LIttle Round Top W6/NS-087

Pano from top of Little Round Top

It’s been a pretty low snow year, this is not a peak I would have gone after this time of year normally. I would have waited till Feb/March time frame when there is more snow for snowshoeing and the avalanche danger was LOW.  I think it’s pretty obvious from the featured image that the snow was pretty much no consequence this trip.   In a nutshell, parked at the lower Carson Pass lot and walked the 1.5 miles of the PCT before it starts to drop down into the Meiss Meadow/Showers Lake area, and just hooked up towards the spine that makes up the Alpine/El Dorado county line.  One way is 5.8 miles.   If you are doing this between November and May and parking at Carson Pass make sure you have a California Sno-Park pass ($96.00 fine).  Also if it is a good snow year parking can be tough because you are competing with a lot more backcountry skiers/snowboarders who like to ride the Red Lake Bowl, or if parking at the upper lot is full. There are some closer options too, or you can always backpack into Showers Lake area, but that will be a pretty tough side trip because you have a lot more elevation to climb to get back to the ridge.  So the bulk of the elevation is gained in the first 1.5 miles, and once you reach the first high point/unnamed peak and make the spine the elevation gain/drops are all pretty small.  I managed to not need my ice axe even though I carried it thru the day.

The top of this peak is a pretty large flat area, and the rock make up is the same as Pyramid peak, the reflection is pretty good.  I had 8 QSO on 20m in 12 minutes (most came within the first 5 minutes).  Picked up a few new chasers on this trip, W5GAI in Mississippi and KH2TJ for an S2S up by Portola, CA.  (I love me some Summit to Summit!!). Also had W7BET who was sitting on a beach in South Tahoe (Beaches On the Air needs to be a thing 🙂 ).

I only found 2 contacts on 40m, and picked up a 2m contact while actually looking for a fellow SLT SOTA activator in the area.

BTW, hiking with the flu in a heavy sustained wind is hard, I think the windburn I had on my nose (wore a balaclava) was more harsh then any sunburn I received this summer. I have had 20 mile day hikes that did not make me feel this rough :D. Oh well stop your bitching, you were outside enjoying the sun and unseasonable warmth! As Todd Offenbacher would say…”Never waste a day!”.

 

This peak is across the valley from Kirkwood Ski Resort, and has a couple of cell towers available (but you will need to move around for it).  Actually Kirkwood’s larger cross country ski area is directly below the ridge crest you walk in.  I had contemplated scouting that parking area but .

 

 

 

 

This is what I have been using for a setup of late.  Antenna in an inverted vee off of a 15 foot telescoping Crappie Pole.  KX2, 4200mAH battery, and well using the sit pad to keep the radio gear off the snow..(found a nice rock to sit on).

15 foot crappie pole and NVIS EFHW antenna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some other images taken from the summit.  It’s definitely got some good views to the North, South and West (blocked on the east by the Stevens/Red Lake peak spine.  BTW those are also SOTA summits too.  I have yet to get RLK, but have completed Stevens peak.

 

Two other SOTA peaks there. (Oddly enough I have done the harder of the two
Round Top (W6/NS-055)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting view looking north towards big blue and the SLT Airport visible too.

My Winter SOTA packing list

I’m sure most of the SOTA folks out there who go summiting in the winter have the right gear.  This is intended for those that may be new at the venturing in the cold and limited daylight of the November – March month time frame in alpine areas.  Reality is, this is just paying homage to the old Boy Scout mindset of be prepared (I myself was never a scout) but just thru dumb luck, memorizing the Mountaineering bible and years of playing I’ve come to always carry the following things so I never have to rely on the kindness of strangers, search and rescue or more dumb luck. The goal here is that I could survive for 24 hours (minimum) IF things did not go to plan.  As always though YMMV based upon where you are, experience, tolerance to cold, weather etc.  To be clear, I have done a ton of hiking and backpacking in the winter, so this list is based upon that..This will be the first year where SOTA is going to be the primary goal of my outings this winter.  Who knows, I may even get some summits via snow machine, but not sure yet..

For those that know me, or just looking at my TOC you can see I spend a lot of time in W6/NS and W6/SN, and I do love venturing out into the snow (although 2017/2018 is not shaping up to be very wintry at this rate)..but it’s conditions like this that I would consider are more dangerous for the inexperienced mountain topper.  To illustrate the point, during the winter of 2014/2015 (the worst year of the California drought) we had a SAR where some folks on a low snow year thought climbing Pyramid Peak (W6/NS-094, and no not doing SOTA) was a great idea in Vans and blue jeans with 3 16 oz bottles of water between the group and NO food or other supplies.  Needless to say we found them…200 yards from the road, they never made it far even though they wandered thru the woods for 8 hours.  A lot could be said about their preparation, but the main point I am looking to illustrate here is do not let benign conditions, and technology create a false sense of security.  This is not an isolated incident by any stretch of the imagination.

