G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-009 PICO da COROA on 12-04-15
This report covers No7 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.
Note: This was the final morning of operation. MI4 was activated on the same afternoon, 12-04-15
PICO da COROA: CT3/MI-009 (QRO)
Bands: 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 (Not useable on this summit.)
6Ah Li-Po battery.
Garmin GEKO miniature GPS.
Packweight: 7.8 kg (17 pounds) including food and 2 x 0.5 litres of water.
I could find very little in the way of published information, SOTA or otherwise, for this summit; MI9. Also I expected to be far too preoccupied with trying to activate higher mountains plus one or both of the unactivated ones, to dip very deeply into the one and two pointers in the north east.
Throughout the holiday, I harboured the (possibly crazy) idea of activating MI3 Pico da Torres (Moledo) but never got around to making it into reality. In my photos taken from MI4 and MI1, it looked intimidating and that was in keeping with what everyone I spoke to said. The Thomson rep told me about a company in Funchal who do guided walks on the island. Furthermore, ‘madeira-explorers.com’ lead a walk between Pico Areiro (MI4) and Pico Ruivo (MI1) on Saturdays. My idea was to ask them if I could tag along and maybe pay for a dedicated and experienced guide to divert half-way into the walk and escort me ‘exit stage left’ to MI3. They pick up from the hotels at 08:30 but it had got to Friday and I had done nothing about contacting them.
As it was, I wanted Saturday off SOTA so I would have to plan something for Sunday, our last day on CT3. I had already activated most of the larger mountains and failed miserably on MI7, so it would have to be something in the north east. For some reason I chose MI9, thinking it would be easy provided I could get the Renault Clio about 5km along a dirt road. Though the ascent and distance required were both minimal, I was to find MI9 far from easy.
Ascent of MI9:
Leaving the hotel again at 08:00 I went to explore some dirt roads near Portela, arriving in the area around 08:45. One track was of particular interest. Its start was at N32 44.820 W16 49.440 with a likely parking point/ path start at N32 45.323 W16 47.953, a few kilometres along. This had all been researched in the UK and added to my Garmin 2597 satnav.
After taking the wrong dirt road; one to the south where my journey ended with a notice stating ‘Privado,’ I arrived at the start of the correct one. A sign board there seemed to indicate that it was a road for running or disabled person’s buggies. There was nothing banning cars so I proceeded along, taking care with the suspension.
The car was soon rather dirty, due to large muddy puddles remaining from overnight rainfall. The track was mostly flat with a few ups and downs, closely resembling a UK forestry Commission road apart from the colour. I assessed each down section in turn with a view to getting my 2WD car back up it on the way out but despite a muddy surface, there was nothing too onerous on that front.
After about 15 minutes or so of slow driving, I spotted a second signboard at N32 45.335 W16 47.940. This was the hoped for target from which I was to start the walk. Moreover, there was space to park one car beside the track so I locked and left the car there at 09:25. The car’s odometer told me that I had driven 4.8km from the start of the track.
When there’s likely to be tree cover, I try to switch the GPS on early but it soon got confused, evidenced by the crazy track log after returning home. I had a route to follow based on a path shown on the 40k map with waypoints along it created using the good old fashioned paper graticule method. Though muddy, the path was easy to follow between temporary signs which implied that it was being used for trail running. However, I saw nobody and soon became a little anxious that I needed to leave this ‘comfortable’ path and make my way somehow to the top. The map showed no path for this purpose but surely one can be half expected. After all, Coroa must be equivalent to a UK Marylyn and when people climb to high points, they often do so efficiently, leaving a path. Nothing here however!
By now I had passed through way points: N32 45.333 W16 47.897; N32 45.176 W16 47.872; N32 45.247 W16 47.769 and N32 45.245 W16 47.647 without seeing a summit path. The ground beside the route was very steep and overgrown but eventually, I feared that I would have to traverse it as best I could. Beating my way through thorn bushes and overgrown bushes I bit the bullet. If the GPS is correct and I can by no means guarantee its accuracy, I went up via N32 45.250 W16 47.620 to N32 45.314 W16 47.615.
After this the gradient eased a little along with the density of the undergrowth. I found myself following a small ridge under tree cover via N32 45.329 W16 47.601 and N32 45.334 W16 47.590 but by now I was scratched and bleeding. I tried to bend branches in the direction of retreat, to help on the way down. Eventually I arrived at a high point which the GPS told me was the 732m one marked on the map at N32 45.373 W16 47.572.
