From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ron Miller)
Subject: Trip Report: NeverSummers CO F-100 Site
Date: 12 Aug 1996 22:36:21 GMT
TRIP TO NEVER SUMMERS IN SEARCH OF THE CRASH SITE OF AN F-100
By: Ron Miller, email@example.com
Note: Permission granted to Mike Dallin to make this available on the
Rocky Mountain National Park Webpage he keeps. Permission granted
to print or file this report for individual not-for-profit use so
long as the entire file is kept together.
The Goal: Reach, record GPS coordinates of, and photograph the remaining
wreckage of an F-100C Super Sabre fighter jet crash near
Mt. Cirrus in the Never Summer range of mountains in N. Colo.
The Site: On 30 Jan. 1967, 2nd Lt. Eldon C. Hart was lost while on a
routine training mission. The accident report described
Lt. Hart as having gone into cloud and losing control while
executing a barrel roll around the lead aircraft to bleed off
overtake velocity. He did not eject and the aircraft was not
found for months.
Civil Air Patrol listed the wreck at one location, Bill Boyd,
whose report about the Never Summers appears in the Rocky Mtn
Nat'l Park webpage, reported a slightly different location
though he didn't know at the time what he was looking at.
My researcher/historian friends in Estes Park had a site report
from a fellow who had visited the site in 1967.
The Plan: Make a 2 day backpack trip out of it with my buddy Thomas.
Preliminaries: Thomas couldn't go. So I packed for a solo effort (meaning
that I added the weight of my 2m ham radio and a revolver and
carried my one-man tent).
0825 Rolling from south Ft. Collins.
1040 Turnoff from Colo. Hwy 14 at Gould onto USFS roads. (83 miles from home)
1115 After 3 miles of 4WD LO reach Teller City ghost town site.
There was a sign at the entrance warning that it would be closed to
vehicle traffic and camping someday. Neither of the USFS people in
the area knew anything about it.
1225 To Baker Pass trailhead up at the head of Jack Creek Wilderness
boundary. Cloudy in the area, it starts raining and hailing before I
shut down. 6.4 miles of 4WD LO from Teller City, 4 hrs from home.
1300 Hiking. Two people climb off an ATV at the trailhead and hike too.
From Iowa, they spend 1 week per summer here. We shelter in some trees
and talk as more hail blows thru. Turns out that they'd been to
the wreck a few years ago. Couldn't put it on the map though.
1430 Blue skies, I move along down the old 4WD road to Baker Pass.
The road goes over the ridge and down to an old mica mine. Apparently
the two rock outcrops here in the lush meadow were worth digging.
No structures remain. I head north along the cairned trail. Skirting
the rock glacier, it goes into the trees and beelines north.
This territory is spectacular. Rocky peaks dropping bright rocks in
waves and falls right down onto green grassy meadows. Rock glaciers.
Tall peaks, deep green valleys with meandering rivers.... ahhhhhh.
1500 I overtake a solo backpacker on the trail who had come up from RMNP via
Baker Gulch. He looks wasted and is tired of being hailed on. (The climb
is significant for him. He's surprised that I parked about 1 mile from
there.) He is doing some sort of loop from Baker Gulch, north then
return. Gotta look at the map to figure it out for myself.
I leave him and go on. Briefly stop to put some moleskin on my
heels then I proceed. Cross a very large talus slope.
1530 Nearing area for camp. The valley wall sides are timbered and steep.
I dump my pack and try to find something campable. It takes an hour
to determine that I've done about as well as available.
1700 Skeeters aplenty. The humidity is high, the bugs hungry, the sky overcast
with storms in various directions. This depresses me somewhat.
I setup camp, such as it is. I put my one-man tent across the roots of
a tree - the only level ground. Fortunately the holes make decent
hipholes and it's reasonably comfortable.
1820 I take a 1/2 mile hike along the trail to the north. I consider how
to climb Mt. Cirrus or whether I should go to the saddle first. Undecided,
I head back toward camp and have some ramen for dinner. The skeeters
seem to want to die in my dinner. The first couple of days solo are
always a bit difficult around dinnertime.
1920 Big storms wander the area. A large bolt seems to blast the area where
my jeep is parked. Wouldn't that be the pits?
1950 Into the tent after securing everything for heavy weather. I leave the
final flap open to watch the lightning on the distant ridges and
write off the possibility of seeing the Perseid meteor showers.
2100 Dozing around the rumbles, dark.
2400 Finally a big blast of wind rattling the tent like someone trying to
shake me out of there. Then some hail and rain.
There are 3 separate rockfalls off the ridge during the night. One
lasts a very long time. Briefly I wonder if it can go far enough to get
me. It doesn't - this time.
0530 Awake and lightly dozing.
0615 Out of the tent into the gray of dawn. Since I'm on the west side,
it'll be gray for quite awhile. Clouds and moisture indicated in the
skies. Doesn't look good.
0730 Fed, packed, and moving for the daytrip. I head north and decide to go
to the saddle between Mt. Cirrus and the big 'tooth' on the ridge
directly west. It's a steep, grassy rascal and takes a bunch of
zigzagging to achieve.
0900 What airplane parts? None. Anywhere. But there are cairns, huge
cairns down in the cirque on the far side. Can't see why. Two
pretty lakes must be the ones in Bill Boyd's trip report.
Well, what now? Climb Mt. Cirrus, of course.