I use my older backcountry snowboarding pack (DaKine poacher 45L) as it has plenty of room.  I am still using a lowepro camera case to carry my SOTA gear, it’s not broken yet, and I see no need to replace it as my entire HF kit and amish logbook (pencil and paper) all fit.  This is also my base SAR pack for what it is worth.

I’ll link a short write up on my radio gear separately but like most of us it is probably an ever evolving list of toys so it will be out of date tomorrow.

I am a bit OCD when it comes to organization in my backpack, a stuff sack for every purpose, and every purpose with a stuff sack (also referred to as ditty bag, or just bag).

I will start with what I consider my second most important bag… I call it my “butter bag”:

Content of the butter bag

 

 

It basically carries Justen’s butters and trail bar of choice (currently for me is the Tahoe Trail Bar).  I smear the butter on the trail bar for 500 calories of awesomeness (pretty sure i’ve talked about that before).  I call it important, and in winter I put a bit of priority around food..(warmth always comes first, but food is harder to come by in the snow and snow can be melted for water).

I have enough bars and gooey peanut butters that I could survive 72 hours if I had to.

I also carry a not quite full cook kit:

The stove and such are in the mesh bag, edibles are in the ziplock..
  • snowpeak gigastove and canisiter.  note: A single 110ml canister lasts for a week of boiling water.  IF my stove ever gives out I may move to a Jetboil system, but my stove is running rock solid at the moment so no need to replace it.  I have had it since 2003.   In the cold warm the canister before trying to use it.
  • GSI outdoors Micro dualist cook kit.
  • bag of soups, teas, instant coffee for warmth.
  • sometimes I carry a full thermos of hot water too just to skip cook time.

 

 

 

 

 

So next up is my clothing.  My clothing is based upon my known tolerance for cold, and I tend to run warm. I use a 13L stuff sack for my clothes.  Other things get in and out but these are always in this sack:

  • Synthetic puffy pants (not putting these on is a mistake I make often for some stupid reason).
  • Patagonia R1
  • Pair of wool socks: one thing I did learn from my dad was take care of your feet and everything else will be all right.
  • Pair of lightweight legging base layer (capilene 1)
  • Down jacket based upon possible summit temps. I have a lightweight OR 600 fill down sweater as well as a heavier Cloudveil 800 fill down jacket.

Some things you may not see in pictures but that always are somewhere in my pack

  • balaclava (I picked up the coolest merino wool balaclava made by a Japanese company named Oyuki last winter.
  • gloves that are weather specific
  • headlamp, spare batteries
  • spare radio battery
  • knife
  • tyvek
  • 2 person bothy bag (these things are great wind break shelters that pack down VERY small).  I would not want to backpack for a week in one, but I have spent the night in mine just to see what it was like.
  • GPS as well as map and compass  (I still am not willing to trust a cell phone as a means of navigation..I rescue way to many people who do). 1 extra set of batteries.  A pair of Duracell Quantums last about 24 hours of constant use in my GPSMap62s
  • fire starter (#1 priority in survival is staying warm).
  • basic first aid kit
  • water treatment in case I do find running water
  • Avalanche kit (beacon, shovel, probe).  Never head to avy country without them.
  • Rain jacket for wind break
  • Ziplocks and some Toilet Paper (please if you have to drop a deuce in the cold do not leave it).

 

Other things you will see in the pictures at the bottom include:

  • Ice Axe
  • Sit pad..part of staying warm is get off the snow
  • crampons if conditions require it
  • snowshoes, but they are not being carried, they are being worn.  I have done used my backcountry snowboard for SOTA too.

And that is it.  all told the base weight is about 20lb, but winter is a time where I would definitely rather have it and not need it then start yelling CQ SOS and hoping someone gets to me soon.   What I can share is in the county where I volunteer, from the time you call 911 to the time we are at the trailhead and ready to move to you is about 2 hours.  It takes time to get the right folks involved and the teams built, blah blah.  Once we are on the move we move at anywhere from 2.5mph to 4mph; however snow does slow groups down.   So again, better to have it and not need it then test fate and get REAL COLD!

Given my summit success during the late running winter and snow coverage in early 2017 I plan to do some more summits this winter (and take advantage of that winter bonus to get my points per activation up).

-73 and hope to hear you out there in the coming months

 

Freel Peak (W6/SN-034)

I’m always looking North :D.. Top of Freel, another successful SOTA activation, another unique.

