Other SOTA sites: SOTAwatch | SOTA Home | Database | Video | Photos | Shop | Mapping | FAQs | Facebook | Contact SOTA

SOTA NEWS November 2007


#1

The Sota News Team welcomes you to……….

SOTA NEWS NOVEMBER 2007 (PART 1)

Your SOTA News Team is…Mike GW0DSP (Chief Editor) John GW4BVE and Roy G4SSH ( Regular Monthly Correspondents), with thanks this month to the following……………

Roger MW0IDX, Jon GM4ZFZ, John G4YSS, Glyn GM4CFS, Barry M3PXW, Steve 2E0KPO, John M0JDK, Les G3VQO (on behalf of MT), Geoff G4CPA, Ron GW4EVX, Klaus DF2GN, Ralf DH3IAJ, Ian GW8OGI, Mike G4BLH and Paul G4MD

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OUR READERS

This will be the final SOTA News for 2007 and the SOTA News Team would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our readers a very happy Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year.
It has only been a short while since I took on the job of News Editor, but quite a few new ideas have already been introduced to try and offer items of interest to suit everyone. There are further new ideas in the pipeline for 2008 as we try to broaden the News topics even further.
As can be seen, we have put a bumper news bulletin together for you for this festive month. I would like to offer my most sincere thanks to John GW4BVE and Roy G4SSH for their regular monthly contributions, help and hard work, also to Jon GM4ZFZ for his continued support to the SOTA News Team. My thanks also go to the many contributors of News items this and every month, you are the people who make our News what it is, so please keep your News Items rolling in.

73 Mike GW0DSP (Chief Editor)

SOTA MANAGEMENT TEAM NOTIFICATIONS

No more e-mail confirmations: Reminder Re Reflector post of 8/11/07

In response to a request from our ISP, with immediate effect, there will no longer be any automatic e-mail confirmations of activator or chaser entries to the database. Apparently, due to the way these largely-redundant messages were being deleted by some recipients, they were often being flagged as SPAM, and this was causing blocking problems for the server at the ISP (I hope I’ve used the correct terminology here, but you’ll get the gist). It is, of course, always possible to check that database entries have been successful, if there is ever any doubt, by checking the database itself.

Les, G3VQO obo SOTA Management Team

Moving a Mountain: Reminder Re Reflector posting of 14/11/07

"Most people will be aware, either from the SOTA website http://www.sota.org.uk/sources.htm
or from discussion on the Reflector, that the UK summit lists are derived from the definition of a “Marilyn” developed by Alan Dawson in his book “The Relative Hills of Britain” (often referred to as “RHB”) published in April 1992. This book is now available on the internet at http://bubl.ac.uk/org/tacit/marilyns/ for those who are interested.
Although Black Mountain in Herefordshire/Powys is popularly regarded as straddling the border, Alan Dawson placed it firmly in his region 38B, which comprised West Gloucestershire and the erstwhile Hereford & Worcester. Thus SOTA allocated it the designation WB-001 within the English Association. All was well until May 2007, when the people who decide where mountains actually are, and how high they are, decided that the available evidence placed Black Mountain definitively in Wales, in region 32A (South Wales - Llandovery to Monmouth). Those who wish to follow the trail can find the decision at http://www.biber.fsnet.co.uk/database_notes.html - it took a bit of searching! So, in order to keep SOTA in line with the revised RHB listing, we have to take the unprecedented step of “moving” a mountain from one country to another! The MT is aware that not everybody agrees with our use of the RHB list for SOTA purposes, but it has served us well since the earliest days, and we see no good reason to diverge from it now. Thus, at 23:59 on 31st December 2007 the summit G/WB-001 Black Mountain will cease to exist, and from 00:01 on 1st January 2008 a new summit GW/SW-041 Black Mountain will be added. Why the choice of date, bearing in mind that the RHB list changed in May? Well, to be honest, we missed the announcement at the time. As stated earlier it took a bit of searching! Having discovered it, in early November, it seemed that the start of 2008 was a logical change date for SOTA purposes, thus allowing the necessary work on the two affected ARMs and the database to be implemented in a timely manner.
Don’t worry, because all recorded QSOs with Black Mountain in its G/WB-001 incarnation up, and including, 31st December 2007 still count for activator and chaser points. There will be no loss of points already earned, just a brand-new summit reference to chase from 1st January 2008. Have fun!

73 Les G3VQO obo SOTA Management Team".

A LARGE IT SYSTEM!!!

Which amateur radio group runs a real time IT system accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and has over 1000 on-line users? Users are able to enter data which is immediately displayed to the other users that are logged on, plus any other casual users around the world. It also has a large database which extracts data from other systems and allows the users to contribute their own information to the knowledge base. Recognise the description? Of course it is our own SOTAwatch.

A little bit of history. SOTAwatch was built following the lead of the first industrial strength IT system built under the control of the SOTA Management Team. This was “The Database” whose architect was Gary G0HJQ. John G3WGV and Richard G3CWI were instrumental in ensuring that the database was fit for purpose and the end result was a system that has served the SOTA community since 2002. A similar approach was taken to the development of SOTAwatch, the MT worked out a thorough specification influencing the development before even a single line of code was written by Jon GM4ZFZ. Jon developed SOTAwatch, followed by SOTAwatch 2 which is the system we all use now, and it was tested by a band of testers (users) before being released to the wider SOTA community.

As of 11th November 2007 there were 1020 registered users of SOTAwatch and 50% of these are outside the UK. That’s a large IT system by any standards. It is as rugged and reliable as any large IT system and serves users well, but we may have come to take the system for granted and perhaps the enormous amount of work involved goes unrecognised. Jon GM4ZFZ is the architect and maintainer of SOTAwatch. He tends to stay in the background but he continues to work, within his very limited time constraints, to maintain and develop the system. With any IT system changes are required on a regular basis. For example just over the last few weeks changes have been made to clearly identify summits that are no longer valid. Also a problem has been fixed which caused OS Get-a-Map to be incorrectly displayed for GI summits.

More statistics to show the scale of the system that you are using. Since the implementation of SOTAwatch2 nearly a year ago there have been more than 10,000 spots, 3000 alerts and 9000 posts on the reflector on more than 1000 topics. These are big numbers that should be considered when SOTAwatch is very occasionally unavailable for maintenance

Jon is also working on some interesting upgrades to SOTAwatch and the SOTA website but these have to be fitted in between work and family commitments. The changes may arrive soon or they may be later, but they will arrive and they will improve an already great system. On behalf of all the users - thanks for all your efforts Jon.

WINTER SAFETY NOTES FOR THE SOTA NEWCOMER. By John G4YSS

In early 2002 when it was first announced, I was excited about SOTA but no one knew then how it would develop and I realised there could be significant safety issues. When I was introduced to the fells as a child, it didn’t occur to me that anybody would go there outside summer! Indeed, pre SOTA I’d climbed few fells in sub-zero conditions.

Within our SOTA ranks, there are real outdoor ‘hard men’ such as mountain leaders, climbers, mountaineers and at least one British Antarctic Survey veteran. Their combined knowledge and experience would make the likes of me look decidedly ‘O’ level. Apart from an outward-bound course in 1968, I have no formal qualifications to be advising anybody on safety. I can only churn-out standard ‘safety speak’ and then add a few tips and warnings from my own activating experience with observations built up, mainly in British winters over the last few years. I hope this approach is adequate but at the same time doesn’t discourage potential newcomers. It’s not all about safety. Avoiding discomfort is related and important to safety. There will be things to add so please send them for inclusion in the next SOTA news.
I remember being mildly taken aback when I read the term ‘winter bonus’ in the newly published SOTA rule-book. Was it advisable to encourage people to go out in potentially the worst conditions? In truth, we all face risk on a daily basis. Minimising it and the consequences if things should go ‘pear-shaped’ is really what we should be aiming at. The one fatality we’ve had so far is one too many so here are a few reminders. A search on Google will reveal many books on mountain safety and any SOTA newcomer could do worse than to purchase one. E.g.: ‘Safety on Mountains’ by BMC (British Mountaineering Council.) There are practical skills training courses on offer too. Obviously, a knowledge of first-aid is a big advantage, as are good navigational skills, an ability to read weather-signs and the properties of different surfaces and gradients etc. Unfortunately, there’s no substitute for experience and that’s the catch 22.

Preparation:

Check your equipment: Wax boots, cut toenails, charge batteries etc. Careful planning is your best opportunity to head-off trouble. Do your pessimistic thinking now and it will sharpen up your preparation.

Research your route. The SOTA website (Reflector or summit details) often has route details posted by someone who has already done the summits you’re interested in. You can look at
http://getamap.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/getamap/frames.htm
paper maps or mapping software, e.g. Memory Map. Aerial photos such as Google Earth or similar, can show the type of terrain and often give a clue to whether a path is available. Be accurate with minimum two letter / eight figure grid refs, if you’re creating GPS waypoints, and assign a unique name to each one. When planning your route, allow one hour for every 4km (2.5 miles) and add one hour for every 500m (1,500 ft) of ascent, with extra time for stops for rest, food and the all important activation. This is a variation on Naismith’s Rule but individuals will eventually ascertain their own particular speed over the ground, groups being slower than individuals. Build some ‘slack’ into your schedule.

