Occidental Peak

Mount Lowe, Mount Markham and San Gabriel Peak

27 NOVEMBER 2021 W6/CT-098

I love heading out my driveway in the predawn hours off to another summit adventure. This Saturday morning it was 62ºF in my driveway and by the time I was only a few miles into the deepest part of Topanga Canyon it was 38ºF and the little snowflake icon on the dash of Pfeffernusse had lit up. Canyon temperature inversions are not uncommon, but a 24 degree inversion is pretty steep.

I reached the parking spot at about 5:30 AM. This is the driveway to the 972 foot tall KCBS TV tower. The whole area is completely RF saturated to the point that my car’s remote locking device did not work! This parking spot is about 4.8 miles from the junction of the Angeles Crest Highway and the Mount Wilson road.

It was interesting to me that this hike follows a threaded use trail and is only about half as far as the nearby hike I did last week to San Gabriel Peak. I left the car about the same time as last week and the hike still took the same amount of time. This is largely due to the up-and-down, rough nature of the use trail on this one. I do not recommend carrying a tall mast in your pack. I had to remove mine from the pack and carry it because it kept getting caught on low-hanging trees and brush. The trail passes by two of the massive guys for the 972′ tower.

The 972 foot KCBS TV tower

Occidental Peak illuminates for me some of the vagaries of the SOTA system for selecting peaks. I gather the criteria is predicated on a summit’s geographical prominence. However rigid adherence to this rule seems to include some peaks of questionable enjoyment and exclude some other interesting summits. To me nearby Mount Lowe and Mount Markham are much more interesting and enjoyable summits but lack the necessary credentials to be included. Pity.

There is little room on the summit of Occidental Peak to set up and the view is largely obscured by brush and California Scrub Oak. I set up my Packtenna Mini Random Wire because of the limited space. I ran 12 watts on HF and 5 watts on VHF.

Cell service from Verizon was very spotty. I only managed one spot and the rest had to be done through the Garmin InReach Mini and the Iridium Satellites. Not sure if it was the RF saturation or just bad coverage. The Kenwood TH-F6A performed okay with no intermod.

Rather cramped conditions for the station
Sunrise over Mount Wilson
Santa Catalina Island and Palos Verdes over the Los Angeles Basin
Sunrise on Mount Lowe and Mount Markham

1,470′ x2

Hines Peak at sunrise from 1,470′.

23 NOVEMBER 2021 W6/SC-347

One of the things I really enjoy about the SOTA program is how it motivates me to do hikes that I might otherwise miss. Summit 1,470′ is a good case in point. I’ve been hiking around the Santa Monica Mountains all my life and I never thought to explore this particular corner of the range. When I first hiked up this summit last year, it was completely encased in a deep marine layer of stratus clouds. Kobe Bryant’s helicopter went down a short distance away and I can see how that might’ve happened given the dense fog.

I left Topanga before it was light again and drove over the top of Saddle Peak. Being a Tuesday, I had to be back home by 9:00 AM for work. This morning was sparklingly clear after a mild Santa Ana wind event over the weekend that kept me home. There was a layer of cirrus clouds high in the sky and a waning gibbous moon lighting my path. All the elements seemed to be in place for a colorful sunrise, but it wasn’t to be. It’s funny how that works. The hike is under a mile with over 500′ of elevation gain.

Cell service from Verizon is excellent. I made my 11 contacts fairly easily this time now that I have the KX2 and the HF bands in my toolkit. I ran 12 watts into the 40m multiband doublet on HF and 5 watts into the roll-up slimjim on VHF.

Pre-dawn over Saddle Peak
Sunrise over Saddle Peak
The Station with Sandstone Peak in the background.
Castro Peak behind the station in action.

San Gabriel Peak

The long shadow of San Gabriel Peak stretching west at sunrise

13 NOVEMBER 2021 W6/CT-019

This was my fourth trip up San Gabriel Peak. I first hiked to this grand summit over 40 years ago with my friend Linnea Gardner. I left Topanga well before dawn to get to Eaton Saddle at 5:30 AM. I started out in the glow of the city lights far below, but was obliged to get the headlamp out to go through Mueller Tunnel shortly after starting out. It was a little spooky.

