A Littleton, Colorado, radio amateur and mountaineer was happy to have his hand-held transceiver along on May 17 after he slipped and fell from an icy ledge in Berthoud Pass while snowshoeing. Summits On The Air (SOTA) enthusiast Brad Byland, WA6MM, said he’s been climbing and mountaineering for many years now and never before came this close to “a possible life-ending disaster.”
“I’m doing fine,” Byland told ARRL this week. “I didn’t get hurt…only bad wind and sunburn on my face! My daughter says my geeky hobby — ham radio — saved me from my dangerous hobby — climbing and mountaineering!”
Byland said that while this was his first climb in the Berthoud Pass area, he was never “lost,” as some media accounts reported. He had prepared to climb Mount Flora — which would have been his 29th SOTA peak — by studying maps and others’ trip reports, plus he had his iPhone with GPS, a compass, and his radio along.
“[T]hings went smoothly until about 12,700 feet,” Byland said, at which point, with visibility deteriorating, he decided to turn back. “It wasn’t long before I was in a total whiteout,” he recounted. “The ground is white, the air around me is white, and I had no perception of direction and elevation. My iPhone GPS was of no use as I couldn’t read the display. I pulled out my compass for navigation.” Byland said he knew the basic heading he should follow along the ridge, and he proceeded.
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