Fitness: It’s no use trying to become a winter activator, who’s expected to stand up to extreme climatic conditions, if you sit at home with the central heating on! Turn it off, get used to the cold. Acclimatization will stand you in good stead. Get out in the weather locally as much as you can. If you are exercising strongly, minimise clothing. You can put on a coat when you stop. If you have an injury or infection, are not well rested, well nourished or (I hate to mention it) suffering from toxin build-up through constipation, your physical performance is likely to be adversely affected. Consider whether you are fit enough to meet the challenge you have in mind, with enough reserve to cope with the unexpected. SOTA activating is not just about strenuous walking. Antennas must be erected over rough ground, shelters too and just sitting in the cold saps your energy, as does wind buffet and going over slippery or snowy surfaces. Multiply that by a number of summits and you’ll see why fitness, mental tenacity and determination are required. A little fanaticism, or at least a single mindedness of purpose, is not a bad feature in a SOTA activator. You’ll also need that strength of mind for the decision to turn back if it becomes necessary. If you’re inexperienced, start small and work up. Build up self confidence, which is a product of good training and sound knowledge.

What to expect: Mountain weather is notoriously changeable. Fell-top conditions can be far more severe than in the valleys. Remember that for each 300m (1000ft) of ascent, the temperature will theoretically fall by 2 degrees C. Normally, it can be two or three times as windy on a summit compared to the valley so think about chill-factors. High up, low-cloud might be present perhaps half of the time though visibility rarely drops below about 30m in daylight. Sometimes cloud will wet you like drizzle but when it’s cold, you may think you’ve been painted white. The highest tops are the first places to catch snow & ice with the onset of winter and the last to be free of it in spring. These factors can sometimes combine to make the high places at best unpleasant and at worst dangerous for the unwary, inexperienced or unprepared.
Check the target area forecast (e.g.: http://www.metcheck.com/ ) and preferably a mountain forecast too (e.g.: http://www.mwis.org.uk/ ). At the same time, check road conditions: (e.g. http://www.highways.gov.uk/ ).
Look at a relevant web cam (e.g. http://www.ingleboroughwebcam.co.uk/
or http://www.nevisportlive.com/webcam_bennevis.asp ).

Clothing: Weather protection should be the first consideration. Look in any reputable outdoor shop or catalogue. They will be recommending a layering system (base, mid & shell) using breathable, wicking and quick-drying clothing. Don’t wear denim jeans; they suffer from water logging, becoming heavy and stiff in the wet. They’re slow to dry and poor insulators. The same goes for cotton shirts, which may be OK in the height of summer. Synthetic walking clothing is designed to retain most of its properties when wet (as does wool) and to dry quickly but remember, depending on your physiology a strenuous ascent might leave you as wet from within, as a rain shower can from without. Unlike the average walker who can keep on walking, you are really going to feel the effects of this. You may be immobile for an hour or two at the point where conditions are at their worst; the summit! You won’t regret carrying that spare extra (mid) layer, perhaps a dry shirt and some form of shelter to get you out of the wind in poor conditions but if it’s dry, walking-up wearing reduced top-cover is a way to minimise discomfort later on. If I had to choose single weather condition that I like the least and fear the most, it would be the winter wind and its ability to induce hypothermia. I often take a warm (Primaloft) jacket to put over my fleece for the activation. Down is good but less so when wet. You should carry a warm, wind/waterproof hat (and/or a balaclava) which can be adapted to cover the ears, a waterproof jacket with a hood, waterproof over-trousers and a lower base-layer. Extremities (hands, feet, nose & ears) are the first to suffer in cold weather, so take good gloves or mitts and wear thick socks under comfortable, lined, stout boots which have grip-soles and ankle support. Use halyards, tethers and chin-straps. Loosing gear can cause problems. Carry spare clothing.

Food: Carry adequate high-energy food and drink. Ensure you have an emergency reserve (such as mint cake, chocolate, dried fruit etc.) and eat/drink little & often. In sub-zero conditions, I often carry fat in the form of a small block of cheese. Energy drinks which contain electrolytes for proper re-hydration after sweating have much to recommend them in the avoidance of cramp and dehydration. Purification tablets weigh little but need time to work and don’t kill everything. You should be choosy about your emergency water source (basically, clear, fast running-water is best, at the highest ASL you can find).

Navigation: By all means take a GPS (regard it as secondary navigation) but only if you have a map and compass in addition (primary navigation) and the knowledge to use the latter items for both navigation and position-fixing. GPS needs training, long practice and spare batteries but if it can be well mastered & very carefully pre-programmed, there may be little need to deploy the map for the entire walk, so long as it has been studied beforehand. The advantages of this are obvious in high winds, driving rain and if night falls in low-cloud. Leave it switched-on at all times when you’re moving. Mine is carried high on a rucksack strap, where it can see the sky. Maps can blow away so consider an A4 ‘copy map’ as a spare. It can be kept in a pocket and easily consulted. You should know your position as you walk the route and in case things do go wrong, take advanced note of escape routes and the positions of shelters, bothies, ruins, closest tracks, roads, settlements and rescue posts etc. Note the wind direction. Getting out of it in an emergency is priority one. Don’t take unnecessary risks by tackling overly long or difficult routes and be prepared to change your plans if you feel unsafe for any reason. Allow plenty of time and turn back if in doubt.

Let someone know: Leave your route-plan with a responsible person and /or better still, a fellow amateur who is a SOTA chaser. You should include details of your intended route and estimated time of return. I add a list of frequencies which I’m likely to be found on, including Amateur, PMR channels and mobile phone numbers. In addition, I leave this information visible in standardised format, in my car. The SOTA spotting system can create a history of your movements. Ensure that your ‘minder’ knows how to access it, if the worst should happen. If you do carry a mobile phone, it is best to leave it switched on all day. It may be possible for the authorities to obtain a (rough) position fix from it, in an emergency. Mobile phone coverage can be sparse in remote areas, even on some summits, so don’t rely on it (or radio) to get you out of trouble. If you are seriously delayed (and you have the means) inform your ‘base’ or the police as quickly as possible so that the Mountain Rescue service is not called out unnecessarily. The same goes for when you reach safety. Emergencies have been declared time and again because someone ‘forgot’ to say they were safe.

First Aid: Pack a first-aid kit (e.g. http://www.redcross.org.uk/shop/product.asp?id=70314&category=59095
or outdoor shops do them). Choose one which has a booklet included and add your own items, keeping something to hand for treating blisters at the earliest opportunity. Keep toenails short. If you’re on medication ensure you carry enough for normal use plus extra for if you’re delayed. Write the details on a card and carry it with you.

Accidents: If there’s an accident, make sure breathing is unobstructed, check pulse, and give first aid if necessary. Dress wounds to prevent bleeding, keep the casualty warm, reassured, sheltered and safe from further injury, but don’t move them if there is any danger of a spinal injury, following a serious fall etc. Remember to protect yourself and if necessary, send for help. Dial 999 for the police who will call out the nearest Mountain Rescue Team. Give all details including, the condition of the casualty and an accurate location (grid reference if possible). Remain at the telephone unless asked to do otherwise and don’t move your position without further consultation. If the rescue services are ‘cold-searching’ they are likely to search along features like wall-lines, watercourses, paths and tracks etc. so if you’re in the ‘middle of nowhere’ at least try to get to a ‘map feature.’ Wear bright colours, use your whistle and turn your radio mast into flag-pole. It’s very important to maintain a positive, confident, optimistic attitude in yourself and others, should things go wrong.

Shelter /emergency: Always carry some form of emergency shelter (e.g. bivvy, blizzard or bothy bag.) Think about what you would need if forced to spend a night out. Carry a whistle. (The emergency signal is six blasts repeated at 1 minute intervals.) I have matches, a lighter, a two Hexamine fuel blocks, a small candle and two small chemical handwarmers, PVC tape, tyraps, string and ‘puritabs’ etc, in my emergency-kit and reflective strips on my rucksack. Know how to make a snow hole and how to use plant-matter to insulate your body from the ground. Make a habit of speaking to people you meet on the way; they might remember you and your whereabouts should you not return on time.

