Cerro Negro Benchmark & Flint Peak

The Winter Solstice – 21 DECEMBER 2020. W6/CT-225 & 226

These two short hikes are easily done in a few hours. I picked the shortest day of the year to do them – The winter solstice. The Santa Ana winds had petered out and left the Los Angeles Basin sparklingly clear, calm and warm. That’s San Jacinto Peak and Santiago Peak in the sunrise photo above.

The hike up to the Cerro Negro benchmark starts at the Ridge Motorway right next to 2564 Flintridge Drive in Glendale. The hike is about a third of a mile and goes up about 200′

The hike up to Flint Peak starts on a trail next to 1001 Marengo Drive in Glendale. It would appear that there is a shorter hike from the end of Glenoaks Boulevard but there is a fence and “Private Property, No Trespassing” signs block that route. This hike is about .75 miles and climbs a mere 450′.

I easily made the required contacts on 2m FM very early on a Monday morning as the summits afford a wide view of the Los Angeles Basin.

Sunrise at Cerro Negro with Verdugo Mountain in the background. There is a nice bench to operate on
The Glendale neighborhood with downtown Los Angeles, Palos Verdes and Santa Catalina Island in the background
The view from Flint Peak
Operating on Flint
The Griffith Planetarium with Century City and Westwood Behind

Verdugo Mountain High Point

18 DECEMBER 2020 W6/CT-269

The last time I hiked up Verdugo Mountain my brother Mark and I approached the summit from La Tuna Canyon. Brian WA6JFK warned me that cars parked there have been getting broken into, so I decided to try a new route – from Whiting Woods Road in Verdugo City, next to Montrose. This route runs steeply up the east side of the mountain, so it affords a wonderful view of the eastern sky and would take full advantage of the dawn. In the photo above Mount Wilson is on the extreme left, San Jacinto Peak is in the middle and Santago Peak is on the right. Venus shines in the pre-dawn sky over the lights of La Cañada and Flintridge.

I started out at 5:15 AM in the dark, which is fortuitous because parking at the road head is limited to 5AM to 10PM. The hike is 3 miles and climbs 1,700′ to the high point. It is a steep fire road and the climb took me about an hour and twenty minutes. I hike pretty fast and I only stopped briefly to catch my breath a few times. The hike is a nice workout up through some mature chaparral that hasn’t burned in a while. There are a few pine trees along the way but little in the way of shade. Perhaps my only complaint is that the 210 Freeway below is LOUD for a lot of the hike – even before dawn

The top has decent cellular coverage via Verizon and wonderful 2m coverage of a wide range of Southern California. I made 13 2m FM contacts early on a Friday morning without trying too hard. Joe K7KCE in Mission Viejo turned down his radio to >1 Watt and was still a solid 54 into my rollup J-pole. My furthest contact was with K6GAS in Temecula. Brian WA6JFK helped me to find the actual summit. It had been 18 years since I was last up there.

The Santa Monica Mountains over the San Fernando Valley behind me. You can see Century City over the Santa Monicas
Downtown Los Angeles and the Los Angeles River along I5
Strange angle on Oat Mountain with Santa Paula and Hines Peaks behind it
Good views of the front range. Here is Strawberry Peak and Mount Lawlor
Sunrise over the Front Range of the San Gabriels with San Jacinto Peak in the distance
Trail head restrictions

Kagel Mountain

10 DECEMBER 2020 W6/CT-170

The hike to Kagel Mountain is 3 miles long and has modest 1,275 feet of elevation gain. As usual, I did this hike before the sun came up, but I can imagine it would be a hot one on a summer day. There is about 500 feet of elevation loss on the trip out which, of course, translates to 500′ of gain on the return trip. The route follows a good road that is used by parasailers that access Kagel Mountain and use it as a launching point. Brian WA6JFK says it looks like an outdoor yoga studio because of all the mats and pieces of carpet used by the hang gliders. There is a mast and a windsock that can be used as an antenna support along with a picnic table and metal bench that make for a very comfortable activation. Verizon cell coverage is excellent.

This mountain offers a terrific view of the Front Range of the San Gabriel Mountains. To the west is Oat Mountain, Hines Peak and Santa Paula Peak. To the north Magic Mountain dominates. Be sure to walk over to the west edge of this broad summit to catch a glimpse of Pacoima Reservoir. The full length of the Santa Monica Mountains line the southern horizon across the San Fernando Valley.

