The impressive summit block of Mount Hooper
KG6MZS SUMMIT ACTIVATION
11 JULY 2021 W6/SS-140
In the midst of the pandemic, my old friend and climbing buddy Bill Smith hatched this crazy scheme of doing the entire John Muir Trail. We’d all done segments, but Bill envisioned doing the whole thing, albeit out of order, as the permits and schedules allowed. As the plan took shape, the segment from Edison Lake to Florence Lake became our first leg. Short enough and easy enough to see if Bill’s idea was just an insane, cabin-fever dream for us sixty-somethings or not.
In addition to Bill and me, our party was joined by our old friend, Steve Tennent, a retired fireman and EMT. Steve is the fastest of the group – a trait that has earned him the nickname “Smokin’ Joe” — because he burns up the trail. Next, in terms of speed, is Greg Jones. Greg and I did Mount San Antonio the week before to get in shape and he left me in his wake the entire trip. Another old-time Palisadian, Bill Neilsen joined us traveling down from his current home near Portland, Oregon. This group has been doing mountain trips together since at least high school 40 years ago and it is such a treat to get the gang back together for a new epic adventure. Lastly we were joined by a newcomer and welcome addition, Big Al from Sonoma.
Getting to Marie Lake was fraught with all kinds of obstacles and peril that I will recount in the John Muir Trail story elsewhere. For now I’ll just say it took two days to get to Marie Lake where I started off solo at first light on July 11, 2021.
I hiked in the predawn light up to Selden Pass (10,840′). This was further than I needed to go and actually had to hike back down a way as I contoured around the ridge.
If I did it again I’d follow the descent track to about the halfway point and pick up the ascent track from there. Traveling alone, I was very cautious. There is a lot of loose rock and tricky boulders. While there are a lot of people on the John Muir Trail, not many venture this way.
The previous register entry was from June 2020 – over a year ago!
The hike up took me 4 hours. It is 2.5 miles with about 1,800′ of gain. The air gets noticeably thin. The summit block is magnificent and apparently not difficult to climb around the left (west) side. I was happy to stay at the register and avoid the exposure as I’d encountered some really big, loose rock. That summit block sits atop two very steep faces of 1000′ or more like on the prow of a ship.
Little did I know that my struggle had just begun.
I set up the KX2 and the Packtenna Mini Endfed. Soon I discovered that I had left my carbon fiber fishing pole back at camp so I pressed my trekking pole into service. Although my phone showed 4 bars at times, there was no service. No 3G or even 1x connection listed from Verizon. I attempted to post a spot via my Garmin InReach Mini, but I had messed up the protocol somehow and it soon became obvious I was going to have to make my contacts honestly.
After an hour of fruitlessly calling CQ, I tried to answer some POTA calls with a “Park to Park.” Mount Hooper is in the Sierra National Forest (K-44660). This approach came tantalizingly close a few times with ops getting my prefix or suffix before giving up and telling me I was just too weak.
Finally after almost two hours I knew I would need to descend. The thundershowers had been building each afternoon and I did not want to be on the summit when the lightning started flying.
Then I heard some really loud stations on 40 meters. This was obviously a big net that was concluding and several stations were getting ready to sign off. I politely asked for a break and Stu W7FE in Las Vegas came back to me! My heart leapt! However, my hopes were soon dashed when Stu said that he could not hear me at home but rather on the Northern Utah WebSDR. My heart sank. Not a valid contact. Ken W6BQZ in Carlsbad also reported the same. However, then John K6IR near Seattle, Washington came on and said he could hear me! Eureka! I didn’t care about the 10 points anymore — I just wanted to activate Mount Hooper for the first time.
Thank you Stu, Ken and John. You are all a credit to the hobby!
After returning home I contacted Andy MM0FMF and he has been very gracious and extremely generous with his time helping me sort out my syntax for the Garmin InReach Mini. This will be invaluable for my next activation on the John Muir Trail. Thank you Andy!