G4YSS Activation of EA8/ LP-003 Bejenado on 10-04-14
Report 2 of 4 in EA8/LP series.
EA8/LP Series of Reports:
Report 1 of 4. LP2 on 07-04-14, see:
Report 2 of 4. LP3 on 10-04-14, inc. AM band DX - THIS REPORT:
Report 3 of 4. LP1 on 14-04-14, see:
Report 4 of 4. LP2 on 16-04-14, see:
This report covers the activation of Pico Bejenado EA8/LP-003, La Palma’s third highest SOTA summit on Thursday 10th April 2014. It was the second mountain activated using EA8/ M1NNN/P.
Also in this report:
‘Broad Band QRM on LP3.’
‘Medium Wave (AM Band) DX.’
Start Point Reconnoitre:
As before the morning prior to the activation was used to investigate the start point after rumours of possible difficulties. We made a trip to the Caldera de Taburiente Visitor Centre east of El Paso to clarify access to Pico Bejenado. The display there taught us much about the formation of La Palma and it is totally free of charge. Worries about access to the start point were quickly dispelled. The restriction, requiring advanced internet booking, supplying passport number and nationality, only applies to the six-place car park which serves the ‘Mirador Punta de los Roques’ at the north end of the LP302 road to the NE of the summit.
On the way, whilst parking outside the chemists in El Paso on a quest to replace the natty little pound-shop spectacles lost on LP2 with what turned out to be some huge 10-Euro ‘lamps,’ there was a knock on the car window with someone enquiring, ‘Radio Amateur?’ The rider of what looked like a Harley Davidson motorcycle had stopped in the traffic queue. We had the briefest opportunity to exchange callsigns, names, and a handshake then the lights turned to green and he was off.
This was Tomas EA8TH who lives in the neighbouring town and who must have spotted my 5/8 VHF whip on the car roof. Tomas was not the only evidence of amateur radio I came across here. There was a rather tasty looking 3-ely tribander dwarfing a small house just around the corner and other antennas were evident in Fuencalientes.
We were able to drive freely along to the recognised LP3 start point, up the PR-LP 13.3 footpath which is a partly surfaced road as far as a parking place (N28 40.681 W17 51.240). This is not a car park as such but there is sufficient space on verges to park a dozen or so cars.
Route to LP3:
At the above parking spot there is a signboard which imparts the following information regarding the path to Pico Benjenado:
‘A route that climbs through a small open pine forest with sparse undergrowth, past ropy lava, lava tubes and archaeological remains, up to the summit; one of the best lookouts in the park.’ Initial Altitude - 1150m. Final Altitude - 1854m; Accumulated Climb - 704m. 5.4km - Short Route or 6.4km - Long Route. Average time 2.5 hours.
There is also a very good profile of both routes. The shorter one is efficient with no re-ascent. It must have been designed for me! The alternative runs along the northern edge of the mountain for a further distance via ‘Roche de los Cuervos’ and is undulating.
I was quite happy with the findings but there was one thing I had to try. Some sources indicated that it should be possible to drive a further 2km up the PR-LP 13.3 dirt road as far as N28 40.990 W17 51.719 then start on the path which turns right off the track. We tried this but the 2WD car slipped back after only a few metres. I subsequently discovered that with 4WD it would be quite easy but though it’s legal as far as I can ascertain, it is advised against on the grounds that leaving a vehicle there could block fire fighting vehicles if there was a forest fire. In fact I think you could easily park off to the side and out of the way. However, you might lose the vehicle if there was a fire and forest fires, a significant risk on this island, are taken very seriously.
The signboard further states: ‘Do not attempt this route on very windy days or when there is a dust haze; you could get caught in a forest fire.’ Also: ‘It is forbidden in this area to leave the signed trails.’ Located within the ‘Parque Nacional’ it would seem that Pico Bejenado is much more of a ‘tourist peak’ than was the case with LP2 Deseadas.
After the abject failure of the little Opel Corsa to negotiate the track, I was stuck with the accepted start point by the sign board. I worked out the best parking spot under trees to avoid full sun on the car all day and resolved to come back in the morning to start walking at first light. With that we returned to the hotel, around one hour’s drive, for some swimming in one of the 13 pools available.
