Downtown Los Angeles, Palos Verdes Peninsula and Santa Catalina Island at sunrise
KG6MZS SUMMIT ACTIVATION
29 NOVEMBER 2020 W6/CT-150
The Sunday after Thanksgiving Brian WA6JFK and I decided to work off the mashed potatoes with another tandem activation – Brian on Hoyt Mountain and me on 4,202 right next door. The road head for 4,202 is the same as it is for Mt. Josephine – the junction of The Angeles Crest Highway and The Angeles Forest Highway at the Clear Creek Ranger Station.
The day was remarkably clear after a few rounds of Santa Ana winds had raked over the Los Angeles Basin on Thanksgiving. I left the car at about 6:15AM in the deep pre-dawn twilight. The hike is only .54 miles but climbs 612 feet in that short jaunt, so it gets somewhat steep in places. On the summit I was treated to a fantastic view of downtown Los Angeles, Palos Verdes Peninsula with Santa Catalina Island seen above.
Brian made it up to Hoyt Mountain a little after I did and we had a summit-to-summit contact. I took a telephoto shot of Hoyt Mountain and, upon blowing it up, could spot Brian and his mast!
I also had another summit-to-summit with David N6AN on Flint Peak as he was up early working the world on the CQ Worldwide CW Contest. Our contact was on 2m FM. I also made contact with several members of the Lake Balboa Emergency group. Scott WA9STI alerted me to the net at 17:00 UTC and the net control, Dan NR6V was nice enough to make an announcement on the net about my activation. Among the contacts with that group, I had a very pleasant QSO with George KJ6LA about hiking and radio gear.
Many of the usual suspects came booming in on 2m – Derek KM6UHU and Steve WB2WIK – and I think I even woke Jon K6LDQ up 😉
After hiking up Mount Pinos I drove over to Frazier Mountain to meet my friends Brian WA6JFK and Scott WA9STI. I last drove up this mountain on July 3rd, 1989. The road seemed rougher than I remembered it from 31 years ago and the abandoned fire lookout was more decrepit (see photo above)
Scott had set up his KX3 with a 100 watt amp and generously let me use it on 17m for my first SSB SOTA contacts. What a great set-up! Brian and I also used Scott’s 1.2 GHz radio and beam to make contact with Jon K6LDQ in Torrance. This was my first time on 1.2 GHz. Thank you Scott!
I’ve skied to this summit far more often than I have hiked it. It is fun terrain for cross country skis and at 8,848′ it has snow much the winter, on average. My first trip to this summit was on June 9th, 1974 – just before graduating from Palisades High School. I climbed Mt. Ritter in the Sierra Nevada a week later.
The hike is a pleasant 1.69 miles with about 600′ of elevation gain through a shady forest. Simply park at the end of Mt. Pinos road in the Chula Vista Campground parking lot and follow the main dirt road up from there. The activation zone is quite large and I recommend the west side near the Condor Viewing Area
I made all my contacts on 2m, including a summit-to-summit with Brian WA6JFK and Scott WA9STI over on Frazier Mountain. Here’s a helpful note for 2m operation: there is a club frequency, 146.550, that a lot of people out to the north use. Jim KA6QLQ out in Bakersfield told me about this. I also worked Pete W6SV up in Walker Basin up by Lake Isabella on this frequency.
The Hundred Peaks Section climbing guide for Mount Pinos.
I can see Oat Mountain from the window of my radio shack window here in Topanga. It’s easy for me work repeaters on Oat with 500 mW and a rubber duck. My last hike up there was 24 years ago back when it was all private property. Now there is a route up Brown’s Canyon through the Joughin Ranch at Antonovich Park that is on Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) land. This is at the north end of DeSoto in the San Fernanado Valley. The actual summit is privately owned but there are accessible spots in the activation zone.
The hike is 3.13 miles and has an elevation gain of about 1,860′.
Once again I left before it was light under a “fingernail” crescent Moon. I saw two coyotes and 5 deer on the paved road to the summit. It is unremittingly steep. The road passes through some longhorn cattle range. There are steer, bulls, cows and calves wandering around in this range. They are easily shooed off the road with a few “Yah, giddyups!”
