SOTA NEWS – MARCH 2009
EDITORIAL – by Roy G4SSH
Welcome to the March edition of SOTA News. My thanks go to the following contributors:- Barry GM4TOE, Roland SM1CXE, Gerd DF9TS, Tom M1EYP and Rob G4RJQ.
The most severe winter weather for many years and the decision by some DL stations to withdraw from SOTA activations, or move over to GMA activations from the 1st January had a marked effect on SOTA HF chasing during the first two months of 2009. Previous to this date the majority of DL activators were CW ops and their non-appearance has changed the prominent role of CW within SOTA for a short period, at least.
There were 140 spots generated in SOTA watch during the last full weekend in February this year, of which just 13 were CW activations, so you can see that recent SOTA CW activity accounted for less than 10% of the total, whereas previously the normal percentage was around 75% on many days.
However, you cannot declare a trend by isolating just two days, or two months statistics; all organisations go through periods of change and SOTA is no different. Many activations were cancelled or curtailed during the period and many activators decided to use FM equipment only as a direct result of adverse weather. Taken over a long term period this change is insignificant and the situation may well change as we move into spring and the summer season. Conversely, on the 25th February there were 17 spots posted, of which 15 were CW activations, from France, Germany, Switzerland and Norway.
I am quite sure that some folks will point to the drop in activity during January and February, and produce statistics to prove that this is the end of SOTA as we know it (Jim Lad) in which case I would draw their attention to the following e-mail received from Gerd DF9TS
“Hello Roy. Many thanks for answering my GMA calls last Saturday. I originally planned to activate SOTA DL/EW Herzogstand but the final ascent was barred (avalanche risk and metre deep soft snow), so I settled for nearby GMA DL/EW Fahrenbergkopf – so as not to have walked up in vain for 3 hours. The weather was cold (minus 10C), windy and foggy so I was happy when you answered my 1st CQ GMA immediately. It took me another hour to collect another 5 QSO’s - not a problem since I decided going down by cable car”.
“Concerning GMA: most summits in the Alps are difficult to access now (loose deep snow, avalanche risk) so it will be easier to go to GMA summits for us until least another month or two. No politics behind this decision - SOTA is just currently not feasible here. We get another meter of snow this weekend alone but temperatures are slowly rising. 73 Gerd”.
SOTA AWARDS FOR FEBRUARY 2009 by Barry GM4TOE - SOTA Awards Manager
I guess the weather has affected the number of activations this month and this is reflected in the lack of awards applied for in February. Most notable achievement is Don G0RQL attainment of 10k chaser points. Don is always a strong signal with me when I am activating and it is a real pleasure to see him achieve this remarkable milestone. A number of certificates have been awarded to relative newcomers to SOTA and it must be hoped that this trend continues.
OE5DIN Helmut Kettner 100 points
G1JTD Richard Boyes 100 points
G0RQL Don Roomes 10000 points
HB9DDE Urs Haechler 500 points
MM0ROV Mike Gerrard 250 points
GM6LYJ John Young 100 points
M3LIU Iain Cartmell 100 points
2E0BLL Mike Green 100 points
UT4FJ Alex Naumov 100 points
Not much else to comment on this month, the winter bonus ends very soon so how about boosting your activator score and awarding yourself a Mountain Goat Trophy? Remember I also have trophies for Chaser and for Chaser Uniques .
Congratulations to Steve G1INK for the magnificent double achievement of firstly passing the 20,000 SOTA QSO’s mark on 7th.February, whilst on an expedition to Scotland, then following this up by achieving triple-goat status on the 17th February.
Congratulations are also due to Tom M1EYP and Jimmy M3EYP for completing activation of all 32 NP summits on the 7th February. They now join Richard G3CWI, Steve G1INK and Clive M1YAM as NP region activator completists.
Nik HB9EAA SILENT KEY
It was with great sadness that we were informed of the recent death of Nik HB9EAA in early February at the age of just 48. Nik was a prolific activator using 5 watts QRP and it was always a pleasure to hear him calling CQ SOTA.
