Monday, August 5, 2019

2019-08-04 Turner Peak & A Bonus

Today’s adventure takes me to Turner Peak, W5N/AP-004.  This peak is in New Mexico but it’s just feet from the AZ border.  Another interesting fact is that it’s never been activated before.  I attempted to do a little peak near Springerville yesterday but just before I got to the trailhead I noticed the black clouds looming over the area.  Given the thunderstorms we have up here, I wasn’t going to chance putting up my lightning rod.  I was kinda bummed because I was going to do a lot of chasing.  So since I couldn’t do the peak, I decided to recon the road to today’s peak.  I was planning on being out of the house by 6AM so the weather wouldn’t skunk me and I wanted to ensure the planned roads were open.  If they weren’t, I’d have to drive further into New Mexico to gain access from the west side.  With the recon complete and my gear packed, I was locked and loaded for today’s mission.
[click on image for larger]

I was up before 6AM and turned on the pre-loaded coffee machine.  As I went out to the car, I could hear a young elk trying to bugle.  About a mile from the villa on the 191, I spotted a mule deer.  She seemed to be by herself but she could have had a baby stashed in the high grass.

After Alpine you turn onto Stone Creek road which turns into (xx) and heads into the forest.  It rained yesterday so things were damp and glimmering.  This forest is beautiful and seems like it’s well kept.  A turn onto 8181 reveals an even more beautiful forest.  It’s a little rougher road as it’s not used hardly at all, but easily possible if you have 7 inches of clearance.  I have an AWD Hylander.  The AWD will help make sure I don’t get stuck in a mud pit.  It worked well.  During the recon yesterday, I had to go through a low lying area that was very muddy.  I’m sure AWD helped me out keep moving befor being bogged and stuck.  I noticed that that road merged in with another and tried that one instead today to avoid the bog.  See the ingress route that I took HERE.  No reason to temp the mud gods.  Here is my insertion track.

Where I start the trek up the mountain was absolutely gorgeous.  It’s a meadow with pines sporadically placed throughout.  I was about 100 yards from the New Mexico border.  I might have been able to go all the way to the planned trailhead but I really didn’t need too go that far, plus the area was very boggy.  No reason to tempt the mud gods yet again.

The hike pretty much followed my planned route (here).  You can check out my track here.  There was a false summit that got my heart pumping.  Moving across the saddle toward Turner, led into a 30deg climb leading up to a ridge line.  The ridge slowly got narrower the further I went on until it was a jagged set of volcanic rock.  I went off onto the New Mexico side to avoid that and was very glad I did (there was no real reason to stay on the ridge).  The final push to the summit was through a LOT of fallen aspen and pine.  I got a little scratched up moving through that area which also contained a little chaparral.  I’d say this climb was easy but it was a real bitch hiking over all the fallen stuff.

Once up top I shot some video of the view.  I had good cell service, which meant I might be able to do a little chasing.  The peak was very small so I had to go down a little ways to setup the counterpoise.  As I was adjusting it, I tripped on a bunch of fallen crap and went backwards to a sitting position.  Unfortunately for me, there was a sharp few inch branch sticking out where my right hamstring came down.  

OUCH, I was briefly impaled by it.  I don’t think it was too deep but it hurt like hell.  After I got up, I took an inventory of myself and notice quite a bit of blood coming out of somewhere on my leg (I wasn’t aware of the damage at this point).  Then I located what looked like a hole in my leg with a small bit of fat sticking out.   Hmmm, that’s not supposed to do that.  I scrambled up to my backpack where I keep a decent first-aid pack and started pulling out gauze pads and tape.  OK.  After a hurried field dressing that was fueled by a little adrenalin the bleeding was stopped and I cleaned up a bit looking for other damage.  I found nothing else  and the bleeding is stopped so I grabbed something to eat and fired up the radio.  Look, I’m at the Peak, everything is setup, I don’t feel that injured so no reason to abort the mission.  Besides, it took some real effort to get here, and I’m the first activator.  I didn’t like the way the counterpoise was set but at this point, I really didn’t care. 

