Cerro Grande

Cassie KG6MMZR and her old friend David make their way up the upper slopes of Cerro Grande. The magnificent Valle Grande and the rest of the Valles Caldera in the background, including the never-activated Redondo Peak (11,253 – W5N/SE-002)

12 JUNE 2021 W5N/SE-011

Satellite image of the Valles Caldera. The arrow points to Cerro Grande

Cerro Grande is part of the massive Valles Caldera – one of the largest young calderas on Earth. It was formed by a series of super-volcano eruptions about a million years ago. I have never been up in this area above Los Alamos and was looking forward to exploring this interesting region. Cassie (KG6MZR) and her old friend David Cunningham joined me on this fun activation.

The hike is about 2 miles to the summit on a well-graded trail with an elevation gain of just over 1,000′. This is one of the few peaks in New Mexico that you can park the car just off paved road at the trailhead. The summit is over 10,000′ high and the thin air was noticeable on the ascent

The activation was wildly successful with 18 contacts including 5 summit-to-summit contacts in North Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, California and New Mexico. I even managed to eke out a contact with Jon K6LDQ from Torrance. I heard Brian WA6JFK but unfortunately he could not hear me.

On the hike up with David
David taking in Vallis Grande. Redondo Peak is the large mountain on the other side
Cassie KG6MZR and David on the summit. Monsoon clouds building over Trucas Peak and the Sangre de Christo mountains to the east
The happy trio as Cassie KG6MZS takes the selfe
From the far distance the alpine meadows look colorless but up close they were blooming with wildflowers
Lilies everywhere
Cassie and David on the descent
Of course we had to stop by El Parasol in Española for their excellent tacos and pisole!

Fortynine Hill

Looking across the Encantada at Fortynine Hill. An Encantada, or “enchanted place,” are fossil lakes found in the deep American southwest and Baja California in the coniferous zones.

6 JUNE 2021 W7A/CS-023

Cassie and I spent a few days in Flagstaff, Arizona and thought about activating Elden Mountain and Bill Williams Mountain but settled on Fortynine Hill off an old, disused section of Route 66 that is now called Brannigan Park Road.

The hike we did up initially followed the fence line at the border of the public and private land, but upon returning, the jeep track that is just to the west of the cattle guard that marks the boundary of public and private lands is a better route. This leads up to a saddle between Fortynine Hill and the bump off to the west. From there follow the use/game trail up the ridge to the summit.

The hike is .8 miles and about 500′ of elevation gain. It gets a little steep in places if you can’t find the use trail, which is hard to follow as the thick forest of lodgepole pines makes getting your bearings tough.

Band conditions were poor. I only made 7 contacts all on 20m. Cell service from Verizon is excellent, as I would expect because this summit is just above I-40. We heard a lot of freight trains along the parallel path.

View from the top is limited by the thick forest of Lodge Pole Pines
KG6MZR takes this snap of me working 20m
Being a gentleman, I let KG6MZR have the REI Camp Boss chair and sat on a log to activate.
Mount Humphries, the highest point in Arizona, in the distance behind the road head parking
Some signs along the cross-country section of the route
The benchmark on the summit.

1821 Westlake 2

The view went from intensely colorful to perfectly colorless on this “May Gray” visit to 1,821′

14 MAY 2021 W6/CT-228

I left my house in Topanga at a quarter past five AM on a drizzly morning. The last time I headed for 1,821′, there had been a 21ºF gradient in Topanga Canyon. This time the deep marine layer kept the temperature within 2 degrees through the length and depth of Topanga Canyon. The sunrise was equally contrasted: last trip was a wild pallet of color, this trip was flat “May Gray.”

20 meters was in good shape, but I had no luck on the other bands. Florida was my furthest contact with John KI6EAB/W4, who was in California, but needed his remote station in Florida to hear me.

The lack of a view on this activation left me with taking shots of my station set up

Here is a wide view of the station. A bench on the summit made a fine table and mast support
It was pretty wet.
mast support
With the doublet the feedline needs to be elevated above ground and kept away from metal objects

Reyes Peak

Snow Flower (Sarcodes sanguinea) just starting to bloom on Reyes Peak

8 MAY 2021 W6/CC-005

I’d tried to hike up Reyes Peak late last year only to find that Pine Mountain Road was closed. This year it opened a bit early, so my brother Mark and I had a foggy mid-morning start up Highway 1 around Point Mugu. We left the marine layer stratus behind as we climbed Highway 33 out of Ojai.

The hike is short – just under a mile – with a little over 500′ of elevation gain. I had good reception from Verizon, but my brother did not have any reception with the same carrier. That one had us scratching our heads.

Radio conditions were pretty tough, but I did manage 11 contacts – including one summit-to-summit with N3BZ on Squaw Mountain in Arizona and a park-to-park with W0YES in North Dakota.

I first climbed Reyes Peak on April 25, 1981. I went back and did it again on the way to Haddock Mountain with Cassie KG6MZR and my faithful mountain dog, Chauncey Gardner. On this trip, the view of the Cuyama River Valley and Mount Pinos/Sawmill/Cerro Noestre to the north was quite clear. It was hazy to the south but there were great views of Hines Peak and the Topotopo Ridge, Ortega Peak and even breakers south of Ventura and Diablo Peak on Santa Cruz Island. Haddock Peak dominates the east with a nice view of Cobblestone Mountain just peeking through the trees.

This was a former fire lookout – circa 1925 – a 14′ x 14′ wooden structure that burned in the “rampaging Matilija Fire in September of 1932.” Very little remains.

The Reyes Peak Lookout

A bit of history from the Hundred Peaks Section:

“Named for Rafael Reyes (ca.1834-1890), who settled with his family at the mouth of Reyes Creek (1854). Drought forced them to move from their Rancho Triunfo (2 miles southeast of Thousand Oaks) to the Cuyama Valley in search of better grazing conditions. They managed to transfer 2000 cattle and 1000 horses through the Tejon Pass.

He is also remembered for his odd insistence that his was the property that once contained the fabulous Lost Padres Mine! But alas, he swore that its (imaginary?) deposits of limitless silver and gold dropped before his very eyes into cavernous fissures that opened and closed during a series of earthquakes before he could exploit his find.

Jacinto Reyes, his son, was almost as legendary as USFS District Ranger of the old Santa Barbara National Forest (1901-32). He became known as the “Dean of California Rangers”. In those days it sometimes took ten days for messages to get through to his remote post in Cuyama, but Reyes and his famous mule (who would work for no other), were frequently at the center of daring rescues and famous manhunts. In 1910 alone he almost single-handedly planted 163 acres with Jeffrey Pine in the Lockwood and Piru areas.”

The station looking south.
The rocky peak down the ridge is Haddock Mountain. The Topotopo Ridge and Hines Peak are to the right and you can just see Cobblestone Mountain to the left through the trees
Evidence of Scott’s WA9STI SOTA activation last year. The registers went back to 2016.
Cuyama Peak and Caliente Mountain in the distance to the northwest.

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

UPDATE 11 MARCH 2022 – after seeing AJ6KZ’s post about the locked gate I returned to Bodle Peak to find the route listed below still wide open with no private property signs posted anywhere. I think perhaps AJ6KZ was talking about the driveway to the east or perhaps even the Las Virginis Municipal Water District’s access up the old Bodle Peak Motorway even further to the east. Here is my latest trip up Bodle Peak 10 March 2022

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