ROUTE to LP3 from the SE (Marked Waypoints - WGS-84):
Early research led me to: Wikiloc | Pico Bejenado (La Palma) Trail where I was able to download some waypoints for the shorter route. The route is easy to follow, well walked and well marked but it’s always reassuring to have a fully informed GPS, especially if it gets misty.
Here are some waypoints: Take the track left from the signboard N28 40.681 W17 51.240, then via N28 40.755 W17 51.178; N28 40.787 W17 51.300; N28 40.977 W17 51.348. Go round the left hairpin at N28 41.007 W17 51.491 then N28 40.937 W17 51.515; N28 40.994 W17 51.582, zigging right at N28 40.934 W17 51.668. Leave the track by three signs and a litter bin, on a path to the right at N28 40.990 W17 51.719 (or park your 4WD here out of the way).
Walk up the path between two marker cairns going north to a signpost at N28 41.191 W17 51.711 then NW to El Rodeo at N28 41.324 W17 52.018. Turn left there (SW) towards N28 41.273 W17 52.091 and then NW again up to N28 41.347 W17 52.182; N28 41.319 W17 52.330; N28 41.389 W17 52.356; N28 41.392 W17 52.480 and N28 41.528 W17 52.543. I GPS marked LP3’s summit cairn at N28 41.550 W17 52.610. As on LP2, the summit position given in the SOTA database is inaccurate.
Activation No2 of 4:
PICO BEJENADO: EA8/LP-003 (QRO) - previously unactivated for SOTA.
Bands: 17m-15m-12m CW/ SSB & 10m CW/ FM.
G4YSS using alternative personal callsign EA8/ M1NNN/P. Unaccompanied.
All times ‘WEST’ UOS. (Western European Daylight Saving Time - UTC + 1hr and equivalent to BST).
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver.
SainSonic MX-P50A HF (80 thru’ 10) 50 Watt Linear Amplifier.
Adjustable link dipole for 20-17-15-10m (built 1992 for CT3).
Two 7m-long end strings for dipole.
5m Telescopic Mast with ground spike. (Guying kit and end sticks not used).
6 Ah Li-Po battery (1 x 2.2Ah Li-Po in reserve - not used).
Packweight: 8 kg (17.6 pounds) including food but this time only 1.5 litres of water.
Ascent of LP3:
Once again I had an interesting tune around Medium Wave band on the car radio for the 1hr drive from the hotel, arriving in darkness at 07:08. (See the section on Medium Wave (AM) later in this report).
For the second time I waited for daylight at 07:30 but by 07:40, after forcing down an unwanted litre of water, I was walking in increasing daylight. Just like LP2, the route (see above) was easy to follow and well signposted. A reasonable track surface, though bumpy and difficult for ordinary cars, made for easy walking.
The right turn from track to path beside a litter bin and marked by a sign reading ‘Pico Bejenado’ was clearly evident and I arrived via El Rodeo, at the summit cairn at 09:01. This time there was no sun but no low-cloud either. The sky was overcast and an occasional light breeze made it feel quite cool. The views were good but there was a smattering of cloud down below in a few places but mostly out to sea.
After a steady start, checking the route and trying not to miss the right turn, the ascent from the signboard in cool conditions had taken 1hr-21minutes. If I’d had a 4WD to take me to the path turnoff point, that time would have been decreased by 25 minutes. I need not have worried about wayfinding. The easy to follow route, like all the others on La Palma, is exceedingly well signed and the surface higher up is not that dissimilar to what is found on the higher summits in the G/LD region.
Unlike anything in the UK Lake District, there are pine trees on the top and you can sign the visitors book which is contained in a weatherproof copper box with a well fitting lid and attached to the summit cairn. At the opposite side there’s a sign announcing, ‘Pico Bejenado; Altitude 1854m.’
If you want to reach the trig point for a better coast-to-coast view, along with some apparent settlements perched on impossible looking ledges, it’s 90m further on at N28 41.577 W17 52.651. The trig is lower than the summit but it still meets the SOTA ‘25m down’ rule. There is a path to it but you will need to backtrack a little from the SOTA summit cairn to access it or alternatively climb down some rocks.
I set up the station overlooking a considerable and almost vertical drop, half way between the cairn and the trig at N28 41.565 W17 52.625. The views into the depression to the north and below were spectacular but cloud was to gradually obscure them in the afternoon.