I fired up SOTA goat on my phone (it pulls data from and found a couple of stations running CW.  Only one side of my paddles were working so I pulled out my multi tool and took off the back cover.  I’m not sure what was wrong but I got it working.  I was able to contact one of the CW stations summit to summit.  My initial objective was to get my first 4 contacts on CW.  My activation would be the very first activation on this mountain, this was the first for me in New Mexico region so why not one more first and do it CW.  Since I had network access, I sent a message to the NA/SOTA Slack group asking for CW contacts on 14.058.  I didn’t want to spot CW because I was afraid that I couldn’t handle a CW pileup. I think the Slack group team were busy.  I did call CQ  and someone did come back to me.  I just about had his call sign and then he went silent.  The operator probably didn’t want to repeat every word 100 times.  I knew that I couldn’t spend an extended time up there so I switched to SSB phone and spotted myself on 14.270 MHz.  Gary, W0MNA, came back to me right away along with some others.  I had a small pileup working and was probably complete in about 15 minutes.  I was going to do a little chasing at this point but black clouds were moving and and I could hear thunder in the distance.  It was time to bug out.  The leg didn’t hurt at first but now the bruising and adrenaline has worn off the pain is going to slow me down. 

Now would be the fun part.  Getting down the 1000 foot decent over about 1.5 miles.  I knew I would have to find an easier way down.  I called my wife to just let he know I had a cut that required stitches as an FYI.  And then used the Sat comm unit to keep her advised.  It also pings my location every 10 minutes if it can see a satellite.  Now that the adrenaline has worn off, swelling had done it’s thing, I was very stiff and in pain.  The narrow ridge line was inadvisable so I hung to the east side of it like I did on the way up at the really narrow part but then just stayed on that side.  As it turns out, this was a much better way to go. After this, I hugged the Arizona New Mexico fence for quite a while after the most difficult difficult part of the trail and that was also easier.  You get a little game trail at times as deer and other animals hug the fenceline.  Rather than go over the false summit, there was an easier path off the saddle to the west which was a lot easier.

As I eased back down the hill, this part of the trip was absolutely gorgeous.  There was very little fallen trees, high grass and overcast sky’s.  I’ll never forget this little section of the trip.  (I shot video since it was hand so you’ll have to check that out).  Overall, the descent that I took is my recommended path for going up (see my track HERE).

The ride back in the car was very enjoyable except for the pain in my leg.  I came across a group of about 4 elk.  I stopped and took some pictures as you can see in this blog.  (click on picture for larger)

I decided to go home and shower and get something to eat before heading to the doctor in Springerville (I was pretty stinky).  The way I was hobbling around, Jeanette wouldn’t let me go by myself.  The pain had increased significantly due to the bruising.

There were no patients in the ER so I pretty much went straight in.  Dr. Williams had a real sense of humor.  After numbing the area, he told me he was going to go watch a YouTube video on how to sucher.  When he came back, I asked him if had watched the whole thing.  He responded with “No.  It was in color and I couldn't stand to watch it and there was no black-and-white version.”  Too funny.  Another funny, the doctor told me about a guy that had a small bear bite on his head.  The guy was out hiking and spent the night without a tent.  He liked to put coconut oil in his hair before bed time.  Kind of like coating yourself with bacon fat before surfing.  LOL

Anyway, after cleaning up my wound and the doc digging around for foreign objects, he got out the needle and thread.  Ramsey, the LPN in training took a few turns as well.  My speedo look won’t be as nice. 

I’m at home now, only in pain from the bruising.  No wine for me tonight... well maybe a sundowner.  I’m bummed that I’m sidelined for a few days but  I’m hoping to go out on a couple of hikes at the end of the week.  We’ll see how that goes. 

All in all, I was the first activator (FA) and did my first summit in New Mexico.  Other than the injury, This was a good day of hiking and ham radio.  Besides, I got to practice my combat medic skills in a real situation. 

If you are going to do this peak and you want the easiest 

Saving Yourself or Others On The Trail

This injury event really reinforced the notion of having a good med kit.  The injury could have been worse but I was prepared and trained.  I was an Army Combat Medic, have had a EMT certification, and have had multiple first-aid refreshers at work.  Yes, I know, it’s not good to be totally alone, but I offset that with a sat comm tracker, and radios. 

