Mt. Bierstadt & Mt. Evans Double Activation

06 October 2019

After five months I have finally started adjusting to my new city and job so I have been activating like crazy the last month. This weekend was one of the last weekends to get up a mountain before the snow comes and thwarts any plans for radio activations on Colorado’s higher point peaks. So, wanting to plan something fun, I called up my buddy Dave/WØADV (formerly KI6YMZ) who also lives in town and he threw out the idea of a double activation on Mt. Bierstadt and Mt. Evans. As I have not climbed or activated either of these peaks, I was both excited and nervous, but I jumped at the chance to knock these two 14,000 foot peaks off my activation list.

I woke up early and packed to meet Dave in Boulder at 5:15 AM for the drive to the Mt. Bierstadt trailhead, just past Georgetown, CO over the Guanella Pass. The plan was to meet another ham friend of Dave’s, Ben/KDØPNS, at in the paring lot at 7. When we arrived at the parking lot, we found the winds to be in play this day; in fact, we noticed debris throughout the road even as we were leaving Boulder. With a high in the mid 40s for the day, the biting winds meant packing an extra layer was a must.

Mount Evans Wilderness area sign as the sun rises over Mt. Bierstadt

We left for the trail at about 7:05 for the 10 mile round trip and made it up to Bierstadt in just over two hours (Dave and Ben are in really great shape). The winds were whipping the whole ascent which put the treacherous traverse across Sawtooth Ridge, the connecting saddle between Bierstadt and Evans, at risk, though we found they calmed as soon as we got to the north east side of the summit. As Dave set up HF, I made some summit to summit contacts on VHF with a large group on top of Signal Butte in the southern front range. We stayed for about an hour and made enough contacts for both Dave and I to earn points on Mt Bierstadt, WØC/PR-015. Ben didn’t plan for any radio action this day so he stayed content chatting with a few other groups on peak and fielding questions about why Dave is screaming CQ into a wire on a fishing pole. We met another two hikers that also planned to traverse the ridge to Mt. Evans, and gauging the wind had died down enough to not be a risk, the five of us proceeded down the backside of Mt. Bierstadt.

KDØPNS (right) and WØADV (middle) taking a break on the ridge and gazing over the valley between the two peaks

The trek across Sawtooth Ridge is a class 3 difficulty hike with lots of exposure and little room for error. However, the views were excellent, assuming you had the stones to take your eyes off the trail. Due to my clumsiness, we had to backtrack and fell behind the other two hikers who we had met at the top of the Bierstadt (we never caught up to them on Evans- we expect they bailed either on or after the ridge). There were some tricky parts to the pass and this was my first encounter with class 3 terrain; luckily, Ben and Dave are very easygoing hiking partners and we took our time to get across the ridge.

One of many exposed portions of Sawtooth Ridge

The rest of the climb up Evans was straightforward- just keep following the cairns. There were a few false summits and by this point in the day I was pretty wiped, but I kept chugging along. I eventually joined Dave and Ben at the top after they had been there for some time. Dave/WØADV had previously activated this summit and in the interest of time decided to keep the HF gear in the pack. I knew we still had a ways to go, so I called CQ for 20 minutes on 146.52 and logged 8 more contacts for the day. After that, we packed up and headed down the backside of Evans towards the parking lot.

WØASB with a rare smile, working VHF from Mt. Evans, WØC/FR-003

The rest of the trip was a lesson on navigating towards the parking lot while avoiding the marshy high wetlands that we crossed on the way up; however, the nicely laid out paths with wooden bridges that got us across the mud on the way up Mt. Bierstadt were absent as we were coming back down the Mt. Evans side. We did spot a trail that bisected some of the small lakes that formed at the base of the mountain, but it would disappear into the thickets before picking back up again 40 yards later. Miraculously, all three of us got across this field with dry shoes that had been reported to be an unavoidable mud bog just weeks before.

We made it back to the truck by 7PM, nearly 12 hours after we set out. Overall, it was a long day but a great way to end the SOTA season… for a few months until things pick back up in December when winter bonus points call ham operators back to the mountains.

73 de WØASB


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First licensed in 2014 under the call KK6JQV with my university club in San Luis Obispo (W6BHZ), I am currently living in Colorado and operating under the call WØASB. I am a mountain biker and climber working to activate Colorado's Summits on the Air (SOTA) peaks and dabbling in other hobby projects along the way.

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