Propagation Comments For Activators

Propagation conditions remain poor. I live in Virginia USA. As a SOTA chaser I am frustrated that I can not hear many SOTA activators. My log shows that I can not hear or work European stations 20 meters and below. But I can hear stations on 17 and 15 meters. Today I worked HB9CBR on 17meters and that is the first SOTA station from Europe that I have successfully worked since last winter. I can not currently hear West Coast US stations on 20 meters as I did last year, but 17 meters and 15 meters seem to work. So please activate those bands more often guys. Thanks


I will mirror your comments from here in the UK. Over the past few weeks when I have operated at lunchtime portable to try and catch SOTA activators in Europe whilst we are in lockdown. I have struggled to get SOTA QSOs in the log - just not hearing activators like I normally would, in fact not even hearing the chasers either - who you would expect to hear even if the typically low power activators don’t break the noise.

Today I could hear some of the early US activators but right in the back of the box - absolutely no chance of working anyone.

I can still get transatlantic contacts, but typically they have several hundreds of pounds of metal in the air and pushing power.

It is frustrating in the extreme, but part of the joy and frustrations of amateur radio.

Hopefully this gives you some comfort that you aren’t the only one.

Regards, Mark


17 metres is a great SOTA band on cw I have had a S2S to Japan on both activations for 2021 I have done so far. Even made up a 15/17m link dipole to take with me this year.

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Keep in mind what is possible and what not. With regard to propagation and as far as I understand it, both qso partners have to be in daylight, or both in the night or both in twilight (greyline dx).
Before searching for SOTA DX have a look at the suns activity and what that does with the earths upper atmosphere.
Check X ray situation of the sun, forget sfi. A level no good, B and C =OK
Check if the earths magnetic field is disturbed Kp4 and up is no good.
From May to end of August don’t fall in the trap to see bandopenings on 20 to 10m all as dx possibility, most likely OWF and MUF are up by Es and not by F layer reflection.

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With many European countries in full or partial lockdown SOTA activity is significantly reduced. Right now I see just thirteen activations highlighted in red on Spots, at this time on a late winter Sunday with anticyclonic weather over most of Europe I would expect to see more than double that number. They are not there because like the rest of us they are hunkered down waiting for better times! So yes, propagation is iffy, but activity is also low.

Part of the reason for lower than expected activity on a weekend (I feel) is also (as well as COVID lockdowns) brought on by the fact that there are so many contests EVERY weekend and a (normally low powered) station has difficulty in being heard when a mega KW ERP station starts calling CQ on top of him or her.

I’m planning to be out on two summits tomorrow - the question is which ones.

Getting back to the subject of this thread, as a result of the Earth-facing Coronal Hole, spotted yesterday I was hoping for some Pre-auroral-Enhancement today and tomorrow. It hasn’t appeared yet, perhaps tomorrow. We’ll see.

73 Ed.

I have to disagree, Patrick. See the following SOTA chase I made a few days ago. It was almost midnight for me and still the afternoon for Pat @WW4D.

We also have Andrei @ZL1TM chasing European activators on a daily basis at around Noon CET and that’s pure night for him over there in ZL.



Northern Europe - Southern Europe = different ball game Guru! Although I did work Mal VE2DDZ on VE2/LR-042 yesterday - 20m CW getting through.

Condx better for us to EU on 20m earlier today, back to poor now. Time to get the lawn mower out after lunch in the sunshine, and maybe wash the car…

73 Phil


Does it have an attachment for that…? :rofl: :rofl:


Hi Guru,
Patrick’s comment about near Dawn/Dusk is only related to greyline propagation. The point that both ends have to be in daylight, is inaccurate - especially on the low bands. Your example contacts are proof of that and were “normal” short or long path contacts with one end in darkness.
If one can get a Greyline contact while on a summit, it is (in my experience) easier to copy.

73 Ed.

I have to disagree again!
I admit propagation conditions for SM/LA/OH are definitely different to those for SV/I/EA, but I don’t think propagation conditions are so much different when we compare ON and EA2 (North of Spain). We are roughly 1000 Km appart only.
See the following chases from Andrei @ZL1TM chaser log:

You can see all of these European activators were at around Noon and that means that Andrei chased them at around his midnight. They were in different locations across Europe amnd even the last one in the list was in ON!
I’m very glad to read you have the WX conditions and you are feeling in the mood as to go out for lawn mowing. We have a miserable rainy day here…




I thought it was just me. :slight_smile: I’m very new to this so I thought I must be doing something wrong. A couple of weeks ago using 20m WSPR I could hear occasional signals from Australia - 17,000Km+. Trying again today I can’t get anything further away than about 2,300Km.

