08 October 2016

San Pedro Hill - A Short SOTA Activation on Vacation

My desire to climb hills and operate radios far exceeds my actual time available to participate in either activity.  The Summits On The Air program has provided me with an opportunity to combine these two activities, but I'm still quite limited on how often I can do them.

A recent out-of-town trip to Southern California seemed to be a time when I might be able to find a short window to activate a SOTA summit.  The purpose of the trip was to run the Long Beach Marathon, and my wife (who is not interested in amateur radio at all) and I were only going for the weekend, so there wasn't a lot of time available.  In searching the SOTA Mapping Site for possible peaks, I realized that this area is basically flat and there were not going to be a lot of options.  In fact, without a significant drive, there really was only one single SOTA-qualified peak that would even be a possibility for me.  San Pedro Hill, W6/SC-345, was actually quite close to our hotel, and has a road that traveled to the top.

On Saturday afternoon, I made the trip up.  The actual summit is fenced off - it appears that there is a military radar installation and some commercial towers - so I set up my gear right alongside Crest Road road, next to the fence.  (I did make sure to put in a short road hike and carry my gear to the operating site, to keep within SOTA rules).  This was a much different mountaintop environment than what I am used to in Arizona!

I used a SOTABEAMS portable mast (unfortunately with a few top sections missing - they broke as described in a previous blog post below) and a SpiderBeams Aerial-51 404-UL OCF Dipole.  One end of the antenna was tied off to a trash can, the other to a rock, and the mast was strapped to a "No Parking" sign.

Within minutes of setting up, a police car drove up.  The officer asked what I was doing, and I explained.  Turns out he is familiar with amateur radio because a group of hams meets monthly at their station for Emcomm stuff, so he was satisfied and left without any trouble.  A little while later, a lady walked over from the house visible in the photo, and she wasn't quite as friendly.  She clearly did not want me there, and was concerned that my setup was permanent (ha!).

I ended up making just 14 CW QSO's, all on 20 meters, in the short time I was there.  I was using my KX2 and as far as the gear, was really enjoying some radio time.  Band conditions seemed fine and I'm sure I could have made many more contacts.  But unfortunately, the environment just wasn't the type of summit that really appeals to me.  Plus, my YL was waiting for me and we had to get ready for the race the next day.  So I packed up after only about 30 minutes of operating.

This summit is only 448m high, so it's only worth one point.  Such a contrast to the high Arizona peaks that have earned me 10 points (or even 13 with the summer bonus)!  But, it was my first activation from an Association other than W7A, so that was exciting.  After this activation I am now at 6 summits activated, with 57 points.

Oh, and yes the marathon went well :-)

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