Josephine Peak

KG6MZS SUMMIT ACTIVATION

16 AUGUST 2020 – W6/CT-025

The waning crescent Moon over Strawberry Peak before dawn on the way up to Josephine Peak (5,558′)

It had been hot the day before. 101.5ºF at home in Topanga Canyon. I wanted to get a really early start before attempting the south-facing switchbacks of Josephine Peak. I’d done this hike in 1985 with my Mom, Linnea Gardner and Patty Fox. But that was in March, not in the dog days of summer. I reached the intersection of the Angeles Crest Highway and the Angeles Forest Highway at 5 am. It was still dark and 84ºF already.

The hike is moderate – 4 miles up and 1,900′ of elevation gain. There was a waning crescent moon that didn’t cast much light, but the route is a wide fire road and after my eyes adapted to the dark it was pretty easy to hike without the help of what the English would call a torch. If you plan on doing this peak in the summer bring extra water, a hat and sunscreen.

The Hundred Peaks Section guide to Josephine Peak.

I’m glad it was a wide fire road because I saw several very wide snake tracks crossing the decomposed granite of the roadbed. Good to see where you are putting your feet. Bats flitted about in the predawn skies. Periodically on the trip up I would be washed over by a wave of cool air as I crossed the ravines that steeply fall of the south face of Josephine. These are called canyon inversions. Why? Because the normal temperature gradient places the warmest temperature at ground level. Usually the temperature drops as one gains altitude. The canyon inversion is an inverted gradient where cold air runs down mountain slopes and follows the path that water would take down the mountain’s topography. These rivers of cool air are quite common in the mountains of southern California before dawn and I welcomed the refreshing break from the hot air along the ridges

I arrived at the summit shortly after sunrise and got on the air at 7am. There once was a fire lookout tower there but it burned in the fire of 1976 so I never got a chance to see it.

There is an odd standing bookcase deal on the top that was filled with cryptic mementos from other hikers. It made a good logging table even if there was no shade.

I made 15 contacts all on 2m FM. Among them one summit-to-summit with David, N6AN on Flint Peak (W6/CT-225), with Cassie (KG6MZR) back home in Topanga and with Scott, WA9STI. My furthest contact was with W6FE in Chula Vista, who was full scale on my radio but only gave me a 51.5 🙂 I also made contact with Phil K6PNJ in West Los Angeles who was full scale at 5 watts with his Comet GP-9.

The hike down was as hot as feared and the smoke from several fires was pretty bad but I was glad to be descending. The thermometer in the car read 106ºF.

Strawberry Peak above the switchbacks on the Josephine fire road.

More information about the Summits on the Air program.

Ladyface

KG6MZS SUMMIT ACTIVATION

14 AUGUST 2020 W6/SC-285

After a great weekend in the San Gabriel Mountains, I was inspired to hit the road again before it was light and head out to the Agoura Hills to activate a mountain I have not visited for over 40 years. Ladyface (2036′) is a prominent peak of igneous rock south of Highway 101 just off the Kanan/Dume road.

I was treated to a spectacular sunrise colored by the recent Lake Hughes fire. Smoke hung like ground fog in the valleys. The hike is a short steep jaunt up the rocky ridge. A few third class section are easily scrambled over. It’s about 1,200 feet in a little in under a mile, so it’s a pretty good cardio workout.

The summit blocks are of the same breccia and afford a nice view of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Sespe/Topotopo region of the Las Padres, a view of the Palos Verdes peninsula through Malibu Canyon and, of course, a superb view of the Santa Monica Mountains – Sandstone Peak, Triunfo Lookout, Castro Peak, Saddle Peak, Calabasas Peak, High Peak and even a nice view of Lake Sherwood.

I made contacts in Altadena, Burbank, Woodland Hills and for my confirming fourth contact I heard from KG6MZR at home in Topanga Canyon. Thanks Cassie! 73 & 88 KG6MZS

That’s Ladyface (2036′) on the right and Sandstone Peak (3,111) on the left

More information about the Summits on the Air program.

Mount Islip & Kratka Ridge

KG6MZS SUMMIT ACTIVATION

8 AUGUST 2020 W6/CT-010 & W6/CT-012

Early morning on the summit of Mt. Islip. Santiago Peak in the left background

Another predawn drive, this time I was headed through the city and on up into the San Gabriel Mountains. I’d first been up Mt. Islip on February 6, 1982 with my childhood friend, Jon Bucci. I made a second trip with my brother Mark on January 16, 1999.

The hike is a short one, 1.25 miles with a 1000′ of elevation gain. I figured at age 64, I’d ease back into peak bagging on a regular basis. The roadhead is unmarked at 41.6 miles up the Angeles Crest Highway from the 210. It follows a well established use trail up a gully and joins several trails at Windy Gap.

The hike up was pleasant and cool in the clean, pine-scented air. On top there is the remains of a fire lookout tower and a stone cabin that has been burned out. Someone was camped in the stone cabin and sleeping, so I moved off to the south side and quietly made 9 contacts – 6 on 2m FM and 3 on 70cm FM – including 2 summit-to-summit contacts. One was with the Mountain Goat himself, NA6MG Dan over on nearby Mt. Lewis and the other was with N6AN David out on Black Butte in the Antelope Valley.

