Eastern Sierra Fun: Mount Gould, W6/SS-066

Quick Info:

Activation Date: 20 June 2020
Transport: HikeDistance: 1.5–11 miles
Elev. Gain: 1200–3400 feetTime: 1.5–5 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3BBands: 40, 30, 20m CW, 2m FM
Antenna(s): Tri-band EFHWAntenna Support: None
RF Noise: LowCell Service: Fair (T-Mobile)

It’s good to get out and get some fresh air once in a while. Even if the air is a little thin! Having been invited by Adam K6ARK on a trip to the Eastern Sierra was something I just couldn’t turn down. The plan was to hike up from the Onion Valley trailhead and camp at a lake, and do a few summits while we’re up there. We ended up just doing this one, but a fun one it was!

Getting There

Parking: Onion Valley Rd / Kearsarge Pass
Trailhead: Stevenson Mountain
Day Use: None.
Overnight: Hard to get – quota system – $5/ea – reservations.gov
Route: Kearsarge Pass Trail, then summit direct
Dogs: Yes | Toilet: Yes

We were all coming from different places (and couldn’t go together anyway, due to “social distancing”). I drove over from the SF Bay Area, with Adam and others driving up from SoCal. Our trip was Friday thru Sunday, but I left Thursday night in order to get a head-start on the 7+ hour drive. I went via Sonora Pass and actually slept there, at ~9600 feet, in order to start acclimating to the altitude. I woke with a pretty strong headache – mission accomplished!

After enjoying a beautiful sunrise in the mountains, I hit the road again.

Sunrise at Sonora Pass

I stopped at an excellent spot for a coffee and breakfast sandwich, the “Latte Da Cafe” in Lee Vining. And I’d originally planned on stopping at Erick Schat’s Bakery in Bishop, but on Adam’s advice, I avoided that tourist destination and got myself some beyond-excellent sandwiches at Great Basin Bakery, just down the street.

Continuing south on Highway 395 (what a beautiful road!), I got to the town of Independence, turned right on Market Street, which shortly thereafter turns into Onion Valley Road. Following that all the way to the top, I made it to the parking area for the trailhead. And boy, it was full! I did manage to find a spot after a little bit of looking. I met up with Adam and crew, then we hiked to camp!

The Hike

Since we were camping, we started our hike at the lake. If you’re doing this as a day trip, you’ve got a longer (11-ish miles) hike ahead of you. Ours ended up being around 4.5 miles or so.

Starting at the lake

Starting out with a gentle scramble up to the Kearsarge Pass Trail, we could tell it was going to be a fine day. Our plan was to do Mount Gould, then see if we felt like going over to nearby Mount Rixford. After a short distance on the trail, our summit was in sight.

Heading up the Kearsarge Pass Trail towards Mount Gould

We were taking it pretty easy going up the trail, enjoying the scenery. I was definitely feeling the fact that we were over 11k feet. The scenery itself was absolutely breathtaking.

Big Pothole Lake

Before long, we arrived at Kearsarge Pass, where we took a sharp right and proceeded to head straight for the summit.

The terrain leading to the summit is pretty straightforward – a light class 2 climb up the ridge to the summit.

Heading up the ridge to Mount Gould

Nearing the top, the views really start to open up. I couldn’t resist turning around to soak in the views of the surrounding mountains and lakes.

Big Pothole Lake with University Peak in the background

Arriving at the top, there’s a little bit of a (narrow) plateau.

Arriving at the summit plateau

The actual summit block is just a little bit further, and requires a class 3–4 climb to the top. I wanted to go up there, but I decided to save it for later—just before we left.

The summit block of Mount Gould

By this time, I’d gotten a good look at what the effort to get over to Mount Rixford would be. Adam and I discussed and agreed we’d probably just stay at Mount Gould longer, making it our only summit for the day. We took a moment to enjoy the views, then proceeded to set up our radio equipment!

Setup and Operation

Since we had another ham back at camp, Dennis KA6DUH, Adam and I both made contact with him on our HT’s as our first contact for the activation.

Adam and I discussed our operating plans on the way up, and having arrived, finalized our plans. I’d be setting up and operating on HF first, with Adam setting up his home-brew beam antenna and getting some long-range VHF contacts!

Adam K6ARK doing some long-distance VHF contacts

I set up my little MTR-3B radio, with my trapped EFHW antenna, and decided I’d focus mostly on making summit-to-summit (S2S) contacts. I made a couple of those, then put out a spot on SOTAWatch to make some regular contacts. After those dried up, I went back to chasing S2S and got a bunch more. I think I ended up getting a record number of S2S contacts (for me) at 8 total summit-to-summit contacts.

By then, Adam had moved on to HF (and he moved away from my position on the summit so we wouldn’t have interference). I got another contact on 2 meters FM, then put out another SOTA spot – this time for 30 meters. I made several more contacts there.

Looking down into Kings Canyon National Park from my operating position

Once we were all wrapped up with our radio operation, we went to go climb the actual summit block. Here’s a video of that fun little climb, courtesy of Adam K6ARK:

Activation Log

17:21N1CLC20mCWS2S W6/CT-010
17:32KE7BGM40mCWS2S W7A/CS-018
18:16K5DEZ20mCWS2S W5N/PW-013
18:24NM5S30mCWS2S W5N/PW-013
18:54N7CW20mCWS2S W7A/AW-006
18:58WY7N40mCWS2S W7U/TO-008
19:07AE7AP20mCWS2S W7M/CL-030
19:09WC6J20mCWS2S W6/NS-122