This trip to Denver University's Mt. Evans Astronomical Observatory was for the purpose of doing some final adjustments to the photovoltaic charging system and batteries. This is in preparation for the long winter when access is impossible due to deep snowdrifts on the road up the mountain. The university has discovered that Unimogs are the most practical vehicle to extend their observatory use into the fall, after the road is officially closed.
The higher mountains and passes have had considerable snow and high winds in the past few weeks with some of the ski areas reporting as much as 20 inches of new snow. However, there has been a lot of sunshine so no one knew what to expect of the road to the summit. We came prepared to chain up and shovel our way through heavier drifts if needed.
Three Moggers gathered at Golden at 0630 for the drive up the mountain:
Fred, Judy and Jonathan - 404 radio truck
Duane and Todd - 404 radio truck
Bob and Colleen - 404 radio truck
The drive up to Echo Lake was as scenic as always. At Echo Lodge we met with:
Kristopher and Ruslana - 404 bedless troop carrier
and our hosts:
Dr Bob Stencel, head of the Astronomy Dept at Denver University
Colby Jurgenson, grad student.
The day was bright and sunny and the temperatures were nice at lower elevations, probably in the 40's.
With 4 trucks, including the 3 radio boxes, we were ready for most anything the mountain could throw at us. We had a group meeting in the parking lot to discuss our plans. We could see continuous snow on the road leaving the Echo Lake Lodge area but had no idea what was up on the mountain. We all decided to not chain up, but to drive as far as we could then chain up. We were also interested in comparing deep snow performance of the various types of tires we had.
We were over prepared for what we found. At least this trip there was a lot of snow to drive through in spots, but only up to about a foot and a half deep. After we climbed above the tree line the road was dry on the sunny side, but with a few small drifts. On the north side of the mountain the worst drift was maybe 2 or 2.5 ft deep and Duane simply blasted through it. No shoveling required.
We took about 2 hours to cover the 14 miles to the summit, including several stops for sight seeing and a few tweaks to a carb that seemed to have eaten some dirt.
There was no snow at the top of the mountain and the temperature was in the 30's with bright sun. Quite comfortable except for the almost constant wind chill. The building was much colder inside with the structure temperature at 20 deg F.
We assisted Dr. Bob with 'chores' to further prepare the photovoltaic-charged battery and power system for the winter. We never know when which trip will be the last until spring.
Several people took hikes to the summit. Kristopher and Fred made one search and rescue mission. A hiker showed up at the top of the mountain, completely exhausted and cold after the 14 mile hike. He had hiked off and left his hiking partner about halfway down the mountain and didn't know how she was doing, or how he would find her on the way back down since they had left the road!
This could have developed into a serious situation, so Fred and Judy, and Kristopher and Ruslana drove down the mountain and spent a couple of hours trying to find her. She eventually showed up at the top after she joined up with a couple of other hikers. Not long ago a hiker died on this mountain as the result of just such poor judgement.
The battery charging project was proceeding slower than expected so our stay at the summit was extended past the expected 2 PM departure time. A few people, including the hikers, needed to get back down so Duane and Fred and their passengers left at mid afternoon.
As the sun started down, the outside temperatures dropped. The outside thermometer on HamMog was showing 16 degrees, and with the wind it felt much colder!
Inside my radio box with the heater on, the temperature had been up to as warm as 65 degrees. The Swingfire heater had been running for many hours during the day but had shut down late in the afternoon and didn't want to restart.
Still, it remained reasonably warm in the box and several people took advantage of that. This was the only warm place on the mountain.
We finished the solar powered battery charging project about 5 pm when the sun angle no longer cooperated. We started down the mountain as darkness approached. Some of the slick spots we had no trouble with on the way up were causing a little instability as we came through them coming down hill.
Headlights were needed before we got back down to the gate. Fred and Judy were there waiting on us, just to be sure no problems left us on the mountain with a storm approaching. Thanks Fred and Judy!
Several of our groups stopped in Idaho Springs to eat, socialize, and warm up. Another great trip made possible by Dr. Stencel and the DU Astronomy Dept.