SOTA NEWS JUNE 2009
Welcome to the June edition of SOTA News. My thanks go to the following contributors:- Barry GM4TOE, Les G3VQO, Rob and Audrey G4RQJ, Alain F6ENO, Norby LX1NO, Brian M0OYG, Tom N2YTF, Jim G0CQK Kevin G0NUP.
EDITORIAL – by Roy G4SSH
The first International SOTA Weekend on the 2nd-3rd May was a tremendous success, with at least 19 associations active over the weekend:- These included DM, EI, F, G, GI, GM, GW, HA, HB, LA, OE, OH, OK, ON, S5, SM, SV, W2, and Z3. There were 89 summits activated on Saturday and 64 on Sunday. There were more than 400 spots generated over the weekend, which included 149 uniques. I was particularly impressed by the number of activators who remained on a single SOTA all day in order to work as many chasers as possible. Fortunately the weather was kind to most activators and the bands were free from contests for the entire weekend.
Although CW spots appeared to be the most prolific, the figures were distorted by the lack of spots for the very many 2m FM and SSB activators who made many contacts within the UK and other European countries. There were probably a record number of s2s QSO’s made during the two day event.
There was a dramatic improvement in propagation conditions during the last 10 days in May, with the HF bands open up to 10 metres all across Europe. Many activators used 28, 21 and 18 MHz for the first time and many chasers were grateful for their first points on these band.
SOTA MANAGEMENT TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT
The first of June sees yet another new Association joining the SOTA family. This time it is the W1 call area of the USA, which neatly abuts our existing SOTA-W2 Association. The AM of the newcomer is Tom N2YTF who lives just across the border.
Adopting the policy of starting small and gradually building the list of summits, SOTA-W1 kicks off with just eighteen summits, split into three regions around the state of Connecticut. There are, however, plenty more summits waiting to be catalogued and listed in future revisions to the ARM.
Tom is anxious to get out on the hills of Connecticut, and anticipates some SOTA activity there very soon. Due to the SOTA administrative process “catching up” with events, there may be a short period when the new summits may not be recognised by SOTAwatch or the database, but rest assured that any QSO’s from 1st June will count for points.
SOTA AWARDS FOR MAY 2009 By Barry GM4TOE - SOTA Awards Manager
Maybe I should learn to keep quiet about claiming awards! This month, two well known activators decided to play catch-up and claim certificates for activation and chasing plus awards for Mountain Goat and Shack Sloth – they will be on “Cloud” 9 when I finally manage to finish printing them all.
G4WSX has managed to make 5000 chaser points and to chase 1000 unique summits; maybe his new job with the RSGB QSL department will slow him down!
The Grajon Radio Group became the first club to claim a trophy, what about the rest of you activating or chasing using club callsigns putting in a claim? Congratulations are also in order for Alex UT4FJ as the first SOTA claimant from Ukraine.
Hopefully I am managing to keep up with certificate issuing now, work pressures do mean that printing and engraving awards tend to be relegated to quieter times.
M1EYP Tom Read Mountain Goat
G4GRG Grajon Radio Group Shack Sloth
M1EYP Tom Read Shack Sloth
M3EYP Jimmy Read Shack Sloth
G-20843 Tom Read Shack Sloth (SWL)
M1EYP Tom Read 1000 points
F8TMQ Jean-Yves Capelli 250 points
M3EYP Jimmy Read 500 points
M3EYP Jimmy Read 250 points
M3EYP Jimmy Read 100 points
M1EYP Tom Read 100 Summits
M3EYP Jimmy Read 100 Summits
G4WSX John Fogden 1000 Summits
M1EYP Tom Read 250 Summits
UT4FJ Alex Naumov 100 Summits
M1EYP Tom Read 100 Summits
M3EYP Jimmy Read 100 Summits
G4WSX John Fogden 5000 points
G4GRG Grajon Radio Group 1000 points
M3EYP Jimmy Read 1000 points
IK3GER Paolo Corsetti 500 points
M3EYP Jimmy Read 500 points
2E0WJC Billy Cromack 250 points
M3EYP Jimmy Read 250 points
M3EYP Jimmy Read 100 points
G-20843 Tom Read 1000 points
G-20843 Tom Read 500 points
G-20848 Jimmy Read 250 points
G-20848 Jimmy Read 100 points
G-20843 Tom Read 250 Summits
G-20843 Tom Read 100 Summits
G-20848 Jimmy Read 100 Summits
Barry Horning GM4TOE
CONGRATULATIONS are also extended to the following:-
to Brian 2E0OYG who has now upgraded to M0OYG.
to Mark M3RHJ who reached 1000 chaser points on 24/05/09 with a contact with Peter ON4UP/P, activating ON/ON-013 on 7.118 MHz.
It is a real pleasure to see Foundation licence holders reaching Shack Sloth status.
to Tom M1EYP on his 800th SOTA activation. I was particularly pleased to be part of this event which occurred on Gun SP-015 on 21st May.
to Mike GW0DSP on attaining 28000 Chaser points. A magnificent and dedicated achievement which puts him head and shoulders above all other chasers by about 5000 points.
HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY TO SOTA SLOVENIA - on the 15th June 2009.
In the past 12 months S5 activators have carried out over 1000 activations from 240 summits and accrued more than 5000 points. This is a truly fantastic achievement in their first year !
I can only speak from the CW point of view, but I have been most impressed by the number of S5 activations. I find myself right on the edge of 40m coverage from Slovenia, with QRP signals just audible at my location. However, the vast majority of S5 activators always use more than one band and I am particularly grateful for the many contacts on 30 and 20 metres.
Well done to Association Manager Rado S58R. who sent the following information:-
To celebrate the first anniversary of SOTA Slovenia there will be special activity days between the 13th and 27th June 2009.
In this period we will use the special callsigns:-
S52SOTA, S53SOTA, S54SOTA, S57SOTA and S58SOTA.
