SOTA NEWS - DECEMBER 2010
EDITORIAL – by Roy G4SSH
Welcome to the December 2010 edition of SOTA News and welcome to the Winter Bonus season. Even the weather has acknowledged the event by turning decidedly wintry. As I write this editorial, Scotland and the North East coast of the UK are being battered by snowstorms and high winds. Driving snow on my Butternut vertical has produced so much precipitation static during the last week that the few chasers braving the weather have been difficult to copy at my QTH on the North Yorkshire coast.
The NA SOTA weekend over the 13th-14th November was a great success and well supported by W and VE activators, which was much appreciated by chasers. Many EU stations made their first SOTA QSO with US or VE stations (including myself - TNX Marty NE1SJ) and there were some s2s contacts - a task which seemed impossible one year ago.
SOTA activity, as usual, declined sharply during the month of November, due to a combination of the bad weather spreading across the UK and Europe, and the anticipation of winter bonus points.
My thanks go to the following contributors:- Les G3VQO, Barry GM4TOE, Fred K6DGW, Rob and Audrey G4RQJ, Peter ON4UP, Andy MM0FMF, Tom M1EYP, Dave G4ASA.
FROM THE SOTA MANAGEMENT TEAM
The final piece in the W7 jigsaw slots into place this month with the accession of SOTA-W7 (Washington). Hard work by Association Manager Bruce N7RR, and his team of helpers, has listed over two-and-a-half thousand SOTA-compliant summits. These have been arranged into seventeen Regions. Of particular note is the volcanic Mount Saint Helens (W7/LC-001) which has, as recently as 1980, “adjusted” its height from 2950m to 2550m, all within the space of a few spectacular minutes. Naturally, special restrictions are in place to ensure that visitors to this summit are as safe as possible, so SOTA activations are possible although challenging. Another interesting facet of this new Association is the unofficial naming of certain summits. As is common in the mountainous areas of North America, many significant summits are officially identified only by their height. Whilst other SOTA Associations have stuck to this convention, the Washington team has decided to give such summits unofficial names with an amateur radio connotation. Thus you will find Transceiver Mountain (CH-061), Counterpoise Peak (CW-058) and SOTA Hill (NO-192). All such unofficial names are clearly denoted by enclosing quotation marks. It would be extremely amusing if some of these names actually ended up being officially endorsed!
obo SOTA MTA
SOTA AWARDS FOR NOVEMBER 2010 By Barry GM4TOE - SOTA Awards Manager
Once again records have been broken this month with our first 40k chaser (no surprises as it is Roy G4SSH) and a first Mountain Explorer Platinum Award going to Norby LX1NO. Norby has had to activate at least one summit in a minimum of 20 Associations to qualify – no mean feat. Closely following Roy are Brian G8ADD with 10k Chaser points and Tony G4ZIB with 5k.
Rudolf OK2QA is our latest Mountain Goat claimant and Gerhard DO1GER a new Shack Sloth. A Mountain Hunter Gold award has gone to Friedrich DL1FU for chasing at least 15 Associations on two or more continents. Scoring for this award is quite complex and I will be asking our new database administrator to design a filter to determine when you can claim as there seems to be much confusion at this time.
ON3WAB Peter and G4ZIB Tony have made the equivalent of Shack Sloth but for chasing Unique summits – 1000 Unique summits needs a lot of dedication.
Congratulations to all award winners this month.
OK2QA Rudolf Klvana Mountain Goat
DO1GER Gerhard Multerer Shack Sloth
DL2XL Karl Steenaerts 500 points
MW3NYR Eleri Davies 250 points
HL4/W2VLA Jason Vlasak 100 points
OK7OK Darius Rouhani 100 points
OK2QA Rudolf Klvana 100 summits
G4SSH Roy Clayton 40000 points
G8ADD Brian Carter 10000 points
G4ZIB Tony Roberts 5000 points
DL2XL Karl Steenaerts 500 points
M6NJB Nick Bennett 500 points
OK2BWB Karel Danek 100 points
M3XIE David Robinson 100 points
M0MOL Gareth Mollard 100 points
DD6UDD Detlef Wabersky 100 points
ON3WAB Peter Destoop 1000 summits
G4ZIB Tony Roberts 1000 summits
G4OOE Nick Langmead 250 summits
M6NJB Nick Bennett 100 summits
MU0GSY Lionel Roithmeir 100 summits
LX1NO Norby Oberweis Mountain Explorer Platinum
DL1FU Friedrich Winzer Mountain Hunter Gold
May I thank DL2XL, G4SSH and G1INK for their very generous donations towards the running of this award scheme, this help is much appreciated.
I would like to remind everybody that it would be helpful if, before claiming an award, that the database records are up to date. I have had a couple of claims this month where the participant is registered on the database but they have not uploaded their logs. The amount of time required to manually check means that their claim goes to the bottom of the pile and can take several weeks to process – I have very limited time to devote to this and cross checking 30 or 40 claimed summits takes hours.
