SOTA NEWS APRIL 2008
Editorial by Roy G4SSH
Welcome to a last minute compilation of SOTA News. With the departure of Mike GW0DSP I feared that I was going to be the sole contributor to this edition, so I was delighted to receive input from Roger MW0IDX, Les, G3VQO, Richard G3CWI, Rob G4RJQ, Dan DH8DX, Fritz DL4FDM and Phil G4OBK.
SOTA AWARDS ISSUED during the month of March,
by Roger MW0IDX
100 Chaser Points, achieved on 26th March 2008 by Daryl G0ANV
500 Chaser Points, achieved on 15-March 2008 by Allan MM1BJP
500 Chaser Points, achieved on 15th March 2008 by Eric SM1TDE.
500 Chaser Points, achieved on 19 March 2008 by Graham G3OHC
100 Unique Summits, achieved on 20th March also by Graham G3OHC
Congratulations and well done to all of the above chasers. Please show the awards around your colleagues and the local radio club.
PROPOSED NEW SOTA ASSOCIATIONS by Les, G3VQO
The current list is as follows:-
(2006) Lebanon OD
(2007) Liechtenstein HB0
(2007) Italy I
(2007) Australia VK
(2007) Slovakia OM
(2007) Spain EA
(2007) Norway LA
(2007) Brazil PY
(2007) Finland OH
(2008) Corsica TK
(2008) Slovenia S5
(2008) USA W0
(2008) Canaries EA8
(2008) Sweden SM
Of these, I suspect that Lebanon is not going to materialize, as nothing has been heard after the initial enquiry.
Italy continues to be frustratingly close, but progress is being made, albeit very slowly, so we are still upbeat on its eventual inclusion.
Of the others, work is in progress at various stages. If I had to bet on the next Association to be welcomed into the fold, I would suggest Corsica. Although it will be an Association in its own right, it does have the very successful French Association assisting its progress.
73 de Les, G3VQO
It was interesting to see South African activator ZR1AAH posting alerts for 9 SOTA’s in the Western Cape Area on the 30th March, using 2m FM and 40m SSB. I have no reports of any contacts into Europe but they would really count as treasured uniques in most chasers logs. - Ed.
10 GHz REPORT by Richard G3CWI
Keen SOTAwatch users will have spotted the occasional alert for 10GHz over
the past few months. Richard G4ERP and I have been experimenting to
investigate the viability of this interesting band for SOTA. 10GHz has a
long history as a “portable” band, mainly because the early 10GHz
equipment required an uninterrupted “line of sight” path to work. This led
to people trying to find the longest possible line-of-sight paths in the
UK. there were many contenders but the longest appears to be from
Cairnsmore of Carsphairn GM/SS-038 to the summit of Snowdon GW/NW-001;
this is an amazing 245km! Communicating successfully over this path
required several attempts, reminding me of a few failed activations in the
early days of SOTA.
Things have moved on in terms of 10GHz technology and in the late 1980s
and early 1990s, most 10GHz operation moved from using relatively simple
(and portable) wideband FM equipment to much more complex and, at the
time, less portable, narrowband equipment allowing the use of SSB and CW.
The narrowband gear has a vastly improved performance compared to the
wideband gear and this allows communication over obstructed paths. These
developments meant that lightweight portable activity on 10GHz all but
In recent times, sophisticated lightweight 10GHz transverters have become
available, opening up the possibility of lightweight mountain-toping
again. However, it seemed that the microwavers had either forgotten the
thrill of communicating from a hilltop or perhaps were feeling a little
long-in-the-tooth to re-live the adventures of their youth!
