Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Cameron Cone hike (W0C/FR-138) SOTA Activation


On the 1st of October my brother-in-law, Aarin, and I headed out to tackle a summit.  Aarin was in town visiting from Las Vegas and he asked for a strenuous hike and something to showcase what Colorado has to offer.  Cameron Cone met both those criteria.  This peak is overshadowed by Pikes Peak just to the west but it does not disappoint in either stunning beauty or challenging ascent. Cameron Cone is often overlooked by hikers and we only saw one hiker on our trek (not counting our time spent on Barr Trail).  The sole hiker was a local who lives up in the mountains taking her dog for a walk so I am not sure if that counts.  At 10,707 feet (3,264 meters) Cameron cone is average amongst the Front Range, but the approximate 4,000 feet elevation gain we traveled meant we had to earn this summit.
Pikes Peak view from Cameron Cone.  Photo by Aarin Murphy.

Getting There.

We relied heavily on a post made on Summit Post(dot)org to plan our route.  I highly recommend this page if you plan on hiking this trail.  We hit the road at 05:30 and parked at the Barr Trail parking lot and paid our $10/day fee.  We did not get on our way until almost 06:30 due to a mis-informed Manitou Springs employee who told us on the phone the day before we could ride the free shuttle from town to the TH.  They neglected to inform us however the shuttle ended on 30 September.  So after waiting in an empty parking lot for fifteen minutes we drove to the Barr lot and grabbed one of the last few parking spots.

You only need to hike the Barr Trail for about a half mile then take the social trail at the switch back that proceeds down to the creek.  When you hit the fence, follow it upstream for about eighty meters until there is a rockfall providing a crossing.  Then head up the hill perpendicular to the tracks until you come across the trail running along contour.  There are two routes here.  One trail is more established (better option) and the other is less traveled but easy enough to follow.  The lesser trail merges with the main trail so both options get you to the top.

Then it is up, up, up.  There are several sets of switchbacks as you head up the slope to reach the first milestone of Magog Rock.  Things flatten out between here and Gog Rock...somewhat.  Then we followed the 4x4 trail south then east for about half a mile.  There is a USGS marker on the right of the trail that marks your spot to turn and head up the slope towards the summit.  After you clear the steep slope of loose gravel there are really three options to get on top.  Two routes are covered in the Summits Post information and a third, well, it's not clearly marked but we used it to come straight down off the east side of the summit in an expeditious manner.  We made it back to the parking lot at 14:45.  Not bad considering we took a decent break on the way back at Magog Rock.

Our route from the Barr Trail to Cameron Cone.
The trail to take off of the 4x4 trail.


We made it to the summit by 10:30 and I did not waste any time setting up my ham gear to activate the summit.  There are plenty of trees on top to throw up a wire and get on the air.  The weather this day was just about perfect.  We had just a little cloud cover but absolutely no wind, which made the 60 degree temperature just about right.  Aarin is not a ham so I tried to be considerate he was not as enthused to sit on a mountain and listen to dots and dashes as I was.  We headed down around 12:00 as the coolness was setting upon us and we were ready to warm back up.  Here is the list of contacts I made on Cameron Cone's first SOTA activation. 

73 and safe hiking!

16:42zKI4SVM18MHzSSBS33, R44 S2S
17:05zAE9Q18MHzSSBS53, R53
17:06zK4QS18MHzSSBS53, R53
17:08zNE4TN18MHzSSBS55, R53
17:14zK7JFD10MHzCWS55N, R55N S2S
17:33zW7RV7MHzCWS55N, R53N**
17:36zWA7JTM7MHzCWS55N, R55N S2S
17:38zKX0R7MHzCWS57N, R56N
17:39zN6PKT7MHzCWS55N, R53N
17:42zNS7P7MHzCWS33N, R22N
17:43zWA6MM7MHzCWS55N, 55N

Taking a break along the ridge between Magog and Gog Rocks.
Aarin on a perch overlooking Colorado Springs.