The festive season is less than four weeks away and you know you would like a SOTA flag or a sweatshirt from Santa. If you hurry you can get one delivered by those nice elves in the Post Office before December 25th. Payment by Paypal or cheque would be most acceptable.
The winter bonus will be soon upon us so sharpen those crampons and oil the ice axe for those snowy ascents. Just in case you have missed the weather reports for my area of GM, we have between 1200 and 1500 mm of snow lying in the village (4 to 5 feet in old money) so no complaints that you can’t get out when you have less than 25mm of snow – it is no longer a valid excuse!
May I wish everybody a pleasant festive season and take care on the hills – winter is not the time to be out unprepared.
Barry Horning GM4TOE
SOTA News also sends congratulations to:-
Andre F5UKL who activated his 100th Unique summit on 5th November whilst on an expedition to EA2 NV-043
Dave G3YMC who gained his Shack sloth, also on 5th November, during a QSO with Andre (above), all QRP 5w CW
Jürg HB9BAB who operated the 100th activation of HB/ZH-015 on 27/10/2010 with the special call HB9SOTA.
Rick M0RCP, on his 200th SOTA activation whilst on Billinge Hill on the 25th November.
ON ASSOCIATION NEWS - from Peter ON4UP
Hereby I want to thank Johan Smet ON5EX for all his work as ON association manager. I believe that bringing SOTA to Belgium was really a great idea. Thanks Johan!
As from the 1st of January I will take over of the role of ON association manager. As a new year’s gift I would like to announce 2 new SOTA summits in Belgium: ON/ON-023 (Au Sentier de Grupont) and ON/ON-024 (Bois du Tour du Coo). Also ON/ON-010 (Fraiture) has been corrected with the right longitude.
Happy activating and chasing in 2011!
Peter Preud’homme – ON4UP
SMS SERVER UPDATE - from Andy MM0FMF
A new version of the SMS server is running. I had to change this as the
previous software had a bug that meant it needed resetting every 14 days
or so. The new version should work exactly the same as before. It does
more checking on what you send it and so there should be less instances
of invalid spots appearing. Apart from these extra validation checks
there are no differences. However, there may be teething problems as the
last bugs get ironed out.
New SMS server for North American users
North American users who wish to spot themselves can now use my SMS
server that is based in the USA. Everything works exactly the same as my
other server except the delay is slightly longer. There may be up to
5mins from you sending an SMS until it gets spotted. I hope to reduce
this delay over the coming months when I have more data on performance.
This should prove more reliable and much cheaper for users based in
The number is 1-530-430-SOTA. (1-530-430-7682)
This is only being offered to North American users at present for
assorted technical reasons. The few American users who have registered
with me are authorised already for this server.
Impetus to get this running came from Andrew K1YMI/GM1YMI who has
provided the number and been involved in the testing. So he is the man
to thank for this.
If you want to use either server please email me (mm0fmf_sota AT
intermoose.com) with your callsign and mobile/cell number and I will do
CANADA/US SOTA News - by Fred K6DGW
Considering that winter has begun over here in the Provinces, Colonies,
and Wild West, we have had a very active SOTA month!
NA ASSOCIATION/REGION NEWS:
W7/Washington State: Bruce, N7RR, the Washington W7 Association Manager
“I’m pleased to let you know that the W7 Washington State SOTA
Association will be open for activations on December 1. Our
hard-working committee has identified 2663 eligible SOTA summits in the
State of Washington.”
“Mount Rainier sports two SOTA summits with the required 150 m
topographic prominence: Columbia Crest and Liberty Cap. Some summits
are the highpoints of whole islands in the Salish Sea. A large number
of Washington summits exceed 2499 meters in elevation, so they are
eligible for 10 SOTA points.”
“A fun part of SOTA in Washington is that every summit has a name.
Officially-unnamed summits have been given informal
amateur-radio-related names like “CW Summit” or “Dipole Peak”, always
demarcated by quotation marks. It gets even better: the first party to
activate one of these officially-unnamed summits may request a new name
for the activated summit. These new names will be eligible for approval
by the Washington State Association SOTA Manager as long as they are
also amateur-radio-related and of a general nature, in other words, not
denoting any individual or commercial brand or product.”
[Reporter Dude’s Note: For those who have never been to Washington
State, Mt. Ranier towers over the landscape and is visible from pretty
much everywhere. NE Oregon, also W7 Association, has the very similar
Mt. Hood. It also has Mt. St. Helens in the south, which should count
for a big bonus since it rumbles and smokes more or less continually,
and has been known to explode]
Washington has been divided into 17 summit regions. See the end of this
report for the list.
W4/Virginia: Chuck, K4QS advises:
“Work has begun in the formation of a W4 VA association. John, KX4O has
offered to help, but we have yet had the opportunity to meet and develop
a real game plan.”
“I have been given a list of peaks in Virginia that have a prominence on
excess of 1000ft. I have begun to go over this list to locate each and
verify the data. The plan will probably be to get the association
started with these and add to the list over time.”
