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”:
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:
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).
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
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:
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
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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
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..
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.
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.
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!
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.
Memorial Day weekend:
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.
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.