SOTA was spotted by some microwavers as being a possible way of re-gaining
that excitement and thus with some encouragement and a lot of help, I
began to get ready for 10GHz SOTA. Unlike all other bands used for SOTA,
there is no “off the shelf” 10GHz system so some basic construction is
required. It’s not hard but there is a steep learning curve to ascend! For
reasons that I can’t quite recall, I contacted Richard G4ERP and Robert
G0PEB and suggested that 10GHz SOTA could be fun. Richard was just
finishing his MG and was looking for a new challenge; it turned out that
he was also a lapsed microwaver. Richard and I quickly put together
portable systems using knowledge gained doing SOTA activations. Some of
the traditional microwavers were keen to tell us we were doing it all
wrong and that we need more power and bigger aerials. Strangely none came
forward with offers to carry them. They soon had to come to terms with the
fact that things had changed a lot since they last carried radio gear up a
Richard and I planned an s2s for a starter although in the event both of
us had already made test contacts with others from SOTA summits the week
before (Richard from Cleeve Hill and me from Cringle Moor). The first s2s
was from Gun to Worcestershire Beacon with 59 SSB both ways. Richard went
on to qualify the hill on 10GHz while I moved to a non-sota location to
make what remains my best 10GHz DX contact of 252km (using just 200mW).
Since that first s2s there have been many more 10GHz SOTA contacts made
although qualifying hills remains something of a challenge, particularly
up here in the North of England. I have now activated quite a few hills on
10GHz, only once failing completely (Knott). A tantalising “near” contact
was from The Cheviot to Wolverhampton (340km) with signals being heard
clearly in one direction and just detected using computer enhancement in
the other direction.
10GHz works far better that I had expected and I have made quite a number
of contacts over 200km (using that old mode, CW). Obstructed paths are not
a problem and if things get tricky I have found that snowstorms can be
used to bounce signals over hills! On some days 10GHz works even better
If only the weather improves, you can expect to see a lot more 10GHz
alerts. Richard and I are hopeful that Robert G0PEB will join us and Mike
G4BLH has expressed some interest. A new development this week has been an
announcement that Tony EI4GHB will be equipped for portable soon. I wonder
if we can interest him in SOTA…?
If 10GHz SOTA sounds intriguing, you might consider joining the UK
Microwave reflector at:
SOTA CW REPORT by Roy G4SSH
The month of March started well, with Norby LX1NO continuing to activate new summits in France and Germany. These weekend CW expeditions continued throughout the month with 4 summits in the ND area on Easter Monday. Norby’s expeditions are a most popular feature, especially welcomed by collectors of SOTA Uniques. During the Ukraine RTTY contest on the 2nd, Norby called on 7032 KHz amongst the heavy QRM, then QSY’d to a clear spot around 7028 KHz, then Dan DH8DX did exactly the same during the World-Wide WPX SSB contest on the 29th, calling on 7032 KHz and QSY’ing to a working freq of 7014 KHz. Both moves worked well.
Gyula DL/HA2VR activated from Germany, giving good signals on 40m and Miro DL/OK1CYC/p activated 4 summits in Saxony in one day. Ben DH0DK operated /OK and Alain F6ENO completed a remarkable tour of 15 French Uniques. Mike GW0DSP was active from SP-010 and enjoyed s2s contacts with Rob G4RJQ/p on LD-024 and Jirka OK2BDF/p on JM-020. Although 3 summits per day were planned by Mike, he was unfortunately out of action after slipping whilst on SP-010 and re-injuring an old back problem. (Note: My thanks go to Mike GW0DSP for providing notes of SOTA CW activity whilst I was in Cyprus).
Bad weather during the month curtailed many operations, and there were many days without any SOTA HF activity. Weekends were the best times to hear activators, but the early Easter holiday was beset with hail, sleet, snow and gales. CW activity from France was again quite prolific and it was a pleasure to copy many F activators on the 30m band which was in fine shape during the month. Chris F8DZY continues to use 10117 KHz first on his expeditions, which allows him to work many stations on this quiet band and so considerably reduce the pile up when he moves to 7032 KHz. Chris also produces excellent SOTA video’s which allows you to hear your own callsign coming out of his rig
There were a couple of Pirates active during the month pretending to be SOTA activators. One was using DL/LX1NO/p on 40m CW and was only picked up because Norby had returned home and challenged my spot. The second pirate was using F5MQW/p pretending to be on AM-693, again this was picked up by Pat who was fortunately monitoring the spots from home. A disturbing development.
