Grass Mountain

Jupiter Mountain (W6/CT-140) from Grass Mountain and the San Gabriel Mountains in the background


1 MAY 2021 W6/CT-130

My brother and I set out to take a historic trip up the original Ridge Route and activate Bald Mountain (W6/CT-122), however an asphalt spill had the I-5 completely shut down and we circled back and went up San Francisquito Canyon to head to Grass Mountain instead. I wasn’t sure the Audi A4 could do the dirt road, but we found the road to be in great shape and had no trouble. It is a narrow road and meeting another vehicle going the other way could require a lengthy reverse, so keep that in mind if you intend to attempt this road in a passenger vehicle.

Even though we had three bars of Verizon service, I was unable to get a spot out via SOTAGoat or via an SMS text. This made getting contacts pretty difficult. Fortunately I made contact with Jon K6LDQ in Torrance on 2 meters and he got the word out. Thank you Jon!

My brother Mark and I at the station

Because of the traffic jam on I-5, we took another historic route – El Camino Viejo – the Old Road. This route had been used for centuries by the Tongva, Chumash and Yokut Indians as trade route between the Los Angeles Basin and the Central Valley. When the Spanish arrived, they also used this practical route as in inland alternative to the more famous El Camino Real. El Camino Viejo is longer than the Ridge Route that was established in 1910 because it needed to follow reliable sources of water. After going through San Francisquito Pass, El Camino Viejo followed the San Andreas Fault Zone up past Gorman and into the Cuddy Valley. There it went north of Mount Pinos and down San Emigdio Canyon into the Central Valley.

Another tragic piece of history in this area is the Saint Francis Dam failure of 1928 – the largest civil engineering failure in US history. Because the Owens Valley aqueduct was regularly dynamited, the Municipal Water District needed to impound large amounts of water on the LA side of the aqueduct. Perhaps this contributed to high levels of water in this reservoir. Nobody knows how many lives were lost when a 140 foot high flood wave swept down the canyon through Saugus, Newhall, Piru, Fillmore, Santa Paula and Ventura

Saint Francis Dam 1927

Power Plant #2 was all but swept away, only a single turbine remained.

The rebuilt Power Plant #2
Power Plant #2 before and after the disaster
Grass Mountain Summit
The Antelope Valley and the Tehachapi Mountains from the summit
Pfeffernuse the Audi on the road with Bridges Penstemon
Bridges Penstemon and Tree Poppy
Ceanothus or Mountain Liliac.

Mount Pinos 2

View to the west and south of the beautiful wilderness in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. That’s the Cuyama River center and Madulce and Big Pine Mountain to the right.


24 APRIL 2021 W6/CC-002

Cassie KG6MZR packed a delicious picnic lunch and my brother Mark joined us for a pleasant stroll back to Mount Pinos – the highest point in Ventura County. I last activated this summit in November of last year.

This day started of as cloudy back down at home in Topanga, however as we climbed the grade on I-5 out of Castaic, we cleared the deck of stratus and made our way into the bright, pine-scented air of Mt. Pinos. The lookout tower on Slide Mountain was partially veiled in the last wisps of cloud.

This time we went over to the condor viewing area on the west side of the mountain. This area lies in the activation zone and offers good pine trees for antenna support and some space away from other hikers enjoying the views on this Saturday afternoon. There is good cell phone coverage from Verizon and I was able to make all my spots via SOTA Goat.

20 meters was OK with considerable QSB. I did manage to work Gary K3TCU in Pennsylvania among other faithful chasers. Thank you all. I had one summit-to-summit with George KX0R on Thunder Butte in Colorado.

Cassie KG6MZR
The station
Happy hikers

Arctic Point

My brother Mark and I on the summit of Arctic Point


18 APRIL 2021 W6/CT-051

After spending the night at an AirBnB in Big Bear we loaded up my aging Audi A4 and bounced along the dirt roads out to the Holcomb Valley. The Hundred Peaks Section description of the drive warns that the dirt roads in this area are confusing and they aren’t kidding

We found that we could not drive a passenger car to the end of this route and had to park well short of the Harvey K mine. Our hike was a little over 2 miles and had about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. It was a beautiful day and a very pleasant hike. We only got into one brushy section after the route leaves the road. This can be avoided by staying on the north side of the ridge in the cross-country section. The hike took us about 2 hours moving at a very leisurely pace.

There was a bit of wind after the front from yesterday blew through. We were on Keller Peak yesterday and had a brief snow shower. This wind was pretty cold but Arctic Point is forested with a lot of trees that provide a wind break and good antenna support. Only 20m seemed to be working, but I managed 5 summit-to-summit contacts. Propagation on 20mm was strange with three contacts to Georgia but nothing else past Missouri. Three summit-to-summit contacts were in Oregon. Cell phone coverage from Verizon was good and I was able to self-spot via SOTA Goat.