“Hopefully John and I can meet after the Thanksgiving holiday. I can’t
offer a time frame as to when we might complete the project, so we ask
everyone to please be patient. We have only taken the first step and
have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Chuck also indicated there may be a SOTA effort in one or both of the
Carolina’s, also W4. Because of their size, most US call area
associations are divided into regions, often by State, and are being
SUMMIT ACTIVATION NEWS:
JP, VA2SG reports:
"VE2 association had four summits activated:
VE2/LR-002 Tremblant by team VA3SIE/VE2/P & VE2JCW
VE2/ES-008Shefford by VE2PID/P
VE2/QC-008 Bélair by VE2PBZ/P
VE2/SG-003 Edouard by VA2SG/P"
“We’ve been lucky enough to have nice WX, sun, couple clouds , temps
were around freezing point in the morning up to 4 to 5 C in the afternoon.”
“The four activations made numerous contacts, many S2S between
themselves, on 2m and HF, of with other summits, like NE1SJ and WG0AT.
VA2SG been lucky to make a DX S2S with G3CWI/P on G/SP-001, a great thrill.”
“All activators were glad of the experience and are convinced the effort
was well worth. No doubt VE2 activators will be QRV next year for the
2011 NA SOTA day. With almost all of W7 now covered and VE7, and couple
more others associations to come, next year’s event is gonna be incredible.”
[Reporter Dude’s Note: I don’t have any VE7 contacts]
Peter, KC2WI reports:
"I activated W2/GA Adirondack summits on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as
Friday - Morehouse Mountain W2/GA-295 8 QSOs 40, 10, 17 m SSB
Saturday - Wakely Mountain W2/GA-021 15 QSOs 20, 17, 10 m SSB
Sunday - Indian Head W2/GA-322 4 QSOs 40, 20 m SSB"
And Martin, VA2SIE advises:
"Jean VE2JCW and I (VA3SIE) have written up our 13th November Summits /
Parks on the air activation of Mont Tremblant and published it here:
Since we just started reporting Canada/US activities, I’m still trying
to catch up on recent activations. Mike, KD9KC in El Paso TX, who in
addition to being a very good friend is also our W5 Association Manager
provided this report which covers NA SOTA Day and prior:
Date, Call, Summit Code, Summit Name
3 Jul 2010, KD9KC, W5/FR-001, North Franklin Mountain
3 Jul 2010, WT5RZ, W5/FR-001, North Franklin Mountain
3 Jul 2010, K5VU, W5/FR-001, North Franklin Mountain
31 Jul 2010, KE5SCG, W5/WI-002, Mount Scott
31 Jul 2010, KT5X, W5/PW-027, 8409
11 Aug 2010, N7UN, W5/SS-006, Gold Hill
11 Aug 2010, N7UN, W5/SS-015, Greenie Peak
15 Aug 2010, KT5X, W5/PW-008, Lake Peak
22 Aug 2010, KF5BBT, W5/FR-003, South Franklin Mountain
22 Aug 2010, KD9KC, W5/FR-003, South Franklin Mountain
22 Aug 2010, WT5RZ, W5/FR-003, South Franklin Mountain
29 Aug 2010, KD9KC, W5/RO-015, Rough And Ready Hills HP
29 Aug 2010, WT5RZ, W5/SC-003, Capitan Peak
11 Oct 2010, KD9KC, W5/SC-005, Benson Ridge
17 Oct 2010, KD9KC, W5/OR-014, North Anthony’s Nose
I think that catches us up to the present. If you worked any of these
activations, be sure to claim your chaser points at
http://www.sotadata.org.uk/ – go to the SOTA Database link, log in, and
fill in the blanks.
WHO’S WHO IN NORTH AMERICA SOTA:
When I can get the information, we’ll profile SOTA-Folks from time to
time. This month, meet James, K9JWV:
“Licensed since 1956, first as a Novice and then Conditional. I let my
license expire many years ago but took the exams again some time back
and thoroughly enjoying being back into Ham Radio. Currently into QRP,
operate CW about 97% of the time with remainder split between SSB and
PSK31. My main QRP rigs are ATS-3B and ATS-4 QRP transceivers; I have
an old ICOM 735 as a home back-up rig. My antennas at home are a Gap
Eagle and various end fed half waves.”
“I’m the SOTA manager for W7/Utah, have activated a handful of summits
over the past year and intend on activating more during the spring and
summer of 2011. I utilize my ATS-3B, end fed half wave (EFHW) antennas and the KI6J EFHW QRP tuner.”
News from Steve WG0AT:-
I’m working on a new video as usual for NA-SOTA event but it’s slow going. Too many irons in the fire …won’t finish it until next week so we could say …go to http://www.youtube.com/goathiker for the latest video and by the time the newsletter hits it should be posted!
73, Steve …wGØAT/R&P"
My thanks to all for your reports and news. If you’d like your
activations and/or chaser activities included here, just email me before
about the 23rd of the month. I try and get it to Roy by the 26th. I
know there were other activations; I just can’t keep track of them on
the Alerts page.
