Wednesday, 31 December 2014

G4OBKs Summit On The Air (SOTA) Review of the year

Another year over and a new one just the festive song goes.... 

(G4OBK Left) Operating from a summit in Mid Wales in August 2014 (2E0NON Right)
2014 was the ninth year in which I have been taking part in Summits On The Air (SOTA), an idea which John Linford G3WGV and Richard Newstead G3CWI spawned in 2002. 

SOTA is a branch of ham radio that has grown into one of the biggest amateur radio award programmes in the world.

The attraction (Some call it "SOTA Fever") is that the scheme combines so many things I enjoy about life... Getting out into the great outdoors, keeping healthy through exercise and enjoying operating amateur radio equipment using Morse Code and Voice and Data Communications, at home and on the tops of hills. Add to that some international travel, meeting people on the air and in person from all over the world sharing a common interest. SOTA is also mildly competitive with league tables for different aspects of SOTA. 

As someone who makes contacts with station on hills and mountains from the comfort of my home radio shack I am a Chaser. I also like fellwalking and being outside so I am also one who operates from the hills and mountains - an Activator. 

Being both an Activator and a Chaser makes me a "SOTA Completer". This is the SOTA award which I am the most interested in.

SOTA Complete started in 2012, ten years after the start of SOTA. In 2014 I achieved the 250 points target - this means I have had contacts from 250 summits and I have made contact from home as a chaser with the same 250 summits. I went on in the course of the year to complete 285 summits.  This places me in the UK Complete Table in 7th position out of 318 listed stations. 

The top 15 UK Stations doing SOTA Complete 4th January 2015

2014 was my most active year since I started taking part in SOTA in 2005:

2014 Chaser Points claimed:  18399 (2013 = 10068)

2014 Activator Points claimed:   350 (2013 = 168)

2014 SOTA Complete Points claimed:  76 (2013 = 67)

2014 SOTA Country Associations Activated: 10 (2013 = 3)

2014 Number of SOTA Activations: 94 (2013 = 81)

Position in all UK SOTA Complete Table 2014 = 7th (318 entrants)

Position in Worldwide SOTA Complete Table 2014 = 10th (1199 entrants)

Position in all UK Chaser Table = 2nd (947 entrants)

Position in all UK Activator Table = 17th (835 entrants)

Position in all UK Chaser Unique Table = 2nd (868 entrants)

Position in all UK Activator Unique Table = 14th (635 entrants) 

So as I look forward to another year in SOTA. I will celebrate my 10th anniversary chaser contact on March 3rd, and my 10th anniversary activation, the first of which was in Scotland, on June 21st 2015. 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The South Central summits of Exmoor - Periton, Dunkery and Selworthy

With more time available the three summits of G/SC-001 Dunkery Beacon, G/SC-005 Selworthy Beacon and G/SC-006 Periton Hill could well form the basis of a moderate two day expedition from Minehead of around 17 miles, or a one day challenge of the same distance. The total ascent of a typical route would be less than 4000 feet. I say typical route, as there are so many accessible and well maintained public rights of way crossing the area, which would make this a superb itinerary. 

However, due to the lack of time we used a car to get between summits, so the total distance walked was a shade over 5 miles with 850 feet of ascent... We drove down to the area from Bristol where I was staying for a few days, with Geoff 2E0NON picking me up en-route from his home near Malvern. We met up at the Cribbs Cross Shopping Park at junction 17 just off the M5 north of Bristol at 7.15am. Leaving Geoff with a 90 minute drive to the car park serving our first summit at Periton Hill. The weather was blustery, with frequent showers and hail on and off throughout the day. Operation on HF would have proved difficult, and I was carrying my golf brolly to at least protect the small VHF mobile radio from water damage...

