SOTA Activation in the Snow

I did my first SOTA activation in March of this year. Since then I have accumulated 195 activator points. I am driven by goals, and I really wanted to have more than 200 points by the end of the 2013, but time is running short. As I have mentioned in the past the closest SOTA summit is a 7 hour drive for me from my home QTH. However, this summer I acquired a "get away" QTH in Santa Fe, NM and try to get out there as often as possible and when I do, I try to activate a summit or two. So since I am off work all of next week I thought the time was perfect to come out to Santa Fe for a few days and try to get an activation or two in. I desperately wanted to cross the 200 point threshold at a minimum.

Enter the weather. The forecast for my entire stay was for snow. The higher elevation peaks are out of the question, but there might be some possibilities for some the peaks in the 7,000 ft ASL range. Saturday had the best forecast, only 1-2 inches accumulation, but Sunday was for 2-4 inches.

So based on some advice on local summits from Fred, KT5X (aka WS0TA), Ortiz Mountain (W5N/SE-043) was my choice. Better yet, it was a 6 point summit which would move my Activator score to 201 points. I had to do it on Saturday or risk being snowed out.

This would be an opportunity to work on my winter approach to activations, from clothing to equipment to hiking in the snow. Cris, my XYL agreed to join in the fun.

Cris headed up the mountain
As we approached the mountain it started to snow. I had hoped to get the activation done before the snow started, but that wasn't going to happen. It wasn't a heavy snow, but steady.

We found our way to the base of the mountain and quickly learned that finding 4WD roads in the snow isn't that easy, however we managed to navigate our way to within 600 vertical feet of the summit and from there packed our gear and headed up the mountain.

The hike wasn't bad, hiking up a 4WD road to the shoulder and then up to the summit. The summit probably had 4 inches of snow and more was falling. I quickly found a decent operating location and began the set-up. This day I was using my FT-817, the trail friendly LNR 10-20-40 EFHW with a T1 tuner.

Antenna Deployed
The set-up went well and when I finished I tuned the radio to 14.061 to look for an open spot to call CQ and realized this was a major contest weekend. Thank goodness I brought the tuner.

So I set up on 17 meters and called CQ. After finally getting a spot for my frequency, my paddle decided to only send dits, I brought out my trusty micro-key, but had to remove my gloves to operate it. The temperature was 27 F, so my hands got a little cold.

My wife in the mean time had found warmth by getting the Bothy Bag we brought along. Bothy Bags are mini-shelters that are excellent for getting out of the cold or rain.

I made my requisite QSO's, working both coasts with my QRP signal, plus a few more and decided to declare victory and head back down the mountain. The snow had stopped for the trip down which we managed at a comfortable pace.

It was a fun day. Enduring the elements, summiting a mountain and getting 6 SOTA points. We felt accomplished when we were done and celebrated with some Mexican food in Santa Fe.

View from the Top


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

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