Because of the terrain and dense undergrowth, which involved quite a few minor diversions and back tracking, it had taken me 70 minutes to cover a total distance of 1.3km from car to summit and I had climbed less than 500 feet! I was still some 125m distant from the 740m summit but from what I could see of the intervening terrain (which admittedly wasn’t a lot in this jungle) I was already inside the activation zone. That assumption was supported albeit somewhat lamely, by the 1:40,000 scale map. At least you could say that there were no contours marked between the two tops.
Like many of the other summits activated and marked in the past 10 days, the SOTA database has the summit somewhere else entirely; in this case some 200m or so to the SE. If a good map is consulted, there is no detriment in this and the fact that a mountainous island like Madeira got ‘SOTA’d’ at all is to be celebrated.
With bleeding lower limbs, minor impact injuries from slipping into trees and thorn infested hands, there was no way I was going a step further. The summit would be activated from where I was standing; right on the 732m high point. As things were, there was a good chance I’d get lost on the way down so, with the dipole strung up in the trees above me, I texted G0UUU for a spot on 18.092. Son Phil had kindly agreed to stand in for Roy who was at Blackpool Radio Rally today.
PICO da COROA CT3/ MI-009: 738m, 2pts, 10:35 to 12:40. Temp: 9C. Wind zero. Intermittent overcast and sunshine through a tree canopy. LOC: IM12OS; IOTA: AF-014. Orange (EE via Portuguese network) phone coverage on summit and ascent route.
18.092 CW - 14 QSO’s:
With the uncertainty of a return to the car in any reasonable time and another summit to activate in the afternoon, the intention was for a one band operation. In fact 12m was added later because of a low QSO count on 17m. This may have been due to the fact that the antenna was not at the usual 5m mast height but strung up in dense tree cover at around half the usual AGL.
Despite a probable reduction in antenna performance, after Phil’s spot I was soon in business. Manuel EA2DT was first in but he only gave my 50 Watts a 559 RST; nothing like on previous activations. With more 559 reports, a 339 and just one 579, I waded my way through the following prefixes in 20 minutes: EA; PA; ON; SM; G; DL; OH; OM ending with Mike EI2CL in Dublin. There was one S2S with EA2BDS/P - Marcial on EA1/BU-051.
At least I was comfortable for the time being with my back to a tree, but the QRG dried up quicker than it normally would. Another text to Phil G0UUU was acted on in lees than 5 minutes and I was QSY to SSB.
18.133 SSB - 9 QSO’s:
Mike G6TUH was the first to join the SSB session but this time with a 55 report. Again with 50 Watts, I got 59’s from Spain in the form of EA2LMI; EA2DZX and EB2JU but also from OK1SDE and OK1TS too. G0RQL Don; G0TDM John and M0BKV Damian all sent 55 but after 15 minutes the chasers stopped calling.
Time to think again but what next? Going higher in frequency was hardly going to improve the attenuation supplied by all these trees but there was barely space for the 20m antenna sections. Without wasting much time thinking about it, I set the links for 12m; a 10m link at one side with a 15m at the other. The SWR wasn’t perfect but that was hardly surprising with tree branches encroaching from all directions. To be honest I was concerned more for the journey back down but at the same time I would only be here once and I wanted to give the chasers one more chance.
24.907 CW - 12 QSO’s:
The move to 12m soon proved to be a good one. With the full 50 Watts DL7URB Robert gave me 559 from Berlin. Still not a brilliant report but acceptable in the circumstances. After that I logged: HB9; DL; I; GM and PA. PA0WLB gave me the lowest RST of 449. 579 came from DL1FU Frid with a 589 from DH1KGO. Nobody really struggled with my signal and the session passed by in 14 minutes.
24.969 SSB - 11 QSO’s:
This was the final session but it added a useful number of additional chasers to the tally. After this it would be back to the car; if I could find it that was! So with no battery worries, 50 Watts was applied to the dipole one more time.
ON6KZ answered my CQ immediately following Phil’s spot. Peter was using 25 Watts to a ‘screwdriver’ indoor antenna and seemed pleasantly surprised to make the QSO so easily despite an exchange of 55/ 44. Ten more stations followed; some of them recognizable as SOTA chasers: HB9MKV; G0TDM; OE6GND; DK8PX; OE9HRV; DJ5AV; DJ1SD; SP8RHP; IK2ILH and ON9CBQ. Incoming reports were in the range 57 to 59 with one 53, a 56 and a couple of 55’s.
