I took an early morning trip up EA7/GR-088 Alto de los Jarales yesterday August 11th 2018 for the first activation of this summit. It is the closest summit to our holiday stay in Pinos Genil in the foothills of the Sierra Navada mountains in the Granada region of Spain.
Thanks to the excellent Open Topo maps provided as part of the amazing SOTA Mapping project I was able to plan my route beforehand with ease. The obvious ascent based on the marked trails and topology is from the road Calle Fuente 15 Canos which is a left-hand turning off the GR-3200 as you approach Güéjar Sierra from Pinos Genil. Take the second turning - the first turning Cassa Rural takes longer as it is a much narrower road.
The parking position at the end of a rough road is shown below, with the summit in the distance. Total vertical ascent is only around 250 metres and the walk takes around 45 minutes via an easy to find track. The vegetation is best described as ‘prickly and dry’ - plenty of opportunities to cut yourself if not careful!
I arrived on the summit and was setup just before 9am local time. There is a cairn horseshoe at the top - indicating that conditions aren’t always as favourable as they were today with a gentle southerly breeze (which towards the end of the activation turned 180 degrees quite abruptly, requiring a re-positioning of the guy wire!).
Equipment was as follows: FT-817, MiniPA 50 Linear Amplifier, Zippy LifePo 4.2Ah battery, Decathalon 6m travel pole, SOTABeams Quad Bander antenna (20m/30m/40m/80m), 1L of water, paper log book. Hat, neck scarf, pocket rucksack and the all important sun tan lotion.
As was discussed with Guru in the pre-planning topic I brought the travel pole from Decathalon amongst other things. It proved excellent in the light winds - I didn’t remove any sections and the dipole slipped nicely down to the second section which was stable enough to use. The plastic tent pegs proved a little more difficult to use and I resorted to loading the ends of the antenna with rocks instead.
There is excellent 4G mobile coverage on this summit. My initial spot for 20m was answered quickly by my good friend Nigel 2E0TUE who had advanced notice and proved his commitment to SOTA by being on the radio at 8am BST!
Another SOTA activator @IN3ADF obviously noticed my spot and came to greet me from his 1,495m Austrian summit of Gschwandtkopf. Band conditions on 20m were constantly varying due to the massive QSB which didn’t seem to improve much during the morning. I had the pleasure of meeting Phil G4OBK, the next contact in the log, at the Blackpool Rally last year and it was great to thank him in person for his excellent blog on Wainwrights in the Lake District England. Don G0RQL, from a beautiful but wet today Devon, was most welcome next in the log and was followed by another 8 early morning contacts on 20m.
I then clipped in 40m and managed 7 QSOs before my next S2S with @SV1RVJ who was at 990m on Xiro in Greece. I then continued on 40m for another 5 contacts including Manuel @EA2DT and Michael DJ5AV before dropping back to 20m to chase Lefter @YO9GSB who was at 2,103m on the Romanian summit of Furnica in the Middle Carpathians.
I thought 80m might be a little quiet, in fact with only a slim possibility of a contact but thanks to Santiago EB1IFK I have at least activated the summit on 80m.
I had another run of 10 contacts on 20m including the 10 minute epic which was conducted between myself and Guru @EA2IF at 554m on Garita do Limo to gain a S2S. Guru said he would try and get himself on a summit to provide a contact. I could hear someone in the back-of-the box but even with the QSB it took perseverance from both sides to complete the contact - I was presuming he could hear me better than I could hear him. My logbook contained many entries of possible callsigns before eventually his signal came up enough for a confirmed copy - definitely my most difficult of QSOs to date but very well worth the effort on both sides! Following the epic I also had an amazing contact with Douggie @G7CDA who is one of the most consistent SOTA chasers on 2m FM when back home in the Lake District and it was an unexpected pleasure to hear him on 20m!
By this time the weather was getting hot and I was thinking about packing up. I noticed a spot by SV2RUJ on 20m and it was a pleasure to get another S2S with Stavros who was at 2,099m on Katafi in Greece, followed quickly by my last S2S with Juerg HB9BIN who was at 2,227m on Pointe des Mossettes in Switzerland.
I then noticed a spot on 20m for myself by Karl M3FEH - not sure how that happened but I thought it was worth going to the frequency 14.285 Mhz and seeing if anyone was waiting and sure enough, in quick succession, I got another 18 entries in the log including Karl - what a pleasant end to an activation and an indication that maybe conditions on 20m were finally improving a little, or maybe it was just luck with the QSB.
To curtail any further activity I noticed that the FT-817 was indicating a low battery voltage of around 10.5v on transmit (causing the power indicator to flash) so it was time to pack up, enjoy the views towards the Sierra Navada summits to the South East (the higher of which still have pockets of snow on), the city of Granada to the West and the summits of Parque Natural Sierra de Huétor to the North.
Also of note is the summit of Calar which has yet to be activated and may well be doable whilst here, albeit with an earlier start required for the somewhat longer trek in.
There are more photos available here.
Longest contact today was with OH6GAZ in Finland.
As always many thanks to all the chasers and the advice of Guru in making this possible.
Regards, Mark. M0NOM