SOTA NEWS - FEBRUARY 2010
EDITORIAL – by Roy G4SSH
Welcome to the February 2010 edition of SOTA News. My thanks go to the following contributors:- Barry GM4TOE, Tom M1EYP, Martin DF3MC, Zoli HA5CQZ, Rado S58R, Vlado Z35M, Rob and Audrey G4RJQ.
Congratulations and thanks are due to the many ops who braved arctic-type weather conditions to activate SOTA’s during the SOTA VHF Fun Day on the 3rd January.
This was the start of the most severe weather in the UK for more than 30 years, which gradually spread over mainland Europe and resulted in the lowest number of activations and the highest number of cancellations and abandonment’s seen in a single month.
SOTA AWARDS FOR JANUARY 2010 - Barry GM4TOE - SOTA Awards Manager
January brought a new year and some noticeable milestones. Phil G4OBK has managed to claim 25000 Chaser points joining an elite band of chasers who have reached this total while Walt G3NYY has a Shack Sloth trophy to add to his growing collection of awards.
This month also saw the start of the two new awards, Mountain Explorer and Mountain Hunter. Claimant of Explorer Bronze award number 1 was Phil G4OBK closely followed by Ruda OK2QA (who is not far from claiming Silver). Paolo IK3GER claimed Hunter Bronze number 1 for all CW chases; he too is not far from being able to claim the Silver award, he just needs to successfully chase two summits on another continent to reach this target. Hopefully the database will soon be able to identify qualifying scores for these two awards but if you think you might qualify just email me and I can check quite quickly for you.
The following awards were claimed during January:
G3NYY Walt Davidson Shack Sloth
G0EWN Gordon Fiander 500 points
ON4UP Peter Preud’homme 100 points
ON9CBQ Franz Fleischmann 100 points
2E0LAE Tony Ciathos 100 points
G3NYY Walt Davidson 250 unique summits
G4OBK Phil Catterall 25000 points
G3NYY Walt Davidson 1000 points
MM0ROV Michael Gerrard 500 points
KE3X Kennan Low 250 points
S50AL Andi Podlesnik 100 points
G4OBK Phil Catterall Bronze
OK2QA Rudolf Klvaoa Bronze
IK3GER Paolo Corsetti Bronze
The weather this winter, certainly in the UK, has interfered with activations during the bonus season; hopefully matters will improve soon and people can get back onto the hills in safety. While I write this it is snowing heavily once again in the Cairngorms and to make matters worse we now have a strong wind along with it – best to do our mountaineering in the bar!
Barry Horning GM4TOE
SOTA Awards Manager
2nd SOTA SLOVENIAN WINTER ACTIVTY WEEKEND – from Rado S58R
This will be held on the 6th, 7th and 8th February 2010
Hope to CU on the summits
73 de S58R – Rado
It is with great regret that we report that John G6VS became a silent key on the 21st January. John started chasing on 2m and 70cm a couple of years ago and recently activated GW/NW-070. He was a regular in some VHF contests and he will be sadly missed
From Martin DF3MC
Thank you very much for your friendly welcome for me in your CW report for December.
After more than 30 years in amateur radio I only recently came across SOTA.
I enjoyed my activations very much - it is so much fun and pleasure to meet all
these friendly people on the bands. I hope that I can activate many more mountains
in the future.
Good luck to all of you - and thank you for SOTA!
Association Manager Vlado Z35M has informed SOTA News that he has just been awarded a certificate for 50 x S2S contacts (achieved for 26 activations). Congratulations Vlado. That must also be No. 1 in Macedonia.
Vlado also created a new Z3 record by recording his 1000th QSO from Z3/WM-046 during an activation on the 31st January.
Mike GW0DSP will be active on CW in the GM/SS area of Scotland from 1st - 5th February as GM0DSP for his annual winter GM trip. Mike informed SOTA News that he will be mainly active on 7.032, 10.118 and 3.558 for the UK chasers if there is no inter G propagation on 40m. Hopefully Mike will get two activations in each day if time and the WX allows.
It is exhilarating to observe SOTA Watch becoming alive with activations from different countries. Although January was a sparse month for activations due to the winter weather, there were still spots from most European countries, Greece, the USA and even ZS1TC & ZR1AAH spotted on 7065 SSB from ZS/WC-043, Table Mountain, on the 9th and later ZS1JEN from WC-047 on the 10th.
SOTA HA STATISTICS - 2009 by Zoli HA5CQZ
2009 was a booming year for SOTA in HA. We have compiled some
statistics to give you an idea of our achievements.
