Pacifico Mountain x2

The Bobcat fire scarred San Gabriel Mountains from Pacifico Mountain

9 APRIL 2022 W6/CT-015

After hiking up Mount Emma at dawn I intended to to the two unnamed neighbors of that mountain. However, after my summit-to-summit with Dan NA6MG on Mount Gleason, he changed my mind by suggesting Pacifico Mountain. I had done this mountain last year with Brian WA6JFK.

Last trip we took Brian’s Honda Element. This trip I now had Whitedog, my new Toyota Tacoma. While passenger vehicles can and do make this trip, I certainly don’t recommend it. There are a few sketchy spots. My first trip up Pacifico last century was in a 1960 Impala 🙂

There was only one other group camping at the summit campground when I arrived. I had a fun activation with numerous summit-to-summit contacts.

I didn’t take many photos on this trip because I spent a lot of time flying Chester. Soon the wind came up and grounded my little insect. While the day had been warm, it soon became chilly in the shade and in the wind.

Activating in comfort on Pacifico Mountain.

Mount Emma

Looking south at dawn toward Tres Orejas (W5N/OT-026) and Santa Fe Baldy

30 JULY 2022 W5N/OT-025

The last time I hiked up Mount Emma was on November 5th, 1995. This was back when the Kentucky shooting area was open. At that time is was the wild west out there – fully automatic weapons being discharged with abandon. I encountered a young teen whose gun safety skills were questionable at best. It was not a relaxing hike. Their was a wildfire shortly after that excursion that was deemed to have been started by shooters and so the area was closed to shooting.

The hike is short and steep: about a mile and 1,000′ of elevation gain. The trail is marked with a new sign.

The walk up took me about 40 minutes carrying a pretty heavy pack. I was bringing along my new drone — a DJI Mini 2. I have the beginnings of an idea for a movie that I would like to do about SOTA, so I wanted to practice flying Chester as I’ve named my little bug-like drone. Chester was the cricket in The Cricket in Times Square.

Getting good, cinemagraphic shots turns out to be surprisingly hard. I was clearly going to have to develop some skills. Here is a short video (01:43) I made on this ascent on set up time for an activation with my big antenna and all the comforts:

Flying Chester cut into my activation time on the air and I only made 8 contacts. At the end I was fortunate enough to get a summit-to-summit with that other early bird, Dan NA6MG on Mount Gleason. Dan suggested that I try activating Pacifico as the gates at Mill Summit were open, so I changed my plans to activated the two local unnamed summits and headed up Angeles Forest Highway.

The summit is named for Emma Pallett, one of the daughters from the pioneering Pallett Ranch in the area.

The sign on Mount Emma Road
Looking East at Mount Baden-Powell W6/CT-004 and the rest of the big Gabriels
Looking northwest at the Sierra Pelona, Lake Los Angeles, Palmdale and the Tehachapis

Mount Williamson

Looking from the summit of Mount Williamson to the northeast to the high point of Pleasant View Ridge – the actual SOTA summit. That is Pallet Mountain just off the left shoulder of the high point.

2 APRIL 2022 W6/CT-247

The first thing to know about activating Mount Williamson is that you are not activating Mount Williamson. You are activating the high point of Pleasant View Ridge: USGS 8,248′ which is about a half mile northwest of the actual Mount Williamson. While SOTA Goat will tell you that Mount Williamson is in the activation zone, it probably isn’t because the saddle between this point and USGS 8,244′ is just below the 25 meter requirement.

This area just opened after the Bobcat Fire area closures a day before and the whole area is still showing the devastating effects of that fire and the 2020-2021 drought year. Many trees are fully dead and I saw some trees that had green growth the had snapped off and blown over because of their weakened trunks.

I last climbed this mountain along with the rest of Pleasant View Ridge and Pallet Mountain on May 22, 1988. 34 years ago the entire ridge was beautifully forested with large pine trees.

