Joyce/K0JJW and I were planning a trip to Alaska to visit several of the national parks. We had some time available while in Fairbanks to do some SOTA activations. We were traveling very light, so we took minimal SOTA gear: a pair of VHF/UHF handhelds and simple antennas.
We used my newly-fashioned antenna mount on a trekking pole we had with us. The trekking pole served us as as a trekking pole for hiking, a camera monopod and now an antenna support. It provides a handy way of supporting a vertical antenna and provides a little more antenna height when held up in the air.
I checked the SOTA database to identify easy-to-access summits near Fairbanks. There are several 1 and 2 point summits in the area with easy access. We were not looking for drive-up summits but we did want an easy hike.
I found that Dale/KL7R and Peter/K3OG had been activating in the area, so I contacted them via email and they both gave me helpful advice. We were a bit concerned about getting our four QSOs on VHF, but that turned out to not be a problem. We worked Dale from all three summits and he helped rustle up a few more stations to work. We had pretty good luck just calling CQ on 146.52 MHz. And I announced our presence and need for simplex contacts on the KL7KC repeater (146.88 MHz, 103.5 Hz tone).
We activated three summits:
Chena Ridge (KLF/FN-205)
We drove up Chena Ridge Road, then took a gravel road uphill towards the summit (I think it was labeled North Becker Ridge Road). At this point, we encountered a locked gate and parked there. Some locals wandered by and said that they hike up to the top every day, so come along. The hike was easy, less than one quarter of a mile with some elevation gain. At the summit is an FAA VOR site enclosed by a chain link fence.
Pedro Dome (KLF/FN-164)
Next, we drove north out to Pedro Dome, which has a substantial radio site on top. We took Steese Highway north from Fairbanks to Pedro Dome Road, a gravel road that goes right to the top of the summit. There are opportunities to make a wrong turn on the way up Pedro Dome Road but with a little care we were able to drive to the top. Despite the fact there are plenty of radio transmitters on the summit, we did not experience any interference on 2m and 70 cm. That summit has an excellent radio horizon, so it was easy to work stations in the Fairbanks area.
Wigwam Benchmark (KLF/FN-204)
Wigwam Benchmark is a summit that pokes up just north of Fairbanks. It is a bit more difficult to navigate because it in a rural residential area with lots of twisty-turny roads. I plugged “Noel Drive, Fairbanks, AK” into google maps, which got us very close. Then we drove to where Noel Drive meets Mia Drive and operated from the road. The area is heavily wooded and we did get attacked by the famous Alaskan mosquitoes, so we made our radio contacts and escaped quickly.
At one point, I told Dale that if we made one contact from one summit, we would be happy. But, of course, we tried for more than that and got it. It turned out to be a great day running around these summits near Fairbanks and making some radio contacts. Thanks to KL7R and K3OG for the assistance!
73 Bob K0NR