W6/SD-396 – Mine Benchmark

This was the third and last SOTA activation over a weekend trip to Anza-Borrego. It was later in the day and I needed to pick up my bike-packing pals in a few hours not too far from this summit so I had to make it a quick one. I parked the Jeep off the main road to the mine ruins, just before an area where the road was washed out, then hiked. I followed an old service road that went to the top of the mine ruins, then a sketchy scramble up a steep embankment to continue on. I’m glad I had some tracks to follow, as there are several ridges one could follow that dead-end; one could get somewhat lost up there. After a spirited walk to the top, I signed the register and waited for 00:00 UTC to start my activation. I stretched out my EFHW antenna and connected it to an MTR4B, first working 40M, then 20M. I got a text from the bike packing group with an ETA for their pickup so I packed up and headed down the hill the same way I came. The sketchy part was worse coming down, but overall it was a pretty easy hike, and perhaps my favorite of the weekend. After picking up the bike packing group, we went to Agua Caliente County Park for a dip in their excellent hot spring pool.


Total distance: 2.58 mi
Max elevation: 1869 ft
Total climbing: 877 ft
Total time: 02:12:24
Download file: W6_SD_396_Mine_Benchmark.gpx

Date:10/03/2024 |  Summit:W6/SD-396 (Mine Benchmark) 

00:05K6CPR7MHzCWS55N R52N
00:11N9OSW14MHzCWS33N R55N
00:15N6MTB14MHzCWS21N R33N S2S W6/SC-454
00:17KJ7DT14MHzCWS55N R55N
00:18WB7BWZ14MHzCWS57N R57N
00:19WW7D14MHzCWS57N R54N
00:22WB7HMA14MHzCWS55N R44N
00:23AK4JA14MHzCWS54N R55N

W6/SD-074 – Chariot Mountain

Chariot Mountain was the second of two summits I completed while camping at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park with the So. Cal SOTA group. Before the event N6MTB published a route from camp to the summit of Chariot. At that point my mind was made up, this is what I was going to do. After a quick breakfast, I jumped on the bike and headed up the mountain.

The ride was awesome, starting with some single track right at the camp, then into more single track through a meadow, to a fire road, to more single track through another meadow. Oh, weather was perfect too! Near the end of the fun stuff there is a big downhill over a fire road which leads to the bottom of Chariot. This wasn’t going to be fun climbing up! Once at the bottom, I realized there isn’t a trail up to the top! The summit is also guarded by thick pokey bushes. I stashed my bike, gathered my stuff and started the painful bushwhack to the top.

Since I didn’t have a backpack, I was hand carrying everything I couldn’t fit onto my pockets. Unfortunately, my Yaesu HT was clipped to my pocket and disappeared somewhere in the brush. I was never going to find it. After attempting to backtrack my exact route for 15 minutes or so, I heard a radios squelch crack open – Ara was on a summit, and I was able to locate my radio about 30 feet away from where I was standing. I would have never found it otherwise!

I now had to backtrack through the brush again. My skin was starting to feel ‘raw’ from all the scratches. I wasn’t having a good time. Fortunately, the higher you go, the thinner the brush, and near the top, there isn’t any brush! Once on the actual summit, I signed the register and pulled out my KH1 with the whip. Worked 15, 17, and 20M, then 2M FM. After exhausting all the chasers I started my decent through the brush once again.

Back at the road it took me a minute to find my bike and pack all my stuff up for the ride back to camp. That big uphill wasn’t so bad and before I knew it I was back riding through the various meadows on single track. I chose not to take the exact route back, which was rad because I ran into Bill and Drew on the main road and rode with them back to camp on a different trail. What a rad day!


