Tower Mountain W0C/SJ-046

I’m a father!

We have an eight week-old baby boy, who has very much taken over every aspect of our lives. As such, time for hobbies this summer has been a very precious resource. Usually I’ll spend summer days galavanting around the American West climbing rocks and mountains, but this summer has been a total paradigm shift of what’s important. I now have a thirteen pound human that needs looking after. He poops. A lot.

When my in-laws (who are now grandparents!) offered to take us to Durango to have some time away from home we jumped at the chance. They even offered to take over a night shift all week, giving us some hours-long uninterrupted sleep windows for the first time since baby was born. If you are a parent, you know just how valuable this can be.

After a few nights of sleep, I got the hankering for a summit.

It’s happens to be the first full weekend in August, which the ~100 or so SOTA activators in Colorado know is the annual ham14er event. In years past I’ve ambitiously activated multiple 10-point summits over a few days, but this year I don’t have the time or energy to drive around the state in search of high peaks - especially not with a newborn!

From home base near Purgatory, I searched for a peak with some criteria: within an hour drive, 10 points, (I’m Dave, after all) and a fairly straightforward hike. I found Tower Mountain outside of Silverton, a quick jaunt up a dirt road and a couple miles up with 2,300’ of vertical gain. Not bad!

Velocity Basin

Velocity basin

Easy enough, I figured, to invite my wife who is 8 weeks postpartum. We got the grandparents on board to watch the little guy for the day, and took off around 6:15am on Saturday. A quick stop at Coffee Bear and we hit the trail just after 7:30am.

Getting up out of the basin was strenuous work right out of the gate, but we gained elevation at a good clip. There were a few trails that meandered off the main path, but I had us stick to the trail we had on the Gaia topo map I had downloaded. Most times I think I’m smarter than trail builders looking at a topo, I’m just plain wrong, so I try to not tempt fate all that much.

As we rounded a corner at 12,200’ or so, my wife urged me to go on ahead since I was moving a bit faster than she was. We had our trusty Rocky Talkies with us, so I jetted ahead, but encouraged her to get to a saddle that was in view at around 12,600.

Cairn on trail

Cairn on the trail, summit in view on the left

I gained the saddle, then a ridge at 12,900’ that had a great view of the rest of the mile or so of trail to the summit. I took note of a group ahead of us with a dog and wondered how they got up ahead of us so fast.

I made quick work of the last mile and 500’ of vert, and ran into the couple with the dog just at the summit. I asked how they moved so fast, and they asked if we “went all the way around”. We were just following the trail, I said, and they both laughed and informed me that there’s a social trail that cuts off about 2 miles from the hike and goes straight up an incline to gain the summit ridge. I got on the radio and told my wife to take her time, but get to that ridge so we can take the shortcut back!

On the summit there is, indeed, a small radio tower. Big name to live up to, small tower to prove it. There appears to be a VHF connector with some coax that once went to the top, but whatever repeater was installed there at one point is long gone. It did give me ideas for whoever activates next, but that’ll have to be someone with more time than I have at the moment.

Tower on Tower Mountain

Tower on Tower Mountain, Silverton peeking out in the valley below

I set up quickly on 2m and made a few contacts.

W0ADV using an HT

W0ADV using an HT on Tower Mountain

I didn’t want to leave my wife for too long and she had just gained the ridge by the time I was set up on HF, so I made a few QSOs on 20m then packed up after ~40 minutes on the summit. I ran back down the ridge and met up with her on the social trail back down.

Velocity Basin flowers

Flowers on the hike down

It was great to get out hiking with my wife so close after having a baby! Many thanks to her folks for watching our little one while we were on trail. As requested, grandpa met us in Silverton at 1:30 with the boyo so we could all eat and grab a beer.

  • 5.5 miles round trip distance (could be shorter!)
  • 2,150 feet of vertical gain
  • 13,515’ summit
  • GPX Track


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