The register only went back to November of last year with only one sign-in. We were the first to sign in this year. This was my 177th summit on the Sierra Club’s Hundred Peak Section list. Here is the [somewhat outdated] climbing guide on Arctic Point from the HPS list:

San Gorgonio
I don’t think the A4 was going up this road
Lucerne Valley and dry lake

Keller Peak

Keller Peak fire lookout tower


17 APRIL 2021 W6/CT-013

My older brother Mark and I headed up into the San Bernardino mountains on a fine clear Saturday with the idea of spending the night in Big Bear and activating Arctic Point Sunday. As we drove across the San Bernardino Valley we noticed cumulus clouds starting to form over San Gorgonio Peak.

Since check-in time at our AirBnB was 3:00 PM we had a little time to kill, so I thought we might see if the road to Keller Peak was open. We were surprised to find that despite a few patches of snow on the ground along the way, the road was open to the summit.

I grabbed the Kenwood TH-F6A and the roll-up slim jim and we hoofed it the hundred yards or so to the summit from the parking area. The view from the top of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Santa Ana Mountains and Gorgonio was terrific. I quickly made 9 contacts from Valley Center to Long Beach and Torrance and even one out to Tehachapi

Brother Mark “hiking” down from the summit
The San Gabriel Mountains. SOTA summits Cucamonga, Timber, Telegraph, San Antonio, Dawson, Pine and Baden-Powell
Santiago and Modjeska Peaks with our snow shower overhead
Anderson Peak
Lake Arrowhead with the Pinnacles to the right.

Sierra Pelona & Mount McDill

My older brother just retired after 35 years as an electrical engineer for the municipal power company in Anchorage, Alaska. We’ve hiked many mountains together but this was our first SOTA outing. Here we are on Sierra Pelona.


11 APRIL 2021 W6/CT-116

My big brother Mark and I have hiked many summits together over the years, but this was our first SOTA excursion together. Mark just retired from his 35 year job acting as an electrical engineer for a municipal power company in Anchorage, Alaska. He is not a ham, but he wanted to check out a SOTA activation. I usually burn him out on a grueling hike, but I decided to go easy on the retiree and do a couple of drive-ups. Mark has a rental car – a Dodge Charger – that he was willing to take on dirt roads. When I asked our Australian friend Lizzy what was the best vehicle for driving the outback, she said: “A rental.” 😉

I’d asked SOTA Goat Scott WA9STI about the roads up to Sierra Pelona and Mount McDill and he had some questions about the advisability of taking a passenger vehicle up there. The roads are narrow and steep. We passed a few 4WD vehicles and passing was tricky with dangerous drop-offs. All-and-all I think Scott is wise to recommend a 4WD, high clearance vehicle.

The approach roads are unmarked and a bit tricky to find

We had 14 QSOs on Sierra Pelona, including 2 summit-to-summit contacts. One of the S2S contacts were with K4AAE on a mountain in Tennessee. I used my doublet dipole. Here is my log:

Big brother Mark and the rental on the summit of Sierra Pelona


11 APRIL 2021 W6/CT-116

The drive over to Mount McDill from Sierra Pelona is also steep and narrow, but the road was in surprisingly good shape. It’s kind of like driving in Topanga Canyon. Mark and I had hiked up Mount McDill from Lincoln Crest on Bouquet Canyon road back in 2013. This time we drove to within 20 feet of the summit. The register was still there from 2010 and we found our previous entrees:

McDill was my 163 HPS summit in 2013

On Mount McDill I set up the PackTenna end-fed random wire. Compared to the doublet, the decrease in performance was noticeable. I will still carry both antennas, but the doublet is the preferred option when conditions permit. The doublet is trickier to set up.

We had two summit-to-summit contacts from one summit in Washington State

Here is our log from Mount McDill:

Mark on the summit of Mount McDill
Looking out over the San Andreas Fault to the Tehachapi Mountains. Note the hi-tech mountaineering footgear. 😉

Peak 2,450 “Bodle Peak” 2

Sunrise from Bodle Peak. Mount San Antonio center, Telegraph, Timber, Ontario, Cucamonga, Keller and Mount San Gorgonio.


7 APRIL 2021 W6/SC-237

With the weather so mild I wanted to get out and activate a summit before work on a Wednesday. I first visited this summit last year with only my dual band UHF/VHF Kenwood TH-F6A, so I decided to return with the HF gear.

I left the car as it was just starting to get light. It was so mild I didn’t even need a jacket.

There was a car parked about half-way up last time. It was still there, but this time all the windows were smashed out. The trailer and truck were still parked up in the saddle and I skirted around them again and joined up with the old Bodle Motorway above this property.

