Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mount Yale (W0C/SR-007) SOTA Activation

Participating in Summits On The Air has brought me so many firsts.  July 23rd marked my first time hiking a legitimate 14-er when I activated Mount Yale (14,196', 4,327m) in the Collegiate Mountains west of Buena Vista, Colorado.

Getting There

For a great trail review, check out KT5X's post, but here is my summary.  From Buena Vista take Hwy 306 west for 12 miles.  The Mount Yale TH parking lot is clearly marked on the right.  Plan to get there early as both days I was there on the weekend the lot was close to full.  Additionally, getting there early will lessen the chances of hiking into an afternoon thunderstorm (assuming you're attempting this in the summer months). 

At the TH there is a sign posted by the National Forest Service laying out the trail statistics.  It states the route is 4.59 miles to the summit.  4,422 feet of total climb to the summit.

The Hike

My family and I arrived at Collegiate campground the evening of Friday the 21st.  The TH was about a mile west of the campground.  I have to admit, I was fraught with pessimism when my alarm went off at 4:40 a.m.  I quickly and quietly changed and got out of our RV, hoping to not wake my family up.  I hopped on my mountain bike and rode off into the darkness with my headlamp blazing my path.  I made it to the parking lot, locked my bike to a guardrail and was on the trail by 5:10 a.m.  The trail begins in a steady incline with many small, loose rocks.  After about 15 minutes the trail levels off, then steps up again as you get close to your first of a few creek crossings.  I believe I made it to the Mount Yale turn-off at just over an hour.

Before I knew it, I was above the treeline.  There were many hikers on the trail I could see ahead of me on the switchbacks heading up to the saddle.  I think seeing their progress spurred me to keep up my pace.  Overall the trail was in really great shape and easily distinguishable the entire route.  There were all types of hikers on the trail, from runners, to folks you would think didn't know how they found themselves on the side of a mountain.  Once on the ridgeline it is only another 150' to the summit.  I felt like I was being pulled upward at this point knowing I had my first 14-er within reach.


To my surprise I got to the summit and was set up in 3 hours 52 minutes.  I had planned to be at the summit by 11 a.m. but I was there two hours early.  I setup my ham radio and antenna and made a quick call on CW.  Before I knew it I had 15 contacts between Morse code and voice in just over half-an-hour.  Being nervous about the weather I decided to call it quits early as a cloud base was beginning to sprout just to the east of the summit.  I felt accomplished as I made my way off the peak and began to pass those still on their way up.  I couldn't help but pass some words of encouragement to them as they trudged their way into thinner air.  I made it back to our campsite just after 12 p.m.  I was beat but after taking off my boots and stepping in the cool creek nearby I felt reinvigorated.  Bring on the next 14-er!

Lesson Learned

One's pack cannot be too light... I have to find a replacement for my sealed lead-acid battery.

View from the shack.
Ham Shack and antenna at 14K'
The last and most treacherous foot bridge

Saturday, April 8, 2017

"10654" (W0C/FR-139) SOTA Activation

When the wife and kids said they had plans to meet some friends this Saturday for a movie, my mind quickly thought about a summit I've been stalking for a couple months. Now that things have warmed up with Spring's arrival I set plans to activate this peak for its first time under the Summits On The Air (SOTA) program.

Looking west from the summit of "10654"
Rex and I left the house just after 6am and were on the trail just before 8am. On the last portion of the drive to the TH we passed the South Platte River.  It was already packed with anglers decked out in their fly fishing gear. As I drove by I thought to myself, "who would want to stand in a river with all these great mountains around just waiting to be climbed?" To each their own I suppose. My estimated time to reach the summit was 10:30 am. We did not make that goal. It was closer to 11:15 by the time we made the summit.

This was just a tough, bushwhack of a hike. The first half mile was a nice gradual slope through a pasture following an old ATV trail, now used primarily for horseback riders. As we passed through a small grove of pines and into another clearing the summit came into view again. From here the path looked pretty straight forward. Due to the extensive fire damage, the terrain was easily discernable. While assessing the hillside we found a path of least resistance and made our way up to a ridgeline to begin our assault to the summit.

The nearly impenetrable forest.
From our earlier vantage point from far below we could see the best likely route. What we could not foresee was the myriad of hurdles we would have to navigate due to all the downed trees. Rex gets a little apprehensive jumping over logs higher than his head. Additionally, many of these fallen timbers had the majority of their limbs still attached so going under was usually not an option for him. Because of this, we did a lot of zigzagging and occasionally had to reverse course to find an easier route for my four-legged hiking companion. The other obstacle I did not expect was the thick stands of developing Aspen.  It was great to see the forest in rejuvenation, but those wispy branches at face level were perfect for whipping us, continually. I was glad I had my sunglasses to protect my eyes.