I’ve day hiked this a few times, but it’s part of the TRT so lets go bag another summit today.   While driving in I bumped into one of my SAR buddies James and his wife, and they were going up to Trimmer peak (not a SOTA summit).  I walked with James and his wife up to the pass on the Rim Trail that sends you to Freel peak.  They went North, I went South.  Not a lot to say on this hike, pretty easy walk as there is a trail all the way to the summit, no crazy off trail adventures where I took most of the day just to get to the summit etc..  So I got three contacts pretty quick, and it was a lot of familiar voices, NS7P, K6HPX, thanks you two!  A new chaser for me in New Hampshire had me at a 3×3, so that I think is now my furthest summit QSO to date.   At this rate, I had four, and I was not really doing anything else today, so I decided to just sit on top and S2S chase.  I ended up in two hours getting 11 contacts (seems kinda weak) however 7 of them were S2S, I did a lot of waiting and watching on sotawatch for alerts/spots.  The conditions are bad, I understand it, but so many more CW activators then SSB, and I’m not proficient enough at CW to really start chasing those guys and trying to compete.  Hopefully next year I’ll get strong enough with cw that I’ll start chasing etc.  Anyway, I snagged a 2m contact with WC6J on a peak not too far from me.  KK6QMS was on Mount Whitney (W6/SN-001), so I’ll have a SOTA complete here pretty soon, I’m pretty sure I’ll go hike Whitney again at some point.  I managed to hit W4T, W5N (a buddy of mine was activating there, so fun to finally chase/S2S him), a couple of to W0C, and W7O.

It was a mellow hike down too, starting to feel that fall coolness in the air in the early evening.

I have 19 peaks remaining on my TRT challenge, up next I will be doing a backpack to knock out the last of the W7N peaks between Mount Rose, and Spooner summit so stay tuned for another report in a couple of weeks.   Now that I have knocked out a two-fer day with Dicks/Tallac I’m thinking I know what I need to do to get the three-fer that make up Mt Rose, Houghton, and Tamarack in a single day and include some hiking to setup for the last two peaks along the Nevada portion of the TRT.

I really want to get the last 3 peaks finished in the southern end of the basin, and those might not be a single weekend.  I really ventured off script of what would have probably been an efficient plan, and I’m going to have two work doubly hard to knock out the last 19 before  Dec 31.

 

ROAD TRIP!! Ham14er event (Added W0C and W7U to my associations)

So this was kind of a spur of the moment trip for me, but someone commented that there was a drive up summit in Utah that I could snag on my way to meeting my buddies KC5CW (Curtis) and KD5ZZK (Andrew) for the Colorado Ham14er event (first weekend in August). The goal here was 40 points on the weekend, a bunch of 2-fers etc. Although I learned on this trip WHY I love living in California despite how beautiful Colorado is!
Driving US 50 west of Fallon is always a trip. You will either love it or hate it; I actually do quite love it. HWY 50 was what Golden Earring had when they wrote Radar Love (and probably Twilight zone too ;-)). (yes I know they are Dutch). IF ever there was a place to get abducted by aliens this is the place to do it.
Anyway, back on track, so I left Tahoe on Wednesday midday and headed East with W7U/SU-014 (Abajo Peak) as my first destination. After about 13 hours of driving, I needed to pull off, so found a place I could sleep in the truck and be sort of noise free. Oddly enough that was harder said then done, but I was about an hour from the summit when all said and done. Next morning, snagged some breakfast off the back of the truck and then proceeded south to the peak. This was the first time I’ve ever dealt w/ a drive up and sure enough this was a drive up. My goal originally was to get Abajo AND also South Peak which you drive past on the way to the peak. Abajo really is a drive up.

wow, really is a drive up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The clouds were moving in, and I finished my activation and rolled down to a pass that put me about 1.5 to 2 miles from South Peak (W7U/SJ-003).

South Peak

About 10 minutes from the summit the rain drops started and the thunder got intense, so around I turned and back to the truck I went.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing is I came up with what I think is a social media phrase. “Truckie” Instead of Selfies, I take Truckies!

So sort of half defeated I rolled down the hill bummed that I was not going to have a 40 point weekend, but 30 points is still good, and it was time to start moving over towards Lake City Colorado to meet up with Andrew and Curtis. The plan for Ham14er was to do W0C/RG-002 (Redcloud Peak) and W0C/RG-004 (Sunshine Peak). The two summits sit about 2 miles apart on the same spine to each other and look to be an easy double peak bag to get. The drive over from Monticello was amazing, all those gnarly knify mountains etc. I was amazed at the fact that in Colorado an 8000 foot peak is a 1 point SOTA summit :D. I really need to do some more W0C it seems. Met up with Andrew in Lake City and out to the trail head we drove in order to setup camp, and have our spot setup. Curtis would be meeting us on Friday. I decided to do some exploratory hiking, ran into a mtn biker poacher riding down a trail he should not have been on. Whatever, should’ve body checked him. As a mountain biker it pisses me off that others would be selfish and ruin it for all of us. (but yah poaching has been a thing for a while now), and well, another set of storms rolled in that afternoon. Remember me saying why I like hiking in California? For the most part we never have rain in the Sierras and such. Seems like this time of year is monsoon season in Colorado..those afternoon hour long storms can definitely mess with you.

