Yeah, you're telling me! It was quite frustrating actually, and I don't disagree- it should have worked. Even a lousy antenna (I tried with the rubber ducky) with 7W should have closed link- and throughout I I could receive them, though only occasionally enough to break squelch. I worked Pikes from Humboldt and Lindsay in the past and they were 5/9, but that was with the Yeasu.
Not ruling out operator error- seems most likely- but all can tell you that's how it happened and it's pretty hard to mess up with the rubber ducky so I don't know what I could have done wrong. I'd think the finals on the radio to be the next suspect, but the AX-25 packets made it to Hartsel from that location. The KC Folks could actually hear me calling to Pikes- they relayed I was there and I heard Pikes reply to them that he had tried to talk with me- of course I called back hearing that, still no luck. I can't figure it out.
I do have a photo toward Pikes. Usually you can see it from the Sangres. In this case there are clouds above and the visibility wasn't such to make it out, but could see well toward Canon City. Google is so cool that I am able to recreate the photo and there's a clear difference in views. Unless I did the trig wrong, there's another ~.5 mi or so drop due to the curvature of the Earth at 67.1 miles. All of which would have made the look angle like ~.5 degree below horizontal, but there was absolutely nothing that high in the way in that direction. Humboldt is too far to the side. Given the strange atmospheric conditions and the polarization reversal, my total wag is a reflection off of the clouds- like a Tropo E inversion without the ducting, with nothing to scatter and loose coherence from otherwise, setting up a nice little 2nd path and Fresnel zone- which really doesn't pass Occam's Razor nor does that make much since in that the polarization difference would mean the two paths would be out of phase anyway. But I can't figure out anything else, it just should have worked. When Belford worked it was from that 2nd location. Pike's either had called it a day or still couldn't hear me at at time. Had I been thinking I would have tried 70 cm too. Going to feed the radio into an RTL-SDR just to make sure it's pulling out 7W still.