SOTA: EA2/ZG-065 (Monlora)

I had a business trip, which included Barcelona and Zaragoza, Spain. When the visit to Barcelona got cancelled mid-trip, I diverted to Zaragoza a day early and rented a car so I could get far enough outside the city to activate some SOTA peaks. I managed plotted a trip to three sites: EA2/ZG-065, EA2/ZG-060, and EA2/ZG-011, the first two of which had never been activated. I am glad to report that I managed to reach all three sites and get the car back to Zaragoza-Delicias train station in about ten hours. This trip is doable in a short visit with a rented car, but since many of the roads involved are dirt, you would only want to try this in dry weather. I think some of those roads could challenging if they turned to mud.

The summit is not subtle. This is the view from east of the summit.
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SOTA: G/SE-001 (Walbury Hill)

My plan for this relativey mild January morning was to head west from the offince in Crawley towards Bristol and to nab a few activations on the way. For Saturday, my route took me to G/SE-001 (Walbury Hil), G/SC-008 (Win Green), and G/SC-010 (Dundry Down). These sites were chosen because they looked like they had reasonable parking for my rental car and would be relatively quick. After three years of living in Cyprus, where almost all the hills are either bare or support only scrub, it was a relief to activate hills that have trees large enough to support an antenna. For these summits, I just brought along my coiled up end-fed antenna, a string, and a plastic coke bottle half full of water — no poles.

The first site was Walbury Hill, which has a good size parking lot at 51.356339N 1.469907W.

If that were full, I think you could park on the side of the dirt road that leads up the hill to the west.

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SOTA: 5B/CY-029 (Tophoulia)

I followed 5B/M0BLF/P ‘s excellent account of his earlier visit to this peak and found it as described. As I approached the town, my first option was to head up a relatively steep hill. However, when I drove beyond this, I came to the town itself and just followed road signs to the Agia Marina church. The main roads through town were wide enough even for my Landcruiser, although some of the side alleys would be tight. Although I went up on a Sunday, my car was the only one in the church’s car park.

Flat, brambly, with a few bushes, one of which held up my antenna.
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SOTA: 5B/CY-039 (Mersinia)

Three sites north of Limmasol would make a good day trip: each is about 20 to 30 minutes from the other: CY-039, CY-029, and CY-031. I got a late start and dallied on the second site, so I only manage to get two in, but an efficient activator could easily manage all three in one outing.

I always guy the BuddiPole when is extended, but on this day with a light breeze I just hung a backpack on it for a little extra stability. In the vertical configuration (base, coil, one arm, whip), it is very stable. Beyond those bushes is a cliff. The sea is in the background.
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SOTA: 5B/CY-033 (Vouni)

This four-point peak is a short drive from Paphos. The name “Vouni” means “mountain”, but it is more of a gentle grass-covered hill in the middle of a wine-producing region. The paved road up into the mountains is fairly steep, I noticed on the way back down that it warned of a 14% grade. The roads through town itself are a bit narrow, but I threaded the Landcruiser through carefully. A narrow road runs past the summit to the north. Although the road is dirt, it is well packed and not rutted, so I think any car would be able to manage it. When I got to the point marked “P” on the map, I pulled the car southward onto the grass. I then followed the tree line up to the top of the hill.

Pull off at P, then walk up along the tree line. There is a hint of old track just to the west side of the trees separating the fields.
Despite the rain, the field was not too muddy, so no problems backing out.
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2021 French Interactive Fiction Competition

The French interactive fiction competition went live over this last weekend with ten games maintaining a fairly consistent ratio of about ten to one with IFcomp over the last few years. A variety of authoring systems were employed including Moiki, Ink, Inform 6, Ren’Py, and Various flavors of Twine. Play time ranged from about fifteen minutes to about two hours.

As in previous iterations of the competition, judges vote on the games by assigning a score from one to ten in the following categories: Overall best work, Technical Quality, Quality of Writing. There is also a special prize for the story that best captures the yearly theme, this year “Ruins and Decay”. Voting is open through 10 January using an online form that can be completed in French or English.

I played the games in a random order and will review them in the same order, below. Note that the competition allows online handles or pseudonyms, some author names might be revised when results are announced.

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SOTA 5B/CY-014: Sella

This six-point peak is near the town of Omodos, known for its wine production, right along the Limassol-Paphos border. It is about an hour and a half drive from Nicosia whether you choose to go through the mountains or along the coast. However, although my GPS was able to plot a route right next to the peak, it took me two visits to reach the peak. Why? It looks like you can just pull over and then cut across a field, right? No. The dark line running along the edge of that field is the shadow cast by sheer stone cliffs a couple hundred meters high.

Google wasn’t wrong… it just wasn’t helpful.
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Le Concours 2020 de Fictions Interactives

I am emerging briefly from my IF cave to post some quick reviews of games from this year’s Francophone IF competition. The competition is open for judging through 1 March for anyone who is willing to rate at least three games using a web-based form.

This year broke a record: eight games were submitted, all of them web-based, with play times from about fifteen minutes to a couple hours. Once again, I’m reviewing them in English so I can get the reviews out quickly and because I think it will reach a wider audience and perhaps lure some folks to try out the games, even if it is with dictionary in hand.

I intentionally played the games out of order, and am now reviewing them in that same order.

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Some antennas and a contest

This is a state-of-the-shack update. I’ve finally got a few temporary antennas up and am beginning to make contacts from the home station including a tiny bit of contesting.

The first antenna I tried from home was the Buddipole. Before taking it into the field for SOTA operations, I practiced with it one afternoon on the roof. It happened to be the weekend of the Ukranian DX contest, so I did a quick spin through 20m and worked about five stations one after the other with my FT817. I was happy to make any contacts, particularly on a crowded band. No doubt some of the credit goes to the Ukranian operators and their ability to pick out weak signals.

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SOTA W2/NJ-010: Cushetank Mountain

I intentionally activated Cushetank Mountain in the late Spring: the Round Valley Recreation Area charges no admission before Memorial Day, it was not too hot, and most importantly, the number of bugs in the air was tolerable.

The set up is kind of odd: you need to enter the Round Valley Recreation Area off Stanton Lebanon Road, park in the South Parking Lot, and then follow a trail that wraps around the western and southern edges of the Round Valley Reservoir. The trail goes through a dam facility, a summer camp, and past a few houses before it turns towards a campground and the summit.

From GoogleMaps: The parking area (green marker) at upper left, and the summit (red marker at bottom).
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