W4C/WM SOTA run this past weekend

This past weekend I was planning on a solo SOTA run up into NC since I have Friday’s off the rest of the year. When the XYL2b found out I was planning on Clingman’s Dome, she asked if she could tag along. I made sure she was aware that my SOTA was a priority on the trip and she had to give me radio time on the summits, to which she agreed. :slight_smile: So, we make it into a mini-vaca.

We hit Standing Indian (W4C/WM-014) first and did a hit and run on VHF since we wound up leaving 90 minutes late and it was a 2.5 mile hike back to the truck and then another hour to the next summit. Garnered a 90 mile QSO with a mobile station back near the QTH and a S2S in TN literally as I was reaching to turn the HT off!

Afterwards, we hit Wine Spring Bald (W4C/WM-018) about 30 minutes before sunset. It was about a 15 minute hike to the AZ. I’m glad I checked the AZ on Google Earth with the Flood Tool because a wide open space was about .15mi before the summit and was begging for the SOTAbeams BandHopper to be set up. I worked 40m CW and was chased by my Elmer, N4HNH via ground wave. Nice surprise there! I lost sunlight and missed a great sunset photo op, but garnered 14 QSOs. Darkness and the drop in temperature prevented me from trying any more bands.

The next day we hit Clingman’s Dome (W4C/WM-001) which is the highest point in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. We had some drama on the way up the entrance road because the XYL2b noticed her low fuel light was on! :scream: Here we are, 30 miles from the nearest fuel station! Oh well, we’ll deal with that later.

I caught three other SOTA buddies on a neighboring summit, Mount Mingus (W4T/SU-008) on their way up LITERALLY on their hands and knees. Made some VHF contacts from the summit and then set up HF at the base of the observation tower thanks to a suggestion from K2JB. It was a perfect spot. No noise, a rock to sit on, and surprisingly no one even gave me a second look. I used a newly tuned linked EFHW to be a bit inconspicuous and started on 40m CW. Got a good number of contacts and then heard K2JB and company over on Mingus come through on the HT so we worked S2S. Switched over to 20m and the fun began. I had a nice little pileup going and wound up working three DX stations. One in France and two in Spain. My first SOTA CW DX! I learned later that this qualified me for the 1000mi per watt club! My MTR3b puts out 4.2w on a LiPo charged to 12v, so it was around 1050mi/watt if memory serves. I’m absolutely loving CW and the MTR. After the pileup subsided, I powered off the MTR and called on VHF, picking up another random mobile on .52. After packing up and starting to head down, I was at the edge of the AZ and made one more call. I was shocked to pick up another buddy KN4ZKT on 146.55 over at Rabun Bald (W4G/NG-002) for one more S2S! After this QSO, a guy in his early 20s asked me what frequency I was on. Turns out he listens a lot on WebSDR and is going for his technicians license next month. I gave him a card I had about SOTA and POTA and he was very interested since he is a hiker as well. We may be hearing a new OP on the air next year!

As for the fuel situation, we decided to go for it. After all, we are on the highest peak in the area and it has to be downhill! We literally coasted in Neutral all the way to the main road, and it was about 20 miles back to Cherokee from that point. I would estimate we coasted a good 10-12 miles of that in Neutral. She had to brake a little more than usual since we couldn’t use compression braking and I warned her what to expect with steering and braking if the engine died on us. We did wind up making it back to Cherokee, most likely on fumes.

We fueled up and then hit Barnett Knob W4C/WM-055. K2JB had told me that the gate to the summit road may be open. There is an old fire tower and a current antenna farm at the summit. Well, we got there and the gate was open! Good thing, since the XYL2b was tired. We drove up and operated VHF only. She walked around next to me swinging my Arrow 3-ele Yagi around. Picked up the same 3 SOTA buddies that had been on Mingus for my first three contacts. After about 15 minutes we finally made the 4th and headed down.

Cowee Bald was on the schedule for Sunday, but got nixed due to rain.

Great SOTA time, awesome scenery and hikes, delicious food at some local eateries, and got to try some local brews in Bryson City.

Standing Indian Summit

Clingman’s Dome

Bryson City - View from the back deck where we stayed


I LOVE hearing someone’s successful SOTA stories and even more being part of them. Thanks for all the Q’s and thrilled you are enjoying CW.
Keep Calm
And Call

Dean ~ K2JB

You all had a pretty good success story just making it to the summit of W4T/SU-008 and back down based on that video!

