I’m in Cape Town for a conference, but it winds down on Saturday, and I am planning an activation of Maclear’s Beacon on top of Table Mountain. It is one of the most activated in the area, but it is the one that I think I can manage in an afternoon taking public transportation. A cable car runs up to the top of the mountain, and as I understand it, I’ll need to follow a trail some distance to the site.
I’m aiming for the afternoon, probably around 15:00 local, 13:00Z to get to the top, so probably on the air nearer to 14:00Z. There’s a local ham flea market in in the early afternoon, so I am hoping to come on as that winds down and people return home.
Equipment is an FT817 and a chameleon F-loop antenna. I will operate at 5W from a 7Ah lead acid battery. I’ll call around on repeaters and try to stir up some VHF/UHF simplex contacts locally, and then get going on HF. The antenna provides continuous coverage on HF, so I’ll dial it up to 10 meters and then start working my way towards 40m.
The loop is not as efficient as longwire, so we’ll see. I’ll orient it towards (edge on) towards Europe (355 degrees), but also try it at about 300 degrees (US/Australia). It’s early in the day for EU/US contacts, but you never know. I can also hope for some local NVIS contacts on 30 and 40m. My best bet is CW, but I’ll also give a shout on SSB.
Hope the solar wind stream dies down in the next 24 hours or so.
Maclear’s Beacon is chosen probably because it’s the easiest peak in the immediate Cape Town area. It’s as you say, cable car to the top, and about a 20-30 minute walk to the beacon. The trail is blazed with yellow feet later on, but it’s only towards the end that it gets difficult to follow. There’s a fallen sign near the beacon proper you can attach antennas to.
I will suggest one thing, which is that the cable car can be cancelled due to wind or other factors, which will leave you having to get down from the mountain via Platteklip Gorge, which you probably won’t want to be doing in the dark.
The afternoon is also when the mountain tends to end up being covered in cloud; it’s not dangerous to get to Maclear’s from the cable car station if the visibility is more than about 10 metres, but the cable car folks will encourage you to come another day, as the views are non-existent. There are no fences near the beacon (or anywhere, really), so make sure you stop at the beacon, and not 10-15m beyond, which will take you out of the activation zone at the rate of about 9.8 metres per second squared.
Local chasers include ZS1CM, ZS5APT/AYC (Sid and Adele, the AM), and 20m will get you up to ZS6 where there’s a population of hams (Jo’burg, etc)
Thanks all for the advice. Days are pretty long, so I thought ending by 17:00 should be fine; last cable car down is 19:30, but I appreciate the advice about service potentially stopping due to wind. I’ll keep an eye on weather. Let’s see how things play out; the times are approximate. I would think that I’d have cell phone reception from the summit (vodacom), but not guaranteed. I noticed that there were no ZS stations running skimmers, so I might not be picked up locally on RBN.