G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-002 Pico Grande on 08-04-15

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-002 PICO GRANDE on 08-04-15

This report covers No4 in the CT3 series of eight activations.
For a general introduction see report No1 (MI1).

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.

Activation No4 of 8:

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 MI2:
The starting point for this walk (and also for CT3/MI-008) is the small car park at Boca da Corrida; N32 42.659 W16 59.204. In three previous visits to Madeira, I can’t remember ever having visited the place but I had heard of it from the 2014 activation report for MI8 by Phil G4OBK.

More than a week had passed and I had finally learned that despite an official opening time for the hotel dining room of 08:00, a limited breakfast could be obtained as early as 07:25. From now on I would be taking full advantage of this fact. With all SOTA start points programmed into my satnav, I had spent a few minutes writing down the journey times from the hotel, so I knew that a drive to Boca da Corrida would take me around 45 minutes in the Renault Clio.

Mixing it with the fast traffic carrying workers to their places of employment via the VR1 motorway, it took from 08:00 to 08:43 to reach the start. That makes it sound easy but there were a few problems. For one the roads up to this place are painfully steep and some are very narrow. First gear was needed a lot of the way and reversing to allow oncoming vehicles to pass could be difficult.

My Garmin NUVI-2597 has a good up to date map in it but I was nevertheless confused by the sheer number of road junctions and choices; the instructions coming thick and fast! At one stage it tried to have me go up a 1-way street the wrong way, probably the same one that had almost snared Phil and Nick a year before. Eventually the final cobbled road came into view, after a sign to confirm the destination. There is space to park 10 cars in front of the tiny chapel.

With plenty of time to spare, I forced down a litre of water before setting off at 09:09 to see what the day would bring on this unknown (to me) summit. Though it weaves around a bit and is quite undulating, the path is easy to follow. Basically it resembles a wide ledge on a mountainside most of the way.

About five minutes in, I met rubble from a rockfall and a little later a team of three men trimming back the broom at the sides of the path. I wondered why it was so important but thanked them ‘obrigado’ and passed by. It wasn’t long before I discovered why this was desirable. It was a fine but damp morning after overnight rain and my walking trousers were soon soaked through. Too late but the old trick of cutting a stick and knocking the worst of the droplets off the encroaching plants in advance, worked well from this point onward.

The views along here are terrific and like many other walks in CT3, you pass through areas of burnt trees. After N32 42.888 W16 59.393; N32 43.163 W16 59.418 and N32 43.493 W16 59.287, I passed a shelter hewn out of the rock at N32 43.488 W16 59.114.

A few hundred metres later at N32 43.852 W16 59.144, I saw a turnoff to the right with a sign ‘Relvinha’ which I should have taken. The name meant nothing to me so I passed it by. I had made a bad error and it was not until I had lost significant height and walked merrily along a very wet Encumeada path for 15 minutes, that I realised my mistake. It took another 15 minutes to reverse my track but with a vertical wall 100 metres high to the right of the path, there was no alternative than to do a ‘U’ turn and return to the turnoff.

Once on the right path and a short distance up, there was an arrowed sign which read 'Curral das Freiras. As an afterthought, someone has scratched ‘Pico Grande’ on it but I’d failed to spot this earlier. 30m further on, at N32 43.869 W16 59.127, you take the left fork and then fork left again at N32 43.903 W16 59.132. A short distance later, after passing a well worn aluminium sign with blue painted ‘Pico Grande’ the path starts to get a little more exciting. A cave is passed at N32 43.920 W16 59.113 and a second one at N32 43.947 W16 59.106.

From there it’s up a short cable-protected pitch at N32 43.951 W16 59.096 where you need to take care due to a drop on the right. At N32 43.955 W16 59.061 the path bends left to climb some steps at N32 44.038 W16 59.047.

The final assault starts at a left hand bend - N32 44.065 W16 59.019, to a cairn at N32 44.110 W16 59.133 and then to the top of the path at N32 44.202 W16 59.259. At this point you can choose to carry on a few metres to climb the summit rock or find a place to activate to your right in grass and broom.

I didn’t climb that final rock until later in the afternoon and I did it without rucksack or GPS. However my assessment of its position is N32 44.232 W16 59.258. This intimidating looking rock marks the true summit and is the higher of the twin high points. Between the latter runs a dry stone wall which I climbed with an early intention of putting my antenna in the gap. Why would you string an aerial up in a place where it will be seriously screened on two sides? I looked elsewhere but didn’t rush. It was worth taking the time to select a QTH which would be both satisfactory and safe. Also the takeoff came into the equation.

After making an assessment of the activation area, I opted for a position (N32 44.222 W16 59.250) just under the summit rock and immediately to its SE. This is not a flat area but there are the remains of a wire fence at one end and some broom bushes at the other to take the dipole ends. I could be comfortable for the afternoon here but in guaranteeing compliance with the 25m rule I was forced to position the antenna too close to the summit rock for my liking. Inevitably there would be some screening but that’s just one of the many aspects where SOTA has to be a compromise.