One of our granddaughters had a softball tournament on 13 Nov [NA SOTA
Day], so my plans to activate Banner Mt will have to wait for awhile
[and better weather, more snow there now than I want to tackle], however
prior to heading to the games, I did manage 3 QSO’s with summits.
73 and Merry Christmas to all, see you next year.
Fred K6DGW [aka “Skip” on the radio]
Canada/US SOTA Reporter Dude
W7/WASHINGTON STATE SUMMIT INFORMATION:
The 2663 SOTA summits in Washington State are divided into 17 regions.
The regional system is based on counties. Some regions consist of one
county and others agglomerate more than one county:
Region Identifier, Name, Counties
CH, Chelan, Chelan
CW, Central Washington, Douglas/Grant/Kittitas
FR, Ferry, Ferry
KG, King, King
LC, Lower Columbia, Clark/Cowlitz/Skamania/Wahkiakum
MC, Middle Columbia, Klickitat/Yakima
NO, Northern Olympics, Clallam/Jefferson
OK, Okanogan, Okanogan
PL, Pacific-Lewis, Lewis/Pacific
PO, Pend Oreille, Pend Oreille
RS, Rainier-Salish, Islands/Kitsap/Pierce/San Juan
SK, Skagit, Skagit
SN, Snohomish, Snohomish
SO, Southern Olympics, Greys Harbor/Mason/Thurston
ST, Stevens, Stevens
WE, Washington East/Adams/Asoltin/Benton/Columbia/Franklin/Garfield/
WH, Whatcom, Whatcom
In some cases, Washington State county boundaries are drawn along
drainage divides, so there are some summits which are located in two
counties. Those qualifying SOTA summits have generally been to assigned
to the SOTA region with fewer summits. The largest region, Washington
East, actually has the fewest SOTA summits.
Rainier-Salish Region is unusual. The water bodies Puget Sound, the
Strait of Juan de Fuca and Georgia Strait have now been combined to be
officially recognized by both the Canada and USA governments as the
Salish Sea. The Rainier-Salish region has the widest elevation range,
from the summit of Washington State to whole islands in the Salish Sea.
Mount Rainier includes two qualifying SOTA summits: Columbia Crest and
Liberty Cap. Expeditions to Mount Rainier will therefore be able to
activate two 10-point summits.
Summit points and bonus scheme for W7/Washington State:
Band 1, <=499 m AMSL: 1 point
Band 2, 500m-999m AMSL: 2 points
Band 3, 1000m-1499m AMSL: 4 points
Band 4, 1500m-1999m AMSL: 6 points
Band 5, 2000m-2499m AMSL: 8 points
Band 6, 2500m and higher AMSL: 10 points
The winter period has highest probability of localized unpredictable
weather impeding travel throughout the State of Washington, especially
at higher elevations.
Winter bonus: 3 points for activations >1499 m 01 Dec to 15 Mar, inclusive
Please be very careful with winter operations. Avalanches are very
common on many Washington State mountains. Be sure to get avalanche
training and be properly equipped whenever travelling in snow country.
The Washington State Association Reference Manual, which will be
published on the SOTA website, has lots more detailed information about
avalanches and other safety matters.
SOTA HISTORY & FIRST ACTIVATIONS - by Tom M1EYP
GI/CA - County Armagh, Northern Ireland
The County Armagh SOTA region in Northern Ireland has been so seldom activated that it is easy enough to list every activator, not just the first! There are several good reasons behind the lack of appeal for potential activators, but as time goes by these are diminishing. Hopefully, therefore, these fine hills in the Ring of Gullion will get more SOTA visitors, which the views from their summits deserve.
GI/CA-001 – Slieve Gullion ------------- 5 (GI0RQK, GI4MWA, G4WSB, M1EYP, M3EYP)
GI/CA-002 – Camlough Mountain ---- 3 (G4WSB, M1EYP, M3EYP)
GI/CA-003 – Carrigatuke --------------- 6 (GI0RQK, M1EYP, M3EYP, GI4MWA, G4WSB)
GI/CA-004 – Croslieve ------------------ 2 (M3EYP, M1EYP)
GI/CA-005 – Tievecrom ---------------- 3 (G4WSB, M1EYP, M3EYP)
So the only summit that has ever been revisited by an activator is Carrigatuke GI/CA-003, by GI SOTA Association Manager Colin GI0RQK. Colin, like his countryman Fred GI4MWA, has activated two of the County Armagh summits. Bill G4WSB visiting in late summer 2010 activated four of them - all bar Croslieve - leaving the door open for Tom M1EYP to claim the first GI/CA activator completion, and Jimmy M3EYP to be the first activator for GI/CA-004.
Why has it taken so long for all County Armagh’s summits to be activated? And a lifetime total of 19 activations at that? Access to the area is good, and it is not a long drive from the comparatively popular GI/AH Antrim Hills and GI/MM Mourne Mountains SOTA regions - which have been activated 76 and 109 times respectively. Four and five times more visits for regions that have two and three times more summits. Remove the impact of the 2010 SOTA tourists and there remains just four activations of County Armagh summits!
