Okay, if you’ve read many of the posts on this site you know that (a) I’m a ham radio operator, (b) I like to hike and backpack, and (c) often I find ways to combine these two activities. I’m a newcomer to the Summits On the Air (SOTA) game, where you can earn points as a summit activator and/or a summit chaser. Activators are the hams who climb to the top of designated SOTA peaks and make contacts any interested hams, called Chasers. It’s great fun if you’re already a hiker and occasional field operator. Steve WG0AT and Frank K0JQZ first introduced me to SOTA during this springs QRP To the Field event. Frank spotted me on the SOTA Watch website and then handed me the key, where I was immediately piled on by chasers. It was great fun (and captured in video by Steve).
I’ve been meaning to get back out and activate another SOTA peak, so my wife Dot and I headed out this morning to activate Raspberry Mountain (SOTA designation W0/FR-142), just south of Divide, CO. This trail was a new one for the both of us but it proved to be a very pleasant and manageable hike–about 3 miles from trailhead to summit with about a thousand feet in elevation gain.
We headed down the trail a little after 9 AM local and made the summit in about two hours. I was planning to get on the air for SOTA at noon, so I had plenty of time to get a little lunch and get set up.
The views from the summit are spectacular! To the east we could see Pike’s Peak and a large reservoir.
To the west, another mountain range.
The summit overlooks the town of Divide to the north.
As you can see, there are fringe benefits of being a SOTA activator, at least in Colorado. Raspberry Mountain is a six-point peak but easily activated, not requiring any more than a few hours of modest effort. My gear for this outing was my AT Sprint II QRP rig, an end-fed half-wave (EFHW) antenna with a match box like this one, a 22-ft telescoping mast to support the end of the antenna, and a small-ish gel cell to provide power.
Setup was quick and easy, and I was on the air by just a couple minutes past noon, as planned.
I had posted an alert on the SOTA Watch web site prior to taking off this morning, so all it took was a CQ on 14.062 MHz CW and the fun began. Two of my first three QSO’s were summit-to-summit (this is where two activators make a contact). All in all I made 15 contacts in the span of less than a half hour. Dot sat patiently, chatting up other hikers and enjoying the day while I operated.
For some reason, my AT Sprint II rig was acting up today, producing an ear-splitting buzz for several seconds at random intervals. That made the activation a little more challenging than I would have preferred. (Edit 11 July 2013: I subsequently consulted with the AT-Sprint Yahoo Group members, who quickly identified the buzzing as interference generated by my cell phone, and I was able to easily confirm that theory, so there’s no problem in my rig.)
After about a half hour on the air, it was time to pack up and head back down the mountain before the afternoon rain moved in. As luck would have it, we managed to return to the trailhead just as the rain began. Sometimes you get lucky, I guess. All in all it was a great outing. Aside from the receiver buzzing, everything worked pretty well. This was the first time I used the EFHW antenna, and it seemed to do great. It’s a keeper.
Here’s the log: