26 December 2016

A Little Christmas Snow and a Peak - Activating 5471 Peak

I wanted to do a hike but didn't have a lot of time, so I browsed the mapping project and decided to give one of the lower peaks in the Catalinas a try.  This particular peak is simply called "5471" - there's no official known name in the SOTA database, so they just name it after the height, along with the catalog reference W7A/PE-025.  My friend Paul K9PM had previously activated this peak, so I messaged him for some details.  He confirmed to me that there is no trail to the summit, but that the hike up would be fairly short - maybe an hour from the parking lot at the Gordon Hirabayashi Campground off the Mt. Lemmon Highway.

The Arizona Trail runs alongside the peak, but really isn't helpful for this summit assault.  I was happy to see that a nice Christmas snow covered the ground - this was going to be a fun one!  Basically, my approach was pretty much a scramble up the North facing side of the hill.

It was rocky and steep, and icy in some places so the going was slow.  This wasn't a problem for a herd of deer that I startled though!

Some of them seemed to know how to pose for the camera:

There were some parts where the climbing got pretty steep.  But it was a great workout and since the hike was a short one, I didn't mind much.

Eventually Ireached a saddle next to the summit.  The highest point was atop a very large boulder, which was easy enough to climb up on.  The views from the top were very nice!

I operated for a little over an hour and made 40 QSO's.  Most were on 20m, plus some on 10m, 30m, and 40m.  I was surprised at the noise levels - I guess this peak is close enough to Tucson that it's not immune from all the RF.  There was also continuous loud traffic noise from the highway down below. But the weather was nice up top and I enjoyed it.

There wwasn't anything at the top of the boulder to strap the antenna mast to, so I just leaned it up against the boulder instead and found a few jagged rock edges to hook a bungee cord to.  It wasn't the ideal mast setup but it wasn't terribly windy so it worked ok.

After I packed up, I decided to try hiking out by scrambling down the South side, which was snow-free.  

This turned out to be a mistake, though.  It wasn't really any easier, and it seemed like I would need to hike pretty far to the West in order to get around the hills and back to my car.  I ended up hiking back up on the South side, along a large rockfall area, and through a passage.  It turned out that I came rather close to being right back up to the same elevation that I was at on the peak!

I did eventually make it back down though.  Another fun SOTA activation, this time one that didn't require a full day of hiking.  I expect to be back to activate this one again!