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Wagner Mountain, OR | April 2018

WU7H's picture
Voice Cellular Coverage: 
No service at all
Data Cellular Coverage: 
No service at all
Cellular Provider: 
APRS Coverage: 
Some stations received, but no digi echos

Update (5/18): Private Property Alert!

I received a note from Doug W7ZV letting me know that I had crossed private property on my hike to Wagner Mountain. In fact the SUMMIT of Wagner is apparently private property, owned by Young Life's Washington Family Ranch. The river map I was using did not indicate this, and there are no private property signs in this remote area. In short, I had no way of knowing that I would be entering private property on this hike.

If you are reading this and thinking about Wagner, you should contact Young Life's Washington Family Ranch and see if you can get permission. SOTA lesson learned: do deeper research in advance of an activation!


2m FM Saves the Day on Wagner Mountain!

I recently went on a 5 day rafting trip in central Oregon with my son and some of the scouts from his Boy Scout Troop. We did the upper John Day River, from Service Creek to Clarno - about 50 miles of river. We had 3 rafts and one single-seater pontoon boat that the boys took turns on.

I had planned to do 3 or 4 SOTA activations on the trip, but ended up having time for only one - Wagner Mountain. The others would have been do-able if I had more time. On the 3rd day of our trip we had a layover day and our campsite was about 5 miles from Wagner Mountain. We had a great view of the mountain from our camp, and it looked like a daunting task!

I tried to talk some of the scouts into going on the hike, but they wanted to fish and hunt for rocks. This area is LOADED with amazing agates, quartz, jasper, and other cool rocks. We had 3 other adult leaders on the trip, and they agreed to cut me loose for the day. I got up at dawn the next day and set out!

There was no real trail, but there were a lot of game trails. In fact I was following a heard of deer for some time untill they finally ditched me. The route was very steep / rocky in some places, and there was one exposed hillside traverse that was a little bit sketchy. WX was perfectly sunny and about 65F once the sun was fully up. The hike was a LOT of up and down as I followed some ridge lines and traversed around some smaller mountains that were in my way.

I arrived on the summit around lunch time and started setting up. My station consited of a QCX 20m single band CW only radio (puts out ~4 watts), 20m dipole, 7m telescopic pole, and my trusty FT-1D H/T. I had the dipole up in no time (inverted V config) and started calling on my published freq. 14.062. I could tell right away that something was wrong with the rig as it was 'sluggish' when sending. It mostly seemed to affect the first element of each transmission - like if it 'rested' for any length of time then the next transmission would be messed up. I had no way of knowing if I was getting out! I had previously used this rig on a few SOTA activations, and had no trouble with it - I guessed that banging around in a dry bag on a raft for 3 days had knocked something loose.

I tried listening around the band and could hear signals, but couldn't get anyone to hear me. I decided to set the QCX aside and try to get myself spotted via APRS. I've tested this capability in the past, but have rarely used it. I fired up my FT-1D and listened on 144.39 - I did hear a few faint packets so I decided to give it a shot. I was using a Diamond SRH779 telescopic antenna, which is 1/2 wave on 2m. I edited my last SOTA spot message stored in the FT-1D (text entry is a PITA on this thing) and sent it. I let it send the message 6 times - It did not get picked up by an iGate. Another fail!

I was fairly in the middle of nowhere, but figured I might as well give 146.52 a shot. I started calling CQ and after about 6 or 7 minutes of calling I heard a station come back to me! It was Roberta, KI7GQY. I tried calling her back but she was not hearing me, so for the next several minutes I tried moving around and changing the orientation of my antenna. Nothing! All was not lost, because Talitha, KJ6GSL called me. She said she didn't hear me inititally, but heard her neighbor Roberta calling me. She also said she would put out a call on their local repeater and try to get some folks over to .52 for me. I thanked her and continued calling CQ. A few minutes later I talked with Stuart, KF6UDF. Stuart said he would spot me on SOTA Watch, so at this point I switched back to the QCX to see what would happen.

Within a minute I could hear the gang arriving on scene and asking didi-dahdah-didi (?). Moment of truth: was the problem my QCX having affecting the power output? I cranked my keyer speed up a bit and went for it - CQ SOTA CQ SOTA DE WU7H WU7H K....

Several stations called me back, creating a nice little pileup. Hooray, they could hear me!!

The keying problem with the rig was making it frustrating to send, and I apologize to my chasers - it probably sounded like I was sending with my left foot (QLF)! I was able to struggle through and put 13 more in the log, plus two S2S contacts. Activation saved! I tried calling some more on 2m, with no replies. It was time to pack up and head back to camp.

The trip back was uneventful and I made good time, arriving back in camp around 4. The rest of the rafting trip was was great and we all had an amazing trip! We will definitely return to the John Day river at some point and try the lower section.


-Josh WU7H

Rafting down the John Day River, Central Oregon
Getting close to the summit..
Our campsite for two nights