The summit offers a nice picnic table to work from. Saddle Peak is to the left of me inn this photo
The summit is the jumping off point for parasailers

My last visit to this summit was on the Fourth of July, 1995 when Cassie KG6MZR, our faithful dog Chauncey Gardner and I drove all the way out to the summit. The gate at Dillon Divide wasn’t locked back then. The whole place was covered in purple flowers and there was a rattlesnake under the trashcan

Sunrise over Mt. Lukens and the Front Range
Here’s a wider shot that includes Strawberry, Josephine and Lawlor off to the left


5 DECEMBER 2020 W6/CT-228

Santa Ana winds had been blowing all week triggering a red flag warning and that kept me near home. The winds died down Saturday morning and I decided t make a run for a local summit out near Westlake. It was 53º F in my driveway in Topanga when I left home about 5:15 AM. At the bottom of Topanga Canyon at Cheney Road it was 32º F – a 21º canyon inversion of the temperature gradient.

The hike is a very pleasant 1.1 miles up a well graded road that has reverted to a single track trail. There was nobody around on the way up – a good thing as the Covid Pandemic is getting worse. I only saw four people on the entire three hour excursion.

I was treated to a spectacular sunrise on the summit. At first I thought it might be hard to make the four qualifying contacts on 2m FM, but soon people woke up and I made contact with Glassel Park (Brian WA6JFK). I was a bit surprised when Jon K6LDQ made it 59 through Malibu Canyon from Torrance. My furthest contact was with W6TED in Carmel Valley near Del Mar in San Diego over the Santa Monica Mountains. I had three summit-to-summit contacts all with nearby Bodle Peak – 2,450 W6/SC-237.

Sunrise over Saddle Peak
Dawn on 1,821′ Looking back through Malibu Canyon
One of my favorite mountains: Cobblestone Peak
CQ SOTA CQ SOTA Hines Peak and Topatopa Ridge in the background
Simi Peak


Downtown Los Angeles, Palos Verdes Peninsula and Santa Catalina Island at sunrise

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. NOTE: It’s been brought to my attention that some people might find this route too steep. Be forewarned. 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!

Hoyt Mountain 1.1 miles away

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 😉

Mt. Josephine behind me and the set up – a 23′ carbon fiber “Crappie” fishing pole and a roll-up slim jim.
Close up of Josephine
Glendale and Century City with Verdugo Mountain and the terminus of the Santa Monica Mountains at Griffith Park
One of my favorite San Gabriel Mountains: Strawberry Peak behind me. My Nephew and I last year did the arete off to the left as pictured here

Frazier Mountain

25 NOVEMBER 2020 W6/CC-003

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!

Scott, WA9STI at the operating position of his very cool setup operating his club’s call of WA6LE
Brian WA6JFK and his HF setup
Double and Tehachapi Mountain from Frazier Mountain

The Hundred Peaks Section climbing guide for Frazier Mountain.

Mount Pinos

25 NOVEMBER 2020 W6/CC-002

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 sign at Chula Vista parking lot says 2 miles, but the SOTALAS track says 1.69 miles

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.

A bit of snow on the trail
Frazier Mountain and the San Gabriel Mountains behind me on the summit

The Hundred Peaks Section climbing guide for Mount Pinos.

More information about the Summits on the Air program.

This is Eagle Rest Peak (W6/SC-022) from Mt. Pinos. It was the 100th peak I climbed in the Hundred Peaks Section. I went with Cassie and Chauncey the dog. I had to lift Chauncey up some of those rock bands. I wish SOTA was around back then, it has never been activated.

Oat Mountain


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!

KCAL 9’s Dopler Radar on the actual summit of Oat Mountain
The San Gabriel Mountains from Oat Mountain
Santa Paula Peak, Hines Peak and points west from Oat Mountain

Cahuenga Peak

8 NOVEMBER 2020 W6/CT-037

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.

Sun shining on Glendale from Cahuenga Peak

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.

Me and downtown Los Angeles
The station
The gear

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.

Lake Hollywood with Century City, Westwood and Santa Monica in the distance


7 NOVEMBER 2020 W6/CT-158

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.

Windy wet and cold