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Kelly Butte activation by KR7W, 11/4/2015

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I was just along for the ride on this one, having been invited by Rich KR7W to join him on a before-the-roads-close jaunt to activate Kelly Butte, a popular peak that has been activated at least twice already this year.

There was a light dusting of snow at the trailhead, where the temperature was 33 degrees at about 10:30am as we started our walk.  The first part of the trail is a continuation of FR-7030-3.  After about a half mile, near elevation 4500 ft, a helpful sign, "Trail", points hard right and directly into an extensive series of short switchbacks (some just a few steps long) that took us up the steep side of the formation.  The sun had burned off all snow near the bottom, but as we climbed, it reappeared on the ground.  Another hiker had been ahead of us, and we noted his prints along with those of various animals (rabbits, deer, birds) that had also used the trail that day.  We met the hiker on his descent when we were about half way up, and he reported observing some wind damage to the lookout.

The steep ascent leveled out a bit at around 5100 feet, and the snow at this point was 7 or 8 inches deep.  It was quite beautiful, and as the weather was clear and sunny, the snow was dazzling.  Mount Rainier loomed white in a blue sky replete with lenticular clouds.  Not having been to this place before, I was grateful for the previous hiker:  not only did his boot prints make it easier to walk, there were places I was not sure I would have been able to follow the trail.

The trail on top of the butte pretty much traverses the length of it from south to north, for maybe another half mile and climbing another 200 ft or so, terminating at the lookout.  Much of this walk is through sparse forest and, with the snow on the trees, dripping a little in the bright sun, it was gorgeous.  At the lookout, we confirmed that the shutters on the south side had been torn off (no sign of the remnants), leaving the glass windows exposed but unbroken.  The door was not secure and had been blown open (it was pulled shut by the previous hiker, but when we looked in we saw some snow inside).

We set up on the ridge a little north of and below the lookout.  There was a deep drift right at the apex of the ridge.  The temperature was cool enough that there was very little melting, but there were some icicles hanging from branches of the scrubby spruces.

Rich first tried 2M FM, and after a few minutes he had garnered the four QSOs needed for the activation.  We then set up the HF station:  Rich's KX3 and a 44 ft doublet.  Rich had no success on 40M SSB, but when he QSY'd to 30M he found quite a few stations to work.  Then, after a break for a bite to eat, he went to 20M CW and worked another large handful of chasers, two of which were EA2 callsigns.

I was quite content to munch my lunch, eat a bit of pristine snow (which somehow complemented the pristine sound of CW in that no-noise environment), take pictures, and gaze at the scenery, spectacular in all directions.  After we'd been there a while, we noticed clouds coming our way.  They eventually wafted mostly below us, and at a good clip too.

As we stowed the antenna and equipment, my feet were starting to chill, but the walk back down warmed everything up to the point where I had to take off my outer jacket.  I really enjoyed this walk, made the more pleasant by first exposure to snow this season.

Snow at the trail head
On the trail
Mt. Rainier
Top of the butte
KR7W setting up
Operating 40M SSB
Heading back