Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Koko Head (KH6/OH-029) SOTA Activation

A look at Koko Head from the start of the trail.

Just an Easy Hike (YouTube Edition)

I had an awesome Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation today. Namely because I had my first opportunity to bring my entire family (wife and three young boys) along for a hike. Given the fact that I have a two-year-old in the mix, the logical option to suit our entire family was to head up Koko Head; the lowest of the 29 summits on O'ahu. Even better is that it is paved the entire way up, which was perfect for pushing our jogging stroller up. 

Getting on the Trail

Easy paved hiking.
We parked at Koko Head Park at around 09:45 and readied the troops by lathering them up with sunblock. This park is also the most common place to park and climb Koko Crater (KH6/OH-021). From the parking lot we walked up and right on an access road to cross Hwy 72. The ever-present sound of gunfire was in the air as the Koko Head Shooting Complex is on the other side of the ridge line. The trail for Koko Head is just to the right of the Hanauma Bay Road entrance. This trail is paved because the FAA has a navigational aid (VOR) at the summit and they use this for access to this and other commercial cell and microwave towers along the rather plateau-shape of this summit. There is a gate at the beginning of the trail so you have to hoof-it. We saw several other hikers and families along the way, out enjoying the day as we were. It is an easy hike but was still steep enough, thirty percent grade perhaps in places, to get the heart rate going.

On the Summit 

Once we were near the top we passed the FAA's VOR and I noticed the no trespassing signs immediately around the facility. Just follow along the road (staying left near the top) to reach the actual summit and to steer clear. As I mentioned above, the top is really flat so identifying the true summit (21.2631, -157.7042) with a GPS or with the SOTA map satellite view is the best route. I located a stand of head-high bushes that suited well to place my antenna mast in for support. This day was not too breezy fortunately. A few bungee cords and we were on the air within ten minutes. Fifteen minutes after that I had fourteen contacts from across the continental United States. With the sound of lightning crashes in my headphones and the boys itching to get lunch, we decided to head back down. As I peered off toward Koko Crater I made future plans to active both of these Koko peaks in one day.
73 and safe hiking,

A great view of Koko Crater (left) and Hanauma Bay (snorkelers' paradise)

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.