Total distance: 22.61 mi
Max elevation: 4946 ft
Total climbing: 2584 ft
Total time: 06:18:17
Download file: W6_SD_074.gpx

Date:27/04/2024 |  Summit:W6/SD-074 (Chariot Mountain) 

19:15K6ARK144MHzFMS59 R59
19:16KD7DTS144MHzFMS59 R59
19:17WO6JO144MHzFMS59 R59 S2S W6/CC-014
19:18N6AN144MHzFMS59 R59 S2S W6/CC-014
19:18KX6I144MHzFMS59 R59 S2S W6/CC-014
19:19KI6SLA144MHzFMS59 R59
19:20N6XZN144MHzFMS59 R59
19:35W9SSN21MHzCWS57N R599 S2S W6/CC-014
19:37WD4CFN21MHzCWS51N R44N
19:38W7TMD21MHzCWS57N R599
19:42N7KRN21MHzCWS52N R53N
19:44KC1NDQ21MHzCWS52N R33N
19:48KI5JG18MHzCWS52N R55N
19:50WU7H18MHzCWS52N R53N S2S W7W/CH-241
19:52WW7D18MHzCWS52N R51N S2S W7W/CH-241
19:53NU7A18MHzCWS57N R33N
20:00N1SMB14MHzCWS42N R55N S2S W6/SC-335
20:03W6LOR14MHzCWS53N R52N S2S W6/CT-268
Stashed my bike here
Back at camp, that’s Buck, Bill, and myself.

W6/CC-014 – Cuyamaca Peak

Cuyamaca Peak is one of two summits I completed while camping at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park with the So. Cal SOTA group. I rode my mountain bike up the steep paved road from the campground and ended up operating in a gravel parking area near the tower facility. There was thick fog, with water accumulating on the infrastructure above. Whenever the wind blew, it would feel like it was raining, and perhaps it was a bit. It was starting to get late by the time I got up there, so I worked 20M CW, then 2M FM which got me most of the camping group in 3 minutes. I took a different way down to make a loop out of the ride, but I think I would go up this way next time as it was a nicer experience.


Total distance: 6.02 mi
Max elevation: 6479 ft
Total climbing: 1573 ft
Total time: 02:08:57
Download file: W6_CC_014.gpx

Date:27/04/2024 |  Summit:W6/CC-014 (Cuyamaca Peak) 

01:00WW7D14MHzCWS58N R51N
01:01N7KRN14MHzCWS55N R55N
01:03W2MHS14MHzCWS51N R22N
01:09N4DH14MHzCWS51N R44N
01:13N6XZN144MHzFMS59 R59
01:13K6ARK144MHzFMS59 R59
01:13W9SSN144MHzFMS59 R59
01:14N6MTB144MHzFMS59 R59
01:14KB9ENS144MHzFMS59 R59
01:14KD7DTS144MHzFMS59 R59
01:14K6RWZ144MHzFMS59 R59
01:15KI6SLA144MHzFMS59 R59
01:15WB6EDK144MHzFMS59 R59
01:15K6CWC144MHzFMS59 R59
01:15WO6JO144MHzFMS59 R59
01:18KK6WLD144MHzFMS55 R31
Paved road up
Trail down, quite boggy in some places

W6/ND-228 – Grass Valley Wilderness HP

I woke up in the back of my truck after a long night of camping shenanigans. E. was up making coffee and was on the fence about doing another hike after climbing Dome Mountain the previous day. I was too honestly. E. headed home and I said, “screw it, I’m basically already there”. I think that extra bit of motivation came from the fact that nobody had ever activated this summit before – I would be the first!

It took an hour to drive dirt roads which lead into a wilderness area. Near the summit there was a small area to park off the road. I left the truck and started slowly hiking up the hill. It’s about two miles round trip with 1,000′ of elevation gain, so pretty steep. There was several areas of loose talus and scree which required careful movements. I slipped multiple times on this one so maybe I wasn’t careful enough haha.

The top is a sharp ridge with enough space to put up a dipole or EFHW antenna. There is a register from 2012 which had more entries than Dome Mountain. Worked 15m and 17m on the new KH1. When I went to connect it to my 20m, 30m, and 40m EFHW antenna it had high SWR on all bands and I couldn’t figure out why; luckily I had a backup radio for 40m.

I headed down the same way I went up, sliding on the scree made for a quick decent. Once at the truck I back tracked to HWY 395, but made a few stops to explore some mining ruins and various other desert curiosities. By the time I got to the paved road it was dark. Perfect timing!


