SOTA Activation of a peak I’d been eyeing for a while
So for those that have been following me in anyway know I’ve had a desire to knock off all the peaks that are in some proximity to the Tahoe Rim Trail. This was also the final weekend of the W7N bonus weekend (W6 cuts out on 3/15, that is in the process of getting updated though). There are three possible ways to get to this peak, and as a day hike, all are kind of ambitious. Doing this when there is still a good amount of snow on the ground amps up that factor more.
So the three possible ways to access this peak are from Tahoe Meadows on the Mt Rose hwy, Spooner summit to the South of US-50. Both of these are primarily the Tahoe Rim Trail. I chose to use the Flume Trail/Tunnel Creek route to go up, then hop over towards Twin Lakes. According to my CalTopo route this should have been ~5.23 miles each way and 2722 feet elevation gain. Mt Rose to Herlan peak is ~10 miles each way and has a fair bit of up and down (+2050, -1830 elevation change). Not quite ready to drop a marathon on snowshoes since most of the stuff up high was fluffy and untracked. Half Marathon? No problem.
I have done my fair share of 10-15 mile snowshoe hikes, but the 2600 foot elevation gain was adding to the pucker factor some, fortunately DST and the Spring equinox has kicked in, so we’re already north of 12 hours of sunlight per day. I hit the trailhead approximately 9am and already started making shortcuts across the snow to decrease distance. I really do love snowshoeing when there is a good base, do not have to worry about damaging existing trails. Down low the snow was pretty firm, so I was making some good time. Funny though the higher I went the fewer snowshoe/shoe postholing tracks were present. About 2 miles up I was now breaking trail though on my own.
Even in the winter roads and trails still look obvious so navigating was pretty easy. When I reached the top of Tunnel Creek trail/the Saddle I opted to stay along the ridge instead of dropping down to Twin Lakes. So it was spring time, and not sure why I’d not considered this in my planning, but, I was starting to notice more and more bear tracks going between trees.
The uptrack ended up taking a bit longer then I’d hoped, especially since i was making good time earlier on, but off trail, and deep snow being what it is, it took me longer to go that last 1000 feet up then it did the first 1600. Even with the short cuts and such, I ended up doing just shy of 6 miles. I was not wandering around lost, I just think that the mapping software is not accounting for some of the switchbacks that existed. (My uptrack is posted below). If you are planning this route, anticipate 7-8 if you stick to the trail.
Once on top though, I was greeted with some amazing scenery.
One good thing about deep snow on the summit is uh..it’s easier to anchor that antenna mast..just shove it in, and step around it to pack the snow in.
So, I ended up with 20 QSO across 7SSB, 7CW, 10CW, and 14CW. With 4 S2S. 20m seemed to be pretty good today as some of my QSO were the Eastern seaboard. 30m/10mhz was a bit iffy, I’m wondering if I was close enough to Slide Mountain that I was picking up interference from all the transmitters over there (~5miles North crowfly).
I used my KX2 and my QRPguys Tri-band vertical, and as usual it performed well. That by far is my favorite setup.
The hike down I opted to overland navigate and stay on the Western side of the spine I ascended. I was also wishing for my splitboard as the snow was amazing up high, and would’ve made from some awesome cold blower powder turns. My shortcut worked out well, as i ended up cutting off a mile from my up track, and landed back on the Flume trail right where the signpost/tunnel creek turn off is.
After knocking off Herlan peak I now only have two left from the Rim Trail Challenge. Ellis Peak and Scott Peak both of which are easy and in proximity to each other so I may just knock them out as an overnight backpack this Summer. I just need to stop letting myself get distracted by all the other peaks (and travel) I want to do :D.
Thanks for stopping by. Some more images are below..
Wonder where the wind blows from
Sign at the trailhead
Crazy wind depositing on the summit.
South towards Snow Valley Peak (that might be Marlette Peak actually).
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.
Every year I like to do at least one solo week long backpack trip (but this may have been the last one, more on that below) and decided to make this years a SOTA trip to knock off some of the Rim Trail summits I need for my personal goal. I had locked out the week of August 20th a while back namely because it was a new moon, then there was that solar eclipse thing too. Backpacking in the Sierra under a full moon makes it VERY HARD to sleep, the eclipse was kind of a happy accident. So the plan was as follows when I went in… we’ll see how that turned out 😀
8/19: W6/NS-154 (Lost corner Mountain) && W6/NS-390 (7860) 0900-1300 will be activation time range.
8/20: W6/NS-107 “9269” (mid morning, 4 mile dayhike from basecamp)
8/20: W6/NS-105 “9310” (probably mid afternoon)
8/21 Moving day, but I may try and do something with SEQP before I head out.
