SOTA Entropy

My older brother is a physicist and likes to say: “The perversity of inanimate objects tends to a maximum.”

My late father, who was an artist, put it in much simpler terms: “If a piece of string can get tangled, it will.”

I’ve never been a patient person and it doesn’t help that when I get to a summit I feel an excitement in anticipation of getting on the air and making contacts. I’ve only been doing SOTA for less than a year, but in my 68 activations this excitement has not abated. I wonder if it ever will.

On my most recent activation I was trying out a new 31’ fiberglass mast. This unwieldy new pole combined with a lot of dead-fall from the Cerro Grande fire of 2000 caused my 20 AWG doublet to seemingly catch on every imaginable snag within the entire Mountain time zone. I could not believe the myriad ways my antenna and guy-lines managed to get fouled up and tangled.

So what is your story about such frustrations?

Here is the full write-up on Pajarito Mountain:

73 Eric, KG6MZS


Hello Eric

I can only point to the wonderful video of Ignacio EA2BD:

… and recommend pulling it up out of a a bag or from a small tarp lying on the ground.

73 Armin


Thanks for the reply Armin. Some good stuff in that video. Thanks. However my problem arose after the wire came off the winder and the antenna went up into the air. With the doublet, three people setting up is ideal - one to hoist, and one on each leg. The problem here was I was solo, so it was “whack-a-mole” – start up, stop and fix one snag, continue and fix another, rinse and repeat ad infinitum. It was pretty comical.

73 Eric KG6MZS

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One option is to have a separate guying system for the mast. You can then attach the antenna to the mast, erect it and then walk away from the mast letting out the antenna and keeping it off the ground.


Slightly surprising that your brother didn’t favour your father’s string theory.


Good point, I worked part-time with a good friend doing tower work, 20’ to 2,000’ and Sal, k6sal and owner of the business, was such an expert at pre-planning the work we almost never had any big issues. If left to me, it would have been a disaster even raising a simple wire dipole…HI HI

My experience:

Mag loop, I can set up in 5 minutes and almost no foot print

Vertical: Gotta put out radials and “tune” Buddistick, Small foot print and once coil tabs determined I can QSY quickly. The more radials the less sensitive the antenna is to frequency changes.

Endfed dipole…well, this is where things get crazy. I’m in aw of hams that can throw a fishing weight 100’ in the air using the bola technique. practice. Nice thing about 9:1 endfed is that with the KX3 autotuner I can QSY in seconds and IMO the dipole puts out the best signal for SOTA.

Fun stuff, eh?


You can make life easy or hard.

Separate guying system. I guy my 5m mast around 1.5m AGL. i.e about 30% up from base.

All my dipole type antennas split into 3 components, each antenna leg and feeder. You can then set up pole and guy it without having to fully extend it. Then attach a dipole centre push up mast and allow feeder to deploy. Then lower mast and attach one dipole leg, push up and allow dipole leg to deploy to base of mast. Then walk out deploying leg and pin in place. Walk back lower then repeat for other leg.

You can still get things caught but you don’t have to worry about the mast falling and can concentrate on the antenna.

If it’s over smoother ground you can attach dipole legs and walk out deploying cable. each side then push up mast and finally anchor legs in place.

But you need to learn from the setup experience and make it easier.


Sensible advice. I bring separate guying paracord, now if I would just have the discipline in my impatience to actually deploy them. :wink:

Good one! My brother has classic phrases for the crudest techniques. If something doesn’t work, he’ll ask did you try “kinetic realignment?” :wink:

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So, uh, what have you done today, to reduce entropy?

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That is pretty much my day after an activation. Shake all the entropy out of the pack and recharge all batteries.:wink:

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Wow, you were on Pajarito? Neat. Some thoughts after 800+ activations: ditch the tall pole, entirely unnecessary. Already on a tall mountain with steep drop-offs you can hang your dipole on bushes six feet off the ground and it will do fine. Next, ditch the coax. I have been using an end-fed halfwave wire with no feedline for many years, works fine. The wire is stored on a figure-8 winder so no kinks. KISS. Deploy it typically in under five minutes, including on peaks all around the Valle Grande. GL, 73, Fred KT5X/WS0TA


Hi Fred,

Good advice from one who knows. Normally I wouldn’t take this 31’ monstrosity, but, like Chewbacca, I needed the balast. Hi. Actually I’m preparing for the John Muir Trail this summer, hence the 30 pound pack to 10,000’. Right now the doublet goes to a 1:1 current balun and then a 3’ coax jumper to the radio. For the JMT I will take your advice and just go with the endfed. Thank you!

73 Eric, KG6MZS

I’m guessing that kinetic realignment is the posh version of percussive maintenance that I sometimes employ

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When I was on a Mountain Rescue Team the leader was a chemistry teacher. He felt that during an exercise or callout his job was to try and counteract the entropy which meant that an organised search without input from control rapidly decends to lots of people wandering around a hillside probably searching the same bit twice… Paul


“Percussive maintenance” - love that. Makes “give it a whack” sound so refined.

Paul, that is probably true. It’s actually pretty amazing that anybody is ever found in the wilderness. Ever read “The Last Season” by Eric Blehm? Fascinating look at SAR in the Sierra Nevada.