G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-005 Pico Casado on 04-04-15

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-005 PICO CASADO on 04-04-15

This report covers No2 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.

Bands: 17m 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.

MI5 was not the intended target for today but it became the best option for an afternoon activation following a failure to activate MI7 that morning. (See separate report). The first alternative was MI6 but road access prevented it in the time available and MI5’s start point - Encumeada was an easy drive from the aborted MI7.

Ascent of MI5:
This is probably best done from Encumeada to the west of MI5 where there is plenty of parking by the roadside near the souvenir shop. The PR 1.3 path starts about 150m down the road at the Paul da Serra road junction and is marked at N32 45.273 W17 01.227 by a sign which states ‘Pico Ruivo 11.4 km.’ (Incidentally, there is no access to Paul da Serra by road from Encumeada due to a 2014 rock fall which has not yet been cleared.)

A short distance from the road junction, a large signboard shows the start of the walk to be at 940m ASL. The route which I started at 12:10, is very straightforward and merely follows the excellent PR 1.3 path to a high point of around 1,650m (N32 45.305 W16 59.019) which is reached after 4km. Today including a breathless phone call to Roy on the way up, this easy first section took me 78 minutes in a cool wind, low-cloud and occasional drizzle. Energy levels were somewhat depleted after my morning ‘fight’ with MI7 however. Apart from some steps and some descent and re-ascent along the way, there was nothing to complain about thus far. The path which routes beside rocks or through vegetation, mainly broom, offers some protection from the wind for much of the way and is well paved and stepped.

The Tricky bit:
Way back in the planning, I merely anticipated a short walk up from the PR 1.3 path to the summit and never really considered how hard this final bit might be. After all there was only one more map contour to cross and the distance is less than 200m. Unfortunately my 1:40,000 scale map has contour intervals of 50m whereas I am used to UK-OS 1:25,000 maps which show five contours for the same vertical interval. It means that the ground is always much rougher and steeper than the map implies and quite major undulations are simply not shown. The same goes for scrambles, rock faces and other features which might completely bar the way, making it difficult to plan routes in advance. This was to catch me out several times in Madeira.

With time pressing and despite the summit proper being shrouded in mist, I was somewhat shocked by what I could actually see from the path’s high point. Nonetheless, I set about the task of finding a way to the top which was initially the wrong way as it turned out!

I should have taken more notice of a tiny cairn 2 metres to the left of the PR 1.3 path (at N32 45.305 W16 59.019) but I could see no way through the tightly interlocked broom interspersed with the remnants of substantial bushes killed by fire, probably some years ago. In fact this was the start of the only path to the summit. You were supposed to force your way along and through the encroaching bushes but I only discovered this on the return. Some 15 minutes were wasted but I soon realised that with such poor access, very few people can actually visit Pico Casado proper; most simply walking by it and on to Pico Ruivo.

A short distance along the PR 1.3 there stands an impressive natural feature which actually looks like a very high man-made wall. Where this ended at N32 45.311 W16 58.979, I was able to climb up behind it and force my way between its rear face and a series of dead bushes with sun bleached and charcoal tipped branches. Dead they might be but they were still strong. Each one had to be bent and snapped; a rather noisy process which also turned my hands black. The place was deserted which saved embarrassment, so I toiled upwards at a slow pace, eventually finding evidence of the ill-defined path; the one I should have been on! (See waypoints later.) Somewhat relieved, I passed a small cairn marking the correct way, therefore the waypoint near the start of this paragraph should be ignored.

Still something of a painstaking process from there, I made my way up, passing a series of three or four tiny cairns on rock scrambles. As this was the poorest of paths, I took the trouble to leave marks on rocks for the return. It was still rather misty, precipitous in places and despite GPS assistance, I had no desire to take the wrong descent route later.

Vegetation consisted of broom and a kind of heather bush, taller than the heather found in the UK, with pale flowers. This and rocky outcrop made it hard to progress with any speed or relocate a path but somehow I managed to climb up and along a somewhat exposed ledge, to the summit cairn; GPS’d at N32 45.401 W16 58.997. The old GEKO GPS with built in altimeter, made it somewhat higher than the 1,725m indicated by the map. It had taken all of 25 minutes to cover the 200m or so from the PR 1.3 path to the summit but I was very relived after some earlier doubts about ever getting there.