RIP Nick, you will be sadly missed…
Congratulations and thanks go to all the Slovenia SOTA activators who took part in their winter activity weekend over the 14-15th February. There were very many S5 stations on the air, in spite of the bad weather which made it unsafe to climb on high mountains. I managed to contact 8 activations on CW with typical remarks (such as the one from Jurij S57X) who apologised for his QSD but his fingers were frozen in the snow and strong wind. The dedication of all activators was very much appreciated.
Congratulations are also due to both Don G0NES and Graham G4JZF in passing the 20,000 chaser points barrier - a mangificent achievement.
MUCH LONGED FOR INCREASE OF THE 40 METER BAND IN SWEDEN – By Roland SM1CXE
Starting April 1st the 40 meter band will get an increase of 100 kHz in Sweden
so the new frequency spectrum will be 7000 to 7200 kHz. This will enable us to join the SOTA-chasers on 7118 kHz (SSB) although my personal opinion is to favour the CW mode and be active around 7032 kHz.
Somehow - looking at the SOTA web - it seems that the activators more and more
prefer to go to SSB and FM traffic. Perhaps it is easier to keep a microphone in your hand rather than trying to produce Morse signals with stiff hands up on the hilltops - hi.
Anyhow, I am looking out for many more hilltop activators in the future and I wish to convey my encouragement to all of them.
THE FIRST EURO-AMERICAN SOTA CONVENTION - By Gerd DF9TS
A business trip to Boston, MA at short notice gave me the idea to ask Tom, N2YTF for advice on mountain hikes in the area. Many still remember Tom’s SOTA activation last year of South Beacon (W2/EH003). Tom went out of his way to supply me with the necessary info on tracks and weather and even offered to accompany me to W2/EH003 - the adventure could begin!
The generous baggage allowance for US bound flights (2 x 23kg) meant that I could take my usual ft-817, Buddistick antenna & hiking gear to the US without limitations. Security let me take the rig onto the plane without major hassle and I arrived in Boston on a Saturday evening. The activation was planned for next morning.
I set off at 5 am from Boston area (no problem to get off early, with jet lag) to arrive at Beacon, NY at 9 am after a 200 mile drive. Tom’s arrival was scheduled for 10 a.m. which left me with plenty of time to test the ham equipment on a parking place. Amazingly, high local QRM from free hanging power lines prevented me from doing any QSO’s.
At 10 a.m. Tom arrived on time and after repacking we head up Beacon Mountain. Icy patches slowed us down a bit and the trail was marked in few places only (red plastic marks nailed onto trees) but Tom was a reliable guide and brilliant company all the way up. Weather was 0°C, sunny and slightly windy.
We stopped half way up for a scheduled CW QSO with fellow OMs from Munich on 20m at 1645 UTC. We established QSO’s easily using Tom’s IC706 with 50W into my Buddistick antenna, the DL station using 200W into a beam. QSO could be maintained even after reducing power from 50W to 5W until the signals faded away when the 20m band closed to DL at 1700 UTC.
We rushed up to South beacon mountain W2/EH003 to arrive there at 1800 UTC only to find the 20m band to Europe already closed. I heard but could not work some Spanish stations but no UK stations to be heard.
The fire watch tower on top of the summit was open to the public and Tom and myself collected the necessary QSO’s on 2m SSB and 2m FM.
A nice dinner with Tom and his wife Liz in Beacon concluded this perfect day out…
Many thanks to Tom for his hospitality and bringing me up and down safely - and for being such good company. Here is a link to some photos from the W2 excursion
73 Gerd DF9TS
OFF THE BEATEN TRACK - Roy G4SSH
SOTA chasing and activating is a bit like collecting stamps – when newcomers first start they tend to use any and every band and mode available. Later on, they begin to specialise, and concentrate on a favourite band or a favourite mode.
It was interesting therefore to see the various specialised spots active last month. First up was John G4YSS, who has created quite a following on 160m CW, which has also been recently used by Tom M1EYP, Phil G4OBK, Rick M0RCP and Marc G0AZS. This is now also branching out into 160m SSB.
