My last four SOTA activation attempts have been failures. They were failures mostly because I have been trying to activate higher summits in Colorado. I had issues with gear and weather. Last month I spent three Sundays in a row trying to activate Quandary Peak. I made it to the summit on the third try but could not activate it with numb and frozen fingers. I took a picture of Quandary Peak on this climb as it is on the other side of Highway 9 on Hoosier Pass. It is the lower left of the included pictures.
Yesterday, February 19th I attempted Mount Silverheels, W0C/FR-005, 13,822 feet. I turned around at 12,750 feet. The winds and the snows were increasing. Looking at the summit from where I was, I knew it would be miserable and probably impossible to operate my Yaesu 817 on the summit.
As usual on an activation trip, things were learned.
This is the 96th highest mountain in Colorado. It is not nearly as traveled as are Colorado’s fourteeners. I saw no one else until I got back to the parking area at the top of Hoosier Pass.
It started off well. I left the car at 6:00 AM. I hiked through the trees on a trail in the snow. There is apparently a popular area for snowshoeing here at the summit. After timberline, I should have headed straight up the hill to gain a ridge. I started off moving South too much. I crossed over a ridge and started descending. This was a mistake as I had to make up the elevation gain that I lost there.
Much of the mountain was free of snow due to the winds. Some areas had plenty of snow. The snow had different consistencies. Some of the snow was very solid and easy to travel, other places, the snow had a light frozen crust covering several inches of softer snow.
I got into a little trouble crossing one of these snowfields. I believed I could cross the slope by step kicking. The ice crust was too thick. I was losing my footing and was in danger of sliding down the slope. I stabbed my trekking pole into the snow as hard as I could and placed my right foot on it to hold myself in place. I used my other pole and foot to carve out a seat to sit down on. Once I had a place to sit, I was able to put on my micro-spike crampons and finished crossing the slope. It probably only would have been a 75-100 foot slide with small rocks at the bottom.
After I turned back, I took a route back that was closer to the route I should have taken to begin with. I was lucky to see four bighorn sheep. The sheep saw me but maybe could not figure out what I was. They were taking several steps my way, then stopping to look at me. Then they took several more steps toward me, then stopping to look again. Eventually they figured out I was not a sheep, and started running. Their running actually took them closer to me.
There is a saddle along the route where there are power lines running. I set up my camera on the tower for a selfie.
A friend in Evergreen, Colorado gave me a small thermometer that I attached to my pack so I could keep track of temperatures during my trips.
I stopped briefly and set up my Yaesu 817. I really wanted to try and contact a couple of hams on the Colorado Front Range that were going to try and listen for me. I wanted to tell them I had aborted the trip and was descending. I removed the baskets from my trekking poles so I could push them into the snow and use them as antenna supports. I had a Cabela’s Crappie Rod fishing pole that I used as the center support. On 7.200 Mhz there were two people talking about their amps and I could not get through to tall my friends I was heading back down. My setup with EFW antenna and poles is in one of the pictures.
When, on the way down, I was about an hour from the car, the clouds to the South started getting really dark. The last part of my hike was in quite a blizzard. There was quite a bit of snow on my car at the trail head.
The drive home was interesting as well. Interstate 70 was closed at Silverthorne due to snow and accidents. I drove over Loveland Pass in a blizzard along with a lot of other vehicles that used that route due to the I-70 closure.
I think I may try this mountain again on March 12th. Otherwise I could find some lower summits to activate and have a better chance of success!