73 de S58R - Rado
KING OF THE CASTLE’s - Norby LX1NO
Regular SOTA activator Norby LX1NO has advised SOTA News that the Luxemburg Amateur Radio Society have launched a new "LUXEMBOURG CASTLE AWARD”
The award was launched in January 2009 by the national organisation (RL) “to promote radio-amateurism and valorise Luxembourg’s historical and architectural patrimony”. Full details can be obtained at www.rlx.lu
There are a maximum of 55 castles in 3 districts and 12 cantons and Norby intends to activate them all in 2009.
Norby commented that “Most LX amateurs are not really prepared for /P activities, but I am, thanks to SOTA. There are only 55 refs, which are easy to do, and I will activate them all in 2009”.
Norby commenced with LCA LX7 on the 7th May and followed this with LX1, LX30, LX4, LX39, LX13, LX51, LX28 and LX9 during the month of May. Norby is active around the CW SOTA spots of 7032 and 10118 KHz and welcomes contacts from his regular chasers.
In order to avoid confusion with SOTA activity, Norby will always call “CQ LCA” and give the LX castle reference.
SWING THE LAMP by Roy G4SSH
The exploits of Richard, G3CWI, testing antenna’s on 500 KHz, takes me back to the 1950’s when I was a young Marconi Radio Officer hired out along with the radio equipment to various long-forgotten shipping companies such as Blue Star Line, Palm Line, Ben Line Steamers, Andrew Weir & Co., Nisbet’s, Constantine Lines, Souters etc. CW was the only mode of ship-shore communication in those days, with copper-slug tuning on the MF (Medium Frequency) bands and the recent introduction of crystal controlled frequencies on the HF bands. (Yes, I did have a 1 Kw Spark set on one of my early ships, before it was banned by international convention and Yes, I did send SOS twice during my sea going career, but that is another story).
It was obligatory to keep a constant watch on the distress and calling frequency of 500 KHz (or 500 kc/s as it was known then). The mode in use was MCW (Modulated Continuous Wave) which gave a slightly croaky note, and woe betide any “Sparks“ who used CW on that frequency by mistake, for he would be dropped on from a great height by the nearest coast station.
The normal range for most coast stations was around 200 miles. Lands End Radio (GLD) was usually the last UK MF station to fade out after you crossed the Bay of Biscay and were abeam of Lisbon on a southerly course. However, this range was extended during hours of darkness and it was possible to hear UK coast stations in the North Sea, such as North Foreland GNF, and Humber GKZ during a quiet night watch in the Mediterranean Sea.
This distance was increased even further by an all-sea path. Experienced ops knew that good MF signals from European coast stations were often audible from the bottom of the Red Sea at night because this stretch of water acts like a director, pointing at the UK. The heading of the ship also played a crucial part, due to the directive radiation pattern of the main antenna; this was either a T-shaped arrangement, strung between the two masts if the radio office was amidships, or an inverted “L” shape if accommodation was all aft, as in large bulk carriers and tankers.
The furthest distance I personally copied a coast station on 500 KHz was approximately 7,000 miles, whilst on passage from Cape Town to Buenos Aires. We were approaching the coast of Argentina on a still night when I clearly heard PCH (Dutch station Scheveningen, in the North Sea) calling CQ, at the end of a silence period, to send his traffic list. This was probably a combination of darkness, an all sea path to Europe and the heading of the ship. Mind you, the addition of a 75,000 ton Iron Ore carrier as a ground plane in the South Atlantic was probably of some assistance.
BETA TESTERS WANTED - By Kevin G0NUP.
I have written, currently incomplete but functional, a piece of software
which uses an ADI file from Logger32 and assumes that the user uses
User_Field 1 for their SOTA references. pressing a button outputs a csv
file ready to download to the sota database.
Along with that it can output selected fields from a list and filtered
on mode. The output can be used for either CSV or ADI.
I’ve written it for myself and I use logger and MixW. Logger files allow
me to do the sota, other adi files allow me to produce either CSV or ADI
I am interested in anyone else who would like to trial the software. As
I said, preferably a Logger32 user. However if it is proven to be useful
to others I could do with some examples of how you export your SOTA refs
in ADI form.
73 de Kevin G0NUP
THE VIEW FROM THE NORTH 5 Rob and Audrey
HF conditions seem very poor this week. We have a selection of receivers from an R1155 to an SDR but they all seem the same and we begin to wonder if the antenna has fallen, but it’s still there. Saturday of the International Weekend and we struggle to hear any of the continental stations, all well down on the noise.
Sunday 3rd May Seatallan.
This hill is very rarely activated; the previous listed activation was by us a year ago. Difficult to reach by road from the motorway system, head for Wasdale but do not go to Wasdale Head, aim for Neather Wasdale and a minor road on the north side that runs past NY127055. Here there is usually room for four cars but the thoughtful positioning of a pile of grit has reduced this to two at a push.
From here walk back up the concrete track about 400 yards to a good path on the right which sets off up Cat Bields. Do not be encouraged however as this is the most multi- pathed awkward place it is possible to imagine. Basically it’s either straight up over endless grass/crag banks or contour right to meet the path from Buckbarrow. Do not trust any paths they all die out! Once at Cat Bields cairn it’s a straight boggy moorland flog up to Seatallan.
Today the wind chill was severe and the surface temperature just above zero so we were pleased at our last minute decision to switch to winter-weight trousers. The shelter is small and rocky and difficult for pegs. 5 MHz was working, 7 MHz was not and 10 MHz was odd. Surprised to work Bill G4USW back in Barrow at 59 both ways among a few continental stations. 2m was its usual self although the fm count was a bit down, holidays and the extra few miles north? We would not recommend this one for young families, Cat Bields is a vertical Maze.
This week the home HF antenna HAS fallen down in the wind. Walney Island is said to be the windiest place in lowland England and has lived up to its reputation in the past few days. Halyard snapped so had to lower the flagpole to replace it but soon back in business.
