Tuesday, June 19, 2018

W7N/CK-228

This low peak is south of Las Vegas, very close to I-15. I used the trailhead and route described by others. I parked near the corner of Cameron St and Roark Ave near the Army Reserve Center, and followed the dirt road that continued off of Cameron.
First bend in the road. Army center with summit behind.
There are a number of dirt roads in the open area before you enter the canyon. There is no route through this area that is obviously better, so just head into the canyon. I had to detour a bit to stay outside of the Army's area. Once you enter the canyon there is only the road and train tracks.
Height of land in the canyon, shortly before the turn off.
A short distance past the height of land in the canyon there is a turn off for the access road that takes you to the summit. It continues up and away from the peak, then turns around in a switchback and heads towards the summit. The road is on the south side of the hill, overlooking the canyon you just walked up in. The road is well graded, and I made good time up to the summit.
Looking back at the switchback.
The road ends at the towers, but the high point is just beyond, outside of the fenced area. I climbed up the final few feet and found a place to set up. No good table-like rocks to sit on. I started on 17 meters and worked my way down the bands. Conditions were not great, but I didn't have to struggle for contacts. I was able to get a summit-to-summit with Jamie, N6JFD up in the Tahoe area on 40.
The view of Las Vegas from the summit.
Before I packed up I checked SotaWatch and saw that there were some activators in New Mexico, and was able to work them on 30 and 20 meters for two more S2S contacts. By this point I was getting hot, so I packed up and retraced my steps back to the car. As I was descending, still near the top, and train went by on the tracks. When I got back down to the road in the canyon, another train went by.
The second train goes by.
Back at the car I cranked up the AC and headed back to the hotel for a shower and some lunch.

Trailhead: I parked at the corner of Cameron St and Roark Ave
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Follow the dirt roads into the canyon. Just past the height of land, take the tower access road up the hill to the summit.
Red Tape: Don't trespass on the army base. The route I took appears to be completely on BLM land, but there are lots of pockets of private land in the area.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

W7N/CK-177 Red Benchmark

This peak is right on the edge of the Red Rock Canyon area outside of Las Vegas. The best place to start seems to be at the Red Rock sign. There is a large pullout here where people like to stop and take pictures with the sign. I parked at the end of the pullout, then crossed the road. After a short road walk I turned up the hill. You could go up sooner, but there is a very steep embankment. If you cross the cattle guard, you have gone down the road too far.
A few feet up the hill. Cattle guard, with the red rock hills in the distance.
There are a few sub peak that you have to climb over or around on the way to the summit. The slope up to the first is a nice grade, with good footing. When I got near the top I could start to hear the shooting at the gun range on the other side of the hill. This was a constant annoyance the entire time.
Taking a breather on the way up.
After the first knob the ridge is fairly flat for a distance then starts going up again. There were some cliffs around the next knob, but they were easy to avoid by staying on the ridge. I did some side hill around the top of the sub-peak, and got to the col between Red BM and Pk 3853.
Looking at the peak, from the last col.
From here it looked like the easiest way up was to ascend the dry streambed. This took me directly to the summit plateau. I found the benchmark, then found a nice rock to sit on and got set up. It was the day of the VHF contest, but I was up early, so I started on HF. Someone on the Slack group had said that 17 was open, so I started there.
One of the cliffs on the summit.
I made a bunch of contacts, then went down to 20, then 40, where I made one each. By this point the contest had started, so I got out the HT and started calling on the FM calling frequencies. I was surprised how little activity there was. After two hours, I only made 11 VHF contacts. If I had been in the Bay Area I would have made many many more. Despite the dismal results on VHF, I made some more HF contacts when I got bored of yelling into the microphone.
Mt Potosi on the left. Mountain Springs BM is one of the peaks in there.
After about 2.5 hours on the summit I decided I had had enough, so I packed up and retraced my steps back to the car. It had gotten windy while I was on top, but not as much as when I was over near Hoover Dam. The footing was very good, not many areas of loose sand or gravel to slip on.

Trailhead: Pullout at the Red Rock sign.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Go cross country up the ridge.
Red Tape: Don't go down the wrong side of the mountain or you'll end up on private land or worse, a gun range.
Interesting rock on the way down.