The bands weren’t in great shape at first, but I managed a few contacts on HF into the midwest. Switching over to 2m I made contact with some faithful chasers. I caught Mountain Goat Dan NA6MG at his home and we had a nice chat about Ortega Peak. He is going to try it next Monday. I also caught Bret K1BAA at home. These two guys are usually on a peak somewhere. It was good to catch up with Sergio WA6WV again, and, of course the ubiquitous K6LDQ checked in from Torrance. Thanks Jon.

Sandstone Peak behind me
Westlake Reservoir, Simi Peak, Cobblestone Mountain and the San Gabriels
Carefully wrapping up the station for smooth deployment next time

Peak 1,838

Some snapshots I took of some of the showier flowers lining the trail to Peak 1,838′


2 APRIL 2021 W6/SC-311

I’ve been hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains for 60 years and I have never managed to set foot on this particular corner of the range. That’s what I love about the Summits on the Air program and the Sierra Club’s Hundred Peaks Section. These endeavors motivate me to travel to obscure sections of the world that I might otherwise miss. My brother and I hiked up to the edge of San Nicholas Flat from Leo Carillo State Beach a few years ago, but I’ve never been above the flat like today’s hike.

This is a really easy hike: a little under a mile and only about 300 feet of elevation gain. The area had burned over two years ago in the Woolsey Fire, but many of the Coastal Live Oaks (Quercus agrifolia) are recovering nicely. As I made my way up the gently graded trail in the first light before dawn, I could see dozens and dozens of white White Morningglory flowers marking the edges of the trail.

Interestingly the geology of this mountain is entirely sedimentary. There are a few big sandstone boulders on the summit. To the north Boney Mountain and the misnamed Sandstone Peak (W6/CC-056) dominate the view. Sandstone Peak and Boney Mountain are entirely igneous rock – breccia mostly – there is no “sandstone” up there.

“Sandstone” Peak and Bony Mountain at sunrise

The HF bands were a bit tough at first. Scott WA9STI made contact first on 20m by using 900 watts I believe he said. He gave me a 33. No other takers on 20m, so I jumped down to 40m and only made one contact there. I heard Hal N6JZT on Occidental Peak on 2m, and with the help of Mike KI6SLA in Cerritos we managed a summit-to-summit. After that 20m improved a bit and I heard from Chris F4WBN in France. Chris gave me a 55 “with QSB.” I also worked Martha W0ERI in Kansas. I got one contact on 17m – David N6AN – summit-to-summit over on Flint Peak.

The station. That’s Clark’s Peak (W6/SC-292) above the bushes, behind me
A great view looking up the west fork of Arroyo Sequit. There is a large waterfall and a grotto up where the canyon goes through the rocky gate in the middle of this view
Looking south down to a stock tank on San Nicholas Flat
Sunrise over “Buzzards Roost” 2507 (W6/SC-229) and Castro Peak. The San Gabriel Mountains to the left
White Morning Glory (Calystegia macrostegia) along the trail
Lots of Purple Nightshade along the trail

Peak 9,465

Big Bear Lake from the summit. That’s Sugerloaf dominating the left side. You can see Mt. San Antonio an the big San Gabriels in the distance. Butler, Delamar and Bertha are all on the far side of the lake.


28 MARCH 2021 W6/CT-041

As brutal as the weather was last weekend on Circle Mountain, it was as fair for this pleasant hike. This was the last weekend to claim the winter bonus, plus I wanted to try out the new gaiters that Cassie KG6MZR gave me for my birthday while there was still some snow on the ground in this dry year.

The hike follows a disused jeep track along the ridge away from Onyx Summit. It would be a fairly easy hike most of the year, but with large patches of snow drifts on the north side of things and in the shade it was a bit of work. I gave my new gaiters a workout.

First time on for the new gaiters. Thanks Cassie!

The hike is about 3 miles to the summit with over 1,000 feet of elevation gain. I lost the old jeep trail a few times on the way up due to the snow and the scrub oak and other brush caused me to meander a bit. The hike goes through an amazing forest of ancient juniper trees. These incredible beings live for over 500 years. Judging from the size of some of the trunks I passed, I’m guessing some were close to 1,000 years old.

I pretty much stayed on route on the descent:

A brief note on the Gaia tracks: I don’t think they do a good job on the Z axis. Elevation gain/loss should be taken with a grain of salt.

Radio conditions were pretty tough with the CQ WPX SSB Contest raging. I did manage to make a few HF contacts on the SSB portions of 40m and 20m. 17m wasn’t in great shape, but I did get one contact there. My farthest contact was North Carolina.

