W2/NJ-001 – High Point (New Jersey)

I recently moved to New Jersey for my postdoc and it was only a matter of time before I got out on another SOTA activation. Why not start with the state’s high point (NJ-001)? Jersey isn’t known for its mountains, although part of the Appalachian Trail does cut through the northern part of the state. The AT passes through part of High Point State Park, which is named for the state’s pinnacle at 1803 feet.

This summit was basically a drive-on peak. There is a granite obelisk (reminiscent of Cal’s Campanile) built as a veteran’s memorial. It’s about 200 feet tall and you can pay $1 to climb to the top to get just a bit of extra height and views through some foggy windows.

It was a sunny autumn day, and the ether was full of contesters covering the bands like so many fallen leaves. I had to move to 17m to find an open channel, and quickly got the four contacts I needed. I was shocked to have been heard in Germany (DJ5AV) and Hungary (HA5MA), but that’s part of the fun of QRP on the East Coast. Rounding out the activation was a summit-to-summit with AC1Z in the Catskill Mountains, which were visible from the High Point on this clear day, and KX0R in CO. All in all, a fun introduction to SOTA in NJ.

New Jersey only has 12 SOTA peaks, and all of them have been activated. To date, no single ham has conquered all 12, so there’s a chance to be first…

Thanks again to all the chasers!



KH6/MA-001 – Red Hill (Haleakala)

In July, I had the fortune to visit Hawaii, starting at Maui and moving on to Honolulu, Oahu for the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Conference, where I was presenting a paper. While on Maui, I visited and activated the great shield volcano Haleakala, which comprises over three-quarters of the entire island. It’s an enjoyable, winding ride up to the visitor center and eventually the Red Hill summit at 10,023 feet, upon which there is a small observation room. From here are beautiful views of the Hawaiian islands and the massive, sloping sides of the great volcano. The last eruption of the volcano was approximately during the 17th century, when a small eruption created the lava fields surrounding the La Perouse Bay on the southwest part of the island, which we hiked along later in the week to visit the Hanomanioa Light signal along the coast.

Reports were coming back around S2-S3, which makes sense for transmitting QRP far from the West Coast, and I was there for about 90 minutes for the entire activation, hanging out near the observation building on Red Hill. I had 4 QSOs on 20m, then moved to 17m for the last two contacts.

Thanks to all the chasers, as always!


As a bonus, here are some pictures of the lava fields around the La Perouse Bay:

Four Years of Vollmer Peak

Another ham radio year, another trip to Vollmer Peak, my first SOTA hill. I activated this peak every year since my first activation on March 14, 2015, which was my re-entry into the amateur radio hobby. Since I’ll be leaving Berkeley this autumn, Vollmer will no longer be my “home” peak, so my June 30, 2018 activation will be my last visit for a while. This was a wonderful place to visit after work to contemplate, reflect, and occasionally play with radios.

Thanks to all the chasers: AA1FD, N6DAL, KK6VQK, W6CTQ, WU1Q, KM6MRU, K6WIS, KB6KHP.

W6/CC-001 Mount Eddy

Some fun facts about Mount Eddy (elevation 9025 feet), near the old logging town of Weed, CA:

  • It’s the high point of Trinity County, the Trinity Mountains, and the parts of the United States west of Interstate 5
  • It’s named for Olive Paddock Eddy, who was the first woman to summit Mount Shasta
  • It has beautiful views of Mount Shasta

The summit is often overlooked in favor of the majestic Mount Shasta, which is nearby and 5000 feet taller.  The hike is relatively accessible, about 8 miles out and back along part of the Pacific Crest Trail with 2500 feet of elevation gain.

We started at the Deadfall Meadows trailhead and followed the path to the spectacular Deadfall Lakes. From there, the climb became more strenuous, with numerous switchbacks until we finally reached the summit.

I had an easy time on 20m CW, and before long it was time to head back. Thanks to all the chasers: K9PM, W7RV, K6HPX, NG6R, N6PKT, NQ7R, K5DEZ

W6/NC-268 Rocky Ridge

On April 9, 2018, I went to Las Trampas Regional Wilderness for a quick and simple activation, using just an HT and whip antenna. I started at Bollinger Canyon Staging Trail, and climbed the ~1000 feet to the summit on a paved trail for most of the way.

It’s the low-key sort of activation that’s really only possible in the Bay Area with its large and supportive ham community, and I’m going to miss that when I leave.

Thanks to the chasers: K6FRC, KM6MRU, N6YJZ, K6WIS.

