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Visiting UK this summer


#1

G’day all. I’m planning a visit to the UK this coming July/August and am looking for some advice regarding SOTA activities over there. Would there be enough chasers around for me to be fairly sure of qualifying a Summit just using 2m/70cm FM? Or would it be smart to have HF as well? Reason being, I don’t really want to carry too much gear with me, though I guess I could put all my eggs in the one basket and bring the FT-817.

I’ll be starting in the south of England (Sussex, my old stamping ground) and travelling north to Scotland, touring there for a couple of weeks, then down through Wales, over to Ireland for a few days (if the timing works), back to Cornwall and finishing off in London. I’m very much looking forward to it as I haven’t been over there for more than 20 years. That’s far too long to go without a pint of King & Barnes, let me tell you.

I’ll probably play SOTA using M/VK2IB/P though my UK callsign (G4LGK) has now been reissued to me so I may blow the dust off that, too.

73

Bernard, VK2IB


#2

It depends on where you are (and probably when) whether a fall-back to HF would be needed. Several allG activators have huge logs on 2m. I think GM7PKT, Robin, does exclusively 2m but he uses ssb as well as FM. M0HGY, Jimmy, has a long record on 2m FM from when he was M6. M6BWA, Viki, has a shorter record but does 70cm FM also. I think both use a water-pipe dipole (SOTAbeams). You might take a look at their logs (and the M1EYP, Tom, blog) to see where they resorted to HF.

Hope there is something useful here.
Best wishes for a good visit and hope to catch you on a hill somewhere.
73,
Rod


#3

Yes pack something simple for HF as VHF can be very limited and goody coming to Cornwall be good also. And also pack or buy over here some good wet protection. HF not brill here at moment be we can hear Scotland well down here from Cornwall being so far apart.

Look forwards making the contacts

Karl 2E0FEH


#4

Using just 2m works (especially with a slim jim or similar antenna) in many places, but generally not along the south coast in my experience,

Also note that if your UK call is valid then you must use it.


#5

Just to put some numbers on VHF activation. I have activated 70% of G summits with 90% using VHF. The trick is:-

  1. Put an alert on SOTA Watch
  2. Use a good antenna, the rubber duck on a handi is not going to hack it. I use a “flowerpot antenna” on a fishing pole at about 4m AGL.

Look on the SOTA database to see how others activated the summit. e.g. https://www.sota.org.uk/Summit/G/DC-007 would mean you will almost certainly need HF whereas https://www.sota.org.uk/Summit/G/LD-001 any old handi will do.

In general the more remote from urban conurbations you are the more likely you will need HF, but for most G/ summits keep the weight down and just use VHF.

73 de Andrew G4VFL


#6

If you absolutely must qualify all the summits, take HF. 2m FM (especially with just a rubber duck) is significantly less reliable than HF and can fail, even in active areas, on occasion.


#7

It can be a feast or a famine on the South Downs. You can be set up with a good 2m portable station and antenna and not receive a single reply. Or you could get 10 in the log with HT and rubber duck. HF back up is recommended down south - and in Scotland.

On the north west summits G/SP , plus regions like G/WB, GW/NW, G/NP, G/LD, you can generally be confident of qualification with a handheld with rubber duck. There are one or two summits in those regions that have poor take off due to being in the shadow of bigger hills, so add a bit of common sense in the planning!

Jimmy was never an M6 though…


#8

I think Tom has it spot on there. The larger summits are generally ok if there are enough people around to hear you (VHF is slightly dead in the UK). A lot of the single point summits may struggle due to other larger surrounding hills, especially further north

My personal experience:-

Southern regions (SE/SC/DC) are really hit and miss on VHF. The take off is generally ok but I’ve struggled many times to get the required 4 contacts. I’ve failed almost as many activations as I’ve succeeded using VHF alone. As other people have said, it depends on the day. Weekends probably stand a greater chance of success.

North & South Pennines & the Lake District have a bit of a VHF following, but remember that other hills may block your signal, so there are summits where VHF just won’t work.

I seem to recall that North Wales wasn’t too bad on VHF (although it’s been several years since I’ve been there).

South Wales seems to have a bit of a VHF chaser following and will generally succeed on VHF. That said, I once did a joint activation of Pen Y Fan (GW/SW-001) with a couple of friends. As there were three of us to carry the kit, we decided to put on a bit of a show and went all out with a fairly large mast, a beam, a suitably large colinear, batteries and an amplifier.

Our signal was definitely getting out as we made two contacts just outside London, one in Epsom & one in Watford (both around 140-150 miles as the crow flies). Then nothing. after around an hour of swinging the beam in all directions whilst calling CQ (on both the beam & the colinear), we had zero replies. We gave up and called the activation a failure!!!

I can’t speak for the other regions as the regions mentioned above are the only regions that I’ve been to.

As people have said, it is possible to qualify most summits on 2m but HF is a more reliable bet if you want to guarantee qualifying the summit.

I’ve used 20m and there are a couple of American stations and a Canadian which often call in.

40m seems to be a favourite for a lot of other European SOTA activators & chasers.

In terms of getting local stations, there is a bit of an HF following across the UK on 80m & 60m. When I’m chasing on HF there always seem to be a few familiar callsigns that pop up.

80m & 60m is probably your best bet, although be careful on 60m as there are additional restrictions which make this band a little confusing to say the least (the RSGB has recommended spot frequencies on it’s website).

