SOTA NEWS - AUGUST 2015 - Part 1 of 2
Welcome to the August 2015 edition of SOTA News. My thanks go to the following contributors:- Barry GM4TOE, Elliott K6EL, Allen VK3HRA, Mark G0VOF, Kevin G0NUP, Rob and Audrey G4RQJ, Brian G8ADD, Viki M6BWA.
EDITORIAL – by Roy G4SSH
I apologise if this edition of SOTA News is late or truncated in any way. It has travelled along a convoluted route to get to you this month.
On the 10th July my computer began to demand passwords for access to e-mail. It then refused to acknowledge any passwords offered by myself. I could not send or receive mail and every time I tried to do so the screen filled with weird symbols and advice such as “outlook cannot sync subscribed folder”. My access to the Internet, Reflector and SOTA Watch was not affected.
I am a computer operator only, and call on the services of my son (who lives in the next village) to sort out any technical problems. Unfortunately he was watching the Tour de France in Paris until the 29th of the month.
I tried to explain the problem to the ISP, Talk-Talk (Tiscali ) advisors in Mumbai and for three weeks (and about £30 on my mobile phone bill) I was in almost daily touch with them. They tried their best but their strong accent and my minimum knowledge of computer jargon was unequal to the task. It was a succession of trying various passwords, none of which were successful.
Interestingly, within 24 hours of reporting the problem I received a call (on my land-line phone) from a person with a strong Indian accent who said he understood that I was having a problem with my computer and would I kindly press the “CTRL” Key and type in characters supplied by him. I asked him who he was but he would not tell me so I asked him to contact me via my Mobile phone (on which Talk-Talk normally contacted me) at which point he hung up.
Was it a coincidence? I would like to think so, but I have heard of similar occurrences.
Finally, my son returned home and sorted the problem in about 30 minutes, so after this month’s SOTA News is published we are back to normal service and the e-mail addresses shown at the end of this news are fully back in operation. I have retrieved items for the August SOTA News out of my g4ssh in-box.
My thanks go to Mark G0VOF for acting as relay and providing valuable advice.
SOTA AWARDS FOR JULY 2015 - from Barry GM4TOE SOTA Awards Manager
July has been a busy month for awards with no less than five Mountain Goats and five Shack Sloths. High scores abound in the Chaser category with Rich,N4EX, marching ever onward and yet finding time to activate too and achieve Mountain Goat. G6TUH has now reached 30K Chaser points as well as chasing 4000 summits and there are several others who have attained over 5000 chaser points.
Congratulations to all of them.
ON6ZQ Christophe David
W6AH Mike Plaziak
HB9JOE Andreas Thiemann
W6JMP Gene Trasti
NG6R Jerry Kendrick
AE9Q David Dostie
VK3AGD Adam Griffiths
ON6ZQ Christophe David 1000 points
N4EX Rich Homolya 1000 points
VK2JDL Philip Clancy 500 points
DD5LP Ed Durrant 250 points
VK3IL David Giddy 250 points
HB9SVT Thomas Gehrig 100 points
MI6AJN Andrew Ruddell 100 points
HA2EBA Istvan Kovari 100 summits
N4EX Rich Homolya 65000 points
G6TUH Michael Morrissey 30000 points
DL2YBG Klaus-Peter Dreessen 5000 points
DD5LP Ed Durrant 5000 points
VK2IO Gerard Hill 2500 points
VK5FANA Adrian Addison 1000 points
W4KRN Karen Russo 1000 points
AE9Q David Dostie 1000 points
VK2JDL Philip Clancy 500 points
KI4FKW Falon Hurst 100 points
SO9ANI Anna Cuber 100 points
MI6AJN Andrew Ruddell 100 points
N4EX Rich Homolya 6000 summits
G6TUH Michael Morrissey 4000 summits
HA2EBA Istvan Kovari Bronze
AE9Q David Dostie Bronze
NG6R Jerry Kendrick Platinum
OK2QA Rudolf Klvana Platinum
KI4FKW Falon Hurst Bronze
VK2JDL Philip Clancy Bronze
SQ9OJN Bartosz Cuber Bronze
Summit to Summit
DL4TO Gerhard Sedlak Silver
OK2QA Rudolf Klvana Silver
VK2JDL Philip Clancy Bronze
Not a lot of awards related news this month. The etching process for trophies has been reasonably successful although it has been necessary to source a suitable infill material for the etching from the USA; this does mean that I will (in time) be able to offer alternative colours for the infill rather than the red I have used up to now. If you have a preference for another colour let me know when you order a trophy and I will see what I have to hand. (Stock colours are Red, Blue, White, Gold and Silver)
Discussions at our annual management team meeting covered the awards available and it was decided, now that we have over 100 Associations worldwide, to consider a SOTA DXCC type award. Ideas are being tossed around right now but when a decision is reached an announcement will be made here and on the Reflector. If you have any input I can be contacted via email for your views to be considered.
