Sandia Peak SOTA Activation

Sandia Peak SOTA

Tim Carter, W3ATB, activates Sandia Peak in Albuquerque, New Mexico for Summits on the Air. Tim passed out 130 chaser points in less than 30 minutes. Sorry to all chasers not heard in the massive pileup. 🙁

Sandia Peak SOTA – See 11,000 Square Miles At Once

On Saturday, September 28, 2019, I found myself riding up the Sandia Peak Tram.

Here’s a video of the tram about to dock at the top of Sandia Peak.

This was the last stop in a week-long vacation to northern New Mexico. It was a gloriously warm day with a very light breeze at the summit.

Sandia Peak SOTA

This is the view to the northeast from Sandia Peak in New Mexico. The structure is a very nice restaurant at the top of the mountain with affordable food. The summit temperature was the upper 60s F but standing in the sun felt more like the upper 70s F. Fortunately there was no harsh wind.

Sandia Peak is a 10-point peak in the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program. This almost guarantees any activator will generate a pileup if she/he posts the activation on the SOTAWatch listings page.

I posted my plans there as I wanted to relive all the excitement of working through a pileup that I enjoyed three years earlier when I participated in the popular National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) program. You can find many stories here on this blog about my NPOTA activations.

How Do You Get The String Up There?

As frequently happens, my antenna halyard attracts the attention of people like pollen attracts bees. I had several people politely stand next to me while I was pounding brass answering other operators. All they wanted to know was how in the world I got the string that high in the tree next to me.

Sandia Peak SOTA

That’s the tree just below the summit that held up my antenna. The tip of the yellow arrow points to the exact branch I tossed my water bottle over the first try. The base of the yellow arrow is where I was sitting. It was so easy because there was nothing on the ground to snag the cord on my Trident Finger Reel.

It’s so easy. Watch this video showing how it’s done. My buddy Dan helped me make the video four days earlier in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

On the Air Just 23 Minutes

I had planned to be on the air at 2015 UTC, but was about thirty minutes late. Far-away chasers were patient and waited as they know delays happen. It didn’t take long for them to hear my CQ SOTA.

Sandia Peak W3ATB Log

Here’s my simple log for the activation. Thirteen contacts in twenty-three minutes aren’t too bad for me. There were at least ten more trying to crash through in the pileup. It was chaos, to put it mildly. Next time I might work split.

I was only able to transmit for about 30 minutes because we had to head back down the mountain. We knew there could be a wait to take the tram back down and that was just the case.

I had lots of fun and hope to activate Cadillac Mountain next on Mt. Desert Island in Maine.

Sandia Peak SOTA

Here I am focused on the pileup. I was doing just CW using my Elecraft KX2. I’ve got a 9:1 unun attached to the end of my 29-foot sloping wire. A Bioenno Power 3Ah battery flung my signals out into the ether. Just four years ago I thought I’d never be able to handle a pileup after hearing it inside a cold trailer at St. Gaudens National Historic Site with W1PID and K1SWL. It’s all about being patient and not losing your cool. Remember, you’re the activator and you’re in charge. Most chasers are patient and you work through them one at a time. Don’t forget – you’re supposed to be having fun, not a heart attack for goodness sake!

Sandia Peak SOTA

This sign is what you see if you’re in the tram arriving at the top of the peak. Oxygen is limited at this altitude. You can definitely feel it when you walk around if you’re a flatlander like me!

Sandia Peak SOTA

You ride up and down the mountain in these fine cars. Sometimes you’re quite high above the rocks below.

Sandia Peak SOTA

One of the two towers that hold up the cables is, I believe, 280 feet tall. This is not the one, gulp! My buddy Jim Cluett, W1PID wouldn’t want to be looking down from the windows in this tram!

Antenna in Tree Video

Antenna in Tree – A Water Bottle Makes it Possible

I recorded this video with the help of my good friend Dan Murray in Santa Fe, NM on September 26, 2019. We were at the Randall Davey Audobon Center just up Canyon Road. We had decided to give our wives a well-deserved break and set out on a little-man self-discovery trip.

Links to Water Bottle and Finger Reel

CLICK or TAP HERE for the nalgene water bottle. Be SURE to select the 8 oz size. Believe me, order two or three of them as you may get one stuck up in a tree if you get your line snagged.

CLICK or TAP HERE for the wonderful Trident Finger Reel.

