First SOTA Activation of W6/NC-220, Joint Expedition with AA6XA

I had the good fortune to accompany Jeff AA6XA on a hike that he had been eying for some time in the Cedar Roughs Wilderness near Lake Berryessa. The high point of this area is not often visited, since it requires an off-trail approach through somewhat dense vegetation. As a consequence, this 2368-foot peak had not yet been activated for SOTA.

We parked in the Smittle Creek Day Use Area, and headed down the road a few hundred feet to the trailhead. We hopped over the fence and started down the trail, which was more of a dirt road that had seen some recent traffic. We went along the trail, taking care to choose the correct turn at a number of forks, guided by GPS tracks left by some users on Peakbagger. Lake Berryessa had some white capping today, and the breeze was starting to feel nice and strong as we climbed. After a gradual climb from 500 to 1800 feet over the first three miles, the trail declined steeply towards a pair of rock pinnacles, each about forty feet tall. 3.5 miles down, and only one to go. Of course, that last one was off-trail.

I’ve been on a lot of hikes, but I haven’t had much off-trail experience, so when Jeff warned me that there would be some “bushwhacking,” I didn’t think much of it. Here we were, we just had to drop a couple hundred feet to the so-called Trout Creek and climb the rest of the way up. The pinnacles are the point where most others decide to move off trail, so we followed suit. The best descent was a sharp chute between the pinnacles. “The earth is loose so you can get a reasonably good foothold,” Jeff called up, already twenty feet below me. I nervously procrastinated for a few moments by incrementally and repeatedly readjusting my pack and antenna mast. The ground indeed made nice footholds under my weight and supported a fast descent.

Before long, we had made it to the creek. We crossed and started to find our way through to the top of the peak. As others have reported on Peakbagger trip reports, the bushwhack is relatively “mild.” A number of times, we came across some extremely dense cover, backtracked a few hundred feet, and found a more open way up. We also recrossed the creek a couple times to find the past of least resistance before making our way to the top in earnest. There were some enjoyable moments where we reached a small open patch, but the majority of the climb was a careful slog through trees and felled branches. After an hour of climbing, including a couple stops, reversals, crawls, and scratches, we had made it to the summit. I guess it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Although the few times we stopped in front of a wall of branches made me break out in a cold sweat, there was always a less intimidating way up.

We signed the summit register, hidden inside a cairn, (only about 10 or so had signed it in the last couple of years) and set up. The soil was easy to stake so guying my fiberglass mast was an ease. There was also good cell service at the top for spotting. After Jeff cleaned up on 30m, I got my contacts on 20m. We both stuck to CW and had an easy time of things. Near the end, WW7D caught me for a S2S on 30m (he was on W7W/KG-123 Black Devil, near Seattle).

We ate, packed up, and then headed back. We beat the sunset to the parking lot by 45 minutes or so, which was useful considering that the lot closed at sunset. By then the entrance had already been gated off, and a ranger was driving around checking out some of the other parked cars. Exhausted from the ~9 miles we hiked, I was happy to leave. Cedar Roughs now has two activations on the books!

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Thanks to all the chasers!

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