SOTA: EA3/BC-016 Montalt

On my second day in Barcelona, I had to choose between activating an historic two-point peak, Sant Jeroni (EA3/BC-012) or trying one of the four one-point peaks along the coast to the northeast of Barcelona, EA3/BC-015, 16, 17,  and 18.

Sant Jeroni is the site of a monastery and is well-described online. There is a funicular railway that runs some distance towards the peak, and the peak can be reached by stairs from two sides. Early Saturday morning, I decided that I would rather find my way up some local trails than deal with the press of tourists at a popular site.

Some SOTA peaks near Barcelona.

On the previous day, I had tried to take the rental car up EA3/BC-015, and found that I could not get very far up the mountain road. I was concerned that the same would be true of all of the peaks along the coast, but thought it would be fun to try anyhow.

I aimed for EA3/BC-016, Montalt, which was about an hour drive from downtown Barcelona. Travel is on major roadways up to the town of Sant Andreu de Llavaneres. A few relatively narrow streets wind through the town and begin angling upwards. The roads through the upper end of the residential area become rough, but smoothen after a bit.

I took my trusty rental car along the path plotted by Google Maps a considerable distance and saw a lot of bicyclers, hikers, and a few people on motorcycles. At one point, though, the road got very steep through a switchback. A passing biker just looked at the car, shook his head, and kept going. I wasn’t sure whether it was a comment on the propriety of taking a car up the path or whether he thought I was crazy for trying, but as I came around the next corner, the road became so steep that I could not press on with the car. The wheels did not have enough traction on the sandy soil, and I had to back down. I turned around and descended to a slightly wider area where I could park the car on the verge.

At that point, I was 2.6 kilometers from the SOTA coordinates for the peak, a point at the convergence of three paths. On Google Maps, the peak itself is to the southwest of those coordinates, however.

It is a nice walk along the path, with mild ups and downs and the path is in generally good condition.

Along the way, there is often a view of the sea. On the way to the three-way intersection marked on the map, I passed a few side trails, but was not sure which led to the summit, so I continued to the intersection.

The three-way intersection looks more impressive on the map than in person.

From aerial view, the paths near the summit look like unimproved dirt roads, and that is exactly what they are. The three-way intersection was not remarkable, except for signs pointing to nearby towns. Just before the intersection, though, I had passed a promising-looking side trail, so I backtracked to that trail and started climbing.

Marker: SOTA coordinates for EA3/BC-016 (Montalt). Yellow Arrow: Trail turn off to the summit; Orange Arrow: Location of parked car. Cima de Montalt: Google annotation for the true peak.
Approaching the three-way intersection, the trail to the summit is on the left, about 100 meters before the intersection. The road widens slightly at this point.

The rocky trail is well trod, but not otherwise marked.

It continues upward and south towards the peak, and near the top of the trail, I was able to see the waving Catalan flag through the vegetation.

The summit is marked by a trig point and a flagpole. To the right of the flag are a few boulders, which are a nice place to rest in the shade. In addition to the trail that I came up, a few mountain bikers emerged from the woods in different directions, so the peak is definitely served by multiple trails. I don’t know that the one I took up was the most efficient from where I parked.

An unusual feature of the summit — and a folk practice about which I have no clue — are the several nativity scenes that have been left in various corners of the summit. There is also a gourd tied to a tree. And several shoes. And a car key. Not sure what it all means.

I secured my portable mast to the flagpole and used it to suspend my 10/20/40m end-fed antenna, with the feedpoint supported by bushes. I found it comfortable to sit with my back to the trig point marker and worked contacts on 20 (cw and ssb) and 40m. My first contact was G4SSH, and I think this has been the case a couple other times — I had barely sent my first call and was flattening the page of my log book, when he came back to me immediately. Another notable call was from K4MF, who seems to find me no matter where I am. I had a few other calls, and particularly appreciate those who worked me despite weak signal, I received at least one 219, which is about as low as you can go and still make a contact.

In all, I made 36 contacts, and some mentioned difficulty due to nearby weekend contest activity. Contacts du jour were with Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Denmark, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, USA, Hungary, Germany, England, Switzerland, France, Finland, Italy, and Belarus.

I heard conversations on 145.5 FM, but the channel was constantly busy and I did not want to interrupt a conversation for the sake of a contact. I did try calling CQ up and down a bit from 145.5 on 2m, and I tried 70cm with no luck.

While I was at the peak, I ran into a few people who were curious about my activity, including one who began the conversation with “¿Radio Afficianado?” At least I had an answer for that: ¡Si! Luckily, his English was better than my Spanish, and we talked for a while. He was surprised to find an American sitting on top of a “local” mountain. I muddled through a couple other conversations drawing on my foggy memory of medical-Spanish and what I hoped were French cognates.

