W6/NC-432 Chabot 2 Benchmark

Today we went to Chabot Regional park to pick up an easy 1-pointer in the East Bay: Chabot 2 Benchmark. We parked in the Fairmont Ridge Staging Area, where parking was free. It was late afternoon and above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius or so) but mercifully the hike was only about a mile each way, and half of it was shaded by a row of eucalyptus trees. Near the top is a fence that blocks off a historic Nike missile site. This gate is just within the activation zone, but I followed a use trail just left of the fence to get a bit closer to the summit, although it seems the proper way to do this would be to peel to the right of the eucalyptus trees on the east side of the antennas and missile site.

I brought a log-periodic with me for this all-VHF activation, but I probably didn’t need it since most of my contacts were located about five miles away in Hayward. At this time of the afternoon people driving home from the day’s activities, so a lot of folks caught me on the road.

Thanks to all the chasers: WU1Q, KG6OMB, N6ACK, AI6F, KK6WBY!


Henry-1 High Altitude Balloon Launch

The East Bay amateur radio club worked with the UC Berkeley ham radio club on a high altitude balloon launch. The balloon went up on March 18, starting on Memorial Glade on the UC Berkeley campus. The payload included a bio-aerosol collection module, a Geiger counter, and a cross-band repeater. I was lucky enough to grab a seat in one of the chase cars despite not having worked on any of the modules that went up with the balloon.

I managed a QSO with W7IV in San Luis Obispo county when the balloon had reached an altitude 30000 feet. After about two hours of flight time, the balloon reached its maximum altitude of 107553 feet just south of Sacramento where it popped and the parachute deployed. Then, the winds pushed the payload to some woods to the east of Folsom Lake where the group retrieved it (with the permission of the property owners).


Here’s a video of the entire flight, assembled by KJ6DZB:

W6/CC-035 Mount Konocti

We were camping at Clear Lake State park for Memorial Day weekend to check out the lake and the surrounding region. Mount Konocti is visible from nearly any point in the region around the lake and has special significance for the indigenous Pomo people. The trailhead is in the Mount Knocti County Park, which opened this peak to the public in 2011.

The hike up to Wright Peak was three miles each way and was exposed to the sun for most of the way. The first 600 yards of the trail is narrow and goes through some privately owned orchards. We were glad that we started at 8am since the trail is on the west side of the mountain and was therefore shaded most of the way up in the morning. We saw a rattlesnake slide into the grass just off the trail near the summit and there were many lizards darting across the trail so watch your step!

We were the first ones on Wright Peak that morning and I had an easy time with the activation on 2m thanks to the active (and very helpful) ham community in Lake County. I even managed to get a S2S with KK6YYD on Wallace Peak near Lake Tahoe. When it came time to set up the HF antenna, I got the fiberglass pole up and guyed before I realized that I forgot to bring coax with me this time! Whoops… one still learns even after doing 25+ of these trips…

Thanks to all the chasers for this all-VHF activation: KK6TDG, KK6YYD, KK6TNH, K6ZYU, and N1PPP!

W7W/LC-146 – Wind Mountain

On March 29, we were driving along the Columbia River Gorge to sight-see. After a wonderful hike to the top of Multnomah Falls and lunch in the town of Hood River, we crossed the river over to Washington state to climb Wind Mountain with the radio. We had a false start up a steep use-trail that quickly turned into an overgrown mess but we did eventually find the proper trail, which was about 2.5 miles round-trip with just about 1400 feet of climb.

Once we reached the top, Wind Mountain had decided to live up to its name with the summit exposing us to sharp winds coming through the gorge. I quickly connected with KE7IN on 2m who noted that he could really hear the wind. Then I threw up a wire and got to work on 20m. When I heard Gary W0MNA return my call, I breathed a sigh of relief since I knew that Martha W0ERI would be right behind him. Thanks to Gary’s spot, I was able to connect with W5BOS before I packed it in since we were not prepared to hang out in the heavy winds for too long (and rain started to roll in). Thanks to those four for another successful activation!

W7O/WV-088 – Mount Pisgah

For spring break this year, I am taking a road trip up along the west coast to visit old friends and see new places. Along the way, there’s been plenty of time for radio! We stayed in Eugene, OR today and went to the Pisgah Arboretum (looks like we missed the Mushroom Festival by a few months…) to climb Mount Psigah. We took Trail #1, which is a short 1.5 mile hike with just over 1000 feet of elevation gain. It was a foggy day with some intermittent showers on the peak, but I was able to get the four contacts in.

Thanks to all the chasers!


Mega Ham Licensing Session at Cal!

This year I had the great pleasure to teach UC Berkeley’s “Hands-on Ham Radio” seminar. We covered the basics of radio theory and operation and had a mega-licensing exam session in the Wozniak Lounge to cap things off! This exam session is held semesterly and was started by Prof. Miki Lustig a few years ago. It is without a doubt my favorite campus tradition at Cal.

55 Technician, 6 General, and 4 Extra licenses were awarded at this mega-session. Special thanks to the superb VE team for getting everybody in and out in just about 2 hours! Extra-special thanks go to Sharon Primbsch AA6XZ who organized the VE session (and has done so for at least 8 semesters running…)!!


Failed Activations are still fun! – W6/NS-062 – Red Lake Peak

My graduate lab took a group retreat to the South Lake Tahoe area and the festivities included snowshoeing. We didn’t have a destination in mind, so I suggested why not go up a nearby peak and bring the radio along? We ended up at Carson Pass where we had easy access to Red Lake Peak (10063 feet!), which has the distinction of being the subject of the first recorded ascent of a peak in the Sierras. The ever-present Lt. John C. Fremont was involved, and from the summit he first spotted Lake Tahoe.

Our expedition was ultimately not so successful. It was relatively easy snowshoeing up the first 2000 feet, after which four of us broke off from the main group to take a stab at the remaining 1000 feet. After about 500 more feet of climing, we reached a lower summit. Up here winds were over 40 mph, which made the final summit approach along an exposed ridge much less appealing. On top of that, the prospect of eventually putting up a fiberglass mast without it sailing away was daunting. We decided to huddle behind a boulder to escape the winds, eat a few Nilla wafers, and then mosey on back.

Lessons learned:

  • Snowshoes are amazing!
  • Wind is… a force of nature
  • John C. Fremont’s been everywhere, man

We’ll have to return to conquer this peak another time. 3/4 of the successful SOTA activations were done during the summertime, so a change in timing may make things easier.