I made 26 contacts all on 2m FM – from San Diego to Santa Barbara including one summit-to-summit with David KM3A on Mount Russell (W6/CT-188) in Riverside County.
Perhaps coolest of all was my contact with WD8CIK Steve in Porter Ranch. Porter Ranch is right at the base of Oat Mountain, so, you might ask, what’s the great whoop? Well Steve works for the CBS affiliate KCAL 9. Steve had given me a tour of the television studio in Hollywood when I was a new ham and helped me by adjusting my brand new radio’s internal mic gain. Great guy and solid elmer. Anyway, we are talking on the radio and he says oh, by the way, I am headed up there now. 30 minutes later he pulls up in his blue truck festooned with the KCAL graphics and we have our first eyeball QSO (with Covid masks) that we have had in at least 10 years!
Cahuenga is one of the few surviving Tongva place names we have in southern California. My last trip to the summit was February 20th 1984. Once again, I left before dawn figuring it would be pretty crowded later on a nice clear Sunday after the rain. This was my third activation in as many days. I was on a roll.
My friend Brian WA6JFK had activated this summit recently and he told me where to park. When I got to Lake Hollywood Drive I discovered there are parking restriction before 6 AM that forced me to park a mile further away and add over 200′ to the climb.
The after 6AM hike is short and steep – 1.25 miles and about 800′ of gain up a deeply eroded trail. When I hiked up Cahuenga Peak 36 years ago, we came in from the east on the Mt. Lee access road. A longer hike with less elevation gain.
Cahuenga Peak offers a tremendous view of downtown Los Angeles, Century City, Westwood and Santa Monica. It was still pretty cloudy at first from yesterday’s rain, but soon the sun broke through and cast glorious rays of light over Los Angeles and Glendale.
Brian WA6JFK was over on CT-150 and we had armchair summit-to-summit copy. We both tag-teamed a bunch of contacts on 2m. My furthest contact was with KN6JPZ in Ramona. We also both worked K6RIN over on Oat Mountain for another summit-to-summit.
There were surprisingly few people on the trail down and I discovered a LA Parks & Rec ranger at the road head. He told me that the area was closed. I was pretty surprised to hear that as it had just rained and everywhere else in the Santa Monica Mountains was open as far as I knew. Anyway, he was very nice about it and let me go with a warning.
There isn’t much to say about the “hike” up this summit. You can park in the activation zone. A short walk past the locked gate to the right brings you up to a large level area with some burnt wooden poles that make good mast anchors. I chose a day when it was forecast to rain – the first winter storm of the year. The weather was cold, wet and miserable as expected. I made 5 contacts as my hands froze in a driving rain that was turning sleety. One was with Glenn KK6KEA in Green Valley who was surprised to hear anybody. He said they don’t even have cell service. Cell service from Verizon was good on this summit. Brian WA6JFK made contact just as I was bailing.
The last time I was up the Zuma Motorway was in May of 2011. You could drive all the way up to Buzzard’s Roost. My brother and I walked from there to the beach at Zuma Canyon. I figured this would be a virtual drive-up. The only other activator of SC-229 KK6QMS reported the same thing in 2015.
Now, however, there is a locked gate at Mulholland Highway, so there is a 1.76 mile hike in up the Zuma Motorway with 850′ of elevation gain. It was a pleasant walk before sunrise, so I didn’t mind. The actual summit is on private property – the Buzzard’s Roost Ranch – however the activation zone encompasses enough of the summit so that it isn’t necessary to trespass. I chose a short bushwack off to the left of the main gate to the ranch to a nice pile of rocks with a good view. The Woolsey fire burned through here in 2018 and the land is still pretty scarred from that disaster.
There is good cell coverage from Verizon, but the VHF is a bit tough because of Castro Peak and Saddle Peak blocking much of the Greater Los Angeles area. I made 2m contacts with Sergio WA6WV in Torrance, Steve WB2WIK in Winnetka was booming in full scale, Derek KM6UHU in Altadena barely pulled me out, and KN6OS Fred in Cerritos gave me a 56. I heard other stations clearly that could not hear me. WA6JFK was full scale from Glassell Park but couldn’t hear me.
