SOTA NEWS MARCH 2010
EDITORIAL – by Roy G4SSH
Welcome to the March 2010 edition of SOTA News. My thanks go to the following contributors:- Barry GM4TOE, Les G3VQO, Mike GW0DSP Phil G4OBK, Rob and Audrey G4RJQ, Franz ON9CBQ and Peter ON4UP.
The coldest and most severe winter for more than 30 years continued throughout the month of February with very few SOTA activations during weekdays and only a modest increase at weekends. Many attempts were cancelled or abandoned, with chasers being grateful to the few hardy souls who did manage to get on the air.
FROM THE SOTA MANAGEMENT TEAM
THREE NEW ASSOCIATIONS.
Although SOTA continues to grow at a respectable rate, a quick glance at Europe reveals some obvious gaps. Our normal policy is to wait until a resident of each country steps forward to take on the task of creating a local SOTA Association. This is a sensible policy for those entities with significant mountainous areas, as local knowledge is a useful ingredient in both the research and promotion of SOTA in such places.
But what of the smaller, or relatively-flat, countries in our midst? It is unlikely that such places will have a significant tradition of hill-topping radio amateurs, although they may produce the occasional, very keen, chaser. We feel that, in such cases, it is impracticable to await indigenous interest, when keen visitors from across the border can do so much more to raise SOTA-awareness locally during their activations.
With this in mind, we have approved three new Associations. Although the Association Managers are not resident within their Associations, they do have an affinity with the country. It is, of course, our hope that, as interest in SOTA increases, a genuinely-resident AM can be found for each of these Associations.
Our first newcomer is the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which becomes active on 1st March 2010. Our thanks go to Walter DK1BN and Hardy DF6PW, both well-known callsigns in the SOTA pile-ups, for their work in creating SOTA-Luxembourg. There are just four valid summits available, according to the P100 prominence parameter, but their proximity to neighbouring countries should mean that they appear fairly frequently on the air.
One month later, on 1st April 2010, Denmark will join the SOTA family. This time the instigator is Mario DC7CCC, who also holds the Danish callsign OZ7CCC. This time there are twelve available summits, again according to the P100 parameter. Four of these summits are on islands which are valid for IOTA, so activating these should attract a fair amount of attention.
The third new Association is Malta, which also becomes live on 1st April 2010. This Mediterranean archipelago is a popular holiday destination where Les G3VQO holds a reciprocal licence as 9H3VQ. There are just two P150 summits to be found, one on the main island of Malta, and the other on the neighbouring island of Gozo. Neither are particularly challenging, being a gentle stroll from the nearest bus stop, but the views are excellent. It is our hope that having another adjacent SOTA Association may prove a catalyst for renewed interest in Italy.
SOTA Management Team
SOTA AWARDS FOR FEBRUARY 2010 By Barry GM4TOE - SOTA Awards Manager
The weather has had a most dramatic effect – or could it be the current economic climate – just two claims for awards this month! Congratulations to Roy G0SLR on his Shack Sloth and to Peter ONL5923 (also better known perhaps as ON3WAB) on 5000 SWL points. The SWL award is not claimed all that often although Tom, M1EYP, maintains the records separately from the SOTA database – any other claimants out there?
Our present awards are printed onto a standard blank certificate. It has been suggested that some differentiation between the different awards is made (e.g. colour or typeface variations). Do any of you have any strong views on this?
Remember the new awards – Mountain Hunter and Mountain Explorer – are now available to be claimed and are quite different to the existing certificates.
I am planning another order for SOTA shirts and need to place the order soon if they are to be available at upcoming rallies. If you lust after one of these quality shirts could you please email me as soon as possible with the details of what you would like so I can make sure I have stock of what is required? Incidentally, I have been asked about other SOTA merchandise (e.g. flags and badges) – if you have any suitable ideas please let me know.
