Tuesday, August 7, 2018

W6/NS-306 Lowell Hill Ridge

This peak is an easy drive up. From CA 20 Turn onto Last Chance Mine Road, FS 20-16, and head up the hill. The dirt road is rough, but my little car was able to make it. There were a few sandy sections that had me worried, but I was able to get through them.
The walking part.
Just outside the activation zone the road veers left, and a rougher road continues straight. I had had enough driving, so I parked and proceeded on foot. If you had high clearance you could drive to the top. The summit area is very flat, and I tagged the summit then returned to nearer the car where I had seen some good places to set up. In a large pullout next to the road I strung up my EFHW.
On the air.
There is no view, so I enjoyed the solitude of the woods as I operated. HF got many of the usual chasers. I called on VHF but didn't get any response. It had been a long day, and I was getting tired, so I packed up and headed back to the car for the long drive home.

Trailhead: Last Chance Mine Road.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Drive into the AZ. Set up.
Red Tape: None.
Off trail, somewhere near the summit.

W6/NS-181 Donner Ridge

Donner Ridge is an easy peak on the outskirts of Truckee, just north of the highway. The best trailhead is the Glacier Peak TH. The lot was full when I arrived in the early afternoon, but there were still a few open spots.
Starting up the trail.
The trail is a fire road which appears to be used as a cross-country ski trail in the winter. It was wide and easy. Stay on the main trail until it turns to the left and starts going downhill. There is a less worn trail that leaves straight ahead. This goes up to the summit.
A young deer at the summit.
To get to the highest point, push through the brush to the clear area. The trail goes through the activation zone. At the top I looked around for a good place to set up, and found one with good views. It was still quite breezy, but the tree I strapped my pole to held up well.
Great views from the summit.
I worked the usual bands, but 20 was really noisy and I gave up on it after a few contacts. Other than that it was a great activation on a beautiful afternoon.

Clouds on the way back to the car.

Trailhead: Glacier Peak.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Go up the road. Where the trail turns left and down, go straight onto the new trail. Goes to the summit.
Red Tape: None. Might need a pass in the winter.
Set up on the summit.

Monday, August 6, 2018

W6/NS-076 Thimble Peak

This was the third peak Jamie, N6JFD, and I had done, after Round Top and Peak 9795. From the summit of Melissa Coray Peak, we descended to the col with Covered Wagon Peak. There was a marker here noting that this was the highest point of any of the pioneer wagon routes across the Sierra.
Historical Marker.
The next section was one of the hardest of the day. We followed a trail around the north side of Covered Wagon Peak, but the trail dropped down to Kirkwood. So instead we contoured across a steep scree/talus slope. With my hiking poles I made good time, but Jamie was slower, only having two feet. In the col we stopped for a breather, and noticed that it was getting much smokier.
Covered Wagon Peak, flanked by 9795 on the left and Melissa Cora on the right.
The slope up to the summit got steeper as we approached the top of the lift. Past the Ski Patrol hut it got even steeper, becoming class 2-3. There were some faint use trails, and in the end it wasn't as bad as I feared it might be.
Almost to the top. The summit is to the right of the cliff.
There was plenty of space in the activation zone to set up in, and we were able to get enough separation we could both do HF. I setup past the summit, using some krummholz to hold up my pole. Even better, there was a perfect rock for sitting nearby.
First view of Silver Lake as the smoke began to clear. Thunder Mountain on the right.
I started on 40, but only managed two contacts. After switching to 30 I got three more. The 222+ contest was still going on, but I only managed two more contacts with the same station as on 9795. After we had worked everyone, the smoke had cleared and we packed up. I scrambled up to the summit while Jamie finished. As we were leaving the summit, I turned around and saw the smoke from a new fire near Sonora Pass.
Lots of new smoke.
We then descended across the back of the ridge towards Thunder Mountain. After passing the second ski lift, we found the trail marked on the map and took it up towards the summit.
Looking back at Thimble Mountain.
Mokelumne Peak was very distinct in the distance.
I had wanted to tag the summit since it is the Amador County high point. We found a very distinct use trail and took it up to the top. There was no register, but we took some pictures and enjoyed being the highest people in the county.
The ridge we took down.
The sun was starting to set, so we hoofed it down. There was a bit of an uphill over a ridge, then the long descent to Carson Spur.
Kirkwood Lake hidden in the forest.
We stopped occasionally to take in the view, but didn't linger anywhere. The whole area is beautiful, and one could spend all day hiking one of these peaks.