Thanks, Dan for your great videography skills!

randall davey audobon center

This was a great place. Very peaceful and very few humans.

randall davey audobon center

These are hollow log links fashioned into a birdhouse pueblo project. We couldn’t locate the kiva, but I’m sure it’s there nearby!

I hope you liked the video!

Tim the Telegrapher

Ashland Railroad Station 150th Anniversary – Tim Carter the Telegrapher

On September 14, 2019, I had the distinct honor to sit at the actual telegrapher’s desk in the historic and restored Ashland NH, railroad station as part of their 150th anniversary.

A member of the Ashland Historical Society, John Dufrat, applied for a special event callsign from the FCC. I used W1A all day instead of my personal callsign.

Real telegraphers sent their messages over miles and miles of wires that ran along the railroad tracks.

Those wires have long since vanished, so I re-enacted the part by sending Morse code using a traditional brass straight key and the invisible electromagnetic waves traveled through the air across the Atlantic Ocean and to other operators in the USA.

The general public that came for the festivities really enjoyed hearing the di’s and dah’s. Many asked me all sorts of questions, not the least of which was why telegraphers wore green visors. Do you know the answer? I do. Put your guess in the comments below to see if you’re right. Tell me why they also wore the sleeve socks you see me wearing.

Here’s a photo of the page from my logbook.

W1A logbook

Here are all the stations I contacted from the Ashland Railroad station on September 14, 2019 using the W1A callsign.

Dearborn Pond Adventure

dearborn pond nh

This is the well-hidden gem of Dearborn Pond in Sanbornton, NH. I recommend you do your best to avoid it. I saw very large hoof prints of a giant mammal just below where I took this photo.  You’re looking northwest at a southeast-facing flank of Hersey Mountain. Copyright 2019, Tim Carter

Dearborn Pond NH – A Mystical Mountain Oasis

“I’ve not yet done my required walk today, so that’s number one on my list of things to do,” I said as I answered Jim’s phone call.

“Listen. Let’s go hike up to Dearborn Pond. It’s the perfect length and I’ve not been there for going on ten years or so. We can do some radio from a cabin up there.”

That was the proposal my good friend Jim Cluett, W1PID, made to me mid-afternoon yesterday. I accepted his proposition as I had not been to this heretofore unknown oasis.

class 6 road to dearborn pond

This is a section of the Class VI road you wander along to get to and from Dearborn Pond. The Town of Sanbornton NH owns the road, but it’s not maintained. A decent 4×4 vehicle can traverse it in good weather. Snowmobiles overtake the road in winter as they claw their way up and around Mt. Hersey. Copyright 2019 Tim Carter W3ATB

It was about a one-mile hike up a class VI road from where we parked Jim’s paprika-colored Subaru. Class VI roads in NH are not paved and can be almost impassable in good weather because of severe erosion. This particular road was in quite good shape and the vegetation was trimmed so your vehicle wouldn’t look like it had been in a catfight.

Ancient stacked stone walls lined the road as we marched up the steep first section. I constantly marvel at how the homesteaders 160 years ago positioned some rocks that weigh well over 700 pounds.

dearborn pond nh stone wall

Here’s a typical stone wall along the road to Dearborn Pond created by rounded rocks tumbled by the continental glacier that covered all of New England 13,000 years ago. There are miles of these stone walls in the forests as the homesteaders cleared the land to make pastures for sheep. It was easier to stack rocks to control the wandering sheep than put in fenceposts and rails. The wool sheared from the beasts was used to make woolen items exported to Europe before the Civil War. Copyright 2019 Tim Carter W3ATB

Before long the gravel road started to head down to a stream crossing.

“There’s a trail here to the left that will take us up to the pond.” Jim remembered it clearly even though it had been ten years since he had last been here. Vegetation grows fast and thick in the short summer season in New Hampshire. I think Jim forgot that part.

dearborn pond cabin

This is what I saw when we finished bushwhacking the last 100 yards to the pond. Not a soul was near us. The blue sky of the morning yielded to quite a few clouds in the afternoon. It’s truly a magical place, but as I said earlier, you probably don’t want to come here. The 70-foot tall tree with the thick trunk in the photo would hold up my antenna just five minutes after taking this photo. Copyright 2019 Tim Carter W3ATB

Neither of us could see any sign of a trail, but that wasn’t to stop us from bushwhacking our way. I knew the pond was above us as its overflow no doubt fed the trickling stream. It’s now the dry season in New Hampshire and some streams shrivel to tiny rivulet ribbons. This one was no exception.

dearborn pond gps track

My Backpack Country Navigator phone app captured our adventure. I marvel at being able to use this remarkable technology. You’ll soon see more of these graphics in future blog posts.

