Rex, KE6MT, sitting atop Mount Gibbs operating radio, with Mount Dana and other peaks in the background

Another Backcountry Activation: Mount Gibbs, W6/SS-101

Quick Info:

Activation Date: 19 August 2023Summit: W6/SS-101
Transport: Hiking, Class 2 steep off-trailDistance: 5.4 miles
Elev. Gain: 2450 feetTime: 4.5 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3B, VX-6RBands: 40m CW
Antenna(s): Tri-band EFHWAntenna Support: Mast in rocks
RF Noise: NoneCell Service: Marginal to None (T-Mobile)

This is the second summit I did on this backpacking trip. We did Mount Lewis the afternoon before, and got a much earlier start for this one, knowing there would again be a chance of bad weather later in the day. I had originally thought about doing this summit as a combo on my way into the area for our backpacking trip. I was going to ascend Mount Dana, then traverse over to Mount Gibbs, finally descending from there to our camp at Upper Sardine Lake. Though I only slightly doubted my ability to do so with a 40-pound backpack on, in the end I decided not to do it that way since I wanted to hike in with the rest of the 4-person group I was camping with.

Our camp at Upper Sardine Lake was quite pleasant and the hike in went smoothly from the Mono/Parker Pass trailhead in Yosemite NP. The other way to get to Upper Sardine Lake is via the Bloody Canyon trail, but that route is harder, and apparently had been blocked by avalanche debris over the winter.

sunrise from above our camp. looking toward Mono Lake in the distance, Lower Sardine Lake in the foreground.

Getting There

There aren’t any trails up Mount Gibbs. The route we took started at our Upper Sardine Lake camp and we turned right/north to start heading up to the ridge leading to Mount Gibbs. The distances I’ve given at the beginning of the post are from my camp. You’ll have different routes and distances coming from other starting points. For example, going up the northwest ridge, it’s about 6 miles round trip from the Mono/Parker Pass Trailhead just inside Yosemite.

Parking: Mono/Parker Pass Trailhead
Trailhead: Mono/Parker Pass
Fees/Permits: Only if staying overnight – Yosemite Wilderness Permit
Route: Direct cross-country
Dogs: No | Toilet: Only at the trailhead
first light of the day at the beautiful Upper Sardine Lake

After enjoying the sunrise and a light breakfast at camp, my friend Drew and I set out for Mount Gibbs. The other two people in our group stayed behind to relax and do some fishing. The weather was mostly clear and quite pleasant as we made our way up the trail toward Mono Pass Lake. Just past the lake, we turned right and started heading up. The incline starts steep and gets steeper. Initially, there are grasses and such, but then it turns into small to medium talus the rest of the way.

headed up toward Mount Gibbs. This is the easy part.

We took it nice and easy going up – we weren’t in any particular hurry since the weather was fair and looked like it would be staying that way for a while. Though he’s in excellent cardio shape from bike racing, Drew wasn’t used to such steep, uneven terrain. We both made our way carefully up the mountain, slowly shredding our shoes in the rough rocks that always seem to move when you least expect it.

continuing to make our way up the side of the mountain

After a good 90 minutes of slogging up the talus, we finally started to gain the ridge and catch sight of Mount Gibbs itself.

first sight of Mount Gibbs
looking back down at Mono and Parker passes

Once we gained the ridge, the going was relatively easy. The terrain was still quite rough, but not nearly as steep. With more level terrain, the rocks tend to settle in quite a bit more as well – so we made pretty good time toward the summit at this point.

travelling along the ridge toward Mount Gibbs

Before we knew it, we were at the top!

Operation on Mount Gibbs

There’s a nice rock windbreak at the top, we settled in there, after changing into a dry shirt and having a snack. Then I signed the summit register and started setting up.

summit register on Mount Gibbs

Once I got on the air, Drew snapped some photos and then he took a nap in the pleasantly warm sun.

KE6MT operating SOTA on Mount Gibbs – photo by Drew Noel

Since we had a bit more time than the summit the day before (Mount Lewis), I took the time to work all three bands available to me on the MTR 3B, as well as a couple of contacts on 2-meter FM. In all, I ended up with 14 contacts – 3 of which were summit-to-summit. I always love getting those ones.

With all of that wrapped up, we started our descent. We took a slightly different, longer route on the way back.

making our way back down to Mono Pass – enjoying the scenery!

We did get rained on a bit, shortly after getting back down to the trail. Nothing too crazy. When we got back to camp and finished having lunch, I had a gut feeling I should check the weather. I pulled a weather report on my Garmin InReach and determined there was a pretty major storm system making its way in. So rather than leave the next day soaking wet, we decided to pack up and hike out. It was absolutely dumping rain by the time we returned to our cars. All in all, a wonderful trip!

Activation Log

17:44K6EL40mCWS2S W6/NC-298
17:45N6AN40mCWS2S W6/CT-226
17:51KT0A40mCWS2S W0D/BB-060


Download file: mount-gibbs-sota.gpx