Working CW, Colorado Springs in the background.

Pikes Peak Cog trudging uphill

Gog Rock and Cameron Cone

Gog Rock

Following the 4x4 trail SE and E to Cameron Cone

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Cheyenne Mountain hike (W0C/FR-053)

25 June, 2016.  After an attempt to hike Cheyenne Mountain with a tired 8-year-old, I came back to make it to the summit a week later.  I woke early this Saturday in an attempt to beat the rush of Field Day followers taking up the airways later in the day.  I made it to the trail by 6:30 am and reached the summit around 7:45 am.  It was a nice hike but as K0JQZ referenced in his blog about this hike, its steep.  There really is no warm-up for the legs up besides the 50 yard walk to the trailhead (TH) from the parking area.

To get there from Colorado Springs just follow the Old Stage Road.  Watch out for the blind corners along the gravel road.  Once you see the Broadmoor Horse Stables sign on the left, there is a parking area on the right.  The TH is behind the sign you passed.  The trail you want goes straight up the hill. There is another trail at the TH immediately to the left which travels mostly on contour along the western slope of Cheyenne Mountain.  The trail to the summit is easy to follow for the first third of the hike.  After an initial rise you come to a scattering of a few fire pits along a ridge where people have camped out.

From there the trail is less discernable.  Basically, after the third fire pit, follow the terrain down and to the east along a shallow saddle, then go up, up, up.  There was not a clear trail so I followed the path of least resistance, and occasionally I came across signs of a path from previous trekkers. The final ascent brings you into a shallower grade, and on the day I climbed, into aspens and grasses interspersed amongst the larger trees.  The change in pitch and vegetation was a welcoming sight and gave me an extra boost to get to the summit.  The view from the top was awesome of the surrounding mountains but had limited views to the east.

Map from ListsofJohn(.com)

A view from the trail to the summit.

My ham shack under the pines. 

A view west from Cheyenne Mountain summit (Pikes Peak in the distance).

By the way, after working at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station for nine months, I think I'd prefer to be on the mountain than in it.

73 and safe hiking,

Monday, January 18, 2016

An Update from KH7AL

In case there is anyone out there following this page I thought I should provide an update as it has been too long. But if I'm just here typing to myself I want to affirm the reasons why SOTA is appealing to me, and maybe to you... if anyone actually takes the time to read this.

After a great year in Korea, I returned to my family in August 2015. We quickly packed up and moved once again to Colorado Springs, Colorado, a prime SOTA location.

Top 5:
And now for my top five reasons why I thoroughly enjoy Summits On The Air:
1) The supportive SOTA community of both activators and chasers.
2) It gets me on great trails and to different parts of the world I would not otherwise visit.
3) It encourages me to think smart about working portable operations. Less is more...
4) SOTA makes it easy to learn Morse code. The short exchanges coupled with encouraging members creates a positive environment to learn and improve.
5) I am continually amazed and intrigued at what 5 Watts and a wire strewn in a tree can provide.

Activation update:
With those top five reasons in mind this weekend I hit the road with aspirations of hitting five summits, in January...but I ended up with three.

I am in Alabama for training and instead of sitting in my hotel room all weekend I decided to head to the Smoky Mountains (see point 2 above). The first stop was Cheaha Mt (W4A/PT-001) an easy drive up 8-pointer in northern Alabama that offers great views from the state's highest point. On the summit I had the honor of meeting Dennis - WA2USA, and Wes - N4QYI (see point 1 above). They stopped by while I had a pile-up, encouraging my shaky CW ability. We had a quick chat and then I headed for Tennessee to activate one summit before staying the night in Knoxville.

Awaking Sunday morning I discovered winter threw a monkey wrench in my planes and caused the closure of Hwy 441 over the Smoky's. So after breakfast at the Pancake Parlor in Gatlinburg, TN, I made the journey up and around via I-40 for Cherokee, NC in hopes the sun would do it's thing and open the road by lunch. No such luck.

