Saturday, July 23, 2016

Lone Tree Mountain (W7W/PL-065) SOTA FIRST ACTIVATION

On Sunday 17 July Brookelyn and I woke up early from our camping trip and decide to make our way to a SOTA Summit that was approximately 2 miles away. I think that we started to hike about 0900 and it took just over an hour to get to the summit. The route follows an old forest road for all of the hike. There is some sections of the hike that have views but there are limited views from the Summit. Make sure you pay attention because this is one of those cases where the named summit is not the highpoint and would not put you in the activation area. Brookelyn had a blast talking on the Radio and stated that her favorite person was Tommy (W7RV) "because he called me by my name." We had a great time. This was a nice easy walk to a four point summit that had not been activated. We will be back to this neck of the woods one day to get some more activations and camping it. Overall a great trip.

Just a short video of the activation. I did not turn the camera on until later in the activation. Sorry Chasers as I try to get the video. I need to get more creative with how I do videos also.

 Top two pictures of Brookelyn working the FT-817nd. Bottom left you can see that the road got pretty brushy in a few places. There was some wet places on the trail and a section of about 300 yards of rock slide that had to be maneuvered.  Brookelyn at the best view on the summit with the SOTA Flag.

 Charlie and Grizzy made the trip up here with us.

Elevation profile. Obviously this is from the top down. I did not run the GPS on the way to the summit.

GPS Track. Notice that the highpoint is not on the names summit. Don't make this mistake if you make the trip up here. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016


The family (Delma, Lily (12), Brookelyn (7), Colten (6), Kimber (3)) and I decided to head out on a camping trip in Lewis County in the Randle, WA area. We love this area and a lot of the time the weather is a little bit better and we can get away from the puget sound rain. I saw that Iron Creek Butte was an unactivated 4 point summit in the area and it was likely that I could drive within about 1 mile of the actual summit. This looked like a great opportunity to get an activation in while we were heading out in the area. We easily made it to the parking area and I realized that I had been in the area before. We made the easy hike up an
old forest road to within about 400 ft of the the summit. We had to cross country travel to get to the summit but it was a steep but easy trip. All of the kids were able to make it on there own power. This is a good place to say that if you had a chain saw to remove a few blowdowns and a narrower right then a Dodge Ram long bed then you could likely make it to with in 400 ft of the summit. There was some sign that others had been up there the year prior. We made it to the summit to find that there was a reason that no one had ever done a trip report on Peak Bagger or Washington Trail Association. There is absolutely
no view from the summit. We had a great time and Lily did most of the radio. We tried to get some contacts using the Technician part of the band on 2m FM and SSB to get an activation for Delma (KK6AHS) but we had no luck. It was later upon returning home that I found out that the reason why was that 6m was apparently wide open and everyone was there. I wish that I would have given 6m a try as I am sure that I could have got something to tune up with the Elecraft T1 tuner. I will have to pay more attention the next time that I am up. After the activation we packed up and headed back down the trail the 1.6 miles back to the truck. By this time Kimber was getting a little tired and hitched a ride for the majority of the trip back down.

After getting to the truck we decided to make the trip up to Burley Mountain (W7W/PL-039). We were able to drive all the way to the summit. When we got there we met a lady that was staying the night in the lookout. I should have took pictures but the lookout is furnished with two bunks, some cabinet space, and a fireplace. Apparently you can stay the night there on a first come basis. It was cold up at the summit so we decide to activate this one at a later date. We made our way towards Lone tree mountain and found a nice camping spot within a couple mile of the actual summit. Another post will follow with the details of that hike.

Additional Information

APRS - I forgot the Kenwood TH-d72 at the truck so was unable to try APRS while at the summit. This could have been a bad mistake as cell data) verizon was iffy. I was able to make spots using SOTA goat. This could have been bad as late in the day as I activated.

Cell Signal - As stated earlier I was able to use my Verizon cell for data. I assume that I could have made calls from the summit but I did not try. I was able to get texts out to Doug (KY7S).

Repeaters - I was able to reach the gold mountain repeater 146.62 (PL 103.5)

Download GPS Tracks on Everytrail.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Silver Peak (W7W/CW-052) SOTA

On 9 July Lily, Colten, Grizzy (Lab/Shepherd/Spaniel Mix) and I made the 1.5 hour drive up to Snoqualmie pass to do some hiking and radio. The weather seemed iffy but looked to be good if we were to get to the east of the pass. I had been looking at getting up to Silver Peak and thought that this would be a good day to do it. We got a little bit of a late start and left the house around 0930. We were at the trailhead at approximately 1130 and started to hike. The weather was great. There were some clouds but they left us alone on the hike and on the summit. We did not start getting any rain until we were off of the steep parts and back on the PCT. On the way up to the summit I was able to work Chris (WX7EMT) on the summit of Jester Mountain and Tim (KG7EJT) on the summit of Thorp Mountain. It is great to get to work other activators but it would have been nice if I was on the summit to make these summit to summit contacts. I listened to Tim work a few other summits.

