Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pu'u Heleakala (KH6/OH-018) SOTA Activation

A Hike of Firsts

This hike up Heleakala (Pu'u Heleakala, KH6/OH-018) marked a few firsts for me. First; and least impressive, it was my first Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation in the Waianae Range of west O'ahu. Second, it was the first time making a power supply repair on a summit; my positive lead came loose from a crimp connector and luckily I had a multi-tool and electrical tape. Third, and oddest, it was the first time I set up my antenna using the support of a cactus.

The Hike

Heleakala was a fun hike, partly due to the camaraderie of taking along a couple non-hams with me up to experience SOTA. All three in our expedition were active duty Air Force, so this Veteran's Day hike was appropriately manned. The route we took started in the town of Nanakuli. We parked at the Sac-n-Save grocery and walked .3 mile up Lualualei Naval Rd, and took a right on a trail across the street from the refuse collection station. It was another .3 mile to the base of the ridge. There is an old military pillbox as a reference point to the start of the trail. You can also walk through the neighborhood, but we chose to bypass this as it was about the same distance. The route is straightforward: follow the ridge up to the summit. My only caution is to warn that the grass on the trail in some spots makes it difficult to see if there is good footing or if there might be a rock to trip you up. (**Hikers can also ascend from another ridge to the northwest of the summit, further up Lualualei Naval Rd.)

The mountains on the day we hiked were in a sea of green. Fresh grass was growing throughout the hills and valleys in this area from the recent rains. This area (leeward side of O'ahu) is often in need of rain and has a tan hue from the dry grass. The winds on the backside of passing weather front made it quite blustery as we hiked up on this day. We left the truck at 0700 and made my first CQ call at 0900 (local time). This was a moderate hike with a 576 meter ascent. I would definitely recommend this hike to anyone visiting O'ahu and plans to bring their radio. It is a refreshing change from the busy peaks of Diamond Head and Koko Crater. We did not see any other hikers on the trail during the four-hour round trip. The funniest part of the hike occurred as we left the trail on our way back to the truck. We came down the ridge which terminates in at the back of an apartment complex. On our way through the neighborhood, a barefoot little boy, about 7 years old, who was curious as to what we were up to, approached us on the street and asked, "Hey, what are you guys doing?" To which we replied, "Oh, we just climbed that mountain," and pointed over our shoulders to this great peak in his backyard. To which he replied, "Why?" I responded, "Why not."

Thanks to the nine SOTA followers who helped me activate this summit for its first time. The west coast SOTA followers and stretching from Alberta, Arkansas, and to Australia. Until next time, 73 & safe hiking!

KH6/OH-018, Heleakala
KH7AL descending Heleakala (in background)
My cactus antenna support system.


  1. aloha Allen...

    mahalo for sharing the info on this summit, i grew up near by and hiked it loooooong time ago (back in the 80's) when i was a teenager. the past several years i've become increasingly fascinated with amateur radio, especially SOTA, and just got my general last November '13, prior to that i had my tech for a year. i scheduled several activations, but due to the sequential wx fronts we've been experiencing i had to postpone them and plan to reschedule. i wanted to ask, how much power are you using in your activations? i primarily operate qrp, at times i'll boost it up with a hfpacker amp (v3) to 20 - 35w when prop conditions aren't the best. my rig is FT-817ND or FT-857D, random wire and counterpoise and a elecraft T1 ATU. always finding ways to keep my operating equipment slim for trail blazing.

    thanks again for the insight of your SOTA activations, greatly appreciate it. continue to have fun in the sun!
    Odell - WH6EAO

    1. Aloha Odell,
      Thanks for your post and congratulations on getting your general ticket. I typically run 50-75W into an end-fed half wave vertical. However, I am a believer that with a properly tuned antenna, QRP will work for SOTA activations from KH6 land, but I have been reluctant to turn down the power to experiment. That is usually because I am hiking with others (non-hams) and I do not want to abuse their generosity of hiking along with me. Send me an email at hawaiisota@gmail.com if you would like to try a hike together some day, setup a summit to summit, or just want to talk SOTA.
      Allen / KH7AL

  2. Hi I was wondering how long this hike took you?

    1. Aloha Vanessa,
      From the parking lot to the summit was about an hour-and-a-half. Keep in mind I was going kind of slow with my 30 lb pack of radio goodies. If you are just packing water and a snack, I'm sure you could get up there in about an hour. Go for it. Its a great hike with great views!