Mt. Islip is named after George Islip who settled in the Angeles Forest in 1880.

Check out the Hundred Peaks Section guide to Mt. Islip.

I left the summit and encountered a lot of people on the trip down. Mt. Islip is a very popular hike in the San Gabriel Mountains.

From the roadhead I backtracked down Highway 2 looking for the roadhead for Kratka Ridge. Even though I had been up to this mountain before on July 30, 1995 I had trouble locating the parking spot. Part of the problem is that the Vista Picnic Area is no longer marked or maintained. After a few false starts I found the old logging road that leads to the top of one of the defunct ski lifts of the old Snowcrest ski area. The hike is very short and easy – .75 miles and 700′ of elevation gain. Although the Vista Picnic Area is unmarked, two boarded-up outhouses are visible south from Highway 2 and the route joins a saddle in the ridge only about 200 yards from your car. This is the key to finding the roadhead.

The route goes right by the main ski lift and it is pretty derelict. The summit is pleasant with tall pine trees and an expansive view of the Los Angeles basin. I made 18 contacts including 3 summit-to-summit contacts. I got Dan again on Mt. Lewis and David had moved over to Lovejoy Butte out there in the Antelope Valley. Lastly I heard from N3XUL way down in San Diego County on Iron Mountain (W6/SC-214) 109 miles away!

Here’s the Hundred Peaks Section guide to Kratka Ridge.

Santaigo Peak and Palomar Mountain in the background

I was back home in Topanga about 1pm after my most successful SOTA outing yet!

More information about the Summits on the Air program.

Saddle Peak

KG6MZS SUMMIT ACTIVATION

5 AUGUST 2020 W6/CT-274

Sunrise over the San Gabriel Mountains from Saddle Peak

After my first activation on the previous weekend, I was excited about the prospect of activating another mountain soon. Just up the hill from where we live is Saddle Peak so Wednesday before it was light I made my way up the mountain through a dense marine layer of fog. At times I could barely see past the hood of my car.

There were no cars at the roadhead and I had the quiet trail to myself. The hike is a short one: about .8 miles and 600′ of elevation gain. The Backbone Trail wends it’s way through sedimentary rock formations and a forest of Coast Live Oak. I heard the distinctive spiraling song of the Canyon Wren in the foggy dawn.

Soon I broke out of the fog and I was floating on a chaparral raft in a sea of fleecy white clouds. I made contact with 13 people, again all on 2m FM due to my limited gear. Among those contacts were several people I know including Scott – WA9STI – an experienced Mountain Goat who shared some invaluable tips and tricks with me on summit activation.

I also managed a QSO with another hiker over on Brown Mountain – Brian – WA6JFK. I first met Brian shakily calling CQ for the first time when I first got my license in 2002. He was my very first contact on amateur radio!

The waning gibbous moon setting over Saddle Peak just before dawn

More information about the Summits on the Air program.

Calabasas Peak

KG6MZS SUMMIT ACTIVATION

1 AUGUST 2020 W6/CT-214

Sunrise over the San Gabriel Mountains from Calabasas Peak

I’d been hearing about the Summits on the Air for a while and when the buzz turned to the SOCAL SOTAFEST on the weekend of August 1st & 2nd 2020 I decided to give activation a try on a local peak here in Topanga. I’d hiked up Calabasas Peak many times starting in the ’70’s and knew that peak had a good shot at some decent 2 meter traffic.

Since the only really portable radios we own are dual band HTs – a pair of ICOM IC-T7H radios that my wife Cassie (KG6MZR) and I first bought when we got out tickets in 2002 – I was going to be limited to UHF/VHF FM.

There are a wide variety of routes up Calabasas Peak. I chose the fireroad that goes up from Stunt Road. Alternately you can go from the top of Old Topanga Road, up Red Rock Canyon off of Old Topanga or one of several trails off Mulholland Highway. The route I took is about 1.75 miles up and has 850′ of elevation gain.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic I wanted to get on the trail and do all of the uphill without a mask on. Calabasas Peak is quite popular. I started hiking about 5:30 am and was on the summit just after sunrise at 6:30 am without seeing any other hikers.

I made 19 contacts including 3 summit-to-summit contacts with Mt. Gleason, Strawberry Peak and Ladyface. My friend Sarah (N6OPE) was my fourth contact that made my first activation legal. I also made contact with Cassie (KG6MZS) from home in Topanga and my friend Bryce (K6TI) also in the canyon.

My first activation on Calabasas Peak with Oat Mountain in the background

More information about the Summits on the Air program.

Eric Fitzgerald

A wide range of things interest me. A generalist at heart, I am curious about so much of the world around us. John Muir said “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” One line of inquiry inevitably leads to another, and another… I’ll pursue one interest with enthusiasm and passion for a while, and then set it down and chase something else for a while. However, I will return to that first interest with a fresh vigor at some point.

They say that a jack-of-all-trades is master of none. I understand that I will never plumb the depths of a given field the way a disciplined specialist might.

However, as Lois Farrow (Ellen Burstyn) says to Darcy (Cybil Shepard) in The Last Picture Show:

“Just remember, beautiful, everything gets old if you do it often enough.:”