The following awards were claimed during February:
G0SLR Roy Lisle Shack Sloth
G0SLR Roy Lisle 1000 points
ONL5923 Peter Destoop 5000 points
This winter has been most dramatic, with temperatures down to -18C here in the village, although as I write this, it is snowing heavily and that bodes badly for avalanche risks on the hills. There have been a number of fatalities this season due to avalanche and walking over cornices, please don’t become a statistic.
That’s it for this month, stay safe on the hills.
Barry Horning GM4TOE - SOTA Awards Manager
SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF “ON” WINTER TOUR - by Franz & Peter
On Saturday 20 February we had the fourth and last part of our ON Winter SOTA Tour of this year. We have managed to activate all the ON summits with a winter bonus in 1 year.
But, the most important part of our activations are of course our chasers. Who were our most loyal chasers during our joint activations this time?
On the 10th place, 4 stations: G6LKB, 9A7W, ON7RN and IK1GPG with 8 contacts
On the 6th place, G0TRB with 9 contacts
On the 5th place, 3 stations: G3OHC, G4WSB and G0TDM with 10 contacts
On the 2nd place, G0RQL with 11 contacts
And our most loyal chaser of our ON Winter SOTA Tour 2010 is … Steve GM7UAU with 12 contacts!
Thanks to all the chasers for the 632 contacts we could make!
Link to our latest Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnZkbzFF2q4
Franz ON9CBQ and Peter ON4UP
Congratulations also to G6LKB on becoming the latest to achieve the prestigious accolade of being a Super Sloth with 10,000 Chaser points. Perhaps he will appear in the Awards list next month.
2nd SOTA SLOVENIAN WINTER ACTIVTY WEEKEND 6th-8th FEBRUARY
This was a considerable success, with at least 17 stations active, in spite of high winds in Slovenia during the weekend,
Stations spotted were:
CW S53XX, S57X, S57XX, S58R
FM S50TA, S51AJJ, S51RU, S51ZJ, S53NW, S55SZM S56IAA, S56KM, S56IHX, S56LXN, S57AX, S57MB, S57MS, S59MT.
Many thanks to Association Manager Rado S58R and the S5 activators
A DISASTROUS DAY IN THE DALES - 22nd FEB – By Phil G4OBK
I still need to activate nine unique Northern Pennine summits to finish them off.
The easiest summit, distance wise to get to, was Dodd Fell G/NP-016 which lies close to the Pennine Way. As this summit is up a dead end road leading to Cam Houses it was not practical to pair it up with any other “new ones” on a winter bonus day due to the lack of daylight, so I decided to activate Birks Fell G/NP-031 again first. The harsh winter since Christmas had meant several missed opportunities when possible activating days were spent chasing, simply due to weather conditions.
I left Pickering at 5.50am reaching Buckden 70 miles away at 07.30z, so I was walking by 07.45z and on the summit of Birks Fell an hour later. My plan was to start on 160m as I was carrying a 10m HD fishing pole which meant my pack was heavier than usual. I had lightened my load by carrying some new LiPo batteries though, how I wish I hadn’t! I climbed up via Redmire Farm, through the woodland and continued up the moor by following the wall from grid ref SD929774 over Low Combe Stoop to where the walls meet at SD918764. The snow got progressively deeper and on top it was 6 inches deep but with drifts of 2 feet against the walls. In a temperature of -3c I kicked out a place in the snow to set up against the stone wall, switched on the FT-857 and nothing, it would not power up. I tried the other LiPO. Nothing. My 2m VX-170 would have been useful and I would have qualified the summit with it, but that was back at home. After phoning G4SSH to notify waiting chasers that the activation was cancelled I packed up and returned to the car. I had a 7 AH SLAB battery back at the car and sure enough this proved that the new LiPo cells had failed in the bitterly cold conditions.