Sunday 10th May Great Knoutberry Hill
A nice easy NP, done from the minor road from Garsdale Station to Dent. Much of this has been resurfaced recently, not before time! If going in from the M6 via Sedbergh be aware that getting behind one coach/caravan can take a big chunk out of your day. Same could be said of the Dent road but they’re less common there. 10MHz was the underperformer with no contacts and just four on 5MHz.
Off to Skipton on Wednesday so prepare kit and watch dismal weather forecasts.
Wed 13th May Sharp Haw
Settled at accommodation and Sharp Haw is visible from the windows so a quick activation in the gale VHF only (Sorry to HF lads). We need to make up time as we are off to see the Craggies this evening. Craven Amateur Radio Group gives us a great welcome and nice to spend time chatting and putting faces to voices.
Thursday 14th May Cracoe Fell.
A new unique for us, what a nice hill, the hardest bit is dodging the traffic for about 100 yards on the road at the start. At the summit it is very, very windy and HF seems very odd. Only two difficult contacts on 5MHz but just as we are finishing a TF?
pops up on CW. By the time I have the key plugged in he has gone!! 7MHz is similar with just one contact, distant callers are there for a moment then gone. Nil on 10MHz guess the sky is broken again. VHF is only fair but we really like the hill. This is one of the hills that we have activated but not chased yet, not too many of them, how do others fare?
Friday is wetter than a very wet day in the wettest spot in the universe which today seems to be Skipton. No SOTA!
Saturday 16th May Rombalds Moor.
We set off to do Gt Whernside but the weather is so bad at the cattle grid start point we decide on Rombalds instead. Here we are hit by huge showers with static rain but the waterproofs hold and the Aquascribe pads are superb (highly recommended). We are visited by a lapsed G0? and try to inspire him to take up sota although dripping and cold we are probably not the best advert. As we are packing up a young American arrives. He is very cheerful in spite of having zero in the way of kit, boots etc and has operated ham radio from Africa but I forget where. All the excitement makes us forget to take photos! Still twice in 300 odd activations is not bad.
Sunday 17th May Easington Fell
We visit Haworth on the way to do this one. There is a 1940’s day there and as a major interest is restoring WW2 radio gear we have a quick look. Often fancy to take our 38 set up a summit but guess 7MHz AM would not be too popular or effective.
The weather is a repeat of Saturday but we enjoy the activation and then it’s off home.
In the activations from the smaller fells, close to population, the 4 element beam seems to be a mixed blessing, too directional. Up in the wilds of LD it’s easier, beam south’ish and shout remembering to do Penrith. What do others find?
Sunday 24th May Nine Standards Rigg.
Missed out on this one last year due to the endless rain but today it’s fine so off we go. J38 on the M6 then the straight, lorry free A685 to the outskirts of Kirby Stephen; turn right on the B6259 for Nateby. Left at Nateby and the B6270 takes you to the start point NY809042 where there is room for quite a few cars. Warning. The road is quite remote; the garage in Nateby claims “Last Petrol for 22 miles”. The prices reflect this! The walk is mainly grass but can be very boggy. A new path has developed from the signpost at NY817058. It is not signed but leads north east to the viewpoint avoiding the worst of Rollinson Hags (been there, done that). OK for a family on a fine dry day after a dry spell, look out for bog and sink holes. Good shelter from prevailing westerlies at a ruined building close to the trig column. HF once again is not good.
I call QRL? on 7 MHz. and seem to have a clear frequency. I call CQ and there are stations replying but after a few tries I realise that there must be another SOTA station on the same frequency who cannot hear me and I cannot here them. Some of the callers are for him and some for me. Things eventually sort themselves out but apologies to the unknown SOTA station for the confusion. Worked INK’y from Cracoe so don’t need that one any more!
If you have Cross Fell in mind take a look at www.crossfellchallenge.co.uk. A very worthy cause but a bit pricey. It may cause you problems if you choose to activate the hill while the tents are there (11-19 July 2009). Then again, they may welcome some portable radio activity.
Nice to see people (well Mark G0VOF) trying the homebrew paddle. If you struggle for the micro switches just shout, I’ve a bagful in the garage somewhere.
The cross Windermere car ferry service is back in business according to local sources.
As always, any queries just give us a shout
Rob and Audrey
DAYTON HAMVENTION 2009 – By Tom N2YTF
The weekend before Hamvention an old college friend returning from overseas came to stay with my wife and me in Tarrytown, New York . We were to return him to Buffalo, NY on our way to Dayton Hamvention in Ohio. We left Tarrytown for the 450 mile drive to Buffalo on Wednesday morning, then spent the night in Buffalo. On Thursday we toured Buffalo’s Knox Art Gallery and stopped in at Hirsch Electronics (the local Ham store I visited while in college in Buffalo) and then continued on to the Hamvention.
At Hirsch I picked up a few copies of Ham radio magazines from the 1960s, which my XYL read to me as we drove on. As soon as we left Buffalo I turned on my APRS ht, the TH-d7ag. On the way to Dayton we stopped off to enjoy a great view of the great lakes.
We arrived at the Dayton Airport Hotel late Thursday night where we had already made reservations and were greeted by a welcoming message on the hotel’s bilboard. Usually I drive into Dayton without pre-made reservations in order to find the best deals on a hotel, but this year we opted for the easy route and drove into Dayton knowing where we would stay. During the whole drive from Buffalo to Dayton there were plenty of APRS activity, and I even spotted WB4APR, the father of APRS, driving along in his mobile on APRS.
Friday morning we tried to get into Hamvention early, but we were too sleep deprived to make it there any earlier than about noon. My XYL dropped me off at Hamvention (at the HARA arena) and she continued onto the Dayton art museum. At Hamvention I was a bit disappointed to see that the Hamfest had shrunk slightly from last year, there were more slightly more computer salesmen there then last year and slightly fewer radio salesmen. I met up with Dave, W2VV and his XYL Diana, KC2UHB and started going through the outdoor fleamarket as Friday was the only rain free day scheduled for the rest of Hamvention. It is not possible to carefully go through the outdoor fleamarket in only a few hours, so Dave and I had to content ourselves with seeing about half of the outdoor fleamarket.
