Sunday, July 7, 2019

A White Mountain 4-Pack & the 100th Summit


I decided to make my July 4 weekend a tad longer and head up to the white mountains of AZ where I have my mountain villa.  Of course the trip is going to include som summits on the air.  If it didn’t you’d be reading about the trip on throboflife.com.  It’s a 10 hour drive from San Diego and I got in late at night on the 3rd.  When I got up the next morning and looked out the window to see the gentle breeze causing the aspen leaves to flicker, it was well worth it right there.... Done, complete, satisfaction.


Today is the Fourth of July.  My in-laws were planning a bar-b-que in the next town over so I spent the morning planning my attack on some SOTA summits.  There is a bonanza of SOTA summits in what I call the Greens Peak area.  The area is about an hour’s drive from my villa so it should be fun.  I did activate Green.    s last year but I really wanted to hit a few of the others.  I brought up alltrails.com on my laptop and went to work charting the peaks and prepping my assault plans. (click on picture for larger)

Charting complete, I went into Springerville for the BBQ and good conversation with my in-laws. On the drive over, it looked like there was a fire burning to the east.  As I crested the hill overlooking Springerville and a better view to the east, it looked like my planned area of operation was in flames.  Hmmm, all that time plotting a course to the many summits over there may have been a waste of time but we’ll see.  I asked around and there was a fire caused by a lightning strike on Whiting Knoll, one of my destinations, as well as some control burn. 

After the BBQ, and everyone had left, I decided to do a little recon and SOTA.  There are a couple of peaks north of the smoke filled area on old volcanos and I decided to hike one of them to get a better view, and yes, kick off the SOTA activation weekend.


Cerro Montoso W7A/AP-031

Cerro Montoso is a fairly short but very steep hike.  I drove about half way up to the point where my Hylander would have high centered if I had gone any further.  In addition, I could see tracks where four-wheel-drive vehicles had to stop.  My AWD did kick in a few times mainly because the dirt is so loose.  The rest of the hike is very steep, as it’s a direct path to the top and it was about 80F.  Since it was my first day, hiking from sea level, going up to a 8,338’ peak was a bit difficult. 

Once on the top, I find that there are two massive towers up there.  I decided to hike over to the area away from all of the RF sheds hoping for less interference from AC units and general power line interference.  The area couldn’t have been more than 10 lower than the high point and it had a great view.  Yup, the planned area of operation was shrouded in smoke.  Hmmm.  Tomorrow is Friday so I’ll check in at the Ranger station and see what is closed off.  I have several options that are outside my primary area of operation if I can’t get into the greens peak area.

Setup was easy and there was a slight wind from the southwest at 10mph cooling me down.  I brought a light weight antenna tuner given the issue I had during the last expedition.  The tuner is a LDG Z100+.  It works but I don’t like it nearly as much as the MFJ-939Y auto antenna tuner for 891.  The LDG antenna tuning involves a lot of futzing around whereas the 939 is linked into the radio allowing a single button tune operation.  The downside of the MFJ unit is that I think it weighs 1.5 lbs more.  I was able to log 24 contacts once I was on the air.  I don’t think there were any SOTA activators out so no chasing for me.. It was pretty late in the day and I decided to get back to the villa before dusk to setup a wire for HF that I wanted to test.

I got the antenna up, had some beef stew and a glass of wine on my front porch.

St. Peters Dome W7A/AP-006

After breakfast I headed out around 7AM for my primary area of operation by Green’s peak.  As I crested flat top I didn’t see any smoke... good news.  Stopping at the Ranger station, I was told that there was a lightning caused fire that is out  but they are doing control burn in the area.  That’s good news.  I might still be able to get back there and activate one or two of the peaks with a couple more south of the affected area as alternates.

The drive up to St. Peters Dome is magnificent.  The area has been getting a lot of moisture this year and was green and lush.  This is the beginning of the monsoon season and it’s normally not this green but this year, it was a whole different story.  The best part was no roadblocks... It’s open and no smoke!