So that Saturday Andrew woke up at 1am and got started at 130, I woke up between 330-400 with Curtis and then we started up around 0500. I actually could have slept in another hour, but more on that in a second. So started just at first light, and I was making pretty good time. Ended up getting on the summit at 0800 which was apparently too early for really being part of the Ham14er. While I did get contacts from Curtis and Andrew elsewhere on the hill I did not actually start hearing other Colorado activators till I was headed off the hill 90 minutes later. I did get a couple S2S contacts that were elsewhere in the country. It was nice being a little further east. I was able to manage contacts with the Eastern Seaboard states. Ended up with 14 QSO on Redcloud and was starting to get hypothermic sitting on top. I should have put my puffy pants on. So as you can see from the images there were clouds all around. Given the experience of the past few days (and rain) I opted to head down instead of going after Sunshine Peak. So again, did not get the full 20, but that is okay. I rolled down and managed to snag a quick nap in time to hear Curtis when he was activating RedCloud so I did manage a SOTA Complete same day as activation :D.

So in contrast to California 14ers we only have one that is “drive up” as it were and that is White Mountain (W6/CD-001) which I hiked last year. That was a “drive to 11k and hike 6-7 miles each way” day hike. Not very drive up :D, but camping under the stars at 11k is pretty bad ass. Pretty much all California 14ers require some level of overnight backpacking, base camping and in some cases class 5 climbing to achieve. MT Whitney (W6/SN-001) is 12 miles each way and starts at 6000 feet. Not to sound like a dick, but this was the easiest 14er I have ever done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So for driving home on Sunday I opted to head over County road 4 to Silverton via the Alpine Scenic By way. Finally got to test that suspension out for real :D.

And on that note, I leave you with some parting shots from the drive up. I’ll be back next year (or maybe sooner) for some more Colorado/Ham14er action.

Pyramid Peak (W6/NS-067): one epic day!

So, originally I wanted to snag 2 possibly 3 summits as a single day outing. And in times with low snow, and low water that would have probably been doable. Although to note, the folks I bumped into on the summit seemed to think my 5.5 hour jaunt from Lyons Creek trail head was pretty good time. What is funny is that I wasted close to an hour navigating a cliff section that I could have avoided, but..uh..yah EPIC outing. Anyway, cliff notes aside, since my last post (Ralston Peak) I’ve managed to tick off Mt Pluto (by Northstar) and Slide Mountain (Mt Rose Ski Area) but given that those were all short non-eventful hikes, they do not merit their own page. With Mt Pluto, you can take one of the lifts up that serve Mountain Biking, and then have a short 1-2 mile walk to the summit. For Slide Mountain, park at the Mt Rose trailhead pull off at Mt Rose pass (the highest year round pass in the Sierra’s) and same thing. 1-2 miles of ski runs and service roads. One thing I will note about Slide Mountain is there are a LOT of towers up top. This can increase your noise and increase interference on your signal. I chose a nice flat spot, and pointed things N/S to hit my usual activators..but note I had NO East/West contacts on that peak. So, back to the epic. Pyramid Peak is exactly that..this big Pyramid looking that thing is visible on clear days from Sacramento. It’s on the Southern end of the Crystal Range which is this ridge line with 4 total SOTA summits. The plan was simple, get up at 5am to get an early start. Be on the summit for Pyramid by 10am, and then shoot along the spine to get Mt Price. Well, either my alarm never went off, or I slept thru it, so I woke up at 830. three hours behind :D.

So the distance and elevation to Syliva lake are pretty easy. That last 1.5 miles which has 2000 feet of elevation are what kick your ass! (do not forget, you still have to come down!

Lyons Creek trail. The trail is easy to Sylvia Lake, it’s when you turn away from the trail and start the summit attempt that things get SLOW..