Equipment for the day:

Yaesu FT-1500M 145 MHz FM Transceiver with 40 watts output with two 5 AH LiPO batteries

Short 3.5m fishing pole supporting a half wave end fed vertical dipole

G/SC-006 Periton Hill  QRV 0953z - 1007z 145.300 FM

Our track taken from a Garmin GPS62s unit
The writer at the trig point on Periton Hill
All three summits from the most convenient parking areas could be deemed "easy". For Periton Hill we parked at the top of the tarmac road in an area well used by dog walkers and outdoor types SS 963447. A 30 minute walk on good tracks of less than 1.5 miles took us to the trig point which seemed the most convenient point on which to set up our 145 MHz half wave end fed dipole at 12 feet AGL. Looking north towards Wales, where we thought our likely contacts would come from, appeared to be obscured by the ridge across Selworthy Beacon (308m). This was only a shade higher than where we were set up at 295m. This distant ridge wasn't a problem however and contacts were made into Wales. Vodafone coverage from the Periton Hill area was flakey, as it was on all three summits, but somehow self spots were generated using the RRT App and we scaped by with just five contacts. 

Geoff Fielding 2E0NON marching off the summit of Periton Hill G/SC-006
We returned by car to the A39 and turned left to head for our second summit of Dunkery Beacon to collect our first winter bonus points of the 2014/2015 winter...

G/SC-001 Dunkery Beacon (Somerset County Top) QRV 1152z - 1201z

Topographic trig pillar (also antenna support)
From the roadside parking spot at SS 904420 we could see the large permanent feature of a concreted cairn (built in 1935) on the summit of Dunkery Beacon, just short of one mile away. We used the Macmillan Way LDP to get there in less than 20 minutes. The rain was holding off when we arrived and we snuggled behind the topographic trig point for shelter. The panorama over Exmoor and to the Bristol Channel and all around was superb and we could watch the weather coming in, which indeed it did towards the end of our short activation.

The writer at Dunkery Beacon, Marilyn Summit and Somerset County Top
Don G0RQL (Holsworthy) was the first station worked of six, Don is a good friend and regular SOTA enthusiast who I often hear and indeed work on HF SSB from my home station in North Yorkshire. We were soon back at the car for a bite to eat before heading down into Minehead on our way to the third summit of the day Selworthy Beacon. 

G/SC-005 Selworthy Beacon QRV 1328z - 1343z

Geoff parked his Subaru by the track leading up to Selworthy Beacon
The appropriately named Hill Road took us over North Hill west of Minehead to the parking place for Selworthy Beacon. We pulled up at SS 92304788 and parked alongside the track. The walk to the summit took less than five minutes, and we set up behind some thick gorse bushes deploying the golf brolly, which was guyed down. This provided sufficent protection for the radio from the rain and hailstones...

Geoff 2E0NON working Phil GW0IRT in Ebbw Vale - the only station we worked on all 3 summits!
New Look Eatery

With another five stations logged we left the summit and made our way back to the M5 at Bridgwater. On the way there we stopped off at Blackmore Farm Shop Cafe just before Cannington for this.. a cream can't get cream like this in Yorkshire, fantastic, thick, and produced by hand - recommended!

The day's "catch" worked by G4OBK and 2E0NON
So that is it for me in 2014, no SOTA Activating now for me until January when we head for South Wales to conquer a few more Marilyns for Summits On The Air... I've had a good year in SOTA with portable operation from 10 Countries with 77 SOTA Completes done and 350 Activator Points earned.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

A one day foray into Scotland with Dave G(M)3TQQ and Geoff 2(M)0NON...

In early November I organised a holiday for 22 members of our walking club.  We stayed in a hotel at Alnmouth in Northumberland for three nights. 

Organising these trips has been something I have done since 2007 and it gives me great satisfaction. I usually build in some Summits On The Air (SOTA) activity as part of the holiday and this trip was no exception. The previous day I had visited G/SB-007 Tosson HIll and completed just the one contact with Derek G1ZJQ in Cramlington using my small Yaesu VX-170 Transceiver - distance 21 miles with rubber duck antenna which was pretty good DX to my mind... As I was concentrating on leading Ryedale Walking Group that day on a fairly challenging walk across the Simonside Hills, I was happy with that. Up ahead of me though, my three compatriots Dave, Geoff and Nick (G4OOE) had already activated the summit by walking ahead of the group to give them more time to set up their station on HF and VHF. 

