get back to normal; but it’s worth the effort, I promise you!

Good luck & take care, Simon

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I had similar experience at Joshua Tree NP. On the way down I tripped and fell very bad on rocky trail. It was Sunday late evening, and I was able manage to drive home for about 3 hours. At that time I did not made x-ray. One and half year later I made x-ray, and it showed different color area on one of my foot bone. Doctor ordered MRI, and finally it was confirmed that it is an indication of the healing after injury. I was lucky:)

Sorry to hear, Steve - I hope you recover fast!

Thanks to all for the kind wishes. As of last week, I have been able to stop wearing the massive sling that had been my “ball and chain” for six weeks–even when sleeping (or rather, trying to sleep). I am also cleared to drive again, which takes a big load off of family members that have been helping me. I still have up to two more months of physical therapy, though, before I am cleared to return to work (I work for Amtrak as a passenger train conductor).

UPDATE: On Thursday, February 20, my doctor released me to return to work without restrictions. After completing my return-to-work drug test/physical exam and waiting the better part of a week for the results, today I was notified that I am cleared to return to work (I work as a passenger train conductor for Amtrak). Friday will be my first official day back at work; it will be six months–virtually to the day–since the date of the injury.

I am continuing my physical therapy for a little while longer (as long as my insurance will pay for it, at least). I’m starting to get the itch to activate again; I will ease into it, perhaps starting with some “drive-ups” or very short, easy walks.

Thanks to all for the kind words, and also to Joe, AA0BV, for checking in on me periodically.

73, Steve W6SAE