Friday, 30 October 2015

SOTA on Formentera - EA6/FO-001 Torre Mola

I realised when we visited Ibiza Town earlier in the week that many ferries ply their trade each day taking tourists to the island of Formentera, which lies about 4 miles south of Ibiza island. The ferry price varies and seems to be based on the speed of the boat - the faster catamaran ferries (35 mins journey) charge more. We bought our tickets from the port on the day of travel. 
Single way tickets cost €14 each way on the fastest boat
Formentera is 12 miles long and has a population of around 10000 people. There is a hill rising to 202m at its southern end called Torre Mola, which qualifies for SOTA as EA6/IB-001. We spent a day travelling to the island first to the port in Ibiza by car, then by ferry to the Formentera port of La Savina. Free parking in Ibiza Town is plentiful within a short walking distance from the port. 
Top: Leaving Ibiza Town Middle: La Savina Port Formentera Bottom: Formentera taxi prices 
From the port in La Savina we used the cheap public bus service to reach the start point of our walk from the village of el Pilar de la Mola. The port at La Savina is a place just for the tourists. It comprised many car hire and moped and cycle hire outlets on the quays, with a few cafes and small hotels. People usually travel to the island for its beautiful sandy beaches where nude bathing is permitted - we were the only people to ever travel there to activate EA6/IB-001 for SOTA as Torre Mola had never been activated before....
Our four mile linear walk from el Pilar ended in the village of Calo de Sant Augusti where we hailed a taxi to return us back to the port as the bus timings were not appropriate for a return journey. 

The highest point of Torre Mola is located adjacent to a house, with the elevated trig point / bunker marked as "privado". There was little ascent to reach the summit via farm tracks which had been built to gain access to a few small farms and well cultivated fields:
G4OBK XYL Judy - on a mission....
After 40 minutes we reached the rather unspectacular summit and I set up my station by first securing the fishing pole to a post adjacent to a bunker / trig point:

I completed fifty contacts running QRP in 55 minutes. This was well above what I would have expected - all were made using CW, but once again cross mode was attempted after the earlier failure of my microphone. This was quite successful with more stations achieving crossmode contacts on CW/SSB: OH9XX - HB9BHW - G0VWP - G0RQL - OE7FMH - G0TDM and G4SSH. There were three summit to summit CW contacts, one being DX with CT9/DJ5AA/P (Al). AC1Z and K4DY were also worked.  I went QRT after 55 minutes and we continued our walk down to the village of Calo de Sant Augusti.  Once the main road was crossed a rocky footpath taking us down to sea level provided spectacular views of the island:
We had missed the last bus back to the port so we just started walking in the hope we could hail a taxi. Within 15 minutes one arrived to take us back to the port where we enjoyed some refreshments before embarking the boat back to Ibiza at around 5.00pm. 

SOTA Ibiza - nearby EA6/VE-001 Vedra

On our ferry journey I was able to photograph the uninhabited island summit of Es Vedrà EA6/VE-001 which is located 1.5 miles off the Ibiza Coast. The summit is 382m ASL on this small rocky island of legends. This rather hazy picture was taken with a 20X telephoto lens:
The island is pictured on the cover of the Mike Oldfield's Voyager album.  I am unable to say if this rugged summit could be climbed without ropes and mountain climbing experience.... Six summits in Ibiza remain unactivated plus this one making seven.

This trip to Formentera was my final activation on my week long QRP SOTA holiday DXpedition to Ibiza. Here are the final stats: 

Summits visited: EA6/IB = 5 EA6/FO = 1
Contacts made: 238
Summit to Summit contacts = 9
Equipment used: Yaesu FT-817 with 3.3 Amp LiPo backup battery, 5m fishing pole. link dipole for 30m, 20m and 17m, Palm Key with Pico Keyer

