(Semi-)Failed Activation of OE/TI-104 (Pirchkogel) and Request for Advice

Dear all:

Today, I tried to activate the Pirchkogel (OE/TI-104, 2828 m) in Tyrol/Austria on skis.

My callsign was OE/DK3IT/P.

The trip was only a partial success. In the end, I was able to establish two contacts, with EA2LU (@EA2LU) and @G0HIO , but no more until I ran out of time because of strong winds and low temperatures, and a group of fellow mountaineers waiting for me.

Since I would like to learn from mistakes, I would be very grateful if you reply in case you tried to answer my call or made other relevant observations.


  • MTR-3B in my TinySOTA station
  • 40-30-20m EFHW with traps (HB9BCB design)
  • 5m carbon-fiber pole

Route and Approach
The Pirchkogel is a very popular skitouring summit in Tyrol/Austria, and lots of route descriptions are available on the Web, e.g. here: Pirchkogel von Kühtai | Bergsteigen.com. Basically, you start at the Kühtai saddle and either take the “Kaiser” gondola lift or ascent more or less along one of the ski slopes to the respective lift station at 2447 m. Then, there are multiple possibilities to ascent to the Pirchkogel summit at 2828m. We did everything on skis, i.e. without gondola lift support.

Note that the faces to the left of the ascent route are pretty steep (more than 40 degrees) with a mostly Eastern exposition, so you have to be able to judge the risk of avalanches.

On the top, there is the higher, main summit, which is typically visited only in Winter, and the somewhat lower summit with a cross on top.

It took us roughly two hours to get to the summit.

I decided to try a CW-only activation, since I do not have lightweight SSB equipment and using a 2m/70cm FM handheld seemed risky without a substantial antenna.

I submitted an alert the day before, which also made it to both SOTAwatch and several apps.

I arrived on the summit at 9:42Z and was QRV at 9:48Z. I first tried to find a free frequency on 40m, but did not find one and heard “CQ TEST” all over, so I decided to try 30m.

I started calling CQ on 10.118 at 9:48Z and was spotted by SK3W almost immediately with 17dB and later on by ES5PC with 23 db and SK3W-1 with 31 dB. RBNhole posted a spot at 9.49Z.

I was then able to work EA2LU (9:51Z) and G0HIO(9:52Z), and then long silence. One French station appeared but did not come back when I tried to request its callsign.

When no one came back to me, I changed to 20m at 10:01Z, was spotted at 10:02 by SE0X and others, and again, RBNhole posted a spot quickly, at 10:03Z. But nobody answered my call. At 10:10Z I had to accept that while it would be a valid activation, I will miss the 10+3 points, pack up and start the descent.

Now, here are my questions:
1. What could I have done better?

a) I could have tried 4 QSOs immediately in the 40m contest storm, but I thought that

  • they might not be interested in my call and
  • it would be unfair to fellow SOTAians who were hoping to activate the Pirchkogel.

b) 30m seemed like a good second chance in that situation, but there are likely less stations with suitable antennas, and less operators in general. Also, maybe propagation took its toll and my signal simply did not reach a large part of the SOTA crowd in Germany, Poland, Belgium, etc. due to too long a first skip.

2. Did you try to contact me but weren’t heard?
It was stormy on the summit, and my super-light earphones were not a good choice, because I could not hear weak signals.

3. Could it be that the restored SOTAwatch systems contributed to the problem, e.g. is it possible that some chasers saw incomplete lists of alerts and spots due to the lag in DNS updates?

To be honest, I had hoped for a bigger crowd, given that the summit is a 10-pointer and has only been activated once, by OE7FMJ/P in 2014, and never before in CW.

Any hints and feedback will be very much appreciated!

73 de Martin, DK3IT

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Here is also a picture of the operating position.


I already have a few ideas of how I could have done better (some based on feedback by private messages):

  1. I could have tried to find a free slot in the very low end of the 40m band, like 7.002 or so. When the 7.030 +/- QRP segment was full, I might have changed too quickly to 30m.

  2. I could have stayed on my 30m frequency until running out of time instead of QSYing to 20m when no more callers showed up.

