Hopefully I’m in the right subject header. I usually check the ‘Solar Data’ app from dstarcomms to determine what the bands are like. When I’ve checked they’re usually the same as the RSGB site. Today and last week they gave 80m - 40m and 30m - 20m as poor. Last week I cancelled the day out as I didn’t see much point, I climbed a hill recently and got no QSO’s. A tad disheartening. Nevertheless today I needed out and did Meall nan Coarach GM/SS-104. I had 5 QSO’s on 17m and I thought I’d give 40m a go. Popped down and got about another 10 yet the conditions were defined as poor. Is it the app or just local conditions for me?
I had a few calls where I didn’t pick up the callsign (c/s) of the hunter or was unable to. One was a summit to summit. Now in my opinion I shouldn’t try to clarify who hunted me today (not even sure I could do that), get the right c/s and then add the QSO. To me we didn’t achieve 2-way comms or did so insufficiently. I just feel bad because one was a v weak S2S. Any thoughts?

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Hi Paul,

About the conditions: When I started with SOTA, after a long ham radio break, I also studied all kind of solar data. It can be helpful, but IMHO they are less reliable than a bad weather prediction :wink:. Of course it’s nice to have an SFI >200, as it is now. When I started with SOTA it was mostly below 85! So, in general, I don’t care anymore about the data, since I never had a problem to get enough contacts when using HF.

If you’re activating during the week and later in the afternoon, there are generally less chasers and other activators.
But not making at least four contacts is a bit strange, except there was an ionospheric disturbance. I assume you spotted. Did you listen on the bands, and if so, what did you hear? How long did you try?

I mainly use the same TRX as you do, usually together with my resonant 7-band EFHW. I see you use a T1 tuner, and from zooming into the image, it seems it’s directly connected to the antenna.

Maybe you had some sort of cable failure? I experienced that with a radiator wire, which I quickly realized, because I DON’T use a tuner. Good that I had a backup antenna.

Maybe somebody else has a better explanation?

73 Stephan


Yesterday I activated Buckden Pike G/NP-009. As you say, the solar data on the qrz.com homepage showed 30-20m as poor during the day. I had 27 QSOs on 30m and 10 on 20m. Signals were strong and my QRP was clearly being picked up well. So I would suggest ignoring the solar data because it might put you off when conditions are absolutely great for SOTA. Perhaps Poor just means you’re unlikely to get DX but into Europe is just fine. As it is I did get USA on 20m.

Last week I struggled with very few QSOs on 30m or 20m. The geomagnetic K index was zero so I couldn’t explain why. Then I checked my rig and realised there was a fault which I have now fixed so as Stephan says check your gear.

I took part in the EU/VK S2S event in October. I almost didn’t go out as the predicted geomagnetic K index was 5 and I thought that would kill 20m. I did go and I am glad I did as I had many S2S with VK.


Plus one for Stephan and Richard’s advice Paul. I don’t bother checking the solar predictions for a general activation. The best test is what you can actually achieve with the equipment you have in the location you’ve chosen. The only time I do look at the predictions is if I’m chasing specific DX (VK or N America for example), then I try to calculate (guess) which bands are most likely to be successful.
Sorry I missed you


Thanks everyone, Solar Data app to be ignored in future.

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I rarely look at the predictions for condx when planning for an activation. In six years, I had some failed activations, but none was due to condx. On weekends, checking for contests seems much more important for me.

Unless there will be a major contest during my activation, I always start on 40m and will stay on the frequency until I will have at least 4 QSOs. This has turned out to be the most reliable approach. Even QRM and QRN will not make me QSY, because you typically cause more confusion among chasers (lag for updated RBN spots etc.).

Just my 2 cts
73 de Martin, DK3IT


I sometimes have a look on Stopwatch to see where everyone else is (40/20/17 etc…) to decide which band to start on. I almost always carry a 2m handheld which I use with a J Pole so if HF isn’t playing I can still usually qualify. It is worth knowing a bit about conditions, when I started SOTA about 5 yrs ago with low solar activity 80m was best for inter G and 40 was mostly Europe rather than inter G, now I don’t take the 80m linked dipole and I start on 40… 73. Paul


At this stage of the solar cycle you are virutally guaranteed good inter-G & close EU propagation on 40m during the day, unless there’s an incoming CME from a solar flare or coronal hole. These are easily checked on sites such as spaceweather.com or solarham.net before you set off.


I think we tend to forget the wide dynamic range we have on hf. By that i mean that we can tolerate quite substantial reductions in signal propagation before it makes contacts impossible. So the solar and magnetic conditions could be predicted to be poor, meaning a reduction in signal strengths. But if we have s7 signals in good conditions, that may mean they will be s5 in poor conditions. We can work with that, whereas a casual short wave listener may not, with rediced signal to noise ratios, an AM signal from a distant transmitter may become uncomfortably noisy if its signal was reduced by 2 s points.

So I tend to regard the predictions as indicating reductions in signal strengths, rather than suggesting I won’t make any contacts at all.

Maybe that is something to consider.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2DA


I’ve also learned the QRZ predictions are not reliable.

The website I have found useful is Propquest:

Clicking the"DB049 Dourbes" box seems to get the best graphs.

This is useful for 20m and higher bands. In my experience if it says a band isn’t working then it is right.