The Activation: Try to get out of the wind. Walls are a luxury; sitting on a lee-slope can also help. I used a big, strong umbrella for my first 1000 points. It’s quick, weighs 0.8kg and straps to the outside of the pack. My beach shelter is a bit large for one person but I have found success with a ‘peg & pole prepared’ tent flysheet. My folding map case is an insulated sit-mat too, effective on ice or snow. It may be a relief to sit down for a rest but this is when cramp, leg stiffness and severe chilling can strike. Don extra clothes, cover extremities early and set the pace on the air, working rapidly if you have to. Get up and walk-around at QSY’s, or more often. Chasers will understand. I have been a fool in the past, shuddering, shivering, with teeth chattering so I can barely speak or send CW. The radio demands your full attention but your body needs consideration too. If I’d really learned this, I would have avoided descending Gt. Shunner Fell ‘wet-through’ because I was so preoccupied with a ‘list’ that I didn’t make time for a ‘comfort break’ before it was too late to doff gloves and ‘negotiate’ multiple layers of clothing! Sorry to be so candid in trying to make the point but your first duty is to yourself. Be ready to shorten or abort the activation if you feel ‘threatened’ by conditions or pushed for time.
Hazards:
Ice: If you’re taking high-level routes and ice is likely to be met, you’ll be using stiff winter-walking boots with the appropriate ‘B’ grade; to match the right ‘C’ grade crampons and an ice-axe. Most important of all; know how to use them. For this, don’t trust ‘book-learning;’ a recognized practical course of instruction in winter is the only sure way to learn reliably (e.g. self-arresting techniques).

Wild life: Midges in Scotland in the summer can be a serious irritant but I haven’t yet needed an insect repellent in the UK winter. However, check for ticks after each walk, especially if it was through long undergrowth, e.g. Bracken. Research how to pull them out; they can carry Lyme Desease and I have picked 3 or 4 of these up as early as March. I have seen quite a few adders on the North York Moors in summer but none on the higher SOTA’s. Be aware of deer stalking season in GM and pack anthisan for stings.

Solitude: If you are not confident or experienced about a particular WX condition or activity, avoid it or take someone with you who is qualified to advise you. Some examples are: Climbing, scrambling, icy surfaces, deep snow (with particular attention to avalanche conditions) arêtes, shear drops, low-cloud, darkness, boggy ground, crossing steep boulder-fields, fording watercourses and seriously remote summits etc. If you’re concerned about the added vulnerability of going it alone, join with others. Three is the minimum party-size for best dealing with emergencies. One casualty, one companion and one to get help if all other communication methods fail. Look at the summit history; the number of activations and a map will help to identify which ones are easy and which are remote.

Lightning & static: We know the risk is small but it doesn’t make lightning any less terrifying. With the obvious increased danger for the SOTA activator, it’s essential not to be activating a summit if lightning conditions are present or imminent. There are stratagems to minimise risk if you’re caught-out but the only sure response is not to be there! My Roberts R984 AM radio makes a good lightning detector (and with its ferrite rod aerial null, doubles as a ‘mock gyro-compass’ for long straight marches over featureless terrain but don’t get distracted by listening to audio in trickier territory.) Static is a related problem and builds up with the movement of charged fluid (e.g. air). It ‘zapped’ me and my rig on Skiddaw, before I could get a grounding-lead fixed. I had shocks and fat, blue sparks on Mickle Fell too, followed by lightning close enough to send me running. Lightning is less common in winter but take heed of the WX forecast!

Getting lost: Don’t panic; take time to work out your position analytically and logically. On the way out, you will have studied your progress on the map, through the landscape and looked around at your ‘back-trail’ every few minutes. Doing this will help you to retreat safely. In poor visibility you must rely on your compass or GPS. The latter makes a track of your progress. I have used this a few times to safely retrace my steps in featureless clagg and/or darkness. Bring up the map page, set it to ‘fine’ and walk so as to make your descent track closely mimic your earlier ascent track on the screen. Walking in the dark is not recommended of course. Wayfinding becomes very difficult and it’s easy to loose even the best of paths, particularly in cloud. If you must optimise time on short winter days and you have the experience, walk up to meet the dawn rather than down into dusk.

Hypothermia: This is best avoided in the first place by dressing for the conditions, not getting soaked or chilled, drinking plenty of water, eating high-energy snacks and not getting over fatigued but you should know the signs in yourself and others. They are drowsiness, fumbling hands, memory lapse, stumbling, slurred speech, and prolonged or uncontrolled shivering. The response should be. Shelter, warm clothing, gentle warming and, if possible, warm beverage but it’s a complex subject and there’s more than one stage, so if possible seek help. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothermia#Stages_in_humans

Hardware: Danger from this quarter could be swift and unexpected. Think about what a splintered carbon or glass-fibre mast section, sharp antenna element or chemicals from a broken battery could do to an eye. Lithium batteries can ignite if subjected to strong impact. Lead-acid, Ni-Mh, NiCad and Lithium batteries have high short-circuit currents which are quite capable of setting your rucksack on fire; causing burns and /or destroying essential food & clothing. Use fuses or circuit breakers and protect terminals from contact with metal items. Don’t be distracted when setting up the antenna over slippery or rocky surfaces or near vertical drops. Avoid injury to others from tangle / trip hazards or RF burn / shock from QRO transmitters.

Headlamp: Regardless of your intentions about how long you’ll be out, take a headlamp or at least a small torch. I carry both; one may be needed for putting fresh batteries in the other. If it’s both dark and misty, you’ll need to carry the headlight in your hand at waist level to avoid being blinded by back-scatter or your own breath.

Batteries: Know the state of charge of all batteries in your equipment and have sufficient spare ones handy. Remember that battery performance is degraded at low temperatures; I carry some in a pocket. Experience tells me that rechargeable batteries self-discharge at 0.5% per day, so expect problems if you leave them in equipment for long periods.
A place for everything: Know the precise location of everything you carry and keep it the same every time. If things go badly, access will be automatic. I find that rucksack side-pockets provide quick access to waterproofs but I keep gloves, a hat, mobile phone, whistle, etc in my fleece pockets. Regularly check that you still have your critical items and use lanyards where appropriate. A ‘ready-use’ storage area is useful. I sewed a zipped bag to my rucksack waist-strap for this purpose. ‘Promote’ items to it as circumstances demand. If you think they would help you, consider taking walking poles. At least one (GM) activator, designed a way of making a radio-mast from his but I’m told that they can be a minor hindrance at times, e.g. up-scrammbles. When walking long distances over snow in bright sunshine, you’ll need dark-glasses and probably suncream to block UV. Your sunhat can’t protect you from reflected glare.

Beware the descent: Most accidents happen on the way down when you’re physically tired but mentally relaxed. ‘Didn’t I do well, meeting all my targets so efficiently.’ Don’t be complacent; by far the most important objective is getting back to safety ‘in one piece.’ Concentrate! Think of that nasty scrammble on the ascent, that you must soon reverse. Don’t rush. It’s better to advance slowly and surely in half-light than be immobilised all night through injury but let someone know if you’re going to be late.

Back at the car: Don’t underestimate the importance of access to your vehicle. How would it be if you returned to your remotely parked car, tired, cold, wet & hungry in driving rain or in high wind-chill, having lost the key? My car key (and attached penknife) is both in a pocket and on a lanyard. A second key is magnetically attached to the car under body. Assume your car might get stuck in a snow-drift miles from anywhere. I carry a shovel, hand winch, ground spike and hammer and I’ve had to use them. If the car contains dry clothing, food, water, a sleeping bag and plenty of fuel, you’re covered. If you wrap a large, full, thermos-flask in an old coat, you’ll have a warm drink to come down to, even after 12 hours or more.

Don’t be put off: Statistically you’re much safer in the hills than in a city or on the roads. I hope that reading this article will be useful to someone, without ‘tempting providence’ for me personally! May your activating be safe, enjoyable and rewarding.

CU-S2S, 73, John G4YSS.

SOTA MILESTONES FOR THIS EDITION

CHASERS

100 Points

Tino DL8LJ

Christian OE5HCE

250 Points

Eduard HB3YNE

Helen GW7AAU

Geoff M3SFN

500 Points

Juerg HB9BAB

Peter HB9CMI

Hans DG1HVL

Herbert DL3HWO

1,000 points (Shack Sloth)

Alun 2W0CYM

Gunter DG3HWO

Dave G0AOD

Barry GM4TOE

Dan ON4ON

2,500 Points

Peter ON3WAB

5,000 Points

10,000 points (Supersloth)

15,000 Points ( Supersloth and a half )

Graham G4JZF

500 Unique summits chased

Glyn GM4CFS

1,000 Unique summits chased

Fred HB9AAQ

ACTIVATORS

100 activating points

Alex DO1AHR

Timothy 2E0KEA

Geoff G4CPA

1,000 points (Mountain Goat)

100 uniques activated

Dave M0DFA

The Everest Award

Steve 2E0KPO

John M0JDK

Congratulations Steve & John on being the first in the UK to receive this award.

PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENTS

Goat & Sloth

How many Mountain Goats have also reached Shack Sloth? The answer is 19. These are the callsigns that qualify for both awards. GM7PKT, DH0DK, DH8DX, G1INK, DJ0JMB, M1YAM, M1EYO, G4RQJ, GW4BVE, MW0YLS, DL3AWK, GM4TOE, G7KXV, DF9AL, HB9AFI, M0DFA, MW0IDX, GM4COX and M1EYP. GW4BVE is the only Mountain Goat at Super Sloth level (10,000 chasers points), although it looks like he will soon be joined by Rob G4RQJ. GM7PKT is the only Triple Goat with Shack Sloth. DH0DK, DH8DX and G1INK are all Double Goats with Shack Sloth. Are they enthusiastic or is there a better description?

It is probably fairly well known that Graham G4JZF passed 15,000 chaser points on 3rd November. This score reflects Graham’s dedication to SOTA chasing using phone modes, mainly SSB. His score is slowly but surely creeping up on John GW4BVE, who has held the top chaser spot for a long time. Perhaps not as well known is that the day before in a QSO with Peter G(W)3TJE/P on Carnedd Wen GW/MW-012, Graham completed the chasing of all the GW/MW summits, which is no easy task as many summits are rarely activated. Many congratulations on both achievements from the SOTA news team.

Also on the 3rd November, Don G0RQL completed his chasing of all GW/SW summits during a QSO with Gerald G(W)4OIG/P on Mynydd Llangynderyn GW/SW-039. This is another fairly difficult target to achieve due to the infrequent activations of some summits. Well done Don.

Well, I guess we shouldn’t have asked the pairing of John M0JDK/P and partner in crime Steve 2E0KPO/P what they would get up to next, after they managed two sessions of 5 summits activated in a day in October. On Saturday 3/11/07 they went one stage further and managed to activate 6 summits in a day. The first spot for them was at 07:48 and the final spot for them was at 18:45, an early finish by their standards. The 6 summits activated were GW/MW-026, 027, 030, 031 and GW/NW-059 and 061. (See Extreme SOTA! Below) They even attempted to evict me from Hope Mountain one evening, “in their dreams”, although they were given a temporary pass. I’m almost frightened to ask them, what next lads?

Multiple activation fever also struck the pairing of Gerald GW4OIG/P and activating partner Paul GW4MD/P who managed to achieve the activation of 5 GW/SW summits on the same day, Saturday 3/11/07. The 5 summits were GW/SW-028, 031, 032, 036, and 039. A lot of these summits were quite rare ones and the activators found lots of chasers queuing up to take the opportunity to bag some new uniques. Well done both on a great job.

(Editor)

SOTA STATISTICS
Lies, Damn Lies and…

Well we promised a statistics section in the last SOTA News and here it is. We are going to try to present some information that is interesting and possible not available from a simple inspection of the database and/or SOTAwatch.

The SOTAwatch news team are aware that there are discussions centred around the feeling that SOTA activations in the UK and particularly in Wales are declining, so we decided to examine activations in Wales for our first foray into SOTA statistics. In order that the figures are not distorted we applied some filtering to the raw data, which you may say also distorts the picture but we thought it made sense. You can of course make up your own mind.
We took the raw activations data for the Welsh summits and firstly filtered out multiple activations of the same summit on the same day. This means that, for example, an activation of GW/MW-014 on 10th November 2007 by MW0JDK/P and 2E0KPO/P only counts as one activation. Another distortion comes about with multiple non-scoring activations of the same summit by the same operator in one year, so these were also filtered out with only the first activation of a summit in a year by each activator was counted. This means, for example, that the many activations of GW/NW-062 by GW0DSP/P in 2007 only count as one activation. Well that’s how we produced this month’s information and here are the results:

GW activations by Year

2002 - 79
2003 - 277
2004 - 457
2005 - 556
2006 - 533
2007 - 607

Well that proved that even with the filtering there was only a small drop in activations in 2006 and that has already recovered with only 11 months of 2007 data. So could it be that there is less activity on the bigger Welsh summits? Here is that the data for the “big ones”

GW Activations by Year – Only Summits 4 Points and Above

2002 - 50
2003 - 170
2004 - 246
2005 - 243
2006 - 266
2007 - 287

Well the big summits are still being activated and, apart from an insignificant drop in 2005, activations of the larger Welsh summits are steadily increasing. So why is there this perception of reduced activity? Well that is the end of the facts on GW for this month but here is an theory. Maybe activators are spreading out in the frequency and time domains. In other words instead of focussing on 2m FM they are using different bands and modes Similarly, maybe activations are now spread over the week rather than being focussed on weekends. More analysis is needed and this subject may be examined again in a future SOTA News, but after seeing a draft of this article Mike G4BLH added some analysis of his own.

In an attempt to investigate statistics centred around the ‘feeling’ that the proportion of weekend activations was declining, Mike G4BLH carried out a separate analysis of LD and NP 001-020 summits. Again multiple activations of the same summit on the same day were filtered out, and the data for 2002 was ignored (only a ‘part year’ for SOTA purposes). The results are shown below:

LD 001-020 Weekday activations…Weekend activations
2007…48%…52%
2006…44%…56%
2005…37%…63%
2004…31%…69%
2003…31%…69%

NP 001-020 Weekday activations…Weekend activations
2007…42%…58%
2006…46%…54%
2005…33%…67%
2004…33%…67%
2003…41%…59%

Mike examined the information manually and entered the information into a spreadsheet, so there may be the odd error. However it would appear that in the LD summits, the trend is quite clear and the proportion of weekday activations is increasing. There is no similar trend evident for the NP summits. The 2007 figures are based on the data up to about the end of Oct 2007. To get the full picture for a particular area, all the summit figures would need to be analysed, not just those for summits 001-020.

We hope this data is interesting. It has possibly laid some rumours to rest and maybe will stimulate further discussion. Remember there are lies, damn lies and of course statistics.

RARE WELSH SUMMITS

The October issue of SOTA News identified Foel Cae’rberllan GW/NW-057 as a summit that had not been activated since March 2005. Ian GW8OGI along with Eleri MW3NYR and family, along with Hari the dog, decided to rectify the situation and 3 days after SOTA News was published they activated the summit. All GW/NW and GW/SW summits have now been activated in 2007.

In GW/MW only four summits have not been activated in 2007. These are: Drosgol MW-008, Hafod Ithel MW-029, Rhos Ymryson MW-035 and Disgwylfa Fawr MW-038. All of them were activated by Peter G(W)3TJE, one of the most prolific MW activators, in December 2006. Any offers?

UK NVIS PROPAGATION by John GW4BVE

Heard on 5MHz channel FE when an experienced 5MHz operator was talking to someone who had just received his NoV. “The band is quiet but listen to those SOTA stations operating all over the country and you will get a good feel for how well your station is working”. Well at least we are useful for something!!

The start of November was good for UK NVIS propagation on both 3.5MHz and 5MHz. Sometimes critical frequencies rose to above 6.5MHz and inter-G communications was occasionally possible on that band. Weekend activators on 5MHz experienced pile-ups of 20 to 25 stations. On the 3rd G0HNW in Huddersfield worked GM7PKT/P on Pap of Glencoe GM/WS-200. Nothing remarkable about that? But G0HNW was only running 10 milliwatts at the time.

Paul G4MD provided this report of his 5MHz activations early in the month:

Equipment - FT817 + 7Ah SLAB approx 5W o/p, 60m full dipole resonant at 5.380MHz in inverted V configuration, centre approx 6m above ground, ends 1.5m above ground. When I started operation on SW-032 at 0840, the band was in good condition, with low noise levels not registering on the '817’s S meter and no static crashes. Both FL and FE were occupied with extremely strong signals. All beacons were received at 599, with no apparent QSB. My first contact, G0HNW, was a solid 59 both ways. He told me he had been monitoring and the band had only opened approximately 20 minutes previously. Contacts were subsequently made with stations from Devon to Edinburgh and all points in between with excellent reports both ways. This situation prevailed through the next two activations of SW-031 and SW-028. However by the time the fourth activation commenced at 1540, noise on the band had increased significantly to S3-4, with static crashes being relatively frequent. Many of the same stations that had been worked previously were contacted again, but reports were on average about 2 S-points down on earlier contacts with deep and fairly rapid QSB being apparent. Unfortunately I did not listen for the beacons from this summit. By the time I was set up on SW-036 at 1730 with the antenna suspended above a barbed wire fence, band noise had increased to S7-8, and static crashes were almost continuous. The beacons were just audible at 229 at best, but fading to inaudible at times. No amateur activity could be heard, although there was a strong teleprinter-like signal on FM. Repeated calls produced one contact with GW3UEP located in Cardigan, I gave him a report of 59 and he gave me 53. The contact was solid with virtually no QSB, and was presumably ground wave (QRB approx 50km)

Paul’s report confirms that recent SOTA News recommendations that 3.5MHz is essential for reliable NVIS propagation in the early mornings and evening at the moment. Paul managed to qualify his last summit on 144MHz SSB, so all was not lost.