I had one of the strangest experiences of my mountaineering career climbing Hoyt Mountain on Halloween 2020. The hike up was mostly in the dark before dawn to avoid the hiking crowds in these days of the Covid Pandemic, and to avoid the heat that was forecast. A setting full Moon popped in and out as I made my way up the fireroad. Shortly after leaving the fireroad and ascending the steep firebreak, I came across a skunk lumbering along the trail up ahead. I made a little noise and the animal moved off into the underbrush. So far, so much like every other encounter I’ve ever had with skunks. Shortly after that the skunk reappeared and was walking straight toward me. I clapped my hands and raised my voice and the little guy did a somersault, butt in the air and gave me a “warning shot” of scent, and then ran further up the trail. I picked up a few rocks and lobbed them into the bushes. A little way further up, the skunk inexplicably reappeared up ahead and scurried down the trail directly toward me again! I yelled MR. SKUNK! loudly and clapped my hands and the creature finally somersaulted again and gave me a much bigger cloud of that thing skunks are famous for. Fortunately I was still 20 feet away or so and the only thing sprayed was the air between us. I’ve never has anything like this happen in a lifetime of hiking and climbing mountains. I figure I must’ve been near her den with some young uns in it. Brian (WA6JFK) suggested rabies when I made radio contact on the summit.
The hike is 2.25 miles and has 1,700′ of elevation gain. The summit had spotty cell coverage with Verizon. To find the roadhead, drive 6.1 miles up the Angeles Crest Highway past the 210 Freeway. There is ample parking where the fireroad leaves from the left.
The summit offers a terrific view of Mt. Josephine, Strawberry Peak and Mt. Lawlor along with Mt. Lukens. You can see Hines Peak and Santa Paula Peak way off in the west. Downtown Los Angeles, Palos Verdes and Catalina are also very visible on a clear day.
I made 16 contacts on 2m FM – one with Cam WA6VVC in Rosamond out in the Antelope Valley using his remote base WA6CAM in Tehachapi – not a legal contact, but fun anyway. Brian WA6JFK sounded like he was standing right next to me from his home in Glassell Park.
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.
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.
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.
A little history about this summit – in 1930 a fire lookout tower was moved from Blue Ridge in the San Gabriel Mountains to this location. County forester Spence D. Turner said the move was intended to protect “…a highly hazardous mountain area where there are many summer homes and valuable properties” as was reported in The Forrest Worker in September 1932.
The lookout only lasted 4 years before it was dismantled and moved to Triunfo Peak a few miles west. The foundations for this lookout remain today. Those “summer homes” today are now mega-mansion, wineries, equestrian centers and gentleman farms. The Woolsey fire burned the area on November 8th, 2018.
The hike is pretty easy: only .8 miles and 675′ of elevation gain. The beginning is actually the very rough driveway of 32701 Mulholland Highway. As of this writing there were no “Private Property” or “No Trespassing” signs posted. The driveway ends at a level spot on the ridge where a trailer and a truck are parked. I skirted around them to the right before sunrise and saw no one around. A short way above the trailer the track joins the old Bodle Peak Motorway. This is the long disused access to the fire lookout. It is obviously very seldom traveled. I wore shorts, but anymore brush and I would’ve wanted long pants.
The summit is a nice mountain top with good cell phone coverage and great 2 meter range. I made 2 meter contacts in Yucaipa (Riverside County), San Marcos (San Diego County) and Temecula for a total of 16 contacts, all on 2 meters in the dawn hours. Perhaps the best QSO of all was the last one. I worked Gary, KN6LIY in Thousand Oaks. This was Gary’s first contact on amateur radio as he had just achieved his Technician license 9 days ago! As is would happen I also worked Brian, WA6JFK who was MY first amateur radio contact back in 2002! I just love the symmetry of that.
While I was working the radio, an owl kept flying overhead, lower and lower until I finally had to shine my flashlight at her just to let her know I wasn’t a kangaroo mouse.
The rock formations in the area are all composed of igneous rock – breccia mostly – or rock and gravel that has been cemented together by molten rock.
This was only the third activation of this summit. It is a very nice peak, I’m somewhat surprised. Perhaps people have been scared of by the private property post on the SOTA database.