This meant that Dodd Fell NP-016 was still on with the SLAB, so I drove through Langstrothdale and then up Oughtershaw Road - a well used route from Buckden to Hawes. It was well gritted and easily passable. At the junction SD860846 I turned left down the dead end road to Cam Houses to park at Kidhow Gate from where it was then an easy 1.25m walk with 300 feet of ascent to NP-016. The road did not look too bad, however within half a mile the snow worsened and I was stuck. Whilst I had traction the car had “bellied out” on the snow and came to a stop. I couldn’t free it and the traction control on the Vauxhall (which I can’t turn off) seemed to hinder rather than help. There was little weight on the front wheels due to the snow under the car lifting the front end. The only solution was to ring my recovery company who agreed to send someone out, saying that I may get billed for this as I would not be covered under the terms of the policy. The bill is awaited and then I will argue the point as a long time customer…They told me they had no agents in the Dales National Park and that a company called Macadams from Ingleton were on their way.
In the meantime after spending some time looking at Dodd Fell NP-016 a short distance away to my right across Bank Gill, I left my vehicle to get a signal on my mobile. It was when I was telephoning Roy G4SSH to let concerned chasers know that I was OK, I noticed another vehicle stuck further back towards the junction. I walked down and with the help of another motorist we got that vehicle out. While this was happening the snow was starting to blow off the moor creating more drifting along the road that I had to return along!
The recovery vehicle. a Suzuki Vitari on road tyres, arrived over two hours later. He had in fact come from Macadams in Colne, over 40 miles away. After digging out some more snow the driver hooked up his heavy strap and succeeded in skewing his Suzuki sideways! He couldn’t budge my Vauxhall. Further digging and another try, this time by giving my vehicle quite a tug this time we shifted her. Then it was a case of unhooking the strap and reversing in the wheel tracks of the Suzuki for a half mile back to the sanctuary of the tarmac at the T junction. We needed to use the strap twice more to extricate my car out of the drifts but we made it eventually.
You live and learn, and I made a mistake - I had the time to walk from that junction, as it is only two miles from there to Kidhow Gate, so I should have parked up on good tarmac and walked in. On Birks Fell when I was let down by the LiPo cells, if I had carried my handheld I could have qualified and gained my 7 points, another error. I was carrying my rucksac special and intended using it on 2m with the FT-857. I would like to place on record my thank’s to Roy G4SSH for his support and to Geoff G6MZX for offering to turn out from Thornton in Craven in his Land rover to get me out of the mess I was in. Nevertheless, I will return and activate these two summits as soon as it is safe to do so.
CW FROM CYPRUS by Roy G4SSH
I shall again be active from the Larnaca District of the Republic of Cyprus using the call 5B / G0OOO on Thursday 25th March (and possibly Friday 26th March) around 14055 KHz 0900-1100 UTC
Although not on a SOTA, I shall be especially listening out for newcomers to CW and will be happy to reply at their speed and give them perhaps a first DX contact on CW.
In previous years I have generated quite a pile-up of callers and I am happy to call you if you want a contact, in which case please e-mail me before the 18th March, but the above times are the only ones when I shall be on the air, being convenient to my host 5B4AHA. Last year I was contacted by many chasers seeking a 5B call.
A special QSL card will be available via the Buro, or direct.
SCOTLAND 2010 - by Mike GW0DSP
Mike GM(W)0DSP managed to activate four summits on his recent trip to southern Scotland.
The following report is from Mike:-
During our recent trip to Scotland, the poor weather conditions down the west coast of the GM/SS area of the country played a big part on this trip, with any combination of either rain, snow or sleet combined with gale force winds making our activity each day difficult and somewhat uncomfortable. This forced Steve GM1INK and I to change our plan of attack and limit our activity to just one summit per day. We decided to activate the summits on a hit and run basis during any breaks in the bad weather. Due to the WX conditions we had no other option than to stick with the smaller 1 point summits.
My equipment for the trip was the Yaesu FT-817 @ 5 watts into a linked dipole, the 817 was powered by 2 X 11.1v 4000mAh 15c 3 cell LiPo batteries. I have used these batteries for approximately 6 months now and would highly recommend them.