Conditions on the 40m band were very variable during the month and it was a pleasure to hear UK activators using 80m CW, including Marc G0AZS and Peter G3TEJ.
Tom M1EYP activated “The Cloud” on 3557 KHz CW for the first time on his early morning and late afternoon schedules and was immediately answered by chasers in the UK and Europe who have been unable to hear him on 40m. Tom is now sending CW at around 20wpm which is a huge achievement in such a short time. Tom and his son commenced a tour of SOTA’s in Northern Ireland on the 27th March and whilst Jimmy MI3EYP concentrated on FM and SSB, Tom MI1EYP covered most of the UK using CW on 3557 KHz and had QSO’s into mainland Europe later in the afternoon. The pile-up’s generated by Tom calling on 3557 KHz had to be heard to be believed, and the way he worked his way through the stack of stations calling earned well deserved praise from seasoned CW enthusiasts.
The last weekend of the month coincided with the World-Wide SSB WPX contest, with 40m SSB transmissions active as far down as 7015 KHz, causing much QRM to SOTA activators. Austria was particularly well represented on the Sunday with Norby operating as OE/LX1NO/p, Heinz OE5EEP/5 and Thomas active as OE/DL1DVE/p
The winter bonus period would not be the same without John G4YSS operating on the lower HF bands with club call GX0OOO/p. John did two final expeditions of three SOTA’s, on the 7th March as GX0OOO/p and on the 14th as GX7OOO/p to add a further 30 QSO’s to his impressive top band total. Well worthy of note, and our well deserved congratulations, was John’s achievement in qualifying for the 2500 activator points award and also for making over 6000 SOTA QSO’s. John then appeared as GC0OOO/p from the summit of Snowdon, GW/NW-001 on the 27th March. To activate Snowdon on HF is a rare and commendable achievement alone, but to activate on top band in snow is really outstanding.
CW FROM CYPRUS
I managed to make a few hundred QSO’s as 5B/G0OOO and 5B/G4SSH from the Larnaca District of the Republic of Cyprus on the 14th and 15th March. Included in this total were SOTA contacts with John GX7OOO/p on NP-003 and Fritz DL4FDM/p on HE-481, plus another couple of dozen regular chasers, some using QRS. I am having special QSL cards printed and these will shortly be dispatched to all contacts, via the Bureau.
Most readers will be aware that Klaus DF2GN announced that he has had to curtail his SOTA activities due to training for a new job. Klaus is one of the most prolific CW operators on the band, often activating up to six summits in one day in summer. His super signals from legendary long portable antennas will be sadly missed, but his career must come first, followed by his first love of Marathon running. It was therefore a most pleasant surprise when he made a guest appearance on Easter Monday using a new rig giving 80w to an inverted Vee antenna, followed by an activation of his local SOTA, Lupfen, BW-057 on the 29th March. Welcome back Klaus, your distinctive keying is always a most welcome sound.
CW DX of the Month:-
GX7OOO/p } 20m 5B/G4SSH, 5B/G0OOO
DL4FDM/p } 20m 5B/G4SSH, 5B/G0OOO.
This was Fritz’s first DX QSO whilst active from a SOTA
DH8DX/p 40m RV9DC, RK2FWN, EW8BR, Z36A,
` 30m EW4DX
A warm welcome is extended to Jirka OK1DDQ, (who has already become a regular activator), Wolf DH1HBL, Phillipe F5IYJ, Volker DL5VTL and HA6OY, all heard active using CW during the month of March.
I have been asked to publish some chasing tips to assist the many stations who are now becoming confident and increasing their speed using CW, but who are hesitant about attempting to crack the pile-ups, especially on 7032 KHz. I will not tell you what to do, but I will explain the methods that work for me (and have allowed me to become a super-sloth on CW) and leave it up to you to decide if these will work for you.
Successful chasing depends on three elements:- Equipment, Location and the skill and experience of the chaser. Improving your equipment is expensive, changing your location is not really an option, so the cheapest choice, by far, is to improve the skill of operator.
