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High Rock, WA

KK7DS's picture
Voice Cellular Coverage: 
Good, very usable
Data Cellular Coverage: 
Decent, workable
Cellular Provider: 
APRS Coverage: 
Good digi echos

On September 1st, Taylor and I returned to the site of our first "real" SOTA activation almost a year later. Before climbing High Rock in late September 2011, my SOTA activities had been confined to one and two point locations where one had to make an effort to travel far enough from the vehicle to satisfy the spirit of the game. Until this fourth summit came along, I was able to carry way too much stuff the short distance from the vehicle to the operating location. However, the 1.5 mile and 1800 feet of gain required to hike to the top of High Rock left me with no option other than to pack lightly. This is how "light" I went:

That's my father's old Kelty Pack (ca. 1970). Inside are two LiFePO4 batteries, the Icom IC-7000, a Heil ProSet, a bunch of coax, connectors, paracord, etc. Strapped on the frame are the two components of a full-sized buddipole tripod, along with the antenna elements required for a vertical antenna. It was heavy. It was awkward. It looked stupid. But, it worked.

This time, I have a year of experience behind me, and thus was able to sail up the hill with my streamlined pack and equipment. And sail we did. We arrived at the parking area at the same time as several other folks, all of which hopped out of their cars, grabbed a small bottle of water and hit the trail. I always hate being the last one out of the parking lot, but it takes a bit of time to get everything together when you're carrying a radio station to the top. It's a really great feeling, however, when you pass all those folks on the way up the hill, despite carrying said radio station. We made the ascent in about 50 minutes. This is a shot of approximately the same location as the above picture, but with the streamlined gear:

When we were there a year ago, it was after the weather had already turned, and we saw nary another soul on the trail or the summit the entire day. However, on Labor Day weekend, the summit was packed with folks. We decided to set up a little below the summit (carefully measured to be within the activation zone) on a relatively flat landing where we could be out of the way of the crowd.

After making our required contacts, we were able to head up to the narrow and steep summit during a break in the crowd to take in the view. It's really breathtaking up there. I've never felt closer to Mt. Rainier.

If you're in the area, and the weather is nice, this is really a must-do SOTA activation. If the weather isn't nice, it's still doable, and as a bonus, the lookout at the top is open to the public. Last time I was there, I actually sat inside and made all my contacts!