PICO GRANDE, CT3/ MI-002: 1,655m! 10pts? 11:05 to 15:55. Shade temp: 6C initially and 15C at the end. Wind 10mph. Low-cloud at first, sunshine later. LOC: IM12MR; IOTA: AF-014. Orange (EE via Portuguese network) phone coverage on summit and higher parts of ascent route.

18.092 CW - 31 QSO’s:
Once again G4SSH was doing the controlling back in the UK so Roy’s was the station called first. He is so good at coming straight back when he hears his callsign that there is a danger of taking him for granted. At 11:08z I logged him 589/ 559.

After a minor QSY to dodge a ‘beacon’ which Roy could hear on 18.090, I set the power to 30 Watts and waded into the pileup provided by Roy’s spot. He discovered later that the ‘beacon’ signal was emanating from his spare receiver and only on 18.090.

Prefixes worked with 30W to the dipole were: G; PA; OH; DL; OK; EB; I; OE; SP; AC1Z; ON; HB9; OM; YO; S52 and K4MF. I was completely thrown by DL65DAC, and asked for an embarrassing number of repeats. I convinced myself that there couldn’t possibly by two figures in the callsign.

18.132/ 18.136 SSB - 16 QSO’s:
Flicking up to the next FT817 memory put me onto 18.132 but what luck! Carolyn G6WRW/P was working SOTA chasers there and moreover was asking for calls the moment I switched over. She must have heard the ‘portable’ and the pileup duly parted to allow an S2S with G/WB-010 (55/ 52). What a great start to the SSB session. Carolyn was transmitting a good signal with 35 Watts to a vertical antenna and though it wasn’t armchair copy, we could talk easily.

Three minutes later son Phil - G0UUU/M was answering my CQ 4kHz up the band. Phil was parked at the top of Irton Moor Lane a mile from my home QTH. It was 52 both ways so I turned the power up to 50 Watts and we had a brief chat while the other chasers netted.

Countries on 18.136: G; EA; EI; GM; DL; OE; OK; S57 & HB9. The S57 mentioned was an S2S with Marko S57MS/P on S5/RG-032. This was a difficult QSO but we made it in the end (33/ 55). Unfortunately QSB was rife again. For instance the path to Ken GM0AXY was changing from 55 to 59 in just a few seconds.

14.052 CW - 10 QSO’s:
After a 15 minute break for lunch, I thought I might try 20m. Weaving my way around clumps of broom to gain access to the dipole links, all was ready by 12:53z. The customary exchange with G4SSH only produced a ‘229 QSB’ for me on this band but Roy uses a vertical antenna which has a low angle radiation pattern. Sticking with 30 Watts again, the following countries were logged: G; DL; EA; S52/ 56; CU; GM; CT and Italy.

Mike G4BLH was for some reason so weak that it prompted me to increase power to 50 Watts to work him. Incoming reports were mostly around the 559 mark so propagation can’t have been that great.

14.265 SSB - 10 QSO’s:
Time was getting on and battery power was limited. After mediocre reports in CW, I applied the full 50 Watts to all of this session, working: G; S56; CU3; GM; DL; CT1; I and DL.

After having failed to hear me at all on 17m, G0RQL Don opened the session with 58/ 57 followed by Geoff G4WHA/A in the shop at Penrith; a more difficult copy at 56/ 46. As usual, there was four ‘S’ point QSB affecting the bands so some contacts were taking time to complete. The easiest exchange was with Christine GM4YMM at 59 both ways and she helped with the next QSO, namely a tricky S2S with Thomas DL1TSC/P on DM/BM-210. Not the reports of course but just marking the ‘overs.’

The final station worked on here was DD5LP in Munich. If he was German, he was making a poor job of the accent and what a giveaway, I could hear the Yorkshire voice coming through. Ed explained, telling me he was from Hull and also holding the callsign G8TMM.

The summit proper:
During the course of the afternoon, there had been a trickle of walkers but few if any had tackled the summit ‘edifice.’ Damp, foggy and slimy when I arrived, it had now dried up nicely and there was a young chap climbing it. Not thinking that he might not understand me, I shouted up to ask him what it was like. His English was excellent and I gathered that it was a little frightening but the grip was OK. ‘Mind if I join you?’

By the time I’d worked my way around from QTH to summit, he had climbed back down. He was from the Czech Republic and I was proud to inform him that I’d lately been working some of his countrymen. I set off up the steel cable protected pitch and was soon on a scary ledge overlooking a drop of hundreds of metres. It was quite a wide ledge but slightly inclined. It also had moss growing on it and I was not sure that I would be capable of reversing the last move which would have been a couple of mostly horizontal metres up and onto the highest point. After a few photos, caution won the day and I was quite relieved to get back down to relative safely. There’s little doubt; I am becoming more cautious in my old age.