In 2009 there were over 20000 QSO’s made from 768 activations.
This is equivalent to an average of 2 activations per day.
The total number of QSO’s since the start of SOTA in HA (2005) is 31400.
and 2/3 of the QSO’s have been made in 2009. This high number is due
to some prolific QRO activators, such as HA5LV, HA5MA, HA3HK and HA7UL.
Not only was the total number of QSO’s high, but Joska, HA5CW made
a record activation in terms of QSO’s (245) jumping straight to
the second place on the list of highest QSO totals for a single SOTA activation
compiled by Vlado Z35M.
Looking at the distribution of QSO’s by bands, we see that the
most used band was 40m CW (well, no wonder) with more than half
of all QSO’s. The second most frequently used band is 2m FM (25%)
which reflects mainly local traffic. Then comes - quite surprisingly -
30m CW and lagging behind, the SSB segments of 40m and 20m.
Regarding the summits, there have been 27 uniques activated in 2009. Seven of
them were activated by Feri HA7UL. There are still 60 non-activated summits
out of the total of 190. If we continue at this rate we have two years to go.
2009 brought the first activation of a HA summit by non-HA activator, when:
on 8 August Frank ON6UU activated HA/KD-022 and HA/KD-038.
He was then followed by OK2QA (HA/ND-001) on 2 November.
So, we had a busy 2009 and we hope that 2010 will bring even more fun.
FINGER TROUBLE by Roy G4SSH
The start of a new year is a good time for chasers to check out their entries in the SOTA data base which are obviously typing errors. Some chasers can recover dozens of points for the correct bands, as well as removing the self-incriminating confession of breaking the band plans!
Please take a minute to ensure your call is not amongst the following:-
1.8 MHz 2 chaser entries for FM. 8 points claimed
3.5 MHz 9 chaser entries for FM. 71 points claimed
5 MHz 12 chaser entries for FM. 87 points claimed
7 MHz 47 chaser entries for FM. 340 points claimed
10 MHz 4 chaser entries for FM. 26 points claimed
10 MHz 16 chaser entries for SSB. 128 points claimed
14 MHz 19 chaser entries for FM. 170 points claimed
I must find this 7 MHz FM spot……
THE WINTER OF DISCONTENT by Tom M1EYP
Winter activating, Christmas activating, New Year activating
- lots of happy memories and some splendid SOTA’ing. So I
was looking forward to this year end more than ever.
Last year, from mid December to mid January, I did 21
consecutive daily activations of The Cloud G/SP-015. Some
were early morning before work; some were in the middle of
the day, some in the Tuesday evening VHF activity contests.
Some were after 11pm at night in temperatures of -4 degrees,
while some were after midnight - i.e. the next day - in
temperatures of -6. The increased practice had me
perfecting how to use my bothy bag as a warm and comfortable
One of the activations was on Christmas Day itself, in
between opening presents and going for the traditional
festive dinner at the local curry house. Other activations
over the festive period included a super day out in North
Yorkshire tackling Baugh Fell G/NP-012 and Aye Gill Pike
G/NP-023. The NP Fun Day saw clear, crisp and sunny weather
for an activation of one of the most beautiful hills I have
ever had the pleasure to climb - Wild Boar Fell G/NP-007.
In addition, we had a two-summit day out to the Ponderosa
pair of Cyrn-y-Brain GW/NW-043 and Moel y Gamelin GW/NW-042
with our friends from the Macclesfield & District Radio
Society, punctuated, of course, by lunch in the excellent
Ponderosa Cafe. Club members were back out together on New
Year’s Day in order to avail themselves of the new points on
offer from the local trio of Shining Tor G/SP-004, Gun
G/SP-013 and The Cloud G/SP-015.
The seeds were first sown for the concept of the
"International SOTA Day" - or the International SOTA Weekend
as it became - in the mind of Sean M0GIA as we did a
marathon joint activation of The Cloud G/SP-015 from very
early on Christmas Eve. Operating until lunchtime, many
contacts were made across several bands, into many DXCC’s.
That was the 2008/9 winter season. But looking further
back, we have enjoyed some classic winter SOTA expeditions
on Corndon Hill GW/MW-013, Black Hill G/SP-002, Long
Mynd-Pole Bank G/WB-005 and several others. Little wonder
then that Christmas and New Year 2009/2010 was being eagerly
Anticipation levels then rocketed, when my wife Marianne
agreed to the idea of four days away in the Lake District
for Jimmy M3EYP and I, just before Christmas. Jimmy soon
had all this planned. It would be a SOTA uniques bagging
raid, strategically coordinated “Gerald and Paul” style,
although one big round on High Raise G/LD-019 would see us
passing over eight Wainwright summits. On these, I would
unleash my handheld to make at least one contact in order to
claim the top in the WOTA scheme.
