Monday, March 4, 2013

A Snowy Mount Mingus Activation

I got lucky today!  I had been wanting to try a first time activation for Mount Mingus W4T/SU-008.
The problem was the only road to get to the trail head, Newfound Gap, had been closed off and on throughout the winter because of snow and ice.  The night before my hike I had planned on another summit because the road was still closed.  As luck would have it the park service issued a Twitter late in the evening that the Gap road was open!
I awoke early knowing that I would have a long day ahead of me.  I had read a few reports of hikers that had hiked to Mingus and knew I would be in for almost a mile of pretty tough bushwhacking in addition to the mile and a half along the Appalachian Trail On the way up the Gap road I was treated with some beautiful views of the snowy Smokey Mountains.

I arrived at my trail head shortly after 7am.  I had decided to begin my hike on the Clingman Dome Road.  As you can see below my little Smart car got me to the gates at the closed Dome road.


 I had a little over a mile on the Dome road to the area where I would intersect the AT.  The snow there was fresh and was generally 4 to 6 inches deep.  Deeper in a few spots but they were few and far between.  The sun was starting to make its way over the mountains and the wind was blowing at a good clip.  The temp was hovering around 15 to 20 degrees.  I made good time on the Dome road.  I stopped several times to take photos. 






Looking Back on my tracks....












Just Awesome.....







To the right you will see where I entered the Appalachian Trail.  There was a faint set of footprints in the snow.  I guess I am not the only crazy person out there!  This part of the trail was pretty easy.  And the snow made the trail nice and soft.  This section of the AT was very quiet and beautiful.  The snow was heavy on the trees and insulated you from most sounds.  It was peaceful.







My ugly mug...










I followed the AT as it wound its way up the bluff.  After about a quarter of a mile the AT broke onto the ridge.  I turned left and got ready for my bushwhack to the summit.  On paper it looked to be a little over a mile.  It may be a mile but it didn't feel like it.  As you can see there were many blow downs.  Some I went around, some I went over, and some I crawled under.  What fun!  I climbed along the ridge line which had some great views of Mount LeConte.



 It took me every bit of 4 hours to finally reach the summit.  The wind was blowing pretty hard so I tried to find a spot to set up.  I found a small depression on the leeward side of the summit and I dug in.  I tried to scoop out as much snow as possible and made a simple wind block with my tarp.  I was very happy that I packed my sleeping bag.  After setting up I zipped up into my sleeping bag to keep warm.  I Had my Buddipole setup as a vertical and began calling CQ.  There was a lot of activity on my "new" bands and a lot of action on or near the freq's I had alerted to.  I moved up and down the bands but was having no luck.

I reset my Buddipole as a dipole and started to make some contacts.  I need to get some feedback from other Buddipole users on their vertical setups because I have not had much luck thus far.
Thanks to :
W0ROB
AE4FZ
K4PIC
N4EX
W4ZV
N7UN
W2MDW  
And a special thanks to N4EX for all the help in finding a clear spot on the band.  It gets tough to multitask in a pair of mitten hands. 
I would have stayed and worked the pileup if one existed but there didn't seem to be many takers.  I packed up and started back down the mountain.  On the way back I decided to follow the AT all the way to the Newfound Gap parking area.  In hindsight I should have just retraced my footsteps back.  The trail was wearing on me and I was getting tired.  On the way back the temp began to rise and the snow got wet.  I shed my outer layer and carried on. I finally made the parking lot.  In the morning it was empty and cold.  But it was now packed full of tourists and 50 degrees.  I got back to the Smart Car about 3:30 for a total on the mountain time of about 8 1/2 hours.

It was a very satisfying first activation of Mount Mingus.  Everything went to plan and I had a great day.  There are a few improvements I would like to make.

 First, I need to find a better way to record my contacts.  The steno pad kept getting wet and started to tear. 
Second, I need to study up on the Buddipole Vertical setups so that I can use them effectively.
Third, I would like to shed some weight from my setup.  This is an ongoing process with any backpacker and will come with time.

Well thanks for stopping in and feel free to leave a message or comment

73's and Keep Climbing!!!!
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