Oh Gilbert (W6-ND-026) where are thou?

Flush from my morning success on Bald Mnt (W6-ND-012) and recently re-vitaled, I was ready for my afternoon adventure in search of Gilbert Peak.

The previous night I had done my homework loading waypoints into my newly acquired Garmin eTrex20x (which I am very happy with) and a few cached maps into Google Maps on my iPhone. I set off in the borrowed Subaru bouncing across ever narrowing forest roads. I breeze past a humungous road leveling vehicle that finally answered the question “who maintained and how” these wonderful forest roads. My first clue that this wasn’t going to be a doddle was when I happened upon a junction with one exit named along the lines of “Lookout Loop”. Uhm, I had done Lookout Mnt before and was I way off track? Powering up the eTrex and to my surprise I was indeed off track. Hastily re-orienting myself and heading back along the dirt road I made a turn into a new part of this densely forested area. I drive, paying close attention to my eTrex and am confident that I am back on track; Gilbert here I come……

I now appear to be driving on what is no more than a hiking trail and my suspicion is mounting once again that a left should have been a right or a right a left. I then realize that the little white chevron on the eTrex is the “cursor” and the little blue one my location. How confusing…well not really if you know what you are doing!! I’m definitely off course but as an optimist convince myself that the peak is not far off. Its simply a matter of bushwhacking and hey presto I’m “destinated” (which isn’t a real English word but I heard it once on a repeater and it stuck in my head).

Its at this point that I realize that loading all 7,000+ W6 SOTA peaks as waypoints into my eTrex the night before was not the right thing to have done. I’ve exceeded the waypoint count!!  Garmin’s Basecamp software running on my Mac didn’t make this fact abundantly clear. Like many of today’s devices the eTrex is very menu driven and the UI is pretty intuitive but I couldn’t find an obvious way to delete just one or some waypoints, it was literally all or nothing.

So I had a choice; ensure I have an accurate waypoint for Gilbert or an accurate waypoint for my ride out of this somewhat confusing wilderness. Nanoseconds later I opt for a guaranteed ride home.

My iPhone has cell connectivity and the SOTA site offers up the GPS coordinates for Gilbert which I deftly enter into the eTrex. They seem to be slightly off of the peak (Garmin provides for a small fee some great maps to load into the eTrex) but the contours look very SOTA-ish and I don’t think too much of this.

Kitted up, I’m off bushwhacking up what is now a class 3 climb; steep, lots of rocks, boulders and trees and I quickly lose sight of the car and the general direction back but I have GPS so no worries. I reach the peak and for some reason decide to consult Google maps on my iPhone. Uhm…Gilbert appears to be 1/2 mile north. Surveying the terrain and being alone I just didn’t think given the previous 45 minutes of confusion that bushwhacking down a valley and up a side of Gilbert that looked very Class 3-ish the best of ideas.

A view looking south-ish from the Gilbert imposter.


Gilbert is simply not a today event. My first aborted SOTA activation.

While disappointed it was a good learning/re-inforcement opportunity;

  • Discretion is the better part of valor
  • Better understanding of the devices you rely on such as the eTrex would be good

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