I know people that hike with nothing more than a cell phone and a water bottle.  In the mountains, cell is sketchy and sometimes just fails all together (like after a lightning strike). f I had constant comms (the cell phone only worked on the summit).  I had a sat comm unit that has a position ping every 10 minutes ( and ability to send SMS and email to others. I also had a hand held radio that had access to the local repeater network (as well as being able to reach a few others 30+ miles away at times).  Yes I had an HF radio that would go to both coasts as well. 

I carry food, two extra layers of clothing, a space-bivy and water to survive 24 hours if needed.  I told my wife where I would be and she had a chart of my exact drive and hike plans from  If I’m going to be in a remote area, I don’t just wing it.  The experience also showed how I react under stress of injury.  I did start flinging stuff around as I tried to remember which pocket the first-aid stuff was in but all in all things went well.  No the job didn’t look professional but effective and I had a plan on next steps if the bleeding didn’t stop (all that training coming back).  I knew that I should eat right away and drink plenty of water while I was up there and I would need the energy for the descent.  Shock wasn't likely.  Do you know the signs of shock? 

I am not an expert mountaineer, nor a medical expert but I've had training.  I try to stay within my capabilities and appetite for risk (which is not that high).  If you are doing any sort of hiking, I strongly recommend taking a wilderness first-aid course.  If it’s been a while, get a refresher.  Also, take advice from the experts in mountaineering and wilderness medical. If nothing else, packs some stuff that you know how to use. 

You shouldn’t hike alone and even if you hike with others, tell someone where you are going.  I send a map to my wife and a friend.  I do hike along but I mitigate the risk.  Everything is risk, from crossing the street to driving to work.

Do some planning, know where you are going, route, weather, terrain, and associated risks (heat being one of them).  

The following are what I know are the minimums / ten essentials and a few extra from the Ham Ninja:
1.   Navigation: Compass, GPS & Paper charts.  You’ll drop your phone when you most need it.

  1. Headlamp (& extra batteries).  Bring what the situation calls for.  If you are on well marked trails, or easily navigated areas, you don’t need a whole lot.

  2. Sun Protection

  3. First aid including foot care.  I’ll try to put together a list of what people recommend.

  4. Knife: multi-tool for repairs

  5. Fire: Matches, lighter, etc

  6. Shelter: emergency bivy to stay warm.

  7. Extra food beyond what the expedition calls for and you may need to help others.
  8. Extra water.  If you are hurt, you will need this or you may run into someone else that does.

  9. Extra clothes: I pack a minimum of two extra layers.  I have a light fleece in the pack along with a shell for rain.  Winter requires more layers.

  10. Consider carrying a satellite communication unit.  I feel that the Garmin Inreach unit is the best.  It supports emergency call out, SMS and email messaging, and tracking by pinging your location at a recurring time that you set (I use every 10 minutes).  Multiple reviews by people that hike and search and rescue people I know recommend them.  The use the Iridium satellite network which I’m told has higher reliability.  One word of caution, they don’t always work. Obviously they need to have been charged up before you leave and they need to be able to see the satellites.  Messages you send may go out in 2 minutes or > 20 minutes. It all depend on your units ability to see the satellites passing overhead.

  11. Get a cheap VHF radio and learn how to use it.  To learn, get a ham technician license. It’s really easy to get and it will help you understand how to use repeaters etc, allowing you to practice legally.  In addition, there are leagions of hams that would love to help you learn.
    If you have an emergency, use the radio weather you are licensed or not, you will not be punished.
There are a lot of “10 essentials lists”, this is just mine, not the best.  There’s also a lot of training online and in classes offered by multiple groups on hiking safety, clothing, and how to get more fun out of your trip.

