SOTA Summit: W6/SS-085, Cirque Peak
Trail: Yes then off trail / cross country
Hike: Moderate ~ 14.5 miles round trip, some class 2 scrambling
Elevation gain: 3500′
Self Spot: Used inReach satellite
2-meter FM: Possible – see note*
A 122.59 mile 2-meter contact works for me…
Last year, my sons and I had set off out of Horseshoe Meadow on a backpack trip that took us up over Cottonwood Pass, around the back through Crabtree Meadow, and then up Mt. Whitney and out through Whitney Portal. Since that trip, I have wanted to come back and peak bag / SOTA some of the peaks in and around Horseshoe Meadow. First on the list was Cirque Peak.
Cirque is a popular day hike summit among the peak bagging community and it is easy to find plenty of beta on the possible approaches. Due to this year’s snow fall, and the fact that much of it is still sticking around now in late July on the north facing approaches, we climbed Cirque from the south / south west facing side. This resulted in a pleasant hike out of Horseshoe Meadow campground and over Cottonwood Pass. There, we hit the PCT and headed northwest up the Trail around Chicken Spring Lake. Once past the lake, we headed off trail and up the main ridge-line, eventually traversing across to Cirque Peak. The off trail portion represents about 1500 vertical feet of climb across traditional Sierra talus and boulders, with some class 2 scrambling.
Cirque Peak has amazing views as the Sierra Mountains open up and are laid out before you. (Here you can see New Army Pass, Mt. Langley, Mt. McAdie, Mt. Mallory, Mt. Whitney, and Mt. Russell among others.)
Once on the peak, I decided to give 2-meters a quick try. I called CQ expecting to hear nothing come back, but low and behold Scott WA9STI came back to me loud and clear. I was blown away! I thought maybe Scott was camping nearby. Turns out Scott was calling summit-to-summit from San Emigdio Mountain (W6/SC-002). My first QSO on Cirque Peak was a 122.59 mile 2-meter call using only 5 watts from a HT. Over the next 10-15 minutes, I was able to round up 5 contacts, including another summit-to-summit with WB6FQZ on Cerro Noroeste (W6/SC-001), which may have even been further. 2-meters was like a pipeline to the Frazier Park area of the Los Padres National Forest. Since I was hiking with my sons and a hiking buddy of mine, I figured I’d finish up with a 2-meter only activation, as the others looked ready to pack up and head down. I would not suggest Cirque Peak as a reliable 2-meter only activation; this was just a lucky break. Please see my note below on 2-meters and Cirque if you are trying to travel light, or if you have a Technician class license.
After that it was downhill all the way back to camp, wrapping up a roughly 14.5 miles round trip day hike. Time for dinner and to plan out the next days goals of Trail Peak W6/SS-194 and Peak 11,100′ W6/SS-224.
Thank you to all the chasers who helped to make this a successful SOTA activation.
*2-Meter Note: This is not a peak I would count on for a 2-meter only activation. With 2-meters you always run the risk of bad timing. In this case I just got lucky by happening upon some long distance SOTA summit to summit chasers along with a number of other helpful hams. I would plan on HF as a reliable back up. In this case I was able to do 2-meters only with a good role up j-pole on a mast. For 2-meters only I’d bring a j-pole or yagi antenna and have the info on local repeaters to find chasers who can QSY to simplex for the contact. Having done Mt. Whitney last year using 2-meters I found that the same repeaters apply in this area.
(Note on photos: I am not a photography hobbyist, I simply point and shoot when I see something I want to remember. I like trip reports with lots of photos to give you an idea of trail conditions, features, points of interest, terrain etc.)