Total distance: 2.15 mi
Max elevation: 4675 ft
Total climbing: 999 ft
Total time: 03:08:55
Download file: Grass_Valley_Wilderness_HP.gpx

Date:18/02/2024 |  Summit:W6/ND-228 (Grass Valley Wilderness HP) 

22:327N1FRE21MHzCWS51N R31N
22:34JA1VVH21MHzCWS51N R51N
22:35WU7H21MHzCWS56N R54N
22:37K7MAS21MHzCWS599 R55N
22:38NN7M21MHzCWS55N R53N
22:41NT2A21MHzCWS52N R42N
22:44KF9D21MHzCWS57N R53N
23:02K2JB18MHzCWS51N R21N
23:07AD0WB18MHzCWS58N R55N
23:08W6TDX18MHzCWS58N R57N
23:09WW7D18MHzCWS58N R57N
23:10NA7ET18MHzCWS57N R599
23:31W6LEN7MHzCWS58N R599
23:32KN6OMN7MHzCWS58N R599
23:33WA7JTM7MHzCWS58N R55N
23:34KN6DMO7MHzCWS57N R57N
23:36NT6E7MHzCWS58N R57N

W6/ND-196 – Dome Mountain

So, this hike was kinda special in the since that the summit has never been activated before. Additionally, after 250 SOTA activations under my belt, I’ve never gotten a first activation. Since I was camping and hiking around in the area, bagging this peak was a priority.

My hiking partner E. drove up from Los Angeles very early in the morning to meet me at the place I was camping near Fremont Mountain. From there, we got in the truck and headed over to the trailhead, which was clearly marked with a hiking register. From here we traveled a bit west to check out some petroglyphs, then east to get back on an old jeep trail which got us closer to the bottom of Dome.

Hiking up past the jeep trail was steep, with loose rocks and several false summits. I stopped several times to rest and enjoy the views as we ascended from the desert floor. It was windy and cool. At the summit, I used my new Elecraft KH1 with the telescoping whip for the first time ever on the 15m band, then to 17m.

Relentless cold wind was getting to me and E. We signed the summit register which was placed in 1979 and started the trek down. Caution needed to be used going down as rocks were quite loose. Once down the steep part we jumped back on the old jeep road and headed back to the trailhead. Along the way I think we found the steam well which I’ve seen on maps. Unfortunately, there was no longer any steam that we could find.


Total distance: 10.16 mi
Max elevation: 4976 ft
Total climbing: 2877 ft
Total time: 06:16:25
Download file: Dome_Mountain.gpx

Date:17/02/2024 |  Summit:W6/ND-196 (Dome Mountain) 

20:23W0MNA21MHzCWS55N R33N
20:24W0ERI21MHzCWS55N R33N
20:25KF9D21MHzCWS57N R53N
20:30WB8BHN21MHzCWS571 31N
20:33NT2A21MHzCWS57N R22N
20:34N4LAG21MHzCWS57N R53N
20:42K7ATN18MHzCWS52N R52N
20:45K7SO18MHzCWS52N R52N
20:46K7EFW18MHzCWS52N R52N

W6/ND-232 – El Paso Peaks

After activating Government Peak, I headed over to El Paso Peaks for another easy activation. Getting here was pretty simple; make a left turn on Motocross Road from Hwy 395 and take it all the way to a commercial communication site at the top of a hill. The road is paved, but very rough – so much that people have been driving off to the side where it’s much smoother. Once there, I parked in a large area between building and started hiking over to the summit by following a jeep trail, eventually breaking away and heading to the highest point.

At the top was a narrow knife edge ridge where I strung out my linked 40m EFHW antenna. Weather was perfect. These desert summits can be absolutely brutal with high wind and hot/ cold temps so I was happy to relax a bit while waiting for the UTC day to change. Worked 20M and 40M CW. After running the pileup I packed everything up and went back to the truck the same way I came. I took a bit of time at the communications site to look at an old AT&T long lines tower which had been striped of it’s antennas. From there I headed over to Randsburg, stopped at The Joint for a few beers and a smash burger before heading out to my camp for the night.


