Mechi chal - subzero activation

As a complete contrast to lovely conditions present on my last winter sports activation of Snezhanka a few days ago, the weather today was around -12 degC on the summit of Mechi chal, not taking into account the windchill. I did manage to get a couple of photos of the communications hardware present on a hut near the summit.

This time round - in contrast to my activation last year which resulting in me having to scale pylons to get an antenna in the air - the 10m compact travel mast was setup right on the top of the summit, around 50m from the top of the chairlift.

The reusable cable tie that I use to attach the dipole centre to the SOTABeams pole snapped, brittle with the temperature. The dry bag I keep the radio in was uncharacteristically crunchy too. The setup and drop of the SOTABeams quad-bander was possible almost completely with thick gloves on - a testament to the thought put into the design of this excellent antenna.

On 20m I found massive interference above 14.275 Mhz forcing me to use a lower frequency. Initially I didn’t have internet access so tried to use the UK SMS gateway and suspected this wasn’t going to work (due to general issues calling back to the UK), but it may have as RN3QN came back to my call fairly quickly. He offered to add a spot in the cluster but as that happened I had +20 QRM 1khz up forcing me to find a new frequency. This brought in four more contacts in about 10 minutes. I linked for 40m as there were a few S2S opportunities but none were found and I gave up soon after as I could feel the cold penetrating. My phone battery went from 70% to 0% shutdown within 10 minutes of being left in the cold!

Not sparkling radio - I had higher hopes given the low K-index that conditions would be better than a few days ago, but I was glad to get enough contacts to qualify the summit. By the time I was back on the ski bus I already had an eQSL confirmation from shortwave listener Anatoly US-M-125 who had heard me working @SA4BLM.

Date: 24/Feb/2019 Summit: LZ/RO-023 (Mechi chal) Call Used: LZ/M0NOM/P Points: 8 Bonus: 3

Time Call Band Mode Notes
11:51z RN3QN 14MHz SSB Thx for SOTA chase from LZ/RO-023
11:59z F1RYW 14MHz SSB Thx for SOTA chase from LZ/RO-023
11:59z OK1SDE 14MHz SSB Thx for SOTA chase from LZ/RO-023
12:01z HB9AGH 14MHz SSB Thx for SOTA chase from LZ/RO-023
12:02z SA4BLM 14MHz SSB Thx for SOTA chase from LZ/RO-023

Thanks to the chasers, sorry I wasn’t able to work more. All photos here.

Regards, Mark.


Well done Mark, welcome to my world! I try to avoid -12C if I can but sub-zero at this time of year, especially with wind-chill, is normal. Variable cell coverage as well (which is why I have a phone with 2 SIM cards, each on a different network).
Sorry I missed your spots. I probably wouldn’t have heard you on 20m but if you’d got onto 40m that would have been easy from here.

By the way, your SMS spot did get through:

73 Ed.

Thanks Ed for letting me know about the spot, and for the useful information. I now try to listen to the signs in my body that I’m getting too cold. On one of my very first SOTA activations I was so excited by the radio that I got very cold and really struggled to get going again. Caution is always the best policy. I was originally going to activate this summit on Saturday but the winds were much stronger and it would have definitely made it a very unpleasant experience.

On 40m I was also getting interference which I think was spread much more across the band, on a quick scan I struggled to find any discernable amateur radio signals so I suspect that was being generated locally.

Regards Mark M0NOM

ABSOLUTELY - Safety first! My last activation, last Thursday I packed up when I found I was so cold that I was starting to shake - a warning sign there! On that summit however it was a short walk back to the car and warmth.

73 Ed.