SOTA NEWS JANUARY 2011
EDITORIAL – by Roy G4SSH
Welcome to the January 2011 edition of SOTA News. My thanks go to the following contributors:- Les G3VQO, Barry GM4TOE, Fred K6DGW, Andy MM0FMF, Andrew M6ADB, Tony M0ZZA, Nick G4OOE, Rob & Audrey G4RQJ, Tom M1EYP, Vlado Z35M.
As in the previous month, the severe weather during December reduced SOTA activity to an all-year low, with many activations postponed, or cancelled before arrival at the summit. There were many days with no activity but there was a ray of hope towards the end of the month as temperatures rose to almost zero. The 30th of December saw more than 70 spots recorded. Hopefully, a sign that winter is easing.
FROM THE MANAGEMENT TEAM
It’s changeover day in Belgium on 1st January. Peter ON4UP takes over as Association Manager, with previous incumbent Johan ON5EX relinquishing the post. The MT would like to thank Johan for his hard work in the past, and to wish Peter well in his new post. By way of “celebration”, two new summits have been added to the Belgian list from the same date.
Meanwhile, all of the positional errors in three of our Spanish Associations have now been corrected. A number of new summits have also been added in EA4 at the same time."
73 and HNY de Les, G3VQO
SOTA AWARDS FOR DECEMBER 2010 By Barry GM4TOE - SOTA Awards Manager
December has proven to be a very quiet month for awards, is this a reflection of the atrocious weather conditions preventing activators making it onto the hills?
Congratulations to OE7PHI on achieving Shack Sloth and also 5000 Chaser points. It is also interesting to see that two dedicated chasers are now climbing up the activation ladder as well – congratulations to HB9BIN and OE7PHI. Not to be left out is new award claimant M6HBS who joins the ranks of award achievers.
Hopefully the New Year will encourage activators onto the hills and award claims to increase!
OE7PHI Hansjoerg Poernbacher. -Shack Sloth
OE7PHI Hansjoerg Poernbacher 250 points
HB9BIN Jurg Regli 100 points
OE7PHI Hansjoerg Poernbacher 5000 points
M6HBS Jonathan Hobbs 100 points
Temperatures have changed dramatically in the last few days which means that road access to the hills is improved, although as I write this there are still a lot of minor roads not recommended for anyone without four wheel drive on their cars. This does bring another hazard though – the possibility of avalanche, so activators are advised to check their local avalanche warning service before venturing out. This is not a problem limited to the high hills on mainland Europe, it can be a serious problem anywhere which has had significant snowfall; remember, the worst avalanche in Britain was in Lewes in Sussex, not a place exactly renowned for its high hills!
Finally my thanks to Jurg HB9BIN for his donation towards the SOTA funds, it is very much appreciated.
May I wish everyone a peaceful, prosperous and safe New Year.
Barry Horning GM4TOE
to Ann-Marie, XYL of Alastair 2E0SCZ, who is now M6HMA
to Adrian who has upgraded from Intrmedeiate call 2M0ETR to Advanced MM0TAI
to Bros HB9AGH on passing the magnificent 35,000 chaser points milestone.
to Iain MM3WJZ on becoming a Mountain Goat on 19th December whilst activating
GM-WS-013 Ben Cruachan 1126m and 10 pts.
to Hans PA0HRM who managed to break through the 8000 chaser points milestone on the 30th December.
to Allan MM1BJP who achieved the last Mountain Goat of 2010.
to Geoff G6MZX who achieved 5000 chaser points on the 30th December.
LOCAL LISTENING FREQUENCIES
Following a comment made by M3WDS I started a topic on the reflector asking about commonly monitored frequencies which might be of assistance to activators stuck for a VHF contact when on a summit. The suggestions made were as follows:
Cheltenham 145.350 FM
Inverness 145.575 FM
Aberdeen 145.475 FM
Fife 144.310 USB
Weston-super-Mare 438.325 FM
Cornwall 144.700 FM
Cornwall 144.725 FM
Telford 144.600 FM
Telford GB3TF 433.200 / 103.5Hz access
Welsh Borders GB3FM 145.6125 / 103.5Hz access
Welsh Borders GB3VN 430.925 / 103.5Hz access
Welsh Borders GB3GT 50.83 / 103.5Hz access
My own experience, in an area of professional listeners, is that using the repeaters around the Moray Firth (GB3SS, GB3BI) are a complete waste of time although you might get somebody on GB3NG; be warned though, the local accent might be challenging!
Any additions to the list? It might be useful to include known favourite frequencies in popular holiday areas, especially in France, Spain and the Alpine areas.
SOTA - A TALE OF MY FIRST 7 MONTHS – from Andrew M6ADB
If a year ago someone had suggested that during the course of the next 12 months I would have lugged a radio set up a hill in the driving rain; suffered dehydration from operating on an exposed hill top in high summer; stumbled past a trig point in thick fog; and sat in a nature reserve at -7C, I would have told them they were mad. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what SOTA (or any of the other OTAs for that matter), WFF, QSB or QRM were – and my local hills and open countryside were just that: local hills and open countryside.