Below is the complete route with waypoints in dd-mm.mmm (WGS-84):
N32 45.273 W17 01.227 Encumeada PR 1.3 Start
N32 45.149 W17 00.693 PR 1.3 path-1
N32 45.382 W17 00.175 PR 1.3 path-2 (Cave)
N32 45.177 W16 59.374 PR 1.3 path-3
N32 45.305 W16 59.019 Leave PR 1.3 path to left at tiny cairn
N32 45.315 W16 59.019 Narrow path Thro’ Broom-1
N32 45.323 W16 59.003 Poor path Cairn-1
N32 45.333 W16 58.997 Poor path
N32 45.347 W16 59.003 Poor path
N32 45.356 W16 59.010 Poor path by rocks
N32 45.358 W16 59.016 Go up rocks; cairn-2
N32 45.356 W16 59.025 Go up rocks; cairn-3
N32 45.362 W16 59.034 Cairn-4 (Zig right)
N32 45.376 W16 59.007 Path indistinct
N32 45.401 W16 58.997 Summit Cairn

PICO CASADO, CT3/ MI-005: 1,725m, 6pts, 14:18 to 17:01. Shade temp: 15C. Wind 15mph. Bright sun but with cloud rising occasionally from below. LOC: IM12MS; IOTA: AF-014. Orange (EE via Portuguese network) phone coverage on summit and all parts of ascent route.

Views were breathtaking in welcome sunshine with Pico Ruivo sticking up through the same cloud cover which had given me a cold, drizzly ascent much of the way. This was not a very roomy summit, consisting of a short and narrow ridge. Here there were the pathetic remains of a totally neglected truncated concrete stump, barely recognizable as a trig point, with a stick projecting upwards from it. Next to this stood a pathetic looking cairn; just a few stones balanced on one another. The area is clothed in vegetation mainly broom and there are more fire ravaged bushes. I rigged the dipole as best I could taking care not to stray near the edge. One end was tied off to the summit ‘stick’ and the other end to bushes.

After wasting all morning trying to climb MI7, this afternoon’s activation had to be strictly limited to one band and two modes. After a discussion with Roy on the way up, we decided to stick with the trusty 18 MHz. For once theory agreed with practice. This was the best band overall.

18.090 CW - 49 QSO’s:
After a 10 minute warning via SMS, I called Roy G4SSH with 50 Watts. He came straight back with a report of 569. The chasers soon arrived and the log filled up rapidly. There were many 579 reports coming in but the deep QSB made its appearance for the second day.

Prefixes/ DX callsigns worked were: G; HB9; K4MF; OH; OK; OM; DL; OE; PA; I; HA; GM; EA; K1JD; N7CW; SP9; ON; VE2JCW; YO; EI; NE4TN and S52CU at the end. I seemed to be getting a lot of calls which I didn’t recognize as SOTA chasers, so partly to discourage ‘non believers’ a few ‘CQ SOTA’ calls were thrown in near the end. There were no S2S’s however; that is none that I could hear in the QSB.

18.147 SSB - 43 QSO’s:
LA6VQ opened this session with a 59/ 56 exchange. Incoming reports were mostly in the range 57 to 59 with QSB affecting the ability of chasers to pick up my signal from time to time.

Countries worked: LA; G; HB9; EA; I; ON; CT7; KE2LK/EA7; CU3; AC1Z; OE; OK; DL; HA; S57; HG and SQ. Easter greetings were exchanged and power was 50W.

Descent of MI5:
I was hoping for a quick walk back but despite knowing now that it was at least possible, the climb down to the PR 1.3 path, which took me the same 25 minutes as on the ascent, proved somewhat tedious. Once on the good path in thicker low-cloud, speed was increased dramatically and I arrived back at the car in around an hour at 18:26.