Saturday, 24 October 2015

SOTA Tour on Ibiza by EA6/G4OBK/P in October 2015


It was the last week of the tourist season in Ibiza and my wife Judy and I took one of the last flights out of Leeds to the Island for a one week break.  The early morning short flight and meant we were on Ibiza signing up for our rather beat up hire car by the middle of the morning. The car we were given had been round the clock. It was a Chinese built 7 seater Renault Megane. "Seat Leon or similar" was what I chose when I booked the car from Holiday Autos some months previous..... I don't think this car was that similar to a Seat Leon, but the jalopy as we called it, did get us around the island. 
The 11 marked summits on Ibiza in the Balearic Islands
Ibiza is a great destination for SOTA which as I write this report has largely been ignored by the activators. The Island has eleven listed summits, and one close by on the island of Formentera. Ibiza is only one sixth the size of Mallorca, and amazingly it contains just one sixth of the amount of summits! Despite its size, only 40 Kms long, my wife Judy prefers Ibiza to Mallorca, and we found the people on the island extremely friendly. During my visit I also found and photographed another qualifying summit that appears to have escaped the attention of the EA6 association manager and SOTA Management Team. Mapping courtesy of the SOTA Mapping Project

The single summit on Formentera which is easily reached from Ibiza by ferry
I'm writing these reports in late November with the rain and wind lashing against my radio shack window, thinking back to an enjoyable SOTA holiday a month ago. Reports of the six activations will follow this week.  I hope my blog will encourage other travelling SOTA activators to travel to this lovely place and complete the summits I was unable to visit due to a lack of time....

Friday, 23 October 2015

SOTA on Ibiza - EA6/IB-009 Puig de sa Creu

As I usually do before a tour I'd spent hours perusing mapping resources, satellite views and other places for information on the summits of Ibiza. On our first day I didn't want to plan anything significant or demanding as we had all our holiday gear inside the hire car and it would have been a security risk to park it and leave it, not something I would want to do by choice. So I found a convenient summit with a road going to the top of it amongst what appeared to be some villas. It had never been activated before. 
The beach at Cala Llonga - directly only 1 Km away from the summit of IB-011 Puig de ses Terrets
Before this unique activation of EA6/IB-009 we needed some lunch so we drove past the road end to IB-009 the Puig de sa Creu, to the beach community of Cala Llonga. Here we had our lunch, looking out over the beach - with the flank of IB-011 the Puig de ses Terrets right in front of us, which we were to walk to on another day. 
FT-817 - Pico Keyer - Palm Key - battery - logbook - Phone for RRT spotting - working microphone - but not for long...
The drive to the top of Puig de sa Creu took less than 15 minutes from Cala Llonga and yes, there were villa's surrounding the summit and a useful turning point for the car. I set up my station on a wall next to a comms shed and mast. 

There was a pollarded fir tree to fix the pole to and I was quickly on the air on HF. The 30m, 20m and 17m bands were used - I had a link dipole for those three bands and a Yaesu FT-817 radio with a 3.3 amp LiPo external battery. 38 contacts were completed in 38 minutes, all into 14 European countries bar one - VE1WT who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, who was logged on 20m CW. My friend Roy G4SSH was the first into my Ibiza log. The only UK station worked on the 30m band was M0BKV. I went QRT at 1228z and we drove north to our hotel at Cala Sant Vicent to check in.  

SOTA on Ibiza - EA6/IB-011 Puig des ses Terrets

We settled in well at the Grupohotel in Cala Sant Vincent. This was an extremely fortunate choice, which we booked directly via their website. The hotel catered for mainly German guests. This we knew when we booked and from what we have found when travelling, this almost guarantees that the standard of the hotel and the food would be of a high standard, and it was.  The day before this activation was spent in Ibiza town, which is the main port for the island with a long history. When we return to Ibiza, which we surely will, we will go there again as we needed more time. We explored the fortifications and the town itself and found the whole place full of history. It was surprisingly impressive. There were also plenty of shops and good cafe bars there too.

