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!

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Camping on a Summit (again!): Mount Stevenson, W6/SS-399

Quick Info:

Activation Date: 16-17 May 2020
Transport: HikeDistance: 4.2 miles
Elev. Gain: 800 feetTime: 1.75 hours
Rig(s): FT-891, MTR-3BBands: 160–2m, CW, SSB, FM
Antenna(s): Random Wire, EFHWAntenna Support: Many Trees
RF Noise: LowCell Service: Good (T-Mobile)

In need of some fresh air, and trying to keep with my self-imposed goal of some kind of camping at least once per month this year (including once in the back yard due to COVID), I decided to do a quick overnight trip to this summit. I wasn’t able to find a whole lot of information on it, so I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to make it to the summit. As it turned out, there weren’t any issues.

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Camping on a Summit: Willson Peak, W6/NC-182

Quick info:

Activation Date: 04-05 January 2020
Transport: HikeDistance: 9.2 miles
Elev. Gain: 2,250 feetTime: 3.5 hours
Rig(s): FT-891Bands: 160–20m, CW+SSB
Antenna(s): Random WireAntenna Support: Some oaks
RF Noise: LowCell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)

I’m always trying to combine radio fun with my various outdoor activities—including backpacking and camping. But for quite a while, I’ve wanted to do a camping/backpacking trip with the primary purpose being radio fun—on a summit! With the SOTA “Flavours” Challenge 2020 going on, I also needed to get some contacts made on 160 and/or 80 meters—bands that work best at night. So, without much planning, I decided to do a quick overnight trip! Henry Coe State Park has lots of backcountry campsites, and also allows dispersed backpack camping in all but the western section of the park.

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Waterhouse Peak, W6/NS-092

Quick info:

Activation Date: 6 April 2019
Transport: Hike/snowshoeDistance: 4 miles
Elev. Gain: 1,750 feetTime: 3 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3BBands: 40m, 20m (cw)
Antenna(s): EFHWAntenna Support: Good trees
RF Noise: LowCell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)

I’ve been wanting to do this one for a long time!  I’d been camping/backpacking in the snow nearby, three times in the past three years. Each time, I’d loosely intended to climb and activate this summit, approaching from the southwest. It never quite worked out.  So I decided to make a trip up to the South Lake Tahoe area just to get Waterhouse Peak.

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Chalk Mountain, W6/NC-521

Quick info

Activation Date: 7 November 2018
Transport: Trail RunDistance: 5.5 miles
Elev. Gain: 1850 feetTime: 1.5 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3BBands: 30m, 20m, 40m (cw)
Antenna(s): EFHWAntenna Support: Trees
RF Noise: LowCell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)

I got this mid-week run done while staying in Santa Cruz for a week. I took the day off in the middle of the week for other reasons, and did this little trail run bright and early. Chalk Mountain used to have a fire lookout and now lies within the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. It’s beautiful!

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Peak 8580, W6/ND-028

Quick info:

Activation Date: 14 October 2018
Transport: Hike (off-trail)Distance: 1.7 miles
Elev. Gain: 870 feetTime: 1.75 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3BBands: 30m (cw)
Antenna(s): EFHWAntenna Support: Bring your own
RF Noise: Very LowCell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)

This summit was on the way back from the mini SOTA expedition Jamie N6JFD and I did mid-October of 2018. I’m writing this in April 2019 and back-posting it since I realized I never got around to writing it up last year, so some of the detail may be missing. The summit hadn’t yet been activated, and it was directly on our route back from Nevada, right off the highway. Research showed there wouldn’t be any hinderances to access, other than it being in the middle of nowhere.

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Red Star Ridge – W6/NS-396

Activation Date: 1 September 2018
Transport: Drive/Hike Distance: 1.2 miles
Elev. gain: 280 feet Time: 25-30 minutes
Rig(s): MTR-3B Band(s): 40m, 20m, 30m (cw)
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave
Cell Service: Fair (T-Mobile)
Parking: Junction of FS96 and Tevis Cup Trail
Trailhead: Tevis Cup Trail, Red Star Ridge
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Take trail up several switchbacks, then off-trail to summit
Dogs: Yes Toilet: Yes
Antenna Support: Tall trees RF Noise: Very Low

I usually try to squeeze in a little SOTA action on most of my trips, even if they’re not SOTA-related.  I have an annual group camping trip my family and several other families go on.  This year, it was at an area called “French Meadows” tucked away in the wilderness east of Lake Tahoe. I looked at a few different summits. Originally, I was planning on getting a more difficult one, but the more I looked at it, the more it looked like an all-day excursion—not very good when I’m supposed to be with my friends and family.  I ended up setting my sights on this one—a previous un-activated drive-up summit with a very short hike.  But the road to it is a rough one!

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Lowell Hill Ridge – W6/NS-306

Activation Date: 25 August 2018
Transport: Drive/Hike Distance: 0.9 miles
Elev. gain: 140 feet Time: 20 minutes
Rig(s): FT-891 Band(s): 40m, 20m (cw)
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave
Cell Service: Fair (T-Mobile)
Parking: Wide spot in the road
Trailhead: N/A
Fees/Permits: None
Route: South from parking, turn east up overgrown road, find trail thru woods
Dogs: Yes Toilet: Yes
Antenna Support: Trees – lots RF Noise: Low

This was the second (and final) summit of the day with my boys and the dogs, after Grouse Ridge.  I had an optional third one planned, but things always take longer when kids and dogs are involved!  This summit is another easy one, with most of the difficulty being the drive there. It’s something that could theoretically be done in a sedan (as Jeff AA6XA can attest), but I’d definitely feel more comfortable getting here in a higher clearance vehicle, ideally with AWD.  That’s what I did for this trip.

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Grouse Ridge – W6/NS-195

Activation Date: 25 August 2018
Transport: Drive/Hike Distance: 0.5 miles
Elev. gain: 180 feet Time: 10-15 minutes
Rig(s): MTR-3B, FT-891 Band(s): 40m (cw+ssb), 20m (cw)
Antenna(s): Linked Dipole – 40/20m
Cell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)
Parking: End of Grouse Ridge Road
Trailhead: N/A
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Go up the road, past the gate
Dogs: Yes Toilet: Yes
Antenna Support: Some trees below summit / lookout RF Noise: Low

This was the first summit of two for the day. Being just a little bit crazy, I decided I’d take my two sons and our two dogs up to the Sierras for a day of SOTA fun. I wanted to do summits that involved little to no hiking, to save time and make it easy on the boys and our older dog.  Also, I really wanted to get this summit done after missing an opportunity to get it last year.  So up we went!

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Little Round Top – W6/NS-087

Activation Date: 4 August 2018
Transport: Hike/Run Distance: 11.3 miles
Elev. gain: 2,380 feet Time: 3.3 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3B, VX-2R Band(s): 40m (cw), 2m (fm)
Antenna(s): QRPGuys Tri-band Vertical
Cell Service: None (T-Mobile)
Parking: Big Meadow Tahoe Rim Trail Trailhead or Meiss Trailhead
Trailhead: Big Meadow TRT
Fees/Permits: None
Route: TRT to PCT to Schneider Camp
Dogs: Yes Toilet: No
Antenna Support: Short trees RF Noise: Low

On a backpacking trip with some friends, I planned this beautiful Sierra summit as a little side-trip for one of the mornings. Last time I’d come to Round Lake, I did Red Lake Peak and Stevens Peak.  This time around, I wanted to get another unique summit in the log, and do something a bit easier.  This isn’t an easy summit, but it isn’t super hard, either!

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