Three years ago, I paid a visit to Lamb’s Knoll Summit in Maryland (as detailed on this very blog). At that time, I went up the Appalachian Trail to the summit with a handheld to test my VX8GR handheld and a 70cm hand-held yagi. I verified that I could hit the VWS 2 meter and 70 cm repeaters in Virginia even with the Comet SRH320A antenna, a short whip. I also checked out possible operating positions and access paths with the intent of returning at some point for a SOTA activation. I also verified that from the summit I had good cellular connectivity and could hit a bunch of APRS digipeaters. Today I returned with my FT817 and activated the peak, W3/WE-007.
The peak has been activated thirteen times, so not new to SOTA, but it is my first time activating it. Last time I came, the trail was muddy and it took quite a while to climb the winding trail. This time, since I was lugging my QRP gear, I went up the access road. As described by W3AAX, I went to the top of the road and around a gate on the left fork, continuing upward on a paved but apparently infrequently used road which leads to a large antenna installation at the very summit. A fence surrounds the installation, which consists of several outbuildings (of one of which is literally a port-a-john) and a large tower with microwave dishes and vertical antennas. Just beyond that enclosure, the path ends.
I could tell from a GoogleMap that the left spur that winds behind the fence is only about 75 meters from the Appalachian Trail, just to the South and there is a side trail (perhaps a deer trail?) that connects the two. I followed that to the Appalachian Trail and looked for a clearing that would give me a shot at line of sight to DC and VA. In summer, though, the foliage is dense and no clear shot exists from the summit. Nonetheless, I was able to check in with VWS members AF4PD, W2WCM/M and W3HXF over both repeaters. To be valid contacts for SOTA purposes, however, QSOs need to be direct, so I tried calling on 146.520 — no luck, even after spotting myself using my cell phone to update sotawatch.
HF yielded better results: 13 contacts on 20 meters (including one summit-to-summit QSO) and 5 more on 40m. I tried SSB on 20 meters, but got no responses. I’ve never had good luck with QRP phone, so I didn’t have high hopes. I gave 10 meters a shot on CW and saw that I was being picked up by the reverse beacon network in Brazil, but did not hear any replies.
Equipment this time consisted of an FT817, a meter of BNC-terminated coax, and the trail-ready LNR 40/20/10 end-fed dipole. I ran 5W for the whole session, powered by a 5Ah lead acid battery — about as much as I wanted to lug 2 miles up a hill on a hot day.