QRT was at 1125z and without a mast to pack up, I soon had the antenna down. Hoping for the best but expecting the worst on the descent, I SMS’d Phil with my intentions, which were to re-activate MI4 at around 3pm if I could get there.
Descent of MI9:
I arrived back at the car at 13:47 with some relief but not before getting scratched to pieces again and completely lost for what seemed like a very long 30 minutes stuck in one spot. Initially I took the right direction from the summit and found most of my markers, until the part which resembled the Amazon Basin. Well OK, not quite that bad but it was like upper Beast Cliff on a blind descent to WAB area OV00 before hacking the route through. It was just as steep too and with trees, shrubs and every kind of growth including thorn bushes and briars baring the way, you couldn’t see more than a metre or two in any direction at times.
As expected the GPS was going ‘wappy’ which if you’ve never heard the term means, ’ Crazy, frantic and unpredictable.’ Now the next waypoint was south, now southeast followed by southwest. Was it 82m away or 32m? Who knew? Least of all me but I was determined not to panic. Fortunately the altimeter in the Geko 301 seemed to be telling me something which approached the truth.
Had I descended too far and missed the path due to it’s many twists and turns following the terrain or was I still above it? Eventually I was in a situation, arms and legs pinned by branches and briars, foot through a rotten tree and almost weeping with frustration; I couldn’t even move my head for a thorny frond penetrating my scalp.
Before leaving the summit, I had taken the precaution of cutting myself a stout stick, so I used this to beat a path through. It was no machete but better than your bare hands. After half an hour of map studying, GPS’ing and minor searches in different directions I worked out a plan which should get me to the path. All I can say is that it worked and I have rarely been so pleased to see a path ever.
Soaked in sweat and with a little blood here and there, it took but a short time to regain the car via fast walking or running. Nevertheless, the gross time for the return was 67 minutes for well under a mile of mostly downhill but it could have been worse!
The drive round to Pico Areiro took from 13:53 to 14:35. What a contrast! Crowds of tourist and the prospect of a short stroll to the QTH seemed like blissful indulgence after such a morning.
Ascent/ Distance - PICO da COROA CT3/ MI-009:
Ascent: 150m (492ft) including some re-ascent.
Distance: 2 x 1.3km (max) = 2.6km (1.6 miles).
17m CW: 14
17m SSB: 9
12m FM: 12
12m CW: 11
2 SOTA points
After cursing the day that I decided to put MI9 on, I have gradually forgiven it a little. Nevertheless, if I ever go back to CT3, I won’t be rushing back to this one!
MI9 has been activated once before but just which way HB9BQU went up I don’t know. Surely there must be a path to the official top of 740m? Once I had cleared the ‘jungle’ onto easier ground on my climb to the 732m summit, I did note that someone had passed that way before. I saw the occasional thin branch that had been sliced cleanly off with a sharp knife or machete. The diagonal cuts were not fresh but neither did they look that old. I wondered if it had been done on 12th September 2014? In the vast and barely penetrable area that is this summit, one would suppose it to have been too much of a coincidence to stumble upon another’s route but activators often think similarly and plan using the same logic. Perhaps I will find out one day.
If anybody tries MI9 in future and like me, can’t find a path, I would strongly recommend some brightly coloured markers to assist with a safe return. There are other summits on Madeira that would benefit from their use. MI9 is certainly one of them and MI7 another.
The bands; 17m and 12m, were probably no worse that on previous days but possibly the tree cover had some effect. The QSO total was a little down on what you might expect even considering the fact that this was crammed into half a day. I was relieved to put this one behind me and head for MI4 Pico Areiro for an easy mid-afternoon activation.
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.
Today it was Phil G0UUU who filled in for Roy. Though he couldn’t be present on the bands while simultaneously spotting for his Dad, the help was of great value with text-spot response times in line with previous activations.
73, John G4YSS
(Using CT9/ M1NNN/P)
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Signboard at the start of the dirt road.
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Signpost on the dirt road at the beginning of the path.
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: The 732m summit. Coax and tree cover.
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: The 732m summit. The dipole is up there somewhere.
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: The activation.
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Start of descent. The easy part.
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