Four Days, Four Summits

I spent a long Labor Day weekend at my new QTH in Santa Fe, New Mexico. From a flatlander's point of view, Santa Fe is SOTA heaven. Lots of nice peaks to climb and now with a place to lay my head, I can go back home and not to a hotel room. From my home QTH in Boerne, TX it is 380 miles to the nearest accessible peak. As I would discover, there is a nice 8 pointer 11 miles from my front door.

Day 1 Peak 8409 W5N/PW-027 (8 pts)

We are still setting up house in Santa Fe and so on this Friday morning there were deliveries scheduled for 9:30. So I needed a quick hit summit that I could get on and off of quickly and get back home. Peak 8409 fit the bill. The summit is 11 miles from my house and isn't a particularly difficult summit as you can drive to within a few hundred feet of the summit. So I left the house early and found a pull-out on the road to the summit and scrambled up ~200 feet to my eventual operating position. Quickly the antenna was in place and I was calling CQ within 5 minutes. A chaser pile quickly ensued and in 25 or so minutes of operation I made 23 QSO's. After a few unanswered CQ's, I quickly tore down the station was back home in time to meet the delivery man. Cool, 8 activator points and back home in time to get something done.

Day 2 Atalaya Mountain W5N/PW-023 (8 pts)

Atalaya is not in the easy ascent category. The hike isn't too long, ~5.6 miles round trip depending on where you start (we took Trail #170), but it is relatively steep. I wouldn't call it a hard hike, so moderate is probably the best description. My son Jake, KB5SKN, who flew in the day before, would join me on this one. Jake isn't that active as a ham but when asked if he wanted to operate from the summit, he said he would rather operate than just watch me. So, in addition to my ATS-4, cw only rig, I made Jake carry the FT-817 so he could operate SSB. This is a nice hike and the views of Santa Fe are outstanding. It took us 90 minutes to get to the summit, with Jake having to adjust a little to the altitude, but we make relatively decent time.

Jake was new to mountain portable operation and he was surprised how quickly we were on the air. We set up the EFHW, stringing it in the trees to my carbon fiber collapsible pole. We received good reports, I made 21 QSO's on CW and Jake made 12 on SSB. He was surprised at how effective this antenna was. It was a nice walk down and a good day for father and son.

KB5SKN Logging His First Activation
AD5A on Summit of Atalaya :Mountain

Day 3 Sandia Crest W5N/SI-001 (10 pts)

Sandia Crest is the big mountain that dominates the Albuquerque landscape. I decided to take a chance on a Sunday afternoon activation. Thunderstorms are always an issue in this part of the world, but there is a tram that takes you up the mountain, so I decided to risk it.

Sure enough when we arrived at the tram there was a light rain on the summit. Actually I thought the tram landing was within the activation zone. When we arrived, in the rain, I realized we need to ascend another 200 feet before I was high enough on the summit. A favorite activation location on this mountain is Kiwanis Cabin; it was a short 1.5 miles away. So my XYL and I set off in the light rain for the cabin. While the rain was light, thunder was echoing through the valley as there were widespread thunderstorms. Upon reaching the cabin, the rain had stopped, so I set up my station. On crowded summits I use the Alexloop antenna. It has a small footprint and actually works pretty well. After tuning it and calling CQ, I didn't get any immediate responses. Little did I know there had been a CME just a few hours before and conditions were not good. Over about a 15 minute time span I made 8 QSO's. Then the wind came up and the thunder got louder, so I shut down. We hiked back to the tram to find a 90 minute wait to go down. This was a holiday weekend after all. So rain, a CME and tram delay turned this into a little more adventurous and time consuming outing than planned, but I made the QSO's to qualify the activation and enjoyed some magnificent views.
AD5A on Sandia Peak

View from Sandia Peak

Day 4 Santa Fe Baldy W5N/PW-006 (10 pts)

John, K1JD, sent me an email asking if during my stay in Santa Fe I would be interested in doing Santa Fe Baldy, the tallest mountain in the Santa Fe area at 12,622 ft. It is a 10 point summit and I had already done a fourteener this year, (Sherman 14,036), so I knew I could handle the altitude. “Of course” was my response. The kicker on this hike is that it is a 15 mile round-trip. The hike is not 7.5 miles up and then 7.5 miles down, it is a rolling hike for several miles until you get to the trail up to the saddle that leads to the summit. We both knew there were easier 10 pointers around, but activating Santa Fe Baldy is a badge of honor; it looks good on the resume. So as you talk among other activators, you can always ask what their longest hike was and odds are, at 15 miles, not many can best that. So some bragging rights are at risk here and that’s important. We appropriately planned the hike for Labor Day.
The weather forecast wasn’t favorable for a Labor Day activation, 50% chance of rain, which translated during monsoon season in the New Mexico mountains, it’s gonna rain. We toyed with idea of doing it on the Sunday before Labor Day, but my son was in town and I couldn’t get away. So we took our chances on Monday.
We met at 6:20 am local time and headed for the Trailhead near the ski resort outside of Santa Fe. The day dawned with a partly cloudy sky, not a particularly good sign. We were on the trail at 7:12 am. The trail is a widely used trail, especially at the lower elevations. The trail took us through the forest, across streams and up and down inclines of varying difficulty, however, no one part of the hike is tough. It’s just long. To make a long hike story short, we summited around 11:10, so four hours up the mountain.
We decided, in the interest of time since clouds were building, we would only erect one antenna and take turns operating. After setting up the pole, my job, John deployed the wire. I quickly turn on my 2m radio to hear Alan, NM5S, calling John. I answered and had my first QSO. Alan had camped at Spirit Lake overnight and was checking on us. After we signed, Fred, WS0TA, called. He was on Elk Mountain, another 10 pointer across the valley as were NM5SW and K5RHD. The local S2S’s were in the bag. Of course John worked these guys as well.
John started on HF to mixed results and after knocking off a half dozen or so QSO’s passed the antenna to me. Over the next 6 minutes I managed 9 more QSO’s on 20m before John took another run. The clouds were building, we were 7.5 miles from the truck; it was time to go.

AD5A Operating from Santa Fe Baldy
K1JD on Santa Fe Baldy

The trip down was uneventful, just long. As always a nice walk through the forest is better that most anything else you may want to do to relax, so John and I enjoyed the walk and had several good, long conversations on numerous topics. There was lots of thunder and rain clouds around us, but not a single drop of rain fell on us. It was a grand time. We got back to the truck at 3:23 pm, 8 hrs 11 mins on the trail, including the activation, but 10 points in our pocket.

This was a great trip, four days, four summits and 36 points. I can’t wait to do it again.

Mike Crownover, AD5A, is a regular contributor to and writes from Texas, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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