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So what I will say is that the hike into Sylvia lake is pretty easy. I was ~2 hours to the lake. You cover 1500 feet of elevation gain in approximately 5 miles. When you turn UP from the lake, you still have ~2 miles of terrain to cover, BUT..another 2000 feet of elevation. Make sure you have plenty of water and food, or at least stuff to pull water from the creeks and run off.
I decided to take an adventurous route and shoot up some snow fields, and rock pile thinking no problem, I’m going to have to manage scree fields, this is a good time to start. MISTAKE: If the snow had not been still sticking around (or..IF I’d bothered throwing the Ice Axe in) this probably would have not been a bad deal…at some point when going up, you get to a point you have to keep going up.. This is what happened to me :D.

Sylvia lake is below me. This section I free climbed and had to get creative. Avoid that cliff band, and just head up the scree field tot he saddle to being the climb proper up Pyramid.
So I was shooting up what is the middle of this picture, and managed to “snow wall/cliff out”. The snow was still firm enough you could not punch in and make steps, and yah, ICE Axe would have been nice. I did have to do some down climbing on rocks (and rope lower of my pack etc), and managed to scale across the rocks to get to a point where the notch/saddle was easily attainable, but I wasted a good hour getting across here. Oh well, it was fun and challenging all at the same time!
 

After clearing that mess I found plenty of water to refill my bottles, and make the final push. I was monitoring SIMPLEX today b/c I was expecting some 2m calls from KK6YYD as he was doing some summits to my south. So, Pyramid Peak must be one helluva a reflector because I was hearing a lot of folks chewing on .52. At one point I was picking up NB6GC (the USS Hornet Amateur Radio Club) down in Alameda at full quieting. I estimate this at 150miles crow fly. Since they were looking for contacts for their monthly net I decided to try and sure enough, they were getting me with a little QSB. Pretty stoked on that contact, even though it was not part of my overall mission :D.

Daylight was burning, and it was time to push for the summit! I did manage to get my Summit-to-Summit with KK6YYD, so that got him a FULL SOTA for Pyramid Peak. He was on a different peak that is on my list, but later on. The two other hikers on the summit took a keen interest into what I was setting up, so I talked to them about Am Radio, and the Summits on the air epxerience. One guy was camping up top, the other was on a time limit like I was..He however was headed down Horsetail falls, so not quite as far a hike.

Once fully setup on the summit I managed to get the majority of my usual chasers..to which I thank you whole heartedly. I was not activating on HF until 2315 UTC…so I had to get my 4 QSO’s PDQ. I managed a total of 7 QSOs before midnight UTC!

Given the time of day (1700 PST) I was thinking I either needed to push off the summit in a hurry, drop down via a different trail, OR..screw it, I had the gear and enough food to get me thru the night, just stay up there.. (Frankly this was a pretty enticing idea, but I new I would need to be available for Search and Rescue later that night, or Sunday.

Long story short, I made Sylvia lake by 2030, which gave me an hour buffer before sunset. I managed to be below the snow line (~8000 fee) by 2100, and was well on my way. I was off the trail by 2245, so basically I had a 13 hour day out, with 16 miles of hiking. I only managed one summit though. The rest of the peaks in Desolation are going to be some backpacking trips, so stay tuned for bigger updates later this summer. Next weekend may not have a SOTA outing depending on things, and I have still yet to manage a 2-fer in a single outing.. -73

has seen better days
Looking north from the peak. Dicks is the near prominence on the left, Tallac is the prominence on the right.
looking back at Pyramid peak.

W6/NS-108 (Ralston Peak). The trail that tricks me

I did go off trail once I made snow line, to reduce the distance
So, Ralson is probably on the edge of the corridor, but it is in Desolation so worth getting! Not a lot to say about this peak other then, the easiest way to snag it would be to park on US50 across from Camp Sacramento. *just up the hill from Twin Bridges and Lovers Leap*. I’d hiked and attempted this peak once before, but had a radio malfunction, so no dice. I was also curious what the snow levels looked like at Lake Gilmore (for Dicks and Tallac) and along the crest of the Western crystal range for Pyramid and that lot of four. This trail can really sneak up on you. There are quite a few steep sections on this trail, and give yourself some time. For some reason my GPS told me this was an hour hike, boy was it wrong. It took me a two hours to reach the summit. The last mile was off the main trail corridor, but on firm snow pack. Be advised that cutting across the snow did drop about a distance off what the hike should be; probably about a mile. If there is no snow, I highly advise you stick to the trails. Anyway, once on the summit, I decided to do another NVIS setup with the antenna wire running in a N/S position. In this setup I was able to achieve all 4 cardinal directions. 5 total QSO’s 4 on 20m, and 1 on 40m. One of my contacts was in MS, first time I’ve talked to that state. KS, and WA round out the rest of the QSOs for this activation. Not a lot to really say on this peak, other then it’s time for me to start getting out there earlier. These activations in the 2100-0000 range are a bit harder to scare up QSO’s. Although I’ve got some multi-summit days coming up with the TRT challenge so I’ll get out there earlier. I was also a bit time limited due to an oncoming storm..so good reason to get moving once I started hearing thunder. Anyway, some images, enjoy the view, now I need someone else to activate this peak so I can get a “complete” :D..
So, Pyramid Peak, Echo, Tallac, Dicks’ Peaks and a few unnamed peaks in there too. Fifty plus SOTA points in that image.