Climbing Simonside on our way to G/SB-007 Tosson Hill the previous day
Back to today then, which was classed as a "free day" for the walking group to do as they pleased, without a led walk.... this for us meant we were able to execute the plan to drive up to North Berwick Law (GM/SS-280) calling in at Lamberton Hill (GM/SS-286) on the way. For the run south back to Alnmouth in the afternoon, we went inland to visit the remote summit of Spartleton - GM/SS-182.  The writer Phil GM4OBK, was the navigator for the day, Dave GM3TQQ was the driver in his Land Rover Freelander, and Geoff 2M0NON was riding shotgun in the back. We left the hotel before breakfast at 6.30am to head for the border at Berwick on Tweed...

The plan was to activate on high power using FM on 145 MHz from a Yaesu FT-1500M and use around 30 watts from my Yaesu FT-857 on 7 MHz CW and SSB. We found that contacts on the 2m band were hard to come by, which was not unexpected going by our previous visits. 

GM/SS-286 Lamberton Hill QRV 0814z - 0845z 40m CW/SSB & 2m FM

Geoff left and Dave G(M)3TQQ leaving the summit earthworks - happy after his first HF SOTA activation
A short walk from the roadside at NT 946589 took us to the gate at NT 947588 and after a short climb we were amongst the earthwork of Habchester Fort, choosing a fence line where we could fix our fishing poles. My first contact on 40m CW was with Mariusz SP9AMH, no problems. After the small pile up died away I retuned the rig to 40m SSB, made one contact with John G0TDM, and then passed over the station to Geoff and Dave to qualify the summit in their own right.  

I then went on to the 2m FM band to complete two contacts with stations near to Dundee.  

Bacon Butties and Tea on the A1 near Torness Nuclear Power Station en-route to North Berwick large
I think we were successful in getting plucky Yorkshireman Dave G(M)3TQQ to catch the activation variant of SOTA Fever - the only cure for it being old age and/or failing knees and lung power. This was Dave's first SOTA Activation in the company of others and on HF. In his favour he is a keen regular hillwalker so I think he will be with us in SOTA for many a year yet....
As we ate our breakfast by the van the grey day turned into a wet scotch misty one...suffering it was to come...

GM/SS-280 North Berwick Law QRV 1111z-1131z 40m CW/SSB & 2m FM

This, the shortest and slippiest route was not one that I would recommend again in the wet and slippy conditions we had that day, however we did it and in doing so I fell into the wet clay mud on the way down....

This was a route I got from another Yorkshireman Terry G(M)0VWP (You meet the odd good Yorkshireman) who went that way during the summer:

We parked up in a communal parking area at Heugh and then followed a waymarked and steep route to the summit. Its conical shape is really prominent lying within 1 Km of the seashore - it is very unusual indeed. It took less than 15 minutes to reach the top where there was a whale bone archway piece of artwork, and a roofless ruin where we set up our two stations in the rain.

Geoff 2(M)0NON arriving at the Whale Bone Arch on North Berwick Law
The golf umbrella was deployed to save the FT-857 from getting damaged. The 2m FM station proved dissapointing, with Geoff and Dave realising just one contact with MA6BJJ in Dundee. 40m CW gave me 17 contacts in 15 minutes with Belgian, Swiss, Swedish, German and UK stations though before I handed over the station to the SSB guys who made 8 UK contacts each on 40m SSB.

Thumbs up from Dave - the summit was qualified despite the bad audio caused by an under-voltage battery
Not long after they started on single sideband my newly puchased Tracer 8Ah Lithium battery started to go under voltage and we received some reports of very distorted audio...the jury is still out on if this battery if up to the job... more tests are needed, but it was on its second summit at 50 watts after all, and I suspected that it may not have been fully charged when we started the day. 