By using the altimeter and adding the height differences, I worked out a re-ascent value of 49m on the way down. By 19:02, largely courtesy of Madeira’s VR1 motorway, I was joining the family for evening meal. I am sure I would have had a really bad, if not disastrous, day had I carried on with MI7 in the morning but instead the customary warm glow of success showed itself.

Ascent/ Distance - PICO CASADO, CT3/ MI-005:
Ascent: 883m (2,897ft) inc 2 x 49m of reascent.
Distance: 2 x 4.6km = 9.2km (5.8 miles).

Walking Times:
78min up to PR 1.3 high-point turnoff.
15min (stationary) route assessment.
25min from turnoff to summit.
Ascent - Net Total: 1hr-43min (Excludes 15 min stop).
Descent: 1hr-25min.
Total walking time: 3hr-8min.

17m CW: 49
17m SSB: 43
Total: 92

6 SOTA points.

This was more a case of getting something positive out of a day with a very bad start, than a well planned activation. Luckily I had the MI5 route in the GPS but I was far from prepared for and somewhat taken aback by, the final approach to the summit, for which I had not allowed extra time. On the map it looked like nothing but in fact a total of 50 minutes was taken to travel up and down this 200m incline.

Owing to the lack of time activating an unknown (to me) summit in half a day, a one frequency band limit was required. Even so, a top score for any activation in the holiday was obtained with a total of 92 QSO’s. Maybe that was because band conditions were good and no time was used QSY’ing the dipole. Apart from the mast collapsing half way through due to rocking in the gusty wind; destroying its own end bung in the process, the only delays were the amount of care needed for that awkward final section to the summit and the careful erection of the dipole.

The PR 1.3 path from Encumeada proved to be an efficient way to access this summit in reasonable time but in my opinion the last 200m should not be underestimated or rushed.

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.

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

Photos: 1-13-19-31-32-39-55-71-73:

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: MI5 start point at Serra de Paul road junction, Encumeada. ‘Our’ Renault Clio.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Steps on the PR 1.3 Path from Encumeada.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Turn left off the PR 1.3 Path to find the summit path (see tiny cairn)

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: My ‘route’ after missing the left turn off the PR 1.3 Path involved forcing a way between this impressive ‘wall’ and fire damaged vegetation.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: The summit cone up ahead.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: The very last ‘push’ to the summit involved climbing onto the exposed ledge shown running 30 degrees left to right near the top of the picture.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Nice views.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Convenient bush.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Summit cairn, wrecked trig point, antenna and op.

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


Hello John, thanks again. I am intrigued by the ‘wall’ of stone, what was the purpose of it, do you know? Perhaps the cairn was destroyed by a lightning strike perhaps?

Hiya Mike,
Thanks for your interest. I have been hanging back for a few days, not really wanting to dump all this stuff on the SOTA site. It’s mildly embarrassing.

The wall is as far as I can tell some king of natural volcanic feature. It was very high. Much higher than it looks in the photo and higher still from the side where the main path is. It was also uneven.

Here are another 2 pics:

Above: Looking up at the ‘wall’ from the PR 1.3 path

Above: Forcing my way up between the ‘wall’ and fire damaged bushes.

Your guess is as good as mine but I don’t think it was built. What we need is a geologist or volcanologist!

Thanks for the QSO’s and your help on the frequencies.
CUSN I hope,
73, John.

Is Pico Casado a volcano?

A wall like that is usually a volcanic dike. Those are formed when magma flows into or forces open a long crack in softer rock. Later, the soft rock erodes and the dike is left.

Oddly, that resembles some of the big concrete retaining walls along roads in California. They are modeled to look like rock, but all of the ledges open to the bottom to discourage climbers. There are a couple of photos here:


1 Like

Hi Walter,

Thanks for that explanation. I half expected someone to reply with the answer. There are now so many activators and chasers that we must have a broad and deep cross section of expertise on all kinds of subjects. I’m glad you seem to like my ‘wall.’ I was fascinated by it at the time.

Actually that description makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Most of the rocks on Madeira are pretty soft volcanic stuff and this stuff is much harder. I can now see easily how it occurred. I hope Mike sees your reply,

Thanks again and 73, John G4YSS.