Hamvention is the largest event to take place at HARA arena all year. The arena was used to house regular semi-pro ice hockey games but they have since left the area. Today the arena hosts various conventions but I believe the arena and Dayton itself are suffering greatly in this economic downturn.
Among the more noteworthy finds at the fleamarket was an old FBI radio surveillance set, an enigma machine, and a true “quarter wave” vertical (inline quarter dollar). I also bumped into well known hiking and ham radio enthusiast Steve, WG0AT and got to hand deliver my QSL card to him. Steve is perhaps best known for his hiking videos on YouTube where his 2 goats carry a portion of his ham gear. I was a little disappointed to find that my favourite vendor’s stand had been destroyed by rough weather the night before, and he (Far Circuits) had only a rudimentary display remaining. Of course there were also the over the top ham radio gear outfits and fashions, including the “tower helmet” worn by N8VES. I also soon donned my SOTA flagged backpack.
On Friday night myself, Dave and our XYL’s attended the Ohio DX dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel where a ham radio missionary couple gave a presentation on their years of overseas operating and radio maintainer work. The Crowne Plaza is completely taken over by Hamvention during the weekend, housing multiple dinners and mini get togethers related to Hamvention. Hams at the hotel tape their QSL cards to their doors…it’s a great college dorm-like atmosphere. After the dinner we retired to Dave & Diana’s room for a while and then continued on to the midnight “Order of the Whoof Hong Ceremony” which was also in the hotel. Unfortunately we only caught the tail end of this remarkable secret ceremony, but suffice to say it was a sight to behold, with costumed officials from ARRL HQ with whighs, secret handshakes and verbal exchanges and even a Whoof Hong Altar.
After the ceremony we all visited no less then 3 hotel room suites where different ham radio clubs were having their own mini parties with food and drink. One of the last rooms we visited was the Bavarian Contest Room Suite where the club had brought over more then 200 bottles of “Green Flash, Bavarian Ham Spirit, the Secret of Bavarian Ham Contesting” and were distributing it freely. It had an expiration of CQWW 2009, but I think it was all drank that night. We drank and made merry with members of the Bavarian contest club before retiring to our respective hotel rooms.
Saturday we made it to Hamvention a bit earlier, but my XYL was a walking zombie from Friday’s late night adventures. Dave and I toured the indoor marketplace and stopped by the HF pack outdoor meeting (although a bit late). On the way we spotted a very muscular and fit looking KC3VEO with his 500 W (yes that is not a typo) 500 W HF backpack. I asked him if he was worried about exposure, and he only half joking explained that RF energy helps to keep you young and fit…then he showed me his drivers license to prove he was in his 60s. I have to say, he is the most muscular and fit looking 60 year old I have ever seen in person…a good omen for the rest of us for sure…so remember to get your daily dose of RF today
Later on Saturday the XYL and I enjoyed the presentation of Space Explorer Richard Garriott regarding his time on the Space Station and what it was like to work SSTV from space. Garriott was the creator of many of the computer video games I loved as a child and seemed like a very down to earth and friendly person. Garriott began his presentation with a description of his home including his basement, with his collection of coffins complete with skeletons (again, not a typo). After the presentation I asked Garriott for tips for land based stations looking for ISS contacts, and he basically replied that big directional and steerable arrays on the coasts had the best chances…no surprises there.
On the walk around Hamvention I spotted well known ham radio educator Gordon West, WB6NOA giving a presentation on how to make ham radio lecturing interesting…I’m sure you will agree he looks very interesting while lecturing and the crowd was transfixed.
My XYL and Diana went to the YL gathering, and Diana won a prize from the YL group as one of the youngest YL’s in attendance. My XYL and Diana will apparently be appearing on a YL RL magazine cover in the future…imagine that, I am married to a cover girl!
Sunday at Hamvention is always a half day, so Dave and I were in a mad rush trying to buy all the things we had an interest in and had priced during the previous 2 days. Sunday always ends with a long restful session in the main arena where tens of prizes are distributed. I did not win anything, but it did not matter…we all had a great time. Heavily laden with goods, we made our way to our cars and parted ways. On the way out we spotted the old Collins Radio Truck…aparently it can still move under its own power. Little did I know at that point, but for my birthday my XYL had secretly bought me a subscription and membership in the RSGB. Liz and I drove to Charleston, WV in order to tour the Capitol on Monday.
MONDAY & TUESDAY ON THE ROAD
Monday we had the tour of a lifetime. Liz and I entered the capitol building only to find no tour guides on duty. When I called the main tourist line I was told all the guides were busy but that I could look around on my own as long as I did not cross any velvet ropes. The entire Capitol building was just about empty as all branches of the government were on a break. Away Liz and I went…I even got to take a picture from the Governor’s pulpit. After touring the Senate and Assembly room, we noticed that the state’s Supreme Court was also located within the same building. Being a lawyer myself, I had to take a look. When we arrived at the court a helpful guard offered to take us around the courtroom. Once in the court itself, the guard asked if we would like to see the deliberation room…fascinating. After that the guard asked if we would like to see the Judges offices….I thought that would be really neat. The guard excused himself to check if the rooms were clear, and then ushered us into the offices. To our great surprise, we were greeted by 2 of the 5 West Virginian State Supreme Court Justices and had a 30 minute conversation with them…now THAT’S a tour!!
On Monday night we drove to Frostburg Maryland. During Tuesday we toured the site of the rebuilding of Noah’s Ark (again not a typo). Apparently a bizarre religious group is rebuilding Noah’s Ark in Frostburg Maryland…not something you see every day. It came up on my GPS as a freaky roadside attraction, so we had to see it.
Latter Tuesday we toured a local history museum that housed a few Morse code keys and then drove the rest of the way to Tarrytown, NY
This Hamvention vacation was a fantastic adventure, and I hope I have give you a taste of what it was like and perhaps have encouraged you to see it one day. Hamvention is an event every ham should attend at least once.
