My first failed activation!

My first ever failed activation.
I’m relatively new to SOTA and amateur radio in general.
I have before always used my 817 and hyendfed antenna. Very easy and simple set up. Mostly SSB, occasional CW.
I wanted an antenna with a smaller ‘footprint’, so I purchased the Alpha Loop Mag Lipo antenna direct from America.
This was going to my first official summit to use the new antenna.
My summit was May Hill G/WB-019, a local and simple 1 point summit.
I was calling CQ for nearly an hour and not one call. I self spotted but had to do it 3-4 times (embarrassing!) as it was hard to find a clear QRG.
I had run out of time as I had to get back to work and felt very deflated.
The new antenna has fantastic reviews but it can be awkward to tune . I’m hoping that is the reason why no one answered my call.
It was a shame as a family approached me and were really interested in ‘mobile ham radio’ as they called it. To be fair the new mag loop looks impressive too! It would have been great for them to hear some calls but never mind.

I’m going to head out again either Friday or Saturday. Fingers crossed I get better luck next time!

Sorry, Tom, I missed you on 40m and when I found your third spot on 20m tried to hear you; nothing at all. I am very surprised you found no-one at all coming back. Not quite tuned combined with only 5W might mean nothing useful being emitted at all. Perhaps take the EFW as well next time. My personal preference is the linked dipole but it can be a bit anti-social to deploy for 60m, especially with long end-strings.
Good luck on the next one. I might be out in MW on Friday and/or SW on Sunday.
PS - I have had several failed activations - mostly when I was using 2m ssb but there have been some near misses on HF too.

I think MagLoops such as yours are chronically inefficient on 40m and with 5w its a bit of a miracle to get any contacts on that band with a MagLoop. Don’t get me wrong, I think MagLoops are great but possibly better suited to the sun cycle high than the doldrums we are in now.

I activated May Hill a couple of years back and liked the views. My brother can see May Hill from his house which added to the drama for us as he came to.

I also had a failed activation recently on my Swiss trip. It happens, just move one and keep trying!


Nothing heard of you on 40, the band as so often was too long.

I’m with Paul on this… that’s a small loop for 40m. When there’s propagation on 10/12/15m it will be fine. But it will always be heavier than a 10/12/15m 1/4GP and never better.

Andy’s really simple question to ask about physically small antennas: If small / novel antennas work as well as the maker’s claim, why do broadcasters erect massive towers and antennas?


Sorry, I’ll definitely get my coat.

I guess it’s for much the same reason that people drive fast cars. They are usually compensating for inadequacies/inefficiencies elsewhere in the system (small transmitter maybe)!!!

The faster the car (or the bigger the mast) the smaller the…No, wait, let’s not go there!!!

(Cue barrage of abuse from people reading this that have fast sports cars)!!!

I’m not bashing my new antenna. The tuning is very precise so maybe I am rushing it too much.
Last weekend I logged a US station on 20m with the Mag Loop - a country I had never previously logged with my endfed.
Time will tell.
Thanks for the feedback by the way. I really enjoy reading this forum as I learn new things all the time. 73s!

Heard a US station or had a QSO with a US station?

a QSO :slight_smile:

Hi Tom,
don’t get too upset about the failed activation - you’re now a “TRUE SOTA activator” - most of us have had failed activations and it’s often when trying new antennas. What I have found (now after a couple of failed ones) is to take the previously working antenna along as well as a fall back and possibly as a comparison as well.

If everything worked first time we’d never learn anything. I’m sure you’ll get the mag loop working just fine at some stage, you need to know the vageries first. I also have a magnetic loop which I bought because I had heard great things about them. They are good, once you know how to set them up. If you have an antenna analyser that you can take with you on the first couple of test runs, it will help you understand where to set it - then note down or better mark on the antenna itself, where it is resonant on your favourite frequencies and try those settings first on the next trip out (and tweak as needed).

If you are out Friday morning, we might even manage an S2S as all being well as I’ll be up on DL/AM-176. Yes testing a new antenna, but I’ll have the old faithful linked dipole along as well.

73 Ed.

We’ve all failed at some point, in some way, shape, or form. Some failures worse than others.

On the plus side, at least you actually made it to the summit!!!

My first big failure (and probably my most disastrous) was on G/DC-001 (High Willhays), a good few years ago now.

I’m embarrassed to even admit what happened because I literally got everything that I possibly could wrong, and it could have actually been quite dangerous.

Bear in mind that this happened well before I figured out map reading, navigation, correct clothing/equipment to carry, or hiking in general. Basically I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and this proved to be a very valuable lesson for me as I saw how badly it could go wrong.

Before this I had only ever done a couple of really small single point summits in the G/SE region which are generally not more than 10-15 minutes gentle stroll to the summit and the same back down again.

Rather stupidly I decided that I wanted to take on a much bigger summit. Truth be told, I was far from ready or prepared for it, and it was way outside of my capabilities at the time.

My decision to go was driven more by enthusiasm than common sense (driven on by two other extremely inexperienced hill walkers & radio amateurs who also decided to join me to give it a shot).