The continual effort needed to produce (and stockpile) and deliver merchandise takes quite a toll on my available spare time. This is a major contributor towards the costs of running SOTA so the MT have decided to look into ways this workload can be shared. We were approached by one individual who was considering making customised SOTA mugs available and together we have come up with an agreement to allow him the use of the trademark SOTA logo in exchange for a royalty on sales. If anyone else would like to pursue this idea please contact me; it will involve complying with a franchise agreement and a royalty payment to SOTA funds.
I am not even going to discuss the horrendous weather up here but suffice to say that, today, the outside temperature failed to reach double figures Centigrade and the general condition can only be described by that excellent Scots word – dreich!!
Please take care when out and about on the hills
SOTA Awards Manager
IRC’s by Roy G4SSH
I was under the impression that International Reply Coupons (IRC’s) had been phased out at the end of 2014; at least that was the date printed on all the stock I held. However, I received one with a direct card from France this month, valid until the end of 2017. This was accepted by the local Post Office (after close scrutiny) who stopped issuing them in the UK at the end of 2014.
STATISTICS from Brian G8ADD
The other night the bands were in poor shape and the TV was worse so I had a look at how the activity levels of SOTA had developed since it started.
First of all, activators:
Number of activators earning points
Year…1+ point…10+ points…100+ points…1000+ points
Now the Chasers:
Year…1+ point…10+ points…100+ points…1000+ points
Two comments: Firstly, we seem likely to surpass 2000 activators scoring points in 2015. Secondly, there is a distinct jump and change of growth in 2011, this is probably because 2010 was a vintage year with thirty new associations including much of the USA. I suspect we will see the same effect when Japan comes on line, with their huge numbers of hams and love of the outdoors.
It is dangerous to extrapolate when we have no idea of the likely take-up of SOTA in the forthcoming new Associations, but at the present rate of growth I can see us having 3,000 activators scoring points annually by 2020 at the latest, and the rate of growth of chasers being higher I would expect to see 3,000 of them annually by 2018.
SOTA ON TOP BAND - Mark G0VOF
Hello everyone & welcome to this month’s edition of SOTA on Top Band.
Three activators ventured onto the band this month with all taking advantage of the better propagation available after sunset. Two of the three summits had never been activated on the band before, whilst the third has seen plenty of activity on Top Band.
First this month, on 3rd July (late evening of the 2nd locally) was Nick K1MAZ who tried the band during an evening activation of W1/CR-006 Peaked Mountain. Nick started on 2m FM before moving to 160m SSB where he qualified the summit with four QSO’s.
Nick says “For my activation of Peaked Mountain, I used an FT-100D running 100W into an LDG YT-100 autotuner connected to an inverted-L for 160m. It’s made out of 22 gauge wire, and the most time consuming part of the whole activation was unrolling all that wire.
I had the radiator run up and over a tree and then at about shoulder height for the rest of the length. The two counterpoises were run a ways back down the trails leading from the summit. I definitely need to get out and play some more top band before the summer is over!”
Congratulations Nick on the first 160m activation of Peaked Mountain & of any W1 summit!
Next up, later on the 3rd July was Hans HB9BQU/P who included a spell on 160m during an evening activation of HB/SO-001 Hasenmatt. After working on 10m CW & 2m FM Hans made two QSO’s on 160m SSB before moving on to 40m CW & 80m SSB. For this activation Hans used an FT857 at 70 Watts & an 80m Dipole.
Congratulations Hans on the first 160m activation of Hasenmatt!
The third activation this month took place over the weekend of 4th/5th July. The first weekend of July has traditionally been VHF National Field Day, which sees everything from low power portable operation to multi-operator multi-band legal limit contest stations active from 50Mhz to 1.3GHz. Another thing that has become something of a tradition is the overnight campover on G/NP-008 Great Whernside carried out by John G4YSS for VHF-NFD. 2015 is the thirteenth consecutive year that John has visited Great Whernside for this purpose & the fourth time he has camped overnight.