After parking I notice some clouds building to the east so I was a bit concerned about possible thunderstorms, which is not something I want when I have my lightning rod / antenna in the air.  Because of the clouds, it kept the direct sun off of me and delivered mild temp... I followed the road up to a certain point and then, given the way the terrain presented itself, I started my ascent in an east sloping climb.  There is a ravine that I had planned to pass and go up the east side but this ascent would take me right into it so I stayed west of it and took more of a direct attack (see my track & chart).  The bushwhack was easy through the forest and a pure joy to be in.  I kept stopping to take pictures and enjoy the view.  For some reason the horse flies were in full force and I made a mental note to pick up some bug spray that doubles as sunscreen.  So far, this is the most beautiful hike of the year.  I’m surrounded by lush green grass, healthy ponderosa and other pines, aspen and oak trees. 

Once on top I found a nice operating position and setup.  I made 23 contacts, 4 of them summit-to-summit contacts. 

Most descents off the mountain back to the car are a little onerous.  The excitement is gone and you just want to get back to the car. That was not the case this time.  It was such a beautiful hike I didn’t mind it at all.  Once I loaded up, I headed for Whiting Knoll for summit #2.  If that wasn’t available, I would continue west to hit a couple of others.  I ran into a road block at Whiting Knoll where they were doing controlled burn.  The deputy said that the entire area was closed off and I didn’t have a way to get to the other peaks so I turned around.  I could still do Green’s Peak but I’ll save that for another day.  My new plan was to hit a peak on the outer end of the planned area of operation and then work in another summit on the way home.

Cooley Mountain - W7A/AE-042

I headed out to what looked like an easy “drive up” to a mountain by Honda.  On the way, I stopped at a roadside eatery in McNary and got an Indian Taco.... Oh man was that good.  The Indian Taco is a round piece of fried bread about the size of a plate, covered in beans, hamburger, lettuce, and if you ask, green chili.  Heaven.  OK, I’m glad the next summit is a “drive up” because I’m too full to hike right now. 

Once on the summit I could see why there was a road up there, it was home to a huge number of antennas and my mortal enemy, RFI.  I setup the radio and when I turned it on it was set to a CW frequency that I was using for a summit-to-summit.  It turns out that there was a different operator calling CQ on the frequency from another summit.  What luck!!!  I quickly plugged in my paddles and called him using morse code.  First contact complete! 

When I turned the radio to SSB mode, the signal strength meter that almost maxed out with other RF from something up on the mountain, S9.  This meant that it would be impossible to hear any other operator over the noise.  Just imagine being able to talk to a friend across an empty stadium with your voice, but then fill the stadium with crazy World Cup fans and it’s impossible.  I moved to a spot that I figured would be far enough away... It wasn’t it was actually worse.  I moved again down the hill.  Still no better.  I went further down the road to where I figured I was at the edge of the activation zone.  By this time I was extremely agitated.  One other strange tidbit.  There were thousands of lady bugs all around me and if I pulled anything green out, they covered it.  They don't hurt anything but it was just odd.

Lucky for me, the noise level was between S3 and 5.  I was able to squeak out a few contacts but no summit-to-summits. A lot of summit operators are running 5 watts of power so I’m not going to hear them over the noise.  An operator in my slack group, AA6XA wanted to contact me but he couldn’t hear me.  We switched to CW and got the contact... We’ve done this twice now.  It really shows the power of CW and why so many SOTA operators take the time to learn Morse code. 

This was probably the most frustrating activation I’ve done since Poser Mountain back in 2017.  After all the time I had spent trying different locations and adapting to the physical conditions I  had burned up too much time to get another peak in unless I wanted to arrive back at the villa way past dark... and my spirit was broken.  Given that we have a spotless sun, I did fare better than some other guys that headed out today who were completely skunked on their attempts.  I came away with an activation and a beautiful hike in the morning.

Wahl Knoll W7A/AP-005

If I can get 4 contacts on this next summit, it will be summit activation number 100 for me.  I’ve been skunked a couple of times so I’ve actually summited more than 100 since 10/31/2017 when I activated my first summit.  It’s hard to believe I’m at 100.  Yesterday, I passed 500 activator points, halfway to the title of mountain goat.  (I’m the front half of the half goat by the way).