Overall, this was a tough hike. Four miles round trip (as the crow flies) and about 2,800 feet of gain from where we parked. The majority was steep. Dealing with the fallen trees was one thing, but due to erosion, loose boulders were also a continual threat. The descent took us 1 hour 45 minutes. I might do this hike again, however, I'll do Rex a favor and leave him at home next time.

73 and safe hiking,
APRS.fi route data.
Parking along Goose Creek Rd., "10654" in the background

Looking South from about halfway up the summit.

Rex enjoying a snow cone treat on ascent

From summit, looking SW

On summit, looking South to Pikes Peak

Rex wondering why I'm jumping around the summit with wires

KH7AL and SOTA-dog Rex. Not sure who is more tired in this photo...
SOTA Log of the day's contacts

Not how a trekking pole should look, on descent

Monday, January 2, 2017

Ormes Peak (W0C/FR-052) SOTA Activation

To ring in 2017, I decided to attempt Ormes Peak for the Zulu New Year's roll-over.  I chose Ormes Peak for this occasion specifically because it is close to my home (line of sight).  Not having a dedicated off road vehicle limits my access to many summits here in Colorado, but it does not limit my ambition to reach those peaks.  The easy route to Ormes Peak is by the Forest Service Roads accessed through Woodland Park (Directions on Summit Post).  Given the recent snowfall and uncertain road conditions I set my mind to reaching the summit on foot from Blodgett Peak Open Space.

Getting There

Blodgett Peak
I arrived at the Blodgett Peak Open Space parking lot (approximately 7100' elevation) off of Woodman Rd around 13:30 and set off on the Blodgett Peak trail.  The first portion of this trail simply follows the gravel road up to a city water supply tank.  From the water tank I followed a trail to the left along a fence line up through some scrub Oaks and into a wash leading steeply uphill.  There was a mix of snow, ice and loose gravel on the ascent.  My goal was to reach Ormes Pk by 16:00 but my progress was not looking good.  Around the 8200' mark I made the decision to go off trail to attempt to reach the ridgeline to the south of the Blodgett trail and ultimately save some time.  This decision was a rough go, facing steep segments and occasional fields of loose boulders.  I finally reached the highest ridge line around 15:30 (9250').  From the ridge I could finally see my destination to the west as the sun was fast approaching the horizon.

APRS.FI track of my route

Overland I Go

View of Pikes Peak from Ormes Peak
This part of the hike was relatively easy.  I tried to travel along contour as much as possible, making my way west.  There was only a little snow on the ground in places the sun did not regularly shine on this time of year.  The deepest drifts in the hillside troughs were only knee deep.  This area of the Rampart Range was heavily damaged by the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012.  The stands of burnt trees made the trek fairly easy to see the path of least resistance. Along the way were signs of a significant deer and elk population.  I used their trails through the snow to ease my way.  Finally, I reached FS Road 303 by 16:00 and made haste to it and up the SE ridge line towards the summit.  Along the way I stumbled across a well worn trail and used it for the final push, reaching the top at 16:25 as the sun was beginning to set.  The weather was clear and brisk with a little breeze.  I knew the cold would set upon me quickly so I wasted little time setting up my Ham radio antenna to activate for Summits On The Air.  Below are my logs for 31 Dec and 1 Jan activations.

This Little Light of Mine

With fresh batteries in my headlamp I headed confidently off the summit into the eerily quiet darkness.  It did not take too long for me to lose the trail off the summit so I navigated on my own downhill in search of the service road.  I found my way back to the point I first found the road and the point where a trail heads east towards Colorado Springs.  I used this primitive trail for about a mile until the snow pack faded to the point I could no long follow the motorcycle and foot tracks.  Fortunately I did have decent cell coverage and used Google Maps to head towards the ridge line, this time to the south of where I had crossed over before.  The city lights in the background helped outline the ridges for me to make sense of where I was headed.  Back at the main ridge I came upon a precipice with a good 70' dropoff.  My headlamp just barely cast enough light to the bottom to make me realize I did not want fall off...  Not wanting to have search and rescue meet me this evening, I found a safe path down by walking south along the ridge for a hundred meters or so.  Then it was down, up and over a lesser ridge and into the headwaters of a wash leading back to the Open Space.  Here I came across another primitive trail leading steeply downhill.  The temperature dropped significantly here as the cold air of the night settled down into the low parts of the mountains.  I finally came across an actual trail and marker pointing me in the direction of the parking lot.  By 20:15 I was back at my car, safe and sound.  My best estimate for this route was at least 7 miles roundtrip.  Happy New Year!
Colorado Springs, CO

73 and safe hiking!
31 Dec 2016 log
1 Jan 2017 log