JA/NI-021 : 10 hours and 0 QSO

Well, I guess it is like fishing, it is bound to happen sooner or later. Somehow I always find activating in Europe a lot easier than in Japan for some reason. I originally thought it was because Japanese stations were shy to answer a foreigner even with a Japanese call sign but I saw on the same day a JM8 station struggling to get enough QSOs to activate his summit as well. I did get spotted on 20m but right away (like 2 seconds) after being spotted a QRO station out of New Caledonia comes on the QRG and crushes me… Oh well it was not meant to be. I got to the summit too late as well and did not have enough time to persevere and that is only my fault. We left the summit at sunset and got to the car as night was falling. Very tricky snow conditions (super heavy mud like consistence) and tons of trees/bushes made the hike and the riding down very challenging. In normal conditions this summit should take 3 hours but it took us slightly more than 6 to reach the summit. Boy am I glad I was carrying all my radio gear :wink: . Thankfully the views made the whole thing still worth it.

On the way up after a fresh layer of snow:

Bunny tracks:

The easy part ends, the bushwhacking starts:

Ok, we’re finally on the ridge:

Nearby summits come into view:

Summiting under a slight cloud cover, will the solar panel be enough?

Chris happy to have reached the summit. Naeba-san (JA/NI-005) in the background, Tashiro/Kagura ski resort in the foreground:

Somebody forgot his sunscreen lotion:

The sun is setting, time to go back. Sennokura at 2023m on the left (not a SOTA for some reason) and Tairappyo on the right:

Long shadows. Makihatayama chain on the left, Shigekuradake on the right (near SOTA Tanigawadake) :

1Mio+ hams in Japan, where were they on wednesday? :wink:

I should have stayed there:



Hi Arnaud,

Lovely photos… What antenna were you using on 20m?

Andrew VK1DA

Hi Andrew,

Thanks. It is just an extended Buddistick vertical with a few extra elements and some guy wires to keep the whole thing from toppling over.


Hi Arnaud,

Conditions have not been “normal” on HF recently, but I would suggest having a wire antenna with you as an alternative to the loaded whip. I have seen some disappointing results from Buddisticks, I don’t know whether they depend on a particular type of radial system or really good earths to work well. An alternative for 20m is a 5m wire vertical without any loading coil which fits easily on a 7m telescopic fibreglass fishing pole, plus radials and does work well. With poor radio conditions you need the best antenna you can carry.

I don’t know how you climb in snow and ice carrying a pack full of radio gear. I am full of admiration for such feats. I hope it goes better for contacts next time.

Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

Hi Andrew,

Yes, I agree about HF conditions, they have not been the best recently. Buddisticks are very basic short light antennas so I extended it a little bit. At the end of the day it is just a vertical, some days I do not even use the coil. I just make my antenna as close to resonant on the band I use and then off I go. I only use the T1 last to tune if necessary but I try to lengthen or shorten my antenna first before tunning. Simple dipoles are an elegant solution because they are usually light but they are pre-cut for a band. If you want to work multiple bands then either you need a few and change dipole everytime or you have to tune heavily.

I have played around with a few antennas in the field including buddipole, buddistick, various verticals, ATAS25, etc… So far I think the ATAS 25 that my friend Thierry F4EGG uses is the best compromise when it comes to weight and performance, so maybe I’ll see what I do. I have activated quite a few summits with good results with my current set-up so I will keep experimenting but I appreciate the suggestions.

When using antennas in the field, so many things come into play, it is quite fascinating. When I started doing SOTA for example, I learnt how the ground humidity evolving throughout the day impacted the SWR. I had no clue before that.

As for carrying such a heavy load into the mountains, when you come back with zero QSO you do feel a little bit foolish. That being said, if I had had more time I would have had enough QSOs to activate without a doubt. In this case, being in a rush was my ennemy.


Hi Arnaud san,

Thanks for beautiful photos.

Sennokura at 2023m on the left (not a SOTA for some reason) and Tairappyo on the right

Sennokura is listed as a summit of Gunma Pref. (GM-010).
Yes, I can understand what you say.
Japanese climber sometimes cannot accept the result of mapping algorithm.
I climbed Mt. Sennokura at the age of 16 as a member of my high school alpine club,
because it was the highest mountain in that area between JA1 and JA0.
Anyway we recognize Sennokura and Tairappyo as mountains of Niigata pref…


Hello Arnaud san,

thanks for sharing your lovely pictures and detailed story. What a pity you didn’t get any qso after such an effort!

I wish you will get succesful activation soon. I support the advise of moving towards wire antennas.
Many commercial antennas for portable like ATAS-25 etc are a lot more heavy than wire, and it is better to avoid loading coils to get better performance when in QRP.

I had the ATAS-25 before and since I am using wire on a cheap telescopic fishpole I get more contacts and better reports.