On the way back to the car, I ran into three women hikers, who asked me where I was from — or, at least, that’s what I heard. When I said that I was from the US, they giggled and re-phrased ending “ahora”. Ah, so they had meant, where was I coming from. I replied that I had just been to the summit and they nodded. I was going to make a joke about having walked from the US and boy was I tired, but I realized that I couldn’t remember which word meant “tired” and which meant “married”, and thought it best to avoid confusion.

Google translate would have been handy, but I had only edge connectivity. I should mention that along most of the trail, I had G3/4 connectivity, but at the summit Edge and GPRS were in and out.

So, Sant Jeroni and the other coastal summits remain for next time.


3 thoughts on “SOTA: EA3/BC-016 Montalt”

  1. Hi!
    I’m new to SOTA.. I have this one near my QTH and maybe I’ll try to reach it some day.
    By the moment I have no HF portable equipment. Do you think that SOTA may be done only on 2m/70cm band? The QSOs you heard on 145.500 were on omnidirectional antenna?

    On that mountains (Corredor/Montnegre) there are several summits that…doesn’t have any views at all! (They are on the middle of the trees and yes, you are at the summit!).


  2. Hi Andreu,

    I have completed SOTA activations (i.e,. had four contacts from a summit) using only VHF, but I would say it depends on the location. In the UK, it seems to be relatively common because there are lots of ham radio operators within a short distance. For Spain, I would suggest asking someone active in SOTA like EA2IF for advice.

    Some suggestions:

    1. Mention your intention to activate a couple days in advance on the sotawatch reflector, People who read the reflector may have some advice for you:
    2. Add an activation alert for each summit. Try to be accurate plus or minus one hour regarding when you will activate. If you use CW and your signal is detected by the reverse beacon network within a few hours of your intended activation time, a spot will be automatically posted with your callsign, frequency, and summit reference number.
    3. As you mention, it is best to find a hilltop with clear line of sight towards population centers. If you activate near the coast, you might also have success with long distance VHF across the Mediterranean. I have worked Italian islands from near your location using 5W and small antenna.
    4. You can improve your chances for success by using two types of antennas. If the hill top is clear, a small YAGI antenna will help, but you will have to either hold it in your hand or mount it on a tripod. It is hard to operate the radio and log contacts if you are holding the antenna in your hand, but on the other hand, if you bring a tripod, you have to carry that extra weight up to the summit (or, you can ask someone else to log…or to carry the tripod). For 2m, a three-element beam will add about 7dB gain, so 5W becomes effectively about 20W, a big improvement. There are lots of designs on the web, a tape measure yagi is of particular interest because it is light weight. You could also bring an antenna for 70cm, although 2m is generally more popular. If you bring something like an Arrow-2 antenna, you would be able to work both (and, if really eager and the timing is good, could try satellite as well from the hill top). The other kind of antenna to consider, particularly if there are some tall trees or other support structures available on the hill top would be a dual band roll-up J-pole antenna. You can buy (ebay) or make ( one of these out of twin-lead. Jpoles are sensitive to nearby objects, so it works best if you can suspend it from a tree branch with nothing around it.
    5. Most people do not listen to the calling frequency all the time, so to maximize the number of VHF and UHF contacts, program your radio in advance with the frequencies/tones of repeaters that you think will be in range. SOTA contacts cannot take place via repeater, but you can tell people that you are activating a summit and give them your simplex frequency. Doing this has saved the day many times for me.
    6. You are probably aware of this, but when operating VHF/UHF FM and listening for weak signals, it is best to turn the squelch down all the way. Yes, you will hear a lot of static, but it will avoid missing the weak signals. To minimize power consumption, keep the volume down and use ear phones.
    7. For SOTA, I almost always try just FM on VHF and UHF even though CW and SSB are better weak signal modes. The exception is on the day of a VHF contest. If you plan an activation for a day with a popular VHF contest, your chances of success improve greatly and chances of having a CW/SSB contact are excellent. Remember that people employ horizontal polarization for weak signal modes on VHF/UHF, so if you are using a yagi, rotate it so that the elements are parallel to the ground if you are on CW or SSB.

    Good luck & hope to see you on the air. 73,


  3. Hi,

    Thank you so much for that bunch of information!

    I’ll try it.

    The problem with antennas is that (by now) I only have the well “bad” known Baofeng 5UVR, known to become deaf with a good antenna. (And of course without SSB nor CW modes). With short-walks based SOTAs like this one I think bringing a tripod won’t be a problem (in order to support external antennas while I’m writing up logs).

    So I’ll try to start with the Baofeng, but for sure I’ll end buying a decent HT for SOTAs.

    Very good idea to announce myself on near repeaters + squelch off!

    This august I’ll travel to Scotland, I’ll try there the V band too, as you say probably will be more people listening on that band!

    Regards, 73 from EA3IFH.

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