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Caldera Blanca EA8/LA-015

I got distracted from writing this one up so here goes.

On my last full day on Lanzarote I had all to myself. My wife and daughter decided they wanted to be pampered and do little else so were going to stay at the hotel. That left me with a car and the chance to attempt whichever summit(s) I fancied. I wasn’t particularly quick in getting up, well it was a holiday, so that probably meant only 1 summit. I’d read a lot about Caldera Blanca, the largest caldera on the island and decided as it had not been on the air before then it would be my target.

The summit is not quite 30km away from where we staying and as drivers and driving on Lanzarote is very laid back it wasn’t a difficult drive. The hardest bit was keeping my eyes on the road and not looking at the assorted summits and checking how hard to climb they were. Shall we say I had one driver hoot melodiously at me for veering about. I had one other moment on the way where there were road works with traffic lights that took about 5mins to change and a confusing diversion through some side streets. Most of my navigation had been done before by noting the road numbers and town/village names to follow on road signs. I had to wake the tablet up and use its GPS and Orux maps to find how to get back to the road I wanted. Not hard really. As usual there was a strong wind blowing and it was 25-26C. Suncreme, plently of water and a good had being essential.

There’s a small car park at the end of about 200m of rough lava road. Again there were some large potholes so I had to take it slow in my hired Toyota Yarris. A long time ago, a keen biker friend (Suzuki GT750, Yamaha FJ1200 plus many more) introduced me to a somewhat crude expression describing vehicle performance viz. “It could not pull a greasy stick out of a dog’s bum”. Why greasy sticks would so arranged was never explained but it does seem suitably pejorative to use on under-powered vehicles. Should any dogs be so affected, the Toyota Yarris would not be the vehicle they should seek to cure them of their affliction! Absolutely gutless but the A/C worked well. Anyway I digress but I managed to get the last space in the car park of 20-30 cars. I booted up and had a good drink and checked twice I had the radio, antenna, feeders, LiPos, mic+key, camera and water.

View from the car park to the target, the path crosses about 2km of lava field.

The track starts off as fine black volcanic ash the size of gravel and is easy to walk on but soon becomes small irregular shaped pieces of lava. These shift about under your feet as you walk and quite quickly became tiring. I was wearing a pair of Karrimor Mount mid boots which are a glorified waterproof trainer. The soles are not really thick enough for this kind of terrain and boy did they take some abuse. The path wanders about and is sunk down so for lots of the walk you have walls of scoria a few metres high either side and not much to view. Along the way are signboards explaining the geology of the region and history of the volcanoes. After a while the path starts to pass right at the foot of the slopes of a caldera and you can see into Montana Caldereta where crops have been cultivated in the past. The bases of the calderas are much damper than elsewhere shown by the vegetation growing.

Looking into Montana Caldereta.

There’s a slight climb here to the path that climbs up the outside of Caldera Blanca. This is the steepest part of the entire walk.

It doesn’t take long to climb this and you get your first view of the huge caldera which is 1.2km across.

The path around the rim is trivial in both slope and difficulty, it’s nice and wide and the walking is easy. Much better than the loose lava on the approach path.

From here it was a straightforward tramp along the rim to the summit trig point. There were lots and lots of people walking to and from the trig. I kept an eye on my phone GPS as I wanted to operate from as far from the trig as possible to be out of the way of all the other walkers.

View across the caldera from the trig point:

View back to my operating position. This was by the large cairn in the mid distance which looks higher than the trig but isn’t. Stupidly I had dismantled the station antenna before taking photos of it which is most irritating.

View down the cone to the lava fields below. It’s surprisingly steep and I think the lava fields are undisturbed since the 1830s. I wouldn’t like to have to walk across them.

I set up by a large cairn a few metres from the main path. I wedged the pole in a crack in the lava and borrowed some lava lumps from the cairn to support the base. I replaced them on the cairn when I finished. Initial setup was on 20m as I knew this would work. A quick spot and I had a nice run of 9 calls on 20m SSB including an S2S with OE6SWG/p on OE/ST-248. Switching to CW netted 10 more chasers. At this point I was content, 19 QSOs seemed fair enough to me, all European chasers. I had a listen on 10m and there were a few stations on so I thought I’d give it a shot as I had all day and wasn’t rushing for once. I changed the top section for the 10m wire and spotted myself. I wasn’t sure how things would go because the antenna is really just a bit of wire approx 1/4 wave long and was low down near the ground.

OMG! The wall of callsigns started on the third CQ and for next hour and ten minutes I was permanently in QSO. It just never stopped, again mainly Europeans but N4EX, N1GB, AC1Z, W1OW, K3JH and KB1RJC got in from the USA. Most of the time I had a CX station on frequency as QRM. I don’t know if he couldn’t hear me but some of my chasers were 59+60 with and I’m sure he heard them. Still it’s not everyday you can moan a CX station on 10m is QRM. In the end I worked 63 QSOs on 10m including G, OK, DL, I, OE, HB9, N, PA, EI, GM, ON, & OZ. It was an absolute blast and how much better things could have been with a better antenna and more power instead of the 4.5W this 817 produces.

