Sunday, July 10, 2022

POTA Fail: I took a taxi to Cotopaxi

It coulda been awesome.

Everything was planned and all the parts had been tested on numerous stateside POTA ops. My driver, Santiago, was totally into it and eager to see Morse Code in action with his car as my "estación".

Batteries were charged, for both camera and IC-705. Lammas grazed in the fields along the highway to the park.

But the weather was against us. Solid fog and light rain limited the visibility to a few hundred meters, if that. Cotopaxi could not be seen at all and park officials were not allowing anyone to proceed beyond the parking area.

Hikers, bicyclists and would-be climbers with crampons and ropes were sitting, waiting.....

But I had a back-up plan since photography was out - I'd just activate from the parking lot. Done it before in FL and TX.

Santiago helped me by maneuvering his taxi into an area surrounded by grass so I could lay out a radial without fear of someone driving (and parking) on it. He attached the mag-mount to his taxi, I connected the radio bits and pieces.

Then I called CQ POTA on 20m. Again and again. No hay nada. SWR was low, output was 10 watts. No one heard me and I couldn't hear a soul either.

QSY to 15m CW. There they are - a contest is in full force with many CW signals. I tuned up to 21.067, well above the contest activity, and called CQ again. For 30 minutes. Nada, otra vez.

Santiago: Que pasó? Me: No se.

I ended up working a few South American contesters but heard no W/VE stations at all and I blame it on Pasachoa.

My original plan called for me to be above the main bulk of this mountain-shaped RF attenuator to my north - but from here in the parking lot, it's a W/VE signal blocker.

Santiago was disappointed, I was disappointed and a nearby stray dog also seemed disappointed.

I had a Plan B for the day, but it was for photography, not radio.

So we dismantled everything and headed back toward Quito, stopping along the way near Patichubamba for a 3-mile hike along Rio Pito and its many waterfalls.

At the trailhead, I snapped a few photos of the signage and a little Incan girl wanted to see the result on the back of the camera. "Puedo ver?" Of course you can! "Como te llamas?" "Tica". Cute as a button, my wife and I wanted to adopt her on the spot but she was spoken for.

So onto the trail, with Santiago joining us. Dangerously-built foot bridges allowed us to cross various streams and rickety ladders allowed us down to the next sections of trail. My two compatriots were patient with me as I stopped repeatedly for photos - rushed photos, since I wasn't alone, but photos.

I won't have the chance to make another attempt at Cotopaxi - it remains unactivated.

But Cajas HC-0001 looms and we'll be in that park's vicinity later this week. Estoy esperando tener mas suerte.


Still 3000 feet below the obstacle






After arriving back at our Airbnb in Quito we walked to dinner, passed a young woman playing guitar and singing songs in English & Spanish. She took a break and we chatted a bit. Her name is Andrea and she has recently moved to Quito from Cuenca - our next destination.

And then she sang a Johnny Cash song just for me so I hit the record button on my phone's video app:




  1. Good morning John, glad to see you and your wife made it safely. To bad the operation did not turn the results you were expecting but that is the adventure of ham radio. Very nice shots and yes that bridge/step do look a bit risky!

    1. Good morning, Mike - thanks! Yes, we survived the hike and as my wife said, that's one for the record books. Hopefully things will go better for the next attempt and I'll get some VE's into the log!