Here’s the station with both Mount San Jacinto just visible through the trees behind the mast, and Mount San Gorgonio visible on the right.

There is a register on the summit and I was the first one to sign in this year. That could well be because it had been covered in snow during the winter months. The two registers went back to December 25th 2009. I was thinking about doing Constance Peak on the way out Highway 38, but after breaking through the softer afternoon snow on the way down, I was pretty tired for such a short hike.

Two massive trunks in the ancient juniper forest with the Antelope Valley in the distance
Another one of the amazing, ancient Juniper trees
Mount San Jacinto from the forested summit

Circle Mountain

A blustery day on the summit of Circle Mountain


20 MARCH 2021 W6/CT-071

Had I checked the NOAA website for the weather forecast for Circle Mountain, like I usually do, I probably would not have attempted to try it. The weather was slated to be fine in Topanga and I thought collecting my first winter bonus points at the end of the season would be easy. Wrong.

Conditions weren’t bad at the roadhead as I parked the car just as it was getting light. While it looks like there are NO PARKING signs, closer inspection reveals that this is just when “snow removal conditions exist.” There was still snow on the north-facing slopes, but the route up Circle is entirely south-facing and was free of snow. Trying out my new gaitors would have to wait.

When I got to the top, it was really howling. This was the most wind I’d experienced on any SOTA activation. My last trip up Circle Mountain was August 3rd, 1987. At that time there were a lot of large oak trees, but because of the recent fire, there was little wind protection.

I hunkered down behind some low growing regrowth and set up. It wasn’t too bad at ground level, but I’m guessing there were gusts in the 30-40 MPH range overhead. I went with the Packtenna end-fed random wire and the carbon fiber fishing pole at first and made a few QSOs, but the end of the antenna kept slipping off the end in the really big gusts.

After the third time the antenna came down, I figured I needed a better support to finish the activation. There were some large pine trees in the activation zone off the north side, but they offered very little ground level protection. I managed to set up there and the antenna stayed put anyway, but everything else kept blowing away. At one point my REI Big Boss Camp Chair blew a hundred yards or so down the mountain.

It was a trying activation.

I didn’t take many photos – it was too hectic.

On the way up.

After Circle Mountain, I attempted Table Mountain. I was kicked off the summit area by a security guard at the Caltech/NASA facility. I tried to sweet-talk my way into getting permission as KO6M managed to do on the initial activation in 2016. He wasn’t having any of it and insisted I needed prior written permission to be anywhere near the activation zone.

All-in-all it was my most trying SOTA day to date.

Peak 1,370

A view up Santa Paula Canyon of another of my favorite mountains, Hines Peak.


18 MARCH 2021 W6/SC-452

In trying to complete all the Santa Monica Mountains and summits adjacent, I set my sights on an unnamed elevation that I have never visited, Peak 1,370 out in the Conejo Valley.

The start of this hike is a little funny because you can’t park near the obvious closest roadhead at Via Bonita and Rancho Dos Vientos Drive. There is parking at Via Ricardo and Rancho Dos Vientos Drive.

The hike is about 1.5 miles with about 450 feet of elevation gain. Both Peak 1,370 and Conejo Mountain are outside the Dos Vientos Open Space and are on private property. Southern California Edison has posted NO TRESPASSING signs at the second gate where, technically, the private property begins.

I got to the summit about sunrise. There was a small, flat area to set up the station and a Toyon bush to tie the mast to. I made 12 contacts including Chris F4WBN in France and Lars SA4BLM in Sweden – a SOTA first for me. I had one summit-to-summit with David N6AN over on Flint Peak. That was the closest in the skip went. Nobody else in California and nobody on UHF/VHF FM. Regulars Gary and Martha (W0MNA and W0ERI) checked in along with Eric N0WAE in Montana. I also heard from Gary K6TCU in Pennsylvania among others who are fast becoming regular chasers. Thank you all.

The station

On the way down I took another route by the “Two Ponds” on the map. Both were drained I suspect because of the avian salmonellosis. It is recommended to empty birdbaths and feeders until May.

Edison’s sign at the second gate where the Dos Vientos Open Space ends.
Conejo Mountain and the Pacific Rock quarry operation in Camarillo
Cool view of the San Gabriel Mountains over Simi Peak from the summit. Strawberry and Lawlor are just over Simi. San Gabriel and the distinctive flat top of Mt Lowe are clearly visible along with the transmitters on Mt Wilson.
Round Mountain and the former state mental hospital in Camarillo. Santa Crux Island is barely visible in the haze.
La Jolla Peak and Laguna Mountain (with the radio towers)
Sign at Twin Ponds
Ladyface, Calabasas Peak and Saddle Peak
Another glorious sunrise.

More information on the SOTA program.