Other SOTA summits scheduled for this trip were Tarn Crag
G/LD-026, Grayrigg Forest G/LD-038, Pike o’Blisco G/LD-024,
Hard Knott G/LD-034, possibly Harter Fell G/LD-028, Lingmoor
Fell G/LD-040 and Holme Fell G/LD-051.
Combined with the prospect of staying in youth hostels in
the central Lakeland, and possibly the New Dungeon Ghyll
Hotel, plus plans to jointly walk and activate with Rick
M0RCP and Thomas M3OOL, anticipation was high.
The morning of departure arrived, and we were both up early
and donning our new base layers. The clam chowder soup was
prepared, and we set off, struggling on the icy and snowy
roads until beyond Knutsford. The weather forecast had
caused some alarm, but we relaxed as we made good progress
along the treated M6. Jimmy then reported a worsening sore
throat, and I decided to abandon the whole trip. If it
wasn’t going to be enjoyable, and/or if it could have
spoiled Christmas, it wasn’t worth it. We were home for 7am
and having the soup for breakfast!
A few hours later, and the snow came down more heavily than
it had done for many years. We returned along the Kuntsford
road to take Liam sledging, but even this threatened to
become impassable after one mile. We learned that most
routes in the Lake District were closed. Jimmy and I had
had a lucky escape! Those few days before Christmas saw
walking restricted to half a mile along the main road for a
couple of boozy afternoons in the Chester Road Tavern.
Which was rather nice!
Not to be defeated, Richard G3CWI and I tried to beat the
snow with some alternative approaches. Knowing that the
Wessenden road was closed due to snow, we drove to Crowden
in order to attempt Black Hill G/SP-002 from there, a long
walk up the Pennine Way. Less than half the distance was
covered before we retreated, beaten by deep soft snow, and
more of it coming down heavily. The station buffet at
Stalybridge station, with its fine real ales and wholesome
food became the consolation prize.
Another snow-beating alternative approach was tried a few
days later. This time, again with the “normal” driving
route to the “normal” parking spot being blocked by snow, we
went to Hayfield for a walk up Kinder Scout G/SP-001.
Again, we didn’t beat the snow, it beat us. Jimmy and
Richard were still going strong, but I started to feel
unwell, and after a couple of attempts of pressing on, the
group decided to retreat. Again, beer was our tonic.
Plans for the Macclesfield club seasonal SOTA day out in
North East Wales were similar beaten by the weather,
although a group of us did summit The Cloud G/SP-015 one
morning for a successful Summit-2-Summit bid with
Holtankollen LA/TM-049. Aage LA1ENA and Kjell LA1KHA were
activating on “The Norway Cloud”!
Into the New Year, and three consecutive Tuesday night
activity contests have been missed, due to poor weather and
unsuitable road surfaces. An early New Year alert for
Shining Tor G/SP-004 was thwarted by the Cat & Fiddle road
being closed - due to snow - although we did get up there
with the sledges for a ‘pointless’ activation just before
the year end. We did manage, with care, to get the car up
to the parking spot for Gun G/SP-013 though, so there was at
least one point in the bag. In the third weekend in
January, we did eventually manage to activate Shining Tor
G/SP-004, and were surprised that there was still a huge
amount of snow up there. At least it had consolidated, to
make walking on it considerably easier.
But overall, it has been a poor return from a desperately
disappointing SOTA winter season so far. At least the bonus
period runs until 15th March 2010, so even if the Christmas
period has been and gone, there may yet be time to score
some extra points.
And to think, when I first took up SOTA in 2002, I assumed I
would just be doing it in the summer months…
Happy New Year all,
CW REPORT FOR FEBRUARY 2010 by Roy G4SSH
The exceptionally bad winter weather throughout January resulted in SOTA CW activations becoming very sparse indeed, with many blank days, especially during weekdays.
The only cross border expeditions heard were by
OK8NO (LX1NO), ON/LX1NO, ON/DK1BN, F/HB9AFI, DL/LX1NO, DL/OK2QA and PA/LX1NOP
Just to prove that there IS life above 7.032 KHz the following activators were heard on the higher bands:-
21 MHz F5UKL,
18 MHz: OH7BF, F5UKL,
14 MHz: OH7BF, F5UKL, HA7UL, SV1COX,
DL/HB9BAB, DF3MC, DL/LX1NO,
LA1ENA, LA1KHA, ,
OK8NO, OK1FFU OK2BDF, OK1DDQ, OK1CYC.
