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elk mountain, wa | october 2022

K7WXW's picture
Voice Cellular Coverage: 
No service at all
Data Cellular Coverage: 
Spotty, may not work at all
Cellular Provider: 
APRS Coverage: 
Good digi echos

Summary - Getting to the top of Elk Mountain, on Weyerhauser land west of Mount Saint Helens, is a either a steep two mile hike on an abandoned forest road or mostly a drive up with a short climb. It is the highest of a group of three summits about two hours from SE Portland. The summit is a nice operating position with views, a concrete communication shed, the remains of a lookout tower, and a hunk of airplane that crashed there years ago. Don't count on two meters to make your four QSOs, cell phone service is very marginal, and APRS pings get picked up.

A Weyerhauser recreational permit (which includes a key for the gates) is required. The company is actively logging in the area and Weyerhauser trucks and equipment *always* have the right-of-way. This can mean a long, scary reverse on one lane roads with few turnouts and significant exposure. Weekends are the best time for a visit.

Long Version - On the Weyerhauser map, it looked like Elk Mountain was a drive up from the junction of the Butler Butte and 3387 access roads. When I arrived, I found that my intended path was bermed in three places. With the choice of a steep two mile hike in the hot afternoon sun and looking for another way up, I went for the latter. After an abortive attempt around the west side of the mountains ridge, I was able to pick out a route branching off of the 3387 access road on the southeast side and get myself within a half mile of the summit. Sections of the road up were steep and rough and I was glad not to encounter another vehicle while I was going up!

The road ends at a break in the rocky summit ridge. There was no safe way up the west side of the ridge but after poking around, I found the entrance to a gully (which may have been a road at some point and is marked by a hunk of sheet metal that used to be an airplane) that climbed along the east side.  A half mile climb of about three hundred feet got me to the mostly open summit, which is adorned with a concrete communication shed (abandoned?), trees, and beautiful views of mount saint helens, mount adams, mount rainier, and way over there, mount hood. Setting up a masted antenna was easy and I was soon on HF, making contacts on 40, 30, and 20 meters.  As with the other hills in this area, two meter contacts will be hard to come by unless there are other SOTA ops out. There wasn't anything in the way of cell service (ATT) while I was on the summit, which makes self-spotting unlikely but APRS pings were plentiful.

Elk is the tallest of the three hills (the others being 3387 and Butler Butte) and combines a nice, if short, hike with amazing views and a good operating position. It was definitely my favorite of the three and I would have stayed longer had I not been interrupted by a sun-induced geomagnetic storm that silenced the bands about an hour after my arrival.  While I decided to drive most of the way up, the steep climb up the blocked access road looks like good type two fun that I'd like to have next time do this hill. All in all, it was a very nice way to cap a three peak day.