W7N/EL-105 (Prometheus, Mount) (and some Pony Express support)

I volunteered to help with communications for the Pony Express re-ride. I also figured it would give me an opportunity at parts of NV I probably will not see often. Lets just say that Golden Earring wrote “Radar Love” with US50 in mind. I drew a section near Austin NV, but because of some recent weather issues my first assignment was unattainable. The second assignment though was no problem as I followed along the horse along the highway. There is not a lot out that way, it is very dark, it is very quiet, all the things you would normally find in an off the radar backpacking trip. I ended up sleeping near Cold Springs Station, there was a pull off with a bathroom, blah blah. It was also just far enough away from Austin that it was out of the weather. That said, next morning, I rolled back to Austin and grabbed breakfast at the only cafe in town open, and met up with Jeff and Sue from the SIERA amateur radio club and we had breakfast. Also met up with some other folks from the Pony too. After breakfast I checked the SOTA map to see what was close by.. There are four 10 pointers, a few 8 pointers south of Austin but the roads were a mess. So I opted for Mount Prometheus right outside of town and right off US50. A short run of off-road, and parked I was. There is no trail, just park somewhere on a BLM/Rancher/Forest service access road where you feel comfortable and start walking. . For where I parked the walking was pretty easy. Made the first small ridge and then contoured across to the structure the peak is a part of. I maybe hiked a mile, not the hardest hike I have ever done. The summit has two different Geodetic markers, but they both say the same thing, and they are about 10 feet from each other. A rock pile and such on the summit make it easy to erect a mast for your antenna. This is one of the first times I erected solely in an NVIS style angle on my antenna wire. I was able to get my four contacts pretty quick, and because of the nature of why i was out there, I opted to boogie off the summit pretty quickly so stopped at four QSO. I had 1 contact on 20m (W0MNA) everything else was on 40m. The bands were being REALLY bad at this time. For the Pony comms we had hoped to run an HF relay on a couple of peaks and the conditions were not such that we could. The topo above should give you some idea of how easy of a hike this is..and reality is if there had not been snow on the road I would’ve kept driving for an easier summit hike. Keep driving north on that BLM approach road and you can also get W7N/EL-064, Telegraph Peak.

There are two markers on the summit!
Second one, does not look any newer/different then the other one. Since it just says “Lander County Hill 2” I’m wondering if I was in the right place 😀

Slept at the Cold Springs station pullout, could not find a place in Austin, but hey it was QUIET out there in the middle of NOWHERE!

Genoa Peak, TRT/SOTA challenge part 1b

Walking back down the road from Genoa

 
Ah Big Blue: Looking down at the lake while walking back to the trail. Genoa Peak, this is the 2nd peak of the Nevada half of the TRT that I am working on for the summer challenge.. Although I have enough other fun peaks on the list, I am beginning to wonder if I am going to complete it..oh who knows we have till November. That said, I opted to skip the trail here and head up the road, probably a mistake given the fact that I saw mountain bikes drop into the trail and ended up hiking thru snow.
Even on the Eastern side of the lake on the normally dryer side.
The snow is plenty firm though given the melt refreeze cycles we go thru.
I am also learning quickly do NOT trust Google maps. GM said it was 2.2 miles to the summit. Even with me taking a short cut (across the snow), it was 4.4 miles to the summit. overall I did 9.8 miles, I guess PhD’s do not know much about mapping and navigation when it comes to non-pavement surfaces. Yet another reason to NOT rely solely upon technology and smart phones.. Soapboxing aside, it took about two and half hours to make the summit. Down below me at the lake the AMBBR was going on so I was listening to the NR7A repeater to the comms as things went on. If you are interested in EMCOMM I highly suggest you go sign up and volunteer for an event like that. While these biking events are not EMCOMM, a lot of the same principles apply. The last two years I’ve done the California Death Ride (Tour of the Cali alps) and this year I’m doing the Pony Express re-ride thru NV as well as the Tour-de-Tahoe in Sept. On the summit there are a lot of radio structures, so do get a tad off peak to setup. Since I was not in a hurry to get off the top I decided to play around w/ some different antenna setups. I managed three QSO’s in like 2 minutes, then things slowed down, and I shifted over to 2m. So my first antenna setup was my typical straight wire in a N/S orientation so I could throw E-2-W. After a bit I shifted direction slightly. On 2m, I could hear a local guy operating another SOTA activator that I could not hear etc. Reached out to him, got him some chaser points, and then got the details on KE6MT who was working a peak about 30 miles crowfly south of me (On Leviathon Peak W6/SN-039). We could not hit each other on 2m, but we did manage a contact on 40m. By then I’d shifted my antenna to an NVIS setup b/c I was also trying to reach activator W6SAE who was working a peak down towards San Francisco. I could hear him buried deep, but he was unable to pull me out. Oddly enough with an NVIS setup, I managed to snag W0ERI and W0MNA out in Oklahoma. They could hear me using an NVIS setup, but could not hear me when I was pointed specifically in their direction. I think I noted this in my previous post, but damn the bands have been acting funky so far this year.
All in all I made 10 contacts, and added one “SOTA Complete” thanks to the S2S with Leviathon peak. Funny too, Monitor pass only recently opened, and last I heard the road to the antenna towers still had a fair amount of snow on it. Break out your snowshoes!