8/21 or 8/22 will be time dependent, but W6/NS-095 “9420” if 8/21 late evening (8/22 UTC) or morning of 8/22 PST
8/23: W6/NS-377 Mount Price and W6/NS-094 Little Pyramid sometime between 1030-1400 PST
8/24 or 8/25 W6/NS-068 Dick’s peak and W6/SN-036 Mt Tallac will do both in the same day. (I kept changing my mind on this one)
This was also going to be the longest trip I’d taken Lola (my 3.5 yr old Chocolate Lab) out for a hike, and she was going to carry her own food.
So I got Michele to drop me off at the Rubicon Trail staging grounds and we started walking in from there to the General Creek trail to enter the Wilderness. While the mosquitos are mostly gone from the basin, they were anything but gone on this hot August afternoon. We were making good time, and I noticed that we were within 3/4 a mile of the first peak on my list (W6/NS-390) and decided to drop pack and run up w/ my gear and get this trip started off right. (except that my GPS died 10 minutes after I walked away from my pack). I did not see the point continuing on down the trail to setup for Lost Corner Mountain to have to backtrack back to the peak (and to be fair this was an extra, but 8 points is 8 points). Anyway, The summit was pretty obvious, went to the high spot that matched my location on the map (those paper things) and snagged the first of what should be nine activations for the week. Managed to get three S2S (or which 2 were W0MNA and W0ERI) to boot. So nice to talk to them summit to summit..(They were in North Georgia). Those two are so awesome, they are always chasing, so nice to help them get an activation in there! I did not want to stay too long as I still had some miles to go so Lola and I headed back to our gear..hoping some bear had not made off with her dog food. All was good, and southbound we went on one of the lesser travelled trails in Desolation. We stopped that evening at a spot with some water, and in good proximity to snag Lost Corner Mountain (W6/NS-154) the next morning.
So the next morning after breakfast Lola and I off trailed over to Lost Corner Mountain. GPS said I was 2 miles crow fly, no big deal and 90 minutes later we were on the summit. I only gave myself an hour for setup, and contacts, but managed 3 S2S and 1 FM contact to get the activation. Today was a larger mileage day, so I did not want to dawdle to much. We headed back to our base camp, packed up, watered up and then decided that the best option to get to our next camp site was to stick to the TRT/PCT and avoid the Tahoe-Yosemite/Meeks creek trail. I can see now why permits are so hard to get in Desolation. I passed some twenty people between the General creek cut off and Phipps pass cut off which is an 8 mile stretch. That is a LOT of people for a single day of backpacking. We hiked up to Phipps pass, and then made the cut off trail for Phipps Lake where we were going to do a 2 day stay/base camp while I ticked off the next two peaks on the list. So while Lola’s pads/feet were never messed up she definitely was tired after today’s carry, so I decided that tomorrow I was going to leave her at the camp (on a long lead) and I would go tackle peak 9260 (W6/NS-107). That night for dinner I had my chicken tortilla soup (Bear Creek soups from the grocery store), and had a wild hair to add some mashed potatoes into the soup. OMG…. that will not be the last time I take that on a backpacking trip!! So… I think I might have stumbled upon one of the prettiest and most remote sites in Desolation, but I probably should not put that in print. That is why there are so few quiet places to sneak off to. I’ll even share a picture:
So day three, the plan was just stay posted up here for a base camp, and go after W6/NS-107 (9260) and IF there was time, go after W6/NS-105 (9310). One of the reasons why I said this was a remote site is because I was camped across the lake from the base of 9310 and had an 500 or so foot climb to the summit, 9310 to date is unactivated.. Save the best for last. I left Lola on a lead at the camp while I was gone for the day. I left her plenty of water, and food, and she had cover and such. So I headed back to the trail and started down the canyon towards Rubicon Lake. The destination today is an unnamed peak on a ridge that contains Rubicon pk, and Jakes peak, W6/NS-107. One of these days I will reteach myself how to stick to a contour. I have a problem with climbing too fast, and not getting hitting ridge lines where I want when I am off trailing. So I hit the ridge sooner then I expected, and then dropped a little over the backside, and kept moving on. So today I opted to pound a liter of water and not bring water along thinking it would be a 2-3 hour ordeal overall, and I do actually train like that with some day hiking trips. It took me about three hours from the time I left camp till I was setup and activating. Again, if you chase, THANK YOU! There are always 4-5 activators I can always count on that are fun to talk to, and always willing to work hard to work you if it’s needed!