I would like to offer my thanks to the chasers for their usual valued support on 40/30m - CW. I found that inter G propagation on 40m was pretty good every day whereas 30m was very poor all week with just three stations worked on that band. I would like to offer a special thank you to John G4WSX, Michael DJ5AV, F5SQA and Friedrich DL1FU who managed to work me on every summit. Most of the usual DXCC’s were worked, but a particularly pleasing contact for me was with Elan, 4Z4UN (Israel) who I worked from Brown Carrick Hill, GM/SS-260.
THE VIEW FROM THE NORTH 14. – By Rob and Audrey G4RQJ
Straight into action this month and a change of plan as the hills we were fancying had already been alerted. This is one of the few snags of living close to the summits and posting at the last minute having looked at the latest weather. A minor problem, they’ll be there another day, so it’s off to Whitfell.
Sunday 31st Jan Whitfell.
Corney Fell road is open so up to the small car parking space (6 cars) at the high point of the road which is still very icy. Warning to visitors, this single track road with passing places carries fast commuter traffic around shift change times at the Sellafield
Power station, just pull in and let them go. Walk takes about one and a half hours. Head up toward the gap between Paddy End and Kinmont Buckbarrow, keeping to the Paddy End side at first then crossing to the other side at the boulder field below Kinmont Buckbarrow. Head now for a rock outcrop in the valley at the foot of Burnmoor, this is very boggy ground but today it is frozen solid. At the outcrop bear right to contour Burnmoor and arrive at the final climb to the summit of Whitfell.
The summit shelter is a strange shape, little use on most of our visits and the rocks around it can be slippery on a good day. A nice longer walk for a fit family on a good day. All bands are good but the cold gets to us after about two hours. (It gets to my cw much earlier). Back at the car and there’s a message under the wiper, oh no we’ve upset the farmer or someone we think but it’s just a note from the son and daughter in law on their way over the pass to Whitehaven. The ice has all melted making the trip down much more pleasant.
Tom’s query of Holm/Holme Fell brought us to thinking of old maps etc. Audrey always buys old tourist/walking guides when she sees them. They make interesting reading (the prices they quote are amazing) and they often have old maps of areas. Our Ward Lock guide to the Lake District is the 24th edition from around 1945 judging from the adverts it contains but the maps in it claim to be from Ordinance Survey and are clearly much older. Guess they were a little busy in the years immediately proceeding publication. These show Holme Fell for what it’s worth.
Sunday 7th Feb. The Mells
Found Little Mell to be under cloud, rain and a biting cold easterly wind. This hill only takes 20min from the road but is a steep grass ascent. No shelter on top so we decided against HF, sorry. VHF contacts from here are not easy so we were pleased with the help from the Penrith Mafia.
Great Mell was much better and we had to shed a layer on the climb. Lots of activity from here, on all bands and again thanks to John in Penrith for the help.
Could have sworn we saw a reflector request for Lake District holiday information but can’t seem to find it to reply. LD can be a difficult place to get around if you’re not familiar with it and places that look close together are sometimes a long way apart by road. Walney to Keswick as an example looks quick but will take you a good hour and a half. Try getting from Honister to Wasdale Head by road; it’s probably quicker to walk! If we can help at all with this sort of info just drop us an E mail. robandaud at tiscali.co.uk (remove spaces etc).
Sunday 14th Lords Seat.
If you’re thinking of doing this one from Whinlatter Forest park be prepared for a total activation time of less than four hours or shell out £6.50 for parking, a rise of £2 since last year. Getting done in less time can knock £1.50 off this but it takes us about an hour up and the same down and with a two hour activation leaves little margin for error. As the stated aim of the forestry people is to get folk out and enjoying the countryside how come it only costs £1 odd to stay for an hour or so, then get back on the road under petrol power? Maybe they spend more in the gift shop! The walk, mainly wooded is pleasant in spite of poor visibility and some small patches of snow on the track, dead calm on the top but no sign of the forecast “blue clear day”, in fact not much sign of anything except fog.
