I once swore I would never tell this tale…but yours deserves a response!
On July 18, 2014, I did a very nice activation of W0C/PR-018 - Squaretop Mountain - 4196M. It was cloudy and about 40 degrees F on top, with some wind, and I was chilled by the time I packed up and headed down.
The next day I headed back up to the same alpine area, via a different trail, and started up to Argentine Peak, W0C/SR-019 - 4179M. After a mile of climbing in the thin air, I decided to stop and check my pack to make sure I had what I needed for the high ascent. I couldn’t find my wire antenna! It was simply not in the pack, and I had no idea where it was. There was nothing back at my car that I could use. I considered various ridiculous alternatives, but there was no good way to get a piece wire in time - with thunderstorms possible.
Gradually my oxygen-deprived brain remembered that I did not remember putting the wire spool back into the pack on Squaretop the previous day. I decided there was a possibility that I had left the wire up on that summit. If so, it might still be up there! It was also possible that even if I did leave the wire up there, another visitor might have seen the 52 feet of wire lying on the ground, and taken it down the mountain so it would not be a hazard to others. Perhaps 10 to 20 people a day climb Squaretop on nice summer days!
The one ray of hope was that I had not activated the actual summit, but had set up about fifty feet down the slope to escape some of the cold wind!
I decided my only chance was to climb back up Squaretop to see if I could find the missing wire. I might even have time to activate nearby Argentine! I looked up toward the summit of Squaretop standing 2000 vertical feet above me. The adrenaline kicked in, and I headed up the long trail toward the high saddle between the two incredibly high mountains. Before I knew it I was at 13,000 feet on the Continental Divide. I drank some water quickly and headed up the rocky northwest ridge of Squaretop - I had never climbed that route before, but it was less than a mile and only 800 vertical feet. If the wire was still there, I had to get it before some kind visitor coiled it up and put it in his or her pack!
Rarely have I climbed so fast at high altitude! I picked my way up through the rocks, and soon I was close to where I had been the day before on the enormous broad summit. The wire was nowhere to be seen. It was a black piece of number 24 teflon wire, and the mountain is black and gray granite and gneiss.
After a few minutes of bitter frustration, I found the empty plastic spool! I looked for the wire and couldn’t see it. Perhaps someone found it the previous day and took it down the trail. I widened my search just in case I was in the wrong spot - and suddenly I spotted the wire some distance from where I had been! I wrapped it up, and then noticed it was broken! In another precious minute I found the other part. An animal had chewed through it - probably a marmot!
I took my knife and spliced the wire!
I was out of there in no time. I hustled down the rocks, way down to the big saddle at 13,000 feet, and after a quick water break, started up the mile-long section of the Divide to Argentine Peak at 13,738 feet. I made amazing time and managed to set up and activate Argentine in full glory! Clouds were gathering, but the weather held amazingly.
After a great time on the air I packed up and headed along the east ridge toward Wilcox Mountain, W0C/PR-024, 4079 M. It had never been activated. If the clouds didn’t come together and create a storm, there was still time! Long story short, I made it all the way over to Wilcox, activated it, and headed down the long steep slopes, across the creek far below, and up the vast tundra to the trail, down, and back to the car way down the valley.
I remembered to pack the wire and have not forgotten it since…three 4000 M summits in one day.
That was a lucky day! I really enjoyed submitting that log!
George Carey Fuller