W1/HA-001 Mt Washington 9/5/2020

This activation was my first 10 point activation and considering it’s the highest point in New England…it seemed to be a good way to end my SOTA season for 2020 as far as I know. The other Summits in my area (New Hampshire) that I’m looking at will require a long hike and there isn’t enough time left in 2020 to make this work before winter comes.
Normally I don’t give much detail on this topic but Mount Washington is a unique case. Many hike to the summit. God bless them but that wasn’t an option for me at the time of the activation.
So I took the Mt Washington Auto Road to the summit. For myself and fiancee, the cost was $45 ($35 for driver/car and $10 for each additional persons).
This will be hard on your car but especially your brakes. I’ve heard estimates that it takes 20k miles off the life of your brakes. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
The drive up was nerve racking. Lots of driving on the right shoulder. Idiots you were selfie’ing while driving and going 5mph. There is always that fear that you’ll slide back because you were idling too long.
The views, however, are tough to beat. I didn’t see a lot of it since I was handling the driving but luckily my fiancee got a lot of great photos and video.
The way down from the summit was surprising not as nervous since you’re driving on S1 gear and you’re on the inside not the edge. Stick to his gear and pump not stomp your brakes. Do it and you’ll be fine.
Activation info:
Bands: 20m and 40m
Modes: FT8 and SSB
Timeframe on summit: 1430 to 1900 utc
Transceiver: Yaesu FT-891
Antenna: Chameleon MPAS 2.0 in Vertical configuration
Computer: Raspberry Pi 4
Before I want to get some venting out of the way so it doesn’t mess up the flow of the activation report.
I originally setup my antenna near the Pinkerton sign which is at the bottom of a hill which holds the Mt Washington sign that everyone takes their pictures of and in front was a shipping container which held the portable toilets plus the cafeteria.
This area resembles a World War I trench if this helps.
It provided good protection from the winds and the engulfing fog. It was seldom traveled aside from a few people who appeared after I tied my antenna to the Pinkerton trail sign which is in the trench and not on the trail itself which leads to the final plateau on the summit.
I made the decision to tie the antenna because the cha spike wasn’t mating with the Chameleon MPAS 2 in a secure manner. I didn’t want the antenna to go flying in the high winds (50mph at least) and hit someone. My decision was rooted in safety and concern.
Not long I was approached by a Park Ranger who asked what I was doing. This is not uncommon so I gave my elevator pitch for Amateur Radio.
Usually I get an interesting or cool then they move on. This encounter however didn’t go that way at all.
The Park Ranger immediately began to interrogate me: Do you have a permit to do this? Did you call us to let us know that you were coming? What gives you the right to have your antenna here? This plus lots of other yelling at me.
I was definitely caught off guard. I am a licensed Amateur Extra class Amateur Radio Operator in the US but I’m not sure what he’s getting at as I am not from New Hampshire or have been on this mountain before. I told him I wasn’t aware that I had to do that and nothing I had read up on had mentioned this. I was basically trying to figure out if they wanted me to buy a permit from them or something. I didn’t volunteer my license status because I wasn’t sure if this would make him angrier. Didn’t matter.
The Park Ranger screamed at me that I didn’t bother to find out and giving the impression that I had disrespected him. Again I’m confused.
If he asked me to move my antenna to the alternative location he showed us later…I would have moved my gear.
Instead I got a lecture about how my antenna was disturbing the natural environment and disrupting someone’s views/photos. So someone complained basically. I can speak the dialect of Karens. Except this argument doesn’t work since we were totally fogged in. Picture London Fog. So what view? Also he pointed up at the Mt Washington sign at least 300 feet above us. The angle of the sign would not have my pole in it.
I kept my cool luckily. He mentioned seeing if there could be an alternative location to be found and if not then we would be kicked off the mountain. I asked if he could check that out and we would be happy to move. The Park Ranger disappears and we start to disconnect our antenna. We’re guessing that we’re going to thrown off the mountain before we really could get started. A close to 4 hour drive wasted because of a Karen. Karens are worse than AIDS, Cancer and Covid. At least those kill you when they succeed. You have to live with Karens preening in exaltation.
