G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-001 PICO RUIVO on 02-04-15
This report covers No1 in the CT3 series of eight activations.
The SOTA activation report starts after the general introduction.
List of eight SOTA’s activated between 2nd and 12th April 2015:
CT3/MI-001; MI-005; MI-004 (Night Activation); MI-002; MI-008; MI-006; MI-009 and MI-004 (Day Activation). I also tried to activate CT3/MI-007 on the morning of 04-04-15 but this failed.
We arranged this holiday soon after returning from a successful fortnight in La Palma Island, Canaries in April 2014. This would be my fourth visit to Madeira and I already knew some of the mountains pretty well. However preparations took a lot of time and would have taken even longer without the help of Phil G4OBK and DG5WU, both of whom provided information on GPS routes, either via the SOTA Mapping Project or email.
As before we went for the convenience of booking a package deal with Thomson’s Travel Agents in Scarborough’s high street. It may be more expensive but the peace of mind is worth it. Accommodation was at the Riu Palace Hotel Caniço de Baixo. (Pronounced Canesso Bash N32 38.7 W16 49.6). The holiday was all inclusive and can be recommended. Flights took less than 4-hours. (G-TAWO Boeing 737-800). As always and just for interest and something to do, GPS tracks were recorded on the flights.
After some stress last year trying to extract it in the dark from an airport in the process of closing down for the night, this year’s hire car was arranged after a free day settling in. A Renault Clio was booked for 12-days via the Thomson Rep at a cost of 350 Euro’s (263 GBP) including every conceivable insurance and a second driver (20 Euros). Grandson Jack’s booster seat came free. The cost was significantly lower than that quoted by Hertz and the car was brought to and left at the hotel. Petrol cost is around 1.55 Euros per litre. (Diesel is approx 0.9).
Radio and Walking Gear:
This had been given a lot of detailed research last year. Very little extra effort, apart from packing it to a strict weight limit, was needed this time. Again the Xiegu Technology X1M Platinum 5-Band CW/ SSB HF-QRP rig was taken in case the FT817ND should fail on the island with little chance of repair. The aircraft engineer in me comes to the fore on these occasions and the object of the exercise was that no single failure would put me off the air.
After fitting the hire car out with HF and VHF last year without a single QSO from it (SOTA priority) I took a diminutive home-brew mag-mount with a 2m/ 70cm rubber duck for CT3. Three tiny Baofeng UV-3R’s were packed to provide ‘family’ communications on the UHF-PMR 446 MHz band. Even so, this system was only used once to arrange a rendezvous at the bottom of the sled ride in Funchal.
Our baggage allowance was 85kg for the four of us with a maximum for a single suitcase of 23kg. Hand baggage is meant to be limited to 5kg each but fortunately they don’t weigh it! A spare Bergause Flow 25 litre rucksack, within the allowed dimensions of 55x40x20cm with weight 1.2kg, doubled as hand baggage and for SOTA work.
Again to make things easier, I gave Roy G4SSH a list of working CW, SSB & FM frequencies for each band and printed them on the top of every logsheet.
Air Travel and Batteries:
My Li-Po’s are all below the allowed 100Wh for air travel and after getting them through Manchester Airport (eventually!) last year, I was not anticipating too many problems. Batteries must be packed in hand luggage with terminals taped up. I also housed them in Li-Po Guard fire resistant bags.
At East Midlands Airport 30-03-15:
As per last year, we were delayed for 15 minutes while a security man went over the contents of my rucksack in detail. Li-Po’s comprising of one 6Ah, three 2.2Ah (all 11.1V types) were removed from their fireproof protection to be swabbed for explosives. Everything else deemed remotely suspicious was removed from protective packets or bubble wrap to be placed in shallow trays, re X-Rayed and carefully examined.
I was carrying an Amazon tablet, a satnav for the hire car, three handhelds, two GPS’s, torches, headlamps and spare AA/ AAA and lithium cells for these. I was told by the obviously stressed official as he waved them in my face, that the paralleling harnesses for my 2.2 Ah Li-Po’s were at first taken for detonators on the X-Ray scan! Presumably the Li-Po’s were mistaken for the associated explosives?
I offered my amateur radio licence but a chirpy, relaxed attitude didn’t help. ‘We need to thoroughly examine these items and a bit of paper doesn’t impress us one little bit.’ Haven’t you done air travel before?’ Eventually we were cleared through but by then one of our boarding passes had gone missing. After 5 more minutes of searching, it was found jammed in the roller mechanism.
My family are wise to me now. They always go through first then they can disown me but what a relief it was to be through to the airport lounge and cafe!