But that was before I (re)discovered amateur radio, and more specifically, the joys of portable operation – now every walk or trek out is preceeded by looking up SOTA or WFF references (and occasionally other things too) not to mention WAB squares and Maidenhead locators, just in case.
As a kid, I dabbled with CB, and over the years I’ve known a few people who were into Amateur Radio… and there have been several occasions when I’ve thought about getting licenced. Finally, last spring, the interest was rekindled - a few weeks later I was in attendance at Bracknell ARC’s Foundation Course, the following week I left with my pass certificate, and a few days later, on 28th April, I gained an M6 callsign with my initials – M6ADB.
I’d become aware of SOTA from Tom (M1EYP) Read’s article January’s Practical Wireless, which immediately appealed as it linked my love of the outdoors with my new-found hobby… the only pitfall was the fact that from Farnborough, eligible summits are few and far between. On the other hand, Walbury Hill wasn’t far from Andover where I was working, so it looked like an obvious place to start. But regulars of the reflector will recall it took five visits to successfully qualify that particular summit! But encouragement abounds, and so far I have successfully qualified G/SE-001 to 005 inclusive, G/CE-001 to 005 inclusive (region complete) and G/SC-007 and 008. More recently, I have added WFF activations to the mix, as I have a number of these local to me… Hopefully 2011 will add a few more to the collection, although (and with due respect to others who travel the miles for a summit) distance to travel is an issue! And maybe some of them will earn me more than just the solitary point.
But my bigger objective of 2011 is to get the Intermediate Licence sorted, and maybe look towards the Advanced. And then, I might think about learning morse!
Generally, I have found SOTA chasers a polite and supportive bunch, who appreciate the efforts of the activators. Most WFF chasers are the same, but are let down by a small (but high-powered) minority. A small but growing number, who I have worked a few times, are like being greated by an old friend.
To finish, some stats from my 10W portable operations during these first seven months:
• 765 QSOs logged
• 52 DXCCs entities, and five US states, worked, over 9 CQ Zones and 5 continents
• 12 SOTA sumits activated, 3 S2S logged
• 12 WFF sites activated, 40 WFF references chased
Many thanks to everyone who has worked me (either as activator or chaser; for SOTA, GFF, WAB or whatever). I look forward to a few more QSOs in 2011
MY FIRST SOTA ACTIVATION – By Nick G4OOE
I have been an active SOTA chaser since June this year and I must take this
opportunity to thank veteran SOTA chasers Roy G4SSH and Kevin G0NUP for all
the help and advice that they have given me over the past six months. I
must also thank John G4YSS for his help and advice from the activator’s
point of view. SOTA has certainly rekindled my interest in Amateur Radio.
Several weeks ago my son Neil and his family moved to Buchs near Zurich in
Switzerland, so you can imagine my delight in finding out that this village
is next to Daellikon, close to summit HB/ZH-015, where well known SOTA
activator Jurg HB9BAB lives. I contacted Jurg by email and he kindly gave me
his number so that I could arrange to meet up with him and even participate
in a joint activation of Altberg HB/ZH-015.
My XYL Eva and I flew out to Zurich on Friday 26 November where I contacted
Jurg and we arranged to meet up at his house on Thursday 2 December. I had
taken my FT817 and a dipole and I did manage to work G4SSH and G0NUP on
10 MHz from my son’s QTH on Sunday 28th November, but my signal was pretty
poor into Scarborough. However, I did get better reports from Germany and
On Tuesday 30th December, after the school run, we had gone to a small
village close to Baden to take my grandsons to see a puppet show which they
thoroughly enjoyed even though they have little understanding of Swiss
German! Heavy snow fell during the performance and we really struggled
getting back to Buchs with the car skidding and a lorry in front of us
jack-knifing several times. Of course once we had returned home I started
thinking about the SOTA activation on the Thursday wondering whether or not
it would still be possible.
The big day had finally arrived, Thursday 2nd December. I left Buchs on foot
round about 0915 and after checking directions a couple of times arrived at
Jurg’s house around 1030. Shortly afterwards Jurg arrived home from his work
on his bike and he took me in to show me his shack and SOTA mobile
We set off at around 1100 walking along the snow covered tracks where
we had great views of the valley. One of the highlights was seeing a Red
Kite circling around. On the down side I did have a close encounter with the
snow as I slid on compacted ice from a tyre track! We walked and talked and
finally arrived on top of Altberg at around 1145. Conveniently placed was
a local hostelry where we stopped to warm ourselves with a well earned cup
We then gingerly made our way on ice covered steps to the top of
the 30 metres high tower. Jurg opened his rucksack and took out his
transceiver, auto ATU and paddle keyer - all made from kits. Jurg said that
it would only take around 2 minutes to get on the air and he was right! Jurg
unravelled a thin strand of wire and dropped it over the side of the tower.
