Getting to the top of a peak and putting it on the air is always satisfying. Something that makes it even more so is when the peak has never been on-air before. The most accessible and popular peaks get activated over and over again, accounting for a lot of points on the scoreboard. But there are also a great many gems out there – peaks which are more difficult, more remote, or just more out of the way than the more popular routes. Finding and activating these peaks is my favorite part of SOTA.
Mojave National Monument is a sprawling desert playground criscrossed by old mining roads, 4WD trails, and goat paths. In the western part of the park is this unnamed peak. When my ex and I hiked it to put it on-air we came up with the name, Cowpatty Peak, but as I write this I don’t remember where the name came from.
To get to the base of the mountain we had to travel some of the back roads and approach the mountain from the west side. At the time I activated the peak the roads were in pretty good shape, but travel carefully out there. One good flash flood can reshape the landscape (and the roads) in an evening.
I had scouted a few possible routes ahead of time using maps. None looked better than any other, so we headed straight up the canyon where we parked. The canyon led to an old mining service road that went farther up the hill, past some abandoned shafts, and eventually stopped about halfway to the main ridge line.
From there the route went off-trail through the canyon. The canyon was full of shattered boulders and so some boulder hopping was required to get through the pile. The trouble was worth it though when we made it out of the canyon.
Every once in a while you run into some interesting wildlife. On this trip, as we were hiking along the ridge we spotted something moving in the distance. It turned out to be some bighorn sheep, bouncing along the sheer rocks below the peak. As I was getting ready to get a photo or two, my dog Sledge spotted them as well and began barking up a storm. So much for the good photo.
HF was a necessity for this activation. Interstate 10 is within line of sight, so if you were inclined to wait you might be able to contact a few mobiles on the highway. I didn’t want to depend on that though, so I went straight to HF.
This was one of the best operating sites I have ever been to. There was absolutely zero noise on the bands or in the area. A few of my QSO partners were so faint that they didn’t even register on the S-meter, but their audio was perfectly readable.
The weather was perfect and temperatures were mild. After operating for as long as my hiking partner would tolerate, it was time to pack up and head home.