Operation was adjacent to the wall of the ruin to keep the rain off the radio equipment
Whilst my two cohorts continued operating in the rain on 40m SSB I had a walk around the summit, finding an air raid shelter / Observation Post with an open front which was well within the 25m drop activation zone. I only wished we had seen the structure on our arrival and we would have set up there in the dry - lesson learned - either do a thorough site survey on arrival or check out Geograph in advance of every summit you visit!  

Observation Post on North Berwick Law dating back to World War II
Heading back down the very steep slippery hill I went base over apex, no injury, just dirty clothing. We were well soaked when we got back to the car. From North Berwick we went back down south and further inland to our 3rd and final (and higher) summit of the day - Spartleton GM/SS-182...

GM/SS-182 Spartleton QRV 1420z - 1453z 40m CW/SSB

GPS Track to Spartleton - 6th November 2014
It took around 45 minutes to drive from North Berwick Law to Spartleton. The moorland road took us up over 1100 feet past the remains of White Castle Fort. We parked Dave's motor on the B6355 at the side of Whiteadder Reservoir at the gate at the start of the walk up to Spartleton (Grid Ref NT 649641). We took time out to eat our lunch before setting out, I'm afraid I have no photos of our trek and the top, this was due to the weather - we had strong winds, mist and rain, photography was out as it was a major exercise just to get there and set up for the activation. The 40 minute walk up was pleasant though, on quad tracks and a little rough ground, with one gully to descend into and out of when we crossed Hill Burn, an appropriate name, but how many of those are there in Scotland?  We suffered when we reached the summit where the conditions worsened as the three of us huddled behind the trig and pile of stones. A large stone was used to help "keep" the 6m long fishing pole hard against the trig point to which it was tied. This crushed the pole but fortunately not too badly and it was repaired with large bore shrink sleeving once I returned home.

Summit, Sparleton
Spartelton from Geograph under CCL by Chris Ellbeck - picture taken when there was visibility
We didn't bother even trying VHF on this final activation and thankfully we had no radio reports of distorted audio which we had from North Berwick Law - using a fresh battery did the trick and the Yaesu FT-857 was undamaged, and so we made plenty of QSOs on 40m (7 MHz short wave) in Morse and Phone before packing up and heading back down. 

Dave had over a 90 minute drive now back to Alnmouth. The Satnav took us via Duns and we joined the A1 near Berwick on Tweed. It was dark by then but we reached our hotel in good time for dinner where we were reunited with our friends in Ryedale Walking Group, most of whom had been on a coastal walk near Craster, led by my friend Owen Turnbull. Needless to say, they had enjoyed better weather than we had experienced...but once again it was "Mission Accomplished" for Summits On The Air !

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

My completion of the Devon & Cornwall Summits 7th October 2014

My friend Geoff 2E0NON was taking a holiday in South Devon, I was staying in Bristol for a few days. So we met up for a days activating at Hensbarrow Beacon G/DC-002 at 9am on a wet and damp Tuesday. A storm was brewing...more on that later. 

Hensbarrow Beacon G/DC-004 QRV 0831z - 0848z 10 MHz CW only (due to the weather condx)

This was my 3rd visit to Hensbarrow Beacon but the first time an activation was to be attempted. I had been here twice in the first week of February 2014 with my XYL but on both occasions it was raining heavily making it impossible to even contemplate an activation. It is a horrible place, and untypical of a SOTA summit. The "top" if you can call it that at 312m ASL, where the trig point is located, is actually lower than the Littlejohn / Gunheath China Clay Mine spoil heaps that abut the area to the north, south east and east. 

