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Question for UK-based SSB chasers


#1

This may seem like I’m being deliberately provocative, but I would genuinely like to know the answer to this question.

About a year or eighteen months ago, the SOTA reflector seemed to be full of UK SSB chasers bemoaning the fact that they felt disenfranchised by the apparent increase of CW and/or 5 MHz for SOTA activations, at the expense of SSB on bands available to all. After some fairly heated exchanges of views the subject seemed to quieten down somewhat. Since then, SOTA has grown rapidly, with more chasers, more activators and new Associations. I can vouch for the fact that HF CW will now generate massive pile-ups for any activation, so it seems reasonable to assume that HF SSB use has grown in parallel.

For the first day of SOTA-France on 1st April, I devised a method of activating which allows higher power and a more efficient antenna on the 80m band. It does not suit all summits, just the less-populated hills where I can drive very close to the activation site. Having found great success from France, albeit with a mainly CW operation, I decided to give it a try around the South-East.

A couple of weekends ago I went to the Isle of Wight to test the theory. Despite getting dozens of CW chasers in the log, I managed only five on 80m SSB from the first summit, and eight from the second. Most surprisingly, these were almost exclusively stations that I would normally expect to work on 5MHz.

Today I took the opportunity to re-activate Cheriton Hill in the far reaches of East Kent. Conditions were pretty good, in spite of a nearby thunderstorm, but I only managed one QSO on 80m SSB, and that was with a station I’d just worked on CW confirming that my SSB signal was reaching North Yorkshire at reasonable strength.

So, my question is, or rather my questions are …

1)What has happened to all of those worried SSBers who felt they were missing out?
2)What else do chasers want activators to do, if high power, pre-announced, weekend activations of relatively-rare summits,on a band that has propagation around the UK, fail to attract any real interest?
3)Is it worth my effort in continuing to provide such opportunities when 20m CW would probably be far more productive and enjoyable?

I’m not looking for an argument, or abuse, just a sensible explanation, if one exists, for this apparent anomaly.

73 de Les, G3VQO


#2

In reply to G3VQO:

Hi Les
I think you ask a legitimate question and certainly not provocative in any way.

I had the pleasure of working you on all French summits on the first day of the French Association activity and on your excursion to the Isle of Wight, and again today on Cheriton Hill, thanks for yet another unique.

If I remember correctly, I have worked you on the above summits on 80cw, 80ssb, 40cw, and 60ssb.

Today I had Nil copy on you on any band other than 60ssb due to the poor inter UK HF propagation.

The point I would make is that most activators have an vast armoury of weapons at their disposal, IE several frequency bands and modes, various antenna types, even power availability and it has to be their sole decision which bands/modes/antenna and power they decide to use and it should never be up for question.

Thanks for our contacts Les, here’s looking forward to many more.

vy 73 Mike GW0DSP


#3

In reply to G3VQO:
Hi Les
I can’t speak for everyone else but I always try to get a contact with a Sota station no matter what band or (as my morse is just about useable) mode is being used. My biggest problem is my antenna system, local noise and time. I can make contacts on 80mts but it is not easy and if conditions are less than ideal I can’t hear a thing! The same goes for 60mts as well. I haven’t had many contacts with you Les but it isn’t for lack of trying honest. I listened for the April 1st activations and couldn’t hear you or any other F sota stations for that matter. I have also struggled to make contacts with you on southern sumits on 60mts. Certainly not your fault, again my poor antenna, low summits and its possible my antenna has a better take off to the north. Also I have a life(of sorts!) and two children. I can’t always be in front of the radio at the right time for a contact. In fact for me weekday activations are easier for me to chase.

I’m with Mike though, whatever band/mode you choose to use I will try to chase you. You are the one in charge as you’re up the mountain not me. Most important thing is that YOU enjoy what you do. Please be assured that I am grateful for the contacts we have had and I am always trying to get more, honest!
Cheers
Q GW3BV


#4

In reply to G3VQO:

That is two unique summits you have done recently that I would have loved to have worked you on. The second Isle of Wight summit I missed because I was activating a summit of my own. I missed Cheriton Hill for the same reason that I missed all the other activations today, because I was at work. A lot of luck comes into who is or is not listening and where those stations are monitoring is often dependent on who else is activating at the same time. Today looked very busy on the spots so I would guess anyone not washing the car, mowing the lawn or working like me could have been listening on any of dozen or so frequencies. At busy times when there are pile ups and activators are spotted on a number of bands it is very often a judgement call whom to work first and often stations slip by because everyone may have been in the queue for a station they heard first.