Activations on the lower bands were also heard from
1.8 MHz HA6OY, HA6PJ and
3.5 MHz HA6OY, HA6QR, HA6PJ
Contest activity on 40m caused problems on some weekends in January, but timely self spotting found Norby OK8NO and Petr OK1FFY on OK/KA-004 using 7002 KHz, on the 1st , Pista HA5TI operating on 7006 KHz on the 16th and Norby DL/LX1NO on 7003 KHz on the 30th allowing QSO’s on clear freqs.
I take my hat off to the dedication of activators who brave the elements with cheerful comments about the bitterly cold weather, snow and ice. Operating a Morse key under these conditions is a most difficult operation with the choice of either trying to control a key wearing thick gloves or risking the pain of frozen fingers. I am constantly impressed by the quality of CW heard under these conditions.
Pavel OK2BMA on the summit of ZL-018 ( Humenec 703m) on the 1st told me “My fingers are frozen, my log page is covered in snow and my pencil will not write – its great fun - Pse QRX for Brandy! !! He still remained on the summit to clear every chaser, right down to noise level, which took about an hour, then returned from ZL/051 Kopna 675m, less than one hr later. Remarkable!
It was a great pleasure to hear Anders SM0HPL once more activating on DA-016 on the 3rd. This was the first SM activator heard for many months.
THE VIEW FROM THE NORTH 13 Rob and Audrey
The New Year opened with a lot of snow to say the least. This turned to ice on the roads at all levels making travel in the Lake District a non starter. Black Combe, our usual New Years Eve walk was a mass of ice and we were reduced to a walk round the island. This can be a very pleasant trip with nature reserves at both ends, views to the Isle of Man and Great Orme on a clear day, lots of off-shore windmills, if you’re into that sort of thing and a nice different alternative walk for visitors. During the foot and mouth epidemic it was one of the few walks available and much used by visiting parties often sporting ice axes etc. No SOTA’s of course but there is a huge 50 foot sand dune at the north end. Total walk is about 16 miles. Avoid going out on the sands at the ends as the tides are dangerous. We did a short walk and I (Rob) managed to come home with a back pain, very cold wind, ironic in view of the hours sat on cold fells with no trouble. The Walney to Weir long distance cross country cycle route starts from Sandy Gap for those into that sort of thing.
Sunday 3rd Jan Arnside Knott
Beginning to feel at home on this little hill but a point today at last! Paths very icy but easily bypassed in the woods. Fifty six contacts in about two hours. Once again road conditions forced us to stay low. Nice to catch quite a few s2s with stations out for the VHF fun day.
Notice people having trouble with coax breaking etc. We use RG174 for all /P feeders and always carry a spare length with a BNC on one end and crocodile clips on the other. Any feeder problems, BNC end or centre feed point, just hack off the feeder at the feed point, clip on the spare feeder and away you go. This has saved us on both HF and VHF in the past and weighs very little. There is a lot of prejudice against RG174 but for the sort of feeder lengths we run it is perfect, light and easy to handle.
Sunday 10th Jan Muncaster Fell.
Still ice everywhere. Corney Fell road closed so drive right round Black Combe to Muncaster. The Castle car park unusable due to ice but a small lay-by on the other side of the road, 20m or so before the castle entrance, has room for about six cars.
Even the pavement on the short road section before the track is impassable with sheet ice and we have to walk in the main road. The track is a sheet of ice up to the tarn but from there a nice walk on crunchy snow. Two metres is not co operative with only two contacts, both on FM but the hill is easily qualified on HF. Muncaster is badly screened to the south but there seems to be a shortage of vhf chasers at the moment, could be that the extreme cold is keeping them from outdoor/ upstairs shacks, don’t
blame them! We must be mad.
Great to see on the reflector that Sean M0GIA is making progress on CW, it’s great when real words start to appear on the pad. It took me (Rob) years to get to grips with CW, you name a problem, I had it. Best advice is get your head right. Once you start you are a CW OPERATOR. Think of it that way. You might not be a very good one but that will come. Listen to the best operators you can find, once they were worse than you are now. Don’t just use lessons and tutor programs alone, listen on the air a lot. Find a station calling CQ; he’ll give his call quite a few times. Listen when you’re doing other things in the shack, leave the rig running and just listen. You’re not learning to be a military op, mixed figure/letter groups are fine for them, you need more of a conversational style, just listen, ideally to stations just a little faster than your comfort zone and it will come. For most SOTA contacts you can get away with your callsign, report, R, BK and dit-dit; the op on a cold hill will probably appreciate it. Just keep it simple. A decent op at the other end will slow to your speed automatically.