Car Park at SW 992575 and a 7 minute walk to the trig point
The OS map does not show contours where the man made slag heaps are, but  they are considerably higher now than the Beacon itself... 
The slag heaps to the east of G/DC-004 are now higher than the listed "summit top" 
The road up to the 297m high spot height is always busy during daylight hours with lorries shifting the minerals from the mines to wherever they go.....making the location all that more unpleasant. The road is within 25m drop of the trig point at 312m, but to be sure of staying within the rules we went to the trig along a path fringed with gorse. A storm was coming in, so we deployed our umbrellas, Geoff's had metal spokes which he later found caused him quite a problem when he had to close down for fear of being struck by lightning...  
The China Clay spoil heaps to the south - higher than the listed summit location
Geoff hunkers down under his metal spoked golf brolly which emitted green sparks before he went QRT - dangerous!
I got stuck into communicating with Morse using 30m CW to good effect and completed 19 contacts as quickly as I could with the 50 watts from the FT-857D. The QRN from the torrential storm built up and forced me to shut down early. Meanwhile Geoff was having fun on 2m FM and had qualified the summit with just 4 contacts - the minimum needed. Good job he had the 40 watts or so going out from my FT-1500M. Once he had the 4 contacts and as the storm passed overhead he felt a tingling sensation when he touched the radio. Time to go QRT then as green sparks started flying between the metal shaft of the brolly and the radio! A close call. Time he bought a umbrella with fibre glass shaft and spokes.....

Setting up the HF and VHF antenae at Hensbarrow Beacon Trig Point
We packed up as quickly as we could as the rain abated and headed off back to the cars to drive to our next summit  - Brown Willy G/DC-002 on Bodmin Moor. We stopped for a hot coffee and chocolate bar at a garage just of the A30 near the business park at SW 989617.

Brown Willy from the Jamaica Inn direction

G/DC-002 Brown Willy QRV 1223z - 1303z 10 MHz-14MHz-18 MHz CW-SSB 144 MHz-FM

After our thunder and lightning Hensbarrow Beacon activation we drove in convoy up the A30 to Bolventor, near to Jamaica Inn. We left the A30 road there to reach our parking place at the drive end to the small farm at Blackhill, grid ref SX 181782. The friendly lady who lived there had no problem with us parking there. 

Parking at the lane end near Blackhill Farm, 1 Km from the A30 SX 181782
The reason we chose to walk across Bodmin Moor to Brown Willy (using the access land from the south east) was the convenience of the A30 to our arrival and departure points. 

We took an alternative route to the usual one to the summit
After this Brown Willy HF activation I was heading back to Bristol via the Somerset SOTA of G/SC-002 Wills Neck in the Quantock Hills for a VHF activation. Geoff 2E0NON on the other hand, needed to head straight back to his waiting XYL at their holiday cottage near Dartmouth.  
As we reached Catshole Tor we could see another storm coming in. There are a few large boulders on the Tor, near to where the Cairn is marked on the map, and we took 40 minutes shelter behind one of them (SX 16946 78463) whilst the storm passed us by:

We were wet but it would have been worse had these boulders not been there...about to leave for Brown Willy in the background
The preferred route from Catshole Tor would be to head for the gate access to the summit and walk along the ridge. Grid ref SX 15901 79250 is the gate. When we arrived on the top the storm had passed and we enjoyed a pleasant activation. VHF was good enough for Geoff to qualify with 4 contacts on 2m FM using 40 watts, and in addition he made a handful of contacts on 40m SSB.

2E0NON/P operating on 2m FM on Brown Willy Yaesu FT-1500M 40 watts and an end fed vertical dipole
We returned virtually the same way back as we came and went our separate ways. 

Brown Willy was my last of the far flung summits of Devon and Cornwall and I was a step nearer to bagging and activating all Marilyns in England.  After parting company with Geoff I headed for the Quantock Hills for a solo activation of G/SC-002 Wills Neck before returning to Bristol...

G/SC-002 Wills Neck Quantock Hills

A good well trodden  route was encountered walking to Wills Neck
G/SC-002 Wills Neck QRV 1705z - 1735z 2m FM

On my way back to Bristol after the activation of Hensbarrow Beacon and Brown Willy with Geoff 2E0NON, I had enough daylight left to leave the M5 near Taunton to complete a short VHF activation of Wills Neck, another unique summit for me. The weather was now pleasant and much improved from what we experienced on the earlier summits.  