I packed up, took more photos and wander back the way I came. The visibility had improved since earlier and looking around from the summit was quite eerie with the huge lava fields and the odd volcano cone poking through. This is looking North and you can see the usual gloomier weather to the Northern end of the island.

I had a good drink nearly finishing the water as I had another litre back at the car. Return route was the reverse. The walk down to the path was fine but by the end of the rock path as I reached the car my feet in these thin soled boots were reaching the end of their tether. I was very glad to reach the car and the nearly deserted car park. The first thing I did was place my camera on the tailgate window wiper, put by bag down and disappear behind a large rock for a comfort break. As I got back to the car I got the keys out of the pocket in the bag and unlocked the car. I looked at the camera on the tailgate and though “Simpleton. You lost a phone once leaving it in a similar position whilst getting something out of your bag, here you are inviting the same problem.” So I picked it up and held it in my hand.

Now on the way out my other water bottle had leaked a bit and the boot floor carpet was damp. Given I was in 26C WX with a strong wind it was obvious I should take the boot carpet out and dry it. It comes out so you can get to the spare. I propped it up so the wind and sun were acting on it, sat in the hatchback of the car and finished my water whilst relaxing. Of course to do this I put the camera down but thinking of the above phone loss I made sure I put it somewhere safe. After 10 mins my feet were recharged and I’d drunk all the water. I remembered passing a store in Mancha Blanca about 2kms back which had a big sign advertising ice cream and that was my next target. Boot floor back in the car, all the bags, poles, walking poles into the car and off I went.

Well no, the car played a musical bong noise and red light came on with a picture of a tyre and exclamation mark. Rude words were said at this point, a flat in a hire care is always expensive no matter what insurance you may have. Out of the car and having checked all four tyres, there were no flats. This was the only point on the island were I didn’t have mobile coverage. I drove to end of the lava road and restarted the car hoping it would clear an obviously false warning. Nope… “bong” and the light came on. “Oh dear!” I said. So I drove to the ice cream shop and the car felt fine. Into the shop and some nuts and an ice cream later I was sat in the car Googling “yarris tyre warning”. Now my Audi uses the ABS rotation sensors to measure wheel speed and if one wheel rotates faster than the others (on average) over 200m of driving it warns you. But the Yarris has RF linked pressure sensors in the valves. So it was saying “low pressure”. When I was in the diversion I remembered passing a large petrol station and service station. So I set off home. Now don’t forget the camera at this point.

Back at the garage I found the airline and was checking the required pressures when a young lad working at the garage came. He spoke perfect English and he insisted on checking the tyres for me. 3 of them were at 3.5Bar which is far too much and he lowered them to 2,2 as recommend. The final one was 1.5Bar which is quite low so that was why the alarm was shown. I thanked him and he left to serve some petrol. Now I thought the hire company must have pumped them up so hard for a reason, perhaps there was a slow in that tyre. I didn’t want a bill for a flat so I pumped that one tyre to 3Bar. Well I’m assuming it started around there and took 2.5days to go down to 1.5. It only had to hold up till I gave the car back next morning so blowing it up hard should get me a “Get out of Jail free” card :wink:

Halfway back I looked at my phone and tablet on the passenger seat. “Where’s the camera?” I stopped and searched the inside of the car, no camera. I searched the boot and bag, no camera. I lifted the carpet, no camera. I turned round and drove a few kms back to Caldera Blanca before stopping. It would be getting dark by the time I got back so the chances of finding the camera bag were low. If someone found it they’d either keep it, take it to the police or put the pictures on Facebook and ask for someone to identify the camera. I decided it was stupid to go looking and anyway I clearly remembered taking it off the tailgate and putting it somewhere safe. If I just could remember where that was! But my relaxed feeling having got the tyre alarm sorted was lost.

I drove back to the hotel and called in to a petrol station to fill the car tank. I managed 39mpg over about 250kms, the distance traveled in 3days being a lot. I bought a several bags of local sweets for the guys back where I work as is the custom. I put them in the boot and there was the camera… safely located in a cubby hole between the rear wheel arch and the access panel to the rear lights. I remembered that it looked an ideal place to put the camera as it wouldn’t roll about in the boot. How I missed when I spent 5 minutes searching the car boot I don’t know. But it was as clear as daylight as soon as I opened up.

With the tyre problem hidden or fixed and the missing camera located tranquility returned. Later, after a shower and several scoops of lovely beer I realised what a splendid activation it had been. It was certainly the best of the 3 summits I did and I think that was because I actually had to put a little effort in to getting to the summit.

I can certainly recommend Lanzarote for either a holiday or SOTA expedition or both. Nice place, cheap, good WX, lovely people, easy summits, end stop 3g coverage around the island and plenty of spiffing propagation back to Europe. I’d certainly go back again if it wasn’t for the fact I have EA8/LA in my activated regions. So I think next trip will be either EA8/FU or CU. Or if I win the £42million lottery this week, KH6, ZL and a few others. :slight_smile:

Equipment used for all activations:
FT817 + 500Hz filter
5m travel fishing pole
Buddistick clone antenna (30/20/17/15/12/10 coverage)
Palm Paddle + N0XAS Picokeyer
Orux maps + maps from openstreetmap.org running on Moto G LTE gen1 and Nexus 7 gen 1.


Great report Andy, really enjoyed reading that.