The Park Ranger comes and back there is a clear attitude shift. If I have to guess, I’m going to assume that someone mentioned that yes, Hams come up here often, that we have licenses which means we don’t need a permit and tend to keep to themselves. The Park Ranger went from Drill Instructor before to polite. There is a post overlooking the parking lot near some cement blocks where we can setup near the wooden stairs leading to the parking lot (left at the top of the stairs, right if looking away from the summit) . I say great and move my gear in a few trips.
Use the site shown in the photos attached. It’s clear the staff want you out of site and nowhere near where they make their money. I asked this question before I left and only got a photo with this spot with the rest saying pretty much anywhere including the picnic area. Don’t. Covid has made everyone nuts and it will only cause you trouble.
After the incident in “Venting”, setup in the spot as specified by the Park Ranger took about 20 minutes. I was able to get back onto FT8 for 20m. This was my first SOTA Activation using Digital or Data mode.
I spent probably around an hour in what could be described as “SOTA Activator Hell.” I could hear stations in Japan but couldn’t get an responses to me. I then reached out to N2YTF who I later found out was the SOTA W1 coordinator. The contact worked! I had some issues that have been recurring for me where I have contact in the works, we go through parts of the FT8 script, we lose contact and then can’t reconnect. Would love to find a way to fix that.
I managed to get 4 more contacts on Digital to complete the activation minimum contact count switching between 20m and 40m. I couldn’t get cell service on the mountain to spot which really hurt the Parks on the Air portion I wanted to go.
I switched to SSB and…band conditions were horrible. Bands would randomly open and then shut. Rinse repeat.
So you could be calling CQ into the void and then then have someone super mad because you’re talking over their CQ and then nothing again.
Luckily I had a few people stumble onto me so I at least got close to the ten contact minimum for Parks on the Air credit (K-2667).
Many people approached me to ask about my digital setup and I was a Good Ambassador. The staff kept checking in with me in a friendly manner which I guess was trying to mend fences. I’ll take it.
One person how kept scolding me for being 2k below a QSO and then 2k above on the air when the bands would open then offered to be a contact which he did do plus spot me on POTA.
I got one more contact before my fiancee said we had to go. She was freezing cold and was more than a good sport over all of this stuff.
Plus we had the drive down to deal with.
At the time, we were under the impression we needed 3 more contacts and it definitely wasn’t going well.
Still I got SOTA 10 points and 8 contacts so I can’t complain.
-Find any authority figure and ask where/if I can setup my antenna. No one was visible but maybe I should tap on a few windows to ask.
-Use the Xiegu X5105 instead of the Yaesu FT-891 plus tuner. Lightweight and less wires.
-Find a better cell reception alternative. Usually the PowerTalkie does this job well but it was no help on Mt Washington on activation day.
-Get into hiking shape. The Summits that are left that I’m interested in (8 points and up) are all long hikes up hill. Need to get into shape and this looks more like a 2021 goal.


Ah, so many hours of my life wasted watching Karen videos on YouTube. :slight_smile:

Be very careful asking for permission… it’s always easier for someone to say no than yes.


I’ve looked at Mt Washington as a potential summit when I head to my company’s Westford/Boston office (which is no time soon). The best part of it will be the fact it’s the hire car company’s brake life :smiley:

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I’ve been to Mt. Washington long before I knew about SOTA. Made a few FM Simplex contacts. Even with the hand held a ranger did inquire what I was doing but he was very friendly. He told me that one of the researchers that was there for a while had a wire antenna strung up for the year he was there. I remember thinking how cool that would be to list it as your semi-permanent QTH!

Thanks for the report.



Interesting story - thanks!

One tip for mountain driving: gear down, i.e. shift into low (very low) gear, when descending. It is much easier on your brakes! Done correctly, you won’t have to brake much except on hairpins.

Randy, ND0C

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