PICO BEJENADO, EA8/LP-003: 1,854m, 10pts, 09:01 to 15:06. Temp: 10C initially and 20C at the end. Wind 0 to 4mph. Overcast for the most part. Later ‘undercast’ with hazy sun. (LOC: IL18BQ). Orange (EE) phone coverage on summit and all parts of ascent route.
17m was the selected starter band but the racket which issued forth from the speaker made my heart sink. It was right across the band and to a lesser extent, affecting 20m and 15m too. When SSB was selected, the meter read S8 without any valid signal. I would really struggle to hear all but the strongest chasers through this, though a significant improvement was to be had with the 500 Hz CW filter switched in.
I have called this ‘QRM.’ It was not atmospherics but a powerful, evenly spaced fast pulsing that sounded like ripping calico. The level was constant so it was not coming in via the ionosphere from far away but was obviously local. I checked the radio setup, my GPS, the camera and anything else which could have been causing it. I phoned Roy G4SSH but since we had announced this band as the starter, we decided to try to stick to it. The interference was about as bad as it gets so I was not looking forward to this at all.
18.090 CW - 24 QSO’s:
With a power of 50 Watts, reduced to 30 near the end of the session and with phones on to better hear through the noise, I started at 09:05z. I could barely hear Roy at 229. Even the strong stations were receiving 499 or even 399 reports from me which was somewhat embarrassing. It proved to be a rather wearing process which at 50 minutes, took twice as long as it should have done.
It’s supposed to be the chasers who have the difficult job of sorting out weak activators from noise but the tables were turned today. I was struggling to log moderate signals. Only the ‘local’ EA1 and EA2’s were coming through unchallenged, so in the circumstances, I thought myself lucky to have logged 24 chasers on here. Somehow, I managed an S2S with S52CU/P Mirko on S5/CP-026. Countries worked were: G; OE; HB9; DL; N; OM; OK; HA; EA; YO; GI; S52; EI; SP and YK.
18.132 SSB - Cancelled!:
With ears ringing after a dreadful struggle on CW with the narrow filter, there was no point in wasting time with SSB so I phoned Roy so he could apologize to waiting chasers before a move up to 21 MHz.
21.052 CW - 8 QSO’s:
The noise was still audible on here but it was much reduced making the band quite workable. With a power of 30 Watts the following six countries were worked in quite deep QSB: G; SP; EA; HB9; EI and AE4FZ - Charles in Fayetteville, NC. Just eight in the log, probably because twenty four CW collectors had already logged me on 17m. SSB was understandably busier however.
21.320 SSB - 45 QSO’s:
After the 17m phone session was cancelled due to severe noise, the SSB collectors must have been quite frustrated. It showed. No less than 45 called, albeit in a leisurely in 90 minutes. Power at the outset (10:26z) was 30 Watts but that was increased to 50 W at 11:22z. Unfortunately the 6Ah Li-Po only lasted a further five QSO’s after that, so just five Watts were used for the rest of this session.
By the time I had swapped over to a 2.2Ah, the VE1ST or VE1WT who I was trying to work at the time had disappeared never to return. Apart from a ‘scribbly’ callsign, it looks like a valid QSO in the log but I don’t know whether he got my report so I haven’t entered it. After a few more calls without response, I QSY’d to 12m.
Judging by the log, it looks like this is where I had my short lunch break. Sandwiches from the hotel again.
24.907/ 24.909 CW - 19 QSO’s:
With the only reserve battery (2.2Ah) connected and two bands planned, it was prudent to run just 5 Watts for the rest of the activation. As per LP2, I selected 12m on the dipole by opening the 10m links at both sides and adding a thin 0.6m drop-wire from one of them. The nasty fast pulse noise which was still plaguing 17m and to a lesser extent 20m and even 15m, was thankfully inaudible on this band.
I called Roy in to verify the path. He gave my 5 Watts QRP a 559 report. I tried one Watt and still got a 339 response. So the band was good to the UK and very likely Europe too. There was soon verification in the form of incoming reports in the range 539 to 599 from the following areas: G; HA; EA; DL; LZ; ON; PA; and HB9. e.g. G3VQO Les - 539 and an S2S with HB9CBR/P on HB/BE-160.
Half way through a Swiss man and a few minutes later, a German girl came to ask me what was going on. There was a language barrier and so by the time it was explained, I had lost the frequency to a sudden massive pileup and had to move up 2kHz.