I took the other piece of wire for the counterpoise and laid it in the snow
on the decking of the viewing platform. Jurg connected the auto ATU and he
sent the first CQ SOTA on 7032 kHz!
Straight away we heard the 599 signal from Roy G4SSH then Jurg handed me the microscopic key and I too worked Roy shortly followed by Kevin G0NUP and we had a steady pile up for about 40 minutes working stations from most of Northern Europe.
After a few contacts I handed the key back to Jurg as I seemed to be shorting the key. Jurg corrected my finger positioning and I went on to work a total of 34
stations. The band was so clear with no local interference whatsoever. I had
never before experienced such ideal band conditions. Although we were on top
of a covered tower, all the sides were exposed to the elements and by the
time I had finished I had absolutely no feeling left in fingers!
Jurg had kindly provided me with a small piece of old carpet to sit on and
fortunately I had my waterproof trousers, walking boots, balaclava and fur
hat on to keep my core temperature up! We had worked a total of 40 stations.
Jurg had already activated this summit over 100 times and to see his
continued enthusiasm is certainly inspirational! We then went back into the
restaurant for a tasty leisurely lunch, Jurg had vermicelle, a dish made
from chestnut puree. I wasn’t so adventurous so I settled for the sausages! The
restaurant had a very pleasant aroma of Fondu, cooked cheese, a local
After lunch we walked back down to Jurg’s house by a different
route. I then went in to meet his XYL Anne-Lise and we enjoyed some apple
cake with vanilla sauce - very tasty indeed! I reckon I returned home to my
son’s house in Buchs by about 1645 just in time for dinner which I had to
decline! What a fantastic first SOTA activation; a day I will never forget!
My thanks go to Jurg for making it possible and to Roy for posting the Spot
and a big thanks to all the chasers I managed to work. You all made it a
very special occasion. Jurg also informed me about the summit above and
behind my son’s house, Laegern HB-ZH-010 which is even closer, so watch this
MORE SOTA DOGS
I normally have between 1 and 3 faithful dogs towing me up the hills.
Biggles, Echo and Hebe are all English Springer Spaniels.
Mayhem is guaranteed on busy summits with all three homing in on any and all packed lunches.
Happy Christmas and New Year.
CANADA/US SOTA News - by Fred K6DGW
As we all suspected, two things have happened recently:
Winter arrived, and with it a whole lot of cold, snow, rain, and
wind. Consequently, outdoor ham activity is pretty subdued, with the
exception of the W5 Association.
SOTA is catching on at an ever increasing rate here in the New World.
Winter is a good time to use what would have been your activation/chaser
time to spiff up your equipment in anticipation of spring. Shedding a
few grams here or there always helps, and knowing all your cables and
connectors are sound before you get to the top of the mountain is a good
Likewise, it’s a good time to begin planning your 2011 activations.
Here in the Sierra Nevada, all the summits are pretty much snowed in
with the possible exception of Banner Mt [W6/SN-048]. There are a lot
of summits over in the coast ranges however that do not get snow. I’ve
gotten quite a bit of interest from some members of the No. Cal. Contest
Club to mount a handful of activations in the Jan/Feb/Mar time frame, so
we’ll see what we can conjure up.
Jean-Pierre, VA2SG, reports not much happening in VE2 right now, as does
Andrew, K2FR, for New York state.
W7: Guy, N7UN, reports:
“Winter arrived early in the west with heavy snows in the mountains.
Consequently not a lot of SOTA activity in W7-OR/ID/MT/WY/NV during
November except the first Activation in NV by Adrian/N6VDR. On 13 Nov,
Adrian christened NV with an activation of Corey Peak (W7/EM-004 3206
Andrew, K2FR, also posted the following to the NA SOTA email list
regarding his attempt at W2/GC-061:
“7am Sunday morning, I am sitting in the trailhead parking lot looking
at the snow on the ground, and the snow steadily falling in the air. A
trailess peak, with snow on the ground and snow falling. This should be
a fun time. Shortly thereafter the hiking group I had signed up with
arrived. I would never attempt this alone for safety reasons.”
“15 in total, we tromped into the woods. Me being the new guy, who
apparently showed up prepared, lead for a while with my GPS. Nice bunch
of people but few brought GPS’s. It was cold, around -6C and the snow
only seemed to fall harder as the hike went on. A short 1.8 miles and
over 548m of elevation gain and we were at the summit.”
"I could not get an APRS beacon out at 1,082m, and could not raise a
single soul on 146.520 [the NA 2m calling frequency]. The hiking group
had started down and I sadly realized, 'It’s just not happening today.'
I loaded up and hiked on down with the group. W2/GC-061 might not be
a peak I look to try again. No aprs coverage, and hiking with a group
gives me limited time at the peak. So in the end,
Hike - Successful
Activation - Failed"
Ed. Note: “Failed” is so harsh, Andrew. I volunteer at our local blood
center, and donors sometimes cannot donate for a variety of reasons.