The hike is a little over a mile and a half with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. I hoofed it to the top in about an hour and just missed the sunrise from the summit.

Cell coverage from Verizon was in and out but I did manage to get spots out via SOTAGoat eventually. I made 30 contacts – a record for me in my short SOTA career. I was the first one to the summit on this fine morning. However a number of other parties visited this popular mountain top during my two hour activation. I handed out a lot of SOTA cards to interested people. Perhaps even better than my first summit-to-summit with Wisconsin, even better than a DX QSO with Christian in France, was connecting with David N6AN and arranging to meet for the first time in La Cañada for a cuppa. I really got a kick out of meeting David as we have had many S2S QSOs.

For this activation I just threw up the Packtenna end fed random wire and it performed very well. All HF contacts were at 12 watts, all VHF contacts were at 5 watts.

A big thank you to all the chasers – so many loyal chasers really make this fun!

Fifty contacts on my most prolific SOTA activation to date!
Sunrise over the big Gabriels
Looking over Mount Wilson to Santiago Peak
Looking over Mount Lowe to Palos Verdes and Santa Catalina Island.
The Station
Catalina a litte later in the morning. If you look carefully you can see all the container ships backed up outside the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro Bay behind the Spanish Dagger yucca,
The west side of Mueller Tunnel on the way down.

Haddock Mountain

Cottonwoods in upper Sespe Canyon on the way home.

23 OCTOBER 2021 W6/SC-005

This trip took a lot longer than I planned. I left Topanga at about 4 AM in a thick drizzle. As I slowly made my way through Calabasas, Agoura and Thousand Oaks it became a steady rain. This slowed me down a bit and it took me two and a half hours to reach the trail head. It was sunny and clear and a bit breezy when I left the car. Deer season was in full swing and there were lots of hunters camped at the Pine Mountain campground. I was a bit worried about being mistaken for a deer as I started out, but I hoped my bright orange Jackite pole would flag me as not very tasty eating. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. The early morning crowd of hunters — and I saw quite a few — seemed to be quite skilled. I only heard 4 rifle reports all day. More Robert De Niro than John Cazale 🙂

I last climbed Haddock Mountain May 15th, 1996 with Cassie KG6MZR and Chauncey the dog. This time it seemed a lot farther than I remember it. There is about 1,000′ of elevation loss on the way out. Of course this translates to a thousand feet of gain on the return and this always seems disproportionately hard. It seems like the return from climbing a mountain should be all downhill. The total hike is a little over eight miles and has 2,500′ of elevation gain. I got there much later than I anticipated and wandered around over a few false summits. The actual summit has a pretty big summit block

As I was setting up, I heard KN6IUF on Mount Baden-Powell so I hastily snagged a juicy summit-to-summit to start. Conditions were decent and I managed to work Christian F4WBN in France for the first time in a while. Thank you all chasers!

The dramatic sedimentary bands of Haddock Mountain. That’s Hines Peak (W6/SC-010) just off the right shoulder of Haddock.
The large summit block behind my station
The station
Looking back at Reyes Peak (W6/CC-005) from atop the summit block of Haddock
Mount Pinos (W6/CC-002) and Cerro Noroestre (W6/CC-001)

Escapula Peak

just before dawn on the way up

17 OCTOBER 2021 W6/SC-005

I can see why Scott WA9STI has activated this mountain so many times: it is a very pleasant hike through the woods. The gate was open on forest road 9N22 but I decided to go easy on my poor old Audi this time so I parked just off Cuddy Valley Road and walked the additional mile and a half or so. This is still a pretty easy hike at 2.75 miles with 1,350′ of gain.

