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AZ SOTA 4 peak quest (Shaw Butte, Lookout, Scarlet, Hedgepeth Hill)

The other weekend I finally got out the gear and hit my first weekend of SOTA here in Arizona.
I had been wanting to do this for a while, and now that I had hooked up with Tyler, AF7VP from the Queen Creek ARC with a unified quest for Mountain Goat status in 2017.. it was time to grab some peaks.

The great thing about SOTA in the greater Phoenix area is the bonus you get for hiking the peaks in the summer.  The bad thing about hiking peaks in the summer is that you want to be off of them by 11 am due to the heat, which usually is starting to hit 100+ by that time.

So, on the Saturday of  4th of July weekend, 2016, I convinced Tyler to hit these 4 peaks with me.  I wanted to stick to VHF only and not bother with HF contacts due to the number of peaks we wanted to hit as well as the heat of the day rising with each hour.

Shaw Butte : W7A/MN-138 (2 points) + bonus

Lookout Mt.: W7A/MN-134 (2 points) + bonus
Scarlet Mt.: W7A/MN-143 (2 points) + bonus

Hedgepeth Hills W7A/MN-147 (1 point) + bonus


I wanted to knock out Shaw Butte first, as it is a POPULAR aka VERY busy hike in Phoenix.   Ending on Hedgepeth would be an easier hike only worth one point.  Aka – lower elevation.

I picked up Tyler at 4 AM and we headed across the valley towards Shaw, climbed it much faster that I thought we would and ended up staying longer that I wanted due to lack of activity on 2 meters.  The climb up Shaw is a short hike, followed by a long asphalt road walk to the peak.  Not difficult, just a constant elevation increase up the road.  Even with some advanced notice and email announcements, not a lot of local hams were up and monitoring the AZ SOTA simplex frequency (144.410 FM) at this time.  Tyler discovered that all the antenna on Shaw was overloading his Baofeng hand held and was having a hard time hearing stations.  My Kenwood D72 was a rock star (as usual) but that is the difference between a $400 HT and a $40 HT.   Yeah, the Baofeng is better than nothing, and great for repeaters, however, it has a lot of trouble when taken into other harsh RF environments.  (You do get what you pay for) However, about 35 minutes after we started, we were able to grab the 4 needed contacts between 146.52 and 144.410, and quickly headed down, to a stream of hikers heading up.  Even at 5:45 in the morning, there must have been 300 people on this mountain.  Yes.. it is THAT popular.

Back in the car, we headed to Lookout Mt, which was another quick hike up to the peak, this one , the trail follows a series of switch backs with one steeper vertical hike, followed by a short rock scramble to the top.  Probably the fastest hike of the day.  Getting setup quickly, we worked the 4 needed stations, then again – headed down.  Lookout Mt. only had about 4 people on it when we did it.  Very low population hiking this one compared to Shaw, and the view is almost as nice.

Leaving Lookout, we headed to Scarlet Mt. Well.. we headed there after driving around several spots which were not the correct “parking area”. Once we found it, it was an easy approach to the mountain.  I have to say, Scarlet was the hardest peak of the day.  A lot of rock scrambling and poorly marked trails.  Several times you had to do what I call “big step” climbing, where you had to setup up at least 18″ to the next rock, and use your hands at times to steady yourself.  NOT technical, just difficult.   Making it to the top I was able to knock out my 4 stations before Tyler make it to the top – as now the chasers were looking for us to get active on the peaks.  Within a few minutes, Tyler made it up, and he also worked his 4 very quickly.

We ended sitting on the Eastern side of the fenced off area on Scarlett and enjoyed a great view to the east valley, looking at several other peaks in the area as well as looking to the south to see Lookout as well as Shaw.. and I was wondering how many more hundred folks were on Shaw by that time.

A few pit stops later, and some bad directions had us at the parking area of Hedgepeth hills.  We were about an hour behind schedule and the heat was starting to climb.  The hike is fairly easy and shorter compared to some of the others.   Reaching the top, the chasers were all waiting for us, so the required contacts were made very quickly, as well as a few others for good measure.   This hill was fairly busy with other folks as well.  However, Tyler and I didn’t have to share the peak with anyone, which was nice.

All in all a great morning.

7 peak points + 11 bonus points = 18 for the day.  Not a bad way to start here in AZ!

Thanks to all the chasers, and Tommy /Pete / Dave and a few others for working us as well as providing information on the routes to take for these peaks.


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