One said to me on the way out, “You rejected me.” I explained to her
that, “We never REJECT anyone. We may defer you and ask you to return
later when you’re in better shape to bleed into the bag, but we never
’reject’ anyone.” Perhaps we can say that “All of Andrew’s objectives
were successfully accomplished, except one.”
W5: Mike, KD9KC and the driving force behind the W5 Association reports:
"On 23 Dec 2010 Mike (KD9KC) and Ron (WT5RZ) ascended New Mexico’s Mount
Cristo Rey (W5/RO-020) for what could be our last SOTA activation of the
year. Mount Cristo Rey is a famous landmark. http://mtcristorey.com/ "
Mike made 25 Q’s in 13 states/provinces, including two from Hawai’i
primarily on 20m SSB. Ron operated mainly 20m CW; they were separated
by enough distance that this worked just fine.
Mike is a good friend, and leads hikes in the mountains of the southwest
US as another hobby. He writes very good after-hike reports, and this
one has an exciting twist given that the mountain is partially in
Juarez, Mexico which has seen a great deal of violence of late. His
report is a bit too long for the SOTA Newsletter, so I’ve posted it at
http://www.foothill.net/~andreaj/SOTA.htm where you can read the whole
W4: Chuck, K4QS, reports:
“We’re making progress with the W4 Virginia association. The peaks list
is compiled and under review at the moment. Work on the ARM will begin
shortly. There are 542 qualifying peaks in Virginia, so we should have
some good offerings for everyone.”
It is doubtful that there are any qualifying summits in Florida, but the
other states in W4 can likely manage some. This will leave W8 and W9
yet to go to finish up the US. Canada currently has VE1, VE2, and VE7
That’s about it from the western hemisphere for this month. 2011 is
going to be a great SOTA year! My best wishes to all for a successful
and happy new year.
I just received another activation report by Mike, KD9KC and Ron, WT5RZ …
I’ve summarized it here, the full report is at the URL in the report above.
Well – another successful SOTA activation is in the books. I started
the W5-Association on 1 July 2010, and my goal is 50 activator points by
1 Jan 2011. I have 47 points now, with 2 weeks left to get in another
On Saturday- 18 Dec - 2010 Myself (KD9KC) and Ron (WT5RZ) set off to
activate Sleeping Lady Hills HP (High Point). This is about 8 km S-SW
of Rough and Ready hills, which I activated for my birthday and Ron
activated on the NASE.
Mike made 14 Q’s, including KL8DX in Alaska, and he and Ron finally
packed it in due to the wind and cold.
Fred K6DGW [aka “Skip” on the radio]
Canada/US SOTA Reporter Dude
====REVIEWS OF 2010 ====
SOTA SCOTLAND - THE YEAR IN FOCUS by Andy MM0FMF
2010 was an interesting year on several fronts. 2009 ended with significant snow falling that made activating the hills near impossible; more from trying to drive to the start points than anything else. This year the snow came early and it’s still here although melting slowly. Once more it’s made getting out difficult. This can be seen from looking at the database where the number of winter bonus activations is well down on those years where it’s only been cold rather than cold and deep with snow.
Looking at the database shows that we’ve had 33 GM activators out and about this year, which is just one more than last year. Between us we’ve activated 434 summits this year, which is up on 2009’s figure of 397, especially when considering that the weather severely curtailed activity in January, February and December this year.
We’re building a steady core of regular activators and the number located outside the Central Belt is growing. I could list so many callsigns that this ends up looking like the callbook, but I’ll mention just two. Andrew GM0UDL makes a welcome return to
activating after a few years absence and Iain MM3WJZ has moved up to the correct side of border.
Iain MM3WJZ also succeeded in reaching Mountain Goat status this Winter.
Talk about finishing in style; Iain braved all 1126m of Ben Cruachan in fiercly cold and snowy conditions to gain 13 points and finish the year on 1012 points. An excellent achievement and I know that Iain will be continuing to rack up the points in 2011. Iain joins Robin GM7PKT, Jack GM4COX and Barry GM4TOE in being the 4 GM MG’s. There’s a few more people getting close so there maybe more celebrations in 2011.
For reasons that I don’t fathom I volunteered to take over from Gary G0HJQ as
the database manager. Well how hard could it be? Hard enough! However, the mysteries of how the database works is slowly being unravelled as I study Gary’s code. That plus learning the idiosyncrasies of Microsoft’s ASP.NET makes this a fun thing, especially if you’re from a Linux background. So far I’ve uploaded only 1 update and the database is still running so my first update didn’t break much. When you see how much there is and consider the size of the database it makes you realise what an excellent job Gary has done and what a debt we all owe him.
The other big happening here was my decision to run an SMS gateway. It
started as an idea to try and make use of the ever growing pile of old cellphones that I seem to acquire. Of course none of them were suitable so I ended up buying a cheap dongle from eBay and that’s where the real fun started. Having finally got it all working I had to rewrite the whole program, as a memory leak caused the system to fall over in a big heap if I didn’t reboot it every 14 days.
