On Wednesday October 11 this year I climbed Tikaboo around 3:30 PM, the weather was fine but as soon as the sun set the temperature began to drop and the wind started blowing. Guys, in a matter of two hours the temperature dropped by approximately 15 degrees Celsius. This is what always amazes me, the desert appears to be friendly and then it may totally surprise you in a flash. This time was no different. Just after sundown I managed to take photos and video of two fastmovers that landed at Groom. I published the photos already so I'm sure most of you have seen them posted on this site. For those who haven't seen them yet here is the link to the article.
Originally, I had planned to camp atop with two other guys. But they had to abort in the end for personal reasons and decided to stay overnight at the foot the peak. The temperature at the top was near freezing within hours due to the wind that had no intentions to calm down. It was so windy that I could not manage to take pictures even using a solid, professional tripod. I was dressed in three layers of clothing and gloves, and I had supplementary heating tools to warm me. The excitement may give you an illusion of being totally safe but you can't forget about your safety and you have to stay focused while climbing alone. I trusted the guys to not leave me there on my own so I waited patiently all night for the morning to take pictures for another panorama; keeping my fingers crossed for good viewing conditions. I was unable to even take a nap as the weather was so demanding due to factors previously mentioned and I had to cover behind the wall of rocks on the top of Tikaboo to literally hide from the wind. The sky is outstanding in the desert, especially at night, and you can see plenty of shooting stars which in itself is beautiful and romantic. It makes you feel close to Heaven. Getting back to Groom Lake though...
The base was barely active at night although the runway lights and buildings were lit (as much as on the night panorama linked above). I didn't see any movement of anything flying in the range so I guess there was no mission from around 10PM to the early morning. The first thing that happened was a routine flight of one of the 737 Janets that are easy to spot from Tikaboo, especially knowing their schedule. Then, still in darkness, the sky was quiet again... until about 5:35AM, when something interesting began to happen: While lying on the rocks atop of the Peak I heard a low pulsating sound approaching from the base. It was a rhythmic tone with intervals of one-to-one second. I quickly recognized the sound: I was sure it was one of Groom's UH-60 that I knew are commonly used when the base wants to see what you are doing with their NVGs. The sound was getting louder and louder and I had the impression they were really close to me. My feeling turned out to be true and as I took a look to the left I noticed the base Chopper very low above me. It was moving slowly, low above the ground, making a slow pass-by circle above. Then it hovered for several seconds, looking at me, just to leave in the direction of Groom in a matter of seconds. All this wouldn't be so interesting if it weren't for the fact that I had my scanner on all the time and I heard communications on some of the Groom mission frequencies. The base didn't send their security helicopter out of the blue. Soon I heard that they were preparing to launch something pretty sensitive/*hush*hush* and needed to abort due to the fact I was up there. The female voice at Groom literally said: "ok, we are done for today...". The following is a transcript of the communications and below it is a link to the original recording from that morning.
05:45:07 Coffee Tree: "... when able"
05:47:33 Coffee Tree: "... confirmation of watchdog Tango; uh, that will be a decisions point for us this morning"
05:51:36 Mission Backup: "... Groundhog on Mission Backup when able"
05:51:51 Mission Backup: "Sabre 3-1 is airborne; he should be on station in about two minutes"
05:54:32 Mission Backup: "Radio check on backup"
05:54:37 Mission Backup: "... clear, how me?"
05:56:55 Coffee Tree: "Thanks for the words, I really appreciate the help"
05:57:28 Mission Backup: "Sabre 3-1 has called in and has confirmed Watchdog Tango; we are done today!"
05:57:57 Coffee Tree: "Yep, thank you"
06:16:45 Mission Prime: "Our primary mission has cancelled. Sabre 82 may be up and flying as well"
|Scanner audio of aborted Area 51 mission due to Watchdog Tango condition|
So yes, I was definitely the reason for them to cancel the mission that morning. I find it interesting that they sent their Chopper to investigate. It shows that they detected my presence in total darkness and at a distance of 26 miles from the base! That morning I was so close, yet so far to seeing something clandestine, hidden in a black budget (hopefully not forever!).
Conclusions and deduction:
The base refers to spotters being on Tikaboo Peak as Watchdog Tango. Watchdog is a reference to someone observing the base whilst Tango (phonetic for the letter "T" in the aviation alphabet) means Tikaboo.
Well, next time I will try to be more 'stealthy' 😊 The desert is calling me back... and I'm delighted to accept the invitation, soooon!"