Next 144 CW has started to become a favourite, eagerly used by Tom M1EYP and Ric M0RCP. We have also had PSK operations from France by Jaakko OH7BF/F5VGL and also some PSK and RTTY from the UK. This is gaining in popularity as small handheld computers come down in cost and size. There is even talk of activating a summit on 23cm meteor scatter.
John G4YSS has also started using the 4 metre band around 70.450 and S57BNX became the first S5 activator to use 70 MHz. Gerald G4OIG is keen on 1297 MHz FM and Frank G3RMD uses CW on 432 MHz. We still have favourite bands on HF, of course, with many followers of 5 MHz SSB and 30m CW.
Thanks to Tom M1EYP for the following tables:-
SOTA 10GHz Activators
1 G3CWI 18 / 57
2 DL4ALI 1 / 10
3 G4ERP 8 / 7
4 DH0LS 1 / 4
5 M1EYP 1 / 0
SOTA 2m CW Activators (Top 20)
1 M1EYP 20 / 48
2 S53XX 4 / 27
3 G4OIG 8 / 25
4 DL3VTL 2 / 20
5 HA5CQZ 4 / 19
6 M0RCP 2 / 18
7 G4YSS 2 / 17
8 OE8GBK 2 / 14
9 G3CWI 6 / 11
=9 M0DFA 1 / 11
=9 G4RGV 2 / 11
12 G0PZO 3 / 9
13 DJ3AX 1 / 8
=13 G3RMD 1 / 8
=13 DH1AN 1 / 8
=13 DL6UNF 1 / 8
=13 DD1LD 1 / 8
18 G4KKI 2 / 6
19 GW0TQM 2 / 5
=19 G3TJE 1 / 5
CW FROM CYPRUS by Roy G4SSH
I shall again be active from the Larnaca District of the Republic of Cyprus using the call 5B / G0OOO on Thursday 26th March (and possibly Friday 27th March) around 14055 KHz 0900-1100 UTC
Although not on a SOTA, I shall be especially listening out for newcomers to CW and will be happy to reply at their speed and give them perhaps a first DX contact on CW. In previous years I have generated quite a pile-up of callers, but I am happy to call you if you want a sked, in which case please e-mail me before the 15th March, but the above times are the only ones when I shall be active. Last year I was contacted by many chasers. A special QSL card will be available via the Buro, or direct.
HILL OF THE MONTH by Tom M1EYP
Wild Boar Fell G/NP-007 - 708m ASL, 6 points
This is a lovely hill, and a great walk. It is a lofty
summit that lies a few miles south of Kirkby Stephen, and a
few north-east of Sedburgh. I remember noticing in the
early days of SOTA that it seemed a frequently activated
hill - and now I know why.
We parked and approached from Little Ing Farm, SD783998.
There is room for a couple of cars on one side of the B6259,
although the opposite side of the road has no parking signs.
An alternative approach seems to be from the opposite end of
the bridleway, between the settlements of The Street and
Stennerskeugh, close to the A683.
Approaching from the east, the route takes one down through
a farm yard, and then up towards the Settle-Carlisle
railway, which is underpassed through a small tunnel. The
path then climbs quickly up a quad-bike track and crosses a
stream to the open moor.
Now you get a clear view of your objective, with The Nab,
the 702m eastern point of the summit plateau, distinctive
against the sky. The wide clear track is followed gently
uphill, a route that could be boggy in all but the coldest
A saddle is reached at a junction of walls at High
Dolphinsty, and from here one follows the ridge line
southwards. To your right, the fell slopes gently away, but
to your left is a very steep, and in places sheer drop.
Once up at The Nab, the summit trig point and stone shelter
surrounding it, can be 500m away on this large flat summit
Amazing views are enjoyed from the summit, and throughout
the ascent and descent. The ascent takes 90 minutes without
rushing, and the descent is a comfortable one hour amble.
Our activation was exclusively on VHF, and there was no
difficulty in making contact back down to Cheshire.
Wild Boar Fell is a long drive north for most people - but
it is definitely worth it - highly recommended.