No real problem, except with the system being used by over 100 people,
you have to choose the time carefully to play with new software. I have to admit to using my users as beta-testers which is a bit naughty but Microsoft have been doing it for 30 years and it’s not done them any harm! What nobody tells you is that once you offer a service to people (even if it’s free) then you feel obliged to keep it running. A power failure just after I set off for this year’s Friedrichshafen rally meant I had a 25 minute call back to Mrs. FMF from Germany where I had to talk her through rebooting the server and play with USB cables. I was able to log in from
afar and get things running eventually. After that Andrew K1YMI/GM1YMI
persuaded me to run another in the USA which has been up and running since November 28 without problem. I should hope so after the effort getting it working at home!
Finally a few figures selected from the database. (Hey I wrote the code to this so I’m
going to make sure it gets used!)
Top activators by summits activated:
1 GM7PKT — 45
2 MM0FMF/P - 45
3 MM3WJZ — 43
4 GM4COX — 42
5 2M0NCM — 31
Top activators by QSO’s (all modes)
1 GM4COX — GM/SS-164 Kirkland Hill 02/05/2010 ----- 49
2 GM7PKT/P - GM/CS-044 Beinn Teallach 20/02/2010 ---- 45
3 MM3BRR/P - GM/SI-137 Ben Tangaval 22/08/2010 ------ 44
4 GM7PKT/P - GM/WS-283 Sidhean na Raplaich 06/02/2010 42
5 GM7PKT/P - GM/WS-302 Beinn Leamhain 23/01/2010 ---- 41
Right, that’s me done. All the best for 2011 and I hope to hear you all very soon from
GM AM and Database Manager
Z3 SOTA IN 2010 by Vlado Z35M
In the past year the small Macedonian SOTA Association was active both in activating and chasing summits. After the first year (2009) of one-man SOTA activity, now we have a few SOTA enthusiasts.
The statistics for 2010 shows that we achieved close to 5000 chasers points, 1100 worked activators, and 61 activations of Z3 SOTA summits.
The Summit to Summit Award - 100 Contacts has also been achieved by our members.
The proposal of 203 new summits was sent to MT and we expect the complete list of all 272 qualifying SOTA summits in Macedonia to start in 1.1 2011.
We wish you all the best for New Year 2011.
Vlado, Z35M AM Z3 SOTA
=====END OF YEAR STATISTICS=====
All-time, all association number of activator QSO’s in the SOTA programme:
Top 25 as of 30th December 2010.
- G1INK ---- 26193
- LX1NO — 16869
- HB9AFI – 12719
- M1EYP — 12663
- G4RQJ — 11844
- GM7PKT - 11628
- DJ3AX — 11498
- G4YSS ---- 9779
- S53X ------- 8787
- OK1DDQ – 8719
- HB9BAB — 8556
- DL3SBA — 8163
- DH0DK ---- 8090
- HA7UL ---- 8011
- S57XX ---- 7917
- G4ERP ---- 7325
- DL2HSC — 7121
- GW4BVE – 7097
- G3CWI ---- 7072
- OK1CYC — 6914
- DL4FDM — 6552
- G4WSB ---- 6549
- G3TJE ----- 6212
- LA1ENA ---- 5941
- F6ENO ----- 5806
All-time, all association number of activations in the SOTA programme:
Top 25, as of 30th December 2010.
- M1EYP — 1015
- G1INK ----- 790
- DL2HSC — 754
- GM4PKT — 731
- G3CWI ----- 696
- G4RQJ ----- 573
- DL3AX ----- 532
- HB9BAB ---- 518
- DH0DK ----- 498
- HB9AFI ---- 465
- M1AVV ---- 453
- GW4BVE — 434
- DM2KL ----- 432
- G4YSS ----- 422
- G4ERP ----- 414
- LX1NO ----- 411
- DJ2AY ----- 408
- DG0OCZ — 402
- DG0JMB — 390
- M3EYP ----- 380
- DL3AWK — 375
- DH3ZK ----- 351
- G4MD ------ 327
- G4OIG ----- 324
- G3TJE ----- 321
END OF YEAR, ALL ASSOCIATIONS, ALL TIME HONOUR ROLL
As of noon UTC 31st December 2010
END OF YEAR TOP CHASER SCORES BY MODE FOR THE LAST 5 YEARS
Both SSB and FM show an increase in 2010, whilst CW had a fall.
Once more the Slovenian chasers have a remarkable FM record, with sixteen S5 calls listed in the top 20 stations in the all-associations FM chaser table.
On behalf of the 1,500 chasers listed in the SOTA data base I would like to thank all activators for their contribution to the programme. The foremost aim of these tables is to recognise the effort and dedication that all activators have put into the SOTA programme. The abandonment of many attempted activations in blizzard conditions during December served to highlight the difficulties that can be encountered by activators. (Ed - G4SSH)
THE VIEW FROM THE NORTH 24 - Rob and Audrey
A change of format this month due to the intervention of the weather Looking at last years offering and we were complaining of the weather through the year causing us to have used up most of the local lower hills, but this year has been worse and looking back through our photos shows us in coats on almost every summit. As a result of this and the fact that many minor roads have remained difficult with un-cleared ice and snow, we have only managed one activation, that of Fair Snape Fell.