The next day was an activation day, so boots on, rucksack ready, we travelled back to Cala Llonga for the climb up to EA6/IB-011 Puig des ses Terrets:
The GPX trace of my route can be downloaded from the Viewranger website and the SOTA Mapping Project
We parked the "jalopy" on a wide driveway leading to a hotel. From there a rough track took us through pine woodland above the cliffs as it followed the coast partway around the peninsula. We passed an old rusty quarry machine which had been dumped and left for dead by the track:

Not long after the machine a path on the right departed from the main track and we followed this to the summit of the Puig des ses Terrets, which was on the edge of an extremely steep 200m high sea cliff:

XYL Judy reads her book whilst I activate the SOTA
Adjacent to the trig point you will find the foundations of some ancient buildings. I read that these date back to when there was a Roman settlement on the summit. 

Using 10 MHz and 14 MHz I made 39 contacts. DX SOTA regular Bob AC1Z was logged but the other stations were all in Europe, including two summit to summit contacts with Fred DL8DXL/P and Rod M0JLA/P. Nine contacts were completed on SSB but sadly these were to be the last from Ibiza that were two way SSB, as (I later discovered) the insert in my Yaesu microphone went open circuit.

The writer Phil EA6/G4OBK/P is seen above on IB-011 - about to pack up and head off the next summit of Puig d'en Pep follows this.  

SOTA on Ibiza - EA6/IB-010 Puig d'en Pep

After leaving IB-011 near Cala Llonga we drove towards the town of Santa Eulalia. Half way back to Santa Eulalia we turned right and climbed up a minor road passing houses and villa's until we reached the gate of the last villa at the top. This was within the activation zone but there was no where else to go and no access to the woodland and the summit at this point, so I turned round and went back downhill to the second bend bend where I parked the jalopy. From here I walked around 300m through an old quarry around the back of the top villa, and set up my station hard against the perimeter fence of the villa.
Satellite view of the summit. I operated against the perimeter fence of the top villa - the nearest point I could get to the summit
My approximate operating location 
The activation was quite fraught as I did not want to be seen or heard, so I deployed my headphones as I perched on a steep earth bank operating the radio. This has to be one of my least enjoyable activations, done in failing light. Fortunately the occupants of the villa did not appear to have a guard dog...
EA6/G4OBK/P station set up hard against the perimeter fence of the villa
A verandah or some such structure in the villa grounds above my antenna
Some sort of hippy hangout in the grounds of the villa on EA6/IB-010
An old Opel / Vauxhall dumped in the quarry to the rear of the villa
I did complete 25 contacts in CW. I cannot be sure but it is likely that it was on this summit, perched on that bank that my microphone insert expired. I did call CQ after a self spot and there were no takers. It is likely that I wasn't transmitting as on my next activation I discovered that I had no transmit signal on SSB or FM. At 1648z I worked Rich N4EX and at 1651z I worked F6EAZ for my last contact from EA6/IB-010. I won't be rushing back to activate it that's for sure!

Puig d'en Pep EA6/IB-010 seen 4 days later from the seafront in Santa Eulalia
Four days later on our last day in Ibiza we were sat at lunchtime at a seafront cafe in Santa Eulalia, enjoying a bottle of Prosecco and a sandwich. I realised then that I was looking at the north facing side of Puig d'en Pep, which is being built upon. IB-010 is the second hill at the back in the picture. Looking at Open Street Cycle Map some paths are shown going up through the woods. I would advise any future activator to try to access the summit from that side of the hill should they attempt it. 