24.969 SSB - 9 QSO’s:
Conditions must have further improved and Roy G4SSH was hearing me so well on here that I received a 58 RS from Irton, Scarborough. Mike G6TUH gave my 5 Watts ‘59 plus 10dB’ report! After Mike came M0MDA Mick in Leeds; 2E0YYY/P S2S on G/SP-017 and Don G0RQL. Finally G4APO; SP8RHP; DJ5AV and OE7FMH.
29.600/ 29.210 FM - 11 QSO’s:
I ‘cut my amateur teeth’ on 10FM but have never activated it for SOTA because in Britain, I rarely carry an antenna which works above 14MHz. Back in 1984 when I was financially strapped feeding a family of four and a huge (initially 15%) mortgage on one small salary, 10FM provided a great start to my life as an amateur, using cheap converted CB radios. So by calling CQ on 29.6 FM today, I was wallowing in nostalgia as well as offering an alternative ‘phone’ option to what would otherwise have been SSB on the 10 metre band.
With FM, there’s always a risk that the battery will suddenly give up, but it couldn’t have gone better and I was delighted by the response. One thing however, back in the old days we just QSY’d ‘one up’ or ‘one down’ from 29.600, meaning plus or minus 10kHz but now for some strange reason, the working frequencies seem to have taken a ‘walk’ down the band.
It was Mike G6TUH who answered the CQ pre-announced by Roy on the internet. I was running 5 Watts but reduced power to what I assumed was a Watt. After reading the FT817ND operating manual later back at the hotel, I noticed that its lowest power setting is actually 500mW. At that level, Mike was still copying me (as I was him) ‘59 plus with BBC quality audio.’ It was a good start and a second Mike in the form of DJ5AV followed with a 57 RS. After this I logged: DL1DVE Tom; G4SSH Roy; G4UXH Colin; M0MDA Mick; G8FWE & G0TDM - both John’s NE of the Lake District followed by HA5LV Viktor.
The last station worked from Pico Bejenado for what might well prove to be a rather long time, was Phil G4OBK but really the ‘star turn’ was Franco I5KAP. Obviously a 10FM enthusiast, he progressively turned down the power on his converted CB from an initial 4 Watts to a much lower value. I was using 500mW without any means of reducing it further but Franco went down through 1 Watt to half a Watt, then 250mW; 100mW and finally 80mW! My reports to him ranged from 59 plus down to 52 at his lowest setting and as the power went down, his delight increased exponentially. It was a memorable QSO in a memorable session.
145.500 FM - (2 Watts-Helical) Nil:
What more can you say than ‘I tried?’
Descent of LP3:
As seems to happen on most days, by mid afternoon the cloud had almost crept up to the top of the mountain so less than half way back down to the car I was walking through cool fog. That suited me just fine and keeping up a good pace, I made it back to the car in under an hour by 16:02. I regretted that I might actually have had time to try another band but at least I would be back at the hotel in good time for the evening meal.
Ascent/ Distance - Pico Bejenado, EA8/LP-003:
From the signboard N28 40.681 W17 51.240 on 10-04-14.
According to Signboard:
Ascent: 704m (2,310ft).
Distance: 2 x 5.4km = 10.8km (6.8 miles).
Total up-down: 2hr-17min.
17m CW: 24
15m CW: 8
15m SSB: 45
12m CW: 19
12m SSB: 9
10m FM: 11
2m - FM: 0
10 SOTA points.
Out of the two La Palma summits (LP2 & LP3) which required walking, this was expected to be the easier one. Comparing the walking times that is certainly true. Early worries regarding access and car parking, gathered from the Thomson Rep turned out to be no more than misunderstandings. There were no restrictions of any kind other than a request to keep to the walking paths on the mountain. Not only that, the small but high quality Caldera de Taburiente Visitor Centre from which this information was gleaned, was completely free to enter. The static displays and audio/ visual presentation on La Palma island were very informative.
The route, originating from the internet some 18 months ago, turned out to be accurate and easy to follow. Considering the number and quality of signposts, you would have to try desperately hard to get lost. There were more people on this mountain than seen on LP2, though a few days later, LP1 was to beat both from that aspect.
Once again help from G4SSH in the UK almost guaranteed a smooth passage through the various bands and modes; phone coverage being crucial to this. In fact the only time in two weeks when I noticed the phone signal ‘dipping out’ was just for a couple of minutes around 9am on this summit.