Once done with the activation, I started down heading towards Stony Ridge Lake. I could see that my best bet was to cross over where I crossed this morning, so “lets contour, and not go down too fast”. I wound up in a HUGE boulder field that was the equivalent to a class 4, and possible class 5 down climb in a few spots but I found some clean water sources to drink from while in the boulder fields. Had to fight a few willow stands, those slowed me down, and made me tired. All told the 8 mile round trip took about 7 hours “tent flap to tent flap”. Lesson learned, but Lola was happy to see me when I got back. I should also note that it’s peak wildfire season despite the water and the super wet winter, Tahoe had quite a few fires burning around the area, including one down by Yosemite. Needless to say, that combined with a low in the area was making for some fun evening weather in the area. To date I had not had rain on this trip, but I managed to get back to camp just as a storm was hitting us. Into the tent I dove, and I had Lola in my vestibule area. (1 man REI Quarterdome). Within 5 minutes we were sitting in the middle of a hail storm, and the hail was bouncing up under the fly and pelting Lola, so into the tent I brought her. She was out cold within five minutes, and snoring. Typical summer storm, it was over in about an hour, it dumped a good amount of quarter sized hail and my tent survived it really well. The cool thing about granite is even after a storm it is still very warm. While nothing inside the tent got wet, we had a river running underneath us. I put everything on granite, while I had dinner, and threw it all back together before dark, everything was dry! Sunset was amazing tonight with the clouds, and the fog coming off the lake and cleared air etc.
Day 4: Solar Eclipse! So today’s activation was going to be super easy from a hiking perspective, but possibly a challenge depending on how the bands were being affected by the Eclipse. I was some 400-500 miles south of the totality, and I could definitely tell that something was going on. Even though the sun was bright, it was cold where I was. After breakfast, I broke everything down, and packed up and moved our gear over to the pass that leads out of Phipps lake, grabbed the radio gear and then headed to the summit. 20 minutes later we were on top and I was setting up. I managed to get 7 QSO’s this morning (I was not in too much of a hurry, but I was not going to hang out).
Lola was moving pretty good, but I could se she was a bit sore and it was time to run her out, plus I wanted to reconfigure some things with my pack. Specifically the radio gear. I let Michele know when I was on top that I would be at the Bayview Trailhead by 5pm and could she either get my truck up there waiting for me, or just come pick me up. Lola and I were moving along well, not as many people on the trail today (it was a Monday, and I was pretty far in). So for the past two years I have been using a LowePro Nova 2 camera bag for carrying my radio gear. It all fits in there (I have a pretty light weight setup). But it was hard to carry water, and it dawned on me I have a 10L hydration pack that I was thinking would work for water, a bit of food, AND the radio gear.
Also part of the reconfigure was breakfast. Growing up I always loved the quaker oats instant oatmeal packs when I was camping/backpacking but as a grown up trying to “eat healthy” I tend to opt for different solutions now. I really should have tested my breakfast before I left b/c I just ended up having PB and Trail Bars for breakfast after realizing on day 1, instant steel cut oats are NOT the same as slow cooked, and well. I got home and threw away what I had packed for my breakfasts (pack it in, pack it out). I hate wasting food, but the McCanns instant steel cuts just do not seem to cook well in the backcountry (in boiling water, yes). I ended up getting a couple of Mountain House breakfasts for when I go back in on Wed (Biscuits and Sausage gravy && Southwest Scramble). I still had at least 2 more peaks I could go for (Tallacs, Dicks), and I was taking off this week, and well I was not ready to plug back in yet! So sure as I thought, my mountain biking pack did the trick. Everything fit, and I was all repacked and ready to go back in and get at least two more peaks.
So I decided to drop the three peaks that run along the Crystal Range part of Desolation (Little Pyramid, Price, W6/NS-095) as part of my get Lola out trip, and focus on Dicks’ (W6/NS-068) and Tallac (W6/SN-036). I’ve been on Tallac a few times just as a hiker, but never with radio gear. The goal for Wednesday was make Lake Gilmore at the base of the climb to Dicks pass, and a 45 minute hike to the summit of Tallac. Dick’s peak has also not been activated yet, and is located in the almost geographic center of Desolation. My legs w
ere still in strong shape, so after a lunch at one of my favorite South Lake Bars, I headed to the Glen Alpine trailhead. It took me just under two hours of hard moving to make Gilmore.
