W7N/WC-003, Tamarack Peak…Finally!!!

Mt Rose backcountry

So, this peak has stymied me four times in the past.  Twice due to weather, and twice because I ran out of time trying to pull a two-fer with Rose, and Houghton.  What is funny is that I originally wanted to do those three peaks as a three-fer..I’m wondering if a two-fer with Rose or Houghton is even possible at this rate..(camp in the area, leave at first light, sure!), but as noted, even in summer with easy access to Mt Rose I still had a hard time getting back to Tamarack in time to get a same day activation..

So all that aside it was time to finally push for this peak today.  The weather was going to be awesome, the avalanche danger was low for the aspects I was ascending, all I had to deal with was snowshoeing up the fresh powder from the previous week.  Fresh untouched powder being the main caveat.  The GPS says it’s only one mile from the parking area to the summit, however I logged two miles each way.  It took three hours to cover the two miles.  The first 1/2 mile was pretty easy thanks to the snowmobiles packing down the snow. Above the forest service road, it was fresh tracks the rest of the way.  Even with floaty snowshoes I was sinking up to my calves.  Definitely glad I do TRX mountain climbers and buzzsaws.   Three hours up, but 45 minutes down.  The climb from where I started is approximately 1300 feet.

So to note, this was a winter ascent (yah Winter Bonus!)  The summer route is much different, I had been scoping just coming in on the Rim Trail from the pass on Mt Rose highway and then grabbing the ridge before the Rim Trail passes under the shadow of Tamarack on ti’s way to Rose.  For a winter ascent, you can either do a backcountry ski/snowboard route from the North that is most definitely a fun route down, or as I did snowshoe straight up from the Tahoe Meadows parking area.  In more firm snow conditions it is possible to get up the hill faster.   Also note you can access W7N/WC-005 (9225) from this area, it is South along the Rim Trail.   Slide Mountain is in the area too, but that is better coming out of the Rose Parking lot (or just cheat and take the lift up during the ski season ;)..

Chasers you all are awesome, I think my alert was for 930, I left the trailhead at about 930,  Once I made it to the fresh tracks I added a new spot/alert saying “ETA 11”, but as noted I started my activation just after 1300 PST.  Although it’s not the first time I’ve blown my start time.  For some reason I decided to start with 40m today, and kind of glad I did, when I finished up with 40, and moved to 20 there was some sort of big contest going on.  I could not even find a freq to post up, so I called CQ on 2m and got one reply from a guy out in Fallon.  I counted it about 60 miles crow fly.   After that, I just wrapped it up and headed down…If you normally chase me on 20 (W0MNA/W0ERI as an example) sorry i did not try for 20, but I was not about to compete with the contesters.

QSO for this activation..

Time Call Band Mode Notes
20:14z NS7P 7MHz SSB R5x7, S5x5 Thanks Phil!
20:15z K6EL 7MHz SSB R 5×8, QSB, S:5×5 Thanks Phillip!
20:17z N6DNM 7MHz SSB R5x7, S5x5 Thanks Dmitry!
20:18z NG6R 7MHz SSB R5x4, S5x9. Thanks Jerry
20:19z W6TDX 7MHz SSB R55, S44 Thanks Chris, new chaser..
20:22z W7RV 7MHz SSB 5×2, to AZ.. Thanks Thomas
20:24z W3WJL 7MHz SSB R58, S52 to OR, Thanks Walter
20:36z K7NNV 144MHz FM FQ to Fallon… that’s a long QSO for HT

 

 

And now some parting shots.

that I still cannot get to fly right 😀
There is a lake down there somewhere..

W7N/WC-001, Mt Rose, and then some snowboard/ski tracks leading off Tamarack below me..
with Rose in the background..

N6JFD/AE is now live :D

I spent the last year reading the big green book a couple of times, and studied the exam pool questions (especially E7 and E9 those gave me the most trouble) easily a hundred times.    I finally ponied up to take my Extra, and passed on the first try.  Only missed 7.    That was my first goal for 2018, and I’ll be able to operate full CEPT in Germany in April and UK in June/July.  Next up..starting back in hot and heavy on CW…I want to be able to activate a peak via CW by the summer time!

