Texas SOTA Trip – The Law of Averages

The "Law of Averages" is a layman's term used to express a belief that outcomes of a random event will "even out" over time. While statistical experts may argue the validity of this thinking in the short term, what do they know anyway. So, you may ask, what does the law of averages have to do with SOTA?

As I have written here recently, the SOTA program recently added 40+ one point summits in South Texas. These summits are within a reasonable drive for me, so I was enthusiastic to activate them and after all, they are all one pointers, they should be easy enough. Just as a reminder for those who haven't caught the SOTA virus yet, point values range from 1 - 10. Oddly enough, 1 is the only odd number used in the valuation scale. Summits can be worth 1,2,4,6,8 or 10 points. Don't ask, I have no idea.

 I've already activated Peak 2002, which was the first South Texas group summit activation. I ended up walking 8 miles for that point. Not to worry though, they can't all be that long. So in the spirit of adventure (and not point accumulation), I planned to activate two of these summits during the International SOTA day and the QRP to the field (QRPTTF) events. My two targets were Bullhead Mountain, W5T/ST-007, and Pikes Peak, W5T/ST-029. Yes there is a Pikes Peak in Texas. The one in Colorado is worth 10 points, the Texas version is worth, the aforementioned, one point.

 I'd done my research and determined that there was a better than even chance these summits would be accessible. While on private land, these peaks are in sparsely populated areas that likely aren't posted. However you never know until you get there.

Bullhead Mountain, W5T/ST-007, is a limestone peak north of Vance (formerly Bullhead) and the intersection of Farm roads 335 and 2631 in far western Real County (at 29°49' N, 100°00' W). The summit, at an elevation of 2,042 feet above sea level, rises on the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau. Local vegetation includes open stands of live oak, Ashe juniper, and mesquite on the uplands and ridges and live oak and Ashe juniper woods on the hills and escarpments. 

The Trail up Bullhead, One of more open areas
Operating from Bullhead Mountain
The best approach to this summit is from the Farm Road 335 side or the south side of the mountain. The fence is deteriorated and it is not posted. The approach on the Hwy 2631 side is posted. This one pointer is no bargain. You will climb 400 feet in about 1/4 mile. Translated, that is steep and the extra bonus is that there are no trails. The slopes are covered with all manner of hard to get through trees and underbrush combined with loose rock to make for an adventurous descent. This is Bushwhacking with a capital B. We did finally summit and had some nice views.
View from Bullhead Mountain

The bands were a little finicky. Only made QSO's on 20 meters. Nothing on 12m despite the RBN hearing me at PJ2T.
Cris and I. Our Jeep is the black speck on the road

View from Pikes Peak
So after the descent of Bullhead Mountain, we made the short drive to Pikes Peak to discover what awaited us there. Pikes Peak, W5T/ST-029  is a mile north of Camp Wood in extreme southeast Edwards County (at 29°41' N, 100°02' W). It rises to a height of 1,904 feet, 470 feet above the nearby Nueces River. The summit was named for Zebulon Pike, whose exploring party passed near it on its return from the exploration of Colorado in 1807. The area's steep to gentle slopes are surfaced by variable soil that supports scrub brush and sparse grasses.

This summit was every bit as tough a Bullhead. There is a road that goes over the shoulder of the mountain which means you only have to climb 300 feet in about 1/3 of a mile. Again, that's steep and again no trails. I operated from the very top of the summit. A nice breeze cooled us down for the now 85F temperatures.

Operating from the Summit of Pikes Peak, Texas
Propagation had warmed up a little by the time we summited, but not much. I doubled my QSO count on this summit, but still most of the business came from 20m. I was able to work five summit to summit contacts which is always rewarding. Portable QRP to portable QRP, from mountain to mountain. Pretty cool. The high bands, 12m and 10m were not really productive, only one QSO on 12m and none on 10m.
We had contemplated doing Wildcat Peak also. Another one pointer, not too far from Pikes Peak, however, we were tired. These ascents and descents were taxing because of the steepness and the full time bushwhacking through brush and the temperatures were warming up. My thermometer in my jeep read 90F when we got down.  We had a nice Texas lunch in Camp Wood. A lunch buffet with Mexican food and Chicken Fried Steak. It doesn't get much better than that.:-)
Cactus Flowers
Texas Mountain Fauna

So, what about this Law of Averages? Well, in the SOTA world there are some easy summits. Some you can even drive up  to the summit or park near the top and take a nice trail a few yards to the summit. I have felt a little guilty about that in the past, getting so many points for so little effort, but no more. The Law of Averages does apply to SOTA. These one pointers were intense, difficult mountains to do. However, I suppose it all averages out. After doing these mountains, my guilt in doing an easy one has disappeared:-)

Photo credits to my XYL Cris, KC5HZQ
Excerpts above were taken from the Texas State Historical Association.
Mike Crownover, AD5A, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Texas, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

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