Look forward your next expedition and let me wish you all the best in your climbs.
Take care on hills and look forward your next pictures.
73 de Ignacio

Hi Jun-san,

Thank you, I did not realize that the summit had been allocated to Gunma :slight_smile: Now it makes sense, at least they are in the SOTA database. Originally I thought that the summit had been forgotten but I thought it was not a big deal since sorting out the Japanese mountains was such a gigantic effort and the database had just been created. But now that I know it has been allocated to the Gunma region then it makes sense. I think now that it has been allocated to Gunma it will be hard to put those summits that belong to Niigata back in there. I think they only update the DB once a year and there are tons of work to be done, including updating the names. I am happy to see that Mantaro is also in there.

I normally climb Tairappyo once or twice every winter except for this year. Now I know I can bring my radio equipment next time I go there. The problem is that the summit gets really wind-blasted by artic winds and it must be really tough to operate a radio from the summit in these conditions…

I can see you know all these mountains very well Jun-san, it is good to have you on the forums!


Hi Ignacio,

Thank you for the feedback and suggestions. My antenna set-up is very light actually. Many people have suggested dipoles with fishing rods indeed. I am actually a fisherman as well, and a long fishing is not very light especially if you want a long one. If you want a long and cheap rod then it is going to be heavy for sure. That being said, I have not compared a dipole + fishing rod vs my set-up. I will have to weigh my antenna to see what it comes out as.

Regarding the dipoles, do you carry a pre-cut dipole for each band? I am just curious since I have never tried operating this way. Also, how do you get your fishing rod to stand upright? Do you use some guy lines? I operate a lot from very rocky summits in the F/AM region in the summer and I am wondering if that would be a problem?


Hi Arnaud san!

Thank you for your comment.
I think SOTA DB is basically that for foreign game players.
Most of people in Japan respect some mountains in the area because a kind of god is living in each mountain and built a shrine at the foot.
So the summit should be allocated to the shrine and its local county.
For instance, all of us know Mt. Hakusan (GI-007) is a mountain of Ishikawa pref. maybe IS-001.
But I can accept SOTA DB is that for foreign players.


Hello Arnaud-san,

Antennas… :sweat_smile: that’s the question! A never ending topic we can find in most of our forum entries.

If you perform a search in the SOTA forum you wll find lots of interesting information.
Let me reply with my modest opinion, although others could contribute with other thoughts

Your Buddistick is a good antenna for 20m and up. Robust, don’t need a Tuner and it’s not too heavy. But the coil in the base reduce some of its efficiency.
Why did I suggest wire? Because it is lightweight, cheap, do it by yourself, and when full lenght elements are used the radiation efficiency improves. All help is welcome when running with 5 watt portable.

Let me summarize the most common wire antennas we can see among SOTA users (sorry for the ones I will omit…):

If you want a monoband antenna:

  • Dipole: cut to a frequency and installed inverted Vee
  • Vertical: frequently a Quarter wave (or Ground plane) with at least 2 elevated radials cut to resonance.
    Another chance is a End Fed Half wave or EFHW plus a transformer in the feed point. Good for DX when installed vertical.

You don’t need a Tuner for any of these resonant single band antennas.

If you want a multiband antenna:

  • Dipole: extended to the lowest frequency of interest and cut in between to create links where you open/close to switch to another band. Instead of links you could also put traps to avoid moving the antenna up and down to manually connect these links.
  • Doublet: dipole of single length (cut to the lowest band of interest) and fed with parallel line, twin line, open line or whatever but coax connected to a Tuner (mandatory in this antenna).
  • Random length vertical plus radials on ground: connected to a Tuner (mandatory)
  • Multiband EFHW: instead of a single lenght of wire you add more wire and place links to open/close and adjust to other bands. Alternatively you can substitute the links by traps (like the ones mentioned for multiband dipoles).

There are more antennas, but I think these above are the most often solutions used within SOTA for a lightweight and easy to install antenna.

If you want to know my choice: I have been using many of them: frequently the Random vertical when I started my Sota activations, but nowadays the multiband EFHW installed as inverted Vee is my current choice.
I am sorry to say I can not assess you on dipoles although many people use them and are very happy.

In most summits here in Spain I find in the very top a trig point made of concrete cilinder, or if missing, some stones piled up, so that I can tie my fishpole there using rope or a cam lock strap.

In some summits there is no trig point and then I use either guy lines with tent spikes (for soft ground) or guy lines fixed with stones (in hard ground).

If you are happy with performance of your Buddistick you don’t need anything else. I use to do joint activations with another activator here who uses a Buddistick and he install it over a simple wood stick to elevate it about 1 meter: he has succesfully activated many summits this way.

Only when you feel you want to experiment with new antennas or you want a bit bigger performance then you can try any of the proposed wire antennas.

Concerning fishpoles, I always use a glass fiber telescopic pole of 5 m long who weights 350 gram. Wire is very light and add not much to it.
A carbon fiber pole is lighter but more expensive and its carbon material can interact a bit more with the wire modifying the radiation. But you, fisherman, are surely more expert than me on that subject.