While on my around I stopped to activate Bunches Bald (W4C/WM-013). This is normally a near drive up summit but the Blue Ridge Parkway was also closed. After only a quick hesitation to decide, I put on my backpack and walked up the 3.5 mile, snow-covered road to Bunches. The solitary hike was made easier by the fresh snow on the Smoky's and was sparkling with the late morning sunshine. I had a great trip to this part of the country and look forward to my next opportunity to come back.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pu'u Ohulu Kai (KH6/OH-023) SOTA Activation

Pu'u Ohulu Kai

There are people who talk about doing things, and there are people who actually do. Not trying to sound arrogant but I aspire to be more like the latter and today I accomplished what I said I would do, some time ago. After several years of off-and-on studying, today I had my first CW (Morse code) contacts on my HAM radio. Thankfully, poor band conditions prevented me from finding all but one contact today on SSB, so I was forced to try my hand at CW to make my hike worth while (to get at least four contacts). The stunning views were great but I was there to give this summit a proper first activation.

Getting There

July was my last hike on O'ahu when I activated Ka'ala, and I have spent the past six months on hiatus in South Korea for work. Needless to say, I was happy to be hiking back in 70 degree weather again. I left the house at 5:45 am and headed west bound on H1 towards Waianae. I parked at the Hookele St beach access parking lot in Maili and headed toward Pu'u Ohulu Kai. Not knowing where the common trail head (TH) was, I just headed up the west side of the hill with the intent of catching the ridge line trail. Had I walked two hundred yards up Kaukama Rd. I might have seen the trail marker tape at the base of the ridge. Even easier would have been to walk the 1/4 mile from Farrington Hwy to the common TH; with its gentle switch-backs up the north side of the hill, but where is the fun in that? I took neither of those options and struggled for a while over ankle-buster boulders hidden in the grass, up the steep slope until I finally met up with the ridge line trail, which soon met up with the common route trail.

By 7:10 I had set up my Buddie-pole antenna with the support of a small, sharp, and prickly tree and set my rig up next to it the top of the summit's WWII pill-box. Did I mention the views were stunning? Off the west side of the summit it felt like you could jump off and land in the clear blue waters of the Pacific Ocean (859') below. The sun was just coming over the peaks in the east, time to make some contacts, or so I thought...

The effects from the recent geomagnetic storm were still looming and the band was inundated with noise. After struggling to make the one SSB contact with N7KRN, he pushed me to try CW so I changed frequency, took a deep breath, and before I knew it I had 7 CW contacts.

I owe many thanks to the patient operators who took the time to listen to my poor code and in doing so encouraged me to keep at it. Special thanks to:


73 and safe hiking!

KH6/OH-023 Pu'u Ohulu Kai
Pill boxes on summit

Main trail up (left), ridge-line trail down (right) near summit

Quail (I think)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kaala (KH6/OH-001) SOTA Activation


I have dreamed about hiking Kaala for the past year while participating in Summits On The Air (SOTA) here on O'ahu. Most hiking enthusiasts think about summiting the top hill in their neighborhood. Being the highest peak on the island, Kaala (4060' / 1237m) is the summit to reach on this island. On July 27, 2014, four hiking club partners and I decided to attempt this great mountain. We arrived at the trailhead at 8 A.M. taking the last couple parking spots. The summit was shrouded in clouds and the partly cloudy sky kept us cool during the entire trip. The ascent took us about 3.5 hours. I was thankful for the KX-3 radio my friend Richard (KH7HNL) loaned me for this trip to lighten my typical load. This was the lightest radio pack I have hiked with in the past year; about 20#. I just wish I would have brought an additional liter of water, three would have been just right.

Getting There

The most popular route to reach Kaala is to start from the Waianae side. From Honolulu, head west on H-1. Once in Waianae, turn right on Waianae Valley Road and continue until you cannot drive any further. The last stretch of the road is a single lane and ends at a gate with a small parking area at around 650' elevation. 