The answers are complex, and to a certain extent lie in the troubled political history of Northern Ireland. South Armagh, in which all the County Armagh summits lie, was once the most militarised region in Western Europe. It was sometimes nicknamed “Bandit County”. The local stronghold of support for the IRA was contrasted with the heavy presence of the British military in this sensitive border region.
In terms of access and feasibility of activating the county’s SOTA summits, problems were twofold. Some summits were inaccessible due to the presence of the British Army bases there. Others were accessible - but visitors were dissuaded from leaving their cars in car parks that were notorious for theft and vandalism. Even Slieve Gullion GI/CA-001 - the highest point in County Armagh and one of only two CA hills to have been activated prior to 2010 - was reported to have criminal gangs operating along its forest drive, stealing cars or breaking into them. The favourite for most was therefore Carrigatuke GI/CA-003, which was a road right to a car park just a few metres from its summit, enabling activators to keep an eye on their vehicles whilst operating.
But in recent years, as a result of the Good Friday agreement (1998), the British military presence on County Armagh hills has been decommissioned, while at the same time levels of criminal and antisocial behaviour in the area has dropped. The excellent website - http://www.mountainviews.ie - kept interested parties up-to-date on these matters, and summit baggers provided reports of their recent successful expeditions.
Slieve Gullion GI/CA-001, Camlough Mountain GI/CA-002 and Croslieve GI/CA-004 are very fine short walks (less than an hour) that I would recommend to anyone. Tievecrom GI/CA-005 is a tricky and impeded route through steep untamed forestry, but like the others, with splendid views from the summit. Carrigatuke GI/CA-003 is a “drive to” with only a very short non-motorised final approach being necessary. We thoroughly enjoyed them, and further details and photographs may be seen on my website http://tomread.co.uk
The region is sandwiched between the GI/MM Mourne Mountains and EI/IE Ireland East regions, which both have SOTA summits very nearby for those in the area. There are no border checkpoints any more, so movement around the area is easy, and the hospitality on both sides of the border is excellent.
Just one addition this month to the list of faithful dogs who accompany SOTA activators:-
Owner: Dave G4ASA
Remarks: Wheeshie accompanies me on my Irish Expeditions.
THE VIEW FROM THE NORTH 23
This month starts with the Llandudno Rally and our usual long weekend down there.
Thursday 28th Oct, Mynydd y Cwm.
This little summit is a short walk through pretty woodland. Park at SJ079768 and just after the Y fork in the wide track, a worn path on the right leads to the summit. All signs of the tank that used to provide a marker for the path have gone so look for the WORN path and ignore the slight suggestion of a path just a few yards before it. A path joins your path from the left just a few yards beyond a much chewed tall tree stump and further up a second path joins, again from the left at a wooden post with a carved compass rose on it. Remember these two markers for your descent as it is very easy to take the wrong route and although the walk is short it is easy to become lost in the woods as has been proved in the past. Shortly after the carved post the summit glade is reached with its small pile of stones and two small wooden crosses. These commemorate the crew of a Halifax, converted as a freighter after WW2 and flown by an ex RAF crew which hit this hill in 1947 with the loss of all those on board. Radio wise we were reduced to VHF only by time constraints but easily qualified the summit.
Friday 29th Oct, Hollyhead Mountain.
The forecast was for 60mph gales and they were not wrong! This summit is so far west that the mobile phone usually welcomes us to Ireland! We looked at the approach from the South Stacks car park but it was very exposed to the prevailing wind from the sea so we elected for the usual route from the Country Park in the quarry on the inland side of the hill. This is brown signed but at the end of the promenade be sure to turn left just by the sailing club, not the first of the left turns or straight on! On a nice day those not climbing could pass time in the park area with costal paths, bird lake, various ruins and a café (check opening) to explore. The 4x4 track up is quite steep and passes a memorial to an American Liberator crew, all lost in WW2 by flying into North Stack. The memorial is a single propeller blade recovered from the sea. Higher up there are several paths off this track on the left; today we took the first one which gives a longer but more sheltered approach avoiding the short scramble to the summit on the main path. The wind was wicked on the summit and we had to hand hold the antenna and even so had little control of the direction. Again just vhf and a fairly rapid activation. If descending in mist be aware of the quarry edge!
Friday 29th Oct, Mynydd Bodafon.
We were expecting to have the usual ten minute stroll up this tiny summit but had reckoned without the gale now attacking the top. As we crossed by the trig to huddle, battered in the lee of the hill we decided we were not going back that way! A quick vhf activation and a huge struggle to keep the beam up and in the right direction and we dropped down the leeward side of the hill and round back to the car. This would actually make a nice short circular walk for the family on a good day, today was not it!