Jim, G3YLA, set the default to Dourbes a good few weeks ago when the Chilton and Fairford Ionosondes went off line. I note that they came back part way through today, so I suspect he will reset it to Chilton. Dourbes is in Belgium so the other two are more relevant to the UK, although it has given us a good indication of things in their absence.

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Which frequency you use also depends on the time of day - as that has a big factor in propagation…



I use Propquest ( PROPquest | Graphs ) on a daily basis to see where the 3000km MUF is at (i.e. what is the maximum frequency usable locally at the moment). It has been an advantage to me that the default was changed to Dourbes on Propquest as it gives the closest aproximation to what is happening in Central Europe. As Dave says, The Fairford and Chilton Ionosondes are more relevant for the UK and once working again reliably I’m sure Jim will set one of them back to being the default displayed.
There are many, many Ionosondes around the world and the individual ones can be accessed directly via this site - DIDBase Station list - however the graphs given there are for a chosen point in time. Jim Bacon G3YLA’s site indicates the trends of the various readings over the day so far. On Propquest, as well as the “Today” page - the “NVIS” page is valuable for those wishing to check the critical frequency and fxl to know when shorter range (i.e. within the UK) NVIS contacts may be possible and on which band.
For those interested in DX contacts - the 15 minutes updated worldwide MUF map at https://prop.kc2g.com/ is very useful - remember your signal will not get through if the MUF is below the frequency you are using at ANY point along the path of the signal (long or short path).

Generalised propagation predictions, such as from VOACAP and other sites, are like terrestrial weather predictions - correct only part of the time. They are only a guide based on statistics.
The near-real-time space weather sites mentioned above are likely to give you a better idea of what to expect on a particular band at a particular time if you are heading out portable. Watch them the previous day and “hope” there are no major hic-cups on the sun to mess up your activation!

73 Ed DD5LP.


As it’s winter here and too cold or windy to stay on a summit very long I always start on 30m as that is usually guaranteed to get all around Europe, often including the UK. I quite often add 20m or look for S2S on 40m. After a switch to 2m FM I will then try to do a higher band such as 10, 12 or 15m if I’m not too cold - usually I have the right clothing to stay warm but my toes start to get cold. This week 10m got North Macedonia, Greece and USA which I am happy with considering my rig only outputs 3W on 10m.


Any thoughts on recording people who, in my opinion, we didn’t get a complete QSO with?

I think you’ve answered your own question Paul. Unfortunately it’s the one that got away and topic for a nice beer in front of a warm fire in your local :wink:


Hi Paul, That’s their problem, not yours. It once caused me anxiety but not now.

As far as propogation goes, I do take a cursory glance at sfi and k index before I head off. If I’m just after my 4 hf contacts for points, i know I’ll generally get than on 40 m or 20 m. Always good for a quick activation or on a multi-summit day.

For something more exotic - ie should I bother packing my 10 m vertical or 15 m delta loop, then I’d spend more time examining conditions and also the time of day to go.

I’ve only come unstuck twice on HF. One time, with three contacts and a dead band, I had to call a friend by phone to go out to his car and call me on 2 m. I was on Morrone and he lived at the bottom, in Braemar!

The other time was when @GW4BML Ben and I did a long day out in the high Cairngorms. An X class solar flare caused a complete blackout and we struggled on our final summit. Something at the back of my brain told me that the higher bands come back first, so we went onto 20 m and shared the mic pulling in super chasers @F4WBN and @SA4BLM and a couple of 2 m FM contacts to scrape over the line!

Those are the ones you remember!


Well Paul,
This is a conundrum because the chasers also want a valid QSO. There are a couple of tools at your disposal. To make a valid QSO you must be able to identify the caller and pass over a little information, signal report etc.
If perhaps one letter has foxed you, 10 minutes on QRZ may narrow the field to only Sota minded people. Similarly, after you have submitted your log you can access “who caled me” and “who called my summit”. 24 hrs later the solution may be here. in this way you can correct your errors.
I think that is within the spirit of Sota but accuracy is what we radio ops should strive for: “First time, every time”.

You will then have to delete your log and re-submit the correction.

At the time of the QSO, I suggest not moving on until 99% of the doubt has been eliminated as to who you have worked. slow down perhaps. When logging, I write the call down, I only draw a circle of confirmation round it when I am satisfied that it is scribed correctly.


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Until you are faced with horizontal driving sleet, a wet and disintegrating log sheet and someone causing QRM on the frequency. Nevertheless, even in benign conditions we can all have inadequacies in our logging. Yesterday I worked SM5CBN, I knew I had worked SM5CBN, but my paper log said SM7. That was probably caused by the S7 reports both ways. Strange how these things can happen.


You’re correct to discount any QSO where you didn’t exchange callsigns and reports. If you doubt it was a good QSO then you don’t log it.

As for HF predictions. Well they’re a prediction so can be wrong or less accurate. You’ll find that HF conditions as far North as where we are can differ a lot from 500miles South and they change as you go further North still. And finally just like you need to learn to understand a weather forecast, you need to learn to understand propagation forecasts.

As for your summit, Meall nan Coarach GM/SS-104, it’s a fabulous little hill. My Winter activation of it started with it at -11C at the car and it was probably still that cold when I got to the top even though the Sun was rising in a similar sky. Almost no snow, just hard frozen ground.

No snow, but hard frozen ground. Loch Freuchie (in the distance) was completely frozen over. I can’t believe that was 15 years ago.