All bands are OK but 7 MHz CW is rendered impossible by an RTTY contest spread down as far as 7.020. Not keen on contests personally but guess they do have a part in the hobby. Just wish the organisers would specify a frequency range taking note of band plans and require the contestants to log operating frequency. Then, I guess, band plans are not international or compulsory. Today many SOTA regulars revert to 10MHz so all is not lost. A family stand behind us for most of the CW activation and when we finish the chap asks if what we are doing is to do with birds. This made us think that we must sound odd if you do not recognise CW as we only exchange the odd spoken “559?” etc between us whilst sitting on the hill for about half an hour. As we’ve been talking to friends of course it makes the question sound very strange.
Sunday 21st Non Starter.
We are all set to go out, forecast is reasonable, Audrey gets up, makes flasks and sandwiches, then opens the curtains to find lots of snow on the ground and still falling heavily. Radio reports all roads bad locally. Here on the Furness Peninsula we see very little snow and driving in it is not an exact science, if troubled braking use the car in front! We decide to stay home, drink the tea in bed and eat the sandwiches for lunch, sorry for the no show.
Nice to hear quite a few new CW activators in the past few days. Heard Ian MM0MXW/P with lovely CW at about 10wpm but had to feel sorry for him as the pile up was rather unruly and the skip was landing him with half of Europe and most of G at the same time. Just a solid tone here when he was being called. Decided not to add to his problems by joining in but well done Ian and also the other new starters. Funnily enough it seems easier to pick a call sign out of a pile up at various speeds than when they are all thundering along at 12wpm. Do others find this?
See that the winter bonus discussion is with us again. Personal opinion is that it’s about right. When you’re in your 60’s (late 60’s in my case, Rob) facing the elements to a summit and activating it for a couple of hours can be a very exhilarating and rewarding experience, winter bonus or not. Just remember the words of the song “Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”
Take care and catch you soon.
Rob and Audrey
CW REPORT FOR FEBRUARY 2010 - by Roy G4SSH
CW SOTA activations were very few and far between during the month, with chasers being grateful for the few SOTA points on offer and big pile-ups of stations desperate for the precious points when an activator did appear.
Cross-border expeditions were heard from DL/LX1NO, DL/HB9BAB, OE/DF3MC and DL/HB9CMI.
The higher bands continued to improve with Feri HA7UL giving a great signal with his new FT-857 on 14058 KHz, along with Vlado Z35M and Panos SV1COX. Feri is one of the few stations to commence operations on the 20m band before dropping down to 30m and 40m.
10 MHz was well used, by:-
DL/LX1NO, DF3MC, DC7CCC,
F5UKL, F6ENO, OK1DDQ,
G4ERP, GM0DSP, G4RJQ, G3NYY, M1EYP, M0ROV, MM0FMF,
OE5EEP, , OE/DF3MC
S51ZJ, S51RU, S53XX, S57XX,
Rick M0RCP, Tom M1EYP, Sean M0GIA, Peter GW3TJE and Zoli F/HA5CQZ were giving good signals on the much under-used 80m CW band. Propagation favoured short-skip towards the end of the month with 80m, 40m and even 30m allowing contacts between stations within their own countries.
Contests and the occasional SSTV transmission swamped out 7032 KHz on some occasions during the month but most activators managed to make themselves heard by using 30m or self-spotting lower down the band. Slavko S53XX activated on 7026 on the 14th and Zoli HA5CQZ used 7028 KHz.
CONTESTS DURING MARCH 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
6th-7th 0001-2359 ARRL International SSB DX contest
7th Mar 0700-1100 UBA CW DX Contest
7th only 0800-1200 Ukraine RTTY contest
13th only 1400-2000 AGCW CW QRP contest
14th only 0001-2359 SKCC CW sprint
13-14th 10000-1000 RSGB Commonwealth (BERU) contest
13th-14th 1600-1600 EA PSK31 contest
20-22rd 0200-0200 BARTG HF RTTY contest
20-21st 1200-1200 Russian CW and SSB contest
27th-28th 0001-2359 CQ World-wide WPX SSB contest (severe disruption)
SOTA News is published around noon UTC on the last day of the 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 25th 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, and your input will be most welcome.
SOTA News editor