SOTA on Ibiza - EA6/IB-007 Talaia de Sant Joan

Our first attempt at Talaia de Sant Joan came to nothing due to the weather, but at least we got the jalopy filled up with petrol at a garage in the middle of nowhere near to IB-007.  When we arrived on the Sunday the first priority was to get some lunch and then activate IB-009. At 3.00pm when we were driving on an almost empty tank the only garage we passed was closed, so it was a relief to get some fuel. After filling up we went to the likely parking place to view the summit. We had already decided that the activation was not to done that day, but it was good to at least view the summit and the parking arrangements for the next day. The summit had been activated before  - almost a year previously by Inaki EB2GKK when he made 21 SSB contacts on the 20m band. Unfortunately I did not work Inaki then - so this summit would not be SOTA Complete. 
Talaia de Sant Joan IB-007 in unfavourable weather
Returning to the same place the next day we were greeted with a fine sunny day as we set off walking up the road, which was quite rough. This was our track collected on my smartphone and uploaded to Viewranger:

What a difference a day makes.... EA6/IB-007 Talaia de Sant Joan
The walk to the summit was on a broken metalled road and every few hundred metres there was either a villa, one being built or a plot marked out for a future villa. Here a couple of guys are constructing a wall on one of the plots:

We left the metalled road (can be seen on the map) to climb up this rough track - note the blue paint on the rock suggesting this what the way up perhaps? Yes it was and there were more plots set out almost right up to the radio mast on the summit. 

Once the top was reached we had a scout round. There was a Fiat Panda rolled over lying just below the summit, several radio masts and an observation tower with a locked gate so it wasn't climbable. I also located a crumbling trig point. The views were far reaching despite the summit only being 361m high. 

I set up the station a little way down from the top and started on CW. When I changed mode to SSB to my chagrin I realised that my transceiver was faulty. When I returned home it proved to be the microphone insert that was open circuit.  Anyway my 50 minute session (with 15 minutes wasted trying to get the rig working on SSB) provided me with 47 European Morse contacts in CW on 10 and 14 MHz including a contact with Don G0RQL, who was worked cross mode - great fun! I listened on SSB and sent Morse more slowly that I normally would do to make the contact with Don. The walk back down was straightforward as we returned via the same route. I took a couple more pictures of a large Villa and an old rusty motorbike resting against a wall:

Despite the problem with my FT-817 on phone this was a most enjoyable activation. The weather remaining settled as we headed off west beyond Ibiza Airport to our next summit EA6/IB-001. 

SOTA on Ibiza - EA6/IB-001 Roca Grossa

The morning activation of IB-007 Talaia de Sant Joan was completed in CW only - due to the failure of my FT-817 microphone insert. I did however work Don G0RQL cross mode on IB-007, with me sending a message to Don in Morse and receiving a reply from Don in Phone on the 20m band. I decided therefore to warn chasers of my intention to try this technique again via a self spot on my afternoon summit of EA6/IB-001 Roca Grossa, and hoped that more stations could be worked this way.... 

Over an hours driving from EA6/IB-007 took us beyond Ibiza Airport to a car park in the village of Sant Josep de sa Talaia where we enjoyed a sandwich and beer in a village cafe garden for our lunch before climbing up the hill in the warm October sunshine. 
Activating has to be done this way when XYL Judy comes along for the ride!
We set off walking through a residential area and found a path climbing around the back of a house through woodland in the direction of the summit. It turned into a very straight forward gradual climb on a well used path, although we saw no other people until we reached the summit, where there were a few folk who had walked up via a different route to us. 
This track is available from Viewranger and from the SOTA Mapping Project website
On the way up there were clear views to the salines - the salt beds and marshes that lie between Ibiza and Formentera, where we would visit for an activation later in the week. 

There were no views on the summit - it was covered in pine trees, trig points, antennas and compounds. I chose to set up amongst some tall pollarded pine trees, and used them as tie off points for the ends of my dipole. 

It was a lovely day and it had been an enjoyable walk up from the village. Whilst Judy got out her Kindle to read in the shade of the pine trees I set up my station for a 50 minute operating session on 20m (27 Qs), 30m (G3NYY & OE7FMH only) and finally 17m (10 Q's). First station logged was my friend Roy G4SSH and best DX were contacts with four stations in the USA. Due to the failure of my microphone cross mode contacts were completed with G0VWP, G0RQL, M3FEH and M0MDA. Seemingly only these four English stations who rarely, if ever, use Morse Code in their usual operating style were desperate to give the unusual way of completing a contact a try and it worked for them! I made a single summit to summit contact with S5100ISONZO who was on the highest summit in the S5/TK region in Slovenia. 

