Mt. Hamilton
Tycho Brahe Peak
Kepler Peak
Galileo Peak
Copernicus Peak P2K CC
Hipparchus Peak
Huyghens Peak
Ptolemy Peak

Thu, Nov 3, 2016
Etymology
Copernicus Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Map
Copernicus Peak previously climbed Tue, Jan 13, 2004

I had set out on my bike to Mt. Hamilton, a ride of perhaps 50mi roundtrip from my home with almost 5,000ft of gain, one of the more demanding rides in the San Jose area. It had been many months since the last time I rode up here, and with excellent temperatures (around 74F in San Jose) forecast, it seemed a good day to pay it a visit. As I was starting up Mt. Hamilton Road out of the Santa Clara Valley, it would be another two hours before I reached the summit, giving me lots of time to take in the views and let my mind wander. I recalled seeing some recent additions on peakbagger.com, a collection of six other peaks named after various astronomers to go with Mt. Hamilton and Copernicus Peak (the county highpoint). I hadn't intended to visit these minor points when I set out, thus I was without my GPSr and usual camera. But I did have my cellphone with which I could pull up the Peakbagger App to identify the various locations, and the cellphone could suffice for pictures. And so after I had reached the usual finish at the Lick Observatory (where a tired cyclist can purchase snacks and soda from the vending machines near the post office), I went about tracking down these various extra summits. They were pulled from www.ucolick.org, having been in use by the researcher community for many years. With the exception of Mt. Hamilton (called Observatory Peak on the link), all the peaks are in restricted areas though none of them seem to encroach on the existing living quarters of the observatory residents. As the community has shrunk over the years with more automation and fewer active instruments, it appears that up to half of the buildings have been abandoned and left to decay.

Tycho Brahe Peak

Found on the north side of the highway, not far from the 120-inch reflector which lies to the east. The Carnegie 20-inch astrograph lies just below the summit to the west, the highpoint found at a small rock outcrop. The residence just east of the top, whose backyard one needs to go through, appears to be unoccupied and decaying.

Kepler Peak

There is an observatory just west of the summit which is the site of a concrete water tank. Boring. I approached from the northeast so as not to be in view of the occupied buildings to the west. A truck was parked up at the observatory when I visited, so it appears to still be in service.

Galileo Peak

This is the most interesting of the bunch, lying at the end of a subsidiary ridgeline heading north from Copernicus Peak. There is a gated dirt road that sees little traffic traversing the ridge to a saddle before it drops off the east side. Careful route-finding along the ridge from this saddle can avoid almost all the bushwhacking one finds. There is a nice view of Mt. Hamilton's profile from the summit area, but otherwise the highpoint is buried under some trees. I built an exceedingly small cairn to mark the point on a rock outcrop under an oak. There is an old cinnabar prospect nearby, poorly fenced to keep trespassers and careless deer from falling in the 20-foot hole. A bit spooky. There appears to have been no development on this summit.

Copernicus Peak

This is the highest of the bunch and the Santa Clara County highpoint. I had visited this site on two previous occasions. On the way back from Galileo I approached from the north side under cover of the oak trees. Here I discovered the Mt. Hamilton community picnic site with BBQ, benches, and a unique astronomer's outhouse building. The lookout tower atop Copernicus has been decommissioned, but American Tower has contracted to use it for a telecom installation. On my way back down the usual route via the road, I came across another gentleman up exploring, both of us looking at each other with that guilty "I know I'm trespassing" look.

Hipparchus Peak

This summit lies to the east of Copernicus at the end of the main ridge and is the hardest of the bunch to get to because of brush. My route meandered to avoid most of it. On the northeast slopes of Copernicus, hidden under the forest cover, is the old lookout junkyard where all manner of waste was deposited, the area littered with rusting tins, glass jars and other debris. The summit of Hipparchus is a small rock outcrop with views of Isabel Valley to the east, Mt. Isabel to the south and Copernicus Peak to the west. This peak has seen no development.

Huyghens Peak

I had initially bypassed this one because it looked to be more open to detection. If you're going to get caught, do so at the end. The Tauchmann 22-inch reflector sits atop a concrete water tank at the summit. Both appear to be unmaintained. Not very exciting, though I did scare a bevy of California quail off the summit area.

Ptolemy Peak

This last one is found off the road as one begins to descend Mt. Hamilton Road. There are several old residences that appear abandoned along the gated road leading to the Crossley 36-inch reflector. The highpoint, another rock outcrop, is found between the reflector and one of the residences. This one is open to easy observation from the road, so I made quick work of getting up and back down.

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More of Bob's Trip Reports

For more information see these SummitPost pages: Copernicus Peak

This page last updated: Fri Nov 4 18:07:43 2016
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