G4YSS (CT9/M1NNN): CT3/ MI-007 PICOS da ACHADINHA, FAILED! 04-04-15
This report details a failed attempt to activate MI7 on the morning of 4th April 2015. The account is part of the CT9/ M1NNN series of 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) (& MI-007-Failed.)
CT3/MI-007 PICOS da ACHADINHA - 1489m - 4 points: FAILED ATTEMPT!
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.
CT3/ MI-007 was one of two Madeiran summits which as of April 2015 were still unactivated; the other being CT3/ MI-003. Despite a thorough internet search and talks with the tour rep, locals at the hotel and other walkers, I could obtain very little useful information on either of the above summits. When Pico das Torres (MI3 - Pico Poio Moledo) was mentioned the replies were all in much the same vein; ‘I wouldn’t try that alone!’ ‘There is a path of sorts but it’s dangerous.’
I never found out whether the above assessment of MI3 was true or not but at least people did acknowledge that it existed. When MI7 Picos da Achadinha, was mentioned, my enquiry was met with blank faces possibly because I was giving them the map name which appears to be ‘Queimadas’ but also because it seems to be a ‘forgotten summit?’
In the end, all I had to go by was my 1:40,000 scale map and that was of precious little help, not least because it gives no indication of what the surface is made of, or what if anything, is growing on it. The map also has a 50m vertical contour interval which isn’t a great deal of use for walking. Despite the inadequate representation of gradient, with 50m contours that close together, it was patently obvious that there was very steep ground indeed on many of the flanks of this mountain. From the start of my investigations 6 months ago, I knew that MI7 was never going to be easy, which is obviously the main reason for the lack of SOTA activity from its summit. Mine included!
Another problem is that the SOTA website uses different names from those on the map. MI3 (Moledo) is known as Pico da Torres and the map shows MI7 as Queimadas. The latter name is confusing to locals because it shares its name with a better known place well to the east near Santana.
The 40k map shows three paths going to the summit of MI7. None of them are primary walking routes; being merely denoted as ‘other footpaths.’ Two come in from the north and a shorter one starts west of the target. With a 500m ASL start point and the shortest distance, the western route looked to be the best option and so I prepared a GPS route along it in the time honored way, using a home made paper graticule on the map.
Under the circumstances, it was the best I could do but I did notice that all three paths intersected contours which were seriously close together! Furthermore the western route distance worked out at little more than 2.6 km for an ascent of something like 1000m!!
That would have been bad enough if it had been a steady grade but like any climb, the map shows a mixture of sections that were less than the average angle. Simple deduction shows that what’s left are average sections and bits that are much steeper than average! Whether I could get up a path like that depended largely on the terrain, the vegetation and any assistance such as Via Ferrata protected areas if they existed. It looked a remote and lonely place too and I would have to go it alone with scant chance of meeting anybody en route.
Attempted ascent of MI7:
After a quick breakfast, I set off from Canico at 08:30 driving via the VR1 and VR4 to a point at the top end of a concrete side road at N32 46.970 W17 00.800, above the village of Achada dos Judeus. The right turn to access this is at N32 47.070 W17 01.140. Even in first gear, this was a steep road for the little Renault but all the same, it crossed fewer contours than my prospective walking route ahead; a fact which further alerted me to the fact that my task would indeed be a difficult one.
The concrete road gives way to two tracks splitting off left and right by a water tank, at which point there are a couple of houses; one with what looked like a stepped concrete buttress wall holding the garden in. There is space to park to the right without causing the locals any grief.
On arrival at 09:20 there were two people in one of the gardens attempting to start a cultivator. Seizing on a rare opportunity for information, I jumped out even before stopping the engine and asked the older man the way to Queimadas; making a mountain shape with my hands for good measure. He replied tersely in Portuguese, pointing to the east and saying, ’ Queimadas…Santana.’ Despite indicating to him on my map, the Queimadas of interest, he didn’t seem to be aware that he was living 2 km from its summit! There was no recognition at all and I had forgotten the SOTA name for the peak which doesn’t appear on the map. I tried again but he seemed to be in a hurry and was quite brusque. I shot an appealing look to the youth who was with him but he was so shy he couldn’t even look me in the eye. For sure, I would be going it alone and without any last chance for information.
After making preparations and switching the GPS on in good time, I set off to explore the two options in turn. Neither of these turned out to be what I wanted. After going a short distance down the right track I could see that it was taking me too far south. The left track took me to the north but after a short distance I spotted what looked like a path heading roughly the right way. I made my way up this as far as N32 47.039 W17 00.674 but any semblance of a path disappeared without trace after that.