Job done we walked back down the same way as we had come up to return to our hotel at the other end of the island in Cala San Vicence, stopping for fuel on the way back at one of the few filling stations on the island. 

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Blackwood Hill GM/SS-199 and Roan Fell GM/SS-132

Blackwood Hill GM/SS-199

I was on a walking holiday with Ryedale Walking Group staying at Chollerford, near Hexham in early October 2015. I chose to take one day out for SOTA and skipped breakfast early morning on the Saturday, to drive up the road that runs beside Kielder Reservoir and on into the Scottish Borders Region.  I reached Newcastleton at 0745 am and found the Spar shop there had a Kenco coffee-to-go machine. A cappucino and a Crunchie was my breakfast....

Two summits could be comfortably accommodated in early October with the reducing daylight - so from the Spar in Newcastleton I turned the car round and drove to the parking place (NY 514932) near Steele Road for Blackwood Fell SS-199. This summit had previously been activated just ten times. 

On my way up, via Arnton Fell I avoided the trig point, which is not within the activation zone. I passed it on my way back down as you can see from my map (click to enlarge). This was a steady walk, taking 52 minutes to reach the top, with just one steep section going up to the cairn which is indicated on the map. There were no awkward fences to climb, but it was a little boggy in places between the cairn and the highest point. From past experience it has proved difficult to qualify the more remote summits in the Scottish Borders using FM on the 2m band, so today I was carrying my Yaesu FT-817 and a 3.3 Amp LiPo battery which is now 9 years old and still works well.

Only 15 stations were worked on 40m and 30m - exclusively on CW. I did not have a cellular signal to self spot and my final CQ calls failed to attract any takers on 14062 KHz so I shut down after 26 minutes air time, and made my way to Roan Fell GM/SS-132. 

Roan Fell GM/SS-132

I weighed up my options of what to do next and did consider activating two summits together - this would have been SS-114 Greatmoor Hill and then continuing on to SS-106 Cauldcleuch Head. If I went for these two though it would mean I would have a late return to Chollerford - sometime after 7.00 pm I estimated, so instead I went for the singleton Roan Fell which was across the C Class road from these two summits.  I'll bag those two on another another day. Roan Fell had previously been activated by 8 stations.

It took around half an hour to reach Twislehope where I was to park under some trees between the two farmhouses (NY 447962) at 231m ASL. I wasn't sure of my route - it was reported by Richard G3CWI that he had cycled up to Hartsgarth Fell gate in 2007. The route I took on foot was over the ford. I left the track here though and climbed up over Carlingtooth Rig. From there it was a little tussocky until I reached the track at 453943, but not too bad of a walk. When I reached Hartsgarth Fell gate it became apparent that the shooters track had been laid right over the top of Roan Fell. I climbed the locked gate and very soon reached the highest point of Roan Fell on the track for my activation which was on the 20m, 30m and 40m ham bands. The walk took exactly one hour.
A pile of stones marks the highest point on Roan Fell GM/SS-132
Conditions were better than they were earlier on SS-199 and I was able to self spot my activation on SOTAWatch using the Rucksack Radio Tool app. I made 26 QSOs in 45 minutes with the best DX being with Bob AC1Z in New Hampshire USA and Phil VE1WT in Nova Scotia Canada. 

ON6ZQ Log to Map Conversion showing location of contacts made from SS-132
With time to spare I decided to take a different route back down, once I reached the gate at Hartsgarth Fell.  I took the grassy ridge between Carlintooth Rig and Cockplay Hill down to an interesting place where three watercourses came together (444950). Like my route up there was no path to follow but it wasn't too bad. I soon reached the sheepfold and made my way back to the car after an enjoyable 2nd activation - and I hadn't seen a soul all day.