Couple of parting images from the activation!

KX2, Watts UP Batter meter, Zippy 4200 battery. 4 activations since I last charged it, that thing can go and go..

This marker has seen better days. Either folks have tried to break it off to steal it, or it just gets a lot of weather..

Can see the inlet to Emerald Bay, Fallen Leaf Lake, Tallac and Pyramid in this image. The Sierra are awesome!

Some W7N action and Memorial day weekend

The snow is still deep in the Sierra, and that is a good thing.  So lets head a tad east and start exploring the W7N/TR association near Carson Valley.   It is right in my backyard (or would that be front yard?).

Since May 20th I have snagged 3 peaks and 20 points.  Gotta get my points per activation back up, need to hit some 10 pointers.

First up was W7N/TR-019, Mineral Peak.  After all the work I’d done with the Tacoma, it was time to start breaking it in on the roads east of Carson City, NV, and this was a peak that had never been activated.  This peak does not really have any trails to the summit, so it was time to just brave the heat, and head straight up the side of the mountain, and see what the GPS tells me.  Here is my GPS track from that hike.  Pretty straight forward activation, only got 4 QSOs 3 on 20 and had to fall back to 2m for the fourth.  Managed a Summit to Summit too :D. There may be a method for making the peak from the East side of the peak, I came up from the west and just walked straight up. Do be aware though that it can be steep, and there is some loose rock at the top, so do be careful. The approach is off Johnson Lane in Minden, head out Sunshine Pass road. I could have headed up an extra road, but I like my paint job. Head to SummitPost if you would like more info about this peak and how to approach it. I forgot my phone, so no images, however this image is from Mount Como. Mineral Peak is across the valley from Mt Como just off center right. In both cases I managed to snag two peaks with zero activations.

Lake Tahoe is opposite those snow covered peaks. Looking west from the Pine Nuts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memorial Day weekend:

Walk up a road to a trail, smooth walking the whole way. Various ways to get here..

I managed to snag two more peaks for the holiday weekend. On Saturday I headed back out Sunrise pass road to do some more exploring of the desert area between Carson and Fallon, also wanted to snag another peak with zero activations (W7N/TR-008, Mt Como). The SummitPost page has some good beta for where to park and how to get closer however part of the road had washed out 2 miles from the place I intended to park. There is another road in to this area from the East that gets you to the same area if you do not want to walk that far. There are a few spots along the walk that would make a great high altitude campsite. The snow is not too bad out here, but I did encounter mosquitoes and some bogs from the melting snow. Managed three Summit to Summits, and 5 total contacts, the bands have been odd, or I am just doing stupid stuff with the direction of my antenna. June is going to have quite a bit of W7N in it :D. One interesting thing though, one of the S2S guys jumped onto my frequency to make contact, and next thing I know a bunch of chasers piled him, and pushed me off frequency. Odd that they could not all hear me. One of these days I’m just going to head to a summit for a few hours and try chasing only without actually setting my own spots. The hike out was uneventful, but I did get to pull a truck out of a bog.

 

 

 

Duane Bliss from Spooner Summit

On Monday, I went after Duane Bliss peak (W7N/TR-014) as part of my Tahoe Rim Trail/SOTA challenge. I had hoped to make this and W7N/TR-007 as a two fer day hike however there is still a lot of snow on the trail corridor which does slow you down (it slows me down about 1/2 mile an hour). I tagged another Summit to Summit, and 6 total QSOs, 2 on 20, 2 on 40, and 2 on 2m. Nothing really exciting on the approach to this peak. Park at Spooner summit, head out the Rim Trail for 3 miles, then turn left and go UP off trail :D.

