This morning I went to Gualala Mountain - W6/NC-235 - this is a drive up summit. I had not been on a summit for a while and needed a quick/easy SOTA fix. I have been to this summit in 2016 & 2017 with good experiences both times. But today I was skunked. I posted my alert and arrived at the planned time. My first indication that the bands were not going to cooperate was when RBNHole did not pick up my CQ’s. Thinking that this might just be a RBN problem I self spotted using SOTA Goat, Only one bar on AT&T but enough for self spotting.
My first spot at 1514 on 7.063, but nothing heard, then at 1520 on 10.113 - again nothing. Then at 1526 on 14.0615 and again nothing. I cycled through these bans with additional duplicate spots until my final self spot at 1728 on 5.332. Nada, nothing, zip, zilch, zero - wow! The cloud/mist got wetter and for a break I got into the car and used my 50W 2 M mobile on 146.52 (yes I know this was not SOTA but I wanted to talk to someone/anyone) and I texted my friend - he used 165 W and I copied him but my 50 W failed to make the trip.
I saw KX0R was on a summit so I chased him - George always has a great signal and he always copies me - but nothing - I followed his spots across the bands but heard nothing - the only station I heard was NW7E calling George; and I wished he was calling me because he was 599 at my location.
So, for the first time since my early days in SOTA I was completely skunked. My equipment seemed to be operating well, 12-15 W out from my KX3, low SWR; relatively quiet bands, no local noise - but no contacts.
On the drive home I contemplated getting the 100W Elecraft Amp - but wondered, with conditions like these would the amp have made a difference?
In the early days I was skunked when I only carries a 5W HT; but never before skunked using HF!
One silver lining, you didn’t bushwhack several miles and get shut out. Chased W7GJ on 30 and 20 with 100 watts with no luck so bands are stinko today. As the Dodgers would say" wait til next year"
I look forward to your next outing.
Are there radio towers on the summit? We’ve noticed that some of the summits here in Oregon have some new equipment and they are creating radio dead zones around them - almost complete radio silence for the activating station.
Joe, sorry to hear about the skunking. I listened for you on 20m this morning and heard nothing. I had a feeling things weren’t going well with the frequent cycling of bands in your spots. Also had no trouble copying another chaser (W8-something) who was calling you in the blind on your spotted frequency. Sometimes I hear W6 stations better on 40m but didn’t get a chance to listen for you there today. Bands still seem functional, but certainly not cooperating much lately.
I listened this morning and heard nothing. Just checked RBN and see no spots for you Joe. Seems something else is amiss other than propagation.
There are no radio towers on this summit - for a drive up summit it is very quiet, no man made noise. I do know about the radio interference from communications equipment on a summit - one of my methods is to stay just inside the activation zone below the rf noise - that seems to work quite well - noisy on the summit but good copy 24M lower!
I may put the rig on the air from home as a test. I do note that the bands are more active now than earlier today.
Same here, Joe. Listened carefully in excellent location. No perception of a signal.
Check field strength in back yard at home.
It may have been an antenna problem while on the summit;. I just put up a test spot and RBNHole picked me up right away using my home qth antenna -
on the summit the KX3 showed 15 Watts out and a low - 1.2/1 SWR.
Glad it was a drive up summit!
Sorry, but I never heard you. However, my summit had a very high noise level today, up to S7 on 40M with a narrow bandwidth, very bad!! I still did OK because so many chasers are strong on 40M.
Things were much better on 30, 20, and 17M, and I ended up with lots of contacts despite some noise. Propagation was actually very fine today! Don;t believe people who say the bands were bad. The solar flux was 70, not high, but OK, and the K index was only 1, lower than for many days. EA2LU easily worked me on 20M, and somehow I was contacted by XE2AFY down near Mexico City on 30M CW!
I had no problem working WA9STI S2S on 30M, way over to Ohio. KI4TN was an easy S2S on 20M later. There were LOTS of chasers and things were busy, never mind the noise! 17M was fair as well! I was running my KX2 at 10W, with the 66-foot end-fed inverted-L wire at about 20 feet up, aligned S-N, right along the ridgetop - the usual.
I just saw your spots this afternoon, so your rig works. I have no idea what happened, based on your evidence. It’s likely you didn’t radiate much RF, but I have no idea why. The RBN is your best tool.
Thanks George - must have been the antenna - even though the KX3 showed a 1.2/1 swr there muct have been an antenna issue. I use an end fed with a 9:1 balun. the wire broke at the balun just as I was setting up and my best guess is that I did a poor job of fixing the break. I guess the KX3 will find a low SWR even in a broken wire! RBNHole picked me up right away from home using my home qth antenna. Congrats on a great activation and thanks for the info.
Joe - Two days ago I was setting up an activation and had difficulty getting 1:1 SWR on my balanced line tuner (which I can typically achieve). 1.5:1 was the best I could do and I wondered what might be going on. Eventually the problem was uncovered, I had failed to connect the balanced line to the tuner. Unfortunately, it was my XYL that pointed out the cause of the difficulty. She will get some mileage out of that one. - Don AC7P
Blessings to the xyl! My xyl is a chaser,
I well know the feeling and agree, the bands have been unpredictable at best, a trend sure to continue for the forseeable future. Thank you for the effort, though!
Chuck - K8HU
I listened for you on several frequencies today anf followed you on several spots but no joy on NC. Dean ~ K2JB
I was expecting this to be a meeting with wildlife leading to a drive home with the windows open and a thorough wash before the xyl would speak to you
Maybe your experience wasn’t all bad then!
Thanks to all for the reports of listening for my signal and not hearing - the negative reports actually help my diagnosis. After my return home I put the rig on the air using my home qth antenna - with the result that RBNhole picked up my transmissions immediately. On the summit my antenna wire had broken where it connects to the unun. I pulled out my knife, stripped a little insulation and removed it with my thumbnail. This resulted in an antenna that the KX3 could tune and very quiet bands. Based upon my home antenna results and the reports received my present theory is that my antenna repair (although it was quite a simple repair) was somehow defective and that I had turned my antenna into a dummy load. This would explain the very quiet bands - limit reception - and non-existent signal for the chasers.
I learn more from my failures than from my successes!
I once left my HF coax at home and even my HT could not save me. Ah … the Agony of Defeat!
Thanks for sharing Joe, I have learned from your SOTA adventures[ before!
Went to a summit today with a rebuilt antenna - 50’ end fed to an unun - all is well!