EA2/NV-161: my first summit in 2015 and goodbye to SOTA

After reading the subject of this article, you could think that I’m retiring from SOTA. No no!! I have nothing in my mind so far away than that…

Then what? What is saying goodbye to SOTA is the summit I activated today.
Starting on February the 1st, a new version of the EA2 Association reference manual is going to be introduced. This improved version includes some summits that are removed from SOTA (they don’t meet all criteria) as well as the introduction of some new ones (uniques!!).

To be honest I spent the morning at home doing some of my normal duties (Sota-chasing, washing machine, food preparation, exam correction…) and I didn’t even considered activating SOTA today. After chasing EA2IF/P in his every-Saturday-activation of EA2/NV-119 in VHF, he confirmed all summits around were covered in snow.
Yes, the weather has been so bad, raining continuously since the last 2 days…

But then, unexpectedly, my daughter asked me to carry her to the basketball match in the afternoon. The match was scheduled in a court not far from the summit of Miravalles. I remembered this was one of the summits planned to be removed and I said to myself: why not? It was snowing, much better than if it was raining, and therefore I quickly packed everything and got ready for a farewell activation of this summit.

I planned to do a very short activation, both because of the weather and also because I had to pick my daughter after her match. I wasn’t sure that I could reach the summit depending on the cummulated snow on the paths and therefore I didn’t add any alert in Sotawatch.

As we drove down to the court the snow started to drop. After leaving the court, I drove a bit more to the next village and parked.

I started walking and since the beginning a fresh layer of snow covered the path. There was light enought and I walked for about 20 minutes to reach a big cross on top of the summit. Some 150 meter ahead there is an old castle in ruins, but I opted to stay and start assemblying the antenna near the cross.

Here you see a picture taken during the ascent (sorry for the poor quality):

I was happy I had taken two umbrellas with me: one was used to protect my rucksack with the radio gear while I deployed the wire using a fishpole. I used the rucksack cover to avoid the rig getting wet on the ground as you can see in the picture.

Then I sat by the radio and used the second umbrella while activating. Every now and then I had to shake the umbrella because the layer of snow on it was getting bigger!

I first logged a couple of locals in VHF and then switched to 20m SSB. After 10 minutes with few chasers I gave 20m CW a try but againg few callers were added in the log.
After some minutes calling in CW without a reply I looked at the clock and decided to go QRT. I didn’t want to get down in the darkness and I was already at nightfall. There were 15 in the log in the end. Seems not many active chasers on Saturday afternoon…

I packed back again, lighted my head torch and left the summit. On the way down the nice view of the village lighted between the frozen trees was really beautiful.

Good bye Miravalles summit. I have performed my first 2015 activation and soon will be back in action again.
VY 73 es CU Ignacio


Hi Ignacio
Nice report and nice pictures (especially that last one). I always recommend putting an alert up, even if you’re not sure if you’ll make it, there’s enough of us who simply have the radio on and will tune around to see if you made it and then spot you. Without an alert no one knows you might get out to the summit.

73 Ed.

Thanks for the tip Ed, you’re right, next time I’ll add the alert, maybe explaining that it is weather depending…
For sure it will help to let potential chasers be monitoring the bands.

VY 73

In some occasions, I didn’t raise an alert in advance because I was not certain about neither reaching a summit nor the start time of the operation, so I raised the alert with my smartphone from the very summit and just a few seconds before CQing. This is IMHO better than raising a selfspot, particularly on CW, as the RBNs pick your CQ call up and then you get an immediate spot thanks to KU6J. Then you’ll get the same if you change band, which you wouldn’t have if you had just selfspotted but no alert had been raised.
This, obviously doesn’t work the same on phone modes, but, as you well pointed, an alert might well be good to have some chasers looking for you on the usual frequencies.
Thanks for the last activation of this disappearing SOTA and the 2 QSOs we had (FM and CW).
Best 73 de Guru - EA2IF

Hi Guru,

If you have cell and Internet access from the summit, as you can say you can post an alert when you are about to activate … but the various smart phone and web browser based alerting tools look at the spots not the alerts page, so unless someone is constantly looking at the alert page, they wont know you are there.

The RBN feature is great, but as you say, no good if you are using a phone or digital mode OR if you are making a VHF, UHF or SHF activation.

73 Ed.

Eric’s RBN engine looks at the alerts page every 5mins or so to build up the knowledge of which summits should be coming on air. If it sees an alert and then sees a CQ for the call in the alert it will spot the CQ (other checks have to pass). If it sees a spot from the activator (with ot without an alert) it will continue to spot changes in frequency of > 1kHz for up to 2hrs(?) after the spot or alert and each subsequent spot from the activator resets the timeout.

This works fine for CW but, as you say, there is no reliable datamodes or SSB/FM auto spotting system. I don’t think adding datamode support is hard, it just needs people to run some datamode software on the subbands and to feed the data to RBN itself. There maybe more to do however. Voice modes automatic spotting is a whole different kettle of fish!

You may be able to leverage the D-star (and whatever Yaesu’s system is called) repeater network. Most of those repeaters are networked and if I remember correctly, you can query the repeater for a list of calls it has heard. If you have a suitable handy then when you get to your summit, you fire up the digital repeater. If you have something running at home that can query the repeater heard list every few minutes and when it sees your call in the list knows to send a spot for you. It’s a base to build on and IMHO adds value to the repeater network. YMMV :wink:

Thanks for the correction Andy. That RBN engine is very, very useful in that case. As you say, it “ought” to be technically possible to extend it to data modes such as PSK31 or JT65 etc. It may even be possible to extend it to digital audio modes such as FreeDV as it has a data channel within it’s envelope. However any extension would need a lot of coding work I expect and possibly other costs.

RBN is also only HF isn’t it? i.e. CW on 23cm would not be spotted and alerted.

Smartphone apps such as SOTA Goat and Rucksack Radio tool only alert the user when a spot comes up, so (getting back to the original point) I still feel posting an alert for an intended (even if only provisional) activation is a good thing to do, a day or more before the day, and then either self spot (SSB/FM/VHF) or RBN spot when active.

73 Ed.

(addition to original ost):

P.S. the D-Star or Yaesu (or P25, DMR etc. etc.) repeaters should only be listening on their input frequencies which as a SOTA activation we shouldn’t be operating on. I think FreeDV at the moment is the only Digital audio mode that should be used on the HF bands as the others such as D-Star are far too wide - FreeDV is 1.5 KHz wide half that of SSB - anyway that’s a whole different topic.