As it was just getting light I looked up at the burned out, but snow-free southern exposures of Mount Williamson and I decided to leave the micro-spikes at the truck. Big mistake! As luck would have it, the trail winds around to the north west side of the ridge and large, steep and icy sections of snow needed to be traversed. Fortunately somebody had come down late in the day before and large deep footprints were in the icy traverses. Where there were no steps I could kick footholds with 5 or 6 kicks in the icy snow. That and having my trekking poles tipped me over the edge in my decision to continue. A fall probably wouldn’t have been fatal, but it would have been serious nonetheless.

One of the easier traverses on the way down

The hike is a little over 2 miles with a stout 1,750 feet of elevation gain. I had very spotty cell coverage from Verizon but excellent APRS coverage.

I was the first person to sign in the register this year. The last entry was December 1, 2021. The register went back to 6/2/1988.

Even with band conditions very off because of the recent solar flair I still managed 39 contacts with 6 unique summit-to-summit contacts. These summits were in California, Idaho and Oregon. I heard my buddy Keith K9TPR back home in Topanga Canyon and many of the faithful chasers. Thank you everybody!

The Station
Some trees remain in this view down the Bear Creek fork of San Gabriel Canyon. That’s Monrovia and Twin Peaks.
Looking out to the Antelope Valley
The dramatic southern scarp looking down Bear Creek. It was cloudy all day down in the basin and sunny on the roof of the San Gabriel Mountains
Warning at the trailhead for the newly reopened area after the Bobcat Fire.

Conejo Mountain x2

One happy SOTA operator. Photo by R. Crenshaw

1 APRIL 2022 W6/SC-318

I met my nephew as it was just starting to get light in the Dos Vientos section of Newberry Park. Venus, Mars and Saturn all graced the eastern skyline on this fair and mild early morning. We saw three deer as we made our way up what is known as Powerline Trail.

The hike is a pleasant 2.2 mile up a gently graded road. It gets a bit steep once the route leaves the road. It took us almost exactly an hour.

This was my third trip up Conejo Mountain, my first trip being in 1984 and the last trip a SOTA expedition last year. Despite the erratic rainfall this winter, quite a few wildflowers brightened the hillsides.

The skies were a bit hazy with some marine layer that reduced our visibility. Band conditions were poor due to a recent solar flare but we got into the Pacific Northwest and other points north.

Cell coverage from Verizon was poor, but APRS coverage was fine, as might be expected.

Boney Mountain and Sandstone Peak

Josephine Peak x2

Metamorphic rock from the Mesozoic. This exposed batholith near the summit of Josephine is Mendenhall gniess with anorthosite dikes.

27 MARCH 2022 W6/CT-25

I initially planned on activating Throop Peak and headed out of Topanga at about 4am. It was pretty foggy in the San Fernando Valley and as I turned to go up Highway 2 I saw a sign that said Highway 2 was closed to Wrightwood. Time to punt. I wasn’t sure where the road was closed but I didn’t want to drive all that way (with gas at $5.50 a gallon) and find out it was closed at Waterman. It had been so dry in Southern California throughout our usually wettest months of January, February and March that it never occurred to me that 2 would be closed. I should’ve known because a big storm was due to hit in a day or so. (In fact 1.41′ of rain fell the next day)

I like the idea of a healthy hike so I decided on the 4 mile trip up Josephine Peak. The junction of Angeles Crest and Angeles Forest Highways was above the fog and a nice waning crescent moon lit my way up the initial part of the hike. Temperature was perfectly cool unlike my last trip up this mountain when the mercury soared into the triple digits. There was also a waning crescent moon in the sky on that late summer hike. I noted how much lower that same crescent moon was in the sky for this early spring hike.

The hike is almost 4 miles up 1,800′ of elevation gain. It took me about 2 hours.

I has the summit to myself for a little while to set up the station but soon hikers began to arrive. This was a very busy Sunday on the mountain. I handed out a record number of my SOTA cards and received quite a few visits to this site as a result. Thank you all hikers for putting up with the various antenna wires and guys and my radio chatter.

The marine layer invades upper Tujunga Canyon. That’s Santa Paula peak and Hines Peak in the right background on this lovely morning.
A hike graciously took my picture at the operating position on the summit
Looking south into the Los Angeles Basin at the early morning marine layer
Strawberry Peak from the west taken on the way down.

