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1st April - NO-026/027

Having been deeply involved in the gestation of SOTA-France, I was always intending to be there on launch day as an activator. I “booked” my two small summits, not too far from the Tunnel, and added the appropriate alerts to SOTAwatch. The original intention was to have a very leisurely trip, but domestic commitments arose demanding an earlier-than-planned return. As the day approached I noticed that, one after another, the other French activations were being postponed or cancelled due to adverse weather forecasts. Having already purchased my ticket, I decided to stick to the plan anyway. The alarm woke me at 0420, and I was on-the-road shortly afterwards to catch the 0650 Shuttle. There were occasional raindrops on the windscreen from time to time, but nothing serious, although Radio 4’s weather forecast was not sounding encouraging. Having made good time on the virtually empty M23/M25/M26/M20, I arrived ahead of schedule, and was able to catch the 0620. This enabled me to have a quick breakfast (croissant and espresso) upon arrival in France, before joining the autoroute south to Boulogne. Just before the péage I turned onto the N1 towards Abbeville, and, upon reaching Samer, I turned east on minor roads for the last few kilometres to …

F/NO-027 - Mont des Rêveleux. This is a rather uninspiring flat-topped hill, with several “summits” all around the 207m height. As far as I can ascertain, the actual highest point is at a disused and ruined radar site, but pretty well anywhere is within the activation area. I chose a point a few hundred metres north, alongside a large wood festooned with “Privé” signs, and ablaze with a carpet of wild flowers. The field alongside provided my operating position, with the antenna draped across some head-high branches, and the woodland providing shelter from the cool breeze. I had obviously chosen my spot well, as it was already occupied by a large hare who ran off bewildered! Throughout the activation he/she kept returning to watch from a safe distance. My reconnaissance earlier in the week had indicated that I could operate in fairly close proximity to the road, so I was able to set up a larger-than-usual station with my FT-847 and a very heavy leisure battery capable of providing sufficient amp/hours for a sustained 100 watts output. The antenna was tuned by an SGC-237 auto-tuner against an earth spike hammered into the soil.

As always, I started on 7032 CW and was immediately greeted by a large pile-up. The callers were predominantly German, but I found a few French and UK callers too. Surprisingly, the usual Swiss chasers were notable by their absence. Conditions were very changeable, with rapid QSB, but I found 26 callers before the well ran dry. I then moved to 3561 CW in an attempt to reach those chasers too close to hear me on 40m. This was a great success, resulting in another 21 QSOs. By this time I had been active for about ninety minutes, and time was pressing. I announced a QSY to 7 SSB (which was spotted) and attempted to find a clear frequency – not an easy task on a Sunday morning! Perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn’t find any takers to my few CQs on the least-noisy frequency (just below 7080) I could find. Then I tried briefly on 2m SSB, then FM, without any reply. So, I packed up and set off towards …

F/NO-026 Mont Le Communal. This hill at least has a more interesting approach, but is, once again, a very flat-topped summit. The highest point is just over 210m, and can be found in the middle of a set-aside field. I found a spot a metre or so lower, alongside another wild-flower wood, and set up in the same configuration as before. This time the pile-up on 7032 was deafening, and it was hard to pick out individual callsigns. A constant stream of callers, including three summit-to-summit, provided me with 34 stations in the log, before I again moved to 3561. This time there were slightly less takers (15), but they included a few late risers who had missed me on the first summit. With a little time in-hand, I announced a QSY to 7 SSB, and was rewarded with a clear channel around 7055. A couple of CQs produced a reply from a portable station in the west of Ireland, before a loud Italian appeared to prevent any further use of the frequency. Undaunted, I moved to 80m and found 3760 clear. A few CQs there gained me a further seven contacts, including two 2E0s and an M3, but sadly no actual SOTA chasers. There was just time for a couple of speculative calls on 144.300 SSB before packing up and heading for home. I arrived chez-moi just before 3pm with 104 contacts in the log – quite an impressive haul for the first day of SOTA-France.

Apologies to those I missed, especially those who don’t do CW. It was obvious that 40m was never going to be any use, and, once I found that 80m was putting my signal into the right place, I realised that I had not even suggested listening there amongst my announced planned frequencies. Maybe next time.

