I recently got my foundation license because a friend told me about SOTA. I’ve been tromping around the Yorkshire Dales for a few years but have never done amateur radio before. Chasing is a challenge for me due to space constraints in my flat, so I plan to dive right in to activating. I have a cheapo Baofeng HT with the stock whip and a nice second-hand HF rig. I’m planning on activating G/NP-029 this week as an easy trial run and equipment test. Is VHF/UHF the way to go for beginners? Are there many chasers listening on weekdays?
Welcome to SOTA. I think you should be able to qualify on Sharp Haw with a 2m handheld as there are usually several chasers listening within range. To maximise your chances of success make sure you put up an alert and if you can get a phone signal a spot before you transmit. Even if you cannot get a signal on your phone usually a chaser will happily spot you. However, a better aerial and/or an amplifier will increase the SOTA haul!
I got licensed at RADARS in Ripon but never got into SOTA whilst I was living in England. My advice is to get on HF as soon as possible, you will be much less likely to miss your points when calling on HF. The solar cycle is also on the up and up, so there is a good chance you will work some nice DX contacts in the coming years, even on relatively low power. If you want to minimise the weight you carry up the hill, then learining CW is the way to go. I much prefer activating in CW compared to SSB. Half an hour’s practice every day and you will be on the air before you know it. Good luck.
73 de M0FEU/OE6FEG
It is very unlikely that you would fail to qualify, even just with a 2m handheld and rubber duck from Sharp Haw G/NP-029. HF backup might be advisable for the Devon summits, though I activated all these on 2m FM too.
Thanks to everyone chasing me today! It was nerve-wracking getting on air for the first time so I appreciated everyone’s patience. I didn’t have much of a pile-up and didn’t know how long to wait for more calls, so sorry if I left anyone hanging. I tried to hop onto 40m to get a summit-to-summit with the Swiss activators but didn’t feel confident enough with the reception quality to dive into their pileups. Chasing seems way more stressful than activating to me, it was hard to get a handle on the rhythm.
I definitely had reception issues with the HT, although I’m not sure whether it was the rubber duck, or forgetting that I had the squelch set to ‘3’. In any case, thanks to @G4JNN for the VHF QSO–good to know the cheapo Baofeng actually works! I’m ordering a new antenna today, even the knock-off RH770’s have to be an improvement.
CW is definitely an ambition of mine, I’m working my way through LCWO at 15 WPM. I’ve set a goal to have a CW QSO by next summer. It’s hard enough trying to copy at home, with noise-cancelling headphones and warm hands, it’s incredible yall can do it on the summits!
An Elecraft KX2 with a Sotabeams mast and linked dipole. I, uhh, dove right in to the deep end. As my wife would say, I’ve been “buying my feelings” during lockdown…
Yeah, HF really saved me today, I’ll definitely be bringing the rig every outing now. Thank you for the QSO!
Glad to hear you’re biting the bullet with CW. The one program I found the biggest help was this site:
I know it costs money, but trust me, it works. It’s never too soon to swap over to this method, even if you don’t know the whole alphabet. By using that site and the Morse Runner software, you could be on the air a lot sooner than you think!
I hummed and haahed about Morse DX for a long time. Believe me, taking out a subscription was the best move I ever made.
Brilliant, thanks, I’ve been considering an actual online tuition system. LCWO is nice but I’ve restarted twice since I was convinced I was “doing it wrong”–Farnsworth only confused me when I tried to use correct spacing, and I’ve had to slow down with Koch to match my writing speed. I’ve nothing else to do during second lockdown so this looks worth a try.
It’s actually easier. Where you’re the SOTA activator, YOU are the DX, and all the chasers fall into line with your speed and operating style. OK there are times when it can get a little rowdy and ill-disciplined, but as the DX you can simply QSY and start again under your own terms.
Don’t bother with writing. Typing enables you to make the connections in your brain more effectively - if you already instinctively know you way around a computer keyboard. JustLearnMorseCode and RuFZ.xp are both very good for this.
Bring that way forward. Don’t consider a CW SOTA activation as something to do after you’ve reached a certain standard. Consider it as part of the training process to get you there. Trust me on this - start doing CW SOTA activations next week at whatever speed you like, and the rate of your progress will go off the scale compared to plugging away on home online training programmes (which you could still do as well of course).
Matt Thanks for the link to Morse DX. I learned morse to pass a test copying 5 letter blocks of code which had to be written down and until now I was completly stuck if I didn’t write it down - so starting to make progress with not writing everything down…It feels like I am attempting to re-write some significant mental code… Will I manage an activation … possibly but will try harder with chasing first!
Ken I only have a few NP summits to complete, hopefully will manage a s2s soon. Should be out when and if it seems reasonable to travel without playing the eye test card.
My advice is, practice hard with Morse Runner and avoid 7 MHz until you’re fairly confident. The upper bands are usually not so chaotic, although that will change in the coming years. There’s no law says you have to activate on 40m. A Bluetooth keyboard will make logging easier and quicker. We’re very lucky speaking English, it makes it easy to use Morse DX. German speakers are not so fortunate.
73 de OE6FEG