24.909 CW - 6 QSO’s:
The summit attempt had taken until 15:15 but I reckoned that there was still a little time to spare. A text to Roy got me on 12m CW with a view to SSB later. Sadly, the SSB was not to be due to battery failure. Starting with 50 Watts, the first QSO was an S2S with Dan HB9IIO/P on HB/FR-048 (559/ 449) but after this the rig shut down.

From now on it was 5 Watts only but I still managed to work: HB9AGH; G4SSH; HB9AFI; KA1R and N4EX; the latter with just 2.5 Watts (579/ 329). That was the end of the 6Ah Li-Po and I was not carrying a spare. QRT was at 15:30z - 16:30 local.

Descent of MI2:
I set off in a light mist at 15:55 and measured every bit of re-ascent with the altimeter on the way back to Boca da Corrida. Carefully adding up the figures as I went, I arrived back at the car at 16:59. A 40 minute drive, initially down the same narrow, steep lanes followed by the superb 100km/h VR1, brought me to the hotel by 17:43.

Ascent/ Distance - PICO GRANDE, CT3/ MI-002:
Ascent: 727m (2,385ft) including re-ascent of 2x 151m.
Distance: 2 x 4.3km = 8.6km (5.4 miles).
The navigational error on the way up, which cost me 80 metres of re-ascent, 2 x 1km of walking and 30 minutes of wasted time, is not included in the above figures.

Walking Times:
Ascent: 1hr-26min net. (1hr-56 min gross including my 30 minute error).
Descent: 1hr-4min (No errors this time!)

17m CW: 31
17m SSB: 16
20m CW: 10
20m SSB: 10
12m CW: 6
Total: 73

10 SOTA points (see observations below).

I enjoyed this summit because of the views, a good path and the summit rock. I was pretty upset when I found that 30 minutes had been wasted taking the wrong turning on the way up. Maybe I should have looked at my guidebook before I set off and not afterwards. It states that the turnoff to Pico Grande is often missed! Adding ‘Pico Grande’ to the wooden sign at the actual junction would help. Nevertheless, there is no excuse for this. I had the DG5WU track to follow but I allowed myself to become distracted by stunning views and the business of knocking the overnight rainfall from the encroaching broom.

Despite rusty cable protection, the final push to the summit proper involved some vertigo for me at least. I had no desire to tackle it in damp, foggy conditions in the morning but by mid afternoon and with people around, it felt a bit safer. My one regret is that I was not brave enough to take the last two steps (or even to crawl) onto the convex ‘whaleback.’

Band conditions were much the same as other days with deep QSB measuring up to four or five ‘S’ Points at times. So far 17m had carried most of the traffic to the areas needed and that was no exception today. Good spotting by Roy G4SSH and others maximised the QSO count whilst saving both time and battery power.

Ten Pointer or Six Pointer?
It wasn’t until I really studied the map in detail whilst planning and took in the spot heights, that I discovered an error in the SOTA database. The height given on the map for Pico Grande is 1,655m whereas the database has it at 1,854m. The latter is close to the height of Pico Ruivo de Santana which qualifies it for 10 points. In fact MI2 would more appropriately be a 6 pointer and its height status would appear to make it Madeira’s fifth. I was quite happy to claim the 10 points on offer however, so I think it should perhaps remain as it is. To change it now might be difficult. My guess is that some last minute shuffling of the list caused some errors as MI3 is another which has a minor discrepancy with a map height of 1,852m and a SOTA height of 1,830m. No complaints though. Whoever did MI for SOTA did a great job and we are grateful. Madeira is a very ‘lumpy’ island and it can’t have been easy!

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 Jana DG5WU for the use of your tracklog.

73, John G4YSS
(Using CT9/ M1NNN/P)

Photos: 14-88-79-52-73-83

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: View from the path in.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Pico Grande (MI2) from the path in. Note summit rock.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Pico Grande (MI2). The final summit rock climb.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Antenna & QTH on Pico Grande (MI2).

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Antenna QTH from Pico Grande’s (MI2) summit rock.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: The path back to Boca da Corrida.

Links to all CT9/M1NNN/P 2015 Reports:
CT3/MI-001 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-001 Pico Ruivo on 02-04-15 - #4 by G4YSS
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 - #3 by G4YSS
CT3/MI-006 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-006 Pico RUIVO de PAUL on 10-04-15 - #2 by GM4WHA
CT3/MI-007 G4YSS (CT9/M1NNN): CT3/ MI-007 Picos da Achadinha, FAILED! 04-04-15 - #4 by G4YSS
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 - #2 by HB9BQU