Yesterday I volunteered to be a member of the emergency communications team for the 2017 Mt. Washington Bicycle Hill Climb. It’s an annual event done in conjunction with the private Mt. Washington Auto Road and the Tin Mountain Conservation Center. Cycle professionals and enthusiasts do whatever is necessary to gain 4,875 feet in elevation in as little time as possible.
This year’s winning time was an astonishing 51 minutes and 13 seconds by Phil Gaimon. The winning woman rider was Aimee Vasse with a time of 1:05:34.
I’ve worked many times on the Rock Pile as it’s called by all the locals. Many don’t realize the history behind the name because they don’t pay close attention as they ascend the mountain.
As you claw your way up the serpentine 7.2 mile road with no guardrails you see nothing but raw bedrock for miles and miles. But as you get up to the strange flat eight-acre cow pasture at the 5,700-foot elevation you start to notice that the mountain is comprised of jumbled rocks and no solid bedrock is exposed.
The massive gigantic continental glaciers that covered all of New England just 15,000 years ago weren’t thick enough to scour the rocks off the tip of Mt. Washington. Normal weathering over hundreds of thousands of years has created a collection of rocks that are slowly being broken down and carried to the oceans.
Mother Nature will expose the bedrock under the rocks, but she’s taking her time doing it.
The day before the event we received three inches of rain at my house which is about 60 miles south of Mt. Washington. As I left my house at 5:20 am, it was still dark but you could feel the atmosphere was choked with moisture.
As dawn broke, I drove through fog and leaden skies. No doubt it was going to be a changing weather day up on the mountain. I just hoped for moderate wind.
After the top three male and female riders passed me, my work was done for the day. The only other thing I’d have to do is call in for emergency medical help for a rider near my position.
I decided to pass the time using my elevation to my advantage. I set one side of my Yaseu mobile radio in my truck to the national calling frequency of 146.52 MHz. I was booming out at 50 watts and had line of vision sight to the north of over 200 miles.
It didn’t take long to have at least four or five operators come back to me who were up in Maine. At one point I called, “CQ CQ this is W3ATB atop Mt. Washington.”
A second later I heard, “W1PID”.
What? No way! That’s my very close friend Jim Cluett. It turns out he was driving down in Laconia, NH on his way to help our friend Dick Christopher, N1LT with his sailboat. The tip of my truck antenna was higher than the ground to the south of where I was parked and I was able to talk with anyone in that direction.
After talking with Jim, I then logged two contacts with operators at light houses along the coast. It turns out it was the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend and lighthouses all over the world had radio operators in or next to them trying to make contact. Here’s my log for those two contacts:
K1N was operating at the Newburyport, MA harbor light on Plum Island. How exciting! It was a fun day of radio for me to say the very least.
I vote we let photos tell the rest of the story. They do so much better if you ask me.