Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mount Rosa, Completed

This was an Epic Hike. I was joined by Steve, wG0AT and Peanut for this one. I am glad Steve and Peanut re-arranged their schedules to join me. It was a grueling, long, tough hike but well worth it. The trail was not crowded like it normally is (at least up to Saint Mary's Falls) and we only ran into two couples and one young lady the whole day. One couple was heading to Saint Mary's Falls while everyone else we saw was seeking the same thrill as we were and that was the summit of Mount Rosa.

I thought we would have to call this off as they are still repairing the flood damage to the parking area but the news report said cars could park in the Helen Hunt Falls parking lot which is what we did. That required us to hike about .5 miles up to the regular parking lot and then another 1.5 miles to the actual trail head.

Our hike was 14.4 miles, took us 11 hours and 57 minutes and we had an elevation gain of 5452 feet. The elevation at the parking lot was 7239 feet and the summit is 11,500 feet. I do not think I looked at the elevation on the GPS until we had about 1000 feet to go.

The trail is well marked (although we did miss the Mt Rosa sign and visited the Falls by accident) until you get to the gate. You will want to go towards Mt Rosa which is to the left but you actually go to the right and look for the rock markers and a few meters down the trail you will see the 672 sign. Soon after you get to the saddle and it is a nice walk to the base of the summit and another 500 vertical feet.

As soon as we got on the trail proper Steve decided to set a new fashion trend and wear his broke sunglasses. After a while I did not notice it anymore. I am sure it was an odd sight for the people we met along the trail.
One Eyed Old Goat
The views from Rosa are worth it and I wish we had more time to enjoy them but it took us 7 hours to summit and about 4 hours to descend. I thought we may be hiking in the rain and dark but we made it with a few minutes of daylight left.

The weather was fine until we were on the summit, rain, hail, thunder and lightning but not much wind. When the hail started it felt like the temp dropped 20 degrees and I started to look for my gloves but after the sun came back out it was a pleasant 60 degrees again.

GPS track
APRS Beacon
After doing a firmware upload to me Kenwood TH-D72 it seems it is working better with the APRS function. I was glad to se that. The Kenwood is a little heavy to carry all the time but the APRS function and limited email and text capability without Internet connection make it one great survival tool. Once we were near Saint Mary's Falls anyone could have tracked us.

Steve and I chatted a lot while Peanut just kept us moving along. Lesson Learned, never let Peanut set the pace.

Peanut waiting for the weak humans

Mount Rosa, Steve and Peanut
Once we got on the saddle and saw Mount Rosa I was elated. This is also where the short trail comes up from Capt Jacks Frosty Park or whatever it is called accessed via Old Stage Road. Old Stage Road opened a few hours before we summited after being closed for a year for repairs. When we heard gun fire we knew that Old Stage Road was officially re-opened.

We could see the clouds forming and knew our time would be limited but you do not hike 8 hours and not try to activate. I got the end fed up and set the link for 30 meters, pulled out the new MTR II and fired it up with a 9 volt battery and called CQ SOTA at 2 watts and soon I was picked up by the Reverse Beacon Network and those that I could hear I worked until the pill up subsided. That was only 6 QSOs but only 4 are needed for the 6 points this summit is worth so that was good.

New MTR version 2 (three bands: 40, 30 and 20)
After 30 meters it was Steve's turn on 20 meters but the storm moved over quicker than we thought so we covered everything and hunkered down waiting for the hail and rain to stop. There was not an electrical component to the storm at that time so it was just a nuisance more than anything else.

After the storm Steve pulled out his KX3 and went to work on 20 meter SSB. About this time the lightning started and I started to pack getting ready to run down the mountain at a moments notice. Steve kept his cool and worked through the pileup with the last station being Guy, N7UN. We had to pull the plug early so I apologize to any chasers we left hanging but safety was an issue.

We hastily packed up and headed off the summit. It rained on us off and on the whole way down.

I have never been that exhausted after an activation. It was brutal. I marveled at the young couple that passed us and a young lady named Hannah that appeared energetic and unaffected by the difficult hike. Amazing!

Thanks chasers. It was a good test for the new MTR. I love a radio that can run off a 9 volt battery.

The fun of SOTA for me is the outdoors, minimalist radio, 9 volt battery and simple wire antenna and the pileup that ensues for that setup. What fun. Thanks Chasers.

