Castle Peak (W6/SN-038) and Donner Lake From My Operating Position
Summit Trip Summary
Distance: ~ 5.7 mi one way
Elevation Gain: ~1540 feet
Time: ~ 2.5 hours one way
Route: China Wall trail/tunnel to Over Ridge Road
Access: PCT Trailhead at Old Donner Pass Road 39.31466, -120.32725
Parking: Several spots at Trailhead
Rig: MTR3b LCD
Bands/Modes: 20 mtr - CW, 30 mtr - CW, 40 mtr - CW
Antenna: Trapped 20/30/40 mtr EFHW
Antenna Support: Small trees and bushes for mast support
Cell Service: Very Good (Verizon)
RF Noise: Quiet
Most activators of Schallenberger Ridge come in from the east along Coldstream Road through Donner State Park. Because I drive in from the west I decided to try a different approach from the west. It is fun since you go through a series of tunnels on the original 19th century railroad right of way, something different for a SOTA activation!
The hike starts at the Lake Mary PCT Trailhead parking lot, the .gpx file is available here. In addition you may access the tunnels from the Donner Pass Road parking lot near the Summit Haus or the parking lot across the street from Donner Ski Ranch.
Click on this link for GPX file
Getting to the Summit
You start the hike by going through the historic railroad tunnels on China Wall. There will be quite a few people as you start out but the crowd quickly thins out as you go. Be sure to bring a headlamp, a few of the tunnels get very dark. They are also a cool relief on a hot day. Follow the road through all the tunnels, the end of the last tunnel is a good place to take a break and put away your headlamp.
The trail is a well maintained gravel road that eventually meets up with the modern rail route. If you are lucky you will see a train come out of the mountain underneath the trail. Proceed past this point to a turn off to the right at 39.29943, -120.29437. The turnoff was blocked for vehicle access by trees but no issue for hikers. Follow this road for about 0.3 miles until you intersect Over Ridge Road at 39.29736, -120.29199 , turn left onto Over Ridge Road. Over Ridge Road is where you meet up with the 'conventional' approach.
Follow the road to the summit for another 2.1 miles. You will initially climb to a summit that is not Schallenberger Ridge, so keep on going. The road will then descend about 300' to where you will start the steep portion of the climb to Schallenberger Ridge. On the steep portion the road turns into a trail, after completing the climb you will be on Schallenberger Ridge
Start of the Steep Part of the Climb to Schallenberger Ridge
On the Summit
The summit is long and narrow with a long AZ. Likely you will be the only one on the summit. Looking to the south you will see Tinker Knob (W6/NS-121) and Lake Tahoe, to the north is Donner Lake and Castle Peak (W6/SN-038). There is a summit marker made out of rocks and branches. There are small and large trees and bushes to set up your mast and antenna. I chose a spot to operate where I could watch boats making waves on Donner Lake as I was sending out Cool Waves.
Simply return the way you came back to the trailhead.