Gilmore is one popular camp site, this was the first night on my trip where I had people around me. I just wish folks would heed the rules on the permit.. NOTHING within 100 feet of water. You do not pitch your feet 10 feet away from the big lake. Anyway I digress. So the next morning I cracked into that Sausage and Biscuits from Mountain House. I’d not eaten dehydrated meals since the 80’s (which IIRC were Mountain House, they had Woodsy the Owl on them. I still have one, here is a picture: <find that MH and take a pic>
So, those biscuits and gravy actually tasted pretty good, but it was a lot of food for one person, and the whole dehydrated thing did leave my stomach in knots. Anyway, today we were going to go after Dick’s peak, that was my only focus…I could still do Tallac tomorrow if I had to really work Dicks. Dick’s peak as noted is not a day hike, unless you plan on starting or finishing in the dark. The climb up the trail to the pass is not that bad, but then at
the last switchback before hitting Dick’s Pass, you turn off trail and start heading along the saddle there to climb the last 1600 feet. Oh btw, there is no trail. I made the summit in a couple of hours, even with the fun climb and started setting up. While looking for the logbook/ammo can on the summit, I found a note that was buried under some rocks. Someone had written a touching letter to someone in their life that had passed away. Out of respect I left it up there, and did not take a picture of it. I forgot to bring my crappie pole mast, so decided to just run my antenna about 2-3 feet off the deck between some rocks, and running off at an angle to get a south and east/west reflection. Oddly enough I managed to get an S2S with a guy up in Washington so something was reflecting me that way too. I scored 6 QSO’s and was starting to think I could manage Tallac too if I got a move on now. The down climb took me about the same amount of time, and it is a pretty well established goat trail, but it is exposed in some spots, so if you are not comfortable in a free scramble situation, I would advise you to take caution.
I made Tallac, got my QSO’s but really had to work it hard. I ended up getting more 2M contacts then HF contacts for Tallac, but I was satisfied. I set off to get 9 peaks this week and finish everything in Desolation, I snagged six of them, and managed to do some scouting to see that I will need to come up from the backside of those other peaks to snag them, so best I would have done would’ve been 7 peaks total.
I have 20 peaks left to finish the rim trail, and pretty sure I’ll be down to less then 10 by the end of October. I may be able to get the rest of these this calendar year!
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, one thing living in Tahoe affords me is experiencing wildlife on a semi regular basis. What I also witness though is just how dumb people can be, and the things they say in regards to wildlife, especially bears. On my very first Summits on the Air activation of “Pt 9614” (W6/NS-086) I had what could have been a very dangerous experience with a bear. Some would say I am lucky, I do not necessarily disagree with that, but the one thing that mattered is that I did not lose my cool and panic, and THAT had a lot to do with getting out of the situation. So I will not go too much into the trip report for this other then to say I hiked up the High Meadow Road from the basin, and instead of heading up to the Rim Trail via Star Lake, I decided to do some overland hiking and navigation skills. That is one nice thing about hiking above tree level, plenty of hand rails for navigating. So I made my way across the meadow, and started up on my climb, had a few creek crossings. Reality is, I was using an old road on the map I was using to short cut my way from High meadow to the Rim Trail. One thing you want to do whenever in bear country is make a lot of noise, and yes I make plenty of noise. I will sit there and yell “Hey Bear” about every 5-10 minutes, and whistle, and sing and what not. If there is a bear, or cougar, or any other wildlife, they know I am coming. That said, I’ve navigated so far so good, and I’m about 300 yards from the Rim Trail and can actually see the trail, and see bikes go whizzing by from time to time, so no worries. At one point, I yelled out a “hey bear” and heard a rustle up ahead of me, and managed to see a small ball of black fur go take off across the trail. “Oh shit! that’s a baby” is probably what I thought, it’s been a couple of years. All STOP! Do not go forward, do not go backwards, again. I started scanning the area around me, by now Junior was way off to my left about 100 yards (man those animals can move.another reason NOT TO RUN!). That said, where was big momma? I scanned to the right, and above me, about 100-200 feet up the hill was mom. I was in the one position you NEVER want to be in with a mom and cubs (in the middle). She had not taken any offensive positioning with me, yet, she had not risen up on her hind legs, but she was definitely checking me out. At that rate, I figured the best thing I could do was start to back down the hill a little bit. I did not turn around and run, I did not maintain eye contact, I just backed down the hill slowly. Once I added another 50-100 feet between us, I started to move to my right (in her general direction) but away from the direction of the cub. The goal was to put her between me and the cub. Once I was well to her right, I started to move up the hill, she maintained and even pace with my ascent and it stayed that way for about 100-200 yards. Then about 50 yards below the trail a mountain biker came whizzing by and she took off. I do wonder what she would have done if I had made the trail, but no bikers or hikers had come by. Moral of the story though, I did not act threatening, I talked calmly, but loud enough she could here me “Away with your weapons, I mean you no harm” etc and moved slowly. Maintain calm, and composure. Remember, we’re in their house, it is their rules, and best to be respectful. I did manage to grab one pic though during a tense part of the encounter.