First SOTA Activation of W6/NC-220, Joint Expedition with AA6XA

I had the good fortune to accompany Jeff AA6XA on a hike that he had been eying for some time in the Cedar Roughs Wilderness near Lake Berryessa. The high point of this area is not often visited, since it requires an off-trail approach through somewhat dense vegetation. As a consequence, this 2368-foot peak had not yet been activated for SOTA.

We parked in the Smittle Creek Day Use Area, and headed down the road a few hundred feet to the trailhead. We hopped over the fence and started down the trail, which was more of a dirt road that had seen some recent traffic. We went along the trail, taking care to choose the correct turn at a number of forks, guided by GPS tracks left by some users on Peakbagger. Lake Berryessa had some white capping today, and the breeze was starting to feel nice and strong as we climbed. After a gradual climb from 500 to 1800 feet over the first three miles, the trail declined steeply towards a pair of rock pinnacles, each about forty feet tall. 3.5 miles down, and only one to go. Of course, that last one was off-trail.

I’ve been on a lot of hikes, but I haven’t had much off-trail experience, so when Jeff warned me that there would be some “bushwhacking,” I didn’t think much of it. Here we were, we just had to drop a couple hundred feet to the so-called Trout Creek and climb the rest of the way up. The pinnacles are the point where most others decide to move off trail, so we followed suit. The best descent was a sharp chute between the pinnacles. “The earth is loose so you can get a reasonably good foothold,” Jeff called up, already twenty feet below me. I nervously procrastinated for a few moments by incrementally and repeatedly readjusting my pack and antenna mast. The ground indeed made nice footholds under my weight and supported a fast descent.

Before long, we had made it to the creek. We crossed and started to find our way through to the top of the peak. As others have reported on Peakbagger trip reports, the bushwhack is relatively “mild.” A number of times, we came across some extremely dense cover, backtracked a few hundred feet, and found a more open way up. We also recrossed the creek a couple times to find the past of least resistance before making our way to the top in earnest. There were some enjoyable moments where we reached a small open patch, but the majority of the climb was a careful slog through trees and felled branches. After an hour of climbing, including a couple stops, reversals, crawls, and scratches, we had made it to the summit. I guess it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Although the few times we stopped in front of a wall of branches made me break out in a cold sweat, there was always a less intimidating way up.

We signed the summit register, hidden inside a cairn, (only about 10 or so had signed it in the last couple of years) and set up. The soil was easy to stake so guying my fiberglass mast was an ease. There was also good cell service at the top for spotting. After Jeff cleaned up on 30m, I got my contacts on 20m. We both stuck to CW and had an easy time of things. Near the end, WW7D caught me for a S2S on 30m (he was on W7W/KG-123 Black Devil, near Seattle).

We ate, packed up, and then headed back. We beat the sunset to the parking lot by 45 minutes or so, which was useful considering that the lot closed at sunset. By then the entrance had already been gated off, and a ranger was driving around checking out some of the other parked cars. Exhausted from the ~9 miles we hiked, I was happy to leave. Cedar Roughs now has two activations on the books!


Thanks to all the chasers!


W6/NS-248 Point 7008

For the first activation of the new year (on January 12), I went with a group of friends to an unnamed peak near South Lake Tahoe. We were in the area to do snowshoeing over the weekend, but the weather was balmy (over 50 Fahrenheit) and there was no snow between the trailhead, at an elevation around 6300 feet, to the peak at 7008 feet. This peak is worth 6 SOTA points and qualifies for the winter bonus.

The trailhead is in Sawmill Pond, a “training lake” which is a stocked fishing pond managed by the USDA Forest Service that only allows children 14 years and under to fish. We took a straightforward ATV trail that went most of the way up and ended in a loop. At the loop, and had to go a bit off trail to the northwest to finish the hike. The summit is marked by a torn US flag on a steel pole in the rock.

The soil in the ground was soft and easy to put my tent stakes into for pole mounting. The contacts came easily on 20m CW, including JH1MXV in Japan!

The next day, we were snowshoeing around the Mt. Rose area and I managed to hear KK6YYD on 2m FM, who just so happened to be activating this very peak, adding this to my SOTA completes list in just 24 hours! I think this is a popular peak, as it’s quite easy to hike up in the winter and get the bonus points, and an accessible hike in the Lake Tahoe area.

The APRS track. It’s a bit undersampled, but you can more clearly see the route we took off-trail to get to the summit.

Thanks to all the chasers: JH1MXV, W0MNA, W0ERI, N4EX, W5GAI, and W7GA.