Just before sunrise on the trail to Waterman Mountain
29 AUGUST 2020 W6/CT-012
It’s been almost a month now since my first activation and my happy discovery of the joys of Summits on the Air. I’d activated 7 summits and was aiming for 8.
One thing this brief experience has taught me: getting an HF rig will be an imperative. However, in this uncertain time of the corona virus pandemic, such an expenditure probably isn’t in this household’s immediate future.
So how best to use the 2m FM equipment I do have?
I had some 450Ω window line lying around that I had trimmed off my multi-band doublet, so it was relatively easy to make a roll-up J-pole to go with my Icom IC-T7H. The feedline might be a little long and I suspect the RG174 might be a bit lossy on 2 meters, but I wanted to test it out.
Now what peak to test it on? There was a VHF sprint planned by the Conejo Valley Amateur Radio Club for the upcoming weekend and they were talking about activating the local peaks, so a peak high above the entire area seemed like a good match for the new J-pole test.
There are several ways up Waterman Mountain. I decided on route 1 from the Hundred Peaks Section.
This is about 3 miles to the summit and 1,200′ up. It is a beautiful, shady, well graded trail with several nice views along the way. There are several gigantic incense cedars on the trail up that bear deep scars from long-ago fires, but they have completely recovered into well-shaped, mature trees. I did most of the trip up before sunrise and didn’t see another soul. I had the summit to myself for an hour or so.
The roll-up J-pole was quickly deployed in a pine tree near the summit and immediately produced the needed four contacts, including one full-scale with my friend Brian WA6JFK in Glassel Park and one with W6FE in Chula Vista near the Mexican border. In a side-by-side comparison with the rubber duck on my Kenwood TH-F6A, the J-pole clearly out-performed on receive. Perhaps the best advantage is the ability to find a more comfortable operating position enabled by the feed line. The HT itself does not need to be held high.
The wisdom of choosing a weekend of the Camarillo ARC VHF sprint, though, was doubtful. There were a lot of green operators on the air that probably could not hear all the traffic on 146.520 MHz. Even all the usual simplex frequencies were busy. Early on it was not hard to get my 4 contacts on 146.580 MHz, but later trying to make summit-to-summit contacts on the national calling frequency was extremely trying. I only made 6 S2S contacts with three different 1 point mountain tops. All in all, 20 2m FM contacts were made.
Soon many people were enjoying the park-like pines surrounding the summit boulders. There was enough room for good social distancing.