Activation No1 of 8:
PICO RUIVO de Santana: CT3/MI-001 (QRO)
Bands: 20m-17m-12m CW/ SSB
G4YSS using alternative personal callsign CT9/ M1NNN/P. Unaccompanied.
All times ‘WEST’ UOS. (Western European Daylight Saving Time which is UTC + 1hr and also equivalent to BST).
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver.
MX-P50M HF 50 Watt Linear Amplifier.
Adjustable link dipole for 20-17-15-(12)-10m (built 1992 for CT3).
Two 7m-long end strings for dipole.
5m Telescopic Mast with ground spike. (Guying kit and end sticks not carried).
6 Ah Li-Po battery.
Garmin GEKO miniature GPS.
Packweight: 7.8 kg (17 pounds) including food and 2 x 0.5 litres of water.
Ascent of MI1:
Ironically this is both the biggest mountain on Madeira whilst being one of the easiest. It is merely a 2.8km walk up a well made path from a high car park at Achada do Teixeira, which is at 1,592m ASL according to my guide book. A route was kindly supplied by Phil G4OBK so I wasn’t expecting any problems. Phil’s value (used here) for the total ascent is 301m. The height difference is 271m and there is some re-ascent to add to that.
After a relaxed breakfast, the drive from the hotel at Caniço took around 45 minutes and I was walking from the car park (at N32 45.896 W16 55.265) by 10:01. It was a bright sunny day but fortunately not too warm as yet. The views from the path, which is very safe, are terrific. The path to Pico Areiro could be seen and it looked like more of a challenge. I have wanted to walk it since my first visit in 1992 but now SOTA has become the sole target.
MI1’s summit has a tall cairn and trig point (GPS’d today at N32 45.525 W16 56.553) and it was initially deserted. I remembered it from a 1993 family ascent. On that occasion we were accompanied much of the way by a friendly donkey which seemed to like tourists; especially those with food. Just to underline the lack of difficulty of this route, my father who was 78 at the time was also with us. Despite emphysema, he made it to the summit slowly but without too much difficulty.
PICO RUIVO de SANTANA, CT3/ MI-001: 1,863m, 10pts, 10:36 to 15:41. Shade temp: 15C initially and close to 20C at the end. Wind 2 to 5mph. Bright sun throughout. LOC: IM12MS; IOTA: AF-014. Orange (EE via Portuguese network) phone coverage on summit and all parts of ascent route.
After connecting up the new linear and FT817 to a 6 Ah Li-Po, I checked 17m which, in light of the HF predictions for the UK (1,700 miles distant) and Europe, was the intended starter band. I called Roy G4SSH with 30 Watts and he came straight back with a report of 549. This gradually increased until he was hearing me 569. We were in business!
18.090 CW - 19 QSO’s:
The qualifying QSO’s which included regular chasers, were soon in the log but my CW was really ‘rusty’ and as yet I hadn’t fully committed my unfamiliar callsign to memory. . Power was around 30 Watts for all contacts which was obtained by driving the MX-P50M 50 Watt Linear with 2.5 Watts from the 817. Countries worked: G; DL; HB9; OK; EA; ON. Incoming reports averaged around 559 and there was deep QSB. For instance M0IML was coming in 589 then dropping to 519 within a few seconds. This was to be a constant feature for the entire 2 weeks but it would prove much more of a problem for chasers than for me in a low-noise environment.
18.128 SSB - 8 QSO’s:
After a goodly total on CW this was somewhat disappointing. Countries worked: EA; G and EI. Included was an S2S with EB2GKK/P on EA2/VI-034 (IC703-10W to a vertical). Incoming reports were in the range 52 to 58 (QSB) in response to a power of 30 Watts.
24.907 CW - 8 QSO’s:
With the link dipole configured for 12m by pulling the 15m link on one side, the 10m link on the other and adding a short wire, 8 stations were logged. Entities worked: K4; SP; YO; S52; DL and HA. The ‘K4’ was K4DY - Les in Hickory, NC. Les gave me 559; otherwise the range was 579 to 599.
24.969 SSB - 11 QSO’s:
This time with 50 Watts, the session opened with Hans OE7PHI on holiday in Italy (57 both ways). Other prefixes, again with good reports were: SP; OE; OK; UR3; OK; IK and AC1Z - Robert in Alton, NH (56/ 55).