Do not assume that I'm saying you have to get off the mountain on your own under any condition.  Never be afraid to call for help if you feel your life or others might be in danger.  Had my injury been something else then I'd probably get a nice helicopter ride off that mountain.  As a bonus, New Mexico and Arizona Search and Rescue would probably have come because they wouldn't know which side of the fence I was on.  😄😄😄

If you’ve read this far, first, thankyou.  I hope my positive outcome, from a minor injury makes you think about what you will put in your pack and that you consider getting some training to help yourself or others.  I brag about my training but I could always use more.

Don’t depend on 911

Don’t depend on immediate rescue.  Mountains can bring bad weather quickly, delaying rescue / help from others via ground or air.  Also remember, when you do have to press the big red button on your cool satellite tracker or cell phone, it takes a while for search and rescue to assemble, plan, and execute.  Many areas rely on highly trained volunteers that may be at their day job when the call comes in.  Getting to you may be very difficult if the weather is bad.  Rescue members basically have to spend time planning (like you hopefully did), and then take precautions to keep themselves and their team safe.  AND, all of this assumes they know where to find you.  (see my note on an inexpensive satellite comm unit).  If you can't be found, you can't be rescued.  I’ll stop here as this article is long enough.  I'll just finish with be prepared to be on your own for at-least 24 or more hours after your hike.

Hiking Alone
I know that I will get a lot of feedback about hiking alone.  I look at it this way.  Doing anything involves risk.  Driving to work, taking a walk around the block, crossing the road, walking around the park.  There are multiple factors that play into how much risk you want to take on.  As I've mentioned, I'm not a huge risk taker.  I'm a private pilot.  When I flew, I planned alternate escape routes and airports.  I had charts and approach plates for alternate airports, a hand-held radio and the first-aid bag was mine (which was pretty big and would handle a lot more trauma).

Like flying, I plan, and I hike routes that are within an envelope of my technical capabilities.  Where there is risk, I try to mitigate that it to a point that is reasonable for me.  I could hike with someone but how much training should that person have?  How big should their medical kit be? Should I hike with a highly trained trauma doctor that is SAR certified in all conditions, with an additional support crew for him or her on standby, along with helicopters (multiple since you want one on standby)?  Do I fly a single engine aircraft or a multi-engine and ensure I have 2 hours of fuel on board when I land...?   You get the picture?  It's about finding that balance between living life and being dead.

I know people that carry less water, no first aid kit, no food, or comms gear.  They aren't wrong or a bad person, they have just accepted a higher level of risk.  That's all.  As you can see from my load out I have a lot of mitigation that starts to get bulky and heavy.  I'll continue to think on this and find the right balance for me.

This post is about SOTA and the fantastic time I had activating Turner peak.  I didn’t mean for this to turn into a survival blog but this is as good a time as any to mention a few words on the topic.  I'll put together a separate article with links to hiking safety soon.

<<NOTE: I actually expanded on prepping for SOTA safety in a later BLOG entry HERE>>

Special thanks to Andrew KD5ZZK for suggesting I try the NM summits.

I want to be a "First Activator" on a few more over in Catron County, NM.

Safe travels.

Date:04/Aug/2019 Summit:W5N/AP-004 (Turner Peak) Call Used:N1CLC Points: 8 Bonus: 0   Delete
















Loadout for the multiple summits:
NOTE:  The links for these were broken, I've updated them on my equipment loadout page.
      Gregory Zulu 40 backpack
      First aid kit.  Make sure it’s a good one... like ability to patch up an impalement wound.        CHA MPAS with spike and additional MIL mast (and version 2 of the top section)
      Yaesu FT-891D HF Radio at 100 watts
   30’ of coax feed line
      Yaesu FT-2DR HT
      Slim Jim dual band antenna for my HT.
      3 L of water (8 lb)
      iPhone with All Trails, MotionX GPS and sota goat
      LDG Z-100 plus auto antenna tuner for the FT 891
      Trekking poles
      Jetboil MicroMo cooking system
   Extra LiFePO Battery
   AnyTone AT-868UV DMR radio for testing.
   Custom wiine bottle cork paddles for CW (crafted by K6ARK)
   American Morse Porta Paddle for CW
   Delorme Inreach satellite tracker and communicator.

Christian Claborne
(aka Chris Claborne)

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