Nov 23

W4T/SU-025 Little Bald Knob

Summit: W4T/SU-025 (Little Bald Knob)
Date: November 23, 2013
Operators: Erik WX4ET, Slater K4QWZ
Weather: Mostly cloudy, temps below freezing, windy with gusts 30+ mph
Difficulty:  Moderate

Hazards:Rocks and roots along trail, hunters

On the afternoon of November 23, 2013, Erik WX4ET and I (K4QWZ) successfully activated Little Bald Knob. Following our activation of Unaka Mountain, we traveled down Unaka Mountain Rd/Red Fork Rd, then turned right onto SR-107. We noticed a lot of hunters parked alongside the road.

The AT crosses the road at the NC/TN border. There are no signs but there is a gravel parking area. Here, we turned onto an unmarked gravel road. The AT can be accessed about half a mile down this road. We parked there and began our ascent.

By this point, it was after 4pm and dusk was approaching. The wind had picked up dramatically. The AT intersects a few other trails, sometimes intersecting the same trail more than once. The first half of the hike was not bad. But, it got steeper for the second half and there are a few switchbacks. In order to reach the activation zone, we had to venture off the trail. This final ascent was fairly steep and slippery.

Upon entering the activation zone, we decided not to use our beam antennas and to only make four contacts. With night quickly approaching and the weather deteriorating, we didn’t feel like sticking around for longer than necessary. We rapidly made four contacts each and hiked back down as dusk was setting in.

As we descended, the temperature continued to decline and winds had increased with gusts over 30 mph. My extremities and face were numb. I jokingly asked Erik about potential frost bite. We made it back to my Explorer as darkness was setting in.


Nov 09

W4V/WV-002 Whitetop Mountain

Summit: W4V/WV-002 Whitetop Mountain
November 9, 2013
Operators: Erik WX4ET, Slater K4QWZ
Weather: Mostly sunny, temps in the 40s, 15 mph gusts

Difficulty:  Easy (no hiking)
Hazards: None

On the afternoon of November 9, 2013, Erik WX4ET and myself (K4QWZ) successfully activated Whitetop Mountain in Virginia. The drive from my home in Colonial Heights took approximately 1.5 hours. A gravel road leads to the summit, which has several radio towers and is fenced off.

We parked a few yards short of the summit and walked up to the fence surrounding the radio towers. We set up along the fence, armed with our HTs and beam antennas. Multiple times, a few people drove up and asked what we were doing.  The cool temperature combined with the gusty wind made conditions less than appealing.

We both made our contacts, with Erik making a 118 mile summit-to-summit contact with Craig AC4M. After Craig left his first summit, we waited for him to ascend his next one. Unfortunately, being pressed for time, we departed before he made it to his next summit.

As we descended the mountain, we quickly snapped a few pictures and made our way home.


Nov 04

W4T/SU-062 Whiterock Ridge

Summit: W4T/SU-062 Whiterock Ridge
Date: November 4, 2013
Weather: Mostly sunny, breezy at times, temps in the 50s

Radio Equipment:
Kenwood TH-F6A triband HT
Arrow portable 2m/70cm yagi

Contacts: 2m-14, 70cm-1
Hiking Path: Cascade to Stairstep to High Ridge

Trail is narrow and has a significant out-slope in places.

On the afternoon of November 4, 2013, I activated Whiterock Ridge atop Buffalo Mountain. My friend Eric, who is not a ham operator, came with me. The summit is 3310 ft. in elevation and is called “Tip Top” on the trial maps.

We parked at the “Alternative Trail Head” instead of the main trail head at the picnic area, because the gate to the picnic area closes at sundown. The main gate is never closed, according to a park official. We began our ascent around 2:15 pm. We hiked up the roadway to the picnic area/trail head, which was probably the most difficult part of the hike.

The trail to the summit varies quite a bit from the trailhead. Some parts are relatively flat and wide, while other parts have a significant outslope and are very narrow. I had a couple of close calls when my foot slipped, due to the trail not being level, with me nearly sliding down the steep slope adjacent to the trail.

We ran into nearly a dozen volunteers doing some trail work. There was barely enough room to pass. Any closer and we would have been pushing them out of the way.

The final ascent to the summit along the High Ridge trail can be somewhat deceiving. After taking this trail, it leads to a peak that initially appears to be the summit. But, it’s not. If you look further down the trail, you will see another peak that is taller. THAT is the summit. Yes, the hike up it is just as bad as it looks. It is quite steep.

We reached the summit shortly before 4:00 pm. There is a bench and a picnic table up at the summit. After setting up and making contacts on 146.550 MHz, I tried 223.00. Due to strong interference, I immediately switched to 446.000 MHz. After only a single contact on 440, it was approaching 5:00 pm. We decided to quickly pack up and head back before dark.  Thus, I was not on 220 and 440 for very long.

As dusk was rapidly approaching, we hustled down the mountain and reached the bottom around 6 pm. It was nearly dark for the final third of our descent. The hike down took approximately an hour.


Oct 27

W4C/CM-028 Camp Creek Bald

Summit: W4C/CM-028 – Camp Creek Bald

Date: October 26, 2013

Weather: Mostly sunny, calm wind

Radio Equipment:
Kenwood TH-F6A triband HT

2m-7 (S2S-1)

Hiking Path: Very short hike

Difficulty:  Easy

Poor road conditions on final access, deep ruts

On the afternoon of October 26, 2013, I successfully activated Camp Creek Bald. The drive from my house in Colonial Heights took a little over 1.5 hours. Viking Mountain Rd/Bald Mountain Rd goes from Asheville Hwy up the mountain and is a little bumpy, but nothing a car cannot handle. The first half is paved, the rest is gravel. The final access road is about .5 miles and is very rough and rocky. 4WD or AWD is highly recommended, just in case.

After parking near the summit, I hiked a very short distance to the top. At the summit, there is a lookout tower and a couple of creepy-looking abandoned buildings. Despite all of the transmitters within close proximity, I received no interference whatsoever, even with the squelch open.

I was worried about making enough contacts with just an HT and rubber duck antenna, but I believe there was only one station that I could not work. I heard most Tri-Cities stations at 59. After making my contacts, I quickly descended the mountain, went home, and then immediately went to work.

Later, I would discover that my trip up the mountain took a minor toll on my Explorer. Somehow, the left fog light lens fell out while on the mountain.