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First OK activation OK/PL-007

After watching a couple of Sota activation videos with my XYL last week, she finally saw the light and pretty much insisted on trying an activation the very next day.

So yesterday saw our usual hillwalking kit supplemented by way too many Kilos of radio gear… heading for the hills.

Weather in the Sumava mountains can be fickle and yesterday was no exception - Warm spring like conditions at the carpark, and knee deep snow ( in places) at the top (1315m ASL). Sadly our last minute preparations meant we got off to a late start, so that by the time we reached the look out tower at the top, rainy weather had set in.

Because of the WX the OK8GB station was repeatedly dismantled and rebuilt in attempts to find shelter / breaks in the weather, and combined with almost completely dead conditions at the start of the activations, in all it took 5 hrs in the cold and damp to scrape together 5 contacts… But special thanks to Paul M10ITS /m and Neil G4SEN for most enjoyable chats who brought some warmth and humour to a pretty challenging activation.

Take-aways from this activation:
-Access to summit from carpark very straightforward and fairly easy going.

  • 20kg all up weight of my radio rucksack needs to be greatly reduced
  • Tarp and lightweight poles needed to keep wind rain and sun off us during activation
  • Make a link to attach a second 10m wire to the EFHW to give me 40m in addition to 20 and 10m capability
  • logging software installed on an IP68 phone as wet A4 is very frustrating to handle!

AND FINALLY our thanks go out to the youtubers who provided the motivation to get out and have a go:
- My old friend James M0GQC ( Chanel Amateur Radio UK)for his boundless enthusiasm no matter what the chrisis,
- and Fraser MM0EFI ( Chanel Radio Rover) for his slick videos that just make you want to be up there in his beautiful mountains with him!

Guess what… In all we’ll be up on the OK hills again next weekend, but with somewhat lightened kit!

73 de Jon
OK8GB / G6UDE

22 Likes

Well done Jon for pulling that off! Five hours on the summit and carrying a 20kg pack is really tough. I’m sure your next activation will be simpler, lighter and easier in every way.

Thank you for the feedback about my YouTube channel. When I started it, my aim was to encourage and promote SOTA and getting outside. After 50+ videos and just over a year, I’m delighted to hear that I’ve had an positive impact on one person!

73,

Fraser

4 Likes

Hi Fraser, I fear that I’ve unleashed the un-tameable…

Already XYL is complaining that I’ve never taken her to Scotland and that your videos prove how great it will be to take radios up onto some of your hills :wink:

Thanks OM!

73 de

Jon

3 Likes

Excellent! I look forward to meeting you. :rofl:

Fraser

2 Likes

Congratulations on your first activation Jon! Special kudos for toughing it out for 5 hours to get the required contacts! I hope you treated yourself to a glass or two of something nice afterwards! Good luck on the next one, and hope to work you S2S one day!

73 - Matthew, M0JSB

2 Likes

Thanks Matthew.

Yes it was tough, and ordinarily I’d have called it a day after the contacts dried up… Actually I thought I had an equipment fault, but later 59 and 59+ reports tell that conditions were dire.

For sure it’d be great to S2S with you at some time.

Regarding reward for enduring it, my Czech XYL treated herself ( of course)to a bottle of beer, while true to Brit form, I contented myself with a cuppa :wink:

73 de

Jon

2 Likes

Brilliant activation Jon, true SOTA spirit
Ian

2 Likes

Ha ha Ian,

By my reckoning the ascent was 425m plus an additional 90m for a sightseeing detour over a total of 7.5km. That was plenty for these old bones :wink:

Truth is that having dragged that huge load all the way to the top, we were damned if we were going to give up other than for usual caveats of severe weather or the onset of darkness.

73 de

Jon

Excellent. Each to their own! Sounds like you have a very understanding and patient XYL!

1 Like

Hi Jon,

Very impressive! A long walk, a big climb, huge weight of your pack! Respect!

After 9 years of SOTA my view is that the most important factor is the health and safety of the operators. No point attempting the impossible, or something likely to injure you and put you off for ever. A heavy pack can do that.

Next is the antenna. It must be simple, fail safe and foolproof. Easy to erect and must work with your radio every time.

Choice of bands is important if conditions are poor on the higher bands 20/15/10 - you need the option to go lower when there aren’t enough sunspots to allow higher frequencies.

Then there are radios and batteries. 5 watts is sufficient on HF to make the minimum of 4 contacts, unless conditions are really dire and you’ve chosen the wrong band to rely on. Multiband options are very important.

2 AmpHours is sufficient battery capacity for at least an hour of continuous operation with a simple rig like the FT817. With the right band choices and antenna, that’s enough time to make at least 15 contacts and up to 60 if you are a fast operator with proven logging and operating skills.

So many operators carry light and simple equipment and antennas.

For rain and sun protection, some use a sun shelter or even a light tent, but a tarp mounted on several inverted walking poles can do all you need.

Looking forward to reading your reports on subsequent activations, including Scotland!

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2DA

3 Likes

Congratulations to your first SOTA-activation, John!
Have fun with your second activation next weekend - you will see with some improvements it will be even more fun than the first one.