Let’s have a look at some FoF2 figures for last month. The mean F2 critical frequency at 1200 utc for November was around 5.7MHz. The lowest was 4.67MHz on the 30th, when SOTA contacts, except for the very longest paths would have been difficult even at midday. The highest was 6.57MHz on the 11th. Some sporadic E was noticeable on about 25% of the days at midday.

Good NVIS propagation would have been possible on 5MHz on all days of November, except the 30th, in the middle of the day. Apart from QSB, which was frequently reported, the main problems occurred at the beginning and the end of the day. In the first half of the month 5MHz was generally supporting inter-G short paths by 0830 to 0930, but in the second half short paths were possibly not supported until 1030 or even 1100. The story was very similar at the end of the day. At the beginning of the month 5MHz propagation on the inter-G short paths was supported until about 1630 but at the end of the month the paths were closing around 1500 or before. Of course on 80m the short paths are supported for much longer periods and this band should chosen for reliable operations at the beginning and the end of the day.

Another example of marginal 5MHz propagation at the end of the day was on the17th. G4CPA on Easington Fell was 55 with GW0VMZ in Merthyr Tydfil and 57 with G0RQL in Devon and good a signal to other more distant stations. He was totally inaudible to GW7AAV in Connah’s Quay and GW4BVE in Welshpool who are very much closer. The F2 critical frequency dropped below 5MHz just at the time Geoff’s activation started. At 1510 the FoF2 was 4.55MHz. By looking at the spots Jack was obviously having difficulty with NVIS propagation during his activation of GM/SS-249 on 29th. One comment on the spots was that propagation was “weird” but the actual propagation was similar to most days this month, with late openings of NVIS propagation and in Jack’s case early closure.

The high solar wind speed due to solar coronal holes has dropped to normal levels so the propagation may improve slightly, but not by much until the winter is over. A more active sun will eventually raise critical frequencies and in a couple of years we will back to inter-G communications on 7MHz.

That’s it for this month. If you have any NVIS (NZR) propagation experiences you would like to share with other activators and chasers please send them to GW4BVE.

73 John GW4BVE

SOTA ACTIVATING ON 4m and 6m By Ron GW4EVX

Even though I have done 49 activations I do not consider myself to be a serious SOTA activator. Of the 49 all but two have been from Foel Fenlli GW/NW-051.

My main interest in amateur radio is contesting, especially on 6m, 4m, 2m and 70cm, so as you may have already guessed, NW-051 is my favourite location for this activity and with the summit being located just down the road from my home QTH is an added bonus! Most of my 47 visits have been to take part in contests and the remainder for experimenting with military radios and antennas.

Unlike proper SOTA activators who try to keep their kit as light as possible I am the opposite and load myself up like a pack-mule! This is why I prefer Foel Fenlli to its bigger brother Moel Fammau because the ascent is short and steep and the summit is much quieter. Even so I have to pause now and then on the way up ’to admire the view’ and the ‘staircase’ on the final section is always a welcome sight!
For 6m contesting I use a HB9CV antenna from Sandpiper Aerials. As supplied this has a boom length of about 5ft with one element central, the other at one end and the mast clamp at the other end. This made it very difficult to fix to a mast without it drooping, so I cut the boom in half and fitted the mast clamp between the two elements. When fully assembled the elements are over 9ft long, so not a practical size for carrying up a hill! Fortunately it can be dismantled to a basic ‘H’ shape of the boom plus the element holders which are only about 3ft long, still awkward to carry, but manageable even over the stiles. I have pre-marked the four smaller diameter element tubes so that I can quickly assemble the antenna on the hill-top by sliding them into the holders and tightening the screws.
.
The rest of the contesting kit has been built up over the years and is simple, practical and crudely engineered! The mast is two 6ft long 1in diameter aluminium tubes plus a 3ft length. There is a piece of wooden dowel permanently fixed in the end of each of the long tubes and I join them together by pushing the slotted open end of the tube over the dowel and locking it in place with a hose clip. I then slot a guy collar over the dowel on the 12ft mast and then slide it on the top 3ft section, securing it with a hose clip. The base of the mast then fits into a blind hole in a block of wood to act as a bearing so that the whole mast can be rotated. I suppose the guys I use are a bit over-engineered since they are made from 8mm blue polypropylene rope! This makes them very visual though, and easy to handle with cold hands and easy to coil up. I made wooden toggles to tension them and the guy pegs I use are lightweight ones designed for use in snow or soft ground , I also carry a rubber headed mallet as well!

So what’s in my rucksack then for a typical contest session?
Bag containing guy ropes, block, pegs, mallet.
Bag of tools.
Folding stool or groundsheet.
Radio – FT817 or FT857
7Ah SLAB
Logsheets and pen.
Food, drink, waterproofs etc.
Sometimes a fishing shelter (for long contests)

Setting up on the summit only takes a few minutes and then I can settle down to a few hours of contesting and playing SOTA. I don’t bother with 6m FM in the contests because from experience I have found that not many people monitor that section of the band and of course too much FM operating quickly drains the battery. During normal flat band conditions using 2.5W or 5W with this set-up I can work south coast G stations, GM and GI. Best ever conditions were during the July 2006 Backpackers when with 2.5W I worked 16 Italian stations, 14 from Germany and contacts with EA, HB9, SP, S51, OE and OK. Very enjoyable!

The 4m station comprises the same basic kit with the addition of a Spectrum Transverter (quite bulky but not heavy) and a Sandpiper 3 element Yagi. I carry the three elements (longest one about 7ft long) and the boom in a bundle with the mast sections and then assemble it all at the summit. The gamma match is a bit fiddly to put together but the elements are held on with bolts and wing nuts and very easy to assemble. As on 6m I operate predominantly on SSB but I do put a few calls out on FM using the same horizontal antenna because this is quite adequate to work local vertically polarised stations and many using just indoor antennas. For those who have never operated on 4m, you are missing out on a great band, reminiscent of how 2m was in the 1970’s and 1980’s – no repeaters and sensible QSOs to be had! Propagation is similar to 6m generally, but of course not many countries have access to this band and I have only ever worked stations in the UK and EI.

Outside of contesting I operate on 4m and 6m using military radios. I have a Racal TRA-967 (3W) and a Clansman PRC-351 (3W or 25W with its matching amp.) Both cover from 30 to 76MHz so ideal for use on 4m and 6m FM although one problem on 6m is that the band plan is in 20kHz channels (anyone know why?) with the designated calling channel 51.51MHz. Both radios operate in 25kHz steps so this frequency is not possible and I tend to use 51.50MHz and pre-arrange the contact from 4m or 2m. So far I have only used the radios with their whip antennas and have never failed to get a contact on 4m. A lot of people have PMR gear for this band and monitor 70.45MHz as a matter of course. Unfortunately hand-held rigs are much more difficult to obtain for this band.

Over the coming months I plan on doing some trials with these radios using an elevated antenna so I hope to work many of you! By the way I have just bought a Sotabeam, so I will be able to give lightweight activating a go!

73 Ron GW4EVX

23cm NEWS By GW8OGI & G4BLH

I’ve always wanted to try some microwave activity but my home QTH is surrounded by hills. The obvious solution was to add microwave capability to my SOTA expeditions. But how? I was already carrying an FT817 and quite often a SLAB and 25 Watt linear too. I had been considering a hand-held radio to supplement the FT817 and when I asked around other activators, I was told about the Icom IC-T81e. This is a quad-band FM hand-held with 6m, 2m, 70cm and 23cm. http://www.cabbaged.co.uk/ic-t81-brochure.pdf As it’s out of production it was some time before one cropped up on EBay but I was lucky and won it.

There are some mixed reviews on eham http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/1896 but here are my own personal impressions of the rig. It seems very well made in general. I’ve already dropped mine a few times and so far it’s bounced OK. Replacement batteries are easily available, as are packs that take standard cells. The rig has a 13.8V input which can be very handy if you have a SLAB or if used in the car, as it always gives you full Tx power. This input should also charge the battery over 8/10hrs but I have had very poor results doing this. I now use a homebrew “smart” charger and get excellent battery life.

The receiver seems good, I haven’t measured the sensitivity but it compares well with other rigs I use. The transmitter gives approx 5 watts on 6/2/70 and approx 1 watt on 23cms, but only with 13.8V input. With a 6V battery pack it’s more like a third of this but it’s quite adequate. Audio reports have been good. I found an external speaker/mic very handy. The antenna socket is an SMA and the rig comes with a rubber-duck antenna. This is OK for use while walking, but like all hand-helds, an external antenna gives better results. I have used a Diamond 2m/70cm 1/2 wave telescopic and a 3 ele 2m yagi. For 23cms I made a bi-quad antenna. It gives over 10db of gain and was very easy to construct. http://www.flickr.com/photos/42982454@N00/1302924081/

So far on 23cms, from Snowdonia I have worked G4BLH in Lancashire, GW4BVE in Welshpool, G1HBE & G0NAJ Dukinfield. Lots of contacts on 2m of course and the occasional one on 70cms. I have put calls out on the 6m FM calling frequency 51.510 but so far no takers, although the small antenna will be very inefficient at this frequency.

