SOTA Activation and a Military Base – Serra de Foia (CT/AL-001)

CT7/M0JCQ leaving the summitI recently went on holiday to the Algarve region of Portugal, while here i wanted to complete my 2014 objective of operating abroad, which is one of my new privileges as an M0. I also harbored ideas of activating a SOTA summit while in the region, this was very much secondary as i was with my XYL, my sister in law and brother in law and couldn’t drag them up to a summit unless they wanted to see something as well!

We found a compromise with a round trip around the Monchique area in the mountains. We visited a number of places before they dropped me off at the summit. Now Serra de Foia (CT/AL-001 – 6 points) is 902m ASL and wasn’t quite what i pictured in my mind, i imagined lovely sunshine and clear views of the coast. The reality and trepidation mounted when i was dropped off at the summit car park and saw my relatives drive off. The summit was literally in the clouds and visibility was really limited, added to that the summit is pretty much occupied by commercial antennas and a fenced off military base:

View from CT/AL-001 Car Park

Serra de Foia Military Base

The military base was unexpected and i proceeded to gingerly make my way towards the area as that’s where the summit point is (you can see the white and black summit marker to the right of the last image). As i got there i realised you can’t get to the real summit marker as it’s within the fenced off military area, there is instead a civilian marker that someone has put up within the nearest publicly accessible area of the main marker:

Serra de Foia Summit Markers

With the summit marker identified i started setting up my Elecraft KX3 and vertical antenna, all the time expecting soldiers to come and ask me just what i thought i was doing, i pictured the scene of me frantically waving my printed license to Portuguese soldiers mistaking me for some kind of spy.

Elecraft KX3 SOTA Serra de Foia

Here’s a picture of my vertical antenna tuned for 15m, note the military radar to the right of the antenna:

Vertical for 15m

The vertical is a commercial SuperStick antenna, which although wasn’t my first choice, it did fit nicely into my luggage when broken down. Its performance surprised me and renewed my confidence in this commercial antenna, especially when i added some additional radials i made at home. I suspected the elevated position and calling CQ SOTA certainly helped me a lot too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With limited operating time (2 hours until the relatives hopefully came to pick me up) i quickly setup and chose to operate on the 15m band using my prefixed callsign (CT7/M0JCQ/P), i chose 15m because i knew i could make contacts with operators back in the United Kingdom but also with a chance of some QRP DX.

I spotted myself on the SOTA cluster to speed up the process and ensure i made the requisite minimum of 4 contacts to activate the summit. This really seemed to work as my first CQ call resulted in a QSO with G6TUH and i made the minimum 4 contacts within 4 minutes of starting. The pileup continued and within 70 minutes i made 24 QSO’s with highlights being two Summit to Summit (S2S) contacts, one with N1EU/P on Hurricane Mountain (W2/GA-024) and the other with DO1DJJ/P on Hohe Warte (DM/RP-019). I was only using 5w on SSB so to make the S2S contact with N1EU was a real highlight, this works out as 1,078 KM per Watt using SSB…

More than 1000 KM per Watt

It’s amazing how far QRP power goes when you have two elevated points and the Atlantic Ocean in between!

Another highlight was a QSO with Colin (G8TMV) who i helped to make Serra de Foia “Summit Complete”, meaning he has now both activated and chased the summit. He informs me that i had nicer weather during my activation than he did, he spent the entire time inside a cloud!

Here’s my logbook for the activation:

Time Call Band Mode Notes
14:06z G6TUH 21MHz SSB
14:08z M0MDA 21MHz SSB
14:09z OK1SDA 21MHz SSB
14:10z OK2PDT 21MHz SSB
14:10z OK3KW 21MHz SSB
14:12z IK0OZD 21MHz SSB
14:14z N1EU 21MHz SSB Thanks for the S2S from W2/GA-024
14:14z G4ELZ 21MHz SSB
14:15z HB9AGH 21MHz SSB
14:16z VE2JRW 21MHz SSB
14:17z MW0CLU 21MHz SSB
14:19z OE7FMH 21MHz SSB
14:20z G0RQL 21MHz SSB
14:20z G6MZX 21MHz SSB
14:23z G0TDM 21MHz SSB
14:24z DO1DJJ/P 21MHz SSB Thanks for the S2S from DM/RP-019
14:26z G8TMV 21MHz SSB
14:28z G3XQE 21MHz SSB
14:30z G4WSB 21MHz SSB
14:32z GW6WRW/M 21MHz SSB
14:34z M0IML 21MHz SSB
14:36z G6ODU 21MHz SSB
14:37z M6ARF 21MHz SSB
14:55z 2E0KPD/M 21MHz SSB
15:14z M0BXF 21MHz SSB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At times the weather cleared up and i was rewarded with this nice view from my operating position:

Summit View from CT/AL-001

 

At the end of the activation i packed up all my things and took a picture of it all (in my rucksack) on the civilian summit marker:

My complete setup in my bag on the summit marker

 

Conclusion

This was one of the highlights of my holiday and i really enjoyed the operation from here. The commercial antennas and radar installations didn’t seem to add much QRM to 15m, just occasional static bursts which didn’t really affect my operation. I encountered my 2nd pile up (since my last SOTA activation) which was a lot of fun and has taught me a lot of lessons to ensure i give more operators a chance to make contact with me during my future activations.

CT7/M0JCQ leaving the summit

Some additional landscape pictures from the summit area:
View from Tourist Summit 2

View from Tourist Summit 1

Highest Point Plaque - it's actually not positioned at the highest point but where there's a nice view to the sea instead! 2014-09-27 16.35.13

Some pictures of the commercial antennas on the summit:

2014-09-27 16.31.14

2014-09-27 16.31.07
2014-09-27 16.33.30

Antenna Arrays on CT/AL-001
2014-09-27 16.29.47

 

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