Photo’s to illustrate this article can be viewed at:-
CW REPORT FOR MAY 2009 - By Roy G4SSH
The sudden improvement in propagation conditions on the higher bands during the latter half of May caught many activators and chasers by surprise, but it was encouraging to note that one or two activators immediately responded to this change by varying their operating procedures.
Bernd DL2DXA, Miro OK1CYC and Heinz OE5EEP all commenced calling CQ SOTA on 20m, then moved to 30m and left 40m until last. This allowed them to thin out the pile up of chasers considerably before moving to the feeding frenzy on 7032 KHz last, and gave a comfortable copy for many chasers on the higher bands.
Walter DK1BN and Hartmut DF6PW commenced antenna experiments on 7.032, 10.118, 14.058 and 18.086 KHz. I managed to follow them on every band and it was noticeable that (as expected) their signal strength increased in direct proportion to the higher the frequency. 18 MHz gave a 599+ signal both ways and I found myself trying to make contact in the middle of a string of callers from Japan. Al, SV5/DJ5AA and Zsolt SV9/HG4UK were active on a variety of bands in order to give new SOTA’s to many chasers across Europe, including 7, 10, 14, 18 21 and 28 MHz. Other SOTA CW activators, including Milos S57X and Tom M1EYP were also making many contacts on 28 MHz.
Also heard active on 14 MHz were:- OH7BF, HA3HK, F5UKL, S57X, S53X, LE1ENA, F5IUZ, M1EYP, Z35M, SV9/HG4UK, DK1BN, G0AZS, DK1BN, OK6DJ and G4ELZ
10 MHz SOTA activators included:- HB9DGV, LA1ENA, LA1KHA, OE/DL4CW, S57X, OH7BF, HA2ERO, F5UKL, S57XX, Z35M, F5NEP, F5IUZ, S50NV, S53X, Z35M, DK1BB, HA5MA, HA5UL, SV9/HG4UK, DL/OK2QA, G0AZS, HA2VR, DL/OK1CYC, S50NV, OK1CYC, LA1EBA, DK1BN, G0AZS, OK6DJ, SV5/DJ5AA, DL4CW, OE/DL4CW and OK2BDR.
The improvement in weather conditions brought out many cross-border expeditions. Heard active from summits outside their own countries were:- OK/DJ5AA, OE/DL4CW, OE/DF9TS, DL/HB9BGG, DL/HB9BAB, M/LX1NO, M/DL1RNN, F/HB9AFI, OE/DD1LD, OE/DL4CW, OK/DD1LD, DL/OK2QA, DL/HB9AGO, OK/DL6UNF, GD4OBK, GT7OOO/p SV9/HG4UK and SV5/DJ5AA.
Phil, using GT7OOO/p in the Isle of Man, activated all 5 summits on the island, in spite of suffering a collision with a motor bike and having to walk up Snaefell for a second time in order to complete a clean sweep of GD SOTA’s on HF.
A very warm welcome is extended to the following new activators, heard using CW:- Archelaos, SV2KBB, Andreas SV2JAO, Kostas SV2LLB, Panos SV1COX, Christophe F4FHV, Joe EI7GY, Vlado Z35M, Sergei S51ZJ, HA8LNN, Anton S50NV, Rolande, F8BXV, Jan OK2BDR and Andy S53MN. Special thanks is due to Vlado Z35M who has been particularly active during the month, using 40, 30 and 20m in order to give new Z3 references to chasers all across Europe.
With the improvement in conditions, we were (for a few days) presented with a reflection of propagation in a few years time and this raised the question of how we will react to the different conditions. This comment was received from Alain F6ENO:-
“I can’t write you a long and beautiful text on my SOTA expeditions (my English is too bad) but here are just few words to say that chasers do not listen to 20 meters band ! It seems that this band is often open, but everybody is listening 7.032 MHz ! Last Saturday (May 23rd) after some QSO on 30m, I QSY’d to 14.058 MHz and had only one QSO there, with DL6UGF. Ecki was QRP with 5 Watts ! so it means that I should have rather more EU QSO’s but nobody !
Best 73 and see you on the higher bands from summits during summer !”
This raises the problem which will face activators and chasers in the not to distant future. Most chasers only have one (or two) receivers, which traditionally (on CW) are monitoring 7032 (and 10118 KHz). If activators intend to commence operations using different frequencies to the above then they need at least one chaser to hear them and spot their activity in order to attract all the other chasers. This can be achieved by self-spotting, phoning a friend, or using the Alerts page on SOTAwatch. However, only about half of SOTA activations are posted on the Alerts page, so anyone using a different (higher) freq without notification can quickly exhaust a battery calling CQ SOTA without reply.
During the CQ WW CW WPX contest on 30-31st May, when the main 5 HF bands were swamped by high powered contest stations, 10118 KHz became the main SOTA calling channel. This worked well, with strong signals heard from DL4CW, OE/DL4CW, G4ELZ, LA1ENA, F5NEP, S51ZJ, LA1ENA, LA1KHA, OK4DX, OK1DDQ, OE5EEP, SV5/DJ5AA and DK1BN. There was also alerted activity on a higher WARC band (17m) where 18086-18088 KHz appeared to be the favourite spot to call CQ SOTA.
Perhaps the time will come when the main SOTA calling spot becomes 14058 KHz. However, I cannot see 7032 KHz every being discarded due to the fact that this is always going to give propagation into the activators own county, such as DL to DL or F to F, much like 2m does at the moment. ___________________________________________________________________
For CW enthusiasts, the International SOTA Weekend produced more activations than I have every heard in a single two day period. There were in excess of 200 CW points available on the Saturday and about 150 on the Sunday and it was impossible to work them all. There were times when there were 5 activations on the air at the same time between 7028 and 7032 KHz and chasers were attempting to prioritise by points, uniqueness or signal strength. To add to the mayhem, activators were moving around as they began to cause QRM to other activators, which confused the chasers, who were inadvertently calling an activator already worked. On the Saturday the red “last 30 minute” spots ran off the screen at frequent intervals and around noon there were 23 red spots posted. Not a place for the faint hearted !