My personal view would be to take the 817 (a very versatile rig that can do virtually anything) with antennas for both 2m VHF and an antenna for either 80m or 60m.

60m very popular and is a lot quieter than 80m (much less QRM from other stations). 60m is a good choice if the conditions are right.


#9

Unfortunately if you have a current UK callsign you are only permitted to use that in the UK, if you go over to Ireland that’s a different matter and you could use either or both callsigns.

And as Karl says VHF can be very iffy in Cornwall.

Peter
G1FOA


#10

Is this another of the “new” changes in the guidance document Peter? @g1foa


#11

I’m not sure about that Andy I think it’s a CEPT requirement but I can’t find any reference to it but I remember a post from Ed DD5LP about it.

It was also in a post from a USA callsign holder last year saying that he had now passed his full UK licence exam and had a M callsign and was disappointed that he was not able to his US call.

But I sure we can rely on Ed to pop up and put was all right! (said with tongue in cheek)

Peter G1FOA


#12

Hi Peter, Hi Andy, Hi Bernard.

That is correct if you have a callsign in the country you are visiting, you may no longer use the call sign from another country under the CEPT arrangement.

I’d love to go out portable here as DL/VK2JI/P or DL/G8GLM/P but once I got my German call back a couple of months after moving back to Germany, I had to switch to DD5LP/P.
When I operate in Austria or Switzerland I have the choice or all three call signs, prefixed with the appropraite country letters and slash.
Enjoy your time in “Ol Blighty” I’m sure you’ll rack up lots of contacts. Let me echo what others have said - Some summits will be fine on 2m FM as long as you replace the rubber duck with something better, others wont. HF is your safer bet. An FT-817 or KX2/3 and a linked dipole and 6m mast and you’re set!

Shame you’re only going to be over in July - 21-23 June is Ham Radio in Friedrichshafen - which if you haven’t been to before is quite impressive and very professionally done.

73 Ed


#13

Thanks Ed I thought you’d have the definitive answer.

Peter
G1FOA


#14

Thanks Ed and all who have replied. I didn’t know that about having to use my UK callsign but I guess it does make sense. Also, as VK does not yet have access to 60m, I’d have to use my G call for that band anyway. And the SOTA database will still work out that it was me, and accredit my activator and S2S points regardless of what call I use.

Seems the FT-817 is the way to go. That and a link dipole for HF plus something with a little bit more gain than the standard rubber ducky for 2m/70cm ought to fit in my luggage without pushing me over the weight limit.

Flights are booked, itinerary planning is in hand, I’m on my way :slight_smile:

73

Bernard VK2IB, G4LGK


#15

Hi Bernard,
The laws/rules in the visiting country applies - that means that if for example you were travelling to Germany you could use DL/VK2IB and use to 60 metre band (Germany is one of the many countries now in Europe with the WRC15 5351.5 kHz - 5366.5 kHz band). In the UK you have 60m “vbandlets” (wide channels). Having an antenna for 60m could be a good choice at this point of the Solar Cycle. As regards your FT-817. If it’s “only” an 817 it won’t have 60m capability as standard and even if it is the 817ND, it only has the US channels not the UK “bandlets” or the WRC15 band. So in short, you’ll need to “wide-band” the rig if you want to operate on 60m (if you haven’t already done so).

You are correct as regards the SOTA database - you have the option to enter that you were using a different callsign to the normal one and it will still count to the same total. Under my activators total I have contacts made as DD5LP, VK2JI & G8GLM - as well as a few with other country prefixes such as OE.

73 Ed.


#16

I’ve been able to work 2m FM QSOs easily from several G/LD, G/SP, G/NP, GW/NW summits using 2W from a VX170 handheld to a J-Pole antenna made from 300ohm ribbon feeder and a 5m fishing rod. It’s possible to work using just the handy + rubber duck but you are making things harder.

If you refresh your GB geography, the summits facing the major NW England conurbations of Liverpool-Manchester and their many satellite towns are the places where it’s easiest to get a QSO from a summit on 2m FM.


#17

Hi Bernard,

For sheer numbers of FM contacts, a colinear is probably the most effective antenna, to take up a summit.

However, it takes a bit of patience to assemble, so not everyones cup of tea.

Working with an X-200 or X-300 colinear from the South Pennines, will normally keep Activators busy for quite some time… Especially weekends. A few years ago, G/SP-004 Shining Tor would often produce 200 2m FM contacts on a Saturday. Not tried an activation like that for maybe 6 years, so I’m not too sure if it’s still possible.

GL
Mike
2E0YYY


#18

Yeah, definitely still is possible. I went up there with just a handheld and rubber duck yesterday (Thursday) and made 7 contacts in as many minutes. If sat up there with a colinear on a Saturday, a bumper log would be guaranteed. A simple dipole set up (omni, vertical) would achieve this, and be quick and easy to set up, and very lightweight.


#19

Bernard,
As an improvement over the rubber duck antenna on your HT but not going to the big colinear or even J-pole antenna, a lot of us have the RH-770 antenna - you need to get one with the correct connector - they come with all the common ones and cost less that A$10 shipped from China. This is an antenna built around a telescopic antenna and so is reasonably short for transport but long in operation.

73 Ed.


#20

The time and day of the week make a significant difference to the size of the log!