NPOTA Entity: Yosemite NP58
SOTA summit: Gaylor Peak W6/ND-387
Activation Date: August 6, 2016
Portable operation: Yes
Radio: Elecraft KX2 operating at 10 watts
Antenna: LNR Trail Friendly end fed 40-10m
Bands used: 20m and 40m
Furthest QSO: ~2,400 to George N1GB using SSB at 10 watts
Hike in: Yes, 2 miles round trip and 1,000 ft ascent from Tioga Pass, Yosemite NP
Solo operation: Yes
Recommend: Absolutely!! Incredible views.
ATT Coverage: None
Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2016
Its not long past 6am and the parking lot is full. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at this or the fact that later in the morning Tuolumne Meadows was somewhat like Woodstock or Glastonbury with people everywhere. I even saw a young couple sitting astride two large hard shell suitcases aways into Tuolumne Meadows; how did they get there and where were they going?
There’s something thrilling about the unexpected. You can look at maps, maybe find photos or possibly read an occasional trip report but as is most often with a first time activation not much exists and so this is an adventure into the unknown. The early morning hour and solitary aspect to the hike adds to the sense of pioneering.
The Gaylor Lake Trail starts yards beyond the ranger gate at Tioga Pass that has relieved some of $30 to enter Yosemite. The trail seems classic Sierra and meanders over boulders better suited to someone with longer legs than mine and through a series of switchbacks up 500 vertical feet to a ridge line that is my cue to head off trail and up toward Gaylor Peak. My first view of Gaylor is one of relief and disappointment. Its not a Sierra granite monster that requires scrambling and class 2 or 3 maneuvers but more a rocky pimple that seems pretty easy to navigate. All in all this is good as this is day three of activating and I somewhat welcome a straightforward ascent especially after my fire and snake “scares” the day before.
There is so much that I enjoy about Summits on the Air (SOTA) not least of which is the view from the top. Chances are the hike up has you heads down looking at the trail, the occasional look ahead reveals more of the mountain in a myopic way and sometimes a view to one side or the other that can be inspiring. However, the moment you crest the peak all is revealed and Gaylor is exemplary with stunning Sierra views. Looking west I see meadows, lakes, my granite monsters in the form of Mt Dana, Cathedral Peak and many more. Looking east its the same but no view of the Northern Desert as I’m well tucked into the Sierras. I think of John Muir and thank the willy Scot’s man for everything he did to ensure that I like many before me and hopefully countless after me enjoy this and all that the protected wilderness has to offer.
Propagation is tough today. I struggle for 30 minutes to get a handful of contacts. 40m is hard and 20m slightly better. I pause, try again and am rewarded with two summit to summit contacts, one with Phil NS7P and the other Doug KY7S in the Pacific NorthWest. That feels good as this is part of the first W6 SOTA Activity weekend that coincides with a more established version for the Pacific NorthWest and the far more venerable Colorado 14-er event (activate a peak that is 14,000+ ft high!).
Somewhere at the start of my three day journey into the wilderness I tweaked my back and sitting on a my fifth rocky peak is really uncomfortable. Time to go.