A quick write up and alternative option for bagging this two-fer.
After spending all day on SAR duty Saturday, it was time to do some SOTA on Sunday, but I wanted to be in range of the basin if a SAR did break out. I goto the Burnside area a lot for camping and was thinking that since both peaks are near drive up i would see if I could snag em both in a single day.. Reality was I woke up Sunday morning without that as a plan, and just decided over breakfast to get after it. I had tried to drive up to Hawkins back in May to do a “sleep on top and activate overnight” activation, but the road was still blocked by snow, and the winds picked up with some sort of incoming weather so I had to bail on that idea. Similar with Pickett’s I’d hiked up from the gate at Pickett’s junction to scout the road, and since I had Lola (my pup) with me, I did not want her on that rock as it would tear up her pads etc.. This was a pretty straight forward activation though. Drive out Burnside road grab the road that goes up Hawkins, park past the solar station and walk up the 15 minutes it takes to get to the summit. Another option that is probably faster is before the road loops around on the north side, there is a pull out/sort of road on the right that goes straight up. I am thinking that might save a few minutes on approach. Regardless see my notes below about doing a 2-fer here so you wont even be on this road ;-). About the time I was realizing I left my cell phone in the truck was about the time I was topping out. Oh well, I had my HT with me, APRS ftw yet again! (just no summit pics).
So once on top there is a large-ish flat area that is away from the antenna installation that sits on top. This almost looks like it could be a heli-pad if a helicopter needed to bring stuff in. I setup my vertical there and ripped thru the activation pretty quick. In 20 minutes I had 14 contacts between 20 ssb, and 30 cw. 20m was real strange today, folks that would normally be reachable on 40 were giving me 59 on 20 (Oregon as an example) while others that I would normally get in the midwest were giving me 33 etc. While tearing down I took this time to look over the landscape to see if there was a better way to get to Pickett’s that did not involve driving all the way down, almost all the way out, and up Pickett’s Peak road which I remembered being a bit more rough then the NFS road up to Hawkins peak.
S55, S2S W0C/FR-179
S2S, W0C/SJ-026, S57, R33
It took me about an hour to drive around and up to an area that could access Pickett’s peak. I ended up with about a 30 minute bushwhack, so not that bad. It sounded like a SAR was about to break out so I made it to a flat spot in the AZ, and setup and started my activation on 20ssb. The SAR worked itself out, and I opted to relocate onto the summit proper. (this explains the break in QSO times in the chart below). I ended up with 10 contacts between 20 and 17 ssb, and 30 cw. I was not getting any responses on 40 hear either. 17m seemed to give me the longest QSO of the day.
s55, r55QSB, ID
53, 44, Calgary
I had no intention of doing any S2S (because my chaser and activator points are about even), but I still got hit up 5 times. I have a loose goal to make Shack Sloth and Mountain Goat on the same activation if possible. I always welcome S2S though!
From both peaks, AT&T Cell service is there but spotty because you can see down into Carson Valley/Minden/Gardnerville. There is a Verizon tower on the antenna structure on Hawkins so that should serve those folks well.
So enough about the activation, this is just a suggestion, and I included it on the SOTA page for both peaks as a way to just drive up to a high point in between and access both summits with not that much hiking and less pain on your vehicle’s suspension.
At Pickett’s Junction drive in on Burnside road about 4 miles to NFS road 31019B. Follow that road up to a flat area that has both Picketts and Hawkins peak visible. When I look at maps and sat imagery, it almost seems like this road should connect to Picketts peak road somehow, but I could not figure it out after my activations. Once you park just figure out which order you want to hike them. Picketts is closer to this saddle then Hawkins is. I am guestimating 1.5 to 2 miles to Hawkins, and maybe 30 minutes from car to the top of Picketts.
(From April) Time for my spring trip to TN to visit the homestead, and I wanted to pick up some W4G action since I just finished mapping the SOTA peaks on the AT. I will post that as a separate blog, as that was a very interesting planning effort, and maybe in a couple of years I’ll take the 4 months it will take to do the AT+SOTA as a single thru hike mission.