Saturday and the first day of the Llandudno Rally. This is not the rally it was a few years ago but then which are? Having said that, this year was an improvement on last year, the rally was thoroughly friendly and we had a great day The SOTA presence was second only to Blackpool and we spent the whole day chatting and meeting in person people that we’ve known on the air for ages. Just too many to mention and some we know we missed or did not get enough time with. The friendliness was superb and with support this event can go on to the level of former days. A much more pleasant experience than the recent National event. We eventually escaped at around four o’clock and headed back to our accommodation for a quiet brew and a change of kit before a quick trip up Great Orme.
Saturday 30th Oct, Great Orme.
A short stroll from the car park complete with head lights and torch as we intended to watch the sunset and the lights of the towns coming on from the trig. This truly is a pleasant experience and we must try it in the summer sometime. At least autumn provides a deserted top to play on. Again a vhf only activity but plenty of contacts in spite of the strange hour, descended in the pitch black at about seven o’clock.
Sunday 31st Oct, Tal y Fan.
The worst bit of Tal y Fan is the approach roads. We use the one from Tal y Bont which is the least bad, the gated road from Rowan seems to be deep in grass and the walk from Rowan Youth Hostel is tedious. The roads are all narrow and steep with very few passing places and in autumn are very slippery with fallen leaves; guess that winter is much worse. The summit is always a treat however, even in the thick mist surrounding it today. We missed out HF in the hope that we could get back to the rally but reckoned without the level of support on vhf and so came down far too late for another visit after a super activation.
Monday 1st Nov Moel Gyw, Foel Fenlli, Moel Famau.
These three (VHF only) and back through the rush hour to the radio club meeting in Barrow is always an interesting challenge but we managed it, rolling into the car park at 7.55pm with just five minutes to spare. Does anyone know the source of the distant thunder like noises heard from all three of these hills? Some are obviously from cattle grids but others are more distant and drawn out, maybe trains on a metal bridge?
We are left wondering how Loggerheads (Moel Famau) country park can manage with car parking at £1 per day, Horton in Ribblesdale £2 to 3 whilst Lake District parking starts at about £5.40 (some spots dearer) and due to go up! Beware; always have a kings ransom in coins to hand!
Sunday 7th Nov, Lingmoor Fell.
A little local one today as the forecast has bad weather sweeping in from the north. The path from the Blea Tarn car park (£5.40 if you can’t get done in four hours) has, hardly surprisingly, been quite badly water eroded in the course of the last year. Still totally useable but the damage is quite obvious. This, second highest one pointer in LD is a straight, stiffish climb but very rewarding with plenty of room for HF. All used bands except 5MHz and 70 MHz were in good condition but after a couple of hours the weather was changing, cold and windy with the bad stuff to come visible to the north and we were glad to be back at the car.
The wintry weather has now put snow on the high tops with Shap, Kirkstone and Corney all difficult or closed at times. Radio reports the Helm wind gusting down the side of Great Dun fell and Cross Fell at 90+mph. The Helm is Britains only named wind, caused by cold north easterlies blowing up the relatively gentle easterly slopes of Cross Fell and then forced down the steep westerly slope by the warm air cap just above the summit. Best avoided but take a look at the following for a demo.
In common with most of the population of the north of England we are still coughing and short of breath following the latest cold to go round, its been 4 weeks and counting so far so sorry for the lack of an activation this weekend ( 13-14 Nov)normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!
See some interest in our four metre “beam” on the reflector, it’s very crude. The two metre beam is made from stainless steel welding rods which travel inside the boom which in turn travels inside the staff that is my walking pole. We noticed that the 2m reflector is of a length that will act as a quarter wave on 4m so by carrying one extra element of the same length (no hardship) and fitting these into the dipole centre we have a 4m dipole. The two 2m directors are joined together with a short adaptor and hey presto a crude 2ele for 4m. It does seem to work but no detailed research has been carried out and it is not at its best in a gale. Only one extra piece to carry though so it can’t be all bad.
Sunday 21st Nov Dent.
This little hill is not often activated, mainly due to the long drive involved from the motorway system Even from Walney it’s a one hour drive and that assumes that the Corney Fell road is open (Walney is the best part of an hour from the M6 as well). The hill is the first encountered on the Coast to Coast route from St Bees Head and in the summer is often busy with C to C walking parties. Very quiet today with just the odd local dog walker and an arctic wind out of the north east. The summit shelter us huge but useless, just a pile of stones. We huddled on the leeward side but it was less than warm. Good contacts on all bands used but 10MHz however the summit is severely screened from the Lancashire chasers. Fortunately a fair number of the west coast regulars gave us a shout and it was great to renew old acquaintances. Many of them are screened from our more regular activations and we usually work them on our GD trips. Two and a half hours saw us back down into the welcome shelter of the woods. This hill would make a nice family walk but toddlers would need a bit if carrying.
A quiet week, see some discussion about CW pile ups. Quite like a pileup providing it’s reasonably behaved which SOTA ones invariably are. Worse is the overspill of stations working split, this ensures that they have little QRM on their frequency, it’s all on everyone else’s. Saw a signal on the Softrock display the other day of a guy with the perfect signal for split pileups, two close spaced side frequencies and a carrier all keying together, perfect. Seriously if you don’t want a huge pileup try running qrp, we find that the 817 gives us manageable returns but of course occasionally there are no takers.