A couple of mild cautions though. Deer hunting season runs October 12th through November 10th, so this wasn’t probably the best time to do this hike, although the weather was perfect and I only heard very distant gunshot reports. Secondly, this is a very forested hike that follows a tenuous old jeep track. With visual landmarks obscured and a bit of dead-fall blocking this track, it isn’t too hard to get off-route as I did on the way down. My detour added a mile or so and I had to climb back up 500′. So route-finding is a bit of an issue and the potential to end up in the wrong watershed exists.

It was 31ºF when I left the car at first light. Cuddy Valley can be notoriously cold in the fall and winter. This was actually perfect as I was pleasantly cool on my hike up the mountain.

There is a register and it went back to March 12, 2016. Besides Scott’s WA9STI many entries I saw Dan NA6MG’s activation entry.

The activation went swimmingly and was a great deal of fun. I had my first chaser from Japan! Many of the faithful chasers stopped by and I even made contact with Keith K9TPR back home in Topanga Canyon.

After I got home I was contacted by Billy W6QD in Placerville with a SWL report on 2m from 283 miles away!

Cell coverage from Verizon is excellent.

The Station
Close-uo of the station. Scott WA9STI’s SOTA card was in the register
Having fun!
On the hike down. That’s the Tehachapi Mountain in the background

Throop Peak x2

9,137 Feet Tall on a phenomenal summit-to-summit activaion

3 OCTOBER 2021 W6/CT-005

Wow, what a day! The W7A Association was holding their 10 Point Madness event and I had a summit-to-summit pile-up! I had heard about this event through the NA SOTA reflector so I hastily planed this trip to a peak with decent points and a good eastern horizon. I was rewarded with 126 S2S points in about 2 hours!

Perhaps the best indicator of how well the day went was at the very start. Once I get the station set up I usually find a clear frequency, listen for a while and then ask if the frequency is in use. Then I start calling “CQ SOTA” with my DVR while I make the spot on SOTAWatch3 just to hold the frequency and make sure it stays clear for the spot. Before I could get the spot out the first thing I hear is “Summit to summit!” AE7AP on a peak in Utah found me just by randomly tuning around 7 MHz! Later I did the same thing. At one point calling CQ SOTA I had a pile-up of three S2Ss! Man, this was some fun!

Important note on Throop: cell coverage from Verizon was non-existent on the summit, but I discovered (too late) that it is good just a short way off the northwest trail. If I had known this I could’ve watched the spots on SOTAwatch3 and perhaps made a few more S2S contacts. I would’ve certainly saved a few bucks in Garmin Inreach Iridium Satellite SMS texts.

At that time I didn’t have the KX2 so it was UHF/VHF only. This is a good summit for that with excellent coverage of the LA Basin and points south. I had one S2S with Adam K6ARK down San Diego way.

This time I decided to take the HPS short-cut that bypasses the Pacific Crest Trail and cuts off about a half a mile

The station

Peak 2,507′ “Buzzard’s Roost”

The marine layer stratus pushes up Zuma Canyon. That’s the wreckage of a windmill that burned in the 2018 Woolsey Fire.

25 SEPTEMBER 2021. W6/SC-229

Recently Ara N6ARA determined that the ridge slightly to the west of the actual summit of this peak was not contiguous to the summit. There is a dip of a few feet between them, so I discarded my two previous activations of this mountain. This is unfortunate because the ridge to the west can be accessed without crossing into private property. However, since both houses at the Buzzard’s Roost Ranch burned in the 2018 Woolsey fire I knew that the property is not currently occupied. I figured if I encountered anyone I would politely explain the SOTA program and ask for permission.

I left Encinal Canyon Road before the sun came up on this fine Saturday morning and hiked to the summit in about 45 minutes. There is an old, overgrown roadbed that skirts around the south side of the summit that is an obvious deer trail now. I saw plenty of scat and even two of the creatures as I made my way through the brush. The west side is pretty brushy so long pants and trekking poles or some other form of rattlesnake probe is recommended.

There is a benchmark and some wreckage of an antenna and a windmill on the summit. At this time the brush hasn’t grown back enough to cover the summit and there was a few spots to set up the station.