This is really one of our favourites but we often get lost in the “Chipping Triangle “ a tangle of lanes around the start point of the walk at the end of the strangely named Startifants Lane (not a spelling mistake). Today many of the lanes were solid with sheet ice and even the Policeman we asked was lost (I’m just a stand in from outside the area). As a result of all this we were late in arriving at the summit and needed to cut time, so unfortunately had to miss out the HF CW section, so apologies if you were listening for us. In spite of this we were there for almost three hours and were very cold at the start of the descent. We were quite surprised to qualify the summit easily on 4M fm including a summit to summit contact just using the rubber duck on the hand held(antenna lead problems on the beam), very different from the activity levels in LD/NP.
Good to see lots of people taking the CW learning path and seeing Nelson VE7FTL’s comments on the “swing” of the code on the musical lesson. Remember being told by an old CW man now long gone that the introduction of swing into people’s fists came in when steamers on the Great Lakes were first equipped with radio. Apparently the inexperienced ship board operators had copying difficulties at speed and the more experienced coast station ops took to feeding them code by slightly extending certain elements of letters to emphasise the overall rhythm (e.g. G dah daah dit). The total effect became known as Lake Erie Swing. The technique can be quite useful in some circumstances. A “J” as the last letter in a call is often miss-copied but slightly extending the final dah can make a world of difference.
When I was learning CW properly back in the 70’s I developed my sending by sending a keyed tone into a CW recognition program running on a commodore 64. This is an excellent test because if your timing is not spot on the copy is rubbish. I demonstrated this to an old amateur who was visiting the shack, “lets have a go “ he said but his fist had so much swing the program couldn’t cope and the copy was rubbish. I told him the program was faulty!
So much for Lake Erie Swing, it’s probably an apocryphal tale and in the States they probably call it Mersey Ship Canal Swing! Good luck with the CW all of you. Remember you are a CW operator and that once the people who just sound perfect were just as bad as you think you are.
And now A Winters Tale. In 2006 we were on the summit of Wards Stone, sitting in snow with flurries of spindrift operating HF. We had not seen a soul all day until a young man approached and politely asked what we were doing. We explained and he said that someone where he worked did this sort of thing and that as he was a keen walker he would look at it when he got home. Last week he achieved Mountain Goat, well done Iain MM3WJZ; did we mention it was habit forming?
We were watching an American documentary on the German DMAX channel over the Christmas break (UK TV being so great) about an Everest climb. The final fixed camp was in radio contact with the two climbing parties by radio with the base operator in his sleeping bag using what appeared to be an Icom vhf mobile rig. At one point the camera closed in on the radio and clearly showed the operating frequency to be 145.250 MHz. Unfortunately the documentary was of the type that runs the English commentary for the first few words of every sentence merging into a German over dub which is harder to handle for us than just plain German and we were unable to catch the significance of this. The climbing groups were equipped with rucksack antennas and no obvious radios (hardly surprising given the WX) so maybe Everest has been activated on 2M. Given the time that each team member in the queue was allowed on the summit it would have to have been contest style. hihi! The climbing groups contained one person on two prosthetic legs, truly heroic.
The recent bad weather has caused chaos locally as we are really not geared up for high snowfall, being very close to the sea on three sides. As a result the roads have been almost impassable for days and our activations schedule has been badly disrupted, hopefully the New Year will see us getting back to normal. There have been two fatal accidents on the local fells in the last week, a man fell through a cornice on Striding Edge and an ice climber fell at Cautley Spout. Please everyone take care on the hills as it can be dangerous even to the experienced.
Enough doom and gloom, it’s almost the New Year so we would like to wish everyone in SOTA all the very best for 2011. Enjoy the hills, enjoy the radio and we hope to work all of you.
Take care out there
73 and a Happy New Year
Rob and Audrey G4RQJ
ABANDON SHIP! by Tom M1EYP
My last SOTA expedition on 2010 resulted in the team having to take the decision to retreat before attaining the summit. This was due to rapidly increasing difficulty in deep wet snow on Carnedd y Filiast GW/NW-032. Aborting a SOTA activation or expedition before completion is always one of the more gut-wrenchingly disappointing things one can do in life. OK, not life, that’s silly, but within the context of a focussed hobby!
The experience caused me to reflect on other instances of abandoning, and the different circumstances involved. Snow got the better of me last winter not once, but twice. Richard G3CWI and I had attempted a long approach to Black Hill G/SP-002, using the Pennine Way from Crowden. Snow had closed the A628 from which the usual approach takes place. Little more than one hour into the walk, the going in freshly falling heavy snow became difficult enough for us to decide that an afternoon in the pub would be preferable.
