Monday, January 4, 2016

First SOTA Activation, Mount Tecumseh W1/HA-015

After a few years of talking about doing it, and not actually doing it, I finally have my first SOTA activation under my belt.

I've had some hiking experience in the Appalachian Mountains through the Boy Scouts, but other than short walks through the woods (maybe 2-3 miles on fairly easy terrain), I haven't done any hiking since about 2002.

KG6CIH, AB1KW and myself decided to take on Mount Tecumseh (SOTA Designator W1/HA-015) this past December. Tecumseh is one of New Hampshire's 4000 footers, albeit the smallest of any of the 4kers in New England at 4003'.  We went on December 19th, which has the interest of being in a weird limbo time. The activation counts as a Winter activation, but since we were hiking before the official start of Winter the Appalachian Mountain Club doesn't count it as a Winter ascent. Since I didn't hit all of the trails on the mountain anyway, I'll have to return at some point to knock those off and to get it officially summited in Winter per AMC rules.

The weather was cold and windy. With wind chill, we believe that it was around 0 degrees F at the summit. Fortunately, we had expected this and had packed a lot of extra jackets and warm layers. It was pretty windy, but the weather held save for some flurrying on the way down.

The hike is a bit of a slog. Round trip, we only hiked a hair over 5 miles. The hike does go up almost 2500' over that distance (half that distance, since it's one way and now round trip), and the steepest part is the last mile or so. The trail maintainer has been putting in rock stairs, which makes it both easier and harder in ways. Much of the water runoff that we crossed while we were on our way up had frozen while we were on the summit. There wasn't enough ice to justify breaking out the microspikes, but it was very slick in places. We mostly had bare rock to contend with (Bare rock? In the Whites? Inconceivable.)

There were a few stream crossings. Rik crossed the main one right at the trail, but Chris and I decided to go upstream a bit and cross there. This resulted in somewhat of a short bushwack, but we survived. On the way out, I just relied on my waterproof winter hiking boots and forded the shallow stream, as did Chris. Rik unfortunately found the slippery spot...

For gear, we had a couple of HTs and my FT-817ND. Most of the HTs had rubber ducks, but Chris had his 2m Arrow with him. I had a homemade buddipole for the 817.

The Arrow worked great. We staggered our ascents so that we could all get chaser credit, and then made the rest of our contacts from the summit. The furthest contact on 2m (with 5 watts, FM, even!) was with W1NOV in Plymouth, ME, a straight line distance of nearly 130 miles.

My buddipole, however...clearly I did something wrong. I thought I had it tunable and working before we left, but when we reached the summit and got set up I could hear things but not get out, it was a total space heater. I need to work on that before the next summit attempt we do, it was a lot of weight to carry for nothing.

All in all, a successful activation. We're not sure if we're going to do HF Winter activations anymore, it's pretty cold up there and 2m is working fine for us, and HF takes a while to set up. When I get my MTR running, that may open up our options.

Thanks to our chasers for giving us a successful activation:
KB1RJD
KB1RJC
W1NOV
N1KXT

I look forward to the next one, and to getting really rolling on my official hiking lists...



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