Here is the video of our hike and activation. Cool part about 3:30 in the video when Lily works Katie and Tanner, W7TAO's children. Thanks Todd it was fun!

We got the directions off of the Washington Trail Association (WTA) and they were spot on. When you are in the area definitely look at doing Mount Catherine ( W7W/CW-066) as it is a short 3 mile round trip hike and another amazing view. Another Summit that is in the area that you could do if you are very ambitious is Tinkham Peak West (W7W/KG-063). When you hike the trip to Silver you are in the Saddle between Tinkham and Silver Mountains. I have seen reports on Peak Bagger that have summited this way. Check this Peak Bagger trip report out for GPS tracks:

Elevation profile from
WTA says that Silver Peak is a 5.6 mile round trip hike. I think that it is more like 6 - 6.5 miles round trip. I did not have a GPS on but I ran across a couple that stated that their GPS said 3 miles and they were still short of the summit. Still a great hike though. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) portion of the hike is very gentle until the you turn off the PCT for the 2nd half of the hike where most of the elevation is gained. You gain about 1400 feet in about 1.2 miles.

Cell Service - Verizon, full voice and data at the summit. No signal after you were down about 300 ft off the summit.

APRS - I was able to transmit and receive signal on most of the hike. I also was able to self spot on the summit using APRS to SOTA

Weather - Weather was cloudy and about 60 degrees. We had some cloud breaks on the summit. A slight breeze on the summit but very comfortable. A little bit of rain on the way down.

Equipment - Yaesu FT817nd, 41' EndFed Random Wire (Wireman Part #534) / 16' Counterpoise, Palm Radio Mini Paddle, Yaesu VX-6, Kenwood TH-d72, Elecraft T1 Antenna Tuner. I also had my Elecraft KX1 in my bag. I guess you can never be too prepared!

GPS Tracks:

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Red Top Mountain (W7W/CW-061) SOTA

Delma, Lily, Brookelyn, Kimber, Colten and I made a trip over to Moses Lake today. We spent some time at the park in near 80 degree weather and the kids did some swimming. On the way home we stopped by Red Top Mountain for a quick hike. The kids always like to go to the lookout towers and with lots of daylight we had time for this 1/2 mile hike to the summit. The band conditions on HF have been horrible lately and with field day going on Delma and I decided to only do VHF. VHF is a lot of fun and we both made the required contacts for a successful activation. This is just a short writeup to post some pictures. Thanks for all of the VHF contacts and I apologize for not getting on HF for all of the rest of the chasers.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sheep Mountain (W7M/LM-074) SOTA

Horrible Selfie! I had to get a photo with the SOTA flag so
here it is hanging on my Arrow Beam Antenna.
Peyton and I traveled to Montana on Friday, June 10th. I had hoped to do a lot of SOTA on the way, during and on the trip home. The weather did not cooperate on Friday and family and friends kept me occupied on Saturday. I did make it to Sheep Mountain (W7M/LM-074) on Sunday though. The weather was perfect. I set my alarm to get up at 4 but did not get out of the house until a little after 5; arriving at the trailhead and starting my hike at 6:38. It took me approximately 1 hour to drive to the trail head. See below for driving directions. My parking coordinates were 46.989753, -113.751113. The hike up was 5.15 miles and took me 2 hours and 14 minutes at an easy and steady pace. The first three miles of the hike were easy but the last 1.5 miles is where most of the 2,200 ft of elevation is gained. It had me breathing hard at the top. During the trip I was transmitting APRS and was getting confirmation that my packets were being received. I took a short break at the summit and then began to set up my radio. Today I used the Yaesu FT-817nd, 41' random wire, Elecraft T1 Tuner, and my Palm mini key.

Trip Data for the Hike to the Summit

My trip data on the way up. You can find my GPS tracks at Peak Bagger or Everytrail All of these tracks are recorded by my FitBit Surge. I have found it to be very accurate and gives me a very detailed map when I return home.


I have went back and forth with ideas for what I would use for my permanent SOTA equipment but that is still to be determined and will likely not be decided in the near future. I love the fact that I can use the 817 for all modes/bands and it has a external speaker. The weight is a little more at 40 oz (I think) but it is not too bad for a day trip. I do not have a CW filter in the 817 but I am still able to make it work. I think that the only time that I would have an issue is if there was a contest going on but then I would just have to settle with other bands and
probably would not have issues. I have many SOTA radios, tuners, keys, and batteries for different conditions, distances etc.

After getting the equipment set up I turned the GoPro on and started to call CQ. I used my Kenwood TH-D72 to send an APRS to SOTA to spot me. I did have full 3G signal from my Verizon cell phone at the top of the peak and could have used SOTA Goat to spot but I always like to stay fresh on different ways to spot myself. The APRS packets were going out well and I was getting confirmations back that my spots had been posted to SOTA watch. I had a total of 17 contacts, 15 of them were on 20m SSB and CW, and 2 of them were VHF contacts. I did try 7mhz but did not have any luck after calling CQ for about 20 minutes. My CW skills were a little rusty and I learned that I need to get back into doing a little more practicing when I am not on the summits. The CW helped though as the conditions were not good enough to pull in N4EX on SSB but was able to make the contact on CW. See the video below to hear the difference.

