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Mt Elbert Hike - Oct 7, 2001

Mt Elbert, Colorado
Near Leadville, Colorado
Oct 7, 2001

Log of Contacts

All QSL's from contacts

When the Adventure Radio Society announced their initiative to try and get radio operators to operate from the highest point in all 50 United States,  I set a goal for 2001 to activate Harney Peak in SD and Mt Elbert in Colorado.  I hiked Mt Elbert with my wife Terry on Sunday, Oct 8, 2001.  Mount Elbert is the highest point in Colorado at 14433 feet.  It is the 2nd highest point in the lower 48 states trailing only Mount Whitney(?) in California.

We thought about driving up early Saturday and backpacking up to treeline, camping Saturday evening, and doing the hike on Sunday.  After much discussion and consideration of the probable 15 degree overnight temps we decided instead to drive to the nearest town, Leadville, and get a hotel room.  We'd leave from there early the next morning.  (By the by... Leadville's claim to fame is the highest incorporated town in the United States at something over 10,000 feet of elevation.)   We had a very nice afternoon in Leadville, stayed the nite in a restored 1800's era hotel and left the room at about 7:00 AM on Sunday, already 30 minutes behind schedule :-)!

We arrived at the trailhead at about 7:30 and were on the trail shortly.  The hike to Mt Elbert is about 4.5 miles long and gains about 4000 feet in elevation and we were expecting it to take about 4 1/2 hours.

 Initially the weather looked great.  

Shortly after we started, clouds started coming in and by about 10:30 a light snow had started and by the time we arrived at the top the snow was getting heavy.  We arrived at the peak at about noon and surprisingly, we were alone. 

I immediately started setting up my gear for making a few ham radio contacts:  an elecraft k1 with built in tuner and power supply, bulldog paddle and a new antenna I had created just for this kind of trip.  Operating conditions are difficult at the top of any of the 14ers.  The ground is solid rock, making it impossible to drive in a stake and of course there are no trees to support antennas.  I use a homebrew short, loaded, vertical for 20 meters.  The radiator is made of a 3' brass tube base, a coil wound on 1" dowel stock, and a 6' telescoping whip.  The radiator is mounted about 3' high on top of a small music stand tripod like those used by high school band students.  I attach 3 resonant radials using alligator clips.  The whole thing breaks down into a lightweight package only 20" long.  

I made 6 qso's while on top including: CT, FL, OH, IL, and AZ.  By the end of the 6th qso Terry was looking at me like we were crazy to be at the top of this mountain in the middle of a snow storm! Remembering many stories about people making bad decisions in the mountains and ending up getting hurt and/or air lifted out by helicopter, I had to agree.  

After about 40 minutes of operating, we took several pictures, packed up, and headed down.  

Initially, we were walking through a snow storm (look at the above picture compared to the picture of the same peak in the photo above with Terry hiking).

In order to get a little sympathy, we took pictures of our snow covered heads on the way down.  It REALLY DID LOOK WORSE AT THE TIME!

Editors Note: the big white specs in the photos are actual snow flakes!

Naturally, about 2000 foot of elevation later we walked out of the snow and I wished I had spent more time on the air.  I guess better safe then sorry!

Scenes like this reminded us that hiking the 14ers is not all about work.  Overall, we had a great time!  Total time was about 3 1/2 hours up, 1 hour on the peak and 2 1/2 hours coming down.  Every 14er we climb (there are 54 of 'em in Colorado) gives  not only a feeling of sore thighs, calfs, butt, feet, etc,  but a big feeling of accomplishment!

73, Gary