Sunday 28th Nov, Arnside Knott.
Woke to deep snow on Walney Island, all of 3mm, the sea close by and the Pennines to the east usually keep us pretty clear, however the MWIS forecast for the north of the lakes was awful and as we had Binsey in mind we decided to give it best and do Arnside Knott for no points instead. This is always a nice little activation, funny how experience tempers opinion, we used to hate it. We set up in the edge of the woods to the east of the trig, sitting on the convenient fallen tree trunk. No great numbers on any band but a pleasant two hour activation with plenty of visitors (it’s just like the War etc). Special thanks to those who braved the contest QRM on 40m. We were treated to superb scenes and sunset on the way down. This little hill would suit a family and indeed anyone able to walk up about half a mile of sloping grass field.
Well that’s it for this month, we can sense Roy waiting in the wings as this is deadline day. The next issue will be after the Great Day so it just remains to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Frohe Weihnachten (being English that’s the total of our languages hihi).
Thanks for all the support, stay safe and take care out there.
73 Rob and Audrey
CW REPORT FOR NOVEMBER 2010 - by Roy G4SSH
The decline in SOTA activity during the month of November was particularly felt by CW chasers, especially towards the end of the month, with many days without any CW Alerts posted and other days with a points total that did not extend into double figures.
To make matters worse, a French QRP/QRQ net has commenced activity on 7032 KHz in the mornings, where members chat for about an hour. They have a perfect right to do this, of course, but it makes life difficult for SOTA activators and chasers. Many activators have been using the higher bands but a wide band multi-tone transmission has been very active on 30m for hours on end, extending from 10118-10125 KHz
Conditions on the HF bands continued to improve. On the 26th November myself and Kevin G0NUP, who lives in the next village, copied Andre F5UKL on 7 MHz, then on 10, 14, 18, 21, 24 and 28 MHz – a remarkable 7 band event, TNX Andre.
A group of amateurs from the Amateur Radio Club of Finland activated OH/JS-016 over the weekend of 27th and 28th and Jaakko OH6FQI was particularly loud on 18088 and 10118 KHz. This was a unique SOTA which had never been previously activated and a unique experience for many in the group who were activating SOTA for the first time. Congratulations to all from grateful chasers.
Heard active above 40m were:-
28 MHz: F5UKL
24 MHz F5UKL
21 MHz: HA6OY, G3NYY, F5UKL
18 MHz: DL4OCE, F5UKL, OH6FQI,
HA5MA, HA5LV, HA7UL,
WA3WSJ, WG0AT, NE1SJ, KI6J, W2VV
DL/HB9AGO, DJ3AX, DL/OE5EEP, DL/OK2QA,
G3RDQ, MM0ROV, G3NYY, G4RQJ,
HA6QR, HA5MA, HA5LV, HA7UL, HA5CQZ,
HB9CGA, HB9DGV, HB9BAB, HB9FBG, HB9AFI, HB9BHW, HB9BIN,
Also thanks to the stalwarts who enthusiastically continue to activate on 80 and 160m:-
3.5 MHz HA6OY, HA6QR, OK9HAG. HA7PO, G3TJE,
1.8 MHz HA6OY, HA6QR, OK1DXK,
A warm welcome is extended to the following newcomers, heard activating SOTA’s for the first time on CW during July:- Max UU4JDD,
Heard active on expeditions outside their own countries were:
DL/HB9AGO, DL/PA0HRM, DL/OK1MCS, DL/OE5EEP, DL/OK4DX, DL/OK2QA,
MOST USED WORDS IN CW - from David M0DYH
I’m learning CW with M0KZB and M0PNN on 144.600 FM 8pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays [the latter being X-Factor escape session] which involves the trans-Wrekin path, as Eric KZB is in Shrewsbury. Fortunately Paul PNN is in Newport , Shrops., and we can “Go round the Wrekin” [G/WB-010] which is the local saying for being indirect or long-winded! I’m enjoying the class a great deal and the tutors are working to get my rubber stamp QSO’s up to scratch for an excursion onto 144 CW soon. A Palm mini paddle is on order though I’m managing with some WW2 Bakelite key and a Kent practice oscillator for now. I’m looking forward to my first SOTA QSO’s on CW which will be after I’ve qualified the hill on phone [ah! relax] and on bands with limited coverage per your recommendations.
I wonder if this resource below is useful for Telford and District ARS CW classes?
Until later on air
73 es SD
As a result of recent comments on the reflector regarding poor discipline on the HF CW bands I have been asked to publish some chasing tips to assist the many newcomers to CW who are now increasing their speed, but who are hesitant about attempting to crack the pile-ups, especially on 7032 KHz.
It is a few years ago since I last published an article on this subject, so I have updated and expanded this advice. This is not intended for experienced chasers, but for the apprehensive newcomer to SOTA chasing on CW who needs some basic ground rules. I will not tell you what to do, but I will explain the methods that work for me and leave it up to you to decide if this will work for you.