Summit to Summit Contacts

On Version 1 of the Blog I neglected to mention my Summit to Summit Contacts. These contacts are awesome and no better feeling then working from one Summit to another. Eric (KG7STN) let me know that I had neglected to mention them. Thanks Eric! Where AE7AP was a great contact on VHF, KG7STN was a great 817 to 817 contact with 5 watts SSB! Michael (N1IDN) It was also great working you on CW. See you all on the next one and I look forward to many more S2Ss!

Photo of Rob, AE7AP, near the summit of W7M/HB-039
Rob is a very active SOTA activator in and around Helena,
MT. You can read his blogs at
The highlight of my day happened just as I was packed up and starting to leave the summit. I had all my equipment packed up and myYaesu VX6 on my belt when I heard AE7AP, Rob, call CQ. I was very surprised to hear him on VHF as I knew that he was planning on being on a summit near Helena. We made the nearly full quieting summit to summit contact and later found that it was 104.3 miles from our locations. I was pretty amazed as I only had the rubber duck on my VX6. I talked with Rob for about 10 minutes and then began to make my way off the mountain.

Radio path for Summit to Summit with AE7AP

We had amazing line of sight for this S2S!

104.3 miles on a rubber duck. Awesome.
I use "HEYWHATSTHAT profiler" for
this information.

I left the summit at 11:50 a.m and made it back to the truck in one hour and fifty minutes which made a faster trip than on the way up. Even on the way back to the trailhead I still had an elevation gain of nearly 500 ft to get up and over a small ridge. For you mountain bike enthusiasts this hike is a also a very popular biking route starting at the Rattlesnake recreation area and on the woods gulch trailhead. There was sign of some bikers making the trip but there was still a little bit of snow and 30-40 blowdowns that would make it a little difficult. One of these days I plan to make the trip in from Rattlesnake and have someone pick me up on the Gold Creek side.

Trip Data for Hike Down

Driving Directions: 

Take I90 east from Missoula for approximately 4-5 miles to exit 109 (MT200). Stay on Montana 200 for approximately10 miles and look for a road sign for Gold Creek. Turn Left on Gold Creek Road. Watch for mountain goats in this area! There is signs for them but keep your eye out because you will see them quite often. Drive approximately 3.5 miles and watch for an un-named left turn. As soon as you make this left you will see a sign "Private Property for 1.3 miles, stay on road." Continue on this road for approximately 7.3 miles until you arrive at a marked trailhead from sheep mountain. 

Equipment Used: 

41 ft random wire antenna
Kenwood TH-D72
Arrow 146/437-10 WBP 

I did setup the Arrow antenna and tried to make a few contacts but did not have any luck on 146.52. I put this information here because I think that it is a great antenna and was part of a 61 mile QSO that I had with Doug (KY7S) from an unnamed peak in Capital Forest to Mount Zion. The Antenna weighs 19 oz. complete but I have been leaving the 440 elements at home and just using it as a 146mhz 3 element beam. It is a great antenna. You could also use it to do satellite contacts which I have been told count for SOTA now. It is a lot of fun. (You can see my Arrow antenna with the SOTA flag hanging off of it on the top picture).

Cell Signal (Verizon)

I had full 3G cell reception at the summit but none shortly after descending or on the drive up to the trail head.

APRS - (Automatic Packet Reporting System)

My Kenwood TH-D72 was working great all the way up the trail. I was hitting APRS nodes in Gold Creek, on Patrick's Knob, and on University Mountain at different times during the hike.

For those who have not used APRS to send a packet to "SOTA" it is a great function to have when there is a possibility that you will not have cell signal at a summit. APRS has worked on about every summit that I have been on. It is a great primary tool and only use a cell as the backup for familiarity. In the video sometimes you can hear a lot of beeping...this is my Kenwood receiving packets from the APRS digipeaters.  The other good thing about using APRS is that family members can use it to track you when they are at home and could be used as a location element in case of an emergency.

Other Miscellaneous Information

A pass is not required at the trailhead.  The trail was in pretty decent conditions after the winter. There were a few places where the trail was difficult to see but with some minor trail finding experience you should have no issues. There were 30-40 blowdowns along the trail but they were easy to bypass by either going over or around.

Activation Video

This is my first attempt at a video on the summit. This one is kind of long but does have a recording of all the chasers that I worked. The only ones that it does not record are the two VHF contacts which is a shame, it would be awesome to see how excited I was to talk to Rob (AE7AP) at 104 miles on VHF! I learned a lot about video blogging by messing with this raw video. I do need some work on editing videos.

As always thanks to all the chasers that work hard about hearing my tiny signal from mountain tops. Without you all I would just be hiking, only about 10 pounds lighter! Thanks again.


Matt (KF7PXT)