Please, please, please don’t give up on SSB, we do want you and if we are available and can hear you I am sure we will all work you. I would however say I was never one of those whiners and never felt I was missing out. When I was loosing points on 5mHz I got the NoV and I’m now working on the CW. Go ahead “do what you want to do and what you enjoy” if it fits in with you we will try to be there, but there are no guaranties in radio. Hopefully once I have all the English and Welsh summits on phone I can do the same on CW. I hope I can improve enough to get the bottle up to work you on the key some time soon.

73 GW7AAV Steve


#5

In reply to G3VQO:
Unfortuantly I was at a WAB committee meeting today otherwise I would have beem there Les as it is my last SE.
I always look for a station if known to be on or spotted whatever band. The only thing is and I hate to admit it but my CW is nil so it is only SSB/FM at the moment. One day I will shall learn again.

By the look of it I missed alot today.


#6

In reply to G3VQO:
I dont have any problems as a chaser, apart from 5MHz which I dont have (for TX and thats my problem) I will look at the alerts and try and work available stations. I must admit to a 2m or HF SSB preference
Roger - M0DWQ


#7

In reply to G3VQO:

Well, Les, I saw you spotted and listened for about ten minutes to non-stop thunderstorm QRN, but didn’t get even a suspicion of modulation. I suspect the orientation of my antenna favoured the storms!

When I can spare the time to give full attention to SOTA I monitor 2 SSB/FM, 3.5, 5 and 7 megs and sometimes 14 and 18 megs. With only two rigs this involves a lot of band hopping and I am sorry to say that I pay more and more attention to Spots! Today wasn’t one of my lucky days, either, and I spent far too long in queues for activations whilst struggling with abysmal propagation as well as QRN! Dammit, I couldn’t even raise INKy!

Now they say that the new sunspot cycle won’t start until next year which means the struggle with faecal propagation will be more prolonged than expected, its a hard life!

Don’t give up, mate, we’re there even if the propagation isn’t, and anyway, who wants to mix with the maniacs on 20?

73

Brian G8ADD


#8

In reply to G8ADD:

I’ve tried 80m ssb a few times but with poor results. If there’s one band where 5 watts of cw will work when 50 watts of ssb struggles, it seems to be this one.

After using 60m ssb for a few months and experimenting with both 25 watts and 5 watts, I’ve recently started to realise that if the band is open, 5 watts will do it. If it’s not open, using 25 watts doesn’t help much anyway.

All interesting stuff!


#9

In reply to G3VQO:

Perhaps there are more SSB activations on nowadays Les than 18 months ago? More activations maybe making up for the CW only activations and so less need to complain?

I know that having got 5MHz SSB activations sorted, I’m looking for something else to try from the summits, especially as the days are longer and weather is now getting better in general. With that in mind I’ve started practicing my CW again so I can try 40m CW aswell as 5MHz SSB.

Andy
MM0FMF


#10

Thank you for some thought-provoking replies. There are obviously more factors in the equation than I had considered at first.

My natural assumption that there would be more chasers around at weekends is countered by the fact that there are also more activators, so that the “chasing effort” is spread more thinly. The “which one shall I work first?” question is a difficult one, with no simple answer. An activator, who may be able and inclined to remain active for an hour or more, is likely to move on sooner if not called. The quandary for chasers is increased when more bands are options. If you don’t have 5MHz, and are out of VHF range of the main upland areas, it is relatively easy to monitor a couple of bands for SOTA stations within earshot. But trying to keep tabs on 80/60/40/30/2 and 70cm on multi-modes is nigh-on impossible!

There is also the possible divergence of different aspects of SOTA chasing. Is it better to get a guaranteed six points on 145 FM from a local summit for the umpteenth time this year, or to dig deep in the noise on 80 SSB for a unique worth just one point?

I will persevere with my 80m SSB activities for those summits where it is a viable option, but there will be many occasions where my more usual 40 CW and 5MHz SSB will be the norm. It certainly seems that, when pressed for time on a journey where SOTA is not the primary objective, a call on 7032 will almost always get the hill validated in the minimum of time, thus making the event more family-friendly – always an advantage!

Please keep the thoughts coming. It all adds to the available wisdom.

