Post-Christmas SOTA activity

The day after Christmas, my wife (Taylor, K7TAY) and I headed to Sisters to stay in one of our favorite places: Five Pine Lodge in Sisters, Oregon. We planned the trip as a post-holiday getaway, but wanted to work in some SOTA activations as well. Unsurprisingly, lugging radio equipment to the mountain tops was the dominant activity of the weekend.

We took highway 20 across the pass, which goes right by Iron Mountain (W7/CM-078 ). This four-point summit is easily accessible and I bet it’s a wonderful hike in the summer. We pushed the Jeep up the road as far as we could until the large amount of snow, steep grade, and gravity took over. From there, we hiked about a mile and half in snowshoes up the road to the trail entrance, and then another mile to near the summit. The trail was hard to follow in the deep snow and some parts of it were downright scary. We ended up getting within about 20 vertical feet of the summit (the requirement is 80) before we were stopped by an impassable snow drift. We were cold and decided it was now or never.

With only a few feet to spare on the narrow ledge and fierce wind, I decided to set up for 17 meters, which is a smaller antenna with less wind drag and fewer components. There was no room for a proper guyed setup and we were standing on solid rock. I laid the mast on the nearest boulder and strapped it with paracord. Although the antenna was about 30 degrees off vertical and the counterpoise was just a few feet off the ground, I got an excellent match. I spotted myself with my APRS radio and we immediately made our requisite four contacts. What was suppose to be the easiest hike of the weekend ended up being quite an adventure.

The next morning, we woke up early and headed south to the Mt. Bachelor area to the Dutchman Flats Sno-Park at the base of Tumalo Mountain (W7/CM-011). This involved an unrelenting vertical ascent, again in snowshoes, and with no real trail to follow at all. After a couple of hours of climbing we finally made it to the top, about twenty feet above the SOTA database’s notion of the summit elevation. A recent storm that had moved into the area left us with 40mph gusts, which made it interesting and challenging. We earned our nine points here (6 + 3 seasonal bonus).

We even encountered a reporter from the Bend area that was very interested in what we (the apparent crazy people from out of town) were doing up there.

The next morning, we checked out of the lodge and headed south to Highway 58 and then northwest to Odell Butte (W7/CE-032). We had planned to do this and Little Odell Butte on the way home. NOAA was forecasting 65MPH gusts at this spot today, so we weren’t sure that we would be successful. After a few miles of pushing snow up the hill in the Jeep, we stalled three miles from the summit. Taylor okay’d the attempt, so we hopped out, strapped on the snowshoes and headed for the top. As we approached the summit, the full force of the winds began to work against us and I was unsure if we would be able to keep ourselves vertical at the top, much less the antenna. After a couple of hours of slogging through poor snow conditions, we arrived at the top. Joined by a nice lookout tower and several commercial radio installations, we unpacked our gear and got on the air.

I have no doubt that the 65MPH gusts forecast were hitting us and the antenna as we made our contacts. It was pretty wicked and the little microphone on my point-and-shoot camera doesn’t even register the wind noise. This one also netted us nine points (6+3 bonus), but I almost thing we deserve some “hazard pay” points for braving nearly hurricane force winds. I couldn’t find that in the rules though, so I guess we’re out of luck!

After a six mile round trip in really poor snow conditions and a hazardous activation at the top, we decided not to head to the second summit of the day, and instead get a jump on our four hour drive back home. Can you blame us?

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