I got up early and went into Alpine for breakfast before heading out.  The little village of Alpine, AZ was prepping for a parade down the main drag.  There was a light sprinkle of rain coming down and I was hoping I wouldn’t be skunked by weather.  The drive out to the trail head is a pretty one, up through Williams Valley, Big Lake area, and then north to the turn off.  Along the way I had a light sprinkle off and on. 

There is a road that winds around and goes up to the top, but the stroll through the meadow is really nice.  This hike is as beautiful as yesterday’s but in a different way.  Open fields lined with pine trees.  It’s a short one mile hike and dead quiet as I walk up the meadow toward a small saddle and go up a false summit to the summit. 

As I’m setting up I can hear wild turkeys below me.  I setup pretty quick because it looks like there may be a more significant bit of rain coming my way.  Most importantly, there is no thunderstorms and the weather doesn’t seem like it is going to produce one at this time.  As things heat up and the air becomes more stable, it might produce some...

Once I’m on the air there is a light sprinkle.  I have my gear covered up with my shell and I get to work.  I barely have any cell coverage but if I hold my mouth just right I can get my spot out.  I have the satellite communicator but don’t need it this time.  The HF conditions seemed to be a bit better today but then again the noise level is almost at zero.  I quickly have a pileup going with all the usual suspect reaching out as well as a lot of others.  I was trying to complete the summit before I started getting outright rain since I didn’t have any cover... then it stopped for a few minutes.  I worked a lot of stations so the activation went well.  The rain was definitely heading my way and as the air heats and rain gets any heavier, the chance of lightning goes up.

Activate 100 summits?  Check!

Rather than head to another summit, I promised to bring my wife’s parents to their ranch in Concho, AZ.  Criss needed to irrigate (or direct the irrigation operation) and have a little BBQ.  It turned into real rain on the way into Springerville.  We had a nice visit and excellent grub up in Concho and then headed back.

After getting back to the villa, the neighbor invited me to another BBQ.  I had a splitting headache all day so I relaxed for a while and waited for the grill to get fired up (I still had to cook my dinner).  I went easy on the wine and decided that my last day up here will be spent at my mountain villa.  This was helped along by the forecast for rain.  It had been raining at the villa and started raining heavily with some thunder at 7pm or so.  It rained for the rest of the evening. 

There was more heavy rain at 3AM till 6 AM.  And more heavy rain from 10 to about 3PM.  I had a lovely nap up stairs under the metal roof at noon... I was going to do a little chasing but... no, it felt too good to just watch and listen to the rain fall... and WATCH THE US WOMEN WIN THE WORLD CUP. 

This was a nice trip and it always feels great to be immersed in the forest.  I hope to be back up here in a few weeks and knock out a few more summits. 


Contacts

Cerro Montoso W7A/AP-031

Date:04/Jul/2019 Summit:W7A/AP-031 (Cerro Montoso) Call Used:N1CLC Points: 10 Bonus: 0   Delete

Time
Call
Band
Mode
00:00z
K0LAF
7MHz
SSB
00:01z
WW7D
7MHz
SSB
00:01z
NW7E
7MHz
SSB
00:02z
K6MW
7MHz
SSB
00:02z
W7MOE
7MHz
SSB
00:03z
K6HZR
7MHz
SSB
00:03z
K6QCB
7MHz
SSB
00:04z
K6VSS
7MHz
SSB
00:05z
K7TAB
7MHz
SSB
00:15z
WA7JTM
7MHz
SSB
00:19z
N7AMA
7MHz
SSB
00:20z
K6YK
7MHz
SSB
00:20z
AS6XA
14MHz
CW
23:44z
NS7P
7MHz
SSB
23:50z
NW7E
7MHz
SSB
23:51z
K6MW
7MHz
SSB
23:51z
AE7UT
7MHz
SSB
23:52z
N0RZ
7MHz
SSB
23:53z
WW7D
7MHz
SSB
23:53z
AB4WL
7MHz
SSB
23:54z
K7DTU
7MHz
SSB
23:56z
KI6EAB
7MHz
SSB
23:58z
N5ZZM
7MHz
SSB
23:59z
NS7P
7MHz
SSB

