SOTA 5B/CY-021: Zalakas

I expected the sun to make the day difficult in terms of mid-Summer Cyprus heat, but I had not planned on having such poor propagation conditions, which I blame on a coronal hole stirring up the magnetosphere. In almost two hours on this summit I barely managed to get the bare minimum four contacts required for a valid activation (merci à F8DGF et F5LKW qui m’en ont sauvé la peau).

The final antenna configuration late in the day on 17 meters. The bush at left was the “operating position”.

This site is north of Limassol, so it would be a good destination for anyone based there. It was about an hour and half ride for me coming from near Nicosia. My GPS got me most of the way there. On the aerial photo below, it took me to 34.8392142,32.9350767, where the red line meets the yellow line. The yellow route then continues towards the summit. The portion south of the summit runs through vineries, so the roads are fine. Near the summit, they are gravel with some moderately deep dips, so if you want to take the car as close as possible, it should have high clearance.

The route to the summit

There is a broad area to one side of the road (“P”, above) where I parked. The walk to the peak is not bad from there, but you could take a car just a bit further and park on the west side of the path. I wouldn’t go beyond that with the car. The little path to the peak seen on the aerial photo is definitely a foot path and the wider path heading eastward is rough and there is not a good place to turn around; also, that path does not climb and would take you away from the peak.

My parking spot

The path to the peak is rocky and the very peak itself is bare and sandy with some shrubs. I carted my BuddiPole set up to the top of the hill and set it up because none of the shrubs are large enough to support an antenna; also, there is nothing up there to which a pole could be lashed, so guy lines are essential.

Initial set up with BuddiPole mast holding up an end-fed antenna.

I had timed arrival for mid-afternoon so the sun was not directly overhead, I cannot say the bushes provided much shade. My brain had melted by the time I lugged everything to the top, so I set up the Buddipole tripod and mast. I did not want to cook further while I fiddled with the dipole arms, so I just clipped an end-fed antenna to the top and operated it as a sloper from the bushes.

Twenty meters sounded surprisingly dead, so much so that I check that I had the right antenna port on the radio selected. I sent out a few CQs and heard nothing back. Finally, I got a reply from a Russian station. After more fruitless calling, I spun the dialed and tried pouncing on a few station. About twenty minutes later, I managed to get a Russian special event station.

Cell phone reception was marginal (Cyta network) in this location, but eventually I was able tell that my signal was not hitting the reverse beacon network at all. A self-spot did no good. Similar on 40 meters and 10 meters. Incidentally, background noise was unusually high on 10 meters. Typically, with this set up, I am heard by at least a few monitoring stations on 20 meters.

I drank the last of my water and decided that I was not going to leave without a valid activation. I bit the bullet and tuned up the BuddiPole on 17 meters. No messing around this time: I self-spotted and was rewarded quickly with two calls from France. I kept at it for a while more, but heard nothing. Baked, thirsty, and tired, I called it a day and packed everything up.

If I were to activate this peak again, I would not skimp on the antenna. There is a taller hill to the NW with some radomes on it. That may be the source of interference on 10m but it also likely blocks the direct low angle path towards many SOTA operators in Europe. Mostly, though, I think propagation was just not favorable today.

The whole area around the peak is a designated wildlife area (although occasional shotgun shells on the ground suggest that this is not universally obeyed).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.