You have already recognized, a 20 kg pack is too much. I wonder what makes your SOTA backpack so heavy? You should easily be able to reduce it to 10 kg or even less.
Adding 40 m to your working bands is also a good idea. Last Sunday 20 m was very poor for portable QRP stations - during my castle-activation I also had only two QSOs on 20 m. But more than 60 QSOs on 40 m.
Another advice: For your activation of OK/PL-007 I have not seen a single spot in SOTAWatch. Having a spot in SOTAWatch attracts a large number of chasers whenever propagation allows. Selfspotting is common practice for SOTA. This should reduce the time for the four QSOs to a few minutes.

73 de Michael, DB7MM

4 Likes

Thanks for the kind advice Andrew,

73 de

Jon

1 Like

Hi Michael,

Thank you for your constructive interest.

If I’m not mistaken, I think we’ve worked each other a couple of times while you’ve been VHF /p during the Czech monthly activity contests, and possibly while I’ve been /p too?? I’ll look at my log tonight to check…

Re the weight, we’re regular hikers in the local hills and carry what we think to be sensible levels of support material with us; and as I mentioned I also operate /p in these same hills a good deal both on HF and VHF, but I do so solo.

For this activation there were a number of issues contributing to my heavy load:

  1. Conditions: At end of winter in these hills particularly when its warm at the start point but rain is expected while there’s still snow on the ground we carry multi layers of insulation and waterproofs. This adds greatly to the bulk.
  2. Sustenance: again climatic consideration if in the hills for eight hours or so as we were on Sunday means food and warm drinks need to be carried, for ourselves and our dog too ( he even has his own multi layer jackets too!)
  3. Radio kit itself weigh in at around 2kg which is OK I think. Because I wanted to ensure my XYL’s first activation attempt was successful I carried a slightly heavier and more powerful rig ( Xiegu G90 max 20w) as well as an extra 6.5ah Lipo and a range of additional to usual guys and supports, which probably added another couple of Kgs.
  4. Finally, my XYL has come through severe health issues and while fully mobile again, she’s not yet up to carrying weight greater than a couple of Kilos, so this means my radio ruck sack is carrying somewhat more than its fair share.

But for sure 20kg was way too much. Given time to prepare for next weekend’s activation It will be interesting to see how much lighter we can make it. Plan is to get onto OK/ST-015 which is a much shorter and easier climb, one that we know very well, and with an operating position that I’ve used many times before. This means I’ll be able to safely reduce what we carry.

You’re right about getting spotted. I’d tried to self spot but that plainly went wrong as there’s nothing showing at all. Hopefuly I get this resolved this next time around :wink:

Gotta go now, but look forward to chatting with you on air sometime soon.

73 de

Jon.

1 Like

Hi again Michael,

Home office today so couldn’t resist looking in the paper log and, yes, we have indeed worked on VHF.

It was September last year I seem to remember quite a nice conversation with you off the back of my beam.

73 de

Jon

Hi Jon,
You are way ahead of me! Let’s hope to work s2s one day.
73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2DA

1 Like

Yes, we had four QSOs during the OK activity contests last year. And guess what: You have been a SOTA/GMA-chaser in all cases without knowing. If you like, you can log these QSOs for SOTA/GMA:
18.4.21, 17.10.21, 21.11.21 DM/BM-345
16.5.21 GMA DA/BM-335

I am missing the September QSO in my log?!

Ok, so the 20 kg were not only SOTA gear. The overall weight sounds reasonable with all the additional stuff.
Once you are confident with SOTA-activating, you will be able to reduce weight of the gear. SOTA rigs like the FT-817, KX2/KX3, Icom IC-705 are around 1 kg and a 2 - 4 Ah battery is fine even for a longer activation.
I have to admit when doing the VHF contests for SOTA as in the QSOs above I also get to the limit what I can carry. An Icom IC-9700, 8,4 + 4,2 Ah LiFePO4, 4 m pole with tripod, 7ele Yagi - so the gear already gets beyond 10 kg. But that’s not regular SOTA.

I prefer spotting with SOTA spotter app for Android. Sometimes this fails because of patchy mobile coverage other other problems. In this case APRS is a nice fallback. I never required spotting via SMS.

Sure, let’s plan for the next OK activity contest on May, 20th. Of course from a summit, again.

73 de Michael, DB7MM

1 Like

Hi Michael,

I think next CZ Activity contest for SSB is 15th May.

The following weekend 21/22 May is 144Mhz May contest with the RSGB first round Backpacker contest of the year taking place on the Sunday. Weather permitting I’ll be up on a hill for this.

73 de

Jon

Hi Jon,

yes, you are right! OK-activity is on May, 15th - I totally missed Sunday, May 1st. Hope to work you again.
Btw: What log program do you use to create the EDI file for the OK activity contest? I struggle with the special scoring with the grid locator multis.

73 de Michael, DB7MM

73 de Michael, DB7MM

CONGRATS JON!!

Ken

Hi Michael,

I do catch-up logging using Minos (http://minos.sourceforge.net), output to EDI, and let the score be calculated automatically after input onto Hlášení VKV-PA Looking at annual scores it seems that you’re not submitting to this……Finding the site in the first place was difficult though, somewhat akin to pulling a UK based 5w VHF SSB signal out of the noise!

Parts ordered for a super lightweight VHF Yagi to take over from my trusted 9Ele Tonna. Also ordered a Sotabeams rotatable pole guy as per MMOEFI’s suggestion. These should see me /p a lot more often this year, so hope to do some VHF S2S with you.

ATB and best 73 de