Helada 2018

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EA5/AT-038 – Helada

EA5/AT-002 – Puig Campana in the distance behind Benidorm centre

A family holiday in Benidorm afforded the chance to have a go at a Spanish SOTA summit.  We had a week booked on a package trip so luggage allowances meant there was no chance of taking much kit.  I managed to squeeze in my usual Kenwood TH-D74 radio as well as a reduced version of my 2 element beam that I normally use for UK activations.  It would have to do.  There are quite a few summits around Benidorm and a fairly good bus service so there are a number options available if you have time to explore.  I chose Helada because it is within walking distance of the hotel we were in.

Maps

Maps are a problem.  I printed a few location maps from Google before I left so I could find the start of the trails, thinking I would buy a detailed walking map locally once we arrived.  That was a big mistake.  The family were happy to have a day out walking around the shops of Benidorm whilst I searched for maps. There are no outdoors/walking shops in Benidorm and only one book shop which does not sell maps.  The place is totally focused on tourists sitting on the beach and the shops reflect this.  To walk any of the more remote hills I would certainly recommend buying your maps before you leave.

Track log shown on Google Earth

There is a leaflet available from the tourist information that describes the walk along Sierra Helada but it is not very good.  I studied it for ages the evening before but couldn’t work out the route they were suggesting.

Finding the trail

The main road parallel to the beach in the Easern end of Benidorm is called Avenue Del Mediterraneo.  Find this and follow it to the Eastern end.  From there head up Calle de Berlin by now heading SE.  Turn right at the end of this onto Calle Sierra Dorada.

The Cross

At the roundabout take the right fork onto Av. Tokio.  Follow this street up to the cross.  It is a popular walk up to the cross and can be driven almost to the top.  As you gain height the views over the city are worth enjoying.

 

Sierra Cortina and EA5/AT-096 – Alt de Cortina just behind the city in the foreground with EA5/AT-002 – Puig Campana looming behind.

As you leave the tarmac behind at the cross, the left fork is the start of the trail.  The right path leads a short distance up to the cross itself and there is a path back down which rejoins our trail if you want to pop up to see it.

The trail

The trail from the Cross is fairly obvious most of the way, it is marked in various places with painted ticks, a few cairns and the odd signpost.  Once you reach the first summit just follow the cliff edge until you can see the radio towers.  It’s a bit up and down as you would expect from a coastal cliff path.

Operating in Spain

Radio masts on top

I only had vhf/uhf FM capability on my radio so I knew it was not going to be easy activating a summit.  I spent as much time as possible in the days before listening to the local repeater and on S20 the VHF calling channel.  In four days I never herd a single person on either.  There did seem to be some APRS activity locally but from the hotel I couldn’t reach anything that would gate my packets to the internet.

The top

From the higher ground near the Cross and most of the way along the ridge I was able to get APRS packets through to EI5RCI-15 NW of Alicante.  After a good walk and a lot of up and down I eventually reached the summit where there is a large radio mast installation.  I set up only about ten metres from the perimeter fence but it didn’t seem to cause me any interference  problems. I knew from previous discussions that I would be more likely to succeed if I new a little Spanish so I was prepared with a few key phrases thanks to Ignacio EA2BD.  I am sure my accent would have been a give away but I called CQ SOTA for about nearly an hour from the top without a single reply.

Key Phrases

CQ SOTA CQ SOTA Echo Alfa barra Mike Uno Charlie Julliet Eco , QRZ
Tu senial es cinco nueve, cambio
Mi referencia es SOTA EA5/AT cero tres ocho. OK!
Gracias por el contacto, siete tres

Eventually I gave up and packed the station away for the return trip.  The activation was unsuccessful but it didn’t matter as the day out in the hills was more than worth it.

Overall I would definitely recommend this walk but for a successful activation I think you would need to plan on taking HF bands or a few friends with licences.

