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First SOTA Activation: Lone Mountain, Madison County, Montana - March 3, 2017

K7MAS's picture
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Second Time Was A Charm!  Almost exactly 2 years since my last ski trip / Activation attempt of Lone Mountain, Montana, I returned and was successful this time ...barely.  Winter Activations at this altitude (11,166 feet, 3,403 Meters), are certainly not trivial matters, even if Ski Tram access is available.  Lone Mountain is the apex of Big Sky Ski Resort, in Big Sky Montana.  See: for general information, and  for trail maps during ski season.

Lone Mountain is located in Big Sky, Montana.  A short 1¾ hour flight from Seattle, and we were landing at the modern Bozeman International Airport.  We flew in on Alaska Airlines, which has daily convenient flights.  We were picked up at the airport by our good friends, Harris & Jean, and whisked to Big Sky, where they have a home, and graciously hosted us for a few days of skiing and snowshoeing.  From Bozeman, Big Sky is a 45-minute drive on US Highway 191 through the beautiful Gallatin River Canyon.

It so happened that the forecast was for sunny but cold and windy weather the next day, March 3, 2017, so I planned to do the Activation that day.  I had contacted the Gallatin Ham Radio Club of Bozeman, to obtain information and enlist help in the Activation.  I must say that without this help, the Activation would probably not have been successful.  Especially helpful was Neil, KL7JGS, a commercial radio technician, very knowledgeable about RF in general and especially local repeater and simplex operations in this very mountainous area.

My plan was to use only 2M FM, as it is generally too cold and windy on the summit of Lone Mountain in the winter season to set up for HF.  I have Activated other large mountains in winter and early season, and I usually try to use HF, but not this time.  I accessed the summit area via 2 chair lifts and the Lone Peak Tram.  See:

This combination of lifts rises 3,666 feet to the summit at 11,166 feet, in 16 minutes travel time.  Spending the prior nearly 24 hour at elevations from 5,000 to 7,500 feet helped with some acclimatization, but I certainly felt the effects of the thin air at the summit.  In order to abide by the “spirit” of the SOTA program, I descended about 100 meters down the SW Ridge of Lone Mountain, and then climbed back up to the summit. The snow was sufficiently soft to allow me to do so safely in my ski boots, and using my two ski poles, but the elevation made for slow trudging back to the summit.  The temperature was 15 degrees F / -9.44 C, with wind gusts to 20 MPH.

In about 30 minutes of operating time, I eked out the required minimum 4 contacts.  I worked: AC7V; KI7XF; N7FLT and KL7JGS.  Thank you very much to all!  I value each and every one of my SOTA Activation contacts.

I hope to be back to beautiful Montana in the summer, and try my hand at Activating some more of the 2,608 SOTA Summits in Montana!