I returned to the top of the concrete road to study the map and noticed that the ‘buttress wall’ seen earlier just might have been masquerading as the start of the path I was searching for. At 10am I climbed its concrete steps and quickly found a path which meandered uphill through dense trees and undergrowth. It was well defined at first and looked like it was going the right way. With spirits lifted, I pressed on but now the GPS started playing up because of the dense canopy.
To cut a long story short, I managed with some difficulty, to follow this ever worsening excuse for a path approximately 600m up, as far as N32 46.905 W17 00.532. At that point I could not for the life of me fathom how to proceed further. It hadn’t been the first time I’d lost it either and I had been scrambling up steep and slippery ground in a light drizzle for much of the way. In places the path, evidently little used, seemed almost grown over.
By now it was 11:10 and I had made no progress in relocating the elusive path in the 30 minutes I’d been searching. There was no question of going cross country. The undergrowth was too dense and the ground ridiculously steep in most directions.
With hundreds of activations and 13 years of experience behind me, for the very first time in my SOTA ‘career’ I reluctantly decided to turn back. With two stout sticks cut to assist in the process and not without further inconvenience, I managed to retrace the route arriving at the car a little ashamed and crestfallen at 11:32.
All I had to show for my trouble was a rather shaky GPS track and some equally shaky photos (because of the lack of light in dense trees) of very little.
Route followed along path:
Marked path waypoints before turning back. dd-mm.mmm (WGS-84):
N32 46.970 W17 00.800 Start at concrete steps
N32 46.973 W17 00.760
N32 46.951 W17 00.700
N32 46.940 W17 00.645
N32 46.949 W17 00.587
N32 46.942 W17 00.569
N32 46.909 W17 00.582
N32 46.890 W17 00.551
N32 46.905 W17 00.532 Turned back
WARNING: The above waypoints may not be reliable due to GPS dropout. Though the difference is rarely greater than 25m, the route between the waypoints given above does not exactly correspond with the path shown on the map. Believe me; 25 metres is a long distance in this type of ground cover!
300m (1000ft) vertically/ 600m (0.38 miles) horizontally to turn-back point.
Reasons for turning back (in no particular order):
- Walking in a foreign country.
- Solo on a remote and seemingly little visited peak.
- Ill-defined/ little used path easily lost. No knowledge of the path ahead or if it existed.
- Drizzle and low-cloud. Damp leaves covering wet mud.
- Lightweight fabric boots. Flexible sole unsuitable for very steep, slippery surface.
- Very steep ground at or beyond the limit of ordinary walking.
- No ropes or aids carried.
- QRO backpack heavier than more basic equipment.
- GPS continually dropping out and giving confusing info.
- Unsure of relocating the path for the return.
- Progress likely to be too slow for time available.
- Still a chance to salvage the day with another summit.
For various reasons this SOTA expedition failed. The path was barely perceptible in places and apparently imperceptible at the point of turning back. If I was to try this summit again, I would need local knowledge and/ or a previous tracklog to make a better GPS route. Though I like my Garmin Geko for its compactness, a more modern GPS with greater sensitivity in trees would be a must in Madeira. I would need something better than lightweight boots which have a relatively thin compromise grip sole.
Rapidly improvised walking sticks were a godsend on the descent and for beating down dead thorn thickets but they would have been mostly an encumbrance on the way up. Provided the path could be positively located, some lengths of line or thin rope to safeguard/ mark the return would have been helpful or even essential. Simple coloured markers placed on the ascent would be invaluable on the return.
As stated at the outset, this report tells of a failed attempt on MI7 but I think it is important to report the nature of the failure if it helps successive activators.
The day was salvaged! I drove to Encumeada in about 20 minutes and activated MI5 Casado in the afternoon. See separate report.
I planned to investigate the other two potential start points for MI7 to the north but never did manage to get there. Also I was loath to risk wasting good activating time should there be a second failure.
I hope someone succeeds in activating this summit soon, maybe using a different route. Good luck!
73, John G4YSS
(CT9/ M1NNN/P in Madeira)
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Top of the concrete road/ track to right. Parking out of the way.
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Top of the concrete road. Path start disguised as a buttress retaining wall.
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Top of the concrete road. Path start disguised as a buttress retaining wall; looking back.
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: On the path. A rare gap in the trees.
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Path. What path!? Oh yes.
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Path. Where?
G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: NO PATH. Turning back; looking down. Beast Cliff has nothing on this. Next time - the machete!
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