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KP4/KI4SVM Activations

A good friend and hiking buddy travels to Puerto Rico on business occasionally, but as he had not taken any time to explore the island outside of his business obligations we came up with a plan to correct that. While he spent the first couple of days working, I had time to activate a few summits in this fairly new SOTA association.

I was originally planning on two activations per day, but due to difficulty in finding good intel on summit access I decided to do just a single activation each day. This suited me fine since I have settled into a pattern of longer activations in the last year. After all this is supposed to be a vacation, right? This was a sound decision because I had no idea of how long it would take to get from point A to point B on this little island. Even though Puerto Rico is only 35 miles tall and 100 miles long, any travel to the interior takes much longer than expected. The roads are curvy, rough, curvy, narrow, curvy and you never know what will be lurking in the road around the next bend. Did I mention that the roads are curvy? I can’t believe PR has not produced any world class rally drivers! Any visitors to the island shoud expect an average speed of 25 miles/40 Km per hour tops in the interior. Unless you drive like me, that is. :wink:

For both activations, the equipment used was an Elecraft KX3, a Hardrock-50 amp w/ATU and an 88’ doublet. I ran the amp at the full 50 watts and it performed great on both activations.

KP4/CC-001 - Cerro de Punta

With the weather forecast better for the central part of the island, I hit the road early and made the several hour drive to KP4/CE-001 - Cerro de Punta. This is the highest point on the island at 4400’/1338m and is easily accessible by a short, but very steep road. There is a very rough area at the bottom and near the top, but other than that it is a steep and narrow paved road. I was afraid my rental car was going to quit moving forward a couple of times on the steep inclines, but it managed to make it to the top. For the less adventurous drivers, there is plenty of space to park at the bottom and hike up.

View of the trailhead from the top

There are a number of communication towers on the summit as well as the popular and privately owned repeater of KP4CAR-Carlos. Carlos is the only PR ham that has chased me outside of PR and it was nice to make a contact with him on his home turf.

Carlos’ Repeater on Cerro de Punta

There is an observation area on the summit itself that had just enough room to set up my 88’ doublet. I may be wrong, but I think the observation area was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and it is definitely showing it’s age. Several sections of railings were missing and other sections looked very sketchy. The mountains are extremely steep and a fall here would be disastrous. It was a bit unnerving tying off the ends of the doublet legs beyond the railings!

Me hiding under a bit of shade

As usual, I started out on 40 meters but quickly realized that I wasn’t reaching any of my regular chasers and there was no activity from the locals as well. I noticed 2E0YYY was on G/SP-013 - Gun and I could hear him pretty well on 15m. A bit of QSB, but we got the contact in the log and what a way to get my activation started! My first contact as KP4/KI4SVM, the first activation contact for KP4/CC-001 and it was a S2S to boot! After that I was off and running with lots of great contacts, both on the island and off. After draining the battery for the amp, I looked for the spare battery but couldn’t find it so I decided see if I could scare up any contacts on 2m. After a very nice and lengthy conversation on 2m with a local ham, he lets me know that he was using a friend’s repeater that has it’s output on 146.520. D’oh! Can’t count that one! And of course I found the spare battery floating around the bottom of my pack when I got back to the hotel.

View of Cerro de Punta in the clouds

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KP4/CE-001 - El Yunque

The next morning I set out for KP4/CE-001 - El Yunque. I had less of a drive this morning, but I did have a 2.5 mile/4 km hike so I got out early to beat the crowds and hopefully get to the top before the clouds moved in. This is one of the most popular destinations in El Yunque National Forest and it can get really busy. There are several routes you can take to reach the top, but I chose the namesake El Yunque trail, which takes you on a great walk through the tropical rainforest. The trails in the National Forest have been ‘hardened’ so that they don’t become a quagmire and there are numerous rain shelters along the way. Even on the best of days you can expect rain - El Yunque receives over 200"/6m of rain a year and rains on average 4 times per day.

After a muggy hike, I got to the top and started setting up on a deserted summit. The views were breathtaking and you could see the north, east and south coasts of this strangely rectangular island from El Yunque.

CCC built observation tower

As I was setting things up, a truck with government plates with two guys showed up. Not long after I got on the air, they got out and started setting up a small Yagi antenna. Hmmmm, what were they up to?

I started on 10m and was having great fun working through the pileup. After 30 minutes or so, the two gentlemen walked over to me, so I pulled my headphones out. The one gentleman identified himself as the FCC (Federal Communications Commision) and the other as the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Wow! It’s not often you get visited by one, much less two federal agencies on a summit! And guess what? I was QRMing them everytime I transmitted. :wink: I graciously agreed to take a break while they conducted their foxhunt. After all, I am just out there playing and they were there trying to do their job. They were looking for the source of some spurious emissions that were causing interference with the FAA navigational beacons on the island. Without my intereference, they were able to quickly pinpoint the source as St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This also gave me a short break to take some photos before the clouds started rolling in.

View of the southern coast with KP4/CE-003 - Pico del Este in the back left.

After my short break, I got back to my activation. After picking up a few more on 10m, I dropped down to 12. After nothing but crickets for about 10 minutes, the pileups started again. Everytime things quieted down and I thought I could QSY, I would get a handful more. KP4 was popular on 12 meters to both SOTA and non-SOTA chasers it seems.

The clouds moved in and as everything started to get damp, it decided to start raining in earnest. I should have been better prepared, but it had been such a glorius morning I was not thinking of the inevitable rain and I quickly went QRT. Not to mention that I was receiving numerous texts from my buddy who had finished up his business and really wanted to get away from the office and start his vacation. I had a pleasant walk down in the rain, in the rainforest, as it should be.

Heading down…

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And you can find a few more pics from these activations on my flickr account.

73, pat - KI4SVM

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Pat, thanks so much for the nice QSO from El Yunque. You had quite the pileup on 10m. I made a short video recording of you which I uploaded here:

KP4/KI4SVM Video

Only wish i was on the radio to work you from the other 2 you activated.

Brian-N2BTD

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Thanks for the video and contact, Brian. I wish all my summits were that exotic and drew such a pileup! :grinning:

By the way, does anyone recognize this antenna? They claimed it was made by the ‘agency’. It looks like a commercial product to me, but a bit of searching has not revealed any sources. It looked very well built and adjustable.

73, pat - KI4SVM

Awesome photos Pat, thanks for sharing. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to chase you. How are you erecting your 88’ doublet? How high? Inverted Vee?

Cheers 73,
Kevin AC2KL

Hi Pat,
Thanks the reports and really suprised big time with the propagation ~ my old brain seems to recall that the antenna could be a Yaesu calibration antenna. I have a similar one one here for the Gig bands which I intended to use but never did; perhaps I should sell it. I suppose you could always contact the FCC and ask …
Cheers
Mike

Thanks Kevin! I have a 10m pole but with a couple of the top sections taken out, which means that the apex of my inverted-v is about 27’. I apologize for the mixing of the measurement standards, but since these were KP4 activations I think that is appropriate. The speed limits on highways there are in miles per hour, yet the road markers and signs are in km. :smile: The observation platform on KP4/CC-001 was really too small for the doublet and the legs were much more vertical than I would typically set up, but it seemed to work fine. Even when the mast collapsed and everything was laying on the ground!

73, pat

Hi Mike, I was really pleased with the propagation as well and I was able to work some of my best SOTA DX on these activations. I saw no brand name on their antenna, so it may very well have been an in-house production.

73, pat