View to Hinkley Point Power Station, Lundy Island and the Bristol Channel from Wills Neck 
I set out from the car park at the end of the lane north of Bishop's Lydeard, grid reference ST180338 at 5.30pm local time. An excellent footpath, part of the Macmillan Way took me to the trig point in 25 minutes were I set up for my 40 watt VHF 2m FM station and vertical dipole antenna at 3m AGL. The take off over the Bristol Channel into Wales was excellent and in 20 minutes eleven stations in England and Wales were logged. 

Sunset and moonrise as I prepared to leave Wills Neck 
Returning to the car I set the satnav to my destination at Bristol feeling hungry. I stopped off en-route at the KFC in Bridgwater for a "classic meal"... 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Day One CT7/G4OBK Algarve SOTA: AL-001 - AL-004 - AL-008

In the middle of a ten day holiday with my XYL Judy I hired a car for four days to enable us to explore the wild interior of the Algarve and allow me to activate all 8 SOTA summits in the AL region that were easily accessible. I also visited  one more "drive on" summit in the adjacent BT region, CT/BT-001. Seven summits were worth one point but the two summits closest to Monchique, AL-001 and AL-004 were worth six points and four points respectively. The most northerly summit shown is BT-003 which was too far out to contemplate visiting in the time we had available for SOTA...

Range map produced from the SOTA Mapping Project by DM1CM - 9 summits were within a 55 Km radius of our hotel in Carvoeiro
For all my activations I used a Yaesu FT-817ND with 5 watts, a 5m long fishing pole, and a home made  link dipole made for 18, 14 and 10 MHz (17m-20m-30m). We flew out of Leeds Bradford Airport and there were no problems with carrying on radio equipment as part of my hand luggage. I was carrying my Yaesu FT-817 and a Lithium 3 AH leather cased laptop battery which I use as auxillary power for the transceiver. Everything passed through the scanner without a problem. 

Throughout the four days of activating the mapping and software used to help locate the summits in advance at home was Open Street Map running on a Windows PC in Garmin Base Camp. I used a Garmin GPS62s and a local Portuguese 1:30000 Map of the Algarve in the field.  For navigating to the car parking places a combination of a TomTom Satnav got me to the nearest village and then the OSMAND+ App enabled me to locate the most convenient parking places. All routes used have now been loaded into the SOTA Mapping Project (Thank you Rob DM1CM). 

Day One: 4th September 2014

CT/AL-001 Serra de Foia QRV 1135z - 1211z

We set out from our hotel near Carvoeiro for the highest point in the Algarve - CT/AL-001 the Serra de Foia. You could drive to the top of her from the town of Monchique, where we later had our lunch at a cafe in the main square. The summit of Foia is popular destination.  It is totally commercialised and geared up for the tourist! There were several cafes, shops, toilets and tens of antennae on Serra de Foia near Monchique. 
Trig point - inside military installation on Serra de Foia
I attempted to reach the trig point, to operate. This was impossible as it lay beyond a security fence so I walked back to the road and fastened the pole to a car park sign instead. The first station logged on 20m CW was Mal MW0BBU...inter EU propagation conditions weren't so good, they improved markedly though on the latter two summits later in the day. My last contact was with Ed DD1LD on the 17m band. I had previously met Ed and had a meal with him and other ham friends in Bregenz in Austria in June.
CT7/G4OBK set up just off the road - many vehicles passed but no one stopped to see what I was doing. The car park shops and toilets can be seen in the background. The actual car park would be well within the activation zone
AL-001 Distance walked: 200m from car park
Band - Mode (QSOs): 20m CW (11) SSB (12) 17m CW (4) SSB (2) Total: 29

For more detailed pictures of this place see the Ham Blog of James M0JCQ who visited here shortly after me...

CT/AL-004 Serra de Monchique (also known as Picota) QRV 1434z - 1529z 5 watts & Dipole at 5m

I was sitting in a pavement cafe feeding chips to a hungry cat whilst looking up above me to the Serra de Monchique (locally known as Picota). This was another very easy summit to climb in the Algarve, which is less than 3 Km from Monchique.

So we had our lunch and set off in the car up the N267 road to the turn off. A tarmac road climbed up to the parking place, where the fire warden parks his vehicle. 