Other than enjoying casual participation in VHF-NFD John also enjoys activating the summit & especially on Top Band. This year was no different & John included spells on 160m both on the evening of 4th & the morning of the 5th July using GX0OOO/P.
I was fortunate enough to be in the shack on both Saturday night & Sunday morning & managed to work John in both sessions using CW but only made it using SSB on Saturday night. There had been some thunderstorms around & there was John suffered from quite severe QRN during the nigh-time session but still managed an impressive nine QSO’s in this session, 3 CW & 6 SSB including a chat with RA2FI Valery near Nesterov, Kaliningrad!
By the time of the Sunday morning session, daylight was well established & signals were lower than the night before. Consequently I could only hear John using CW through my local noise whilst he was inaudible on SSB at my station. Despite daytime conditions John did manage a further QSO on CW with Roy G4SSH with a final relatively local SSB QSO with Nick G8VNW in Threshfield making three in total for this session.
As usual, John has provided a superbly detailed report on his VHF-NFD weekend, which can be found here:
Thanks for the QSO’s & superb report John!
At the time of writing, these were the only Top band activations during July that I am aware of, if I have missed any others please let me know.
On 3 July, Nick K1MAZ Activated W1/CR-006 Peaked Mountain & made 4 QSO’s (0 CW / 4 SSB)
On 3 July, Hans HB9BQU/P Activated HB/SO-001 Hasenmatt & made 2 QSO’s (0 CW / 2 SSB)
On 4 July, John GX0OOO/P (G4YSS) Activated G/NP-008 Great Whernside & made 9 QSO’s (3 CW / 6 SSB)
On 5 July, John GX0OOO/P (G4YSS) Activated G/NP-008 Great Whernside & made 3 QSO’s (2 CW / 1 SSB)
As always, If you do have any suggestions on things that you think should be included, or if you wish to contribute tips, ideas or anything else that you think may help others on the band please email them to me at email@example.com
Until next month,
THE VIEW FROM THE NORTH - 91 from Rob and Audrey G4RQJ.
It’s GD time again and time to visit some of our favourite summits. Arrived on the Island early morning on the overnight sailing from Heysham. Using the overnight sailings gets you two extra days on the island and saves considerably on the regular prices, We are lucky being close to Heysham and don’t have to leave home till about 1130 in the evening in order to make the overnight sailing. The journey will be made much quicker from the M6 when the new Heysham-M6 link opens. At the moment the Lancaster North J32 has huge road works ongoing including a new large bridge over the Ribble to make it all a reality. The boat trip takes about four hours and it is my (Robs) test of the onset of old age being able to sleep on a seat in the lounge, usually not crowded but avoid TT time and take a car blanket. Happily passed the test this year with no problems.
Having established ourselves at our usual accommodation which is well up on the flank of South Barrule and a day of pottering round old haunts we woke to a warm day and the view of the summit if the hill in sunshine through the back window convinced us that this was the hill for today. The usual attack is from the Round Table Road junction but there is no public transport in the area so a car is pretty much a requirement. The climb is from the bridleway at the point where the plantation ends and there is room for about six cars but it is often busy. The path climbs across heather and there are a couple of steeper sections each topped with a rocky outcrop. The summit has been occupied from ancient times, the god, king Mannanin ruled from a hill fort and an Iron Age community lived here later. Through time the Manx occupied the summit as a defence beacon. Service here was compulsory and long for all men folk and the rocky outcrops were as far as women bringing supplies were allowed to climb and only at a time when the troops had been withdrawn to a safe distance!
Nowadays the summit is unoccupied with a large, not very effective shelter, a trig pillar and a small plaque to the Iron Age fort. Today it is warm but windy and the wind direction forces us to use the half tent facing north east, not the best direction for views etc. HF conditions are rather strange with lots of QSB and bands being unusable for long periods, just one contact on 5MHz in spite of a lot of calling, nine on 7MHz CW, seventeen on 10MHz and nothing on 14MHz despite a lot more calling. VHF was also quiet with just six stations all regulars worked. As we do not like to self spot from a summit and the timing being poor the returns are not too bad but there does seem to be a big reduction in SOTA chaser activity locally and a worrying lack of newer call signs in the bag.