On the 17th May I was pleased to pass a milestone of 3000 unique summits contacted, using CW only. This was all the more interesting and rather unexpected because I do not collect uniques; this was simply a by-product of chasing on CW.
A glace at the SOTA Data-base clearly shows the reason for this. On the 31st May the totals gained by the leading Uniques chasers in each mode were:-
So anyone interested in chasing uniques would be well advised to try CW.
A commercial RTTY station, which is active for hours on end, has recently settled on 10118 KHz, and digital transmissions are creeping down as far as 7033 KHz, making life difficult for QRP SOTA activators.
SIX REGIONS, NINE SUMMITS & THREE ISLANDS, IN MAY By Jim G0CQK
This was never deliberately planned as such but simply fell into place as I began to realise the possibilities. The XYL wanted to visit her relatives in Devon and I was already committed to providing radio comms for the Jura Fell Race so the possibilities began to open up. Of course when International SOTA Weekend was established that sewed up the month of May.
For International SOTA Weekend, I alerted for SB-009 for Saturday 2nd May, since the summit is just a short way from the road and therefore I knew that no-matter what the weather I could activate this one, taking a tent up if necessary. It is quite feasible to make a couple or even more trips from the car to the summit in a reasonably short time. Once the WX forecast became clear I did review this and considered some other summits but in the end decided to stick with my original choice. However with Sunday WX forecast looking better, I decided to alert a summit, Cringle Moor - Drake Howe TW-002 which I had not activated before.
Ros Hill G/SB-009 Saturday 2nd May:
Progress to Ros Hill on Saturday morning was good with not much in the way of Bank Holiday traffic, until on the very narrow gated road the leads to the hill from North Charlton, I came across a very large flock of sheep. I simply had to follow these at less than walking pace for just over 3 miles. One stubborn ewe, repeatedly lay down on the verge and had to be lifted back on to the road by the farmer. Parked at NU 0804 2493 and headed up the hill.
Once up on the hill, about 60 metres south of the trig (NU 0812 2532) with both HF and 2m antennae deployed, I opened on FE with Allan GM3TAY/P on the island of Coll and then QSY’d to FK where Peter G3TJE followed me for an S2S with SC-003. My second island contact came with GM0OGN on Barra and then nothing. I could hear several chasers working activators on 5 MHz frequencies, but I couldn’t hear them - it seems I was in the middle of the skip distance. Then, as I scanned the 5 MHz channels, Paul GW4MD/P called CQ on FM so I responded for a S2S with NW-029.
After returning to FK, Steve GW7AAV found me after a few minutes and after I gave him the wrong summit reference SB-008 instead of SB-009, he spotted me. Thereafter I had a short stream of contacts including 4 more S2S QSO’s and when that had dried up I moved to 7 MHz, picking up one more S2S before self spotting on 7.180 to gain 4 more QSO’s, including 3 with continental EU. I had to keep reminding myself that I was on SB-009 as it seemed so easy to slip back to SB-008. Next I self spotted on 3.666 but this attracted no contacts. I had been monitoring 2 FM all the while, hearing very little and a CQ brought me just 2 local contacts. After almost 3 hours operation on the hill, I descended and drove home.
Cringle Moor - Drake Howe G/TW-002 Sunday 3rd May:
After a leisurely drive from Newcastle I parked up in the Lord Stones car park (NZ 524 030), and once loaded up headed toward the summit. As I walked up the Cleveland Way, much of which has been pitched, I observed several signs asking people to keep to the paths because of ground nesting birds. Clearly tramping across the heather to deploy the HF dipole was not practicable so I decided that this would need to be a 2m activation. I followed the track from the Cleveland Way to the summit cairn at NZ 5375 0296 quite slowly and carefully so as not to disturb any birds. Once there I set up on 2 FM using a 5/8 telescopic and worked 8 stations including S2S with Geoff G6MZX, Keith G0OXV and Stuart G0MJG. Not wishing to disturb the wildlife any further, I packed up and returned to the car and enjoyed a sausage bun from the cafe. Really TW-002 was not a good choice for this time of year.
My next activity, on 9th May, involved a long drive south. While the planning for this essentially started off solely as an short trip opportunity for the XYL to visit several relatives in the Tiverton area, it slowly evolved into something where we would have a bit of time to do our own thing and a take a more relaxed approach. So a cottage was booked for a week in Bampton, just north of Tiverton and I began to examine the maps for SOTA possibilities. All I had to do was work out where I could deposit the XYL & 3rd harmonic to do their own thing, while I could activate, and at the same time persuade them that their interests were my prime focus. From the maps I selected two potential hills that would not require much walking namely Christ Cross DC-005 and SC-005 Selworthy beacon. That way I could ensure that at least I only had one number to remember given my recent number confusion although I did also prepare details for Dunkery Beacon SC-001.
Christ Cross G/DC-005 Tuesday 12th May:
Tuesday 12th may was a bright morning and after I focused the XYL and the 3rd harmonic on the shopping potential of Exeter it was a relatively straight forward drive south to deposit them in the heart of the shopping district and then to drive a fairly short distance back north to Christ Cross DC-005, albeit on a limited licence. I parked the car on the shoulder at the road junction at SS 9660 0505 and loaded up the gear for the very short walk to the summit area SS 964 052, dominated by a massive radio mast structure that was whistling noisily with the wind - I could not find the trig, but understand it is very much hidden in a hedge. A fence provided an opportunity to bungee the Sota pole and deploy the dipole along the fence.
Selected 5 MHz FE and immediately heard Roger as GM4OWG - but then he disappeared. Hearing nothing else, I called CQ and the ever present Paul G0HNW was straight back to me - what would we do without your always strong signal to start us off.? Thereafter followed a string of contacts including S2S with Carolyn GW6WRW/P on NW-008 and with Steve GW7AAV/P on the latest addition viz. NW-076. Once I had exhausted 5 MHz, it was time to pack up and go back to Exeter to pick up the XYL & daughter. I know their shopping tolerance time and for peace of mind it is advisable not to exceed that.