TIPS FOR CW SOTA CHASERS (Part 1) by Roy G4SSH
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 most cost-effective choice, by far, is to improve the skill of operator.
Timing is 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) who will call blindly over the top of an existing QSO. This is a result of either poor reception, inexperience, or both.
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.
A typical contact will be:-
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”)
Walt is another experienced activator who will not be rushed. He always closes a contact by sending
QRZ DE G3NYY/P BK
In this case you must wait for Walt to send the final BK before sending your call.
Miro usually closes a contact by sending DE OK1CYC/P QRZ? So you must wait until after the QRZ? before transmitting. In large pile-up’s he occasionally just sends QRZ?
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”, “BK” or the final “?” then the first part of your callsign will not be heard. Many stations do not understand this and will call immediately after the previous chaser sends TU.
It is important to realise that, as a new CW chaser, you will not manage to copy every activation that you can hear. Many SOTA activators use an FT-817 on internal batteries giving around 3w output, so signals from distant European countries are going to be very weak with QSB at times. With a single vertical antenna I am rarely able to copy QRP activators from HA, OK or HB9 during a couple of hours either side of noon and some stations in France and all of the UK are usually inside my skip distance on 40m. This is a fact of life and knowing my limitations allows me to concentrate on SOTA stations with whom I have a reasonable chance of success.
A typical SOTA activation goes through four distinct stages.
- The activator initially calls CQ SOTA and works about 3 or 4 chasers.
- A few minutes later the activator is spotted
- A pile up quickly develops as many chasers react to the spot
- The pile up slowly decreases until all chasers are worked and the activator goes QSY or QRT.
The best time to work the activator is at stage 1, when the frequency is clear, but this involves keeping a constant monitoring watch and is not an option for many chasers. If you have an audio alert you might also just get in and out at stage 2 before the majority arrive. Once the pile-up develops there will be up to 30 stations all calling at the same time, so working the station at stage one can save you a wait of more than 30 minutes.
Stage 3 is the most difficult, when dozens of callers are trying to make the contact and it sounds like an undisciplined rabble, with stations calling over the activator and everyone trying to be the last tail-ender calling. There is no need to panic at this stage, remember that there are no bonus points for being first in the log.
Newcomers should assess the stage of the activation at which they first hear the activator. If you have a typical 100w to a dipole antenna station, (or less) then you are most unlikely to break a pile up of dozens of stations from across Europe using high power and beam antennas.
This is where a knowledge of the activator and their operating habits is invaluable (I will return to this subject in part 2 ). For example, if it is one of the Slovenian or French activators then you can safely go and have a cup of tea because they will call until the frequency is clear and then QSY to a different band and then later return to 40m for final calls, so you are 99% certain to work them with ease in 20 or 30 minutes time. Some activators will remain on a summit for up to 3 hours.
Some CW ops feel that a very narrow filter is essential for CW working, others think they are expensive and a waste of money. It is personal choice. However, whatever your view you must not monitor or search with your CW filter switched in. I never monitor or search for SOTA stations at less than 2 KHz, which can be configured to 4 KHz by using the 2nd receiver in my rig. This means, in effect, that I can monitor 7030-7034 KHz constantly. I will switch to 2 KHz to work an activator because I have more than 50 years experience of reading CW and know that the best filter is between my ears. For very weak QRP stations I will use the DSP or APF control but still keep the bandwidth at 2 KHz because I need the background noise as a fixed base level with which to compare the just-above-noise level whisper of a QRP CW signal and I wish to be aware of the activity of the other chasers. However, if you prefer a filter then bring this into use once you have identified a target activator. However you must be aware that if, for example, you have a 2-point activator isolated on a very narrow filter then you are not going to hear another activator worth 10 points calling CQ SOTA one KHz away, which often happens at weekends.
(To be continued)
CONTESTS DURING DECEMBER 2010
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/bands. This is not a complete list of contests.
4th – 5th 2000-2000 Ukraine DX Contest
11-12th 1600-1600 International Navy contest CW
12th only 0001-2359 SKCC CW Sprint.
18th only 0001-2359 OK DX RTTY contest
18th -19th 1400-1400 Croatian CW contest
26th only 0200-0959 RAEM CW contest
SOTA News is normally published at 1200 UTC on the last day of each month and can only be as interesting as the items submitted. If you think your particular field of interest is not being covered then please submit an article by the 28th of the month. Have you a favourite SOTA? favourite mode? favourite rig, antenna, or favourite band? How did you find your first day / month / year as an activator or chaser? Your comments and experiences will be read by SOTA enthusiasts all across Europe and beyond, in a total of 24 different countries. Your input will be most welcome.
The SOTA News team wish all activators, chasers, SWL’s and their families a very Happy Christmas.
Heard on the air “With the night time temperature falling to minus 10C I might as well leave the fridge door open to warm up the kitchen”
SOTA News Editor
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