  3. In the future, I will use different earphones, because the ones I was using are light, but do not shield noise from the wind very well.

  4. I could have set up my operating position a bit down from the summit; the problem was that other skiers were to arrive shortly after myself, and I did not want to block their ascent route with my antenna. But this way it was loud and got very cold quickly.

  5. In the alert, I indicated that the activation would be short and uncertain; this might have discouraged chasers from waiting for a contact.

  6. I did not check for contests on 40m in advance; otherwise I might have indicated just 30m in my alert.

Any other ideas?

73 de Martin, DK3IT

It’s really frustrating missing out on the points for an activation, especially when the summit’s not easy to get to.

I had similar earphone-related trouble on my last activation, and it was in a fairly sheltered spot. Wind noise can be very distracting unless you have something to block it out…

I find these earphones good, I can’t remember where I bought them, but they were not very expensive. Intended for use when jogging etc, I think. They weigh 21g.

The lead is thick enough to be easy to handle, and not prone to tangling (so it doesn’t need to be carefully wound up). The “over ear” parts are silicone rubber or similar - comfortable and easy to put on, even with gloved hands.
I find that the simple earbuds tend to come loose in my ears as I move around, whereas these do not. This means that they stay tight and exclude noise, as well as not falling out altogether.

Edit: on your main question, I’d agree with the suggestion to stay on one band for more than 10 mins. It can take longer than that for people (me) to notice the spot and get on the air…
Adrian G4AZS

Despite the size and weight, I actually take noise cancelling, over the ear headphones on all but absolute minimum equipment activations (when I use earbuds). The headphones sit at the bottom of my rucksack in their case alongside my Mini-DSLR Nikon. Comfortable, warm and certainly keep external noises out. I think they cost me about AU$40 from Aldi about 6 years ago. Bauhn 39115 is the model.

73 Ed.

Hi Martin, first of all thanks you very much for the QSO. I´am sorry to know you couldn´t validate te summit, perhaps a little bad luck… I was fortunate with your choice to work 30m because is a perfect range for me, but as you said not soo good for central EU, altough 40m was crowded you should have tried, low (ie 7.001khz) in the band, contester usually respect this small window… 20m is a complicated choice due the strange band cndx last time. I can´t help you to find an explanation, but, for me you was at the right place in the right moment and how I was alerted I worked you!! Martin congrats for your effort and please do not be discouraged. See you on next summit!

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Thanks, Jorge!
I will submit the log shortly, so that the chaser points should be yours anyway. Or do the chasers only get points if there have been at least 4 QSOs during the activation?

As for the bands, I guess I should stick to 40m in the future despite contest traffic.

30m is a great band, but it seems there are less chasers able or willing to chase you there than on 40m.


EDIT: The stats seem to confirm this:

7MHZ : 1.758.076
14MHz : 1.013.828
10MHZ : 379.631

So roughly five times more QSOs on 40m than on 30m. But of course this analysis is premature, since it does not really indicate ability nor willingness of chasers to chase you on 30m.

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…is that just counting the modes available on both bands? I’d expect 40 to get more QSOs just because there’s SSB activity there, but SSB is mostly not permitted on 30.

Yes, your are right, this is what I tried to express with “But of course this analysis is premature, since it does not really indicate ability nor willingness of chasers to chase you on 30m.”

The SSB fraction is missing, and the numbers are heavily influenced by which frequencies are tried by activators.

If you have any other data for chaser willingness and ability (antenna, rig) to use 30m vs. 40m, I would be very interested. Otherwise, we might want to set up a poll.

73 de Martin, DK3IT

Hi Martin,
I think you have hit the point there. Unfortunately SSB operation is not allowed on 30m within IARU region 1 or 2. A real shame as it is a very useful band sitting as it does between 20m and 40m. In Australia for example, there is a relatively high usage of the band (restricted in the VK case, that you have to have a full licence to access the band at all) on SSB and CW - skip distance and propagation on 30m are often nicer than the other bands when activators are out.

73 Ed.

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Amateur population density Ed. There’s none in VK compared to gazillions in EU. Hence it’s a non-starter.