That is all -73.. N6JFD

 

W6/NS-380 Pk 9347 (snowmobile approach)

Hope Valley, Lost Lakes, and Upper Blue Lake (NE to SE direction)

TLDR version:

  • SOTA summit: Pt 9347, W6/NS-380
  • Activation Date: Jan 13 2018
  • Radio(s): Elecraft KX2 operating at 10 watts SSB, Yaesu FT1DX
  • Antenna: LNR Trailfriendly
  • Bands used: 2m for S2S (see below), 20m and 40m
  • Total QSO: 19, 2 on 2m, 7 on 40m, 10 on 20m
  • Furthest QSO:  N4EX (North Carolina) and he’s ticking his way up my most active chasers..but NS7P will probably keep the lead for a while :D..

 

I have been eyeing this peak for a while, and figured it would be a summer approach.  However with Carson Pass area being the only area with a semi decent amount of snow for snowmobiling I figured I would use this opportunity to try a snow machine approach for a summit..park about a 1/2 mile out and walk into the AZ.  This time out Forestdale road was actually covered in snow all the way to 88.   A nice change, but still needed to drop the scratchers to keep the hyfax/track lubed up..  Did not want a repeat of my last snowmobile outing..   This makes my third time ever heading out on a snow machine, and a few friends were like “do you really wanna go solo” .  Play it safe, assess the risk and do not do anything to beyond your limits.  Basically my same philosophy when I’m solo hiking.  Today it really mattered to for while the avy danger was low when I started, as the day warmed up and the snow softened I could tell I was not going to get a two-fer so had to abandon my attempt on the Nipple.

It took me about 30 minutes to get to the Divide.  There I parked and started my hike up the hill.  1/2 mile and 400 feet of elevation gain… Did not need the snowshoes as the snow was wind buffed and plenty firm, also other snowmobilers that had ridden to the summit and on the final approach the rocks were exposed so that made it super easy (and safe) to make the summit.

I was aware that KK6YYD and WC6J were going to be on Tahoe Mountain (W6/NS-397).  They were also the first to activate this peak, so I made it a point to get to the summit while they were on Tahoe Mountain so we could get the S2S and they could both get the complete!  Success.

I had originally intended to do the Nipple too (I have activated it before, but unfortunately I split UTC midnight so 2 before, and 2 after, no points :(.  That said by the time I reached Upper Blue Lake the snow was turning too soft and lacked coverage to run the machine up the hill to where i had intended to park, and I was thinking it was going to be a bit too slide-ish to make the summit safely, so I played my way back to Red Lake to get some snow time on the sled playing in the variable snow.

All in all a successful day. I am finally starting to learn how to ride that snow machine in deeper snow, and make it do what I want, but gotta remember the throttle is your friend.  Another summit accomplished, and there seems to be some new chasers out there these days!   Next up..who knows..it all depends on the snow.

And some images from the summit:

and looking towards Deadwood peak (W6/NS-073) (which I will be doing as soon as the summer permits!
Making gains from the sled to the summit
Decided to try something new this year for winter since snowboarding is getting a bit long in the tooth.
That snow line is still way to high for this being January 😦 (more like Junuary)

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.

Followup to 2017 Challenge (Tahoe Rim Trail)

Since I did not keep up with all the blogging for my whole challenge and the year is coming to a finish I wanted to throw up some basic information about how the challenge went.

In re-reading that blog post I left ALL the Desolation peaks off the list, not sure why especially since I decided to do a week long backpacking trip in Desolation to take care of those.  Desolation has 13 peaks in total..of which I accomplished 10.  Dick’s Peak I was the first to activate. Also managed to activate 9310 during the solar eclipse.  The peaks I did not accomplish were 9420, Little Pyramid, and Mount Price all on the western spine of Desolation.

In total I count 36 peaks and I finished 25 of them, that leaves me with 11 peaks.

I also realized now that I have knocked off most of my local peaks that I will have to do a bit of planning and driving now to start getting more..  All part of the fun!