Sounds like a nice trip you did there. Good contacts and the arrow beam does work well. Wonder if you will try it on ssb with a suitable rig one day? I always get much better range on ssb (and using horizontal polarisation - it seems to work better in forested hills). I know fm HTs are much more convenient, but once you’ve used ssb and made 200km contacts fairly easily, even with 5w, you don’t look back!

Your use of the term XYL2b caught me initially, I thought it was like a version number. I wondered, what happened to 2a? But then it clicked! My wife refuses to be referred to as an XYL, she says she is still a YL “so quit with the X stuff”. Haha.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

Congratulations on a great SOTA run with the XYL! Unfortunately, my wife will not let me do anymore activations while we are on vacation if we are using her car. We once stopped by Clingman’s Dome so that I could do an activation, but it was very windy and cold so she decided to stay in the car. When I arrived back at the car she was outside and she and the driver of the car next to her were exchanging insurance information. It turns out, when he was exiting his car, he did not have a good grasp of the door and the wind caught it and really smashed it into my wife’s car. His insurance eventually paid to have the damage fixed, but my wife was not a happy camper. No more spur of the moment activations for me unless we are in my vehicle…


Dave, AE9Q

I’ve tried 2m SSB with an FT818 a couple of times and had zero luck. A friend tried it a couple of months ago and he only worked a couple of people who he first worked on 2m FM. 2m SSB isn’t as popular here in the states. I may try it again the next time I do a drive up.

He did spot 2m CW and I was able to work him about 90 miles away from my apartment balcony 2m FM antenna and the FT818. We both now have exactly one 2m CW QSO in the log. LOL!

OUCH! That had to hurt! She’s pretty good about giving me radio time, but I do make time for us to go on non-SOTA hikes as well. I carry the HT with me under the guise of “emergency communications” and will try random CQs as we hike, but nothing like doing an activation. If we’re out at a POTA entity she’s also good about letting me set up the FT891 and run QRO.

She was a bit excited when we went to a POTA entity that hadn’t been activated since 2016. She had been wanting to visit Cumberland Island for years so when the opportunity presented itself we spent the day on the island hiking, playing on the beach, looking at the wild horses, and I got in an hour of radio time. I think this may have been the only time that the entity had been activated from the actual island, as the other activations occurred on the mainland at the visitors center. :slight_smile:

Maybe one day the sting will wear off and she’ll let you run impromptu activations when in her vehicle. Or not…women have a long memory! HiHi!

-Richard N1RBD

Hi Richard,

The usual thing I find is that there are the FM/repeater users and the SSB users, they often know little about each other and follow their own interests.

The secret to making good long distance ssb contacts is to find out who are the ssb long distance operators in your area, see if you can interest them in giving you contacts on your activations. SSB operators are usually interested to work anyone new, so the word will spread that you are a SOTA operator who wants to work them. Give it time, subscribe to their newsletters and post details of your activations a few days in advance if possible (equivalent to an alert). Especially if you are on a rare summit, that usually interests anyone.

We have found that the vhf weak signal (ssb) group is keen to work us on any and all vhf bands we can push into an antenna. Usually 6m, 2m, 70cm and sometimes 23 and 13cm finds interest from the Canberra vhfers. (Non-fm). That depends on what gear you have, of course, but the FT817 is ideal for putting 3 vhf/uhf bands on the air. Even though from a SOTA perspective there is no point working the same home station again, they like to make the contacts on each band they have gear for - it’s a good exercise and sometimes can result in some surprises, like a 6m opening you would never have known about if you had stuck to 2m fm. A SOTA station on a decent summit is like a small scale vhf field day occurring nearby, or maybe at a distance.

Good luck, hope you continue to have great activations.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

Definitely going to give it a try over my vacation coming up next month. I think I’ve had two 2m SSB contacts, both of those during the VHF contest back over the summer.

I keep telling myself I’m going to start doing CW only for SOTA to lighten my load, but I agree with you. There is just such a satisfaction that comes from a long VHF contact that I can’t seem to make myself leave the beam at home! :slightly_smiling_face:

Rich - sounds like you had a blast. Great to hear abt ur CW Qs. Was in the Sauratown Mts earlier this month. Worked west coast on 20cw with 3 wts…but helps to be at 2600 ft.
73 de K4RLC Bob

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