Back in May I attempted to Activate Lookout Mountain in North Phoenix (W7A/MN-144), but I aborted due to the extreme heat. I’m a 53 year old asthmatic and I do need be aware of the subtle signal My body sends, so i turned back about halfway up. Today, now that the weather has become milder in the Valley of the Sun, I tried again. The trail from the trail head to the summit is pretty short, about 1/2, but it gains about 600 feet in that span and there are some pretty steep spots. The first half of the hike up was not that bad, but the second half gets steep and the trail is more of a rock climb than a hike. The effort was worth it as the summit commands a great view of the valley in all directions. It was pretty darn windy up there by the time I arrived about 15 minutes before my planned activation time of 1400.
It was here that Murphy read his head. I use a PAR End fed HW for 20-40m in an inverted V. I support it with a 22 ft telescoping mast. To hold the mast in position I have a piece of rebar I hammer into the ground. Now the rebar is supposed to be in my pack, Guess where it wasn’t? Well unlike a lot of the hill around here, there are not any big rock you can grab to fashion a support for the mast, so it was MacGyver time. After several tries I was able to shove the mast onto a branch of a small creosote bush. Then I noticed the clip that hold the antenna to the top of the mast was missing, so I ran the 20m stub thought the loop on top of the mast. Problem with this was the stub kept sliding up the loop from the weight of the 40m wire.( solution? hang my hiking staff on it. Now still windy I go to raise the mast and realize my little creosote bush isn’t up to the task as the mast pretty well tipped on it’s side. I ended up using the 40m wire as a guy by pulling a bit tighter than usual and rearranging it to pull against the wind. I also only extended the mast 3 sections, which is about 12 feet. Not ideal, but it would have to do. All told what should 've been a 15 minute operation, took 45 minutes.
Finally got on the air and the les than ideal antenna situation didn’t seem to make much difference. I made 17 contacts overall, Including VA6FUN, my first DX SOTA, in Stoney Lake AB, North east of Edmonton and KK1W in Central MA, which at 2235 miles was the furthest contact of the day.
Right about 1500UTa few lids started calling at 14.340 causing me quite the QRM, I tried to dial them in to ask them to QSY down a few Khz, but could never really get a good signal. After about 20 minutes I made one more contact KG7O, who kindly spotted me and then again WA7JTM, (who happens to live within sight of the summit) Spotted me again and that one brought some more contacts. A bit after 1600UT, the radio started to turn it self off and restart, an indication the battery was getting low. A check on my WattMeter, Showed the battery down to 11.8volts. I managed to get a few more QSO’s in before it flat out died.
I meant to take a picture of the antenna to show the MacGyvered set up, but remembered after I’d taken it down. Suffice it to say it wasn’t pretty, but it worked. I did get a hiker to get a picture of me at the mike, before I tore down, which ironically as I was about to unplug the radio, it popped back on, go figure…
All in all it was nice to finally conquer Lookout Mountain and play radio. Thanks to all the stations who worked me and spotted me.
Logs are in the SOTA DB and will be uploaded to LOTW & EQSL.cc later to day after football. LOTW will be uploaded as K7TEJ/P, eqsl K7TEJ (too lazy to create a new account for the portable Call sign) Paper cards will go out sometime this week.