This isn't strictly firearm or CC related, but I DID carry the whole time despite it being an unofficial school outting. A few of the instructors knew because during the course of some climbing, the HK became visible. Though still, nobody said a word.
I'll give a brief intro: I do this thing called 'Wreckchasing' which is a term for Aviation Archeology. People who do it are into it for a variety of reasons. Many just look for aircraft that have never been found. Others visit known crash sites for a variety of reasons. We aren't glory hunters or scavengers.
On September 15th, 1944 at 0330 local, a TB-24J crashed into the side of Mt. Humpheys peak roughly 10 miles northwest of Flagstaff. The crash killed all eight on board. It was a night time navigation training flight from Bakersfield, CA, to Kirtland Field in New Mexico. The last check-in was made with contact at Ash Fork, AZ @ approx. 0315 local. Between then and the time of impact, the aircraft drifted fifteen miles off course and hit the side of the peak in the San Francisco Range. The official USAAF crash report lists the cause as "Pilot Error." It also says the aircraft crashed under normal flight conditions - meaning they 'flew straight in.' The official report can be viewed HERE.
Every few years, a group of students from my school send up a team to the site to map it out and treat as a real accident investigation. This is usually done on the anniversary of the accident. However this year, we went a little late. Temperatures in September at the location can be in the 20's with winds gusting normally around 30-40 knots. November usually has snowfall, temps below zero, and winds gusting upwards of 50 knots. We lucked-out though. The day was beautiful and we set-off from our parking lot at Snowbowl @ 11:30.
Now if you've never hiked at any altitude above 2 or 3000 feet, then you probably won't know what I'm talking about. But we started our ascent at 9,600'. To say that it's difficult to breathe at that altitude would be a bold understatement. I know people who live and hike around where I live (at around a mile high) who can't handle climbs like this. Now I have experience backpacking at around 9,000' to 10,000'. But this..? It was tough going. Most of us were panting for breath within around 50 yards of leaving the parking lot due to all the cold weather gear we were hauling on our backs (~10-15 pounds per person - nice days don't always stay 'nice' at high altitude).
The trip was just over two miles on a trail where we climbed to 10,600'. From there, we left the trail and had to cross a field of whats known as 'scree' - loose rocks that can vary in size from a few inches to several feet across. Also known as "Ankle Eaters". We climbed about 200' up the slide face and took a break before we had to bushwhack to the rest of the site. Here's the view:
Scree and 10,800':
During our bushwhacking, we start stumbling onto parts of the wreckage.. The round stuff that rolled downhill after the impact. Or the heavy things people have tried to souvenier-hunt (read: steal) from the site like radial cylinder heads. One of the things we ran into about 300' downhill from the impact zone was the tail-turret. It was mangled and beaten pretty bad - not just due to the impact, but because it rolled so far and hit so many trees on the way down.
Continuing uphill (no easy task), we arrived at the impact site: A HUGE scree field which extended vertically about 150 yards. There's tons of pictures of the debris field all over the internet so I won't bother posting much of it here. If you've never been to a crash site where people died, I won't bother trying to explain the feeling. It's... unique. Especially when there are still pieces of aircraft everywhere underfoot. All that the USAAF removed were the bodies, remaining parts of the Norden Bombsight, munitions, and .50 cal guns. Even going up there with a large group of people, it wasn't difficult to have a lot of reverence. Here's a few shots that turned out well:
Right-side rear vertical stabilzer wing:
Looking Northwest at 11,300':
We had to hual tail to get down before sunset when temperatures would plummet. We made short work of the trail and made it down in about an hour and half. At the bottom of the trailhead, it opens to a wide field that is part of the ski resort.
Leaving the trail:
Our school's program has done a few things the USAAF didn't do:
1) Recover the 'rest' of the bombsight.
2) Correctly establish the impact angle of the aircraft. The program established that the aircraft impacted the scree field with the engines running at nearly 100% throttle (based on striations on the propellors and damage angles compared with factory specs), and the aircraft was in a very hard ("screaming") right hand climbing bank. This is based on damages to certain parts of the aircraft, what's remained of the cockpit and tail sections as well as wingtip damages.
3) Recover evidence to support our claims.
4) Return the last missing and remaining ID bracelet of one of the pilots. (That was recovered yesterday) It is being returned to the family via the Army.
Thought you guys might be interested in some of this considering we have some military buffs on here. The San Francisico Peaks are also home to a B-17 (and crew) as well as a B-18 (and crew). Most of the B-17 has been scavanged and all that remains are the wingroots and gear hydraulics. I don't know the condition of the B-18 site.