W2/GC-122 Shaupeneak Ridge

by vk3arr

There are many truths and certainties in life like Death, Taxes, Wookies shedding fur all over the carpet and of course that Massachusetts’ roads suck the proverbial oversized, hirsute gonads of a member of the species Equus Africanus Asinus. A colleague once told me it was because during winter, the water would seep through small cracks in the asphalt, freeze, expand (as ice does), and make the small cracks larger cracks. In any case, I had about 200 miles of these roads to cover, and I wasn’t going to cover them by sleeping.

But sleeping I needed to do, as I’d arrived in the previous night at 11:30pm, done the honourable thing in calling the wife at a decent hour for her, and taken the sleeping tablet about 12:30 as I crawled into bed, 32 hours since I’d left Adelaide. For the record, the routing ADL->MEL->SYD->LAX->BOS is a stupid idea. Adding the fact that the entertainment units for ADL->MEL, MEL-SYD and a good three hours of the SYD->LAX legs were faulty, plus an over-officious dude at the Qantas Club in Adelaide, and you get a fun-filled flying experience.

I awoke as my alarm was due to go off. I promptly fell back to sleep because in fact the alarm didn’t go off – I’d set it for 7:45pm, not am. Luckily, I’d set my second alarm (I’m not stupid – just careless!), and I was awoken again 15 minutes later. Shower, breakfast, packing up of the gear, and I headed off. I swapped my work SIM from my phone and replaced it with my data SIM that gives me 1GB of data for $10 when overseas (the work one would cost about $3000 for that amount!). I jumped in the car, and realised I had left my phone upstairs. I got on the road shortly before 10am, which wasn’t a good thing.

I stopped for lunch almost 2 hours later at a service plaza near the MA/NY border, having been jolted around by the Massachussetts’ roads. I continued onwards into NY, following the GPS’ melodious instructions, and headed up Popletown Rd, which leads to Shaupeneak Ridge. I had studied this approach many times on Google Maps, but hadn’t considered I’d be directed to approach from the south, rather than the north. I drove past the car park I needed to stop in, and started to descend again. Realising I’d gone too far, and seeing the towers at the summit behind me, I turned around, pulled into a parking area near a locked gate, and started to try to work my phone.

In the process, a gentleman pulled over and asked if I needed help. He pointed me to the right location, pointed out I was supposed to have a parking permit, but that the ranger didn’t come by until dusk and I’d be OK, and that the high-vis inside of my jacket would be better on the outside, given it was deer hunting season.

From the Shaupeneak Ridge car park, follow the Red Trail east (across the road). Go past the first false summit, and you will reach another high area which is well within the activation zone, which stretches south from the summit. I set up on a high spot off the trail. It was at this point I realised I wasn’t able to get a data signal, despite the almost full-strength mobile signal. Why? Because I’d entered an ‘n’ instead of an ‘m’ in my APN for the mobile data, and when testing it in the car before I set off, I must’ve still been in wireless range – hence not testing the actual data roaming. So, I was unable to spot, but I jumped on 12m and listened around.

My activation area.  The white stuff in the background is snow on the ground.

My activation area, looking roughly north-west towards the summit towers. The white stuff in the background is snow on the ground, and you can see the spur that follows the activation zone south-east

I found CU7MD on 24.940MHz, but he was working a steady group of NA chasers, at about a 5 and 1 level, so I tuned around. I found a clear spot at 24.925MHz, and called CQ for a while, but got no reply. I believe the Frankenpole, travel worthy as it is, is probably a little too short and therefore my antenna is too close to the ground.

I switched to 15m, and then 20m, finding them pretty full of contest stations. I heard W1NG, WE2VJL, W8EH, K0OM, K2DRH and N4WZ, but couldn’t break through the contest wall to work them. I came close with K2DRH, but when he called “Alpha India Romeo?” someone else jumped over the top of me. I even tried 40m briefly, but that was a bust too. Without a spot, it is difficult for people to find you.

I went back to 12m, somewhat despondent at this point. I could choose to leave the mountain and head to my alerted W1 summit, or try work through until I made a contact, so at least the summit was activated, unqualified or not. I went back to 24.940MHz, and called in to CU7MD. I received a 59 report to Jos’ 55 report, and added the Azores to my DXCC list. More importantly for me, I had activated the mountain. I hung around for another twenty minutes or so trying to find another three contacts, but without success.

I walked quickly back to the car, and fought with the GPS for the next coordinates for Mt Wilcox, W1/MB-009. About 20 minutes later, with the arrival time being about sunset, and noting the large amount of snow I’d seen on the Berkshires on my way through the area earlier, I decided discretion was the better part of valour, cancelled the GPS, and set course for the hotel. It was the right decision, as it was very overcast and dark before sunset, and the sun went down very quickly (at about 4:45pm).

Back at the hotel, I found my error in APN, and hopefully I’ll be fine for later in the week. I tested it without the wireless active, and it worked fine. The SOTA Gods cannot tease me further this week. I require two more associations for Mountain Explorer – Silver now, which is the primary aim, but the failure to qualify two summits for points – even for a total of 5 points – is annoying.