24 OCTOBER 2020 W6/CT-022
Last weekend my friend Brian (WA6JFK) hiked up this mountain while I did Timber Mountain. I decided to follow his activation with my own. My last trip up Sunset Peak was 26 years ago and it looked much the same. The old fire lookout was originally built in 1915 for a complete cost of $2,500. It was struck by lightning in October of 1928 while occupied by Mr. & Mrs. Charles E. Horn. They decided to leave and it was subsequently struck again and completely destroyed. Their decision to leave could well have saved their lives. As mountaineer Norman Clyde used to say “The mountains will be here tomorrow. I reckon to be able to say the same about myself.”
The tower was rebuilt and served until 1974 when it was dismantled due to the air pollution in the Los Angeles basin hampering the effectiveness of fire lookouts.
Today all that remains is the ruins of the corrugated iron rain catcher and cistern tank.
More about the history of Sunset Peak’s fire lookout.
There are two major routes up the mountain: a fireroad and a firebreak. The road is a very gentle – the grade perhaps too gentle – is 3.7 miles long. The firebreak is only about 1.25 miles long and somewhat steep in places. Nothing too tough for an experienced mountaineer – and much shorter. The elevation gain is about 1,300 feet. I opted to go up the fireroad because it was dark all the way up except the last switchback, on which I scrambled up the firebreak. That saved .3 miles. I descended the firebreak because it wasn’t hard in the daylight and the fire road was getting quite a few maskless hikers in these days of the pandemic. The fire road is well shaded with fine canopy tall pines and oaks.
Here is the Hundred Peaks Section climbing guide.
The summit affords great UHF/VHF coverage of southern California and cell service is available. I made 26 contacts – 24 on 2m and 2 on 70cm. That included 3 summit-to-summit contacts with Cuyamaca Peak and 2 on Jamul Mountains.