14.052.6 CW - 19 QSO’s:
With text messages going back and forth I advised Roy of the QSY to 20m. Neither of us expected much of the band but I was soon glad I’d tried it. Countries worked with 30W were: G; DL; F; EA; OE; PA; ON; OZ and NE4TN - Walter; Mt. Carmel, TN (589/ 449). Colin M1BUU/P and I exchanged summits - S2S with 559 both ways. He was on Rombalds Moor G/NP-028. Reports were generally down on the 12m ones but 20m was evidently a ‘lifeline’ for some.
14.265 SSB - 16 QSO’s:
An old WAB frequency brought in some SSB’ers who missed it on 17m. After the first four QSO’s, 50 Watts were used. A few WAB stations called in; probably to chase what had now become my overseas book numbers of 7664 and 17664. Areas worked: G; DL; ON; HB9; I; EA; CT1 and GM. Conditions permitted easy conversations with many. G0RQL Don was the final QSO of the day and he always cheers me up.
I tried 29.600 FM but the battery failed within 30 seconds.
Descent of MI1:
I arrived back at the car somewhat overheated at 16:13 and an hour later I was soaking the aches away, caused more by sitting around than walking.
Ascent/ Distance - PICO RUIVO (DS) CT3/ MI-001:
Ascent: 301m (978ft) inc reascent.
Distance: 2 x 2.8km = 5.6km (3.5 miles).
17m CW: 19
17m SSB: 8
12m CW: 8
12m SSB: 11
20m CW: 19
20m SSB: 16
10 SOTA points.
It was good to finally activate this summit for SOTA, being some 22 years since I was last on that mountaintop. It was also a good one to start the series. Coming off the back of a UK winter bonus period, I needed something fairly undemanding for getting used to the different conditions. MI1 provided that but I wasn’t quite used to temperatures in double figures just yet.
Since 1993, the trig point has been slightly repositioned and mounted on a block which in turn sits on a new Plinth. Surrounding new paving has been added and the old rickety looking wooden fence replaced by steel cables and posts. All very neat and tidy. The summit area of MI1 differs in character from most of the other SOTA’s I was to visit later, from the viewpoint of vegetation. Most of the mountains of Madeira are covered in shrubs or trees but the very top of Ruivo mostly bare. It is also the case for MI4, though a lot of that is man made.
The activation went well with 81 QSO’s but this was down on the La Palma activations of 12 months ago. The difference was probably down to deep QSB, fewer bands covered and the fact that all the La Palma summits were new for SOTA.
As well as Phil G4OBK for the routes, the fact that it went smoothly was as much down to the help I had from G4SSH in the UK for alerting and spotting. Much time and heartache was saved and I think chasers were never long looking for me, provided they could hear me at all on any particular band. Key to this was phone coverage which turned out to be 99% from any part of the island visited during the entire two weeks. Certainly all three SOTA’s and their ascent routes (other than part of the MI2 approach) were well covered. Most texts sent to the UK were arriving within five minutes or less so I was never waiting long for a spot.
The new MX-P50M 50 Watt Linear Amp performed well, especially when driven with 2.5 Watts giving about 30 Watts out and less heat. However, I was to regret driving it flat out for an entire activation later in the holiday. Last year I used an MX-P50A which is appreciably bigger and heavier but has a more substantial heatsink.
Thanks to all stations worked and to G4SSH; G0UUU; G6TUH; IK2ILH; G4OBK; DL3HXX; SP9AMH and GM4AXY for spotting either during this activation or on others in the fortnight. Also to Andy MM0FMF for the indirect use of his text spotting service on 12th April. Special thanks to Roy G4SSH for SMS text liaison for the duration of the activation and for posting advanced alerts.
Thanks to Phil G4OBK for the use of his tracklog.
73, John G4YSS
(Using CT9/ M1NNN/P)
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: MI1 QTH (1)
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: MI1 QTH (2)
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: MI1 QTH (Station Equipment.)
Links to all CT9/M1NNN/P 2015 Reports:
CT3/MI-001 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-001 Pico Ruivo on 02-04-15
CT3/MI-002 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-002 Pico Grande on 08-04-15
CT3/MI-004 (LF) G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-004 Pico Areiro on LF, 05/ 06-04-15
CT3/MI-004 (HF) G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-004 Pico Areiro on HF 12-04-15
CT3/MI-005 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-005 Pico Casado on 04-04-15
CT3/MI-006 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-006 Pico RUIVO de PAUL on 10-04-15
CT3/MI-007 G4YSS (CT9/M1NNN): CT3/ MI-007 Picos da Achadinha, FAILED! 04-04-15
CT3/MI-008 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-008 Pico Chao dos Terreiros on 10-04-15
CT3/MI-009 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-009 Pico da Coroa on 12-04-15