Check out wG0AT's videos here: goat hiker

My Mount Rosa video is here:

Peanut meditates on the summit


Monday, August 25, 2014

Planning to attack Mount Rosa, AGAIN!!!! (and some ramblings)

I was thinking about a few summits for this Friday since I have off from work and I keep coming back to Mount Rosa. Lynn and I started up that trail twice, the first time we were not committed to a summit attempt and the second time Lynn got sick and it turned out to be the beginning of a week long illness that had us in the Emergency Room. I am just glad she was able to make it back to the car. She did 6 miles, sick!!!!!

Well, Lynn does not want much to do with that summit again. At least not from the East side approach. The West side approach is relatively easy, a couple of miles and maybe 1,500 foot legation gain. Not so from the East, it is 12 to 13 miles round trip and 4,000 elevation gain. I need to know if I can do it so I will attempt it on Friday.

I hope to have my APRS beacon on (K0JQZ-7) so I can be tracked and hopefully I will be able to talk to a few locals on 146.520 on the way up. Weather is a factor so we will see how it goes. If I make it I have the reward of every SOTA hike with a view to kill for and if not I hope I am only turned back due to weather and not something else. I am figuring 5 to 6 hours to summit and hope to be at the Trail Head at 0600.

Lynn and I have been busy doing some SOTA summits and I have not done any videos and have not taken many pictures. I was just in one of those moods where I did not feel like coming home and spending hours trying to make another movie. I do think it is important to make those videos to promote SOTA and SOTA in Colorado but it is somewhat liberating to come home, upload the logbook and just chill. Do not get me wrong, I like making the videos but I am just taking a break.

Lynn has taken a few pictures and I found a few from summits past and I might as well share these with you all.

Here is a pic of our older cat Mayv who is wanting attention before another SOTA hike.

Not sure where this was from but that was a good size bee on my backpack. He was not aggressive, just checking things out.


This is a bird of prey (hawk maybe) and I watched this bird circle and hunt for about 20 minutes and tried to get several shots thinking that I did not get one until I got home. This was one of the few times that he was actually above me at over 10,000 feet.

Bird of Prey
I have been using my Buddipole Vertical almost exclusively and this is what happens on windy summits in 25 degree windchill. Stuff starts to come apart. I think I have it fixed now.

Buddipole parts
A few pictures from Monarch Ridge.

Buddipole and walking stick counterpoise support ready for work
The views from our ham shack
Lynn operating
I think my antenna is bigger, er closer....
Lynn enjoying the tram ride up rather than the grueling hike.

All smiles
Not sure where this one was taken but Lynn's radio, the KX3 and some other equipment. The Elecraft KX3 is such a great radio. It far surpasses anything out there in performance, power consumption, weight to capability ratio and the most important thing, functionality/ergonomics. I am a fan and am glad Lynn lets me use hers from time to time.

Here I am on a summit trying to figure out how to fix a broke antenna.... there is a little Macgyver in all of us.

These next photos are from Mount Evans today, 25 Aug 2014. I watched the weather move in as Lynn activated and it was not soon after my turn began that the skies opened up. Of course at over 14K feet you seldom get rain so we got a snow hail mix and I kept going as long as I could. It did start to get very cold (it was in the high 30s when we drove up). We had the perfect spot just North of the parking lot in-between a few rocks out of the wind. If we had been exposed this would have been a no-go activation. No electrical component to this storm or that would had been a no-go as well.

Trying to think above 14K feet and send code
Todays activation on Mount Evans went well. When I checked the SSB freqs, the 20 meter band seemed crowded so I had Lynn move to 14.343 and Phil NS7P was right there and spotted her. That really helped. There are a few operators that really make an activation go well and seem to understand what is going on with the activator as he or she battles weather, high altitude impairment, curious on-lookers and the other things that distract an activator while trying to keep the pileup under control. I would like to say thanks to:

There are others but these are the stations to come to mind as I type this. No awards just thanks.

Back to Mount Rosa. I will try to go light weight and will take a newly constructed MTR II (powered by a 9 volt battery, pico paddles, speaker), a linked EFHW, 200hz audio filter, recorder, go pro, 3 liters of water, food, warm gear and rain gear. I will also have a 2 meter radio, cell phone, topo map and compass and my GPS. There are other things I will take but I may or may not post a complete inventory. I am real excited about this adventure!