This year's trek was an important one for the
DU Observatory because it was necessary to install a new transmission control
unit. This is the device which enables the movement of the telescope on the
summit of Mt. Evans. The weather has been very favorable this Fall, and we were
fortunate that a major snowstorm bypassed the Colorado mountains and did it's
major dump on Nebraska.
Those of us from the Colorado Springs area met at Steffen Grimm's shop at
5:00 p.m. on Friday, November 7th. I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted
by Duane Russell when I got to Steffen's shop. Duane is a veteran of several
Mt. Evans trips, and I hadn't seen him for a few years.
No trip starts out without some difficulties. Philip Staton had to change
jets in his carburetor, Curtis Fox discovered he didn't have any tail lights
on his trailer, and I had a tire with low pressure. While I got some air from
Steffen's big compressor, Philip changed his jets. There was no way we could
fix the lights on Curtis' trailer in the dark, so we just turned on his mog's
parking lights and that was sufficient to mark is presence. Once set, we
started out for Echo Lab, with a stop in Castle Rock for dinner.
We arrived at Echo Lab at 10:00 p.m., two hours later than planned, but
that seems to be kind of normal (for me, at least). Dr. Bob had a goodly
supply of Fat Tire waiting for us, so that was a welcome treat. I have to
take a moment here to brag about my truck. Those of you who have made this
trip in the past know how steep a grade it is from Idaho Springs up to Echo
Lab. It's just a plain slow grind in 4th and 3rd gears, sometimes even down
to 2nd. Philip wanted to fill his truck and Gerry cans in Idaho Springs and
since he knew the way up to the lab, Curtis and I went on ahead. I made it
all the way in 5th, without ever having to downshift. That's a first!
Philip arrived about 15 minutes later, followed shortly by Ron DePugh who
had driven his mog from Boulder. Dr. Bob received an e-mail from Jay Couch,
saying he'd be up in the morning, so we spread out our sleeping bags and
crashed for the night.
Morning came with clouds, but no new snow, so we had breakfast and were ready to head up the mountain by 8:00. Jay arrived in his U-1250 right on time.
Philip's Command truck.
Jay's U-1250 and Kent's 404.1.
We loaded the distilled water for the batteries at the observatory and the new transmission control unit and lined up at the gate for the usual picture taking of the vehicles heading up.
Kent's truck at the gate.
Ron's 404.1 and Jay's U-1250.
Philip's Command truck.
The road was basically dry, with just a little snow along the north stretch above Echo Lake where we were turned around by the storm back in 2005.
At the end of the first stretch, Jay wanted to stop and air down, so we took a short break.
Looking up toward the summit, it was totally obscured in clouds.
It was pretty much smooth sailing all the way up past Summit Lake and we didn't encounter our first major drift until MM 12. Last year, I was able to bash through this drift, but couldn't do it this year.
Jay gave it a try with the U-1250 and was able to float right over it with his wide AG tires. We still had to shovel a bit to get the 404's through.
Philip's Command truck follows Jay's tracks through the drift.
Curtis' truck starts through the drift.
..and pulls through it..
..without any trouble.
Ron's truck made it over as well.
The higher switchbacks proved to be the big challenge for us this year. I'm sure we could have dug our way through, or maybe even gotten through with chains, but this time Jay plowed the way.
He created a track through the first one, which we were all able to churn through.
Philip followed in the tracks..
The second one presented a bit more of a challenge and ended up with Jay having to tow me and Curtis through. Philip's and Ron's trucks were heavy enough that they were able to get sufficient traction to make it through without help.
Jay tried to plow his way through..
but decided to try a different path..
..and then towed Curtis and Kent through.
Once through the last drift, the remaining couple of swithbacks were clear. Dr. Stencel opened the final gate on the summit, which gave access to the dirt road which drops down and then back up to the observatory. There was one 4 foot deep drift which again was destroyed by Jay in the U1250. He snatched me through, and the rest were able to make it without assistance. The final drift at the observatory was no problem, so we parked and unloaded the gear.
Dr. Stencel suggested lunch should be the first order of business, and there was unanimous agreement. It was 20 degrees in the observatory when we got there, so the propane heaters we brought were a welcome addition. After lunch we pulled the styrofoam lid off the battery bank, added electrolyte, took statistics on the electrical useage, and Brian installed the new motor controller for the telescope.
Philip wasn't feeling too great, so he made himself useful by providing an endless supply of hot chocolate, tea, and MRE hot meals for everyone else, thereby earning the nickname 'Cookie'.
By 3:00 p.m. the motor controller was verified as fully functional, so we loaded up all our gear and headed down the mountain.
Since it was overcast, we abandoned the idea of either staying up, or coming back up later, for any viewing of the night sky.
After picking up our gear at Echo Lab, we continued on down to Idaho Springs to reconvene at Beaujo's for dinner, courtesy of Dr. Bob. After getting plugged on a five pound 'Mother Lode' and a one pound 'Yukon' pizza, we said our goodbyes and headed out for our respective homes.
As a final note, Dr. Bob is advocating an RMM function at the observatory in late June of next summer. I think that would be an outstanding event. It'll be warmer, people can come in conventional vehicles, wives and kids can have an opportunity to get an idea of what we do on these November outings, and everyone will have an opportunity to view stars they've never imagined existed.
photos by Kent Drummond and Ron DePugh
v2.8 Last modified Friday, November 06, 2009 23:53:22