Mist enveloped the island resulting in a touristy day but by evening Mull was out of cloud and in sunshine so we decided upon a quick visit to watch the sunset. There is an infrequent bus service to Cregniesh Village and the Sound. Cregniesh is almost at the top of Mull hill so Public transport is an option. There is room along the sides of the Cregniesh to Port Erin minor road for odd cars but avoid
passing places. There are at least three obvious tracks to the summit, two are metalled but we would not recommend them if your car is at all delicate. The summit is the home of a WW2 radar site though most of it has long since gone into the heather. Two pillboxes remain; the larger one is intact and can be used as a shack if the weather is poor, watch out for the low concrete beam at the entrance. If you’re more than about 5ft2ins it will hurt! The survey spot height is in the centre of the roof but guess it does not count as a trig. The site has presence and it is sad that so little is known of what went on there so relatively recently. Tonight all is quiet and ideal for a quick VHF only activation as the sun drops slowly into the western sea.
Friday 3rd July
Weather-wise a perfect day so off to Slieau Freoaghane GD-002, a hill that sota wise is much ignored, the last recorded activation was by us last year. Much of this probably has to do with its remoteness from public transport. A few years ago we activated all five GD summits in a day and on SOTAwatch under tips for Snaefell is a file (GD in A Day) with details of road routes to all five which would help even if you’re only doing one of them. How we did them all in a day then, we often wonder now!. The climb starts on a green road where there is room for about four cars by the road opposite. The green road runs beside a forestry plantation and is rough under foot and often used by bikes, motor bikes and 4x4s, do take care. Eventually the plantation ends and the road continues across moorland in a large S shape.
After about the same length of walk as the plantation, look on your right for a small brown stone marker rather like a small gravestone. Opposite the marker a narrow path, sometimes disguised as a stream leads off on the left through the heather moorland to contour and climb the hill. The path is narrow and the upper section has small white stones laid at intervals to help navigation. The white quartz outcrop often mentioned in routes is away from the path and on relatively steep broken ground. The summit has a large pile of stones a trig pillar and a large wooden pole which used to carry an upward facing white spotlight, presumably a navigation aid to aircraft, a number of which crashed on the steeper north west face during WW2. How the light was powered makes us wonder. The little half tent kept the breeze at bay and under very pleasant conditions we set of on hf. once again 5MHz was unproductive but this time so was 7MHz. 10MHz was a little better and the contact that qualified the summit for us also took our activator points total past 2500 and the next certificate, been a long time coming! 20m and vhf followed completing a great day on the hills.
Sunday 5th July
Old Midsummer’s Day when the Island celebrates Tynwald but not on a Sunday so the fair etc is tomorrow leaving us free to climb a hill so off we go to GD-001 Snaefell. The weather is cooler than it has been but this has not stopped the strong wind or breeze as the met people optimistically call it. We climb from the Bungalow Station, there is direct public transport available to the summit via the Manx Electric Railway tram service, the price per person from the Bungalow is £12 return, we are of course walking both ways. The climb is direct and the paths well worn, obvious in clear weather and they all lead to the summit. There are several buildings on the summit plateau including the railway station with cafe and even evening meals as part of a railway package, it’s only open when the trains are running. At the other end of the plateau is the NATS Transmitter/Receiver site, a large building with attached mast and it is in the lee of this building that we have to shelter from the very strong wind blowing along the summit. There is a small area at the far end of the summit that is sheltered on two sides by the buildings which puts a good VHF signal into northern England, aided by reflection from the metal buildings behind. Lots of contacts aided by the buildings kept us going for some time and when we finally poked our heads round the end to head down it was into a very strong wind and thick cloud which persevered right down to the bungalow station. This hill does have the advantage that once you find the rail track you can follow it back to base. We did not need this option!
Normally on Tynwald day we visit the Field and later activate Bradda Hill but this year was something else. The rain was extreme and we could only pity the participants in their best clothes and regalia sitting outside in the downpour as we ate our ice-cream under our umbrella clad in waterproofs. Later in the day the rain became even heavier, we’ve lived through a few monsoons in the Far East, this was worse and horizontal instead of vertical, not a day for walking.
Tuesday 7th July and the weather was much better, although cloud was on the higher tops so we decided on a full activation of Mull Hill. The lower HF bands were quite good but the higher ones were not working. A couple of motorcyclists arrived gingerly at the summit on bikes obviously more suited to the TT than the motocross trip up the much potholed track. They were looking for the stone circle which is at the far end of the summit area and had been told by a local, who had obviously not used it for years that the road was perfect. Our visitors thought we were kite flying.