73, Andrew

Journey Details

Date – 31st October 2018

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – 2 Ele Yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 0

SOTA points – 0

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

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Carn Mor Dearg & Ben Nevis 2018

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A forecast break in the Scottish weather coinciding with a rare free weekend afforded the perfect opportunity to bag two of the highest SOTA summits in the Kingdom and also a chance to tackle the impressive CMD arete.  I headed off up the motorway on the Friday morning looking forward to a weekend of adventure.  I was not disappointed.

There are two obvious option for this route, either starting at the North Face car park, or from the tourist car park in Glen Nevis.  The North Face start is probably a more pleasant walk in and perhaps a little easier, but as I was planning to activate two summits I couldn’t be sure how late I would be coming back down.  I chose the Glen Nevis start as it would be an easier return route in the dark.

GM/WS-003 – Carn Mor Dearg

View over the Loch at breakfast

I was first one down for breakfast on Saturday morning for the earliest possible start, it was not too far to the car park so I was on the hill by 8:30am.

The initial trek up the tourist path was not as bad as I was expecting, it was busy but most people were very considerate and quite happy to move over and let me pass.  On reaching the junction at Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe I turned off the main path heading North.  This path leads around the North side of the Ben below castle ridge and around to the CIC hut.  After the melee of the tourist path earlier the solitude was most welcome.  I passed one other walker doing the same route as me but the other way around.

On reaching the hut there is a fairly easy river crossing to reach the slopes of Carn Dearg Meadhonach.  I had read some reports that indicated that there may be a path up here somewhere, but if there is then I didn’t find it.  The slope is steep but not too steep, it’s mostly loose rocky ground interspersed with grassy heather, so easy enough to pick a route up it if taken with care.

Carn Dearg Meadhonach with CMD in the background

On reaching the summit of Carn Dearg Meadhonach (not a SOTA summit) I turned South for a welcome and mush easier traverse down and then up again  to Carn Mor Dearg.

Carn Mor Dearg summit

Carn Mor Dearg summit was in the cloud when I arrived so not much to see.  I soon set up the station beside the summit cairn and called CQ SOTA.  I was soon rewarded with seven contacts including two summit-to-summit contacts.  The temperature at the summit was below freezing and although not excessively windy I would estimate the wind chill at around -15 deg judging by how cold my fingers were holding the mic.

GM/WS-003 -Log

By the time I had packed up to leave the weather was starting to improve and I was able to catch a few glimpses of the CMD itself appearing from the mist.

I set off along the ridge, it deserves it’s reputation!  I was fortunate that there was not too much wind so I was able to stay on the very top almost all the way along.  At times it really does define what a ‘knife edge’ ridge should be.  The ridge proper extends for more than a kilometre until it reaches the SE slope of the Ben.  The end of the ridge is marked by a cairn which also marks the last escape route to the North down Coire Leis.  From here it is a relentless slog up to the summit of Ben Nevis itself.

GM/WS-001 – Ben Nevis

The top

There is a path shown on the map indicating the climb up Ben Nevis from the CMD.  Don’t believe it, the route is up a mighty great pile of loose rock, there is no clear path most of the way, just keep heading up until the slope eases off and you see the welcome sight of the summit structures appearing out of the mist.

It was not as busy as I expected at the top, I guess many of those who set out in the morning didn’t make it all the way up but still there were a fair few people around. I picked a spot away from the main structures and set up the station.  I soon had another seven contacts in the log.

GM/WS-001 -Log

As I was packing away the wind started to pick up and the snow came down almost into blizzard conditions.  The route back from the summit to the zig zags is notorious in poor visibility as there are a couple of spots where the path passes very close to an almost vertical gully drop.  Every year the odd person disappears over this edge to their doom.  Fortunately the route was clear enough and the drop easily avoided.  Once onto the zig zags most of the drama is over, just follow the path back down to the car park.  As I descended the weather improved until by the bottom it was clear and sunny.

Journey Details

Date – 6th October 2018

Postcode – PH33 6PF

Parking – NN 122 730

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – 2 Ele Yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 6 + 7

SOTA points – 10 + 10

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

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