The Hike

Pass the gate on foot, up the paved road, and past the three water towers; which is about a mile long. Passing the picnic table you will quickly find yourself in a grove of Macadamia trees from an old plantation. Not far past the picnic table, follow the purple markers down and to the left, through a dry creek bed. Remember: purple up, orange down for the trail markers. Up, up, up, relentlessly until you reach the ridge where there are three electrical towers. This is a great spot to rehydrate while taking in the spectacular views of the Waianae Range and out to the ocean.
Then the real work begins. The next stage of the hike is a series of steep segments. Some of the rock sections are somewhat technical. Past hikers have patched together a variety of ropes, cables, and even wire to help pull yourself up. Mud is a continual challenge to keep from slipping. As always, test the ropes before using them and don't put all your faith in them. Above all, take your time and use caution. Do not hike up what you will not be able to get down.
And then you reach the Kaala Natural Area Reserve. Prepare to step back into time. This plateau is simply amazing. Giant ferns, mosses, dragonflies. You can just feel that this area has been all but untouched for thousands of years. It is about a half mile across this area; stay on the wood planks, to the radar site. Although the FAA site is off limits you can circumnavigate the perimeter to view almost all of the island from this high point (weather dependent).

Kaala radar site in view.

View of the North Shore 
View towards Honolulu from the Kaala summit.

Bob on the decent.
View of Kamaile'unu Ridge (KH6/OH-002) from Kaala trail.
The antenna setup for the HF contacts on the KX-3, I used an EARC EFHW matchbox, 33' of Radio Shack speaker wire, and a Jackite 28' collapsible mast.

Special thanks to the following SOTA chasers for making this activation worth so much more:

Call             Time    Band
KH6KV      2137      2m
WH6DZF    2143       "
NS7P           2159      21m
W7RV         2159       "
W6JP           2201      "
N4EX          2206       "
W5ODS      2208        "
KH6XL       2214        "
WH6DZP    2234      2m   S2S on Kaua'i!
WH6DZQ    2235       "             "

73 and safe hiking,
Allen / KH7AL


Monday, July 7, 2014

Olomana Trail (KH6/OH-020) SOTA Activation

Olomana Trail...

From the top of Olomana looking SW
...is likely one of the most popular hikes on O'ahu. Popular partly because it is centrally located and easy to get to and partly because of the breathtaking views from the summit. I finally had the opportunity to hike this summit (twice) this past week. There is a lot of information about this hike on the internet so I am going to keep my post about this to the most important tips for you. Free free to watch my (1min 16 sec) video of the hike on YouTube.

**Disclaimer--This is a great, strenuous hike which involves sections of steep cliffs with ropes to assist your climb. Always test the ropes before using and never put all your weight and trust in them.

#1) As recommended in Stuart Ball Jr.'s The Hiker's Guide to O'ahu, I recommend not parking by the bridge on Loop Rd where most people park. Rather, park up Manuwili Rd at either the Maunawili Park or just past on the street in the neighbor hood. It does add a little to the roundtrip distance of your hike but may give you peace of mind after you see all the broken glass on the ground by the crowd of cars before the bridge.
#2) Check in with the guard at the entrance to the golf course to state your intentions. They are courteous and will be quick to ask if you have hiked the trail before and give you the canned safety brief. From the guard shack its about a 1/2 mile walk up the road to the actual trail head.
#3) Be patient if you have to wait for your turn along one of the several sections with ropes. As stated above, this is a busy trail, be a courteous hiker.
#4) Final safety tip, don't climb up what you won't be able to climb down. The last and largest obstacle to climb up is not for the faint of heart.

From my truck this hike took me 1.5 hours up and about 45 minutes to get down. For my Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation, I was only able to find four contacts on HF (three more than the week prior). 
Thanks to the following SOTA chasers for letting me properly activate this summit for the first time and allowing me to share some aloha with this two-point summit:
Time Call
18:36z AB7YL
18:38z WA9ST
18:39z NS7P
18:39z N6KZ

73 and safe hiking!
Allen / KH7AL

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Kamaile'unu Ridge (KH6/OH-002) SOTA Activation

Hawaiian Goat Berries.