Thursday 9th July
Bradda Hill and a perfect day for an activation. There are two routes up this hill, both use the coast path The first continues along the cliff path from Bradda Head with its tower, many people think this is the summit, not so. There is some serious exposure on this route and it is not for me (Rob). The second is from just outside Fleshwick Bay and is a twenty minute slog up an almost vertical piece of moorland and long grass. Today we discovered that the path, such as it is has been cut back, usually it is over head high and a climb is like a scene from “African Queen” but today things are much easier, Later we met some fell runners training for a major run which involved scaling Bradda Hill and others not once but twice which explained the tidying up activity on the path. As we climbed the final slope close to the cliff edge we noticed that we were being watched from the seaward side by a large cat hiding in the undergrowth. As the nearest farm is about two miles away we assumed it was living wild on the cliffs. The views from the summit are sublime and it really is the perfect destination. The moorland has recovered from the huge fire that swept the hill a few years ago and is new and perfect so was the activation. Many chasers needed this hill to complete the set and it is rarely activated so there is always an extra buzz in helping them out. Today quite a few were successful including two from the Whitehaven area Derek 2E0MIX and Colin M0XSD who was the first completion for our little yearly award. It is surprising that the Cumbria coast is so difficult from this hill on vhf whereas from Mull Hill which is quite close by, the beam heading is similar and there are no obvious extra obstructions but we made it, just! A perfect day out.
Friday 10th July
Snaefell again, this time it is cloud free but the wind from the southeast is severe and the only tenable spot is once again in the lee of the NATS building, tucked even deeper into the corner. The hf antenna was just impossible and the 2m beam was very close to the building with a real risk of losing elements off the 12ft security fence. Brian G4ZRP became the second chaser to win our little award. The start of the descent, emerging from the shelter was heavy going in the gale, once off the summit it was a little better and Audrey was under less risk of being blown over, I did offer her the heavier rucksack.
Saturday 11th July and a second visit to South Barrule this time with cloud and wind on the summit although warm and pleasant lower down. We used the half tent which is a very effective windbreak once the aeronautics of setting it up is complete. The lower hf bands were dead but the higher ones fair.
Sunday 12th July and a nice day so time to visit Slieau Freoaghane again. This time the path was on secondary duty as a small stream but the boggy patches are easily sidestepped at this time of year. The hf bands were only fair which is a shame as lots of activators want this rarely operated summit We were really sorry for G0HRT, we heard Rob call us at about 55 but he did not respond to our repeated calls, maybe next year! As we walked down we noticed the purple blush of heather just beginning to show, the hills name means hill of the heather and in a month or so it will be a purple cloud. As we reached the car Audrey noticed that the sole of one of my boots did not look right and closer inspection revealed that the outer sole of one was hanging off and the other not a lot better. This will put paid to any second trip up Bradda Hill so apologies in advance for that.
Tuesday 14th July, last day of this visit and can’t resist a quick trainer clad walk up Mull Hill, lightweight VHF only as everything is packed in the car. Just four contacts and it’s time to wind our way back to Douglas for the evening boat. Roll on next year.
Back at home and evaluating the battle damage, my boots can be repaired but will need a trip to Burnley so will take advantage of this to get the zip in my walking coat sorted with the result that we will be off the hills for a couple of weeks unless the weather is very good. Last night the 26th JULY we had to put the heating on and this morning the car was showing an ice alarm! The TV reports it’s a lovely summer “Not round here mate” in the words of Tony Hancock. If you use webcams to get some idea of local conditions then try Ribblehead Weather Station - local forecast for Clapham, Dent, Ingleton, Sedbergh, Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Beckermonds and Oughtershaw and click on the live webcam which gives a real time view of the viaduct and Whernside in the background, with or without cloud Just hope it lasts longer than most of those in LD which are stuck firmly in the past.
Well all for now, thanks to everyone for all the calls to GD, just two qualifiers for our little certificate this year Colin M0XSD and Brian G4ZRP, on its way shortly gentlemen.
Take care out there
Rob and Audrey
************************ CONTINUED IN PART 2 ********************
SOTA USA REPORT
SOTA AUSTRALIA REPORT
SOTA NORTHERN IRELAND VHF EXPEDITION
SOTA CW REPORT
EXTRACTS FROM SOTA DATA BASE
SOTA NEWS CONTACTS