Total distance: 1.48 mi
Max elevation: 4770 ft
Total climbing: 671 ft
Total time: 01:36:58
Download file: El_Paso_Peaks.gpx

Date:17/02/2024 |  Summit:W6/ND-232 (El Paso Peaks) 

00:13KE6MT7MHzCWS57N R56N
00:14NT6E7MHzCWS58N R5NN
00:15W6KME7MHzCWS599 R599
00:16WB6POT7MHzCWS58N R57N
00:17WB7ULD7MHzCWS599 R57N
00:19K6CPR7MHzCWS57N R599
00:32N9QB14MHzCWS33N R55N
00:32WU7H14MHzCWS58N R55N
00:33WB8DHN14MHzCWS33N R54N
00:34K7BCW14MHzCWS58N R599
00:35K7EFW14MHzCWS52N R55N
00:36VE7JYO14MHzCWS52N R55N
00:38VE7HI14MHzCWS55N R55N
00:39NT2A14MHzCWS44N R44N
00:41KC3RT14MHzCWS22N R55N
00:44JG0AWE14MHzCWS22N R32N
00:46K1VP14MHzCWS51N R43N
00:47AL7KC14MHzCWS51N R53N

W6/ND-224 – Government Peak

I spent the weekend camping in the area and planned 4 or 5 summits to hike while I was out there. It took me some time to actually leave the house, so by the time I got to the desert it was much later than I would have liked. As such, I started my SOTA day with the easiest one – Government Peak. This is basically a drive up, however, I took many wrong turns on the maze of roads. Recent rains washed out a chunk of one such road and my rear tire fell into the resulting hole, and with an open differential the tire just spun. I needed 4wd to get out. Not far from where I got stuck, I stopped the truck and hiked the remainder of the road up. You could drive straight to the top, but I was in the vehicle for a few hours already and wanted to stretch out a bit.

The top is a narrow ridge with a few communication equipment shelters and some towers. I couldn’t locate a benchmark, but perhaps it was behind a fence. I stretched out an EFHW antenna and leaned my mast on an unused utility pole to support the wire. Worked 7m and 14m CW; didn’t bother with 2m FM on this one. Wanting to get one more summit in before it got dark, I packed up the equipment and headed to the paved road. This would be a good one to do in the summer as you get 3 extra bonus points and the risk of environmental exposure can be reduced by driving to the top.


Total distance: 1.22 mi
Max elevation: 4733 ft
Total climbing: 472 ft
Total time: 01:21:10
Download file: Government_Peak.gpx

Date:16/02/2024 |  Summit:W6/ND-224 (Government Peak)

22:04WB6POT7MHzCWS58N R57N
22:05N7AMA7MHzCWS55N R57N
22:07N6WT7MHzCWS52N R599 S2S W6/SC-357
22:07NT6E7MHzCWS58N R57N
22:09W7SKH7MHzCWS44N R22N
22:10W6LEN7MHzCWS44N R599
22:11W6KME7MHzCWS599 R599
22:20K7EFW14MHzCWS55N R55N
22:20NR7Y14MHzCWS52N R55N
22:21N7EDK14MHzCWS44N R55N
22:23WU7H14MHzCWS57N R55N
22:24AD0WB14MHzCWS55N R33N
22:25NT2A14MHzCWS52N R33N
22:26W7SKH14MHzCWS55N R55N
22:27W5ODS14MHzCWS55N R55N
22:28W7CBR14MHzCWS57N R5NN
22:28K5EM14MHzCWS55N R55N

W6/SD-087 – 4590

This was the second summit E and I climbed for the 2024 So.Cal Winter SOTA Fest. We parked the truck in a small box canyon and scrambled up a wash to a ridge line, at which point it became a class 2 hike, eventually leveling out flat again. The top is large and flat, so plenty of room for antennas. Worked 40M and 2M only as it was pretty windy and the temperature was dropping quickly as the day was coming to an end. We scrambled down a different way which was kinda sketchy. I recommend the ridge route over just going straight down. Back at the truck we headed over to the camp to meet the others crawling around the hills in the area. The weather forecast predicted the temps in the low 30’s with strong wind. E and I noped out of that situation, got a hotel room in Barstow, and had a nice dinner at a pretty good Mexican restaurant.


