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Stuck on Santiago Peak


In 1979, MRA was formed and we started installing radio repeaters with which we sold airtime to customers for a monthly fee.  One day, I had to go to Santiago Peak to work on the repeaters that failed.  I left my house early around 6AM and headed directly to Santiago Peak arriving on top of the mountain around 9AM.  I reached the large open area in the center of the peak that many people refer to as the parking lot.  I turned the Chevy van around to back down the dead end road that goes to the building where our equipment was located.  As I turned around, the steering of the vehicle acted funny and as I backed down the road, the steering acted even more strangely than in the parking area.  Once I was parked on relatively flat ground next to the building, I got out of the vehicle, grabbed the keys and proceeded to open the building.

Santiago Peak Tower Site in the snow

I thought that I should check under the vehicle before beginning the work in the building in case there was something seriously wrong.  When I looked under the van near the front of the vehicle, I was horrified to see that the A-Frame suspension from the left front tire was broken.  The tire had an upper and lower A-arm.  The lower A-arm was supported by two U-bolts, one of which had shattered leaving the lower support suspended by only 1 U-bolt.  There was no way that I was going to be able to drive down the mountain without fixing the suspension before I left the site, so I called into the office on the radio and informed them of my predicament.  I told them to get two new U-bolts (just in case the remaining intact U-bolt was weakened and needed to be changed), two hydraulic jacks and two jack stands.  I felt that these would be needed to force the lower suspension rod (that had broken loose when the U-bolt shattered) back into position so that it would be possible to insert the new U-bolt and get it tightened.

After providing the information to the shop for them to mount the rescue, I proceeded to go inside the building to perform the work for which I had gone to the mountain in the first place.  I worked on several repeaters and rebuilt one of the power amplifiers in one of the repeaters.  Since this was an older tube repeater which was somewhat current technology at the time, the rebuild of this one repeater took about 2.5 hours.  After performing several other tasks, I was about finished with my work when the cavalry arrived.

One of our field installers who had been up to the mountaintop named Richard proceeded to go to the Chevy dealer and purchase the U-bolts.  He also got the hydraulic jacks and the jack stands that I requested and proceeded to head to the mountain.  This process took several hours and when you add the two hour drive to the top of the mountain, Richard arrived for the rescue at 3PM.

Now we had the parts and tools to fix the van, we proceeded to go through the gyrations to get the A-arm back into position so that it could be bolted down.  Once it was in position, we went to insert the U-bolt into the frame and we could not do it.  The new U-bolt was thicker than the old U-bolt because they were having a problem with the U-bolts breaking.  Now, we had to crawl under the vehicle and drill out the holes in the frame of the van to allow the thicker U-bolt to be inserted into the holes.  This took some doing, but fortunately we were able to get far enough under the vehicle to get to the holes to drill them to the larger diameter.  Once we finally got the holes drilled, we were able to insert the new U-bolt into the frame and tighten down the U-bolt.  We also checked the tightness of the other U-bolt, but elected not to try to replace the other U-bolt up on the mountain.  We did not want to spend the additional time to drill out another set of holes.

We left the mountain at 5PM to drive down the mountain.  I drove conservatively as I did not want a repeat of the previous problem or anything else to happen on the way down.  One major event per day was enough.  I managed to get back to the office by 7:00PM where I worked until 10PM.  I got home at 10:30PM and managed to complete the days work in spite of the vehicle problem.

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