Fire wardens van at the parking area near to the trig point and watchtower
Our Seat Ibiza diesel hire car parked near to the activation point - patient XYL waiting inside
Fire Tower Shift change

It took no more than five minutes to walk up the stony slope to the trig point. I set up the 5m pole and started operating with Morse on the 20m band - conditions were excellent. I followed that with 20m phone and then moved to the 17m band for more CW / SSB contacts. Part way through my activation it was shift change time for the fire wardens in the tower...

The incoming fire warden  came up the hill carrying his own plastic chair...presumably few accoutrements are provided  by the authorities! I imagine this is a paid job and not a voluntary sector post. 

After almost an hour operating I realised that poor Judy was sat back in the car with the door open to keep it cool and that she could well be getting cheesed off with reading the book on her Kindle. We also planned to go to CT/AL-008 and this was some distance away, and that summit involved a decent walk. It was time to pack up then and head back down the hill to face her wrath...."never again, never again" she said... How many times have I heard that before? She wasn't happy when the shift change had taken place understandably, with the other van arriving, until she knew what was going on. I smoothed things over and we set off in the direction of AL-008 Sapeira, our third summit of the day... 
The writer on Serra de Monchique (Picota) CT/AL-004
AL-004 Distance walked: 300m from car park with minimal ascent
Band - Mode (QSOs): 20m CW (23) SSB (22) 17m CW (10) SSB (14) Total: 69
S2S with GM4WSB on GM/SS-172 Best DX - Probably SV2OXS 

CT/AL-008 Sapeira QRV 1710z - 1729z 5 watts & Dipole at 5m
Judy XYL about to start the 20 minute walk to the summit of Sapeira AL-008
As I recall, writing this over three months post activation, it took around 45 mins from AL-004 to reach the parking place for Sapeira AL-008. I left the Seat Ibiza under some olive trees for shelter and we walked up the track opposite in what was rugged countryside. The ungraded track had been driven into the scrubland and was not good enough to drive on. I got the impression that nothing much apart from perhaps hunting and beekeeping went on in this parched area. The undulating 20 minute walk to the summit was just over 1 Km in length. You can see the track in the picture below, as we climbed from the dip we left the track to follow the mown section uphill to the summit:

Beehives adjacent to the track leading to the summit of CT/AL-008 Sapeira
My first QSO on 30m was with my friend and former work colleague Roy G4SSH, who lives close to my home QTH in North Yorkshire. Roy was helping me post alerts via my mobile phone when I was able to call him for a "dial a spot" during this four day campaign...
The writer on the summit of Sapeira CT/AL-008
We were challenged for time so I confined my activities to just two bands.

As the sun goes towards sunset 30m is always a good band to try and it was... I then moved up to 20m to do some CW - one QSO with PA9CW/P resulted and that was it, I couldn't hang around waiting for further CQ calls to go unanswered, so I went on to SSB, first QSO was with Mike G6TUH who was proving to be a most useful spotter saving me valuable time and maximising the contacts made in the shortest time possible. We needed to get back to the hotel for our dinner in time before the restaurant closed, which meant that after 20 minutes I dismantled the station and we made off back to our hotel for showers before dinner... 

