Late Friday evening I dropped an alert that if everything lined up, I intended on activating Sweat Mountain during the ARRL VHF contest. I also followed it up with a rambling blog post, because 60 characters sometimes isn’t enough to explain the details surrounding a mountain activation.
My priority was to meet up with a fellow Ham and work as many stations as we could and before we packed up to head home for the evening, I would activate the mountain. Unfortunately, we got started much later in the afternoon than I had anticipated and I never bothered to update my alert to let anyone paying attention know that I was going to be late, if at all.
In hindsight, I probably should have done that as a courtesy to others but by my estimation (looking at my web logs), only two people clicked on the link to my blog from the alert I posted on SOTAWatch anyway. So to those two individuals, I apologize.
While my activities during the VHF contest weren’t anything to write home about, the adventure to activate Sweat Mountain turns out to be blog-worthy. I’ll start by saying that it’s the activation that almost wasn’t.
Getting There – Driving
Interstate 75 North out of Atlanta.
Exit Interstate 575 North.
Exit Highway 92 and turn Right (East).
Turn Right onto Trickum Road (South).
Turn Left onto Jamerson Road (East).
Turn Left onto Wigley Road (North).
Turn Right onto Summitop Road, Right onto Summitop Lane and Left onto Summitop Ct.
If you know how to get there, the mountain isn’t that hard to find. It’s worth noting that it’s private property with a gated entrance and while I don’t know any of the locals, they probably wouldn’t appreciate you parking in their cul-de-sac at the top if you think you can make a good run at it. In other words, it’s probably not a good idea to try and activate this mountain unless you’re with someone with permission to be up there.
Getting There – Hiking
Assuming you can get past the gate, you can drive within about 500′ of the actual summit. The summit, however, is behind another gated and fenced area that’s sometimes locked, sometimes not. Either way, you can’t operate from the actual summit since I’m pretty sure a building is sitting right on top of it and it’s surrounded by commercial towers. To activate the mountain, you’ll have to get closer to the summit and your only means of doing so are bushwacking from this point. The summit is at the far end of this restricted area, so you’ll have to bushwack around the fenced area. If you’re facing the locked fence, I recommend going along the outside of the fence to the left, or the South side of the mountain. The North side is MUCH steeper and the brush thicker.
Oh, and I almost forgot to state the obvious: If you arrived here by vehicle, you’ll have to hike down the prerequisite elevation and then back up to count this as an activation.
NorCal Doublet made from 22ga speaker wire, suspended from a ~20′ carbon fiber pole in an inverted-V formation.
Being so close to all these commercial towers, I wasn’t certain if I’d have 3G service with Verizon or not. I was able to self-spot using the SOTA Goat app but it took a little longer than usual. Might have been the network, might not. I started on 40m and called CQ for about 15min without hearing any other stations. I went up to 20m and called CQ for about the same amount of time also without hearing any other stations. At this point I’m drenched in sweat, scraped up pretty good from bushwacking through briars, stung at least once and suffered at least 7 gnarly spider bites which weren’t all tallied until later. I began thinking this would be my first failed activation.
I tuned around a bit and although I could hear many stations between 40m and 20m, none of them could hear me. (I didn’t bother with any other bands.) Having played radio up here before, I’ve never been so close to these towers but I know the EMI can be downright horrible depending on your location and where your antenna might be pointed. Knowing that I had made two dozen successful contacts on 6m before crawling over here, I decided to scoot up to 50MHz and snag any contacts I could muster.
Oh, and I’m using a wire antenna not designed for 6m.
Long story… long, I managed to acquire 4 contacts on 6m. All were locals participating in the contest and sadly none were any of my regular chasers. But I secured the magic number to count this as a successful activation.
None taken; I was too anxious to get home and grill some burgers.
I wish I could say I enjoyed this experience, but I didn’t. I am, however, relieved to make a rare activation even though the points awarded seemed disproportionate to the amount of effort it took the obtain them. Next time I should do a better job advertising my intentions with more lead-time and notifying any chasers when I have to deviate from those plans. Again, my apologies to anyone that might have been out there waiting and listening.