It is always fun to do the first Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation of a peak. Most of the Colorado peaks have been climbed by someone along the way but there are still many that have never been activated for SOTA using amateur radio.
I noticed that an unnamed summit not too far from our cabin, referred to as 12306 or W0C/SR-129 had not been activated. At first glance, I thought this was because it was difficult to access. Further investigation revealed US Forest Service info on the Hayden Gulch Road (FS 396) that goes to the Hayden Gulch Trailhead at the west edge of the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness area. Joyce/K0JJW and I approached the trailhead from the west, starting at Granite, CO on Hwy 24, turning east onto FS 397 (marked at the highway) and then quickly looking for signs for FS 396. The San Isabel National Forest map is somewhat helpful but the Latitude 40 recreational map for Salida/Buena Vista is much better. The road is mostly easy 4WD but it is narrow in many places and moderate difficultly in a few spots. We saw crossover SUVs carefully driving the road with success. It was easy-peasy in our Jeep Wrangler.
Starting the hike, we followed the Hayden Gulch trail to the east. We actually had to search a bit to make sure we were really on the trail as we left the trailhead, as it was not super obvious. Hint: stay to the north (left) of the trailhead sign.
The trail follows an old road that was likely closed when the wilderness area was formed. Once we cleared the trees (shown accurately on the map above), we left the trail and traveled off-trail towards the summit, trying to follow the contour lines and not lose a bunch of elevation. The hike promised to be very pleasant except that we had 30 to 40 mph winds from the west. This was not enough to stop us but certainly made the hike less enjoyable. The views were spectacular but a little difficult to enjoy with the wind blowing.
The hike was 1.8 miles one-way with about 1000 feet of vertical gain. Once on the summit, we got out the standard VHF SOTA gear: Yaesu FT-90 transceiver, LiFe battery and 3-element Arrow yagi. We both quickly worked Bob/W0BV, Walt/W0CP, Steve/WG0AT and Brad/WA6MM. WG0AT was on his way down from Eagle Rock (W0C/SP-113) so we missed a Summit-to-Summit opportunity with him. (We did work him earlier when he was on the summit but we were not.) WA6MM was a successful S2S contact from Mount Logan (W0C/FR-017).
This turned out to be a successful activation and a fun hike. We both concluded that we need to do it again…with a little less wind.
73 Bob K0NR
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