Band - Mode (QSOs): 30m CW (11) 20m CW (Poor - 1) 20m SSB (9) Total: 31

Distance walked: 2.3 Kms with 100m ascent

Day Two

Day Two CT7/G4OBK Algarve SOTA: AL-007 & AL-005

Day Two: 5th September 2014

CT/AL-007 Serra da Rocha da Pena  QRV 1130z - 1218z

Information board near the excellent and welcoming Cafe Bar das Grutas at the start of the walk
After breakfast we left the hotel at Carvoeiro to head into the limestone hills of the Algarve interior. We had found that driving on the some of the motorways in the region was necessary to get to the summits as quickly as possible, and that there were toll fees to pay. At one point we paid a fee, but at others you couldn't. An ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) system was in use, which meant that you had to go to a post office within 10 days and pay the tolls or face a fine which would be levied by your hire car company, with an additional surcharge on to your credit card.  I paid the fee the day before we left to come home, it was around €15 I recall. 
My actual GPS track taken from Base Camp on my PC running Open Street Map
I came across a moderate circular walk in our Cicerone Guidebook "Walking in the Algarve" which took us across the Serra da Rocha da Pena, so we did that walk in its entirety. We set out from near the Grutas Cafe below the escarpment and then followed the switchback path to the summit trigpoint within what is a nature reserve. The footpath is well marked and maintained, and we came across some footpath workers on their way back down. From the evidence we saw later they had been concreting marker posts in the ground to mark out the footpath.

The information board which tempted us to walk the defensive wall - this was time wasted!
Once on the top of the escarpment and a good distance along it, we turned right after I was tempted to follow a fallen defensive wall, believing this to be higher than the trig point by a few metres. A fingerpost could be seen around 500m at the far end of the wall, and this aroused my curiosity....

The marker post we visited over a difficult stony route.....not recommended if you go there - I do not know what ADP means
G4OBK XYL Judy at AL-007 Trig Point
When we reached the end of the fallen wall at the highest point, there was nowhere to sit down, just large uncomfortable stones and that marker post, so we returned to the main path and continued on to the trig point overlooking the south coast, and this is where I set the HF station up. It was a hot September day and the shade offered by the large trig point and the extra height for mounting the antenna was most welcome... This was only a one point summit, and unfortunately, not a SOTA Complete for me, unlike the one we were doing later AL-005. I started operating in Morse on the 30m band, then moved to 20m and 17m in CW/SSB. After 40 minutes we packed up and continued on the walk to the village of Portela where the cafe did not look too encouraging, so we just purchased ice lollies there.

Typical vegetation of  the Algarve interior
When we got back to the car we put our gear away and entered the (simple but excellent) Bar das Grutas which is near to the car park. We had ham and cheese sandwiches and for me, two ice cold beers to celebrate the successful activation of the Serra da Rocha da Pena. I can recommend this bar for sure. 

Bar das Grutas - recommended at the start or end of your walk
So that was our first activation of two on the day, it was to be the best and most interesting SOTA walk of the holiday. My most productive band out of the three used from the summit with low power was 18 MHz  / 17 metres. 

Band - Mode (QSOs): 30m CW (6), 20m CW (6), 20m SSB (3), 17m CW (7), 17m SSB (13)
Total QSOs: 35

AL-007 Distance Walked 7 Kms with 220m ascent

CT/AL-005 Monte das Sarnadas  QRV 1500z - 1541z

The summit was approached from a small car park near some rural houses with barking dogs - 1.2 Km walk each way
From the parking area near to some well seperated private detached houses it was a 1.2 Km walk along a path to the summit. We crossed a broken wall about half way there. The activation area around the trig point was heavily vegetated but there was just sufficient room to peg out the dipole before the land fell away. The antenna was cut for 30m. If it had been much longer we probably wouldn't have been able to peg it out as an inverted vee. 

My long suffering (but willing) XYL ties off one end of my inverted vee on AL-005 before she settle down to her book...
All done - ready to leave the summit

As you can see the trig points are on the whole substantial and well maintained in the Algarve Region.

Time was getting on so I stuck to two bands, 20m CW/SSB and 17m CW, which is my preferred mode. I did work one DX station which was regular caller N4EX on 18 MHz CW. It's a good feeling to hear Rich coming back - I don't often work outside Europe using 5 watts. 

When the pile up was worked out on 17m CW I pulled the plug and we packed up. Just two summits in the day was enough - geographically the others targeted for later to finish off the full set of eight Algarvian Summits, were too far away to consider doing them in the day and getting back to the hotel in time for our dinner was our priority.....more tomorrow then...

Band - Mode (QSOs): 20m CW (13) 20m SSB (24)
17m CW (19) Total contacts: 56

Distance walked: 1250m with 42m ascent (both ways)

(Day 3>GO)