VHF SOTA: Abajo Peak (W7U/SU-014)
While on a canyon country hiking/Jeeping trip in Utah, Joyce/K0JJW and I decided to do a couple of Summits On The Air (SOTA) activations. Abajo Peak (W7U/SU-014) showed up as a suitable target, being an easy-access drive-up summit at 11,360 feet, just west of Monticello. While the forest service map shows this as a 4WD route, it turned out to be a well-maintained road that most 2WD vehicles can handle.
The map below shows the area. The only real challenge was finding B102 heading south/southwest out of Monticello. This later turns into route 0087, which swings south of another SOTA summit: South Peak (W7U/SJ-003) and up over Dickson Pass. (South Peak could be a second summit for a double activation.)
Abajo Peak is an excellent summit for VHF/UHF propagation with a good radio horizon in all directions. There is a substantial radio communications site on top which did create some local interference on 2m and 70cm. Moving a bit away from the actual summit caused the interference to mostly disappear.
I was concerned that we would not find enough activity on VHF in this rural location, so I put the word out to some of the hams in Utah and western Colorado with capable 2m SSB stations. Our equipment was a Yaesu FT-817 (all mode, 5W) driving a 3-element yagi antenna. We also had a 50W Yaesu FT-90 that can provide a bit more power out on 2m FM. And we had the usual collection of HTs.
Around noon, we started calling on 146.52 MHz and worked N7VWX in Nucla, CO (about 57 miles away). We switched over to 144.200 SSB and worked W0DSW in Cedaredge, CO (113 miles). Then we worked Bill/K0UK in Grand Junction (95 miles) on 144.200 SSB…not real strong but we made it. A bit later we came across KB7REB on 146.52 FM who said he was out hiking in a canyon and was surprised to hear anyone. We also worked KB7TRA on 146.52 (I think he was mobile east of us). We also worked W0DBB in Montrose, CO. I kept beaming to the west looking for W7DHH and I eventually heard him calling on 144.200 CW. I tried getting back to him but he was apparently not hearing me. N7KMK (same vicinity as W7DHH) came on the air and I was able to copy him on SSB. He also had trouble hearing me, but for a few seconds the signals came up a bit and we made the contact. N7KMK was my best DX for the day at 154 miles.
Four contacts are required to get the SOTA activation points and we probably would have been successful just randomly calling on 146.52 MHz FM. However, taking along the SSB transceiver and alerting the 2m weak-signal crowd certainly paid off with some longer distance QSOs. It is always a blast to be working over 100 miles on VHF QRP.
73, Bob K0NR
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