Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Activation Report: SOTA, Lake Tahoe Basin

I activated three summits in the Lake Tahoe Basin last week and earned 16 points.

On Wednesday, June 19, I activated SOTA W6/NS-248, known simply as "7008" after its elevation in feet. It was a pretty straightforward hike--and not too difficult--up a jeep road most of the way, followed by a few hundred yards of "bushwhacking" up to the summit. As with the next summit, I was just able to eke out the four contacts necessary to earn the six points.

Here is a highlight from the hike up the jeep road to the summit.

This is the view to the west, looking toward Desolation Wilderness.

Portable station KK6ZLX. Shortly after I shot this photo, a gust of wind blew the antenna over the side; I was able to grab the coax cable just in time.

Tuesday, June 21: My next activaton was W6/NS-397, Tahoe Mountain, elevation 7,249 feet (2209 meters). This was another fairly easy climb, this time along a popular hiking/mountain bike trail. As with Pt. 7008 above. The summit is mostly tree-covered, although there are some nice views of Lake Tahoe. I must admit that I initially set up on the wrong summit, a quarter of a mile or so north down the ridge from the correct one. Luckily, my conversation with my first contact, Paul, WA6EWV (who had been on Tahoe Mountain before) helped me to realize the error of my ways. After relocating, it took me almost 40 minutes to log the necessary four contacts.

Wednesday, June 22: My final activation was W7N/TR-027, Captain Pomin Rock, elevation 7,538 feet (2298 meters), which is located on the eastern shore of the lake in Nevada. My plans for this particular day changed several times. Initially, I was going to activate South Maggies Peak but decided that it might be a bit too much for me after the previous day's climb. I decided to try Monument Peak, located on Forest Service lands in the Heavenly Valley Ski Resort. Despite it's very high elevation (10,000-plus feet), it seems that it would have been a pretty easy ascent on account of the fact that most of the distance could be covered riding in a gondola and a chairlift. Unfortunately, this plan fell through due to snow on the summit. After referring to my handy SOTA Goat app, I finally settled on Plan C: Captain Pomin Rock, which is located a short distance off the highway, 10 miles or so to the north.

I was only able to log two contacts on this summit. Not being comfortable scaling to the top of the rock, I ended up trying several different locations on the side of it. In spite of vast panoramas of the lake from these locations, I had little luck. My first contact was Gary, K7ORG in Reno (on the far side of a large mountain ridge). Almost an hour later, Aaron, KG7DLC happened to be driving along the highway adjacent to my location and responded on his mobile radio. After three hours of attempts from several different positions, I had to give up and head home to the cabin. I got no points, but at least I received credit for an activation.

I suspect that trees in front of me--along with the rock right behind me--may have worked against me; still, there was that contact with Reno, 30 +/- miles away over a high ridgeline...

Captain Pomin Rock (W7N/TR-027).

My homebrew portable 2-meter antenna, with beautiful Lake Tahoe in the background.

Portable station KK6ZLX, one of a number of spots where I set up.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

SOTA Alert: (3) Summits

I will be attempting three activations this week, all of them in the Lake Tahoe Basin. All three are scheduled for approximately 1800 hours UTC (11:00 a.m. local time). I'll be working 52.525 and 146.520 MHz FM.
  • Sunday, June 19: W6/NS-248, Pt. 7008  (7008 ft/2136 m [6 points])
  • Tuesday, June 21: W6/NS-397, Tahoe Mountain (7249 ft/2209 m [6 points])
  • Wednesday, June 22: W6/NS-135, South Maggies Peak (8699 ft/2651 m [8 points])
Pt. 7008 and Tahoe Mountain appear to be relatively easy climbs; South Maggies Peak should be a bit more of a challenge.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Excitement Builds

My new Yaesu FT-857D arrived today! Added to my successfully passing the General Class exam, it was quite a day.

I'm in the process of deciding what accessories I need--power supply, antenna(s), etc. I already have an LDG Z-11 ProII antenna tuner on the way. In addition to operation at my home QTH, I see myself using it for SOTA activations--expanding into the realm of single sideband (SSB), in addition to the FM operations that I plan to continue.

I welcome any and all suggestions regarding additions to my rig that might enhance my operating enjoyment, both at home and on the mountaintops.


I passed my General Class examination today. I missed two questions; at least 75 percent correct is required to pass. I have gained privileges over a much larger range of frequencies in the high frequency (HF) bands. I will need to add the suffix "/AG" ("temporary AG" on voice) to my callsign if I use any of my new General Class privileges before my new license grant appears in the FCC database. After that happens, I am going to apply for a new vanity callsign.

I am going to take a break from serious studying and enjoy my new privileges for a while before I get around to upgrading to Amateur Extra, the third and final FCC amateur radio license level.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

New Rig

In anticipation of my passing the General Class examination this Saturday and gaining new frequency privileges, I have purchased a Yaesu FT-857D. I was the winning bidder for a like-new example on eBay. The FT-857D is a very compact HF/VHF/UHF mobile transceiver suitable for base station, mobile, or portable work. This particular model was a fairly easy choice because of it's suitability for SOTA, as well as the almost universal praise for it that I have read online.

It is still shipping but I am anxiously awaiting its arrival. I anticipate using it mostly for single sideband (ssb) operation during SOTA activations.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

"...soon to upgrade to General Class."

For many months now, the "About Me" section of my profile has included the the above statement. I have to confess that I have not been as diligent about studying for my General Class upgrade as I was for my Technician Class license. After dragging my feet, I'm finally just about ready. I plan to head over to nearby Woodland next Saturday (June 11) for the examination. In the meantime, I've been taking and retaking practice exams on the ARRL website. I'm consistently passing with scores of 80 percent or more correct (75% minimum to pass) and am fairly confident of a successful outcome.

As a sort of reward to myself, upon successfully passing the test and receiving my upgraded license, I plan to apply for a new "vanity" callsign that is less of a mouthful than my current one (more on that later).