SOTA W7A/WA-010: Mingus Mountain

Sorry, Amateur TV folks, you are out of luck in this park.
Sorry, Amateur TV folks, you are out of luck in this park.

You would think that with a name like “Mingus”, it wouldn’t really be necessary to specify the SOTA designator — but you would be wrong, as there is also a Mount Mingus (W4T/SU-008) in the database. I’d assert that my Mingus is the One True Mingus. I don’t know if there is any technical difference whether something is named Mountain versus Mount, but I would like to think there is, and that the one I climbed was the real deal: my first ten-point summit. We just don’t have mountains like this in the Mid-Atlantic region.

I had initially missed Mount Mingus because of a peculiarity of the Arizona association’s database. Initially, the state was divided into two regions, east and west. Mingus is in the west part. Later, they when more states were added, additional regions with tighter geographic scope were created like North and South Maricopa around Phoenix. I had wondered why some mountains appeared to be missing in the regional databases. Now I know.

Mount Mingus wasn’t very close to my hotel, but it had a lot going for it. First, since this was my first time in Arizona, I wanted to see more of the state. Mingus was about two hours away by car, but those miles go by quickly on the Arizona highway. Second, I had explored the Sonoran Desert environment and wanted to see what high mountain plateaus looked like. After a couple days of pitching my end-fed antenna a few feet above bare rock and gravel, I was looking forward to a place where pine trees would grow. Finally, I had access to good aerial photography of the mountain including roads that lead up the mountain and track towards the summit.

A dry stretch of road, just beyond the locked gates.
A dry stretch of road, just beyond the locked gates.

I used Google navigation on my phone with the destination set for the United Methodist Camp near the summit. Most of the driving was interstate, then a bit on state route 89A, which twists up the mountain. At that point, the pavement ends, and you’re on Forest Route 413, continuing upward. Part way up the mountain, I spotted some snow in a shaded corner and thought I must have been mistaken. The previous day I had cooked in the desert and learned that even winter sun can give a sunburn. However, as I kept driving up, snow became more and more common until it covered the face of the mountain.

At some point on the Forest Road there is a chained gate with signage that prohibits non-authorized vehicles beyond that point. From that point, it’s all on foot along a dirt road with a designated wilderness area on one side. This road was a points entirely covered with snow, mostly slush, but short stretches of very slippery hard ice.

After walking a bit, I passed some signs that indicated that this stretch of the road was private property, presumably belonging to the church. Further on, I found the church camp itself, a fairly large property with several buildings, a school bus, and kids playing outside in the snow. On the way up the road, I had been paralleling overhead electrical lines, and I was glad to see that these ended at the camp.

Beyond the camp, there is Lake Mingus, a small body of water surrounded by pine trees and according to the park’s website, stocked to some degree with trout. The lake was mostly frozen, but a couple folks were fishing in an open area.

Beyond the lake, there are signs for Prescott National Forest, so I guess back to publicly owned land. The road forks. The right fork leads towards campgrounds and a picnic area, and the left breaks towards the summit. If you walk ahead and just to the right past some picnic tables, there is a cliff with a spectacular view off the side of the mountain. To the left is the summit and a hoard of large commercial antennas.

panoMingusLookout
View from the cliff edge near the picnic site. If you squint you can see the antennas near the summit to the left.

Going back to the road in the direction of those antennas, the road continues for quite a ways. At some point, following a way point that I had made earlier to mark the actual summit, I left the road and walked into the pine trees (and, at places, some deep snow). I was glad that I had both worn a long-sleeved shirt and brought a light rain jacket. The idea behind the jacket was that it would provide some sun protection, but I used it as ground cover to keep the equipment dry when I got to the summit.

 

I was glad to have a tree at last to throw my antenna into — a nice pine. I operated on 20m and 40m; no replies on 10m. At one point, I tried sideband but got reports that my signal strength was not bad but intelligibility was poor. One person suggested RF in the mike (which seems unlikely) and other suggested over-driving or over-compressing. That last might be true. I had the W4RT mike modification, which compresses AF. I tried switching it out, but I’m not sure it helped. I had received no comments when working FM, so maybe it is a SSB setting. I’ll have to straighten that one out when I get home and can test it more thoroughly.

I did give 2 meters a try, but no takers.

My palm paddle basks in the sun.
My palm paddle basks in the sun.

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