SOTA: EA2/ZG-011 (San Caprasio)

This was the third of the three summits that I activated after renting a car in Zaragoza, the first two sites were EA2/ZG-065 and EA2/ZG-060. Of the three, this one was the most remote and the road quality from EA2/ZG-060 to EA2/ZG-011 and then back to Zaragoza was the worst of the trip. My rental car was not an off road vehicle or even a crossover model, but it did have a bit higher clearance than some of the other cars in the line up at Hertz. I think that helped because the center hump was pronounced at some points and I drove a couple segments straddling some deeper crevices.

However, it turned out to be more than worthwhile to tolerate a few kilometers of white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel: this summit yielded my longest S2S contact (with New York, USA) and I think my only SOTA QSOs between Europe and South America (multiple stations in Brazil).

The site is visible from a long way off and coming around this turn in the road. Not only is it a prominence, but the summit also overlooks a deep valley.

As far as I can tell, this site is not really near anything. I did not pass any other cars on my way there, so it is pretty remote. Nonetheless, probably because of the site itself, I had good cellular data all the way to the top.

This is the bend in the road, with a parking area behind the camera.

The road winds its way to the top and makes a sharp turn around the trig point. Here is the view from that bend in the road towards the summit. Just behind this position, there is an area for a few cars to park.

The trig point is definitely not in the activation zone, so don’t stop here.

Just to the side of the trig point there is a religious statue.

At the base of the road leading up to the summit, there is some signage. One sign points to a side path that leads to a hermitage site (further info on wikipedia, pero en español).

This way to hermitage of Saint Caprasius of Agen.

At the base of the road upwards, there are signs that give some information about the area, including more about Saint Caprasius and the caves that became his sanctuary. These signs are just in front of a small building to the left of the road up to the summit. I am not sure of the purpose of this building, perhaps it is used by the utilities that have antennas on the summit? No one was there in any event.

The road just beyond that building is furrowed, and I did not want to drive up it. While I was thinking about what to do, some telecomm workers rolled through with pickup trucks. With a bit of effort, they did manage to drive up, but I’m sure they had four wheel drive.

That furrow was more impressive than it looks in this photo.

I huffed along after them, up the spiral road. About halfway up the spiral, the road enters the activation zone, but you would not want to set up on the road itself – it is too narrow if any vehicle comes and besides, your signal would be blocked by the bulk of the summit.

At the top, there are a number of commercial towers, the largest of one is studded with microwave dishes. Power lines run up over the summit and power all this equipment. The telecomm workers were digging a ditch for cables, so I waved to them and continued up to the building on the summit. That building was locked up tight – nobody home.

A path goes completely around the building, and to the building’s rear, there is another sign.

The sign below is at center in this picture.

The scenic lookout with some explanation of the area below and other tempting SOTA peaks in the distance.

The front of the building has a patio, and I thought this was the best place to set up. I did not like being so close to the microwave tower, so I stayed to the right side of the patio, nearer to the building’s front door, and away from the microwave beam path.

It occurred to me that maybe I had met my match and that I should have brought a pole, as there were not convenient trees up there. Had the telecom workers not been present, I might have tied an end of my antenna to one of the antenna pylons on the other side, but I had to work with what was available. I decided to toss a rope over the back wall of the patio and use the wall to hold up the far end of my antenna. There is a metal railing about a meter high at the other end of the patio (on the left), and I used that to support the feed-end of the antenna. That spacing was just a little larger than my fully extended antenna, so I was lucky.

I was amazed this worked at all. On 20m I had 15 QSOs, but the real magic was on 10 meters. First, I had contacts with some major stations in Brazil including PY2VM, PU2OYT, PY2TTN, PY2OM. Additionally, I had a QSO with N4EX and WB2FUV — the latter my first summit-to-summit between Europe and the US.

While propagation on 10m was sizzling, contacts were difficult because all the digital noise generated by the commercial equipment on the summit. At its worst, I could not hear anything above that noise, but it was variable and most of the time I could distinguish CW. Occasionally, it subsided almost entirely, so I could be sure that I was not missing any calling stations. Not ideal, but I’ll take it when ionospheric conditions are this good.

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