Back to Bampton and they both expressed their desire to chill out that evening. Well, I hadn’t thought of trying an evening activation but as it was a SOTA fun evening Tuesday and I had also noted that an RSGB 70cm activity evening had been mentioned in the news, I decided to drive north and see if it might be possible to activate the Selworthy Beacon SE-005.
Selworthy Beacon G/SC-005 Tuesday 12th May:
Parked at SS 9150 4771 and walked the short distance up the hill to the summit at SS 9189 4799. After deploying the antennae it was fairly quickly clear that HF was unlikely to deliver since 5 MHz was just full of static and 7 MHz and 3 MHz were well occupied by very strong continental European stations and my 5 watts would be unlikely to penetrate so I tried a couple of CQ calls on 2m FM. After I released the key on my second CQ I heard a G4 station S9++ also in the process of calling CQ so I responded to his call - no response – I listened for a short spell then called CQ once more and as I unkeyed there was that same G4 station again calling CQ over the top of my call. Clearly I had encountered the band police and he did not want me using his frequency (I won’t publish his call sign although I have it if anyone wants it - unfortunately I had left my digital recorder in the car otherwise I might have sent the wav file to Ofcom) so clearly calling on 2 FM was out. I scanned the 2m FM frequencies for any SOTA fun evening activity but heard none. Switched over to 2m SSB where I managed a QSO with MW0BBU, but after that several CQ calls brought nothing. So over to 70cms for activity night - what activity? - zilch heard anywhere. Darkness was falling so there was no time to do any more. One contact - summit not qualified, but it won’t go away.
Saturday 16th May saw the trip back to Newcastle where Sunday was a major operation to unload everything from the car from the Devon trip and a reload in preparation for Jura.
First leg on Monday was a drive to Fife for an overnight stay with my Dad and a few other things to be done for him. After Tuesday lunch it was the long drive to Kennacraig for the two and a half hour ferry trip to Islay (the ‘y’ is not pronounced) and a short drive from Port Ellen, along part of what must be one of the longest stretches of straight single carriageway road in the country (7.3 miles) to Bowmore where I had booked to stay for a couple of nights. What the road misses by way of bends it makes up for with humps and bumps - quite a roller coaster. I had planned to stay for two days on Islay before crossing to Jura, with the intention of activating at least one summit since up till now, there had not been any activation of an Islay summit.
Beinn Mhor GM/SI-201 Wednesday 20th May:
The morning was bright and sunny and required a return trip along that straight road (full length of it this time) to bring me down to the RSPB reserve at Upper Killeyan on the southern tip of the island where there is a substantial car park at NR 2814 4223. Once kitted up I walked down past the farm from where I could easily see the summit and the terrain surrounding it. Trying to avoid losing height, I initially followed a way-marked walk east crossing a barbed wire topped fence using the woodwork of a corner post at NR 2881 4181 then followed the contours around, till about NR 2930 4113 I began the ascent direct toward the summit at NR 2948 4046. It was fairly tough going, mainly trudging through heather while taking advantage of the occasional sheep or goat track - there were flocks of both.
I opened on 5 MHz FE, where a call brought an immediate response from Paul G0HNW but after clearing with Paul there was no further response to several QRZ & CQ calls. Guessing that the critical frequency might be a bit low I QSY’d and self spotted for FA which brought 4 more contacts but no more. QSY’d back to FE where I found Ken GW0AXY & Christine GW4YMM for a S2S with SW-005. Dropped to FK at the request of Don G0RQL for contact with him and also picked up Peter G3TJE.
Next moved to 40m 7.115 & & 7.118 which brought nothing so moved to 3.666 and self spotted, but again nothing. I could only assume that the bands were in very poor shape so I packed up and descended. As I left the summit, I disturbed a sheep that seemed to be following a track in the right direction so I followed it. It lead me for over half a mile along a high quality sheep track before I left that to head directly back to the car park. From here a short drive through Port Ellen took me to the Laphroaig distillery where I collected my rent (see Friends of Laphroaig) and treated myself to a bottle of Quarter Cask.
Beinn Tart a’Mhil GM/SI-185 Thursday 21st May:
My research for this one had come across reference to an extremely aggressive GOML to the west of this hill, the area that appeared to offer the best approach, so I cautiously planned a route from the north finally approaching from the west. However the evening before, I asked a local, who recommended the western approach so I asked about the GOML. I was quickly told that I needn’t worry about him as he is in now prison for a good number of years - great - back to plan A.
Parked the car just off the road at NR 1912 5647 and headed almost due east, my objective being to pick up the track which goes up to the MOD installation on a separate high point of this hill. As I left the car the rain started and I wondered whether it would deteriorate to the extent as to inhibit an activation. Crossed the bealach between Cnoc a’Mhil and Beinn Tart a’Mhil and picked up the track at NR 2076 5650, following it almost to the summit before breaking off north for the final stretch to the summit at NR 2107 5698. It was still raining but as I looked into the wind to the west I could see some clear blue sky. So I deployed the antenna in anticipation of sunshine by the time I was ready to operate and it was - well I did take my time.
Opened on 5 MHz FE to an immediate response from Steve GW7AAV who posted me (thanks Steve). The band was a little bit better today but not much, so after a run of 11 contacts including S2S with Peter GW3TJE on MW-025, and since I needed to be at Port Askaig for the ferry to Feolin, Jura shortly after 2:00pm, I packed up, descended, and drove off.
Base camp was established at our cottage at Tarbert, about 12 miles north of Craighouse where there is no TV signal and poor phone coverage. There were 11 of us sharing the cottage and it was simply a great fun time.