THE VIEW FROM THE NORTH (2) By Rob G4RQJ
First, apologies to an unknown activator on 10MHz at the beginning of the month. After a big shack reorganisation I called him only to get a huge string of dots due to RF in the key lead! This seemed to go on for hours as I struggled to stop the old FT101 from transmitting! Eventually I turned the mains of in desperation and by the time I sorted things out the activator had gone. Sorry.
On to the hills and the poor weather continued forcing us onto lower fells.
Holm Fell on the 1st
This is a nice small fell just off the A593 about two miles north west of Coniston. Either pay for parking just north of Yew Barrow Tea Shop! Or sneak into one of the few free spaces by Yew Barrow tarn. The tarn and tea shop might amuse the sota disinterested for the duration of a short activation. The path to the summit doubles as a stream in parts and the addition of a squadron of Belted Galloways in place of the local sheep has not helped. The summit is reasonable child friendly but toddlers may need to be carried over some parts. Only 10 MHz of the usual bands produced no contacts. The summit is very screened by a U of much higher tops to the north and some VHF beam headings seem rather strange, reflections?
Arnside Knott on the 8th
My birthday, 20 (again several times+!), Audrey’s yesterday, she’s much younger, ask her if you dare!! Weather very cold with snow forecast at all levels so Arnside Knott it is. This hill is a dog walkers paradise and only became a Marilyn on the addition of sufficient droppings to raise it the last couple of metres hi hi .The hill is easily accessed from Arnside village, a minor seaside resort that may amuse those not interested in the hill for a couple of hours. BEWARE the tides are lethal. For the hill park on the short rough uphill road, first left off Red Hills road. Walk up and turn left to High Knott road Follow it round and look for a footpath through the woods on your right. This takes you out onto open field, just head straight up. The trig is just inside the woods on the far side. To the south of the trig the woods have been thinned and a pile of logs is a good seat. The hill has a poor reputation for VHF and a beam helps. Very family friendly hill but no one about today in the bitter cold. The snow starts right on cue as we descend. From the M6 follow the A6 to Milnthorpe from J35 if northbound or J36 if southbound (about equidistant) Then signs for Arnside .
Claiffe Heights on the 15th
Set off for Pike o’ Blisco but the cloud was thick at the Three Shires Stone with a lot of sheet ice in the grass. Not wishing to cause more work for the already over burdened Mountain Rescue services we headed for Claiffe Heights. This is a nice family friendly hill easily done from the small free car park at Red Nab SD385995
Walk along the lake side to Belle Grange turn right and follow the track up through the woods, steep and slippery when the leaves are down. Keep going up till a wide cross track is met in open ground. Turn left and it will take you to a small tarn with a path on the left leading into the woods from which the summit is signposted. A family friendly hill but take care in the woods. We met a couple who were becoming quite distressed having lost the track for Hawkshead and wandering in the woods for some time. We took them out and set them on the right road. All bands were fine with 57 contacts in all. Start is about 20 minutes drive from Windermere
Stoney Cove Pike on the 22nd
At last some weather for a decent hill. If you expect to stay for 2 hours plus and are of a senior disposition then this is essential. A nice long walk (1.5 hours) from the Kirkstone Pass Inn. If you don’t like steep steps then deviate through the gap in the wall and go up a partial ramp on grass. As this peters out turn left to pass two small tarns and gain the big cairn at the top of the stairway. From here just keep to the wall all the way. HF was not playing today none on 5Mhz, three on 7Mhz and just one on 10Mhz but vhf made up for it, about 60 in all. Called for some time on 5 MHz and got us to thinking if other people have self imposed limitations? Do not like the idea of self spotting so always try to make first contact by radio. We always post before setting out and appreciate spots by people who work us. We have phone numbers if needed but like to rely on the dedicated band of chasers if possible Thanks again all of you. Only once, from Bradda Hill, we phoned G3VUS in desperation but by the time the spot came up we had qualified the hill. Just a little personal thing and we may well feel different if we were in the wilds of Scotland etc !!
The local road works at the moment seem to be mostly hit and run affairs with temporary traffic lights and convoys; Troutbeck Bridge A592 seems about the worst at the moment but think they let up at the weekend.