I have found 23cms is fairly forgiving of obstructions and not as ‘line-of-sight’ as most people believe. A few hundred milliwatts go a long way and high again antennas are very small and easy to make. Because of the fantastic take-off from many SOTA summits, it’s a marvellous opportunity to try out new bands or modes that would be difficult from home and also hopefully stimulate interest among chasers too. Also on 23cms, Mike G4BLH reports working G4OIG/P on Great Shunner Fell NP-006 and Lovely Seat NP-030 on Oct 7th, Ian GW8OGI/P on Y Lliwedd NW-008 with an 18-ele beam out of the back bedroom window, on 10th Oct, John GW4BVE on NP-004 Whernside and NP-005 Ingleborough on Nov 15th, then John again on Fountain’s Fell NP-017 and Pen-y-ghent NP-010 with just a rubber duck antenna. He suggests other SOTA ops that have 23cms are Gerald G4OIG, John GW4BVE, Myke G6DDQ, Stuart G0MJG, Steve GW7AAV, Don G0RQL and David G7WAW. John MW1FGQ near Holywell regularly monitors the 23cms FM calling channel, 1297.500. Thanks for all the info Mike.

73 Ian GW8OGI & Mike G4BLH

SOTA CW REPORT by Roy G4SSH

The combination of an early and heavy snowfall across Europe, Klaus’s injured back and pre-Winter Bonus Blues had a devastating effect on HF CW activity during the month of November. The heady days of HF chasers collecting 75-100 points in a single day during September and October became a distant memory as weekdays went by without a single activation. Weekends were a little better, but the bands were plagued with contests, making SOTA contacts on HF very difficult. Here in the UK many days of driving rain, the first snow of winter and strong winds resulted in a string of cancelled activations for safety reasons.

Activity did improve towards the end of the month, with Klaus fully recovered, but even he was forced by the weather to cancel a trip to the Black Forest in favour of more local SOTA’s which still resulted in more than 100 QSO’s for a single summit. I have been asked how Klaus manages to amass such an impressive number of callers - the main reason is, of course, that he is a first class CW operator, but another factor is that he has 360 degrees coverage from SOTA’s in southern Germany, whereas a SOTA HF activator in the UK has a target audience located in an arc of less than 180 degrees.

Fortunately the list of activators using 30m did increase. In addition to regulars DF2GN, DL4FDM, DJ3AX and DH8DX we had HB9BAB and a cluster of French stations F5RRS, F5TIL, F5VGL and F8DZY active around 10117 KHz. A warm welcome back Chris, you have been missed on the SOTA CW bands and it was a pleasure to work you with your upgraded First-Class F8DZY callsign in place of F4DZY. In addition to 30m, Dan DH8DX and Jurg HB9BAB used CW around 7118 KHz to avoid QRM from the CQWW CW contest.

The star of the month was Norby LX1NO, who delighted many chasers by travelling cross-border to activate a string of CW SOTA’s in Saxony, Saxonia-Anhalt, Thuringer, Rhineland and finally a trip into Belgium. Many thanks Norby, these activations were really appreciated by chasers. Thanks also to Dan DH8DX and Fred DL8DXL for assisting Norby on some of the DM summits.

John G4YSS activated six SOTA’s in North Wales, commencing with Snowdon, but the severe weather meant that he was only able to erect an HF antenna on one of the summits, NW-040, when GC0OOO/P worked a mini pile-up of CW and SSB stations on 80m. I am sure we shall be hearing more of John in the coming winter months. Peter G3TEJ was also heard giving a good CW signal on 80m.

There was a worrying event on a couple of days during the month when what sounded like a commercial wide-band multi-tone transmission was active for many hours centred on 7.032.5 MHz, which swamped out all transmissions between 7.030 and 7.033. Most SOTA activators moved up or down or QSY’d to 30m, but there were still some activators who insisted on using 7.032, with the result that they were inaudible to many chasers.

Whilst I was in QSO with DJ3AX/p last month, Lutz mentioned that it was our 50th CW SOTA contact, for which I thanked him. However, a few days later I was most surprised and delighted to receive a beautiful full-colour Thuringer Bergdiplom, for 50 “TH” QSO’s with Lutz alone. Some radio amateurs collect awards and certificates, whilst others consider them a waste of time and have no need for what they consider to be “self-glorification”. However I am of the former school of thought (I have in excess of 100 framed awards in my shack) mainly because I consider awards be one of the finest forms of public relations available to any organisation.

I am also an instructor for amateur radio Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced courses and when covering “Operating Practices and Procedures” I always take along a couple of dozen awards which fascinate potential new amateurs with their strong visual impact. Last week I included a handful of SOTA chaser awards and a Shack Sloth Trophy in my talk. The youngsters were interested in the background and requirements for exotic long distance awards issued by foreign countries, such as DXCC, WPX & WAC from the USA, the Asia DX Award from Japan and the Nine Dragons Award from Hong Kong, but the awards that really stirred their imagination were the SOTA Certificates. Why? Because they could all relate to qualifying for an award with 100 points as an activator or a chaser with an M3 call and 10 watts. The Thuringer Diploma was much admired Lutz, as was your QSL showing SOTA dog Benny, who must be an MM (Mountain Mutt) in his own right by now.

Last month I was the 10th person to qualify for a 10,000 points Chaser Certificate from Roger, but I was disappointed to find it had serial number 3 inscribed. Such a pity that 6 other such prestigious certificates would not be waving the flag for SOTA at local clubs schools and shacks. If you are still not convinced then please read the last paragraph again.

It is very encouraging to hear the number of QRS (slow-speed) CW operators now calling activators towards the end of the pile-up’s. I have heard at least a dozen in the past two months. Speed is not important, this will increase with time and any CW activator will be delighted to have the first CW QSO with a chaser by replying at the speed of the caller.

Most modern rigs have a built in CW keyer which will generate perfect dots and dashes, but the operator has to form the characters and control the spaces. This can often be difficult on top of a summit in winter with driving rain, snow and freezing fingers. Most activators use a small key or paddle but some use a toggle switch, or even the microphone up/down buttons to generate C.W. It is therefore important for a chaser to be able to listen to a SOTA CW activation and gain a feeling of conditions for the activator at the other end. Comments about bad weather, low battery power, shooting parties or foxes in the vicinity should alert you to the fact that the activator would like a quick QSO and may even go QRT without warning.

As you gain experience you will begin to read the Morse in your head without the need to write everything down and later still you will be able to understand and read what the activator INTENDED to send, rather than what WAS sent, commencing with HHN for 559, CQ HOTA (a common call) and “my NAG is …” (for name). Caution - never reply sarcastically to this last comment. A colleague of mine once replied “My Nag is Dobbin but name Bill.” Unfortunately the UA6 station insisted in calling him “OM Dobbin” for the remainder of the QSO.

Best Wishes for Christmas and the New Year
And a sack full of Winter Bonus points in December.

73
Roy G4SSH

EU NEWS SNIPPETS

Hi Mike and all Friends in SOTA. I haven´t much news for you for this month, because in the past days I´m not so active on the summits and also no chases from me. At the moment I have many qrl, but I will try to activate 1 or 2 summits per week . In the last activations there are ufb conditions to the UK, also in SSB I found many new friends. I´m very happy about the constantly growing number of QRS SOTA stations in CW, Peter M1COP, Tom M1EYP, Don G0NES, G4BLH and so on, who becomes regulars in my activations. Yes, I like these QRS breaks. I hope I have more infos for you next month…but in winter, not so much activity. Big thanks to you and the other chasers for there ufb support and fb pile-ups on my activations…all with about 10watts and my new regular antenna…2 x 18.5m symmetric inverted V.

I hope to see you all again on the summits

73 Klaus DF2GN

SOTA CONTEST ?
Klaus and myself, we had some ideas. One of them is to organise a
SOTA contest. We don’t have any details right now, it’s just an idea.
Okay, two classes, one for chasers and one for activators. Then it could
be possible to describe lower classes for chasers and activators in
shortwave and for VHF/UHF and/or different modes or mixed. At least it
should not be too complicated. If you like, bring a little note in the next issue of the News and inform the SOTA fan group, then all can make our minds up about this SOTA contest and if they like the idea, the result of this brainstorming could be a nice and little short contest. We will see. That’s all for now, hope for some activations in December. Then I have holidays for the rest of year.

Vy 73, Ralf / DH3IAJ

SEE SOTA NEWS PART 2 BELOW


#2

SOTA NEWS NOVEMBER 2007 (PART 2)

EXTREME SOTA !