Triunfo Lookout x3

Sunrise on the Roof of the Santa Monica Mountains: Boney Ridge and the mis-named Sandstone Peak

25 MARCH 2022 W6/SC-219

I was unable to get out and do a SOTA summit the previous weekend and I desperately needed my SOTA fix. As I drove up the Pacific Coast Highway in the dark before dawn I was met with dense fog in places.

At the roadhead I encountered a swarm of mosquitoes but as I started out, they were left behind. My last trip up Triunfo was a battle against the wind. This morning was very pleasant and mild with only light breezes.

I got to the summit just after sunrise. This is an easy half mile hike up a well graded trail that follows the old service road cut. The view of Boney Mountain is unparalleled as seen in the photo above. I set up the full doublet but band conditions weren’t great into the eastern United States. I did manage to get Christian F4WBN on 15m but that band was too long for this country. Ron K6RIN alerted me that he was headed up 1,821′ (CT-228) so I hung out until we could manage the S2S. Thanks Ron!

The station with the doublet set up.
Santiago Peak and Buzzard’s Roost
Clark’s Peak, La Jolla Peak, Santa Cruz Island and Boney Ridge.
Santa Catalina Island

Peak 2,450 “Bodle Peak” x3

A misty sunrise over Castro Peak and Ladyface

After reading AJ6KZ’s warning about this summit being closed I decided to drive up before work on a misty Thursday morning before dawn and take a look. While the peak itself is on Las Virginis Municipal Water District’s land and the route does cross private property, I’ve never encountered a gate or any “private property” or “no tresspassing” signs. As on my previous two ascents of this mountain I found the route open. There is an unmarked dirt road opposite a mailbox at 32701 Mulholland Highway that I followed up past a derelict tractor and a Hyundai Santa Fe that was in good shape two years ago but has progressively been smashed up on each successive visit.

I suspect that AJ6KZ looked at the new driveway to the east of this route that is clearly gated and marked “No Tresspassing” or the Las Virginis Municipal Water District’s Bodle Peak Motorway access even further to the east that is similarly gated and marked.

Before reaching the top there is a hillside off to the right that follows a use trail around a 5th wheel trailer and truck at the top of the dirt road and jumps over to the old Bodle Peak Motorway. This old route to the former fire lookout on the summit is very badly eroded. It looks like the people below have actually diverted runoff rain along the old motorway to flow into their stock tank near where you leave the first dirt road. The motorway was noticeably more eroded on this trip from the downpour we had last December.

I set up my big doublet between the 30′ and 20′ Jackite poles and had a lot of fun on six different bands – including my first-ever SOTA contacts on 10m and 12m. This antenna took me a lot longer to rig but I felt it was worth it

Looking south with “Buzzard’s Roost” (W6/SC-229) over the station on Bodle Peak
The station
Las Virginis Reservoir and Westlake
Looking west toward Sandstone Peak and the green Hidden Valley
My third trip to this nice local peak yields my first SOTA contacts on 10m and 12m.
Prickly Phlox below the summit with a little Deerweed
Woolly Bluecurls (Trichostema lanatum) this flower has the most amazing scent.

Santa Ynez Peak

Lake Cachuma from the highest point in the Santa Ynez Mountains

5 MARCH 2022 W6/CC-036

After activating Brush Peak my brother and I put Whitedog in 4wd and drove the rough 9.39 mile dirt road between Brush and Santa Ynez. I do not recommend this rough road for passenger vehicles. Here is our account of Brush Peak

The pavement on West Camino Ceilo ends at Brush Peak and resumes at the observatory a little to the west of Santa Ynez Peak. Passenger cars may want to do these two summits separately, approaching each summit from the paved roads on either side.

When we arrived at the summit of Santa Ynez — the highest point in the Santa Ynez Mountains, everything was coated with a layer of ice. The radio towers where especially coated with huge chunks that were crashing down precariously on the ground below. We didn’t even get out of the truck on the summit.

Fortunately there is a nice level spot in the activation zone just under the summit that was free of falling icebergs.

I curtailed the activation because the icy wind was pretty cold and we had had a long day. My brother the electrical engineer is moderately interested in amateur radio and SOTA, but that interest has limits that I thought not best tested on this long day. I did get one QSO from Japan, but frightfully few in California. I would not want to try this activation as a technician with only UHF/VHF privileges.