We got to the car park and the rain had stopped (it had been raining earlier). Forecast was good for the afternoon so decided not to bother taking waterproofs with us. After all, “it won’t take more than 20 minutes up and the same coming back down again” (famous last words).

30 minutes later we were hopelessly lost, way off course, the map had totally disintegrated in the horizontal rain and winds which we were struggling to even stand up in (and yes we did print the map off the computer on an A4 sheet of paper).

Three of us with no water proofs, wearing jeans, thin summer coats and trainers totally lost on Dartmoor!

We did eventually manage to find our way back to the car park nearly 1 1/2 hours later, freezing cold (shivering fairly violently and probably on the edge of hypothermia), covered in mud, totally humiliated and looking like three drowned rats!!!

We never even made it anywhere near the summit, let alone got on air and activated it.

10 years on with much more experience, a lot more common sense, a better education of the dangers/precautions to take and having successfully managed some of the larger summits in the Lake District and Wales without any dramas, I’ve itching to go back and conquer “the one that got the better of me” all those years ago.

Like I said I’m embarrassed to admit it because it was a classic example of trying to run before you can walk and I quite literally got everything wrong that it was possible to get wrong.

It does make a textbook example of how not to do a SOTA activation though, and we still laugh about it 10 years on. Could have been a lot worse though.


Thanks for the advice Ed!
I’ll always take a back up antenna from now on. I’ll look out for you on SOTAwatch for Friday!

Wow! That puts my failed activation today into perspective! Great story!
I don’t think it’s anything to be embarrassed about. I have no naviagation skills whatsoever hihi! Before I do any summit, I study previous reports and photos thoroughly.
I have yet to do a big summit as I am worried about exactly what happened to you.

I recall a failed activation that was my third summit of the day. A truly easy to get to summit; and I thought a quick activation before a two hour drive home. Used my KX3 with a 33’ end fed wire with a 9:1 unun. The same set up that had worked very well on the two earlier summits that day. I had posted an alert and just needed to get my signal out for RBNhole to spot for me. Called and called with no response and no RBN spot, changed frequencies and called again. Kept changing and calling for an hour with no spots and no response. Overlooked a clue from the KX3 that the antenna tuner had a difficult time and did not keep the antenna tuned. Packed up and went home without any contacts on that third summit. Before my next trip I took out the rig for testing and discovered that although the antenna was connected to the unun the wire had broken, a small gap between the connection and the rest of the antenna. And then I remembered the peculiar behavior of the antenna tuner! I was thinking wrong frequency, wrong time of day, and bad band conditions - when I could have thought of “user error” and quickly fixed the antenna to complete a third summit. I agree with previous posts that pointed out that a true SOTA activator will likely have failed summit activations. I recall a friend who climbed 700’ to make a VHF activation and forgot his rubber duckie. He climbed that summit two times on one day for a single point!

I have come close to failing a few times, usually because I was on a summit far too late in the day. I always carry a dualband H/T and that thing has saved several activations for me. You can always jump on a local repeater and ask people to QSY to a simplex freq. if you get desperate.

Another tip: get some SOTA hiking buddies who bring along equipment for redundancy. SOTA is more fun with friends!


I had my first failed activation on Sunday when the wind snapped my newly modified mast, so I understand that slightly depressed feeling you’re having. I don’t mean to dis your antenna or anything, but a mag loop is pretty heavy. I don’t know what your pack weight is, but if it’s over 10kg for a day trip, then my advice is rethink your setup. I never carry more than 5kg in the summer and 10kg in the winter (including skis and ice axe and a chair). The hyendfed sounds like a good idea to me.

I really felt like SOTA and the weather forecast was actually not that bad … they said the sun should still show up … but when I wandered in mist on the DM / BW-003 in October it switched to rain. I was worried about the equipment and drank a coffee in the Belchenhaus. It stayed in the rain all the way back to the car.
4 weeks ago, I thought that the snow should actually be more solid and tried DM / BW-766 without snowshoes …totally sweaty I gave up after 1km
Failure rate about 5% - pretty bad … but i’m learning

73 Armin

Once I did not reach the summit and sometimes I could not log 4 stations, sometimes not even 1 - but till now I always managed to come home without severe injuries. So why failed?

Like I said, at the time I had a total lack of experience, combined with a bit of an ego, a lack of common sense and the feeling of invincibility that comes with being very young (I was only about 20 at the time).

In hindsight if I really wanted to tackle one of the larger summits I probably should have put a post on here asking if I could tag along with someone who has already done it.

Although a lot of activators are the solitary type (I would include myself in that as I like to go at my own pace), there are some that go in small groups, and plenty of people who would happily have someone tag along for company and to help carry equipment.

That said, if we are ever in the same area I would be more than happy to have a companion join me on some of the larger summits.

My activations tend to be very smash & grab. Quickest & easiest route possible, usually the same route back down & about 20 minutes on the summit itself.

I also mostly activate in good weather conditions as I usually have the dog with me. She’s a greyhound and they don’t cope too well with the cold, wet and wind. She’s also starting to get on a bit, so I don’t make her climb big hills in adverse weather.

As I said, you’re welcome to tag along on a couple of activations if you want to take on a couple of the larger summits in England & Wales and don’t feel comfortable going alone.