Baldy Mountain W6/CT-105

updated 2021-01-18

Activated: 2017-10-01

This peak is near the zen center where I used to practice, and is in a beautiful area. The San Jacinto mountains have a number of peaks like this which are all fairly accessible, but also worth a decent point count.

The trail up to the peak goes along an old road that winds counterclockwise around the peak. The top itself is fairly rounded and is more of a treed meadow than a typical peak.

Golden retriever hiking
Trusty radio-dog Sledge keeping an eye out for any approaching radio waves

The area is also very RF-quiet, making for a very low noise background.

On this trip I was interested to see if I could use my linked dipole without the mast I normally carried. I designed the linked dipole using the SOTA calculator on this website. The mast is light enough to carry, but it stuck out of the pack so much that it was always catching on things.

Plenty of SOTA operators just throw a line in a tree and hoist antennas that way. Most of my previous peaks were either VHF-only, with no need for a high antenna, or ones where I had the mast with me.

Unfortunately, the “high, unobstructed, overhanging, yet easy-to-reach” branch I was hoping to find was nowhere to be found within the activation zone. All the trees were stubby and brushy. But, that’s life. You screw with the dick you have, not the one you wish you had.

Dipole for SOTA
Dipoles don’t always have to be very high up to work well.

As it turned out, the dipole placement worked surprisingly well, even though at most points the line was only about six feet above the grass. I was able to make quite a few contacts on both 40 meters and 20 meters, my go-to HF bands.

Amateur radio portable dipole
HF gear doesn’t always have to be set up “pretty”. For QRP especially you can get away with some ugly arrangements.

Signals were coming in really well. I worked a handful of stations on the west coast and one or two in the midwest.

N6BSC set up for summits on the air
Shade, good weather, a peak, and a radio. Good day.

The weather was perfect, and a very light gear load was more than adequate. October in southern California is always pretty mild, especially at elevation.

Amateur radio log page for SOTA
Logging need not be complicated. For SOTA a waterproof notepad will do.

The lesson of the peak was that a “compromise” setup can often work quite well. When you get to a peak do not spend too much time trying to figure out how to make things perfect. By the time you get a perfect setup the bands will be misbehaving, the weather may be deteriorating, or you may be dropping pieces in the brush, never to be found again.

Portable ham radio gear for summits on the air
Basic setup of my Yaesu 817 ND, kneeboard, and homemade PTT switch

Work quickly, run with what you’ve got, and make it work. You will often be pleasantly surprised at the results.