I got my license 2 years ago, but thought I’d have to wait a few years to afford an HF rig. Plus my wife gave me two options: I could put an antenna up at our home and buy her a new house, or buy myself a new house and put my antenna there. It’s nice to have options. Then I discovered SOTA and the inexpensive CW options. I bought an app for my phone and started learning Morse Code at 5wpm. Thankfully I saw some videos that recommended starting at 20wpm with Farnsworth spacing. I used www.LCWO.net to advance through the characters, W1AW code practice files, and Morse Runner to gain practice with a pileup. I highly recommend Morse Runner to gain confidence for a real QSO. When I first started the program I realized I knew exactly one speed, one tone, one transmission at a time, and no noise. Even the slower speeds threw me off at first.
Last week I was elated to successfully activate W5N/SI-023! It was my first activation, my first CW activation, and the first activation for that summit. The excursion took 9 hours instead of 6 like I estimated. There is no defined trail most of the way.
I of course made a few mistakes:
My antenna fell partway through - lesson learned that I need to crank my telescoping mast tighter for the wind on the peak.
Someone sent their call sign, and I echoed it back. They sent it again, and I echoed it back again. In my head I was thinking why don’t they continue with the typical data. It wasn’t until later that I realized I was the activator and they were waiting on me.
I wrote down a call sign that ended in K. My poor scratch looked like an H. When he resent the call sign I saw it as a K. When I transmitted it back though, I kept sending H. Some of that was nerves, some of it bad penmanship that I’ll have to correct.
I found everyone absolutely friendly and tolerant of my inexperience. That’s the point I wanted to make for anyone else considering an activation - do all you can to get ready then go for it.
I also combined the SOTA excursion with my other hobby, geocaching, earning 9 smiley faces on the way back. I think they’re a perfect combination. The SOTA peak is near the bottom center of this picture.
I bought a nice carrying case for my equipment, but found it was too heavy. In the end I wrapped bubble wrap around my paddles and radio, securing it was the paddle leg strap, then threw it and the battery into my backpack.
One last item of interest, when I built the QCX kit I was short a capacitor. Fortunately I found one locally just before the lockdown closed the store. Later I found the sneaky little devil:
Hint: Look inside the earphone jack.