A barefoot activation? What’s that? You will see that further downwards…
- Disclaimer: reading the whole article takes more than 3 minutes, and after its completion you’ll wish visiting EA2/NV as soon as you can.
The mountains located at the North East part of EA2/NV (Navarra) are the start of the Pyrenees range.
Last years I have been willing to spend some days in this area and do some SOTA activation, but for different reasons I hadn’t have any chance until this year when I got a tiny window of three days free from the family routines.
After much planning I decided to try activating 2 summits in 2 days. Being far from the capital, most activation done before on my two target summits were done on VHF, a little on HF SSB and none on CW. Let’s see how this old dream came true.
Approaching and accommodation
The trip from Pamplona (the capital city of Navarra) takes 1h 45 minutes to reach the camping site of Zuriza, very well placed in the middle of the nature.
The camping is at 1220 m a.s.l. and is surrounded by tall mountains, just at the foot of SOTA EA2/HU-080 Ezkaurre, with its 2050 m height:
I choose this place because some relatives have a permanent caravan here, and I am allowed to stop by.
The river Veral is next the camping; it is very nice to sit there and listen to the sounds of nature while the kids in the camping take a swim somewhere down:
This season has started very hot, but being at this height the weather is mild and comfortable. Although it wasn’t raining a lot this year, fields are green and well covered with nice flowers:
At West we find a beautiful range called Alanos, with a characteristic shape, not a Sota anyway (higher peak behind):
If I could imagine a paradise, this place would fit in very well.
Day 1: Mt. Txamantxoia, EA2/NV-005 - 1945m
Activation date: 17 July 2019
At the middle of the night a wake up because there was a sudden rain. I had planned to wake up at 5 utc, but after an intermittent sleep, when I heard the alarm, again there was some more rain and I thought my activation was over. I felt asleep and I finally left the caravan at 6:30, finding some low clouds on the valley and the sky covered. Not a very good start but I decided to go on with the plan! I had a quick breakfast and headed towards Txamantxoia.
This mountain is a very long one. There are several different routes to climb it, and the closest from the camping starts at a place called Linza, where there is a mountain hut. From this place the mountain is an impressive pyramid:
Nevertheless when looking the mountain from the neighbor valley of Belagua its shape is much longer:
The trail from Linza is shorter but huge, with a height gain of 600 m in 2,65 kilometers (one way), surrounding the peak by the East face most of the track.
It is not really difficult; it follows clear paths although very steep in some points. A lot of precaution is required on the way down. Mountain sticks and a good pair of boots recommendable. Here exiting the forest and facing the rock:
Now looking backwards: precaution, loose stones!
I used my Mountain topper MTR-3B, a light but reliable HF CW three bander, quite appropriate for such trekking, and installed the fishpole in the geodetic vertex in the very summit:
Notice the tiny CW push paddle (thanks Luc ON7DQ for the relays!) over my log table, that I use with my left hand (although I am right handed I find it easy to use!).
My smart phone wasn’t working. Seems my provider don’t cover this area and I couldn’t self spot nor check any other activation in progress all along the activation.
I started the activation on 10 MHz, and had the feeling that my reports were a bit poor, with some QSB at times. Then I cycled on 14 and 7 MHz.
After running for 1 hour 5 minutes I decided it was time to stop but tried to scan on 7 MHz and found 2 more SOTA activators, logging them happily before going QRT.
All in all, 40 qso, including 5 S2S. Thanks DL6FBK/P, Kurt F/HB9AFI/P, Daniel HB9IIO/P, Werner DJ5VY/P and Bruno HB9CBR/P: a pleasure to log them all although being a blind activation without the cluster at hand. Well, it adds some magic, don’t it?
Before leaving the summit some pictures of the neighbor peaks. I was finally lucky with the weather!
View towards North, looking at Mt. Lakora, my destination for tomorrow marked with an arrow, accompaigned by mt. Phista, Barazea NV-007, Otsogorrigaina NV-006 and Kartxela NV-004 (from right to left).
Panoramic towards East, the big Pyrenees in EA2/HU and France.
EA2BD day 1 over! Let’s move next.
Day 2: Mt. Lakora, EA2/NV-008 - 1877 m
Activation date: 18 July 2019
To reach the parking place and start of the route you leave the camping and drive back to the junction of the road from Isaba to France. You can park where the road reaches the border with France, in the col of Erraitze.
I am on Spain, but my hand is actually in France!
The trail is easy, with a height gain of 290 m in 2,85 kilometers (one way), following the ridge West all the time, but It is dangerous if it is foggy. Well, that was exactly the point. After parking my car at the start of the track, I found it all covered with a dense fog, similar to what I observed yesterday from Mt. Txamantxoia.
Therefore I changed my trousers and shirt to put the winter cloths and protect me against cold.
I started the route concentrated on my GPS; I couldn’t go to Mt. Lakora (a new one for me) but following the track loaded in the small GPS. No problem, I’ve put new batteries on…
The fog was dense and I couldn’t see anything further than 15 meter ahead. Soon I found the route was following a narrow ridge and I puit all my attention not to stumble.
All the way there was a dense vegetation covered with drops of water from the fog. While walking my trousers started soaking, and after half an hour of walking blind, following the GPS I was feeling both socks and my boots completely wet inside, like if I was walking with a bucket instead of shoes!
That was very nasty and I started being worried. I didn’t know if the summit would also be foggy and therefore I couldn’t dry all these wet clothes. I started having serious doubts and stopped to check in my GPS the remaining distance to the summit. I had about one third left to the summit. I decided to have a drink, and eat some snacks while hesitating wheter to go on or abandon.
I then remembered that I had seen the summit without fog, just pointing over the clouds yesterday and decided I would try to get on. That is what I did, and after a while I could see some summits surrounding Mt. Lakora were up above the clouds sea, and further on the target in the sun!
I decided I would do a quick activation as I wasn’t sure if clouds would cover the summit later on. To my surprise, the weather in the summit was excellent, not any breeze. I deployed my EFHW antenna and prepared the rig.
Then I sat and removed my boots, turned them upside down and a stream of water went out from them, wow! I decided to activate barefoot so that my shock would also dry a bit.
This is way I did my first ever barefoot activation, hi!
And this was the spectacular view in front of me; the effort did worth such a splendid scenario!
Clic to open the panorama!
Again, my smart phone didn’t work and I could not check any spot.
Activation went well, I finally ran on 10, 14 and 7 MHz, logging 31 qso in 50 minutes. Just before disconnecting I checked a bit looking for S2S and found Gavin G0GAV/P on 10 Mhz, logging him straight away.
I dismantled the setup, put on the boots which were much better now, and returned being very cautious with the path, as I entered again the fog, although it was a bit lighter than during the ascent.
A bit lazy not willing to cross that ridge again on the fog I walked back slowly.
I found two cows had blocked the path and I carefuly did a round to avoid any additional trouble; the fog was more than enough for the day!
If you have reached this part of the story I’m glad you enjoyed the same as me with this visit to the Pyrenees. i am still shocked rememberiing how much I enjoyed. I am used to the mountains around my home town but believe me Pyrenees are another world.
I’m looking forward to visit that again and climb to new summits! Do you wish to join me there?
73 de Ignacio
P.s. It took two days to have my boots dryed after my return!