- TIMING (Part 1)
Timing is everything, and the No.1 key to success in a CW pile up. You must ensure that you are never sending at the same time as the activator. If you are, then the activator cannot hear you and you will be causing QRM to other stations. You will be amazed at the number of stations who do not understand this fundamental rule. Your aim is to transmit only when the activator is listening. Sadly there are some regular “Alligators” (all mouth and no ears) amongst the regular chasers. One station in particular will call blindly over the top of an existing QSO.
The best way to operate CW is to use full break-in so that you can immediately stop sending if the activator starts sending. Next listen, listen and listen again before calling. You MUST determine the closing procedure being used. Activators are creatures of habit and with experience you will recognise their idiosyncrasies. For example:-
Norby is a first class super-slick operator who always maximises his contacts by using contest style procedure. Sota Refs will be sent on initial CQ and then at intervals only:-
CQ SOTA DE DL/LX1NO/p
R 559 TU
In this case send your call immediately after Norby sends TU (often sent as an “X”)
Klaus always closes a contact by sending TU DE DF2GN/P K
In this instance you must wait until Klaus finishes his full call. Sending your call after the TU will be a waste of time.
Miro usually closes a contact by sending DE OK1CYC/P QRZ? So you must wait until after the QRZ? before transmitting.
Some French activators use DE F9ZZZ SOTA QRZ? K and other stations send the full SOTA reference before QRZ? If you do not wait for the last “K” or the final “?” then the first part of your callsign will not be heard.
We will look at another aspect of timing next month.
I have just received a most attractive QSL card for a CW contact with HG2006GYR in December 2006 to celebrate the 1st anniversary of HA joining SOTA. I remember working the station on 30m but had no idea about the reason for the special call until now. Any other SOTA special events can be publicised on the Reflector or via the news. TNX for the QSO & QSL to Zoli / HA5CQZ.
MORSE KEYS By Rob G4RQJ
I should apologise to everyone for my awful sending in recent times.
After a lifetime of pump handle keys I have decided to convert to an
electronic keyer. This has been at best a traumatic experience.
After a struggle through summer I thought I had it just about beaten
and then came winter and gloves! Currently I am using fingerless gloves
with fold over mitten but these still cover the thumb which sometimes
makes me throw them off in disgust, then I’m too cold.
I use a little homebrew key with a couple of micro-switches and a
piece of Junior hacksaw blade which straps to the right leg to give a
bit of a firm base. At present I can send for quite long periods
without problem, then an error creeps in, I try to correct it like the
old pump handle and things go from bad to worse. I must try to remember
to STOP. Now when I try the pump handle I find my fist has been upset
on that too!
I will fight on and get it right. In the meantime please ignore any bursts
of stray letters.
Thanks and 73 to all
G4OBK DOWN UNDER by Phil G4OBK
It’s not about SOTA, but some of you must have missed me in Feb & March – my SOTA score suffered - I was taking a holiday in Australia and visiting family. We travelled around the east side of the country and I was lucky to strike up a relationship with the Manly-Warringah Radio Society north of Sydney.
Committee members David VK2CZ and Dom VK2JNA helped me operate using their club callsign VK2MB in the 71st BERU (RSGB Commonwealth CW Contest). I also applied to Steve VK6VZ to join the VK team of ten operators and was accepted at the last minute. However, I did not know I was in the ten man VK team until I returned to UK and checked my e-mail – a week after the end of the contest!
For those just getting into CW, BERU has a long history. It’s 24 hours long, 80-10m (no WARC). There are various sections, you don’t make that many contacts (compared to say CQWW), but what you work is quality DX scattered around the world in the former British Empire.
BERU starts at 1000z which corresponds to 9.00pm in Sydney so it’s well after dark. I usually start off in the UK morning in BERU working Cyprus, Africa and the odd Oceania on 15m and 20m. In VK you start on 40m and 80m working Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It was hours before any EU Commonwealth (including the UK) appeared in the log.