Anyway back to this trip, landed in Knoxville and picked up a 4wd since I’d heard that there was going to maybe be some snow in the area.. Wait, did I hear that right? Snow? it’s April, it’s the Southeast, again, SNOW? Like they always said when I was growing up, do not like the weather, wait 10 minutes. Dropped the son off at my dad’s, picked up a sleeping bag, pad and wool blanket then rolled down to the Blood Mountain trailhead for some sleep. Finally drifted off to sleep around 6am, but woke up at 730 to start the hike up.. snagged some breakfast, downed a liter of water and hit the trail around 800am. The crazy thing about the AT is that you do a LOT of UP climbing, and the folks that built the AT did not believe in doing switchbacks, I bet adding switchbacks to most of the major climbs would add another 500 miles to the AT ;-). Anyway, so UP I climbed, to hit the summit of Blood mountain. It had rained the day before, then got cold overnight and a freezing fog moved in which made from some really cool rime ice on the trees and spider webs. <insert frozen web here> While on the hike up the temps warmed up enough that the rime ice started falling off the trees, and dropping a fresh layer of frost on the ground. The view was not that great today because of the heavy fog in the area, but I found a nice rock platform to sit on only to realize I was sitting on the Blood Mountain marker <insert marker here>
Contacts from this activation: 20m: K6MW, W7RV, N5ZC. 40m: KG3W, W0MNA, W9MRH, KD9JJE, K3TCU.
I was a bit early for the west coast on this peak, and ended up getting more 40 then 20 today. Now that the contacts were slowing down, decided I wanted to snag a second summit, and realized I was very close to Brasstown Bald (NG-001) so opted to book it down the hill and hit that on the drive up to Carvers Gap. FYI, this is a fee area with a good lookout platform up top kind of like Clingmans Dome, but it also has some towers on top that can inject some RFI.. You have the option to take the shuttle up, but this is SOTA, and the hike from the parking lot is ~6/10 of a mile and a couple hundred feet. NOTE: the parking lot is NOT in the AZ, so do not try and activate from there..(not that you should be activating from a motorized vehicle anyway 😉 ).
The bands either dropped out in the 2 hours since I left the summit of Blood, or there really was a good amount of RFI on the peak. Quite a few folks though showed interest in what I was doing though, so I was helping “spread the gospel of Amateur Radio and SOTA”. while playing with various antenna angles and setups. I started on the platform itself since no one was up there, but it did start to get crowded, so I moved across the road to the top of the walking route and setup there on a nice park bench. Not that it helped much. I managed to eek out 4 contacts with 1 being an S2S on 18m while on the peak today but even 2m was a challenge as I was trying to S2S with a guy who was on a peak 20 miles crowfly away. I could barely make this guy on Clingman’s dome as well, (he was not doing SOTA, but was trying to act as a relay). I’ve hit S2S on VHF for Clingman’s from Black Mountain in Kentucky, but yes I know conditions change, and other factors apply..still I was not that far from either the activator I was trying to hit, nor Clingmans dome in the grand scheme of things.
If you happen to be driving by Brasstown Ga, and have your gear by all means go bag this summit.
contacts for Brasstown Bald: S2S: KJ6HOT on 18m we had to work it hard, but ended up getting 2×2 to each other so digging each other out of the QSB. 20m W0MNA, K6HPX, and 40m W9MRH.
So this adds W4G to the association list, and I am finally silver on the Mountain Hunter. (SOTA is not a competition, SOTA is not a competition).
