SOTA Baptism of EA2DPZ on Mt. Esparatz and the ugly pine caterpillars


I have known Luis since 30 years ago. He had a ham licence by the time, but he stored all his gear some years ago, after moving from QTH. We kept our friendship and he was aware of my ham hobby and about my interest for activating from mountain summits. He also loves trekking and last Christmas he got a brand new dual band analog + digital handheld and got interested back on this hobby, and renewed his Ham licence: EA2DPZ.

We agreed to do an activation together and therefore last Sunday 24th of March went to Mt. Esparatz, EA2/NV-095.

The activation

The day was bright, full sun and no wind. The trekking is short, and we climbed 2,5 km following an easy path.

Once in the summit, I installed the antennas.
Luis had my homebrew vertical Flower pot antenna, and after finding a comfortable spot next the geodetic vertex he started calling CQ.

The Flower pot facing an open view.

His very first qso was with -guess who- Manuel EA2DT. He chatted and give Luis a warm welcome in SOTA.

After a few calls for some minutes, we got the call from Alberto EA2DYS/P , activating on EA2/VI-016. We were very glad to have a S2S on this activation, but in fact we had 3 in a row, because Alberto was with Roberto EA2DYS and Gotzon EA2CSC together on the same summit.

Roberto and Gotzon calling HF & UHF.

To my surprise Luis had qualified with ease, but we had time enough for more qso.

I moved to my rig and activated running on 10 MHz CW. Soon I had many calls in my notebook.

Once the pile up dried I run briefly on 14 MHz SSB but the propagation wasn’t in good shape.

Finally I was jumping up and down to chase some S2S. Thanks a lot HB9AFI, HB9BIN, TK5EP, HB9/F5HTR, F/HB9DBM, SQ2RBY, SP2SJ and EA6LU /P.

Thanks Ricardo EA6LU/P

When I stopped my activation, Luis had worked a couple more stations, being one a French amateur located at 139 km further North. We noticed the distance in the afternoon, once back home, and were astonished to have reached that distance with a 5w handheld and a simple half wave vertical on a short fishpole, having a lot of mountains between us!

The end of the activation was a call from Iratxe EA2DNO/P who was activating on EA2/BI-009. She was so kind to move on the summit with the handheld to find the right place to hear us and complete the S2S. She had a very nice words for Luis and I appreciate her effort to look for us today.

Iratxe, earning her 3000 activator points today!

We disassembled all the gear and got off the summit after enjoying with nice 360º views with the Pyrenees and a lot of SOTA summits around.

Luis had uploaded his first log as an activator and as a chaser. Loook forward to have more chances of joining and activating together.

Nature tip of the day and health advice

On our way up to the summit we encountered a lot of pine processionary caterpillar (Thaumetopoea pityocampa). They are a nasty pest that destruct pine forest frequently in our region.

Adult moths lay their eggs on pine trees, where they grow inside silky bags hanging from the end of branches as can be seen here:

While growing, larvas eat the pines and destruct the forest. During his life cyclethey go down and march to search for a good place below the ground where they will pupate.

We saw lenghty rows of them marching all along the way up:

We found some of them in a huge concentration, maybe some kind of caterpillar fest…

Today I have my skin irritated and rash in some areas. I’m already having some pills to mitigate the effect. Most probably I went in contact with some hairs that these caterpillars had left over the point where I sat and installed my aerial, or maybe the breeze moved the hairs from trees towards me.
Anyway, it is a nasty feeling. Next time I see them on a SOTA summit I’ll take much more precautions.

73 de Ignacio


Hello Ignacio,
The dog in the first picture is just like my “Duna”! :wink:

José Praça


Congratulations for the article, Ignacio. And welcome to the SOTA world, Luis.
We will hear soon!!

73 de EA2DCA

Thanks Jose, the dog depicted on the picture is not us, but from other mountaineers on top, hi !

Thanks Alberto, yes, we’ll hear soon again, for sure.

I did some complementary research of the VHF coverage from the log of Luis EA2DPZ.
It is nice to produce pictures that show the actual coverage achieved from a summit:

I studied a bit deeper the qso with F4HZN, through Northeast. As expected the straight profile between us show that we had an obstructed path, with the difficulty of having the Pyrenees in the middle, as shown here:

Therefore, to make such contact possible either we had the help of a refracted wave downwards, or the signal travelled to another mountain where was bounced and reflected northeast to reach the far operator.

Such things happen on VHF world and it’s nice to get a difficult QSO like this in your log.

73 de Ignacio


Hello Ignacio,
Or, maybe this… “knife edge” diffraction


José Praça