Take care and 73
Rob and Audrey
SOTA CW REPORT FOR FEBRUARY 2009 - By Roy G4SSH
I have mentioned the drop in CW activity and the non-appearance of some DL stations during January and February at the start of the main news. Fortunately we still had many HF CW activations from F, G, HA, OK, HB, S5 and LA stations and some DL stations still remained active. Jurg HB9BAB travelled cross border to activate 3 x BW 10 pointers on the 16th February; activity not seen since the heady days of Klaus DF2GN. Unfortunately, many stations do not post alerts, with the result that when CW chasers see no activations forecast for a whole day they do not keep a listening watch, and there were many instances last month of activators calling CQ SOTA on 7032 KHz around mid-day with very few replies. It is a self generating spiral, no alerts no waiting chasers. I would prefer to see an alert with a very approximate time rather than nothing, because I can arrange jobs for another day.
The 40 metre band suffered badly from contest weekends during the month of February, which included the Worldwide RTTY and ARRL DX contests. The weekend of 14/15th saw the band swamped by RTTY transmissions from 7025 KHz upwards. Whilst some activators continued to attempt to use 7032 KHz, Jurij S57X moved down to 7.017 to give a clear copy, whilst other S5’s and F stations used 10118 and 14038.
Heard active on 30m CW were HA5MA, HA5LV, HA5CQZ, HB9AFH, GM0DSP, S53X, S57XX, S58MU, G4RJQ, LA1ENA, F5VGL, MM0ROV and F5UKL.
John G4YSS, using GX0OOO/p was out and about gathering points during the last full month of winter bonus. Unfortunately he was caught out by inaccurate weather forecasting with the result that he had to abandon his last two summits of the day in driving snow and was very lucky to make it home through deep snow drifts, closed roads and a total white-out across North Yorkshire.
A warm welcome is extended to newcomers Bob F5HTR, Radio club Lesce S59UAR Marek SP7JYM, Mirko S59Z and Ken GI4FLG, all heard activating using CW during February. I have been submitting a CW report for the last three years and it is most gratifying to see a steady stream of newcomers every single month, both activators and chasers. It is a pleasure to see Alex UT4FJ amongst the certificates for SOTA chasing.
The bad weather also restricted the number of cross border expeditions – there were just 5 heard on CW during February - these were by Jurg DL/HB9BAB, Norby ON/LX1NO, Andy DL/OE5DIN, newcomer Marek F/SP7JYM and Gerd W2/DF9TS.
Data transmissions continue to creep across SOTA favourite CW spots, even outside of contest weekends. There is one SSTV station that regularly uses 7032.5 KHz, and on the 1st February there was a S9+ wide-band data transmission completely swamping 10110-10130 KHz from 1200-1600 UTC. Fortunately, ZOLI kept chasers happy by moving up to 10139 KHz.
CONTESTS DURING MARCH 2009
The following scheduled contests are ones 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.
Feb 28-1st Mar 1300-1300 UBA CW DX Contest
7th-8th 0001-2359 ARRL International SSB DX contest
8th only 0700-1100 SKCC CW sprint
8th only 0800-1200 Ukraine RTTY contest
14-15th 10000-1000 RSGB Commonwealth (BERU) contest
14th only1400-2000 AGCW CW QRP contest
14th-15th 1600-1600 EA PSK31 contest
15th only 0900-1100 DIG 40m SSB contest
21-23rd 0200-0200 BARTG HF RTTY contest
21-22nd 1200-1200 Russian CW and SSB contest
28th-29th 0001-2359 CQ World-wide WPX SSB contest
SOTA News is normally published on the last day of the month and can only be as interesting as the items submitted. If you think your particular field of interest is not being covered then please submit an article by the 25th of the month. Have you a favourite SOTA? favourite mode? favourite rig, antenna, or favourite band? How did you find your first day / month / year as an activator or chaser? Your comments and experiences will be read by SOTA enthusiasts all across Europe and beyond, and your input will be most welcome.
SOTA News Editor