Over the last two weeks, I have traveled in South Africa and Botswana, primarily on business, but with a little time set aside for radio fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive regulatory clearance to operate in Botswana in time for the trip, so I left the radio in my suitcase there (despite the bilateral agreement on amateur radio between the US and Botswana, to operate, US hams need to file with BOCRA, which takes some time). However, in South Africa, I operated from Pretoria and Cape Town, visited a local ham club, and activated a SOTA peak.
While I would prefer to activate less common SOTA peaks, when traveling I often need to consider what is in range of public transportation. Table Mountain is a 50 Rand ride on Uber from downtown Cape Town and is also a stop on some hop-on/hop-off bus tours. Two hanging cable cars run from the base of the mountain to its top. There is a long path up as well, but as I was lugging more equipment than usual, I decided to take the cable car, which was something like 250 Rand round trip (about $20; pricey, but it is, after all, a tourist attraction).
I have a few days of meetings in Paris before returning to Madagascar and before arriving, I mapped out a couple SOTA peaks near Paris. I was not sure when I would work them in since my only free time will probably be in the evenings, but I have already operated from one: FL/NO-120.
I had some confusion about the name and designation. There area references on the sotawatch website that list F/NO-120 as “Buttes de Parisis”, and Google points to older versions of the sota.uk website that also referenced that peak. The French SOTA website indicates that as of February 1, 2017, there was a reorganization of France into the FL and F associations, so these websites just need to catch up. I had planned the trip back in January 2017, hence my use of the older term. For logging purposes, since the Nord-Ouest summits now fall under FL rather than F, I used the FL/NO-120 designation. Oddly, the name seems to have changed to “Fort de Cormeilles”, which is a historical building in the area. In any event, the GPS coordinates are the same.
I’m still in the Los Angeles area, and today activated another nearby hill. I know that this site is very close to W6/CT-225, Flint Peak, which I visited a couple days ago, and I have seen reports from others who have activated both in a single day without too much effort.
Once again, I find myself in San Francisco for some meetings and have a down day to tackle a SOTA peak. In planning this trip, I noted that no matter how many SOTA peaks I activate near San Francisco, I can always find another one, and one hint is to look at the multiple sub-regions that overlap in this area. Today, I took one from the Coastal Ranges list — Mount Caroline Livermore on Angel Island, just off the coast of Tiburon, California. It’s a one-pointer, but definitely not a “drive up” site — you need to take a boat to get to the island, and there’s no way to the top except legs.
From San Francisco, Angel Island can be seen from the Fisherman’s Wharf area at the northern end of the city, and the island lies just distant to Alcatraz. As usual, I am staying at a hotel in the Union Square neighborhood, so I had to figure out how to get to the site on public transportation. Working backwards from getting to the island, at this time of year there is only one ferry service, Blue and Gold, which departs from Pier 41 several times daily, the first outbound ferry at 09:45. Since Fisherman’s Wharf is a big tourist area (less so in winter), there are plenty of ways to get there: I took the 8BX Muni bus which has a stop a few blocks away (two bucks fifty each way).
A couple days after activating OK/JC-038, my family spent a day in Kutna Hora, a town with a lot of history and great architecture. The nearby Sedlec Ossuary is also a tourist attraction. On the way back to Prague, we stopped by a tall hill that overlooks Miskovice, just outside Kutna Hora.
The grass-covered hill is topped with trees, and a road runs around it. At one end, there is an observation tower topped by microwave and other antennas. Unfortunately, this time of the year, it is not open to the public. You can reasonably park anywhere along the side of the road or right at the tower.
My family and spent the holidays in the Czech Republic this year. We enjoyed a few days in Prague, had a nice visit to Cesky Kromlov, and spent New Year’s in the Lipno ski area.
What better way to start the New Year than to activate a SOTA peak? OK/JC-038 (Okolí) was not too far away, and on Google Maps, it looks like roads approach reasonably near the peak. Going northwards from Lipno, we followed route 163 and then 162, but at one point a smaller, unnamed road branches off 162. I went right by it and had to turn around, because this road is unpaved and enters the woods. It was covered in light snow, the rental car was doing well with traction, and other tire marks made it obvious where the road was, so I drove in.
I was back in the US for a few weeks and squeezed in a SOTA activation right before heading back to Mada. I had tried earlier in the week for a summit close to work, W3/CR-003, Sugarloaf Mountain, but I had to abort that attempt. It had been hot and humid all week, with constant sun. I drove out to Sugarloaf right after work, and with the long days thought I’d have time to climb, set up and operate before it got dark. However, the closer I got to the mountain, the darker the sky grew.
The moment I stepped out into the parking lot, I was hit by a tiny drop of water. More followed – a downpour. In the car, I looked at local weather radar on my cell phone, and cloud cover was patchy, lots of small storms moving west to east, right in line with my location. A couple times, it started to clear, but only briefly. I waited as long as I could, until I judged that there would not be enough light to activate the peak and of course as I drove out of the parking lot, the sun poked through. However, a bit further down the road, there was another cloud burst and with some distance between me and the mountain, I could see that more weather was headed that way, so I think it was a good decision. Continue reading “SOTA Activation: W3/PD-006 and W3/PD-007”
After winding up some narrow country lanes, this summit is behind a metal metal gate tied shut with rope. A rutted (and at the time muddy) dirt road leads back from the gate towards a cluster of commercial antennas that are on a bit of land only marginally higher than the flat plateau around it. I did walk to that site, but decided that I would do better to work from just across the road where I had parked.
I did not have a lot of time on the way back from Exeter towards London, so I thought I would try my luck on VHF before throwing the HF antenna up over a tree branch. I scrambled up a low wall, held the radio up, and made calls on 2m FM. I got two quick responses from stations about 25 km away and they also worked me on SSB. I continued calling on 2m until I landed my four stations required to make this an official activation. Towards the end, my arm was getting tired, so I rested the bottom of FT817 on my head to the amusement of passing drivers.
I swapped in the FT817’s 6m vertical antenna and tried calling for about 10 minutes, both voice and CW (try working CW with paddles magnetically mounted on the radio which is on top of your head — it is a challenge). No 6m contacts have been logged from the peak, so I was hopeful, but it wasn’t to be.
To be honest, we had hoped to visit the Dr. Who Experience while in Cardiff, but the only way I could make the travel schedule work put us there on a Tuesday, the one day of the week when the exhibition is closed. We had some time on our hands later that day because the next stop in Bristol was not that far away, so after steeping ourselves in a bit more Cardiff culture, we headed for the hills.
Garth Hill is the high point near Cardiff, and is accepted to be the subject of the movie “The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain“. Colm Meaney was in the movie, so even though we missed a Dr. Who connection, we managed to have a Star Trek connection. [Okay, for purposes of full geek disclosure, in fact, the movie does have a Doctor Who connection in the sense that it starred Hugh Grant, who played Dr. Who (briefly) in a parody sketch, the Curse of Fatal Death].