Growing up the section of AT from Carvers Gap to 19E was always one of my favorites, I’d managed a lot of volunteer trail hours and numerous hikes “across the balds”. Hump mountain was always fun because it really is a hump up it when you are schlepping a pack. I guess i’ve always enjoyed hiking UP mountains :D. Anyway I decided early on I wanted to go ahead and snag Roan High Knob and Grassy Ridge as well on this trip to the East coast. Leading up to this trip I’d been talking to KI4SVM hoping to meet up either OTA, or at some TH, and as an awesome turn of fate he joined me for the RHK and GR activations. I love getting out with other folks as it allows me to see how others setup, and maybe how to change my own setup to improve my QSO count per activation. Carvers Gap has always had some of the strangest weather in contrast to the region around it. It can be 70 or 80 down in Knoxville and cold, blowing and snowing up there. This trip was no different. Woke up on Monday morning with an inch of fresh snow. Needless to say, I broke a few of my own rules on preparedness today, but even if I had gotten in a pickle I was not that far from the trailhead, and I knew the area well enough that I am able to navigate it in the clouds pretty well. Lets face it the AT is more of a trough in the ground, definitely well past the “well worn in path” stage at this rate of it’s life, so it’s kind of hard to get lost in the context of being on the AT. So KI4SVM and I headed up to Roan High Knob with the intention that I would take the first hour for my own activation, and then I would book it over to Grassy Ride while Pat worked his own activation and then we would S2S and I would also get the SOTA complete for RHK. The hike up to RHK is about less then an hour or approximately 2 miles (and is not as steep as Blood Mountain) from the trailhead at Carvers Gap, in the summer you can access from the upper parking lot and it’s shorter. KI4SVM setup his antenna setup and it is based upon a setup I’d learned back in EC-001 so this may be one thing I am looking to add to my own kit depending on the weight it adds. He also showed me how to properly work with the HAM log APP to make it efficient for SOTA, so I am looking to use that method in the future when my hands are not too frozen to use the iphone for logging. Had a lot of local contacts directly beneath us on 20, gotta love that LOS etc. I managed more QSO on RHK then the other three summits, I’m beginning to think it’s operator error.
Contacts here where: 80m: N4EX, KW4R, 40m: K4MF, KG3W, KE8CYC, W2SE, W0MNA, W0ERI, K3TCU, and K9ER, and on 20m: K1LIZ, KI4TN, KB1RJD, KB1RJC, and KX0R.
Since we used KI4SVM rig for the setup here, all I needed to do was grab my pack and drop down and over. On a good day, with good weather this should take you about 90 minutes, I kept bumping into thru hikers, so I would chit chat while making progress. It took me just under 2 hours to cover the 4 miles. Spent about 15 minutes talking to one person about SOTA, and why I always carry an HT even when I am backpacking etc.. So we may have a new operator in our midsts some time soon. For not having my normal antenna mast, there was a decent enough area to setup between the rock on the summit and a nearby tree. My EFHW was just long enough to make that span, although I am not sure if it improved my ability to make contacts by much b/c it seemed after an hour EVERYTHING including 2m and my iphone all stopped working right. Maybe the cold, maybe some other atmospheric condition, but something changed for the negative overall.
I would comment about how pretty this hike is, and if you can get a hike up there in June/July when the Gray’s lily is in bloom (please do not pick it) and when you can see more then 10 feet ahead; it really is an awesome hike, but today, like so many times before when I hit this in early season I was shrouded in the clouds and winds so visibility was non-existent. . I’ll be coming back later this year to bag Hump Mountain for sure, so maybe I can get some good images in then, I’ll even do the Carvers gap long approach just for the sake of good views (and maybe images).
As noted above, something changed during the activation, but I did manage enough QSO for a good summit, and as noted the S2S with Pat for a SOTA complete! anyway QSO info: 2m: KI4SVM, KJ4ZFK KI4AAU, WX4ET (i’ve been trying to contact this guy forever!). 20m: K0RS, K6MW, and K5WLT who happened to hear my CQ. and 40m: KG3W. The hike out was more clouds, winds, and chit chatting with the thru hikers.
Just a couple of observations from this and the last couple of East coast trips. Once you get chased by someone that’s normally out of your reach, they tend to try and extend it when you are back in your home activating region. Folks that I made QSO with last year when doing W4K/W4V now chase me when I’m on the W6 and other peaks out west, so that is good! Also have noticed just as a general observation the number of W6, W7W and W7O activators does seem to be increasing, so glad to see that more and more folks in the W regions are getting on the air as well as on the air on summits!!!. Ham Radio is NOT a dying art.
As always images below, thanks for stopping by, 73 and hope to hear you OTA, or hike with you at some point!