Steve 2E0KPO and John, M0JDK have been doing SOTA for quite a while but never really took it seriously. Steve started in Dec 2005 and John in April 2006 but it wasn’t until July 2007 that it become an obsession. “It came about when we decided to nip up G/CE-004 (Bardon Hill) in Leicestershire for an evening activation and ever since it has become an obsession”. Living just down the road from each other has made it very easy to share the cost and the driving. We operate a strict rota of alternate days for the driving, Steve one day and John the next. This splits up the costs and keeps the amount of driving in fair proportions. You will find us out and about activating almost every weekend calling CQ from the summits and not just one summit either. Due to the miles we have to drive, we tend to make the most of the trip and pack as many summits in as conditions allow. It is not uncommon for us to activate 6 summits in a day or even complete a SOTA region, such as when we recently completed the activation of all of the G/TW summits in a day. The main reason for success is all down to forward planning. We have now established a well rehearsed system. A decision was made in the very early days to only operate on 2m SSB, and this was a good decision. Steve is no fan of HF, and with HF being so poor at the moment John took no convincing to keep to 2m SSB. This may change as HF improves in the future. We either use a Yaesu FT-817 or more recently the Yaesu FT-857, and the accompanying kit is quite extensive. We are both real believers in supporting the chaser and we try very hard to give everyone a chance of a contact and as a result we always set up a beam during our activations. We like to do a proper job, neither of us are fans of 2m handy smash and grabs, even though the lightweight kit that comes with a smash and grab is appealing. We both carry a radio, Steve the 857, Sealed lead acid battery, beam and mast and all sorts of other junk, John a 817, Li-ion battery and again all sorts of other junk. We both carry a handy and often have them on 145.500 FM, nothing is left to risk. We even have a kettle!
You may not believe it but we do have a routine on the summit and it is real team work. A few phone calls to get the spots up and the chasers ready, a call to give Sharon 2E0NBR (Steve’s XYL) the heads up or Steve will be in trouble.
We can set up in an instant, on one summit where we met, Frank G3RMD, he said, “this is the fastest I have seen someone set up on a summit”. We always use either a 3 or 5 element beam, depending on the summit and usually around 20 watts, sometimes even more power sometimes less it depends on the chaser. We tend to work the first four contacts by swapping the mike, this makes sure that we both qualify the summit and reduce the risk of a non-qualification should something go wrong. Once the summit is qualified we continue to work the rest of the chasers. We know this can cause some confusion but it’s a system we know that works well, it also keeps the chasers on their toes. Hi hi.
Since July when we teamed up we have climbed a lot of summits and you may notice that we have been hitting the one pointer summits. This is because we want to cover the less activated summits for the time being. The summits may only give us the one point, but there is no question that we have earned that point. Some of the summits we have done are real stinkers, no paths, thigh high bracken and steep hard hitting climbs and we have both come to the same conclusion, we won’t be repeating any climbs on the one pointer summits already completed without a good reason and can understand why you don’t see many being activated.
Since July when we teamed up we have fulfilled the conditions to win the “Mount Everest Award”, and are very pleased to have received the award. We are the first UK activators to get this award. We have also set ourselves some personal goals and hope to achieve them by the end of 2008. I guess we will have to make our own awards for them! For more information on the Mount Everest award visit, http://gyalogradio.ham.hu/diploma/ this is a “free” award sent to you in .PDF format. It is produced by our Hungarian SOTA friends and is a great looking award.

So when you hear us out on a summit, spare a thought for our 04:00 start time and 150-200 mile trip to drive to the first summit. We work very hard for our points.
We would like to thank everyone who helps us during our day, we won’t name names as you can guarantee someone will get missed out, but you all know who you are. Without this support we would not have got this far or had so much fun in the process.
You can see more of our exploits in the Burton ARC website, www.burtonarc.co.uk

73 Steve 2E0KPO & John M0JDK

EASY SOTA (possible Disabled Accessible Summits)

In total contrast to the Extreme SOTA above, you are probably aware that Steve 2E0KPO has been putting together a list of SOTA summits which would possibly offer access to disabled people who are wheelchair bound. He has now completed the task and has compiled an extensive list of summits which either meet the criteria to suit wheel chair access, or very easy access on foot. Steve has included self explanatory notes for each summit, so as to give a very good description of what can be expected on arrival at the summit. Steve’s list has now been included on the Burton ARC website and can be viewed on the link below.

http://www.burtonarc.co.uk/sota_easy.htm

2E0HJD GETS FIRST CRAG GOLD AWARD

On the evening of 15/11/07, SOTA regular, Mick 2E0HJD from Clitheroe, became the first person in history to receive the infamous CRAG award (Craven Amateur Radio Group). Mick jokingly suggested that he ought to get an award for working all the CRAG members. It was therefore very fitting that Mick received the first ever Gold award. The group meets every other Thursday , at 8:00pm, in………………….
The Old Swan Inn,
Gargrave
Near Skipton
North Yorkshire.
BD23 3RB

Mick can be seen receiving his Gold Award from group members, Kevin M0XLT and SOTA regular Geoff G4CPA on the link below.
http://www.cravenradio.co.uk/page2.html

Mick’s Award can be viewed here.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/53188749@N00/2035442613/in/pool-sota/

SOTA AND THE M3 CALLSIGNS RESTRICTIONS
by Barry M3PXW

I often wonder if anyone asks the question of what it is like to operate as a SOTA participant as an M3 with the restrictions which are applied to the licence conditions. There are only 2 major restrictions which could possibly affect your operating capability:

  1. Our RF power output is restricted to just 10 watts as an M3.
  2. Because we are not full licence holders, we can’t apply for NOV for the 5 Mhz experiment.
    Those are the 2 main restrictions placed on the M3 licence, but do they have an adverse effect on an M3’s ability to compete on a level playing field within SOTA? I used to think that they did but soon found out that this is not the case. When I first became interested in SOTA I used to admire some of the top chasers and I would sit and listen in admiration, as they applied their skills to work SOTA activators at home and abroad. This went on for quite some time until I noticed one very important point, most of the activators that the chasers were in communication with were using the Yaesu FT-817 with just 5 watts available. Surely if someone out in the field can work chasers overseas who were using just 5 watts, it would be a lot easier for anyone with 10 watts at their disposal. With that in mind, I started looking at my own station and realised that there was a tremendous amount of room for improvements if I was to compete well with my 10 watts. As M3s we all start with a maximum of 10 watts emerging from the antenna socket of our transceivers, the real secret is to get as much of those 10 watts as possible radiating from the antenna. Feeders/coaxial cables are very important when only low power is available. A good quality feeder with a low loss value is essential to transfer as much of the output power as possible up to the antenna. The antenna itself is probably the most important piece of equipment. There are now verticals available from the major suppliers with terrific gain over a dipole. The radiation pattern of the vertical antenna is omni-directional, so puts the power out in every direction. If you imagine a stone landing in a pool of water, the ripples will move outwards in an ever increasing circle, this is the same effect that we get with the radiation pattern from a vertical antenna. This type of radiation wastes a lot of our power because it sends the power out equally in all directions, what we need to do is direct as much of our ten watts as possible in the direction of the station we are attempting to work and at the same time increase the incoming signal of the activator. This is achieved by using a beam antenna. At vhf/uhf most operators use a vertical beam for FM and a horizontal beam for SSB.
    The non availability of 5Mhz NOV to M3 stations becomes less of a handicap as the winter draws on and D layer absorption lessens on the 80m band. A lot of activators are now opting for 80 metres instead of 60 metres. 80 metres is a band which is available to all of us, so as winter progresses and the better the propagation gets on 80m, even more of the 60m regulars will switch over to 80m giving a more level playing feel to all classes of licence.
    I only became active in SOTA on 12th of April this year but have managed to amass 2,166 chaser points and worked 277 unique summits at the time of writing this article. I might even be the highest placed current M3, hi.
    In a nutshell and in answer to my own question, the restrictions of 10 watts output and the non availability of 5Mhz NOV don’t really hinder the chaser, in fact it has the effect of teaching us to get the most out of what’s available and improve our equipment accordingly.

Barry M3PXW

INDEPENDENT PRODUCT REVIEW by Glyn GM4CFS

SOTA Beams – Rucksack Special

The Rucksack Special is the latest innovation from the SOTA Beams empire. It is described by the company as:

The Rucksack special has come about due to customer demand for a high performance vertically polarised 2m antenna for activations on the move. It is a full-sized half-wave and comes with a feeder length of approximately 2m. This allows the activator to the aerial with a handy attached to their belt if they wish. Performance is great – far better than can be achieved with a “rubber duck”. The Rucksack Special has been designed with a short extension so that it fits well into a rucksack with most or all of the radiating part of the aerial above the sack. For easier transport, the Rucksack Special comes in two sections giving a packed length of 1 metre.

The trade mark of SOTA Beams has been to manufacture products that are well engineered but easy to assemble and use. This is certainly the case with the Rucksack Special (RSS). Clear and simple instruction allowed me to have the aerial assembled and connected to the handy and on air within 5 minutes of it arriving at the house. It took longer to open the packaging than it did to assemble and connect. Propped against the coffee table in the lounge several QSO’s were completed with locals receiving the sort of reports I would expect from the co-linear on the mast.