Because of power not to mention time wasted trying to combat very serious QRM on 17m, I regretted not taking a third battery and perhaps staying a little longer to use it.
Despite being only 29 degrees north, I never felt overheated on this activation because the weather was completely benign with very little sun.
The summit has trees on it and I was tempted to string the antenna up between two of them. However, because it is in a National Park and I didn’t want to be accused of damaging the flora, I used the mast as normal.
Once again band conditions turned out to be good with 10m particularly efficient in its ability to carry flea power around the World. 80mW from Italy on 10FM was perfectly readable as were the other stations worked, though one or two had some, what I think is termed ‘phase distortion’ on their signals. I noticed very little fading however.
Broad Band QRM on LP3:
The minute I heard the appalling racket on 17m (plus and minus approx 4 MHz!) I had my suspicions about what could be causing it. The day before I had noticed a large white road sign on the main LP3 road not far from the visitor centre, with a diagram of radio waves impinging on traffic and the legend, ‘Por Su Seguridad Control de Velocidad.’
I can’t read Spanish but it was fairly obvious that this was some form of traffic radar. When I showed him a photo of the sign, the waiter back at the hotel seemed to confirm it, albeit with sign language. A search on the internet revealed information as follows …‘Five Fixed radar mechanisms have been installed to control speeding in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and one in the tunnels of La Palma’…
The entrances of the aforementioned LP3 road tunnels are only about 6km from the summit of Pico Bejenado and in direct line-of-sight. Furthermore the QRM is certainly pulsed. Since the radar is fixed, the implication is that it’s also constant. I may well be wrong but I am 75% sure that this is the culprit, though it beggars belief that any ‘EM authority’ would allow this to occur particularly when it is ‘wiping out’ sizeable portions of the HF spectrum for some distance around. Maybe these radars are relatively new and/ or nobody has noticed? Whatever the explanation, future activators need to be aware of potential difficulties on and around the 17m band.
Further evidence to support this theory was gained four days later on LP1 which is 12km from these tunnels. The interference on 17m was still present there, though much reduced to a level where it was no longer a nuisance.
Medium Wave (AM Band) DX:
This will not be of interest to everybody but it certainly intrigued me. In order to start walking at dawn for activations, I was setting off from the hotel at between 06:00 and 07:00. Dawn was at 07:30. Whilst tuning through the 522 kHz to 1,611 kHz Medium Wave/ AM broadcast band on the hire car radio, I consistently picked up stations having announcers with USA accents. At first I thought little of this; assuming ‘AFN’ or ‘VOA’ etc.
Morning by morning, these stations were always there and averaging SIMPO 34323 on the following European channels (with their 9 kHz spacing regime): 1080; 1170; 1188 and 1512 kHz but they always faded to nothing about 15 minutes before it got light.
I subsequently confirmed that I was hearing transmissions direct from the USA; a country which uses a 10 kHz spacing on the AM band. Though two of my receiver channels were 2 kHz ‘out’ and the radio did not allow between-channel coverage, I could nevertheless still resolve speech on all four broadcasts.
These were all talk stations and one morning at 7am I got lucky, clearly picking up (and recording on my MP3 player) a station ID as I drove to that day’s SOTA. This was ‘WWVA News Radio on 1170 kHz’ and they were reading the news. My son G0UUU who has an interest in these matters, tells me that this station is located in West Virginia and runs 50kW; one of only a handful to be granted that high a power. In fact it was on reduced power when I heard it. Another station seemed to be dedicated to talk of mortgages, loans and the housing market and another about life’s ups and downs in general but unfortunately I didn’t hear any more ID’s.
These; the only English speaking radio broadcasts that I could find in the whole two weeks, kept me company and took my mind off the forthcoming challenges along with the ‘things that can go wrong’ type of mentality that I seem to be plagued with.
Thought there were plenty of Spanish stations populating FM; in daylight the only stations audible on AM were from Tenerife on 621 and 720kHz in Spanish. There was nothing on Long Wave even at night though the small ‘tranni’ radio I had in the hotel didn’t do justice to that. At times BBC-WS was audible on 15.400 MHz from Ascension Island.
Thanks to all stations worked and to G4SSH; SP8RHP; MW3PZO; VK2DAG; G6TUH for spotting. Again, special thanks to Roy G4SSH for telephone liaison, alerting and spotting in real time.
73, John G4YSS
(Using EA8/ M1NNN/P)