Complete list of peaks:

  • Little Round Top W6/NS-087 yes
  • Red Lake Peak W6/NS-062
  • Stevens Peak W6/NS-375  yes
  • Freel Peak W6/SN-034 yes
  • Monument Peak W6/NS-061
  • Jobs Peak W6/NS-047 yes
  • 9647 W6/NS-084 yes
  • 9614 W6/NS-086 yes
  • Genoa W7N/TR-007 yes
  • Duane Bliss W7N/TR-014 yes
  • Captain Pomin Rock W7N/TR-027 yes
  • 8728 W7N/TR-013
  • Snow Valley Peak W7N/TR-006 yes
  • Herlan Peak W7N/WC-008
  • 9225 W7N/WC-005
  • Slide W7N/WC-004 yes
  • Tamarack Peak W7N/WC-003
  • Houghton W7N/WC-002 Yes
  • Rose Mount W7N/WC-001 yes
  • Gold Star Peak W6/NS-189 yes
  • Mount Pluto W6/NS-138 yes
  • Watson W6/NS-147
  • Ellis W6/NS-133
  • Begin Desolation Wilderness: (some fall outside the trail cooridor)
  • 7860 W6/NS-390 yes
  • Lost Corner Mountain W6/NS-154 yes
  • 9269 W6/NS-107 yes
  • 9310 W6/NS-105 yes
  • South Maggie’s Peak W6/NS-135 yes
  • Tallac W6/SN-036 Yes
  • Dick’s W6/NS-068 yes
  • 9420 W6/NS-095
  • Little Pyramid W6/NS-094
  • Price W6/NS-377
  • Pyramid W6/NS-067 yes
  • Ralston W6/NS-108 yes
  • Echo W6/NS-127 yes

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

 

Time to catch up..

Been a while since I have posted a SOTA post, and since my last one (Freel peak) I’ve actually knocked out a few different peaks and added three new associations (W7O, W4K, and W4V) and added the W6/CN region with Lassen Peak (was kind of a happy accident as part of a camping trip) .  I have done 242 points this year, but what is funny is that i know there are others that have more.. (and we still have 6 weeks to go, and I still have a few more Rim Trail peaks to knock off.

Anyway for the sake of shortness I’ll summarize the highlights..

I went on a camping trip Halloween weekend with the intention of adding W7O, and doing some exploring up the 395 corridor.  That was a fun trip, and got my first snow driving of the year heading up to the Crane Mountain (W7O/EC-001) fire tower.  Phil (NS7P,) again apologies for not trying harder to pull you in…).  One could really get lost on those forest service roads back there, and I will do a dedicated blog post to that so I can share the approach road info that I learned (which does not match very well some of the other trip reports on both Summit Post and SotaData).   Plus that one was cool b/c that weekend I think we were still in the Geminid meteor shower, and for the hour that I watched and waited to doze off (at 8200′ elevation) I was seeing some 50-60 meteors per hour.  It was an amazing light show.  That same weekend while camping I ended up on Lassen Peak (added W6/CN);  totally a happy accident.

In September I took a trip to TN to visit my dad and picked up W4K/EC-001 (Black Mountain) and W4V/GC-001 (High Knob) for my first two-fer in a day and those two associations.  Man those drive up summits really can spoil you.  The cool thing about W4K/EC-001 is I bumped into a fellow SOTA person on the summit.  (I had chased him on Clingman’s Dome the day before;  yah SOTA complete)  DL6AP (Andreas) from Germany who was on a 6 week US SOTA tour.  Very funny hearing your own callsign not OTA…  He was also doing the W4V/GC-001 and W4K/EC-001 same day double activation..(we did them in reverse order).  I had a feeling and should have checked my spots earlier in the day.  we could have both totally SOTA completed each other for those two peaks..  That same day I ended up hanging out with a few SOTA folks from Kingsport TN.  Damn you do not even need HF if you are near Kingsport.  There is quite the SOTA community there in Kingsport.  W4K/EC-001 is a challenge to activate with all those antennas, W4V was my first ever real pile up.. and because I was killing time waiting for a 1:1 with my boss, I opted to hang out and S2S chase some folks too.

 

Anyway, that’s a quick synopsis, I have enough notes and pictures from all these that I will probably do some individual blog posts, but wanted to put something online since it’d been a few weeks.

 

Thanks and -73 N6JFD

 

 

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.

 

Desolation Wilderness SOTA backpacking trip (LONG POST)

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.

Guide peak another W6 peak is in this picture as is a couple other SOTA summits

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:

Phipps Lake

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

Nice little tree stand behind the tent

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

looking at the Crystal Range, W6/NS-067 (Pyramid Peak) is the image on the left in the distance. There are two other SOTA peaks in this image.

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!

 

Other images from the trip:

Tallac Panorama

Lake Gilmore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.