It’d be nice if the 30 metre band was a fair bit wider; there might then be room for a little SSB. (Always assuming the relevant authorities also relaxed the present condition that amateurs only use narrowband modes except during emergencies involving the immediate safety of life and property, of course.)

That said, in VK (where distances are that much greater, and operators mostly much more sparsely scattered) it fills a gap more like the one filled by 60 metres in Europe.

I’m not the most prolific of activators, but these days I tend to start on 60 metres and then hop to 30 metres. I’ll try 40 metres if 60 is not available (say, because I’ve not taken a long enough antenna).

Yes I know the reasoning Andy, but we do have SSB on the 15KHz wide 60m band, so it doesn’t exactly follow - as 30m is 50Khz wide. In any case a great band when 40 & 20m aren’t playing.

I miss it!

73 Ed.

They look very similar to the “Prosound Go SP400” ones I got from Maplin recently…

You may be lucky and get some spot-triggered calls sooner, but I figure you need to allow folk at least five minutes from the time a spot appears for their spot-watching page to notice, and then for them to see the update, and go looking for you. If you leave a frequency in under ten minutes you’re probably going to have left just before some folk finally get there…

Servus Martin!
Es ist frustrierend, wenn die 4QSO nicht gelingen, vor allem so hoch oben, wo die zeit gleich zu kurz wird. Ich habe meine Ohren gespitzt, aber nicht das geringste (20m) gehört. Eigentlich hätte es auf der Bodenwelle gehen müssen, ich bin kaum 20 km weg von Kühtai. (JN57PF) Auf 2m hätten wir eine Chance gehabt. Auch Richtung München wäre ev. etwas gegangen. Ich habe meist das Kenwood TH F7 mit für die Not, mit dem Dipol von “Lamda halbe”, der ist klein Zusammenlegbar Für KW habe ich den KX3, allerdings im Scnee muß man vorsichtig sen, er ist ja ganz offen, ohne die geringste Dichtung.
Viel Erfolg das nächste Mal, 73
Holger OE7HPI

Servus Ed, In Österreich 60m nicht erlaubt!!

Hi Holger my point back to Andy was that even with the differences in Amateur population in Europe compared to Australia, if SSB is allowed on the 15KHz WRC15 60m band, why is there not enough space in the over 3 times larger (50KHz) 30m band. It was not directly related to which countries have 60m at the moment. I’d be surprised if Austria doesn’t get it soon however, it seems each week another country is getting access to 60m.
The IARU region 1 decision on 30m isn’t going to change in any case, so it will remain limited to CW and digital mode usage.

73 Ed.

Hallo Ed, cih schreibe Deutsch, da tu ich mich leichter. Was ich hörte, ist in Österreich das Militär gegen die Freigabe von 60m. Aber wenn ganz Europa 60m für AFU freigegeben hat, so sind sowieso keine Frequenzen in diesem Bereich frei. Ich höre momentan auf 40m erst ab ca 1000 km. Aber höre ich auf 60m hinein, dann sind die gemeldeten SOTA Stationen meist von überall hörbar. Es könnte direkt ärgerlich sein, wenn es nicht ein Hobby beträfe.
Wenn morgen die Sonne scheint, versuche ich eine SOTA Aktivierung.

Hallo Holger,
Alles klar.

Ja dass mit der Militaer konnte schoen ein problem sein. 15kHz sind schnell voll auch (wir du sagt). Ich “hoffe” das wir ein grosse band kreigen konnten - aber es sieht nicht so aus.

Dass mit “skip distance” ist auch ein probleme. Du meinst der unterschied zwischen 5MHz und 7MHz ist gross genug dass mann kan locale aktivatoren auf 60m (oder 80 naehme ich an) das man mehr stationen hoeren kann.?

Von aktivierung naturlisch dass laengerer antenne fuer 5MHz uber 7 MHz ein faktor ist.

Wir werden sehen was kommt und was nicht. Es ist immer nur ein Hobby!

Viel spass bein Aktivierung am Sonntag wenn nicht zuviel Schnee kommt!

73 Ed.