A Noble Journey

NPOTA Entity: NP38

SOTA summit: N/A

Activation Date: April 17th, 2016

Portable operation: Yes

Radio: Elecraft KX3 With KXPA100 operating at 65 watts

Antenna: Buddipole vertical

Bands used: 40m, 20m

Furthest QSO: ~xxxx mile to XXXX

Hike in: Yes

Solo operation: No, with Ron W6PZA

ATT Coverage: Terrible, used the sat phone and kb6cio was my life line

Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2016

Lassen, about 250 miles from San Francisco 

In the mid 1800s it’s wasn’t very easy to get to California. The wealthier travelers probably opted to sail from an East Coast port to San Francisco. The less fortunate were left with some tough choices. Avoiding the Sierra Nevada mountains meant crossing an equally inhospitable but different place; the Mojave Desert. Hot, dry, waterless and replete with snakes and creepy crawlies, was just no fun if you got lost. Trying to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains required navigating up to nine or ten thousand and if you timed it wrong or had bad luck and got lost, the mountains could be the end of the line as it was for the Donner Party and many others.

And so in 1852 travelers got a break in that a rather enterprising “explorer” found possibly the gentlest route through the Sierra Nevada  mountains and like all great people, William Noble name it after himself and it was to the portion that ventured through Lassen National park that Ron and I setup shop.

The reward for packing a radio station in on your back is you most likely will be in a bucolic setting and sitting on the edge of Manzanita Lake staring at Lassen doesn’t get more bucolic. Credit goes to Ron for finding this spot.

Sitting on the edge of Manzanita Lake, Mt Lassen ahead

I enjoyed the activation from every dimension; the place, the chasers both familiar and not and it’s just more fun to activate with a friend.

While I maybe a newbie to HF phone I have dabbled with digital modes for quite a long time and am still in awe of JT65 despite the geologic time pace associated with completing a QSO and so today I have my PX3 and yes, a keyboard. It seems odd, almost retro to bring a keyboard on a hike but I wanted to try psk31 as it has a good reputation with low power.

I did actual read the manual, which for a member of the male species is quite unusual. I even did a little practice run into my dummy load. So feeling qualified and empowered, I plugged the PX, KX3 and keyboard together. With my crib sheet visible, I’m keying away and confident that I’m exciting the ionosphere and not warming worms or clouds as my PSK31 signal radiate globally.

However this is proving quite hard. My CQ avalanche is met with muted silence. Signals left, signals rights all part of a two way QSO but naught for me. I grew up a Brit and tenacity is part of our DNA so I persevere.  Over 30 minutes I do nab 3 PSK31 QSOs but this seems hard work….almost JT65 in nature.

Psk31 in the field….tough
Lassen calls, come activate me SOTA style

We packed up, hiked around Manzanita Lake and then departed for a beer or two and America’s favorite bourbon. All good but my head hurt in the morning. The sacrifices we have to make for amateur radio…







  1. Beautiful scenery I can see why you liked this place. I appreciate you sharing things that did not work too well in addition the setups that did work. Keep the posts coming.
    Terry Hall K6MA


  2. Lassen is an awesome place. I go up there every year for the annual N6L event. We’ve been doing it for about 7 years now. You went there at the right time 😉 In a couple more months the place will be swarming with tourists, but is still one of the least visited parks.

    Next time you’re up my way, give me a couple day shout out and I’ll join you (its’ basically my back yard). When the snow finally melts, Juniper Lake and Mt Harness fire lookout (SOTA peak) are an easy hike and you’ll almost have the campground to yourself! Butt Lake is also a nice area to visit. Easy access to a couple of SOTA peaks in there as well, but more peeps go in there as it’s a bit easier than Juniper.

    I did MN50 and Schonshin Butte (sp?) last week as well, only to have technical difficulties once up on the peak. Long story short; remember to charge those batteries before taking off on a hike ;-(

    Always enjoy your posts Paul. keep ’em coming!

    73, Todd KH2TJ


  3. Interesting to read Paul,
    I had a dabble on PSK from Coorong National Park in VK5 and did reasonably well.
    I also have a preference for the digital modes and hope to do more of it in the future from the parks.

    Running a KX3 with a samsung tablet and DroidPSK.



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