It was a little cold to be wearing shorts admitted my brother from Alaska
An ice storm had coated everything with ice on the summit
A nice level area in the activation zone beneath the RF maelstrom
Santa Cruz Island
My brother went to UCSB in Isla Vista – just off his finger
A shrine along the bad road from Brush to Santa Ynez

Brush Peak

The beautiful Santa Barbara Channel and Channel Islands over the popular hike, The Lizard’s Mouth, on a blustery day

5 MARCH 2022 W6/SC-171

Full write-up to follow. Stay tuned…

My brother and I set out at a leisurely pace about 8:30 am from my Mom’s house in Malibu. The weather forecast called for a 50% chance of snow flurries, but this storm seemed to come in to the north and south of us. We only had a few drops of rain on the way up. It was a blustery and cold day.

The road up from San Marcos Pass and Highway 154 (West Camino Ceilo) is narrow but paved and suitable for passenger vehicles. The traverse from the Brush Peak roadhead over to Santa Ynez Peak we found to be pretty rough and is not recommended for anything but high clearance vehicles as Ron K6CPR noted in the previous write-up. Santa Ynez can be accessed with passenger vehicles that has only a short section of dirt road ant the end by way of the west via Refugio Pass and West Camino Cielo. Doing both peaks that way would entail a lot of driving. We made it a loop with my Tacoma, Whitedog.

The “hike,” such as it is, is pretty easy. We parked in front of the Winchester Canyon Gun Club and headed down the Lizard’s Mouth trailhead. A few hundred yards past the trailhead the route angles up to the right over some interesting sedimentary slabs and a fairly well established use trail leads to the summit. The hike is about a quarter mile and took us about 15 minutes.

The summit affords a nice view of the Lizard’s Mouth, the Santa Barbara Area and the Channel Islands. I only set up the HF station and didn’t even try 2 meters as wanted to activate Santa Ynez Peak as well.

My brother Mark on the short hike. The route follows the slabs up to the right in this picture.
Santa Ynez Peak (W6/CC-036) to the west from Brush Peak. The connecting dirt road section of West Camino Cielo is pretty rough.
Interesting wind and water sculpting of the sandstone near the summit

Waterman Mountain 2

I’m joined by David Hodge N6AN for this pleasant winter ascent

27 JANUARY 2022 W6/CT-012

Back from almost a month in New Mexico, I was raring to do a local winter ascent. I’d asked David Hodge N6AN about his ascent of Waterman Mountain earlier this year and how he might’ve evaded the Bobcat fire closure. It turns out that he had somewhat accidentally gone up a route that was okay. An area bounded by Highway 2 on the north, the main Waterman Trail #1 to the east (my route on my previous activation) and the San Gabriel River watershed to the south describes a somewhat gerrymandered safe zone that avoids the closure. (See map below)

Waterman Mountain can be accessed despite the Bobcat Fire closure Forest Order No. 05-01-20-11 via the Waterman Mountain ski area access roads

David was cool enough to join me on this adventure even though he had already activated Waterman Mountain earlier this year. We had met for the first time in person a month or two ago for a cuppa in Flintridge after an activation I’d done, but this was our first activation together. We rendezvoused for this trip in La Cañada at 6:00 am and we where the first ones to the roadhead at about 7:00 am.

There wasn’t much snow on the lower roads up through the ski area, but by the time we reached the summit the north slopes were pretty well covered. I broke through up to my knees at one point, so the gaiters were well advised, but micro spikes or snowshoes were not necessary.

David operated on CW and made 63 contacts, including DX contacts to Spain, Switzerland, Slovenia and France on 15m. By contrast I only managed 26 contacts with no DX. Between David’s CW skills and quickly deployed and highly effective antennas he outstripped my operating. Great to see a master at work.

At the roadhead with Whitedog. Photo by David Hodge
The station. Photo by David Hodge
Looking west toward Hines Peak in Ventura County
David N6AN showing off his cool, ultralight and compact 15m half square antenna
The author on a nice warn day up on Waterman Mounain. Photo by David Hodge