It comes from the fact that the scheme has become more international and the SOTA community has spread!! That last comment makes me seems a bit xenophobic, but by all means please understand that I think the spread and development of SOTA is amazing and fantastic!!
However as a VHF advocate it just means you have to plan your activations in great detail.
Look at where you’re activating, are you within reach of cities where idle FM users will be? Having said that I find myself using FM less now, favouring the digital voice modes for their crisp clarity and VOIP options!
What day of the week are you going out on? Weekends seem to guarantee 2m FM and SSB contacts, however Tuesday afternoons seem harder!! However if you co-ordinate your activations with VHF/UHF contests, then you’ll easily work loads of stations.
Not sure there’s that much of a change since 5 years ago John. There’s a definite change since 13 years ago though. In those days of course, us G1/M1/G7 stations were restricted to VHF and there was plenty of us involved. In the meantime, granting us access to the HF bands without a morse requirement has certainly encouraged many to “broaden their horizons”.
The best system IMO for 2m FM is an omnidirectional antenna on top of a SOTA Pole. Mickey 2E0YYY uses this to great effect, and when I witnessed it I recommended it to Jimmy who loves his 2m FM. An MFD was promptly purchased from SOTAbeams as well as a guying kit. Using this set-up, Jimmy gets the sort of results you describe from “5 years ago” still on a regular basis.
Whenever I nip onto 2m in an activation I find I am into double-figures of VHF contacts pretty quickly, so I don’t think there’s any demise as such.
There certainly is quite a lot less 2m activity in general than there was a few years ago.
If I’m in the shack then I usually have the FT817 on 144.300 SSB and my TMD-700 on 145.500 FM and what used to be quite an active local FM frequency - I think for most of the last week I’ve heard perhaps a maximum of 6 people appear on those frequencies in any day.
I recall working a number of stations on 2m FM or SSB on Summits quite regularly at weekends a few years ago, but the number of those in the last couple of years does seem to have dwindled - I know part of the reason for that is because the people I worked have surpassed MG status and are either out much less frequently (if at all) or are operating from more distant locations that I don’t hear.
Yesterday I heard a couple of weak stations on the frequency you were spotted on GW/NW-042 but I couldn’t hear you (I have worked that summit on 2m FM at least once before and loads of times on 2m SSB). I don’t think I heard anything on 2m SSB until the RSGB contest started at 1400 and even then from what I heard it was not exactly busy.
If we take the number of activators recorded in any year as a rough equivalent of activity, and use the database to find the numbers of activators using 2 metre FM in England, then we get the following:
First requisite as a chaser. Be in your shack. Second use a decent antenna if you are a chaser. Third if you haven’t got a decent antenna and don’t like wasting your time wait until the callers subside and then call the activator if you can hear him/her. .
As an activator - 2m is not dead if you are an activator in the right place with the right gear. Activated 4 summits today in the North Pennines using 2m FM and worked 67 stations. Not using an handie of course, why set yourself up to fail? For guaranteed success you need some grunt. 40 watts output from a cheap 2m mobile radio to a dipole at 4m AGL is what I use these days. We haven’t all migrated to HF. Horses for courses is the key to success, some of use various parts of the spectrum and different modes depending on where we are and how long we want to spend on cold windy summits suffering.
Good luck and welcome back to SOTA!
PS I’ve tried using a beam on 2m FM years since but find it too much of a faff carrying it and keeping it airborne and pointing in the right direction. They are also rather awkard to clamp to a thin fishing pole without crushing the pole in.
I have one… Wide open for all sorts of pager noise, and probably lots of other things too.
S9+ noise constantly driving within 3 miles of the hospital in Swindon just off the A419/M4, (mind you, everything seems to show up S9+) lots of similar pager noise driving up and down the M5 between the M50 and Cheltenham too.
I did chase a SOTA summit from it in the week before Christmas whilst mobile, so not all bad
An adjustable squelch (with a knob… ooh err…) wouldn’t go amiss, far too much hassle trying to change it in the menu from the mic.
I don’t do a lot of 2m FM, but did a bit after the VHF contest today. It was easy peasy. 13 contacts in 13 minutes. I could have gone on and made a load more, but it was getting very cold, very windy and very dark, and I wanted to go home for my tea. But I can safely conclude that rumours of 2m FM’s demise are well wide of the mark. If anything, it is easier and more active than in those so-called “golden days” of SOTA 5/10 years ago.
Before that, it was the 4th and final session of the RSGB Xmas Cumulatives. Today’s results in that were:
Local variations, perhaps. Two is very dead here right now, all repeater channels and simplex channels quiet, one weak FM station on 144.900, and I am beaming from one end along the long axis of a conurbation of 2.44 million inhabitants.
Yes, but have you made any calls Brian? 2m was quiet here just before I called “CQ SOTA” on 145.500MHz. Suddenly everyone was calling.
I can’t help but suspect all the grumbling is from people who sit in the shack all day long monitoring the 2m FM simplex and repeater frequencies waiting to hear something - but never put a call out themselves! That’s not aimed at you Brian; I’m sure you understand the generic point I’m making.