Friday, June 8, 2018

W7N/CK-171 Red Rock Canyon Peak 4109

This peak is a relatively easy hike near the town of Blue Diamond, in the Red Rock Canyon area near Las Vegas. I parked in a paved pullout on Arroyo Road, before reaching any of the houses. From here I started following a wash up towards the peak. At the bottom of the slope, I went up.
A short distance up, looking down at the car.
There are a number of cliffs and steep bits, but it was easy to find a way up to the top. After I had ascended a few hundred feet I found a use trail that followed the edge of the cliff, I took the trail and it brought me right to the summit. There was lots of evidence of horses or burros.
Looking West towards Potosi Mountain and Mountain Springs BM.
On top I set up my mag loop and got on the air. Twenty meters was in really good shape, and I made nearly 20 contacts easily, including three summit-to-summits. Since 20 was so good I decided to try 17, and made another half dozen contacts, some much closer than I would have expected. I then spent some time calling on 30 and 40, but only made one on each.
Frenchman and Frenchman NW visible across Las Vegas through the haze.
I had been monitoring the SOTA-NA Slack group, and someone mentioned that 10 meters might be open, so I went up and made three contacts, including one to Texas. I could have made one more, but the person was sending with a big swing and no space between characters, and I couldn't figure out his callsign.
Sloan Canyon area. Rattlesnake Mtn, Black Mtn, McCullough Wilderness HP, Sutor BM, Pk 3970.
I finished up on 15, getting one final contact. By this point my radio was getting very hot and I was getting hungry, so I decided to head back down. Instead of going cross country, like I had on the way up, I followed the trail that went along the edge of the cliffs. This was a slightly longer route, but it was easy to follow and descend. There were a few points where it looked like it would end in a cliff, but someone had found ways around.
Following the wash at the bottom.
At the bottom of the hill the trail crosses a wash, but I turned and followed the wash back to near my car. I had to do a little more cross country, but I managed to pop out of the brush at the pullout where I had parked. I saw a lot of use trails near the bottom of the mountain, and some of them may be good routes up the mountain. Have fun exploring!

Trailhead: Paved pullout on Arroyo Road, near Blue Diamond.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Go cross country up to the summit, or try and find a use trail that takes you there.
Red Tape: None.
Looking to the colorful Red Rock cliffs. The slope on the right goes up to Blue Diamond Hill.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

W7N/CK-182 Frenchman Mountain North West

I activated this peak on my way down from Frenchman Mountain. From the parking area, take the road up to the top of the second climb. From here you will have to go cross country up to the summit.
Face of the mountain from the col.
On the way up I angled up, following a faint use trail. After gaining a bit of elevation I went straight up to the flat area on the summit ridge. In this flat area I found a cairn and a more heavily used use trail. I followed the use trail along the ridge up to the summit.
Almost at the summit.
There are a few knife-edge like sections leading up to the summit, but nothing terrible. The climb up to the flat area is a class 2/3, depending on your route. On the summit I set up under the tripod and got on the air. The conditions were bad on Frenchman Mountain, and they were even worse up here. I struggled to get my four contacts. I managed one on 40, none on 30, and then got W0MNA and W0ERI on 20. After changing frequencies to avoid a QSO, I finally got two more. There was really deep QSB, and no propagation.
Looking over to Lake Mead.
After I got the last contact I packed up and headed down, glad that I had gotten the points for the summit. I followed the herd path back to the flat area on the ridge, then noticed the cairn was marking a different path down. I decided to take this path, which descended directly to the col with a lot of small switchbacks. It was still steep, but probably better than the way I had gone up. I would recommend this route for up and down.
Some encouragement on the way up.
The road was still steep, but I made good time back to the trailhead and car, passing someone else who was on his way up.

Trailhead: Pullout off of NV 147, at the base of the access road.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Take the road to the col at the top of the second climb. Go up the ridge to the summit, following faint use trails.
Red Tape: None.
Canyon at the bottom of the second climb.

W7N/CK-175 Frenchman Mountain

This mountain has a number of towers on the top, so there is an access road that goes to the summit. The trailhead is at the height of land on NV 147, to the east of the city. There is a large dirt lot, with plenty of space to park.
Looking up at the first climb.
There are three climbs to get to the summit. The first one is not so bad, a bit steep. At the top is a relatively flat section is a canyon, then a steep climb with some switchbacks to the Frenchman NW col. The trail is an access road for the summit, but it is the steepest road I can remember being on. It would take a high clearance vehicle with some extra low gears to make it to the top.
Top of the first climb, looking at the second.
At the top of the second climb I caught up to two guys who weren't going any farther. They seemed impressed that I had gotten up so quickly, and that I was continuing on to the summit. After a quick drink of water I set off down into the key col. This descent wasn't as steep as the ascents I had done so far.
In the deep col, contemplating my life choices.
This last climb was steep. If the top of the mountain was a little less steep, they probably wouldn't have put in any switchbacks. It was hot, but I did make it to the top. The towers are fenced off, so I found a flat slab of concrete to sit on and got set up. The conditions were terrible, and I only made seven contacts. There must have been something in the concrete too, because I had trouble getting a good match on the mag loop.
End of the road.
I didn't even try VHF, I assumed there would be too much RF from all the towers to make it fun. Once I was done I packed up and headed down. The road was slick in places where there was a lot of sand, but I made it down to the key col without falling. I climbed back up to the top of the second climb, and turned off to get Frenchman Mountain NW.

Trailhead: Pullout off of NV 147, at the base of the access road.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Take the road to the summit.
Red Tape: None.
Contemplating the ridge hike to the next summit.