1030 After getting tired of endless rocks, the rock size turned to
chips, the summit rounds off and here's the top. Summit cairn but
no register. I take pictures all around and admire the rugged view.
The Never Summers really are *rotten* rock. The ridges connecting
peaks are ugly jagged messes. Hiking the true Divide would be
tough. The view of Lake of the Clouds in RMNP is neat. I mentally
place the Nokhu Crags in position and enjoy the view.
So where're the airplane parts? I try to match the xeroxed photos
to any of the ridge profiles I can see. Not this mountain, not
directly north or south. Only thing close is the extension of the
ridge beyond the 'tooth' and around the corner. I am deflated.
That's a pretty good long ways from here. And I can't reasonably
I leave the summit angling southwest toward grass slopes I know
I can descend and planning to cross a circled X on the map placed
there by someone who visited the site nearly 30 years ago.
That X doesn't match the photo and doesn't have any airplane parts.
I trudge on. Sometimes I can scree-slide but mostly I downclimb on
grass. It was a long way above the trail.
1200 I regain the trail about 300 yds from camp. Back to the north we go.
1225 I sight a chunk of aluminum all of about 15 minutes from where I'd
turned around last night. I look up to the ridge. THERE! It's
all over the place up there! A steep, dark rockslide decorated with
shiny bits. As I get closer to the last trees at the base of the
cirque, I find a whole elevator assembly standing leaning against
a tree. Yup, this is the place.
I drop my pack, take a GPS fix (13T 0422126,4476509), sling the
camera and commence to exploring the site. I go from big piece to
big piece taking pictures and going up the slide. The bits are all
the way up to higher than I care to climb (nearly the ridge crest).
I ease north and start down again. I found the 20mm gun a rusty
mess with a bent barrel. I found the ammo ballast, main gear
struts, nose strut, the radio, engine core, other elevator, the
rudder with its Air National Guard paint intact, a 2 foot stretch
of canopy rail, the radio, the airplane drogue chute (not pilot's
chute), hunks of tubing, hanks of wire, a wheel with tire mounted
to it, twisted scraps of hand-sized aluminum by the dozens, etc
What a pretty place to crash. Lt Hart surely was vaporized instantly.
I've been very fortunate today. The weather holds drier than yesterday.
No significant clouds interfering or causing me to worry about
maybe packing up and going home tonite.
1400 I head back toward camp. I feel like heading home today although
I'm pretty weary from climbing Cirrus unnecessarily. Unnecessarily-
not really. I said I wanted to climb it while I was in the area
anyway. The views were terrific, the pictures should be good, the
orientation I got from the terrain is worthwhile.
1430 I am back at camp. A short squall blows in with hail. I cover up
with the poncho, put a ground pad under my butt and sit up against
a stump until it passes. I take off my boots - oboy. Big nasty
blister on the R heel. Hardly felt it. I root thru my pack
looking for the 2nd Skin. Can't find it. I'm SURE I packed it. I
even changed the AAA battery in the mini-lite that rides with the
misc emergency stuff in the baggie. But I can't find it.
I smear on some anti-biotic and make do with more moleskin.
(Note- It was there, just mashed to one side. I found it at home.)
Then I pack.
1530 As I am nearing departure, two hikers emerge from the trees about
100 yds away heading uphill. They get to timberline, drop their packs
and hoot and holler at the views. I quietly finish packing. Last
item is to go to the creek and pump 2 qts of water for the trip.
I am dry from the morning's hiking so 1 qt wouldn't do it.
I am pumping water when one of them comes over to me. I know him!!!
It's Shane from work! He and his buddy came uphill from the Michigan
River and are going to spend 2 more days in the area.
I describe the terrain seen from Mt. Cirrus and explain my mission.
They were there to hike and fish. (good fishing way down there in
They talk about getting to Lake Agnes far to the north then cross-country
back to the truck down in the Michigan R drainage. I shake my head
at the ambition.
1600 I head out. It's not very far but there is some gain to be done from
the pass to the crest between there and trailhead. I turn and look back
frequently to find that I can pick out the rockslide where the plane is.
It's dark rock with sparkly bits in it.
I move slowly with fatigue. Thru the shady woods, to the rock glacier
it's fairly level. Then from the rock glacier it's uphill to the
pass. 10 steps, rest 10, 10 steps, rest 10. Man, I'm tired. While this
is pretty, I'm too tired to appreciate it. 10, 10 , 10, 10, 10 , 20 ,
10 (20 is too much), 10. Finally, the pass.
Now there is a strong S wind blowing. Get out the fleece. Find the
road/trail near the mines, follow it as it climbs. 10, 10, 10, 10.
I crest the hill. Downhill from here. What a view! The whole set of
valleys in westerly sunshine. The crash site is crystal clearly visible
as sparkly bits on a dark patch 2.5 miles away. Woof, I'm tired.
Down to the wilderness boundary sign. I drop my pack and get the camera.
Several photos of the valley, being sure to include the sparkly slide.
1810 There's the car. 2 vehicles at the trailhead now. A full sized 4WD
pickup and an import pickup with a guy apparently cooking his dinner
on a Coleman stove.
I doff the boots, change my t-shirt, swill some water, sort out some
food to eat on the way home and prepare to depart.
1830 Started up and heading home.
I am fatigued to the point of the chill/sweat/shiver routine in the
car. I'd forgotten to guard against that. Eat, drink, don't get out
of the car or you'll go into deep shivers.
2145 Home. Safe. Shivering. Cheated death again. Mission Accomplished.