Total distance: 1.3 mi
Max elevation: 4582 ft
Total climbing: 852 ft
Total time: 02:06:51
Download file: 4590_W6_SD_087.gpx

Date:12/01/2024 |  Summit:W6/SD-087 (4590) 

23:09W6LOR144MHzFMS59 R59 S2S W6/SD-140
23:10K6STR144MHzFMS59 R59 S2S W6/SD-140
23:15WB6POT7MHzCWS599 R599
23:16K6CPR7MHzCWS599 R599
23:17N0DNF7MHzCWS52N R55N
23:17KN6OMN7MHzCWS599 R599
23:18NW7E7MHzCWS55N R55N
23:19W6LEN7MHzCWS57N R599
23:20K3GX7MHzCWS58N R58N
23:21W6DT7MHzCWS5NN R55N
23:21KF6HI7MHzCWS56N R57N
23:23N6AN7MHzCWS55N R57N S2S W6/CT-168
23:24NT6E7MHzCWS599 R55N
23:24N6TZV7MHzCWS55N R55N
23:26W6HW7MHzCWS57N R56N
23:27K6MAA7MHzCWS57N R22N
23:28KE6MT7MHzCWS52N R55N

W6/SD-220 – Spy Mountain 🏔️

Spy Mountain is right next to Giant Rock – the largest freestanding boulder in North America and, perhaps, the largest free standing boulder in the world. Or, at least it was before a big chunk broke off in 2000. It was a sacred place for Native Americans back in the day and has some interesting history which is more recent that revolves around aviation, UFOs and other conspiracy theories.

I parked the truck in a super sandy area by a rocky ravine that leads to the top, maybe an eighth of the way around Spy. You probably want 4wd here or park out by the trail before hitting the sand. Heading up to Spy was slow, as it was boulder hopping all the way up. Recent rains created puddles between rocks some areas, and I was surprised to find some rather large desert sage bushes and various blooming plants along the way. At the very top it was pretty windy. I found the summit register, signed it, then setup my antennas and tucked behind some rocks to operate 7m, 10m, and 20m. On the way down I tried a different line to make it some kinda loop, but you can loop so much in a ravine.


Total distance: 1.14 mi
Max elevation: 3464 ft
Total climbing: 826 ft
Total time: 02:54:08
Download file: Spy_Mountain.gpx

Date:26/01/2024 |  Summit:W6/SD-220 (Spy Mountain)

17:40AC1Z7MHzCWS599 R57N S2S W7A/AE-041
17:40K6HPX7MHzCWS58N R57N
17:41K6EL7MHzCWS52B R51N
17:42NT6E7MHzCWS58N R57N
17:43WB6POT7MHzCWS58N R57N
17:44NW7E7MHzCWS57N R55N
17:45K6YK7MHzCWS58N R57N
17:46K6TUY7MHzCWS58N R57N
17:46KN6OMN7MHzCWS57N R57N
17:48K9PM7MHzCWS57N R55N
17:51W6TDX7MHzCWS51N R55N
18:06N7EDK10MHzCWS51N R53N
18:07KT5X10MHzCWS51N R52N
18:08KI6DS10MHzCWS44N R55N
18:08KT0A10MHzCWS52N R55N
18:09K7SO10MHzCWS52N R55N
18:11W5ODS10MHzCWS51N R33N
18:20W0MNA14MHzCWS57N R57N
18:20F4WBN14MHzCWS44N R5NN
18:21W0ERI14MHzCWS57N R57N
18:22VE7HI14MHzCWS53N R33N
18:24VA7SGY14MHzCWS52N R52N
18:25KK7A14MHzCWS57N R53N
18:26N0IPA14MHzCWS44N R42N
18:28AD0WB14MHzCWS51N R22N
I parked in this sand pit, next to the canyon I took to the top.

Summit register
I think that’s W6/SD-233 out there.
Looking at Goat Mountain from the south. A recent rainstorm flooded this ancient dry lake in the desert.