01 August 2016

Two Peaks in a Day - Bigelow Mountain & Mt. Lemmon, SOTA W7A/AW-003 & W7A/AW-001

I've been bit by the SOTA bug, so on August 1, 2016 I decided to enjoy a day activating two of the closest peaks to my home.  Both Bigelow and Mt. Lemmon, part of the Catalina Mountains range, are easy to access, via a drive up the Mt. Lemmon Highway.  Although SOTA rules do require a minimal amount of hiking, it's not much.  So I chose to bring my Go-Box, which has excellent station capabilities but is far too heavy to lug on any lengthy hikes.

I began with Bigelow Mountain (elevation 8,540 ft).  This one requires a drive on a dirt road for a couple of miles.  At the top are multiple commercial towers to service the local Tucson community.

The views from Bigelow are spectacular, especially to the East where the majestic Pinaleos rise with their showcase Mt. Graham.

The skies were partly cloudy and the temperatures were just perfect.  The desert is quite hot at this time of year so it was so nice to operate outdoors in the cool air.  As I began setting up, a friendly deer walked right by me!  I watched and realized a small fawn was also following along behind its mother, but it was a bit more careful and moved among the trees.

I set up the Buddipole for 20 meters and cranked it up high.  My FT-991 was filled with signals as soon as I fired it up!  My first QSO was with my friend NU7Y, who was waiting down in Tucson.  After that the pileup hit and I worked 21 stations, all CW.  I would have kept going, but dark clouds were approaching and since it's monsoon season, I was concerned that the weather could change quickly.  So I tore down the gear, took it back to the car, and drove further up the hill to Mt. Lemmon.

The summit of Mt. Lemmon is 9,157 ft, but it's not fully accessible due to the observatories.  I was an instructor at the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter for several years and spent many nights standing on the exact summit point, but on this day I had to remain outside the fence and operate a small distance away (this is allowable under SOTA rules).

As I set up, a light rain began to fall.  I didn't hear thunder yet, so I continued to set up and was pleased that it stopped when I was ready to start making contacts.  I enjoyed working 23 stations from Mt. Lemmon, again all CW.  A few hikers came by at various points to see what I was up to.  Unfortuntely, after a fairly short time, the weather took a turn for the worse.

Wind cropped up and then thunder started crashing, so I knew it was time to hurry up and pull down the antenna!  Just as I finished packing things up, the rain began in earnest.  I waited for a few minutes to see if it was a temporary storm, but it became clear that the day's monsoon was upon us.  The rain was absolutely pouring buckets and the temperature became quite cold.

I had planned to do a nice run up on the mountain after the radio operations.  I've run in storms plenty of times before, the rain doesn't really bother me.  So I drove down to the ski valley parking lot, put on my running gear, and went out to run.  I had only gone about 1/4 mile, in pouring freezing rain, when a huge clap of thunder struck and I saw a lighting bolt far too close for comfort.  I made the decision at that point that my time on the mountain had come to an end and called off the run for safety's sake.

It was a wonderfully fun day anyway, and I'm looking forward to my next trip up to these peaks or a few others in the same range.  My logs earned me 10 points + 3 bonus points for each summit in the SOTA Database, plus I had a few Summit-to-Summit QSO's.

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