Ben Garrisdale GM/SI-127 Friday 22nd May:
The weather was still looking good on Friday morning so kit was readied. Allan MM1BJP headed off north for Beinn Bhreac GM/SI-080 with the plan to continue to Dubh Bheinn GM/SI-075 and shortly after he drove off, I headed north accompanied by Seamus 2M0OVV aiming for Ben Garrisdale. Alan had just commenced his walk to his first summit as we past his car - we still had about 5 miles more to drive. I’d way-marked what I thought would be an appropriate parking spot but encountering a gate across the road at NR 6543 8862 I foolishly assumed that I’d reached the end of the public road so parked up at NR 6533 8846 walked through the gate and up the “private” road to my waypoint.
At NR 6628 9112, seeing a barbed wire fence running north, we decided to go through an open gateway and start our traverse toward the summit - wrong! On the surface the terrain appeared to be long grass from last year forming a light off-white carpet but the reality was an extremely uneven surface underneath. It was impossible to predict whether your foot would land atop a clump of grass or plunge deep into a spongy hole - hard slow going - we aimed for greener terrain where progress was only marginally faster as these areas were extremely boggy requiring us to negotiate grass clump “stepping stones” across the water logged areas. Unfortunately we had to lose height to cross the valley just north of Lag a’Choire and at NR 6456 9340 we began the main ascent. We arrived at the summit cairn (NR 6406 9383) in sunshine, and while I set up the HF dipole Seamus qualified his activation with four 2m FM contacts with the rest of our team on their way to Craighouse.
Once I had set up, I opened on FE to find the band again poor. After 5 contacts I asked Brian G8ADD to post a QSY to FA (thanks Brian) to see if I could get some further contacts. This added just two more and just as I was about to give up, Allan MM1BJP called me for an S2S with SI-075. My research before attempting this summit had made me aware that the trig point is not at the summit and is indeed well away and because of the drop between it and the summit, the trig is in fact outside the activation zone. There are three 370m contours in the area around NR 641 937 and the information I had obtained was that the summit was at NR 6406 9374. However we found that the cairn was located at NR 6406 9383 just a few meters away but within a different 370m contour area.
Walking off the summit we tracked further north than our approach to avoid the deep grassy area and as we got close to the road we could see the real end of the public road clearly signposted just to our north. On reaching the road we deposited our rucsacs behind some reeds at NR 6654 9209 and walked 2 miles back to the car. Drove back up, collected the rucsacs and returned to the cottage at Tarbert.
Beinn an Oir GM/SI-013 Saturday 23rd May:
I could hear the rain even before I got up so anticipated a wet day, which, if anything proved to be a bit of an understatement. Since my hill walking pace is a bit slow and the island marshals are so fleet of foot, I planned to travel light and carried only VHF/UHF gear. From Craighouse our journey to the summit of Beinn an Oir was about 17 miles comprising 12 and a half miles in a 4x4, two and a quarter miles in a Land Rover Defender, one and a half miles in an 8 wheeled “hill machine” and finally 0.7 mile almost straight up from NR 4938 7544 on foot up a very steep slope where frequently I could simply stretch my hand forward to touch the next clump of grass or heather. We ascended 346 metres in 1.1km in an hour and 15 mins with visibility around 25 yards, a continuously blustery 40mph wind gusting to about 50mph and continuous rain. The younger marshals went on ahead and were about 20 mins ahead of us at the summit. The final ascent to the summit was along a scree path almost as if someone had laid it with 2" rock pieces
The summit shelter provided some respite from the wind and rain and at opportune moments in the Jura Fell Race communications, I activated the summit with 2m FM QSO’s with Jack GM4COX on SI-018, Allan MM1BJP on SI-022, Colin GM0SUY on SI-045, and Alec MM3MZX at the Three Arch Bridge (CP-8). Although both Jack & Allan had carried HF gear to their summits, with the atrocious weather neither managed to work HF and all activations were simply within our team - nothing else was practicable. The race marshals with me on the summit certainly had their priorities right, popping open and sharing two bottles of champagne. We closed the checkpoint at 3:00pm, descended and returned to Craighouse where runners were still crossing the finishing line.
For me Sunday was a day to relax although I drove to and dropped off Jack, Ann, Allan and Alec at NR 5984 7975 a starting point for Cnoc an Ime GM/SI-149 which I activated two years ago and with all of them qualifying that summit it should make it the most activated summit on Jura once these are all recorded. All of the SOTA summits on Jura have now been activated although the details of one is still unrecorded.
Cairnpapple GM/SS-254 Thursday 28th May:
Monday we were off the islands, and I returned to Fife to spend a few days with my Dad. I was watching the weather for any summit opportunity but rain and showers were persistent. However, as the weather on Thursday looked fair I decided to do a small diversion to Cairnpapple SS-254 on my way south to Newcastle. Followed the access details posted by Glyn GM4CFS, parking at NS 9904 7107 and heading up to the summit. Deployed the antenna, bungeed to the trig at NS 9875 7115 and opened on FE with a response from Frank G3RMD, who spotted me. Conditions were difficult and there was significant QRN, as well as deep QSB, making it difficult to hear contacts. After 9 contacts I QSY’d to FA to see if that could bring some more but no further takers. Switched over to 2 FM with telescopic 5/8th, but after calling CQ several times, no contacts were made on this band, so packed up and drove home to Newcastle. Thanks to Frank for support with my QSY’s & spots.
2017 miles of driving and 6 geographically widely separated UK regions activated although I didn’t manage to qualify in SC. 3 islands - provided you count mainland Britain as an island, 9 summits and a magnificent total of 11 activator points - who tries to deny that SOTA is not competitive? Now I need a rest. As I only rarely had any internet access I am not aware of all who may have supported me with spots so I can only say thanks to all who did.
CONTESTS DURING JUNE 2009
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.
6th-7th 1200-1200 SEANET Contest CW, SSB, RTTY
6th-7th 1500-1500 IARU Region 1 CW Field Day
13-14th 0001-2359 ANARTS WW RTTY Contest
13-14th 1500-1500 GACW WW CW Contest
20-21st 0001-2359 All Asian CW DX Contest
27-28th 1200-1200 Ukraine Digi Contest RTTY & PSK31
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