Kamaile'unu Ridge, in Waianae, is a great, goat-filled hike. I chose this hike (KH6/OH-002) for my Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation primarily because I did not want to get soaking wet as often happens when hiking the Ko'olau Range trails. The Waianae area is generally drier being on the leeward side of the island and it has some great views of the valleys and ocean thanks to the ridges that start near the beach and head all the way up to Kaala (KH6/OH-001). However, I still ended up soaking wet from the rainfall the night before and the heavily dew laden grass and trees along the route. I had a great time and saw all sorts of wildlife. The most abundant were the many herds of feral goats who mocked me by the ease at which they moved along the steep slopes.

The Hike

I was on the road this morning by 4:30 a.m., westbound on H-1, to Waianae. I parked my truck at a strip mall at the corner of Farrington Highway and Makaha Valley Road. I then walked east, then left on Mauui Road towards the base of the ridge. It was pitch black as I walked down the road. Luckily the sound of the waking chickens kept the dogs from hearing my approach and none barked at my passing. Even though I was up, I did not want to wake the locals. At the trail head I turned on my headlamp to start my ascent. The first part of this hike will get your pulse going as it is pretty steep. The half-mile walk from my truck was a good warm-up. The trail plateaus after a few hundred feet elevation gain, then stair-steps up but not as severe as the first part. Then comes the next challenge.
The summit in sight

At about 1,400 feet the trail gets steep again for another 1,000 feet or so. Nearing the upper ridge line the clouds started to enshroud the summit (at 3,220 feet). The moisture from the clouds caused water droplets to cover one particularly packed stand of trees and the slightest touch made the droplets fall (on me). I was soaked after that even though it did not rain during the duration of my hike. After four hours with a few breaks I made it to the top.
KH6/OH-002 Summit

On The Summit

Once on the summit I had to verify which of the peaks along the ridge was truly the highest point. There are several false peaks along the way. I had neglected to load the summit data into my radio's GPS, so I had to rely on the Lat/Long data displayed to the summit information in the Association Reference Manual that I had luckily brought along. Trying to identify the higher of two points in the fog is an act of futility. Once I found the actual summit I quickly set up my Buddistick and tuned it for 12 meters. Band conditions were not the best today but the following Chasers helped me activate this summit for it's first time:

Time Call              
19:52z NS7P      
19:53z N4EX      
19:53z W7USA      
19:53z WA2USA
19:54z W0MNA      
19:57z W0ERI      
19:58z W7RV    


I had no idea we had such a feral goat population on O'ahu until I researched this hike and then saw and heard the tribes for myself. I was surprised by the first bleat as I snuck up on a family of five goats. They quickly scampered of, but the presence of goats was with me for the rest of the hike. Fresh goat berries were abundant all along the trail. I also came across several pheasants (exact species I am not sure of) who tried to startle me each time they took flight and made a loud warning call. On the way down I spooked what looked like an owl nesting along the hillside in the grass. As I came closer down the hillside to where it flew off I could see three eggs nestled in the grass. On a break further down the slope, I was resting with my back against a rock and a flock of pigeons flew past my head and around the slope at what seemed about mach 1; good thing I was not standing up.

A note of caution 

The first plateau
For this hike I would like to warn about the many dangers along the way. There are several locations with perilous drop-offs. As always, take your time hiking. Be especially careful of your hand holds and foot placements. Many of the rocks along the way are pretty loose so do not put all your weight on anything before testing it first. I nearly had a 150 pound boulder come down on me. It rocketed down the hillside and was followed by the sound of crushing vegetation as it plummeted into a steep ravine. Several sections of the trail had slippery rocks too. Lastly, pack enough water. I brought three liters of water and think that was just about right; but I was under cloud cover for the majority of the hike.

73 and safe hiking!
Fresh Hawaiian Goat Berries