St. Peters Dome W7A/AP-006

Date:05/Jul/2019 Summit:W7A/AP-006 (Saint Peters Dome) Call Used:N1CLC Points: 10 Bonus: 0   Delete

Time
Call
Band
Mode
17:53z
K6ARK
10MHz
CW
18:12z
KB4SMK
14MHz
SSB
18:17z
W0MNA
14MHz
SSB
18:18z
K6MW
14MHz
SSB
18:19z
K7ATN
14MHz
SSB
18:19z
NK7L
14MHz
SSB
18:20z
W0ERI
14MHz
SSB
18:21z
K6TQ
14MHz
SSB
18:21z
K7GT
14MHz
SSB
18:22z
K6QCB
14MHz
SSB
18:22z
K6YK
14MHz
SSB
18:23z
N0RZ
14MHz
SSB
18:23z
NS7P
14MHz
SSB
18:23z
W5ODS
14MHz
SSB
18:25z
W5GAI
14MHz
SSB
18:25z
AC1Z
14MHz
SSB
18:26z
AB4PP
14MHz
SSB
18:27z
K1LIZ
14MHz
SSB
18:27z
WB7ULD
14MHz
SSB
18:28z
K3TCU
14MHz
SSB
18:29z
KI4TN
14MHz
SSB
18:29z
NE4TN
14MHz
SSB
18:30z
W5ODS
18MHz
CW

Cooley Mountain - W7A/AE-042

Date:05/Jul/2019 Summit:W7A/AE-042 (Cooley Mountain) Call Used:N1CLC Points: 10 Bonus: 0   Delete


Time
Call
Band
Mode
21:30z
KR7RK
18MHz
CW
22:57z
AB6SO
14MHz
SSB
23:02z
W0MNA
14MHz
SSB
23:03z
KE6MAK
14MHz
SSB
23:04z
W0ERI
14MHz
SSB
23:05z
W2SE
14MHz
SSB
23:06z
KI5WA
14MHz
SSB
23:07z
AA6XA
14MHz
CW

Wahl Knoll W7A/AP-005

Date:06/Jul/2019 Summit:W7A/AP-005 (Wahl Knoll) Call Used:N1CLC Points: 10 Bonus: 0   Delete

Time
Call
Band
Mode
16:34z
WW1USA
14MHz
SSB
16:36z
N7KRN
14MHz
SSB
16:39z
KG3W
14MHz
SSB
16:39z
W5BOS
14MHz
SSB
16:40z
KI4TN
14MHz
SSB
16:40z
W0MNA
14MHz
SSB
16:41z
W0ERI
14MHz
SSB
16:41z
WD4CFN
14MHz
SSB
16:42z
KD9FM
14MHz
SSB
16:42z
K6MW
14MHz
SSB
16:43z
K1LIZ
14MHz
SSB
16:43z
K0LAF
14MHz
SSB
16:44z
WD0ACB
14MHz
SSB
16:44z
W4KRN
14MHz
SSB
16:45z
W5GAI
14MHz
SSB
16:46z
KI5WA
14MHz
SSB
16:47z
WA3LKT
14MHz
SSB
16:48z
KG5OSX
14MHz
SSB
16:49z
K5BCN
14MHz
SSB
16:50z
N5HA
14MHz
SSB
16:50z
W4ACW
14MHz
SSB
16:51z
NE4TN
14MHz
SSB
16:51z
WF2Y
14MHz
SSB


Loadout for the multiple summits:

      Yaesu FT-891D HF Radio at 100 watts
   30’ of coax feed line
      Yaesu FT-2DR HT
      3 L of water (8 lb)
      iPhone with All Trails, MotionX GPS and sota goat
      LDG Z-100 plus auto antenna tuner for the FT 891
      Trekking poles
     Packtenna.
   Extra LiFePO Battery
   AnyTone AT-868UV DMR radio for testing.
   Custom wiine bottle cork paddles for CW (crafted by K6ARK)
   Delorme Inreach satellite tracker and communicator.
   JetBoil for the hot tea :)


73,
N1CLC
Christian Claborne
(aka Chris Claborne)


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