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Mt. Catherine, WA | September 2020

KE4HET's picture
Voice Cellular Coverage: 
Decent, workable
Data Cellular Coverage: 
Good, very usable
Cellular Provider: 
APRS Coverage: 
Don't know

Approach: Rough gravel road in from Hyak.  Little parking and congested driving at hairpin curve ~1.7 miles before  the trail head.  Just past the hairpin curve the road is extremely steep, rocky and potholed, to the point only vehicles with good clearance can get through. (I have an Outlander PHEV that did fine going up, and scraped on one rock coming down.)  Once at the trail head it was busy, but easy to find an open parking spot on a Sunday afternoon.  

Trail:  Fairly easy trail, if somewhat steep.  Nice forested setting with plenty of shade.  Took me just under an hour to climb the numerous switchbacks and reach the ridge line.  From there the trail is less steep and you start seeing some real views.  The ridge line is rocky in places an muddy in one spot but easily passable.  Trail steepens again as you approach the summit rounding it's north side. 

Summiting:  The last twenty feet or so to the summit is a scramble with plenty of good foot and hand holds. One of the few different paths to the summit has a helpful cable to assist in the climb. The summit area is a, east west ridge about 100 yards long and two to five yards wide. The north face is mostly scrubby little pines with a few scramble tracks up and down. The south is a not quite sheer rock face dropping about 100 feet. THE VIEWS ARE AMAZING!!!!  Especially of Mt Rainier!  5 of 5  ***** 

Setting up: Toward the west end of the summit area there was a small spot sheltered by some rock on the south side and small trees to the west and north.  I was quickly able to assemble my ~12' mast with my new 5/8s whip antenna and SOTA flag. It was easily supported by Velcro strap to one of the many small trees. The rig I use for SOTA is a QYT-8900D operating at 25W on 2m FM powered by a 16.5Ah Lithium jump starter.  Found a reasonable, if somewhat pointy, rock to sit upon with my radio on my knee and easy access to my pack.  Cell data coverage was good enough to let loved ones know that I summited, post a few beautiful pics and post a SOTA Spot. 

Operating:  First QSO came in pretty quick within a minute or two of getting on the air.  After the chaser adjusted his antenna, signals both directions were loud and clear.  Over the next ten or so minutes made another couple of contacts, one out to the Kitsap Peninsula and the other a summit to summit with WA7DNC at Lion Rock. I spent much of the next 25 minutes calling CQ SOTA and at time I could tell that there was someone down in the noise trying to make contact (or rag chewing on 146.52 some distance away), but couldn't really get anything legible. After about half an hour operating the wind was starting to pick up and it was getting chilly on the relatively exposed summit. Not really feeling like pulling out the windbreaker for another 20 or 30 minutes operating would necessarily have been particularly productive, I decided to pack it in with only the three QSOs.  (I'll just have to come back up here again. Oh darn.)

Decent: Packing up was pretty quick and easy. A few more minutes admiring the views as a scarfed down a sandwich and I headed down.  The scramble down from the summit was relatively easy even with a ~20lb pack, again making use of the cable for additional support. From there it was an easy hike down covering what had taken an hour and 45 minutes for me hike up in only about 45 minutes.  

Depending on when the snow flies, I may try Mt Catherine again this year, some time when there is more traffic backed up east of the pass with plenty of board hams. Or maybe a directional antenna. At the very least spending some time tuning my new 5/8 wave antenna as it it probably cut a little long from the factory. 

All in all probably my favorite summit so far. 

Rocky outcropping, backpack with radio gear, PVC mast w/ SOTA flag & small trees
Cascade mountain peaks with Mt. Rainier