Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"3150" (KH6/OH-003), SOTA Activation

20 January, 2014. Do not attempt this summit if you are not an experienced hiker. Disclaimer aside, this was meant to be a "quick" hike to do a Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation with some non-HAM friends (aka civilians). I do not think I accurately conveyed, nor realized myself, the challenge of this venture with the three guys I talked into going along. The route we took was 7.2 miles round trip and took us almost exactly 7 hours including an hour for setup, activating, and tear down. If you plan on attempting this hike I advise you wear proper hiking boots and pants, bring gloves, hiking crampons, and plenty of water in addition to the normal emergency gear.
Descending KH6/OH-003 and across the saddle to the lesser summit of 3105'.

We began our drive at 0630 and arrived at the Pu'u Ohia trail head promptly at 0700. The TH is at the top of Tantalus Drive, approximately 1600' elevation. Tantalus drive is a curvy escalation along a steep ridge line (you can also access via Round Top Drive). This is a great area of interconnected, well maintained trails.

Sunrise was at 0711 this day. As we progressed up the initial part of the trail we passed through the large stand of bamboo trees. The sun was just showing over the horizon and cast an interesting pattern of orange light through the trees and onto the ground along the trail. We followed the Pu'u Ohia trail approximately .5 mile and reached the telephone access road which we followed up to the microwave facility, another .25 mile. The trail continues around the site and back down toward Pauoa Flats. There are a couple gates to pass through, used to restore native vegetation and keep invasive pigs out. Continue on the Pauoa Flats trail until it terminates at the lookout over the Pali Highway. On the right there is a slight hint of a trail through a thicket of bushes. Push through those and you will find an actual trail on the other side; even though the sign at the lookout says "end of trail." This is where the work really begins. 

A view of the destination from the microwave site.
From here up you are faced with sections of 45+ degree trail in all kinds of condition. Some of the tougher sections have ropes left by previous hikers; use at your own risk. Take your time and make sure your footing is right. Parts of the trail have low underbrush which can hide tripping hazards. This is not a good combination as again, sections of the trail offer deadly or severely painful drop offs. We reached the first summit (3105') after about 2.5 hours. From here continue NW down and up the saddle and approximately .2 mile to the higher, actual summit. This section is extremely muddy with more steep sections to navigate with slippery footing, tired legs, and perilous drop offs on the north face of the ridge. Caution cannot be over emphasized for traversing this section. The ridge is often socked in with clouds making travel even more dangerous.

Heading up the saddle to KH6/OH-003.
We did make the summit, ahead of my planned activation time. My friends assisted setting up my antenna and before long I was on the air calling CQ after a SOTA goat self spot. 20 meters had considerable noise that day. After struggling to get two contacts, and fearing hiking all this way and not making enough contacts, I moved to 15 meters and quickly filled the required 4 contacts and then some. For 17 minutes I put this Summit On The Air for the first time, and logged nine QSO's. I would have liked to stay longer but I sensed my hiking party was ready to face the challenging descent.

Thanks to my hiking party and to all those who returned my call. Below are a few more photos of the trip and the GPS route (.kml) of our trip.

Post activation photo of KH7AL on KH6/OH-003.

My expedition team members, Mel, Luke, and Bob, atop KH6/OH-003.

A great view of KH6/OH-012 "Pu'u Lanihuli" to the west of /OH-003.
Kaala, /OH-001 is in the far distance. 

A nice stand of Ohi'a trees along the ridge, looking over Diamond Head and Honolulu in the distance.

Lehua flowers and KH6/OH-012 in the distance.

Another highlight along the trail.