John the vagaries of HF propagation. It can be like that between days and between times of day - propagation is a very complex subject!

Hang in there and get-on-air - you never know what you might hear despite others saying the bands are dead. You can get a window sometimes as short as 15 minutes when one of the bands opens to DX locations.

Looking from the other side - for me, it’s good when the bands go short-skip as the I can hear activators that I normally don’t as they are too close to me!

So for a SOTA chaser (or activator), conditions that the pure-DXer might say are horrible may allow SOTA chasers to make more contacts than normal!

73 Ed.


My point was that looking in my log for last year, I found European QSOs on 20meters in February, but this year I have none. 17meters however seems to work better than 20 meters this year. The same thing for West coast QSOs. 20 meters is just not working compared to 17 meters. I have had some recent QSOs on 15, but not many, when last year I had none…

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I try to get in at 1100Z and start listening on 15,17,20,30 for European stations and have some luck with the propx the way it has been of late. I pick up a few SOTA activators in Europe and get some good days and some not so good. I do give a good signal report for what I can hear even if it is very weak. My weakness is the West Coast from here on the East coast. But I sit and listen and wait for the openings. The hexbeam is better than the longwire at times. CW does get me a lot more contacts than SSB. I get one occasionally but they are hard. Best 73 de JohnPaul // AB4PP

Hi, good for those who can add SOTA DX at will to their log , whenever they want.
I truly admire those lucky chaps. Nice to read the chase qsos, please tell me also the antenna system they chase with. + what power they use to chase.
I chase with qrp and a 3m long whip antenna might be a different story.
I am always extremely eager to learn. Is there anyone out there who could explain to me the following:
One operator in daylight, at his end F layer present for radiowave propagation.
At the other end nighttime, F layer extremely thinned out or nonexistent at all.
Thank you.
I look forward to learn how this works.

Interesting thread. I recommend to always look at VE3EN´s great Web page,:

Here, you can see exactly what is going on at the Sun, and the 3 day Geomagnetic Forecast is an excellent tool to follow the K index.

I also follow,:
By scrolling down the page you will see their 3 day, and 27 day forecast.

73´s Siggi TF3CW

Hi Patrick,
I’ve had some email exchanges with Andrei ZL1TM and this is what he told me he uses:
Using IC-7300, 100 Wt with 3 el tribander 12m up but good take off to EU SP.

It’s about the same setup I use when chasing Northamerican activators. My rig is IC-706 at about 100W and my antenna is a 5 el. tribander although it has 3 active elements on 20m. the height of my antenna above the ground is 14m, so very little difference as you can see.

From my experience, having a yagi antenna is essential to copy the extremely weak signals coming from the SOTA QRP activators. The quieter reception of its horizontal polarisation plus the extra 8-9 dB gain you get with its 3 elements are key.
I also have a multiband inverted vee dipole with the apex up 14m above the ground and the ends up about 5-6m a.g.l. and I never copy any of those DX with that antenna.

I have chased activators in North-America with 5W but I was using my 3 elements yagi and that makes a big difference, mainly for RX, as I explained above, but also on TX those 8-9 dB have a substantial effect.

My rotator is currently broken and I can’t rotate my yagi, so it’s stuck beaming West for the North-American activators. For the rest of my chases in Europe, I use inverted vee dipoles and I assure you I often struggle to be heard in the EU pileups.

Regarding your open question, it’s difficult to say but I sometime ago made a drawing and posted it in a thread. Let me try to find it and we can continue discussions further. Propagation is always magic and often difficult to explain/understand.



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Hi, ok thank you for the reply.
Well just in general, in the past 12 months I chased together over a 1000 chaser points with my qrp setup. Strange but with qrp and 3m long whip antenna 40m Band works best for me chasing summits in Europe.
Furthest distance on 20m TF.
Non SOTA qso to US sometimes, most of the time big guns.

Don’t forget too that ZL is also almost perfectly antipodal to EA, which means the propagation path is largely irrelevant (no matter which direction the signal travels it all arrives in ZL at or about the same time).

(but yes, there’s a few ZL stations with excellent ears)