Saturday: Was a productive and beautiful spring weekend in the Tahoe area! Miracle March has left and the temps are warming, and the difference in one week in the Mount Rose area was very noticeable. If you remember/read, last weekend I did W7N/WC-003 Tamarack Peak in waist deep powder, this weekend I was literally on the other side of Mt Rose highway walking on hard pack easily going 2mph faster… Looking back at Tamarack on Saturday, what was covered the weekend before was already showing bare. So Spring is here, and while MM delivered an awesome 12 feet to help our meager snow pack, it’s already melting off. Before I get into the SOTA side of things, lets rehash this for a second. At the end of January, we were at a 30% snow pack percentage for the ’17/’18 season. At the end of the March we were at 85% of our average… Even with the amazing ’16/’17 season we are still not out of the woods, and we could easily slip back into a drought scenario if we keep having these 70-90% snow pack years. Hopefully we do not accept this as the new norm.. Okay hippy tree hugging climate change PSA is out of the way!! So on Saturday I decided it was time to finish off the Mt Rose section and consequently have finally finished WC-001 thru WC-005 in the process. This is an unnamed peak listed as 9225 (W7N/WC-005). This like Tamarack is one of those i would suggest is easier in the winter then the summer, especially if snowshoeing on hard pack snow..
You can go directly to the peak off trail, there is only really one hard ascent at the end, which you would have to do in the summer too, but the hard pack snow with good grip snowshoes (or crampons would be a good option too) will make the ascent easier to deal with. I would not actually call the ascent that hard, it’s ~800 feet long with 280 feet of climbing for that last final push. The route is 1.7 miles each way. GSP Track image below:
This day was definitely getting warm, and the avalanche danger was getting moderate, however the ascent route is on the north facing side, so that did keep the avy danger down some during the afternoon warming/wet slide concerns.
Easy to get to this location: drive up Mt Rose Highway, and park on either side of the side of the road at Tahoe Meadows/Ophir Creek. (1/2 mile shy of Rose pass).
So next up is an apologies to the chasers, I tend to get a little ADD on Saturdays with the S2S chasing myself. It is hard to focus on just the activation when I am seeing regions i know are reachable, so a lot of times I tend to go try S2S chase while leaving my working freq. If it seems like i have wandered off, it’s bc I’m probably S2S someone.
I spent two hours on the summit on Saturday between chasing S2S (and waiting for a few folks from some of the alerts) and working the activation. I ended up getting S2S with KI4SVM, KH7AL, and VE6IXD. All in all 14 QSO for this summit. Trying to get my QSO count per activation up too!
s3x3, r4x4. into NC
5×7 to Ks, thnx Gary
5×7 to Ks
s5x5 r3x3 chicago
r5x6, s5x5, Thnx Phil
r5x5, s5x9 NM
2×2, 5×9 IN
5×7 to Minn
s2s to w4g
weak 3×3, 5×7 to LA
r4x3, s5x7, thnx Jerry
4×5, 5×7 in AZ
s2s, 2×2, s3x3
So earlier in the week I’d been talking with N6DNM (Dmitry) about his upcoming Tahoe weekend and working to get a chase on him as well as hopefully doing a double activation with him. Saturday night we agreed we would do Big Hill (W6/NS-290). He’d need to finish up a couple of things, and then he would roll down and meet me in South Lake, and we’d fight the Easter Sunday traffic out of Tahoe down the 50 and to our peak.. So this is one of the few drive up peaks I’ve done. I keep telling myself to explore this side of Desolation, but seem to barely get past Wright’s Lake road headed West. FWIW, I am planning a trip in August to Loon Lake for camping, there I will go after McKinstry and Guide peak. That assumes i do not go buy a side-by-side or some other OHV and approach them via the Rubicon.
It was yet another amazing Sierra Nevada day, and even though the peak is at 6100 feet, no hoody was needed, just shorts, hat, sunglasses, and away we went.
This peak is doable all winter long technically as they keep the road to Big Hill plowed since it is an NFS Fire Tower: Not a lot to write about, so here is my QSO log, and then pictures from the rest of the weekend will be below. 13 contacts, N6DNM and I changed positions for SOTA complete and 1 S2S.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Interesting view looking north towards big blue and the SLT Airport visible too.
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..