We made it home in the desert southwest. The drive was nice, if not a bit boring, but that’s okay.
At Hope Pass it was slightly below freezing, with rain-hail-sleet-snow and 60mph/95kph winds. When we arrived home, three days later, it was 109F/43C.
It was hard to not laugh as each of us unloaded a heavy jacket, rain gear, several thin layers of warm clothes and a few medium thick layers of warm clothes.
What we did “up there”.
First, there is no vehicle access to Hope Pass, so it’s “walk there”. We needed to be self sufficient so it was really “backpack there”. Backpacking at12,000 feet/3,700 meters elevation is breathtaking.
My wife and I stationed ourselves near the aid station at a point along the trail where the bushes forced the runners into a single file. From this place, we recorded the runner bib numbers, the time the runner passed us and the runner’s direction of travel. This was a safety check to ensure all the runners were accounted for, and to, if a runner didn’t arrive at the next aid station in a reasonable amount of time, figure out where to begin looking for the runner.
We also kept track of runners that voluntarily dropped out of the race, or were cut (arrived at the aid station after a set deadline). Since no vehicles were at this aid station, these runners had to walk back to the “by the road” aid station. When a runner was cut or dropped out, we communicated the runner number and the time the runner headed to the next aid station so that the runner’s crew could be notified where to pick up “their” runner.
Why ham radio? Ham operators are quite skilled in standing up a self contained temporary communications system. My observations was that the system set up and testing was started the day before the race and the “tear down” was complete within just a few hours after the race.
This is not to downplay the ability of the people maintaining other systems to do similar things–they are often hindered by regulatory, economic and technical considerations that don’t apply to ham operators. For a 30 hour race, it’s not practical for commercial, cellular or public safety systems to expand their systems to cover all the “hills and valleys” along the course. Hams have virtually no regulatory requirements for temporary radio sites, do not require a connection to “the outside world” like many commercial systems, and the economic issues are not really applicable.