The VK2MB Club allowed me the use of their FT1000MP MK V, a TH3 Tribander and an 80m inverted vee, both at 30 feet. On 40m I had a vertical dipole. I took my own laptop running Super Duper (Thanks to EI5DI), a Bencher key with USB Win-keyer. I was on my own in the club shack for the duration of the contest, save for the odd visit from club members on the Sunday to offer support and bring me strong coffee (Thanks Dom!).
The shack is a shared building - a “Volunteer Services Centre” located in what the locals call “The Bush”. A main road passes by however. The centre houses VK2MB, Coastal Patrol, Bush Fire, and Flood service crews – all on 24/7 cover for any emergencies that may occur in the region.
So how did my contest go? It wasn’t plain sailing. I borrowed a family friends Saab to get me the 30 miles out of Sydney to the club, arriving early Saturday evening. I had my own key to the club shack and it took me around two hours to set everything up to my liking, leaving time for a sandwich and drink before the start. The only minor hitch I had then was that I could not get the CAT on the Yaesu to function on receive. It would occasionally kick in on TX, I never did understand why.
Within 15 minutes of the start I also realised that RF was getting into the SM PSU of the 200w Yaesu – but only on 80. The rig kept shutting down because my CW was telling the PSU to turn itself off! Great. I relocated the separate PSU and spaced the leads out - problem solved! Next snag - 80m RF was getting into my Win-key and stopping the software working in the laptop. That meant I couldn’t use the laptop F Keys to send contest exchanges and CQ Calls. Neither could I vary the keying speed.
I lived with that for the time being and just sent by hand when on 80m to save locking up the laptop. I fixed it later by using a separate 12v wall wart PSU to power the Win-keyer rather than the 12v phono socket on the FT1000MP. So I settled in to working 88 stations in around 5 hours – not such a bad rate in BERU where searching for stations and swapping bands continually is the norm. It got slow, so I decided to go out to the SAAB for a two hour kip, this would get me through the full 24 hours.
I returned on time to unlock the shack and this was when I had a real problem. The key snapped off in the shack door lock! My mobile was inside and the gear was left on all powered up, I noticed earlier however that the club members had run the coax from my temporary aerials into the shack via a window, high up around the back. This I found was too high to reach so I went looking for assistance. I found two Aussie guys nearby drinking beer around a bonfire. They were part of a fire crew and soon found a short ladder. To cut a long story short one of them got in through the window and allowed me access again to the shack without problem. So I was off again and operated without problem through to the finish. The lock got fixed the next day.
So how did I do as VK2MB? Better than I first thought. On claimed scores I am 7th in the 10 man VK Team with 3920 points from 219 QSO’s. It looks as though we may have won the team contest too. DX Conditions – well I worked nothing on 10m, 15m was reasonable, 20m was lousy (only 4 UK stations worked), 40m was outstanding (42 UK worked) and 80m was reasonable (3 UK worked).
Yes, it was great doing BERU from Australia so a big thank you to the friendly guys at Manly-Warringah Radio Society who really made me welcome.
CONTEST CALENDAR - APRIL 2008
The following scheduled contests are expected to cause severe QRM to SOTA activity, especially on the 40m band. Activators should plan accordingly with alternate spots.
5th-6th 1200-2400 ARCI QRP CW Spring QSO Party
5th-6th 1500-1500 SP DX contest CW & SSB
5th-6th 1600-1600 EA RTTY contest.
12-13th 2100-2100 Yuri Gagarin CW contest
13th only 0700-0900 DIG 4W QSO party
20th only 0700-1300 EA QRP CW contest
26th-27th 1200-1200 SP DX RTTY contest
26th-27th 1300- 1300 Helvetia contest. CW, SSB RTTY.
That’s it for this month. I will be publishing this on the morning of the 31st March as I am scheduled to be on the evening flight from Leeds-Bradford airport to Newquay, to visit my daughter in Cornwall. I shall be active SOTA-chasing as G4SSH/A from a cliff top QTH at the entrance to Fowey harbour, using an FT-897 (small enough for cabin luggage) to an indoor vertical antenna. I am always amazed at the improvement in propagation between North Yorkshire and the south coast of the U.K.
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