On Friday (July 24), I took a trip to the White Mountains, which are on the eastern central portion of California near the Nevada border and face the Sierra Nevada (Mt. Whitney) across Owens Valley, to activate several SOTA summits there. While there, one of my goals was to activate my first 14,000 ft summit - White Mountain Peak at 14,252’ (or 4350m).
My SOTA trip started with a few activations that assisted with acclimatization at altitude:
W6/WH-007 - Clem Nelson Peak, W6/WH-009 - 10660, W6/WH-008 - 10940, and W6/WH-006 - County Line Hill. Thanks to KE6MT for the easy to follow beta on the first three. These were stunning hikes and summits, the first two being in the ancient bristlecone pine forest.
After bagging those peaks, I headed toward the primitive camping area at the base of White Mountain Peak. The drive was like traveling through another planet, and I spotted quite a few mountain goats in the area. At night I was also able to see the neowise comet, which was pretty neat.
On Saturday, July 25, I started my ascent of White Mountain Peak just before 1400 UTC. The trail went through a high altitude research station, which is part of the University of California, and the path is was defined to the summit. I arrived on the summit (at 14,252 ft / 4350m) around 1600 UTC, signed the logbook, took a few photos, and set up my MTR and 20m EFHW.
Conditions on 20m were poor, but I was able to work KX0R on an S2S, and had a brief chat with WW7D (thanks for chasing on all my summits on this expedition) and got several other familiar calls into my log. After the band completely dipped and I couldn’t hear anyone else, I used my HT and had a few QSOs with local folks who don’t necessarily chase SOTA. Looking back, I should have brought a 40m option, but because I was concerned about weight, I stuck with my 20m monoband EFHW. Next year I’ll bring a few options and spend more time up top. Thanks to everyone who chased me and worked through the poor conditions to make the activation a success.
Although I had planned on taking a nap and activating a few more peaks later in the day, I decided that bagging my first 14k summit made the trip a success, and I headed home. Here are some photos of White Mountain, which still doesn’t fully capture the beauty of that area. Now that I know how I react to altitude, I might plan some activations in the Sierra Nevada range, which have been on my bucket list even before discovering SOTA.
Exciting news, I am a published author! My article "Hitting the Heights with Summits on the Air" appeared in the July/August issue of the ARRLs On The Air magazine. Although the article is elementary, it was fun to write and hopefully will help generate additional interest in SOTA and portable radio operating.
On Saturday, July 4, 2020, at about 1330 UTC, the AB3G SOTA and DX Association activated Morton Peak - W6/CT-128.
Although this summit isn’t technical or particularly challenging, what makes this activation special is that this activation immediately followed the wedding ceremony of @KM3A David, and Lizzette, K6LZT, on the same summit. Our original wedding plans were canceled (supposed to be on June 7) because of government COVID restrictions and closures of our religious sites. As a result, we thought of something unique, memorable, and fun that would go beyond the typical courthouse/clerk-recorder wedding, and a mini SOTA expedition seemed to fit the bill nicely. We really like Morton Peak because of the views into San Gorgonio wilderness area, and thankfully Scott - @N0OI was willing to get ordained and put a minierature service together.
The SOTA expedition to W6/CT-128 Morton Peak was a huge success. At about 0030 UTC, me Liz, K6LZT (the bride), Liz’s mom (Rosie), my sister (Crystal), Scott, @N0OI, and Corrine, N2ZIP (Scott’s wife) arrived at the base of Morton and consolidated vehicles. After driving up to the locked gate, we all hiked a short 1.5 miles to the summit. Crystal created a bouquet using wildflowers, and we went live with the ceremony Scott put together. The views were stunning, as the sun crested over the San Gorgonio valley it created elegant shadows not only through the valley but on the San Bernardino city area below. We used Scott’s SOTA dog Zip as the ring bearer, which also worked out great. After the ceremony (we both said "I DO"), and we popped a bottle of champagne, mixed it with orange juice, and made a few toasts and drank mimosas.
Finally, we activated the summit using our club, callsign AB3G. I worked 20m SSB and CW and made a delightful number of contacts - including DX to Panama! Corrine worked 40m SSB, and Scott worked 40m CW. Most impressively, Liz, K6LZT, activated her first SOTA summit using 2m FM! She picked up the required four contacts and is now officially on the SOTA board with 4 points. In all, we made 49 QSOs, and it was terrific to hear celebratory words of happiness from all over the world. Of note: I had some QSL cards made and will be sending them out as “thank you” / special event cards (no return required or needed).
Walking back to the car, we all agreed it was a perfect wedding and an ideal SOTA. We then ate breakfast at a very relaxed cafe called Heska’s Sugar Shack, which made delicious omelets, and the owner and his wife blessed us by playing and singing the song “Tupelo Honey.” Finally, we headed out to Las Vegas and took advantage of the COVID room rates.