73 de Les, G3VQO


#11

In reply to G3VQO:

“Is it better to get a guaranteed six points on 145 FM from a local summit for the umpteenth time this year, or to dig deep in the noise on 80 SSB for a unique worth just one point?”

How true Les, this hits the nail right on the head.
As far as I’m concerned, it makes no difference to me wether it’s ten points or one, unique or not.
I think I speak for the majority of chasers when I say that, if you are heard, you will definately be spotted and chased by all who hear you.

Please keep at it just as you are Les.

vy 73

Mike GW0DSP


#12

A couple of thoughts on this topic. Again none of this is meant to be inflamatory in any way.

Isnt this all about personal challenge?

I have rarely operated on anything below 6m from a summit. Thats because I enjoy VHF/UHF. From the SP region, vhf will get me quite a number of contacts without any radio effort at all, but among those qsos will be the ones that I mark with an asterisk.

I am personnaly hoping that one day (soon) I will be working a french summit to summit from a (northern) English/Welsh summit on VHF. That is MY challenge. I wont deliberately take 7Mhz or 3.5Mhz to make it easy(ier). Now if there were a VK or more active W2 association that might spur me on.

On a seperate thought, and this is not meant in any disrespectful way, I find that CW may not be good for the hobby (not just SOTA). It may be a good low power mode, but it is rooted in ancient history. Part of our hobby is about moving forward and I feel that maybe we are missing out on the next step. Do we stagnate because we have CW to fall back on? Could morse be improved? Are there other modes that could be developed?

The answers to the above, I wont admit to having. Maybe one thought is to have some sort of predictive morse (a bit like the mobile phone text messageing). Although this would need the use of a computer(fro translation) so you might as well use RTTY of PSK.

Any thoughts?

Ian
G7ADF


#13

In reply to G7ADF:

I find that CW may not be good for the hobby (not just SOTA). It may
be a good low power mode, but it is rooted in ancient history. Part of
our hobby is about moving forward and I feel that maybe we are missing
out on the next step. Do we stagnate because we have CW to fall back
on? Could morse be improved? Are there other modes that could be
developed?

Ian

I think you will find that speaking predates CW by several millenia. I am all for dropping such an outdated form of communication in favour of a digital mode that is only about 100 years old.

73

Richard


#14

In reply to G3CWI:

I think you will find that speaking predates CW by several millenia. I
am all for dropping such an outdated form of communication in favour
of a digital mode that is only about 100 years old.

Who said anything about speaking :slight_smile:

Fair comment, but I was meaning radio wise.
Ian
G7ADF


#15

In reply to G7ADF:

Maybe we could all go with the flow of modern technology, leave our radio equipment in the shack, climb summits, then chat to each other on our mobiles?
Me thinks not.

73 Mike


#16

In reply to G7ADF:

Just joking! Amateur radio is a hobby and as such one does not have to be at the cutting edge of technology to enjoy it. CW is a deeply satisfying skill that takes significant effort to master. It is actually fun as well as being very effective. Hobbies just have to be enjoyable - why would anyone ride a horse or cycle when cars are so much more effective? People do it because they enjoy it.

For SOTA, CW allows the use of simple homebrew equipment - more fun. Of course there are more effective digital modes but those that outperform CW are mostly useless for real-time contacts - and require significant computing horse-power. Read Rob’s recent account of PSK31 for an insight into digital modes on the hill! Great fun, innovative - but hardly likely to catch on it that form.

73

Richard
G3CWI


#17

In reply to G3CWI:

Very well put Richard.

Mike


#18

In reply to G3CWI:
Amateur radio is a hobby and as such one does not have to

be at the cutting edge of technology to enjoy it. CW is a deeply
satisfying skill that takes significant effort to master. It is
actually fun as well as being very effective. Hobbies just have to be
enjoyable - why would anyone ride a horse or cycle when cars are so
much more effective? People do it because they enjoy it.

Which was the first point of my original post. My sub-set of the hobby is VHF. Yours is CW. I have no problem with that. We both have our personal challenges. The same as we both possibly have different reasons for going up summits (or 1 summit in my case :slight_smile: ). It doesnt actually matter, its the enjoyment that counts.

Have you ever ridden a horse. It may be enjoyable at the time, but the day after … ouch. (appologies in advance to those who have equestrian tendancies).

Ian
G7ADF