W0C/SP-084 (Aspen Ridge) – 3274 m / 10740 ft

Aspen Ridge
3274 m / 10740 ft
Nov 20, 2016
With N0TA


Aspen Ridge is a fun sub-alpine SOTA peak southeast of Buena Vista.

Key Points:

San Isabel National Forest
• Accessible during warmer months – late spring, summer, fall
• Relatively easy climb and activation
• Beautiful scenery
• Fine HF site
• Private land on southeast side of summit ridge
• Access via a rough 2WD/4WD road
• ~ 1.8 miles round-trip
• ~ 450 vertical feet

Driving Directions:

• Drive west on Highway 285, and cross Kenosha Pass
• Continue through South Park to Antero Junction
• Stay on 285 and descend southwest toward Buena Vista
• Take FR 307 left, south, near Trout Creek
• Follow FR 307 for 1.3 miles
• Turn left on FR 187 and drive toward Castle Rock
• Continue south on 187 for 5.8 miles to a junction with FR 185
• Turn south on FR 185 – drive about 6 more miles total
• Continue south past Elk Mountain Ranch
• FR 185 climbs and becomes much rougher
• As the road climbs above 10,200 feet, Aspen Ridge is visible above to the southeast
• The road levels out just above 10,200 feet elevation
• While driving south above 10,200 feet, look for a small trail leading southeast – this is the trail you want to hike.
• Park near this trail, or perhaps a little further south

The Hike:

• Hike up the trail through a meadow and then up into aspen forest
• If you park at the saddle near 10,300 feet, hike northeast toward the ridge south of the summit, and intersect the trail in the aspens

• Don’t climb the sub-peak south of Aspen Ridge
• The trail goes up to the saddle south of the peak.
• It then leads down into private land to the east.
• The land is fenced and posted from near the ridge-top to the east.

• Stay on the west side of the fence, and go north along the ridge; or pick a route  lower down, west of the ridge top, and continue toward the summit.
• Pass a large pile of stones marking a property corner and the county boundary.
• The entire ridge top is public land north of the stone pile.
• Continue north to the actual peak.

Additional Details:

This trip would be superb during aspen-gold season! Huge aspen groves cover the west side of the summit, as well as several miles all along the road.

The prominent summit is spectacular, with awesome views of the high Sawatch Range and Collegiate Peaks 14-ers about 15 miles to the west.

Mount Antero isn’t very far away.

The view northeast includes South Park and various mountains to the east.

Pikes Peak stands 51 miles away.

The ridge runs almost level for a long way – the SOTA Activation Zone may be ¼ mile long. Many convenient trees are available along the top, so it’s easy to run a wire north-south right on the crest. Some protection from wind is provided by the ridge-top, as well as the vegetation.

Aspen Ridge has a low HF noise level – almost no development is nearby. HF signals can take off at a low angle, because various higher summits are distant. This is a nearly ideal summit for HF SOTA.

My results were good:

7 MHz CW 21 contacts
10 MHz CW 17 contacts
18 MHz CW 11 contacts

(49 total)

John N0TA was on simultaneously, and he also did well:

14 MHz CW 26 contacts
7 MHz CW 10 contacts

(36 total)

We were both running 5 watts. The solar flux was 77, and the geomagnetic field was relatively quiet.

I observed an amazing phenomenon while operating CW on 18 MHz. While calling CQ, I heard another station sending weakly on my exact frequency. Concerned about possible QRM, I stopped sending to listen. Instantly the other station also stopped – I heard nothing. I resumed sending CQ’s again, and the QRM resumed immediately. After a couple more repeats of this apparent interference, I sent a few dits, and I heard something come back. Soon it was apparent what was going on…Every time I sent, there was an apparent echo. I also could hear signals between my own dits and dahs.

I was hearing my own signals, propagating all the way around the world! The QSK in my ATS-3B rig is fast enough to hear part of what went around the long path.

Just when I realized I was hearing my own 5 watt signals traveling close to 25,000 miles, not QRM, other stations began calling me. I made 11 contacts on 17M, including ZL1BYZ, John, in New Zealand. Signals were quite strong on 17M – John was 579, I was 419; N1EU was 599, W4DOW was 599, etc.

I also heard beautiful echoes on many of the 17M signals! They had long path components, and it was a real thrill to hear the band so incredibly alive! Some of the echoes were strong enough to make the signals hard to copy. This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard echoes on strong signals, but I’d never heard my own signals before.

The low noise and excellent propagation from the summit of Aspen Ridge facilitated hearing the echoes. Unfortunately, such wonders may be rare as we descend into what remains of the current solar cycle.

Because the Aspen Ridge looks down into parts of the Arkansas Valley and South Park, VHF/UHF contacts may be made with stations in these areas. Many 2M contacts have been made from Aspen Ridge.



ATTENTION !! WARNING !! There are old mountaineers, and bold mountaineers... there are no old-bold mountaineers. Hiking and mountain climbing are potentially hazardous activities particularly in Colorado with its extreme elevations. I am not accepting responsibility for any death or injury resulting from activations based on my trip reports. Proper training, experience, and personal capability assessment is required - enjoy!

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