Trailhead: Carson Pass
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Take the PCT and other trails towards Round Top Lake. Continue around to the col with Fourth of July Peak. Climb over the peak, then up to the summit of 9795. Cross over to Melissa Coray Peak, then down and around Covered Wagon Peak. Up the ridge to the summit. An shorter route starts at Carson Spur.
Red Tape: None.
On the way up Thunder Peak is a cave in the rock.


This unnamed peak is northeast of Melissa Coray Peak, and just a little higher, making it the SOTA summit. Jamie, N6JFD, and I came here after climbing Round Top. From Round Top Lake, we took the trail around the Sisters to the col with Fourth of July Peak.
Taking a breather on the way up Fourth of July Peak, with Round Top and the Sisters watching.
Here we stepped off the trail, and quickly found a use trail that we took to the summit. We thought we might be able to contour around the summit, but the routes looked steep and difficult. So we just went over. On the summit we didn't find a register, so we dropped down to the next col. It was easy to see some routes up the side of the mountain to the ridge, then the summit.
Last push up to the ridge.
As we were heading up the face, we heard Rex, KE6MT, say that he was on his summit, Little Round Top across the valley. We let him know that we were almost at our summit, and pushed up to the top. After scrambling up to the high point, I found a comfortable area to sit, and got set up for HF. Jamie decided to do a VHF only activation.
What a great place to sit and play radio.
 I did not have any cell service where I was sitting, but RBN spotted me. The bands didn't seem to be in great shape, but I managed enough contacts on HF. I then got a summit-to-summit with Rex just before he hiked down. The 222+ contest was also going on, but I only got one contact on 222 and 446, with the same station.
The Nipple, with Jeff Davis just to the left.
As we were on the summit, it started to get smoky, but not as bad as it was the day before on Markleeville. We still had quite a bit of ridge to traverse, so we didn't linger. After packing up we crossed the shallow col to the summit of Melissa Coray Peak, where there is a marker and a weather station. The last peak of the day was Thimble Peak, a short distance away.

Thimble Peak, peak number 3.
Trailhead: Carson Pass
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Take the PCT and other trails towards Round Top Lake. Continue around to the col with Fourth of July Peak. Climb over the peak, then up to the summit of 9795.
Red Tape: None.
Marker at the Summit of Melissa Coray Peak.

W6/NS-055 Round Top

Round Top was the first of three peaks I did on the Caples Lake Traverse with Jamie, N6JFD. After dropping off a car at the Thunder Mountain Trailhead at Carson Spur, we drove back up to Carson Pass. A few minutes after 7 we started down the PCT towards Winnemucca Lake.
Round Top, peeking through the trees.
The trail is easy and well traveled, and we made good time to Frog Lake. There was a thermal inversion which was holding the smoke in the valleys, so the views got clearer the higher we got.
Jamie pointing out all the peaks.
Another mile down the trail and we got to Winnemucca Lake. This area looks like it would be really nice to spend the night in. We paused for a few photos, then continued up to Round Top Lake.
Winnemucca Lake with Elephants Back on the left.
Just before we got to Round Top Lake we stepped off the trail and started ascending a ridge, up towards the peak. After climbing around some small trees, we found the use trail that leads to the summit. Looking back, we realized that if we had continued a few more yards down the trail we could have taken the use trail all the way up.
Getting closer.
The use trail took us up past a snowfield, then started going up some switchbacks to the steep part. The last few hundred feet are a class 2-3 scramble. It was very windy on top, so we took photos then found sheltered spots to set up.
Summit of Round Top.
We were able to set up far enough apart that we could both work HF at the same time. I started on 40, and quickly filled the log. I then called on 70, and got a contact. Jamie, in the meantime, had been on 2 meters, and handed off a contact to me. As I was trying to pack up, people kept calling me on 2.
Looking down at Caples Lake.
Eventually the callers stopped, and I was able to finish taking everything down. It was windy enough that I kept my raincoat on until we reached the lake at the bottom again.

One of the streams flowing into Round Top Lake.
Back at the lake we took the trail around towards Peak 9795, our next destination.

Trailhead: Carson Pass
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Take the PCT and other trails towards Round Top Lake. There is a well-worn use trail that leads up to the summit. Class 2-3.
Red Tape: None. Camping in this area requires a special permit.
The Sisters.