Today I activated two spots in Central Pennsylvania one successfully and the other not so much (points wise). I used my usual FT818, handheld Yagi and Rollup Jpole. The first summit is in a desolate area and I knew it would be a tough VHF summit. I activated it’s neighbor peak previously and it took me a couple hours!
Schaefer Head PA
From the 1st peak today, I called for over an hour with no reply on 2m/6m/70cm I was starting to tear everything down and…A flurry of activity! I heard another SOTA activator and his chasers 5/9 signals from most of them. I quickly reassembled my Yagi and pointed it his way (95 miles later determined) Calling back several times to his CQs he was unable to detect me. I did pick up a stray QSO from this activity.
The SOTA activator and I have since made contact via email and he told me he was using up to 75w. I have made 95 miles easy with my 5w FT818 and Yagi.
I find this situation interesting and wonder what others think was going on? Is this a case of two SOTA activators with less than optimal antennas (hand held Yagi’s) His 75w making the trip to my Yagi fine and my 5w just not getting the job done?
Totally unsurprising. Although only a 9dB difference in power levels (5W to 75W), there are other factors that could be at play. The other activator could have been on a summit with high levels of RF that could have been badly desensing his receiver. One of our local summits here in VK1 is really bad for that - for those activating it with sub optimal radios (bowfangs in particular), they are often unable to hear people calling them - my 100W into a gain antenna usually gets through, but often a lot of people cannot make it through to them. Could also have been that others with stronger signals were calling him at the same time you were - lots of possible reasons for him not hearing you.
I have done a lot of SOTA and VHF contest activations (FM only) and have found that many chasers/ monitoring stations out there have their radios in scan, the squelch is set a bit high, or they cannot change the squelch setting easily (Baofeng) and it requires a higher power to break the squelch. Also mobile stations will hear you with a lot of picket fencing. Also moving the antenna just an inch can sometimes make a big difference in signal, I have seen no signal to S9 by moving just a few inches. Also standing on one side of the mountain edge to the other can gain you some reflection in the right direction.
Ryan - WG4I
True - missed one doubling when I did a quick calculation. But at a theoretical 2 S units equivalent, still not enough of a power variation to prevent a contact being made to a station being heard at S9 without some other external factor being at play (bearing in mind the 817 meter is not terribly accurate).
Did you try rotating your Yagi from vertical to horizontal to change the polarization? This will make a significant difference in signal strength if both antennas are not of the same polarity. I have worked a 211 mile s2s using a 5 watt FM handheld and a 4 element Yagi. This was on a clear path.
No, but on your advice I will try different orientations next time I encounter this situation!
It looks like with additional information from the ham I was receiving he was on a high QRM summit and their were structures also on top.
That seems to explain my not making into his radio. I was also able to hear some of his chasers clearly so that part is still a mystery!