Again, Gary K6TCU in Pennsylvania was my longest QSO. And again I was treated to a summit-to-summit with that other early-riser Dan NA6MG on Townsend Peak. I also was surprised to hear from my neighbor Keith in Topanga. Thank you all you early bird chasers!

Sunrise over Castro W6/CC-057 and Saddle W6/CC-274
The benchmark
The Station with the burned-out ranch in the background.
Looking west across the offending dip to the west ridge used in previous activation attempts. Sandstone Peak W6/CC-056 at the right.

Ladyface Mountain x2

Sunrise on the way up to Ladyface Mountain

18 SEPTEMBER 2021. W6/SC-285

With the local National Forests still closed I decided to repeat this old favorite. I’d first done this mountain in 1978 by going up the northeast ridge. Now there is a pretty well established trail going up the east ridge. There is a fun little 3rd class section that can be avoided by a bypass trail on the left, or south side. I opted for the third class route going up and the bypass going down – opposite of my last trip.

As you can see below, I made 14 contacts with Gary in Pennsylvania being the longest. I finished with one summit-to-summit with Dan NA6MG.

The bottom of the 3rd class section

Simi Peak x2

Sunrise on 9/11/2021

11 September 2021 W6/CT-207

Another pre-dawn start got me to the summit of Simi Peak just as the sun rose. It was forecast to be triple digits in the Valley and I wanted to be back at the car before the temperature broke 100.

Perhaps the best part of this activation was that I got to work Martha W0ERI and Gary W0MNA on our first summit-to-summit. Martha and Gary have been such faithful chasers that it was a thrill to finally get them on a summit – and a S2S no less! They were on Rich Mountain in Arkansas. I could hear them quite well on the QSB peaks on 20 meters. They had a little trouble pulling me out, but we made contact!

The hike was the same one I did on my last activation on October 13, 2020

This time the 2.5 mile hike with over 1,000 feet of gain took me a little over an hour. Plenty of parking at the end of King James Court.

Cell coverage from Verizon is good.

Hines Peak W6/SC-010 and the Sespe/Topotopo wilderness over Bard Lake at dawn.
Here’s the friendly hiking group that came up to the summit shortly after dawn. The woman in the center in the white skirt is their leader. They were were very forgiving of my SOTA activity.

Workman Hill and Peak 1,416

Massive high tension power lines produce a charge in my 40 meter doublet

9 SEPTEMBER 2021 W6/CT-244

An interesting thing happened on this sunrise activation. As I was setting up my 40 meter doublet to start calling out on that band, I received a not-insubstantial shock off the leads to my antenna. I suspect that the harmonics from the 60 Hz AC in the overhead lines were strong enough to generate this charge. I decided not to risk the circuitry in my precious KX2, so only operated on 2m and 70cm for this one.

Brian WA6JFK tells me that William H. Workman was a mayor of Los Angeles in the 1800’s and married into the Boyle family – as in Boyle Heights.

The hike is very short – about a third of a mile and up only 200 feet or so. There is parking on Turnbull Canyon Road. Decent cell coverage from Verizon.

I caught Dan NA6MG on 70cm mobile. He said that when he was on Workman Hill the grass was very high and there were a lot of red ants. He got bitten twice. Sure enough, after the sun came up, red ants started coming out of their holes. I managed to get bitten once on the next summit – 1,416.

I made 7 contacts on 2m and 70cm.

Sunrise over the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains
The sun just peeking over San Gergonio Mountain

Peak 1,416′

9 SEPTEMBER 2021 W6/CT-242

I decided I had enough time to activate this close-by summit to Workman Hill. There is plenty of parking at the end of Gotera Drive. This hike is also pretty short — about three-quarters of a mile and up 300 feet.

I saw a few coyotes on top. Another hiker told me that they had see a pack of a half dozen or so.

Cell coverage from Verizon was just OK

I also made 7 contacts on the Kenwood TH-F6A. Thank you all the faithful chasers!