Undeterred, a few days later we attempted Kinder Scout G/SP-001 in the snow. Similarly, the weather had blocked the roads to the usual starting point, so we were attempting a different approach from Hayfield. Again, the snow was deep and soft, making the going very tiring. This got too much for me as I began to feel ill, and a retreat had to be called.
The other instance of turning back before reaching the summit that I can recall was back in 2003. It was the inaugural Snowdonia SOTA camp & BBQ, organised by Roger MW0IDX. Jimmy (10), Liam (6) and I had pitched our tent on the Saturday afternoon, and then activated the adjacent 1-pointer, Moel y Dyniewyd GW/NW-056. That night I had the worst night’s sleep ever - in fact I spent hardly any of it actually sleeping! The following morning, we got about two thirds of the way up Yr Aran GW/NW-019 in baking hot temperatures, before admitting defeat and turning back.
Two other abandonment’s have occurred mid-activation. We had reached the summits of Kisdon G/NP-026 and Great Mell Fell G/LD-035 respectively, but neither Jimmy M3EYP nor I managed to qualify the activation with the requisite four contacts each. On Kisdon, we got the three contacts each in a long activation using 2m FM & SSB plus 40m SSB. (This was before my CW days). We had managed to exhaust the internal battery in the FT-817 (this was before my SLAB days), so were down to just our 2m FM handhelds. Kisdon, despite being a qualifying P150 Marilyn summit, is surrounded by higher hills in most directions. So the handies were about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. It was getting later, and colder. Jimmy had lost his mobile phone up there, so spotting - SMS or dial-a-spot - was not an option either. Reluctantly, Jimmy, Liam and myself packed away, descended, and headed for the youth hostel for the night.
On Great Mell Fell, we were joined on summit by static rain so severe that it rendered 2m FM contacts almost impossible. Even Richard G3CWI had struggled on 40m CW. We left that hill with just one QSO each in the logbook.
We did eventually return to both Kisdon and Great Mell Fell to fully complete the activations, and Carnedd y Filiast is now on the hit list. As is Cyrniau Nod GW/NW-034, our original target on the NW-032 day. Impassable iced roads caused our cancellation of that aspiration before turning our attentions to one we could access from a main road.
When will we next abandon ship? Possibly early into the New Year! The Macclesfield club is organising another group activation, this time on Kinder Scout G/SP-001, but there is the possibility that the snow is returning around that time! Gun G/SP-013 is the “Plan B”, but what will the roads be like? Only time will tell.
Happy New Year.
CW REPORT FOR DECEMBER 2010 - by Roy G4SSH
The continuing bad weather all across Europe had a considerable impact on SOTA activations, especially CW, where there were many days in December with Zero spots, or just one or two.
This resulted in very few cross border activations with just HB9/G4OOE, EA/F5UKL, DL/LX1NO, OH/LX1NO, F/HB9AFI and DL/HB9BAB heard.
A warm welcome is extended to the following newcomers, heard activating SOTA’s for the first time on CW during December:- Nick HB9/G4OOE, Mike SQ6JNX, J45V
Heard active above 40m were:-
24 MHz F5UKL
21 MHz: OK9HAG, NE1SJ, F5UKL
18 MHz: EA/F5UKL, OH7BF, F5UKL
F6ENO, F5LKW, F6HBI, F5UKL
KD9KC, WT5RZ, NE1SJ,
F6ENO, F5LKW, F5UKL,
G3CWI, GW8OGI, MM0FMF, GM0UDL
S53X, S53XX, S57X, S59Z,
Also thanks to the stalwarts who enthusiastically continue to activate on 80 and 160m:-
3.5 MHz GX0OOO, OK9HAG, HA7PO, HA6QR,
1.8 MHz GX0OOO, HA6OY,
CW CHASING TIPS FOR NEWCOMERS (Part 2)
(This is part two of an article intended for the apprehensive newcomer to SOTA chasing on CW who would like some basic ground rules. I am not telling new chasers what to do, but I will explain the methods that work for me and leave it up to you to decide if these will work for you).
- Become recognised by the regular activators.
When you work an activator for the first time, always give your name. This only needs to be done once. The reason for this is that there are many instances on CW when the activating station is weak and fading and other chasers are causing QRM. Under these conditions your name coming back can be the confirmation that the activator is calling you. I often hear a very weak …579…OY 73. That is all I need to confirm that the activator is replying to me (Roy). I am fortunate in so much that my first name is not only short, but contains a lot of dashes, which always punch through QSB better than the fraction-of-a-second dot, which is often lost.
It is probably too late to change your callsign unless you are about to upgrade. However, if so then choose a callsign that can be instantly remembered; this means that an activator hearing just part of your callsign will reply. I am doubly fortunate that suffix of my callsign is all dots because a single SSH will bring an instant reply from the activator. I could probably send 10 dots and still receive a reply. Other calls registered to me are 2E0OOO, G0OOO, G7OOO and M0O; my daughter is licenced as M5OOO and my son G4UUU, all chosen for instant recognition. Once heard, these calls are never forgotten and I estimate that they are worth a couple of S-points in a pile-up.
