Monday, June 12, 2017

W6/NC-371 Briones Hills

I climbed this peak on the Saturday of the June VHF contest to have some fun. My girlfriend Jessica came too and painted until she got bored and took over the microphone.
On the Valley Trail.
There are a number of trailheads for the park, but I like the Bear Creek Staging Area. From here it is an easy 2.5 miles to the summit. The first part of the hike along Briones Road and the Valley Trail is flat, with views up to the hills. This section is very pretty in the green season, winter and spring. The top of the Valley Trail climbs to the Briones Crest Trail, which leads to the summit. There is a herd path on the west side of the summit that leads to it.
At the top there is a fence and a bench, the perfect combination for a long SOTA activation. There is a gap in the fence where it enters the trees, so no climbing necessary. I set up my pole with the doublet to use on 6 meters, then assembled my Arrow yagi. I attached it to the pole, and was ready to go with my KX3 and TH-F6A.
QRV on 6, 2, 220,  and 440.
 I started on 50-CW, and made one contact before switching to 50-SSB. Here I made a dozen QSOs before switching back to 50-CW. I made a few more contacts. Later when I tried CW again I didn't have any luck. Voice seems to be more popular for VHF contests. I then spent a while switching between 2 meters and 440. After each band switch I had to get up and rotate the antenna so the elements would be the correct polarity. To rotate, I simply twisted the pole the yagi was attached to. I don't have a directional antenna for 220 MHz, and there was a lot of interference, so I only made 2 contacts on that band. Later I went back and made some more SSB contacts on 50 and 144.
Afterwards I realized that I had picked a good peak for VHF because it is near the corner of CM87. In fact, it looks like the closest SOTA peak to the NE corner of the square. My farthest contact was on 6 meters to CN90, where the other op really had to work to pull me out of the noise.
Trail from the summit. Looking west (I think).
After making a few paintings and using up her phone battery, Jessica came over and had a turn on the microphone. She did well, getting a few dozen contacts. By this point it was getting late and cool with the constant wind, so we packed up and retraced our steps to the car. At home I checked the log and calculated a claimed score of 945. Not sure how good this is compared to everyone else, but a good effort for four hours of QRP operating.
Next time I go up for a VHF activation I'll need to get a directional antenna for 6, probably a moxon. I also need a better way of attaching the yagi to the mast, and an antenna for 220. Maybe I'll build a log periodic for 144-220-440 that can be taken hiking. I'm not sure how much SSB and CW there was on 220 and 440, and if its worth getting transverters for those bands. And if I get really ambitious I could get setups for 900 MHz and 1.2 GHz. I also need a bigger battery for the KX3, so I can operate at more than 2-3 watts for an extended period of time.

Trailhead: Bear Creek Staging Area.
Website: SOTA SiteBriones Park
Maps: KB1KXL SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Take Briones Road to the Valley Trail. Turn left on the Briones Crest Trail and follow it to the summit.
Red Tape: None.

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