The Throw

“You set up your gear this time since I used all my stuff on Sunday.”  Jim was right, it was my turn.

bald ledge trail

You can see Jim in the shadows taking a photo looking south towards Lake Waukewan in Meredith, NH. He was standing at the steep edge of Bald Ledge just two days earlier. Copyright 2019 Tim Carter W3ATB

Just off the corner of the cabin was a 70-foot-tall straight maple tree. Its crown was narrow, perhaps just 12 feet.

“Do you think you can get your water bottle up there?” Jim knows better but asks because I’m convinced he loves to get a rise out of me.

“Whatever. Just watch and see.” I murmured as I was coiling up my halyard string so it wouldn’t get snagged in the tall grass or a twig.

Moments later I was swinging my water bottle just as David did before he slew Goliath. I released my water bottle at the precise instant so as to go nearly straight up and sail over the tallest branch of the tree. There was virtually no margin for error.

“Oh my gosh! That was the best throw I’ve ever seen you do!” Jim exclaimed.

It was a remarkable throw and it’s just about the only thing I can do better than Jim on a routine basis. He’s an expert radio operator as well as a marksman. He still can make perfect throws too, and I often wonder if he’s just toying with my ego when he makes a ho-hum throw of his own.

But just ten days ago he did have a major failure at Potter Place. One of his Nalgene water bottles decided it much preferred to dangle 50 feet up in the air for the near future near the historic railroad station rather than come back down to be stored in his dark backpack. The trees at Potter Place have an appetite for water bottles. But I digress!

w3atb dearborn pond nh

It doesn’t take but a few minutes to set up my Elecraft KX2 radio. As usual, I had a 29-foot wire attached to a 9:1 unun to help tame the impedance in the short wire. Fortunately, there were a few strong signals on 20 meters. Copyright 2019 Jim Cluett W1PID

“When I used to come up here years ago I’d sit on that porch and make contacts. Now it’s screened in.” Jim mused thinking of past excursions to this most wonderful location so close to his house.

“Well, I think this place would make a perfect location for Field Day next year. We should reach out to the owner to see if he’d let us sit on the porch.” I pondered.

“Do you think you could get your truck up here?” Jim wondered.

“Are you serious? It’s a Ford Super Duty 4×4. It’s not even a test of its skills and magic.” Tsk tsk, I thought.

Jim decided he didn’t want to do radio so I sat on the steps and got on the air.

w3atb dearborn pond nh

Jim is also damned good at taking great photos. It looks like I just woke up with my frazzled hair! There wasn’t any room for him to sit on the steps with me so he was banished to the rocks at the edge of the pond. My Elecraft KX2 is powered by a mighty Bioenno LFP 3 Ah battery. It allows me to be on the air for hours of fun. Copyright 2019 Jim Cluett W1PID

“I’ll just sit over here on the hard rocks near the ants and other bugs. Don’t worry about me.” Jim is quite talented at throwing a blanket of guilt over me. My mother would be so proud of him! RIP mom!

At first, I heard Hristo, LZ2HR calling CQ from Bulgaria. His signal was very strong. I sent my call sign, but other stronger stations drowned out my meager 9-watt invisible digital transmission.

Next up was Bernie, KB4JR, who was in Lake Wales, FL. We had a nice slow back-and-forth conversation. I told Bernie I was “on a hike near a pond in NH”. I don’t think he quite believed me, but he surely will after he reads this tale!

I wanted to get at least one more contact in my logbook before we left as it was starting to get close to 5 PM.

I went back and found Hristo and other stations were trying to contact him as well. I tried to sneak in between a few conversations but my weak signal wasn’t cutting it.

There was no way I was giving up. Just as he finished up a short contact with another operator and before he sent his CQ again, I cast my callsign into the ether right into his radio.

BOOM! Hristo heard me and gave me a respectable 559 signal report!

We decided to pack up and get back home as dinner time was fast approaching. Outdoor hikes and radio make for a delightful time. You might want to try it, but for goodness sakes don’t do it at Dearborn Pond!

After I got home, Jim sent me the following photo he took. Ansel Adams would be proud no doubt!

Copyright 2019 Jim Cluett W1PID