Anyway, let me suggest you that:

  • read articles in the forum regarding antennas to get skills,
  • see pictures (activation reports) to see what others do and take new ideas,
  • check pictures of the summits you plan to activate to evaluate how to install your antennas in advance, and last
  • don’t get too mad with antennas… There is no magic, perfect or single option. You will probably experiment with many of them along your ham life… And it’s fun to use several different antennas :wink:

Good luck with your activation, and look forward to work you S2S sometime in the future! Take care and best wishes dear Arnaud-san
73 de Ignacio

Hi Ignacio,

Thank you for the detailed reply. I think that as you say different people may have different preferences. I guess it depends on the bands/modes and types of summit a person plan to activate. I am fairly agnostic to the type of system to use, I am just keen to get the more bang for my buck in terms of efficiency/weight ratio.

So far, based on my limited experience activating SOTA summits with various types of verticals, the ATAS 25 seems to have been the most efficient but it does need some sturdy holder like a photographic stand for example which adds to weight. The idea of the dipole is interesting to me given the weight factor. I tend to activate summits that requires a few hours of hiking to get to therefore the low weight of the dipole sounds interesting. I will have to factor in the addition of a fishing pole. Nowadays they make super lightweight ones. I bought a 7m one this summer that was amazingly light but it was most likely in carbon, I’ll have to check on that. It is also not very strong. My son broke it while pulling a large trout out of the current back home…

I think that at the end of the day the proof is in the pudding as our British friends say. Therefore I will test that the same way I have tested various other antennas and factor in the weight and then I will figure out what works best for me. Thanks again for your input!


Hi Jun-san,

Yes, I understand. The SOTA DB for Japan is very young and therefore it is normal to have these issues. The tricky thing with Japan and that it has a huge number of summits and therefore it is easy to make mistakes especially if you are not Japanese. I am still amazed of how quickly they managed to build the database, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the SOTA management team that put it together in such a short amount of time. Like anything new, it is bound to have errors, so I think it would be good if we can help the SOTA team and point out the errors where/when we see them. Over time I am sure that things will improve. I think it would be great if experienced people like you could help with that. Unfortunately for me my knowledge is limited mostly to the Niigata area of Echigo Yuzawa and my Kanji is not up to scratch.

I think that over time errors will get fixed and actual names of the summits will get added, we just have to be patient and be proactively helpful.


Hi Arnaud san,
Good news for you!

This JM8 station was on the air at JA/KN-022 last Saturday and made many QSOs on 6m without speaking Japanese!
The location is not so good in my experience. 6m in JA is basically domestic band in spite of recent improvement in DX condition.
It’s my pleasure many JA stations made contact with him in English.


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Hi Arnaud,

While operating in Brunei as V85DA about 25-27 years ago I worked many JA stations on 6m. In fact I have QSLs for over 200 Japanese cities on 6m. I tried out my rudimentary Japanese on them and most were very polite, even saying my Japanese was sounding good! But one contact I remember was giggling so much he could barely respond, that was the true assessment of my Japanese! So many Japanese operators have very fine English skills that I did try to return the compliment, I think mostly mangling the language horribly, even with “QSO-basics” words.

My first JA contact on 6m from V85 in 1988 was with JG2BRI (Misa I think) and some years later while mobile across the south Australian desert, I worked again the same JG2BRI, who must have a very good 6m station. I did not work any others that time (end of 2004).

I still get QSL requests from the 3 years I was in Brunei. Amazing… One came the other day asking for me to get my log into LOTW. Nearly done…



Hi Jun-san,

That’s encouraging to know that he did many QSOs on 6m in the end! Thanks.


Hi Andrew,

That’s interesting that you mention 6m. I never operate on that band even from my home QTH, maybe I should give it a go one of these days. I think the exchange is fairly standard for a QSO so you just learn a few words and you’re up and running. It is just a matter of the JA stations not being shy and answering. Anyway, if I had had more time I am sure I would have made some QSOs but I was just in too much of a rush. Next time! Good luck woth LOTW and the log covering many years in Brunei!


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Hi Arnaud,
I was the JM8 station that operated on 6metres. This was the 3rd summit I activated in Japan. I did have issues in obtaining my 4 contacts. When I did Mt Hakodate in Hokkaido the first station I spoke to was VK4RF in Queensland Australia. I had to listen on the band and wait for a CQ to obtain my 4 contacts.
When I activated KN022 I had Toru with me. He suggested 6m. I managed 20 odd contacts on this band, very happy.
SOTA in Japan is in its infancy and will take time to grow. Toru is very keen to further promote.

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Hi Brian,

Well done on getting the number of QSOs. You are right that SOTA is in its infancy here and it will take some time to grow. It sounds like 6m is the go-to band here, it looks like I am going to have to change my operating habits. In Europe most of the QSOs are 40m/20m/15m, I do not think many people try on 6m.


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Hi Arnaud,

Interesting thread. I hope you come over again to EU this year. :sunglasses: