Saturday, April 29, 2023

ZS/WC-058 Lion's Head 1st Dec 2022

 A steep climb rewarded with views across Cape Town (1 point)

We parked on the road near the start of the sign marked footpath.  An alternative approach would be to park at Signal Hill and walk along to join the same Lion's Head path.

This a popular climb full of walkers, although it can be technically challenging, with a couple of metal ladders and some very steep sections at the top.  However the walk is very safe and well marked.  The ascent took about 90 minutes.

I decided to use my 2m FM Handy to activate as there are clear line of sight views to much of Cape Town and surrounding suburbs.  Putting up an HF antenna would be challenging with the number of fellow walkers and limited space on top.

Following a CQ Sota call on 145.500 MHz I enjoyed 5 short QSOs over 10 minutes, including one with a visitor to Cape Town (ZS1/AD4GN) and Phil ZS1WW who had been very helpful in planning my activations.

I would recommend Lion's Head as perhaps the first activation for any Ham visiting Cape Town, a day or two before climbing Table Mountain (Maclear's Beacon).

ZS/WC-965, Vasco Dagamapiek (Cape Point) 30 Nov 2022

 A straightforward climb with views across 2 oceans (1 point).  2m saved the day!

This is the most Southerly summit at Cape Point and is easily accessible from the main car park. I decided to activate on HF: with spectacular views over 2 oceans I expected my take off to be good and for this to be an easy activation...

We paid our entrance fee at the gate and drove up to the main car park, near the gift shop and Funicular base station.

The route starts from a North Westerly gate from the car park and proceeds fairly straight all the way to the peak.  The path is rocky, rough in parts and well marked and so this was a fairly straightforward climb, around an hour I think.

Once at the top I saw a disused hut that could have been used to prop up my SotaPole.  The ground around it was pretty uneven so instead I decided to base myself on a concrete foundation area and put up the pole with the usual 3 supports (2x antenna wires and 1x string) staked into the ground with tent pegs.

I had alerted the WhatsApp Sota group, so started calling CQ Sota on 40m SSB.  Conditions were very poor as the band was noisy and I only achieved 1 QSO on 40m despite calling for 25 minutes.  I switched to 20m and was delighted to speak with Adele ZS5APT and her partner, who had been very helpful with planning and getting on to the Whatsapp group.  20m was also hard going.

I resorted to 2m FM for a further 3 QSOs and so achieved my one Sota point, but my dreams of 10-20 HF QSOs up and down the country were not realised!

Back at the car park we headed to the Two Oceans restaurant for lunch - highly recommended!

Next activation: WC-058 Lion's Head

Monday, December 19, 2022

ZS/WC-043 Maclear's Beacon (Table Mountain) Nov 29th 2022

A challenging climb (unless you take the cable car) with easy VHF QSOs to activate | 2 points

This was my first SOTA activation in ZS land and provided my first ever QSOs in the country too.  Coupled with the iconic status of Table mountain and stunning views made this a memorable activation.


I have climbed Table Mountain several times, having worked in Jo'burg in the 1990s and then living in Cape Town in 2011.  I have usually taken the Platteklip Gorge route, which takes 2 ish hours and is like ascending a very long staircase, around 30-40 degrees inclination for much of the way but on a well made and popular/safe route.  If choosing this route, take plenty of water, a hat and sun screen as the sun and heat can be relentless.  The route starts near the bottom of the cable car and once at the top requires an easy flat 15 minute walk to Maclear's Beacon (in the opposite direction to the cafe/cable car top station).  I chose this route for the activation.

An alternative route is Skeleton Gorge, which starts at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, for which an entrance fee is payable.  This is a longer but more gentle route, taking 3-4 hours, but much of it is in the shade.  We took this route with the kids in 2011.

A week before arriving in Cape Town I had contacted the Cape Town Amateur Radio Centre to see if there were any SOTA chasers that would help with activations.  I received a very warm welcome and several offers of help and advice.  I was also invited to join the SOTA/POTA Whatsapp group (Covering SA and Namibia) so that I could post details of intended activations and self spot.  This was hugely helpful and again the community were very supportive.

Back on Table Mountain, I climbed the final few metres to Maclear's Beacon, called 'CQ Sota' on 145.500 and enjoyed 7 QSOs covering Cape Town and the suburbs. 

Phil (ZS1WW) was very supportive in the planning stage and so was very disappointed not to hear me calling, despite being on the roof of his downtown office.  He later shared the diagram below, which explains the 'radio shadow' that some of the city is in - worth remembering.  Also worth moving around the summit to maximise coverage.


Next activation: ZS/WC-965, Vasco Dagamapiek (Cape Point)

Friday, July 8, 2022

TUESDAY 10th May SV/IO-003 Psarudi

A pleasant 40 minute walk to a fantastic activation site, but poor mobile signal for self spotting

It is possible to drive along a track all the way to the summit where a monastery is sited.  If you do this, join the track west of the town - don't try to drive through the winding village streets!

I decided to park in the village and walk up, and tried to find a suitable parking space above the village.  I was following Google Maps which took me up through some extremely narrow residential roads above the main road.  I decided that the car was likely to get damaged, and worse, if I met a car in the opposite direction and needed to reverse I might become stuck!  I managed to return to the main road where I parked safely.

I walked up through the village, on winding paths past houses to the start of the trail.  At this point you can follow the winding concrete track to the top (which links back to the main road at the west of town) but I took the more direct trail to join the road further up.  It is fairly steep and rough; stout shoes recommended.

The summit is found by walking around the monastery, past a lovely viewpoint and to the summit encircled in stone.  There were a few walkers around and the summit is a bit small for a private activation - poles and wires are likely to get in the way of tourists!  Fortunately to the right of the monastery is a perfect open space with 2 ready made shacks to choose from!  I measured this as 445m altitude, so well within the activation zone (summit 460m).

Once set up, self spotting was difficult as my mobile signals very weak, but by walking around I got a SMS out on the WIND mobile network (data was non existent). 

20m was noisy and I struggled to get 4 QSOs initially, although my first was a summit to summit.  I had plenty of time and with such a nice 'shack' set up I decided to try PSK31.  Hard work as my Samsung tablet (which was driving the software) kept switching the output data from headphone socket to speaker, but did manage a psk QSO.

I switched to 40m, and despite a self spot no takers, so  back to 20m  on a different frequency for 5 more QSOs, ending with a second PSK contact

Before calling it a day I packed up and walked up to the summit to try 2m FM.  One local ham on the island came back to me and we had a pleasant chat rounding the activation off nicely.

Picture above shows the summit

Next activation: November 2022, Table Mountain in Cape Town

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Monday 9th May SV/IO-002 Pantokrator

An easy 2 pointer with plenty of other antennas to admire!

The summit is easily accessible by car, with a car park and cafe/restaurant at the summit.  As I approached it was clear that I had some competition in the antenna department! The summit is home to a monastery but the courtyard is dominated by the 4 legs of an enormous TV tower.  Slightly down the hill are around 25  masts, each with several antennas and dishes, quite an impressive sight!   Fortunately my concerns for QRM were unfounded (I used 20m and 40m).

I parked in the car park at the top and had a walk around the monastery boundary to see where I could safely set up my antenna (there is a cafe/snack bar at the top with several visitors walking around) .  To the right of the cafe I found a suitable fence to attach everything, but despite a self spot and several CQ calls on 20m I couldn't log any QSOs.   There was one distant call from EA2DT whom I have worked several times before but he clearly couldn't hear me.  I concluded that I was possibly on the wrong side of the Hill as I was a few metres down from the summit with a stone monastery wall and the tip of the summit next to me so would only have been transmitting East.

I moved around to the left of the cafe facing West and North and set up my antenna between some trees - the hill fell away too quickly to put up my Sotapole, but I used it to give the dipole centre a but more height.  A self spot and CQ call on 20m was rewarded with 10 qso including EA2DT who reported a much stronger signal.  So based on my experience the right hand slope below the monastery is best avoided.


I moved to 40m and self- spotted but nobody came back, and similarly nothing on 2m.

Pleased with the day's 2 activations I stopped at the snack bar for a beer, still open at 5.30pm, and admired the fantastic view... of all the other antenna masts!


Next and final activation on Corfu: IO-003 Psaradi

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

MONDAY 9th May SV/IO-005 Tsuka

Summit surrounded by dense woodland with the track difficult to follow

With no signs or footpath markers the start of the trail is very difficult to find.  The photo below is approximately correct based on the map location.  I parked in a nearby layby.

The trail starts as a reasonably well defined rocky footpath but is difficult to follow.  I made the mistake of turning left at a critical junction and ended up up forcing my way through dense undergrowth to get to an activation point.  I was glad I had long trousers on!  GPS and the OpenTopo map would be the best combination: I was using a paper map and Google Maps on my phone which was difficult to join together!


I pushed my way through dense woodland, eventually finding a  small clearing near the summit. Google Maps told me I was close to the summit but there were steep rocks stopping me get getting right to the top.  If I had not taken the wrong turning I would be the other side of these rocks!  My altitude was 608m so within the activation zone (summit 621m).


With so many branches in the way getting my Sotapole up was impossible, so I strung the short length of my Bandhopper antenna between some suitable branches, just planning to use the shorter sections for 20m.  After a self spot I quickly worked through the mini pile up achieving 8 QSOs in 10 minutes.

Concerned to conserve my battery, and with an unclear route back through the undergrowth, I packed up and headed back downhill, picking up the previous incorrect path.

>Next activation: IO-002 Pantokrator

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

SUNDAY 8th May SV/IO-006 Iraklis

In May 2022 I activated the 4 SOTA summits on the island of Corfu.

I have written brief accounts of each, focusing on the logistics of getting to the summit and some notes on the radio operation in the hope that these may be useful for future SOTA activators.

The first, SV/IO-006 Iraklis is below and links to the other 3 follow:-

SUNDAY 8th May SV/IO-006 Iraklis

Steady climb on well worn track to an open summit with plenty of space for activation.

The village has a narrow thoroughfare and has sensibly made car passage one way, with traffic lights controlling the flow each way every 7.5 minutes, so be prepared to wait.  I parked just after the lights opposite the Anastasis cafe.


As is often the case, I had difficulty finding the start point of the trail, which is not signposted from the village.   A friendly local showed me - I would suggest taking the steps in the picture, opposite the cafe next to the blue post boxes.  He also advised to watch out for snakes, good advice!



I kept walking up and past the pink house (picture) and the track becomes is a well defined stony path all the way.   The track meets a road for a very short distance by a gate post then continues left to the summit.


The summit is nice and open with a convenient trig point, plenty of space to put up a pole.  I chose a place a few metres from the trig point in case walkers wanted to reach it, but no other walkers seen.  Lovely views all around.

I self spotted by text,  and started on 40m only managing 1 QSOs.  20m was more productive, with 13 QSOs including 2 summit to summits.  I decided to finish off on 2m.  By chance I chose 144.550 MHz which is the channel used for general chat on the island. I finished the activation with 2 FM chats with local hams who did not seem upset that I was speaking only in English!

Next activation: IO-005 Tsuka

ZS/WC-058 Lion's Head 1st Dec 2022

  A steep climb rewarded with views across Cape Town (1 point) We parked on the road near the start of the sign marked footpath.  An alterna...