Having said that, adjusting the keying speed of an 817 in gloved hands
is not the easiest trick - ours is set to 15wpm and I just open the spacing out ‘till its OK for the other party. Ideally, wait towards the end of any pileup as you are not likely to crack it if you are quite slow, but later, ops will look for the slower (and QRP) signals. Don’t worry about mistakes, we all make them, me more than most, don’t panic just remember that you are a CW OPERATOR.
Sunday 17th Jan Holm Fell
Avoid the £5 odd parking fee by parking at the side of Yew Tree Tarn, room for about six cars, often full but today only with ice. Track muddy and icy by turns, the beck often the best place to walk and lying snow on the final grass slope. A good walk for an active family but toddlers may need a bit of carrying. A good takeoff to the south and east for vhf and plenty of room for hf antennas. Tea room and lake with ducks at the start for the less energetic. Again failed to qualify on 2m fm but a good number of regulars worked already on ssb.
This week’s topic seems to be shelters, we carry a 2 man bothy bag for emergencies but don’t use it to activate from. I (Rob) can steam up a car quicker than a wet border collie and despite breathable hats my hair is always wet after a climb. This does not make me the ideal companion in a bothy bag and we usually operate on the open fell, wearing many layers and taking advantage of any local cover. Seating is a sheet of polythene with self inflating cushions on top for insulation. I do wear a home made cummerbund (scarf with Velcro); being long in the back means most kit is too short. We can usually manage about two hours like this. Funnily enough we tend to use our fishing shelter mostly in the summer when it provides a handy base for long activations and the set up time does not eat into the activation.
Sunday 24th Jan. Gummers How.
Still lots of ice etc on the higher tops so this little family friendly fell is just the thing today with 20 minutes or so walk from the car park… Lots of folk about as always on this one and several groups show interest. One chap says “we carry tons more kit than that in the TA and we still can’t contact the blokes on the next hill”. A young lad, maybe 14 or so, hears the CW and says “It’s just like James Bond”. Just as I’m thinking “modern kids” he says “Does it send a magnetic and electric field at right angles to one another?” The family are quite taken with the whole affair and Mark G0VOF pops up in answer to the CQ call on 2m SSB with full phonetics which impress the lad even more and eventually they depart to look up the whole amateur radio thing and SOTA on the internet. All bands are reasonable but numbers are down a bit on 2 FM with a few regulars catching us on SSB earlier instead.
It does seem to be a good tactic to do the activation in a set order if possible. We try to do hf first (I’m too lazy to put up the hf antenna later, Rob). 5MHz, 7MHz CW, 10 MHz CW. Then 2m SSB, 2m FM and lastly any extras, 70cms 4m etc. On 2m we try to use 144.310 and 145.300 where possible. All of this tends to give the regular chasers a chance of finding us in the absence of spots. Allow for an activation of about 2hrs in winter, more in the good weather. This can all fall over in bad WX but you can’t control everything.
We’re hoping to attack something a little bigger this weekend (no winter bonus points this year so far) but once again the advanced forecast is for snow and ice so we’ll have to decide nearer the day.
Thanks to everyone for the spots and support
73 and take care.
Rob and Audrey
CONTESTS DURING FEBRUARY 2010
The following scheduled contests are expected to cause severe QRM to SOTA activity, especially on the 40m band. Activators should plan accordingly with alternate spots / bands. This is not a complete list of contests.
13-14th 0001-2359 CQ WW RTTY WPX contest
13-15th 1200-1200 Dutch PACC Contest CW & SSB
20-21st 0001-2359 ARRL International CW DX contest
26-27th 2100-2100 Russian PSK Contest
28th-1st 1300-1300 UBA CW DX Contest
SOTA News is published around noon UTC on the last day of the month and can only be as interesting as the items submitted. If you think your particular field of interest is not being covered then please submit an article by the 25th of the month. Have you a favourite SOTA? favourite mode? favourite rig, antenna, or favourite band? How did you find your first day / month / year as an activator or chaser? Your comments and experiences will be read by SOTA enthusiasts all across Europe and beyond, and your input will be most welcome.
*** IMPORTANT*** - EARLIER DEADLINE FOR MARCH ISSUE.
I am on holiday commencing PM on the 26th February, so the March edition of SOTA News will be published 48 hours early, at noon on the 26th February.
The deadline for contributors will be Thursday 25th February.
I will remind regular contributors nearer the time.
SOTA News editor