73 de Les, F/G3VQO/P

In reply to G3VQO:
Hi Les,
thanks great activation.thanks also that my first sota-qso to france is a s2s :wink:

vy 73 Klaus DF2GN/P

In reply to DF2GN:

Hi Les

Your use of 80m was very much appreciated. I found long skip on 40m and was struggling with stations in northern France in the morning. However, you were giving a cracking signal on 80m on both skeds. The extra power makes all the difference on this band.

BCNU 73 Roy G4SSH

In reply to G3VQO:
Hi Les
Your efforts were much appreciated up here near the Arctic Circle (!) - and your sigs were very loud too, especially on 40 where the skip was quite long.
Well done pal!
73 de CRIS
GM4FAM

Quote G3VQO: Undaunted, I moved to 80m and found 3760 clear. A few CQs there gained me a further seven contacts, including two 2E0s and an M3, but sadly no actual SOTA chasers.

Pity we never knew you had gone there as your 80m CW signals were very strong. Congratulations on a successful day under trying propagation conditions. I am very much looking forward to my first SOTA F in the log.

73 Steve GW7AAV
http://gw7aav.googlepages.com

In reply to G3VQO:

Well done Les, I enjoyed reading your activation report.
Thanks a million for both 80m cw contacts. You were a massive signal on both summits, 579 and 599 respectively, your FT-847 and the “big” battery certainly did the job.

vy 73

Mike GW0DSP

Well, the results speak for themselves. Eighty metres is an excellent band for SOTA under current conditions, provided that a) people are expecting you and so are listening, and b) you can run high power.

However, it will not always be possible to activate in this manner. The FT-847 is a lot bigger and heavier than the FT-817, whilst the necessary battery is a real back-breaker. Thus it is impossible to transport the entire station in one move as a solo operator. Therefore the operating site must be adjacent to, and visible from, the parking spot, and the hill must be quiet enough to allow brief perambulations without the risk of gear “growing legs”. This will allow the required several journeys.

Even in the SE region, not many hills fit the category. Off the top of my head I think that Cheriton, Detling and Botley fit the bill, along with the two Isle of Wight summits. Walbury is another possibilty, but may be too busy.

Still, there’s room for experimentation, so, watch this space …

73 de Les, G3VQO

In reply to G3VQO:
Hi Les,

thanks for the 2 80m QSOs and the eQSLs, both greatly appreciated here. 3 F summits in one day (2 of them from you) was a real bonus as I had not intended to spend any time on at all. Another weekend bonus was working GW3RMD/P on Glasgwm as it is one of my 2 ‘first activations’ way back in 2002. It is a pity I missed him on Aran Fawddwy earlier.

Now that SOTA is becoming truly international it is becoming viable again from southern UK. I simply could not hear the vast majority of SOTA activations from the midlands & north as they were on 2m or 70cm FM. It is nice to see so much HF activity on both CW and SSB and the advent of 60m for UK QSOs has been another welcome addition. I had a lapse on SOTA a while back but I am now back interested again. So much so that I am planning a visit to EI in July.

73

BCNU

Mike G4DDL

In reply to G3VQO:
Hi Les,

Well done on a tricky plan that worked out well on the day. I enjoyed reading your report. Very comprehensive.

Keep up the pioneering work,

73, John G4YSS.

In reply to G4DDL:

Hi, Mike et al.

I’m sorry to hear that you struggled to work the 2m fm stations - especially if you were in the Midlands at the time. I suspect that a lot of people have been similarly put off and even from home in Gloucestershire it can be hard work. Some of us still try hard to put out a decent signal on 2m. Gerald G(W)4OIG/P can always be relied upon. I don’t think I’ve ever failed to work him from a Welsh summit. Similarly, there are a number of chasers who are prepared to give it a go. For example, Chris G4DJJ in Yorkshire I have worked from the SC summits. Don G0RQL in Devon I have never failed to work from NW and the Cheltenham chasers are a dedicated VHF lot.

I always check the Kent beacon when I arrive on a summit and it’s always there so signals are getting to Kent - even if there are no replies from that direction. Please don’t give up on VHF. It’s what summits were invented for…

I hope that doesn’t sound too much like preaching.

73, Richard G4ERP

ps I’ll be taking the 70cm beam along this summer and with 35W from the FT857 I hope to have more SSB QSOs on that band.