- Keep a simple profile list of all activators.
This is the most important working aid that you can devise to increase the success rate of your station. Activators are creatures of habit and knowledge of their individual working procedures, favourite frequencies and habits can give you a tremendous advantage when attempting to make contact.
Basically, you need a note of callsign, first name, usual working frequencies and any comments. This does not have to be extensive and if you do not use computer logging these can be jottings in a notebook or on a single sheet of paper. I also include any information about the rig, antenna, power, and input information from the QSL card when it arrives.
So how do I use this information? I make a list of any alerts posted for the day and by consulting my profile sheet make an assessment of which stations are likely to be audible. I am unlikely to make contact with stations in southern Europe with 2w output to a small antenna around noon, but other stations using 10-100w are going to be certain contacts, so, if possible I can plan to be around the shack at that time.
Another advantage is that I can immediately reply to an activator with their first name, which is not always given on the spots page and many stations use a shortened name on CW. I also know who will call on 7030 or 7033 KHz instead of 7032, who will call on 7118 KHz CW during a CW contest weekend, who will stay on a summit for at least 2 hours, who will make just enough contacts to qualify the summit then QSY, who will always commence an activation by calling on 10118 KHz, who has a chirpy Tx that drifts upwards, which OK stations will usually be active in the late afternoons, etc.
When two or three stations are active together this background knowledge allows me to prioritise the order in which to make contact. The list is also invaluable in event of a crash of SOTA Watch, or your own computer. Some French activators in particular will often use non-standard frequencies after starting on 7032 KHz, so if the station fades out you can monitor 10122, 14061, 18086, 21059m 24906 or 28059 KHz.
It is also possible to identify an activator if you are struggling to read the callsign. All I need from a chaser is (for example) “TNX Milan” and I can narrow the possibilities down to one or two activators. Most regular chasers will have some of this information in their head but it is difficult to instantly recall these facts without notes.
- Signal reports. These are meant to be assessed by ear, not your S-meter, which are often “lazy”. This is compounded by modern rigs where the digital display actually displays an S-number. The majority of QRP SOTA signals which I log never even move the S-meter needle off the stop, so if believed my eyes then most all my reports would be 519.
When attempting to make contact with a weak and fading activator it can be useful to use the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Most stations could not care less about the actual report so long as this is received correctly for a valid contact. So in marginal conditions it helps to double up on the figures. Reports of 229, 339, 559 (or 599) are the only SOTA reports I give under poor conditions. This doubles the chance of the activator receiving it correctly first time. I despair when I hear stations giving a “UR 329/549” report, which is a recipe for disaster when the correspondent asks for a repeat, which is swamped by the calling chasers.
This will come with time and you will be able to assess a situation within a few seconds after switch on. Later you will begin to recognise the “fist” of individual activators before they are spotted and even before they send their call; for example which activator always sends “QSO?” instead of QRZ?; also which activator uses BT as a comma during chat and which activator always sends the hyphen (-….-) in the SOTA reference.
Knowledge of the callsigns of your fellow chasers using CW mode is invaluable and can often be the first indication of an activation. Single calls from any of the leading CW chasers such as HB9AGH, DL1FU, 9A7W or myself are a good sign that there is an activator calling on the spot and you can start searching around the frequency to make a QSO before the activator is spotted.
You should always match the sending speed of the activator, or slower. You will be surprised at the number of chasers who do not understand this basic rule of courtesy. Many activators who are newcomers to CW will call CQ SOTA at around 15 wpm only to receive calls at around 22 wpm and these chasers then wonder why they do not receive a reply. As a newcomer to CW chasing just send your call slowly and clearly and remember that a slow call in the middle of a pile up can stand out and be quite distinctive. Listen to G4WSB who has considerable success as a chaser with QRS CW.
Finally for this month, as you gain experience you should listen to CW exchanges and try to anticipate what will happen next. Put yourself in the shoes of the activator and think what would you do. For example, if your are waiting in a queue to work an activator and another activator makes a Summit to Summit contact, then lock this initial frequency in your rig memory or in VFO B, and immediately check one KHz above and below, to catch the other activator sending QRL? and so be first in the queue to work him.
(To be continued)
CONTESTS DURING JANUARY 2011
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.
1st only 0800-1100 SARTG RTTY Contest
1st only 0900-1200 AGCW Happy New Year Contest CW.
15th-16th 1200-1200 HA DX Contest CW & SSB
15th-16th 1200-1200 UK DX RTTY Contest
22nd -23rd 1200-1200 BARTG RTTY Contest
29th -30th 0600-1800 REF CW Contest
29th -30th 1300-1300 UBA SSB DX Contest
SOTA News is normally published at 1200 UTC on the last day of each 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 28th 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, in a total of 24 different countries. Your input will be most welcome.
The SOTA News team wish all activators, chasers, SWL’s and their families a very Happy New Year 2011.
SOTA News Editor
North American input to:-