A busy two weeks for me and SOTA, working my way to my GOAT. I’ve already done more peak points this year then each of the last two years, here is to hoping I keep it up :D.

From sand to snow.. two activations to totally different types of zones, and finally 100pts on SOTA!

 

A couple of false summits to keep your hopes up

The weekend of April 1/2 I managed to snag two different peaks in two different zones and states, and two very different types of hikes :D.  The CVHams meet on the first Saturday of the month, so I headed to Carson Valley with the intention of doing two different activations, but ran out of time scouting the entry roads.  So I opted to head to the meeting w/ the purpose of snagging W7N/TR-042 (McTarnahan Hill) after the fact.  This morning my goal was to hit that peak before the meeting, but yah those NV back roads are in rough shape from winter.  Anyway that said, I managed to get within 1/2 mile from the backside of the peak, but if you went up the front side from Carson City side, and had a Quad/Motorcycle you can make it to 20 feet from the summit.   I know better then to activate this close to 0000 UTC.. Oh well, I allowed the Auchard’s to get double chaser points.  Another successful activation, As noted the Auchards both before and after 0000, as well as a local guy in Carson City, and NG6R from Southern Cal.

Leave no Trace!A campsite on the side of the road where folks left unopened beers and other various trash.Look folks, LEAVE NO TRACE.  Leave it how you found it.  Oddly enough when I came back thru the second time, the bottles were actually gone.  I guess the runners I saw out on Sunshine Pass Road needed a pick me up on this fine day!

 

 

 

And now the Snow Zone 😀
Panorama from Big Blue and Desolation, Hope Valley on around to Carson Pass

 

So Sunday the goal was get up to Stevens Peak (W6/NS-345).  This is one of the peaks on my “TRT Challenge to Self” so one checked off, a few more to go.  No this summit does not help me from a miles perspective.  There was still plenty of snow, so I opted to go up the backcountry skiers route, but the sun was blasting that hillside, so it was getting soft. Sidehilling in soft snow on a 30 degree slope is risky for a multitude of reasons, unless you have solid self arrest skills, do not bother. HOWEVER..you gain 1000 feet in the first mile, making for a mellow grade for that last 1/2 mile push up the summer trail. Even though there was ample snow in the first 2.5 miles the last mile was pretty snow free on the climb. The top still had plenty of snow though. People are pecuiliar, I followed these two skiers up the bowl, and watched em descend. Turns out one of the guys was on his third day out ever, not third day of learning BC Skiing, but third day of skiing period. 30 degree slopes are hard blues/easy blacks. Is BC on a spring corn day on avalanche terrain really the place to be learning how to ski? Saw a couple of snow bunnies and a few bear prints in the snow while hiking. All in all, I love snowshoeing thru the snow. Once on the summit, I saw my fair share of BC skiers/snowboards who had come up the main face of Stevens (as opposed to Carson Pass). Oddly enough there were two backcountry riders who ferried one of those super expensive drones that have “follow the subject mode’ or whatever it’s called. The guy was complaining that my antenna was creating interference. Odd that the drones are impacted by the RF from a radio on 20m. I was nice and let them film and ski out, b/c the sooner they were gone the sooner I could get to it. So the nice thing about my SOTA attempts is they are always a learning experience. The experience on this trip is that snow does affect radiation patterns and such, oh and I need to figure out how to use APRS2SOTA. I somehow managed a contact on 20m at ~60miles crow fly. Thanks KK6CUG for the spot, that brought the chasers on. That and since I could see Kirkwood Ski resort, I managed a few simplex contacts from folks with their HT’s riding the lifts. Funny, I never considered carrying my HT while resort riding, but if you snag ski patrol’s frequency, I can see why it’s worth it. The hike out was pretty uneventful, but I went back the summer/PCT path instead of trudging down that hillside I came up. It would be easy to snag Stevens and Red Lake in a single day, and I almost considered it, if I had been off Stevens 30 minutes earlier I probably would have gone for it. Anyway some pics from the summit and from the surrounding areas. Oh how I do love the Tahoe/Carson area!  My particular path was 7.1 miles total, the return path was a bit longer then the up path, but I was going for the safety factor, and even did some butt glissading.  I was also scouting the route for my attempt on Red Lake peak, I’ll be skipping the skiers bowl that overlooks HWY 88 the next time

A few images of the area. Nothing specific,  Round Top (W6/NS-055) which is on my list to do. Red Lake Peak (W6/NS-062) as well.  There is probably 50-70 SOTA points in the various pictures there with named peaks in the W6/NS (and some W7N/TR designator) in the panorama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all it was a great weekend, Some sand, some snow, some awesome scenery and an overdose of Vitamin D (the uncovered parts of my face are purple thanks to the reflective power of the snow :D).