Recent SOTA Activations

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Stuart Peak (W7M/LM-056) SOTA / Backpacking trip

On the 1st of July, Delma, Charlie and I headed out to conduct a SOTA activation of Stuart peak. This was more then just a SOTA activation as we were going to backpack in with our dog Charlie into the Rattlesnake Recreation Area and wilderness north of Missoula, MT. We had my mom drop us off at the Ravine Trailhead which is about 5 miles from I90 intersection up Grant Creek Road. We unloaded our stuff and headed up letting mom know that we would contact her in a few days for pick up, most likely at the rattlesnake main trailhead which is in the next drainage to the East. We hiked up the ravine trail and passed SOTA W7M/LM-147. I originally had a plan to activate this on the way in but decided against it so that we could continue to make time towards our camp for the night. We passed a few other hikers and bikers along the trail and Charlie was enjoying his time running around
in the woods. These trails are dog friendly for the most part but check the changing regulations before heading up. After cresting the ridge the trail dropped steaply down into the Rattlesnake drainage area and then headed back up to the North towards Stewart Peak. After a couple of miles we were able to cross a small stream and fill up our water bottles using a filtration system for the rest of the trip. This was the last water until getting to the summit. By this time we had hiked approximately 8 miles and we were looking forward to finding a place to sleep for the night. After walking up the trail for about 1/8 mile there was a perfect camp site complete with leveled out sleeping area, small fire pit, and a great tree to hang the solar panel on for recharging. We decided that this would be our camp for the next two nights and provide us a good base camp to make the 4 mile hike to the summit and back the next morning. We could
also stash some of our gear in the woods and not have to make the trip with such heavy packs. We slept here for the night and then woke at 0530 for a 0600 step off to try and avoid the heat. The temperature was supposed to be close to 90 on the 2nd and 95 on the 3rd of July. We kept it simple with a old military poncho and our hiking poles for our shelter.   Pretty nice considering water was so close also. The next morning we woke up as planned to a nice sized mule deer doe standing just up hill from our camp. We ate or Mountain Meal breakfast using our Jetboil to heat up the water. After Breakfast we stepped off in the cool mountain air, about 45 degrees. This was very
refreshing for the steady uphill climb that we had up to the summit. At the wilderness boundary we hit our first sign of snow. After the crest over the ridge the snow started to show up more consistently. At about 1.5 miles before the summit snow was a very common site and was starting to slow us down considerably. As we approached the saddle to head up the last .5 mile to the summit the wind started to blow over the ridge. It was a very refreshing breaze to keep us cool as we started to make the climb along the snowy ridge to the summit. We slowly made our way up the ridge and then made the summit about 1 hour after planned. For the next few hours Delma and I enjoyed the views and operated SOTA at  intervals rotating between napping, climbing trees, taking pictures, napping, enjoying the view and oh did I mention napping? The napping could have resulted in us both getting a little bit of a sun burn. The weather was amazing! I also had a great opportunity to meet, on the air, KG7KGL, Doug, from Montana. By some stroke of luck Doug was activating two Ravali county summits and using his 2m rig. Both Delma and I were able to work Doug on both of his summits. His first contact on SOTA was a S2S! He is very motivated to continue on and is planning on a summit every Tuesday. At this time Doug is only using VHF but has interest in moving up to HF one of these days. There were plenty of very friendly VHF operators on 146.52 to help him get his first two activations in the book. 

After all of our activities at the summit we started to make our way down the summit but decide to head down the Southwest side of the summit and try to avoid most of the snow. The forest is very open with hardly any undergrowth making it easy to move cross country. We intersected our previous trail avioding most of the snow with no issue. On the way off the summit we moved pretty quickly and

decided to grab a geocache that was hidden right at the wilderness boundary. This geocache does not get much activity as it is way off the nearest road. According to the log it had only been found about 5 times prior to our find and had not been found since 6/27/12...a good find. Somehow we forgot to get the one that was on the peak. I guess we will just have to go back!

We made the trip back down to camp easily. We sat at camp and talked about all that had happen and then started talking about our options and the idea came up to return to town. Afterall a big cheeseburger did sound really good! I checked out the map and figured that we were about 6 miles from the nearest trailhead where we could be picked up. We discussed it for a little and decided that we would rest for about the next hour and then head down. This ended up being the longest 6 miles of our trip and we both wished that we would have waited until the next day to make the movement. We did not get to the trailhead until about 2300 at night and were both very tired. We took it easy on the 3rd and then on the morning of the 4th I made a quick trip up to activated the missed summit. 

Here are some links to additional information:

My Wife Delma and the best trail dog ever, Charlie!

I want to thank everyone who makes this hobby so much fun. I am not sure that without SOTA that I would be so much into amateur radio. Without the chasers who consistently watch APRS to see when we are about to make the summit (Thanks Elliot!) and to those who patiently wait for us to get our antennas set up. Also those who are right there waiting for a quick activation when the weather is not so great. I look forward to many more years of this great hobby!