The field trial was carried out on the climb and summit of Helvellyn in the Lake District. The RSS was attached to straps on the exterior side of a 35L rucksack and connected to a VX-170 with waterproof speaker/mic which was clipped to the shoulder strap of the sack. For comparison, on the other shoulder strap was a FT-60E with ‘Rubber Duck’. Only one QSO was completed on the climb and that was onto Cold Fell in the Northern Pennines. During this QSO I was completely screened from the other station by Helvellyn. Nothing was heard on the FT60 even with the squelch backed right off however, a good QSO was completed on the RSS.

Once on the summit the RSS came into it’s own. The weather conditions did not permit the safe erection of the VHF beam so the activation was carried out with rucksack still on my back using the RSS and the VX-170. In the majority of cases the reports that I was receiving were far better than the reports I was giving out. Now, whilst this may have been due to the receiver of the VX-170, I strongly believe that the good reports were primarily due to the RSS. Periodic comparisons were made using to the FT-60E and RD to listen to the other stations and in most cases the other station was appreciably weaker or inaudible. No transmission comparisons were carried out due to the appalling conditions on the summit.

The RSS now has a permanent place on my rucksack it is lightweight – 300gms – and so easy to use. It will not replace the SOTA Beam but when the conditions dictate a quick activation where time or safety is of the essence then the RSS is the one to have. The only words of warning are that the two sections will need to be taped together when in use and beware of low tree branches – this aerial extends approximately one metre above the top of the rucksack!

For further details see http://www.sotabeams.co.uk/RSS.htm

73 Glyn GM4CFS

The SOTA News Team would like to point out the following statement………

“The ‘SOTA Beams’ supplier is wholly independent of the
Summits on the Air award programme”.

SOTA PERSONALITY OF THE MONTH

A STAR IS BORN

Geoff G4CPA is self employed as a Horticultural Therapist, and his company is
called HortiCure Ltd. Geoff also plays the Guitar and entertains. Geoff’s work is mainly in nursing homes and residential establishments. Geoff was recently filmed by the BBC’s Panorama film crew while playing the Guitar at Springmount Residential home for the mentally ill and he was then interviewed about the philosophy of the Home, where they have a policy of not using psyche drugs on the residents. Geoff has just been informed by the BBC that the Panorama episode containing his guitar playing exploits at the home, will be shown on the 3rd December 2007, on Panorama, BBC1, (please make a note in your diaries). Geoff wasn’t given the time that the programme will be aired but a quick check in the TV pages nearer the time will tell us exactly what time the show goes out. In addition to guitar, Geoff also plays Blues Harp, slide Guitar and Bottleneck Guitar, plus other instruments.

I have now received The “Springmount Newsletter” from the home and below is the write up about the Panorama team’s work………

“We have had an exiting time here this month, Panorama from the BBC are running a feature on the use of anti-psychotic medication in people with dementia, “research suggests that this type of medication is bad for them” – something we have been saying and writing about for 20 years. The Panorama team, Angie who is the producer, Vivian white, the presenter and their team of photographers and research assistants approached us to ask if we could take part in the program in order to show an approach which does not involve the use of this medication. So with great trepidation on 8th November, which coincidentally is the 20th Anniversary of the registration of “Springmount”, we awaited for the film crew to arrive. Angie and Vivian could not have been nicer or more helpful, they put everyone at their ease and communicated with our residents with great empathy and dignity. The whole day was exhausting, not just for the staff but for the residents as well. They thoroughly enjoyed the whole event. As it was a Thursday, our visiting ice cream man Tony came as usual, Geoff (G4CPA) was also here with his guitar and harmonica, so the day took on a sort of carnival atmosphere, everyone was very much in the party spirit. The program will be shown on 3rd December 2007. The filming took the whole day, from 10 in the morning until about 5 pm, but will be edited down to about 4 or 5 minutes at the end of the program. The weather was absolutely awful, blowing a gale and freezing cold. Some of the shooting took place outside. Everyone was very brave. Ex domino champion Fred Tough was challenged by Vivian to a game of dominos. Fred was delighted and proceeded to win 5 games to nil; much to the film crew’s delight”.

Along with his Guitar playing, Geoff (G4CPA) also has other art talents. He is responsible for constructing the mosaic of a Celtic Cross which can be found on the wall in the old boiler room in the St Cuthbert’s centre, Lindisfarne. The old boiler house chapel is called the quiet room and is used for meditation. Geoff made the mosaic from broken pottery which was found on the beach, where the high tides had washed it from an ancient tip called Jenny Bell’s middin. Geoff presented it back to the islanders through the church, even though he isn’t a “Bible thumper” himself. If you find it of interest, you can view the mosaic on the link below.

http://www.urc-northernsynod.org.uk/holyisland/CentreImages/spacetopray.jpg

(Editor)

SOTA Flickr GROUP
There are now 95 members of the Sota Flickr group and between them they have contributed over 2,900 photographs. The quality standards are very high.

Flickr PHOTO OF THE MONTH

The quality and diversity of the pictures for this month are of a very high standard, as usual. Any one could have won the photo of the month, but there can be no doubt about this month’s Flickr photo of the month. I have received many votes for this picture from our friend Juerg HB9BAB. Jurg’s picture is a stunner and can be viewed on the link below.

(Editor)

Hill OF THE MONTH

The GW4BVE vote for summit of the month is Mynydd Mawr GW/NW-026. This summit, translation big mountain, is only 692m high but has some of the best views in Snowdonia and it is accessible to anyone with basic hill walking skills and a reasonable level of fitness. Other SOTA summits visible from Mynydd Mawr include Moel Hebog GW/NW-014, Trum u Ddysgl GW/NW-024, Craig Cwn Silyn GW/NW-020, Yr Aran GW/NW-019, Moelwyn Mawr GW/NW-016, Glyder Fawr GW/NW-003, Tryfan GW/NW-006, Moel Cynghorion GW/NW-030, Moel Eilio GW/NW-022, Y Garn GW/NW-004, Carnedd Llewelyn GW-NW-002, Elidir Fawr GW/NW-005 and of course Snowdon GW/NW-001.

Photos from Mynydd Mawr by John GW4BVE are available on the SOTA Flickr group at:

http://www.flickr.com/search/groups/?w=32587276%40N00&q=gw%2Fnw-026&m=pool

or have a look at the super photo (not SOTA) of Mynydd Mawr at:

FORTHCOMING EVENTS

24 in 24 (Editor)

Barry M3PXW has now received the information pack from Alder Hay Children’s Hospital, in relation to the 24 in 24 challenge charity event. All monies raised will go to the Hospital. No monies will go towards fuel costs, food etc, the team will pay for this themselves so that the charity receives 100% of all monies raised. Below is a link to a copy of the official letter of authority from Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and a copy of a sponsorship form (front and rear). Anyone wishing to sponsor the team will be able to simply download a sponsorship form and print it out at home.
The fact that an announcement has been made re WB-001 moving to Wales won’t affect the challenge whatsoever, we shall still attempt 24 in 24 and will still include WB-001 but under it’s new SOTA identity.

You can view the Hospital’s letter of authority here
http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=2043371841&size=l

You can view the sponsorship form ( front ) here
http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=2044169232&size=l

You can view the sponsorship form ( rear ) here
http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=2044169480&size=l

INJURIES and ILLNESS

Ian G7KXV is recovering at home after an operation to fit a new knee joint. He is slowly on the mend and is in good spirits but is just itching to get back out onto the summits. Ian only has one grumble, in so much that he claims that the hospital staff supplied him with a slow speed walking stick. He also has some doubts about the rules, regarding the use of mechanical help to gain the summit, hi. We don’t think that a bionic knee would disbar you Ian. The SOTA News Team wish you a speedy recovery and a swift return to activating.

Glyn GM4CFS fell and twisted his knee after a gust of wind unbalanced him while descending Helvellyn G/LD-003 after his activation in very windy conditions on Saturday 10/11/07. Although Glyn suffered with severe pain and a sleepless night following the incident, he was feeling much better by Monday 12/11/07 and looking forward to possibly activating again as soon as the following weekend.

As reported on the reflector, Clive M1YAM is not having much luck. After recovering from his foot injury and getting back on the hills he has suffered another setback. He has had an episode of Bells Palsy. Here’s hoping you recover quickly Clive and get back on the hills early in the winter bonus period.

Less well know is that Peter M1BZJ had a bike accident which injured his knee and ribs and left him badly bruised. He is recovering and managed to get out and activate Winter Hill G/SP-010 on 4th November. Best wishes for a complete recovery from the SOTA News team.

Dave M0DFA/G6DTN is still awaiting further tests before his treatment for angina can begin. Dave activated Dundry Down G/SC-010 on 17th November and has been swimming to keep fit. Hopefully we will hear him on the big summits again soon.

ERRATA

OOPS!! just the one error in the October News, corrected here by Gerald G4OIG, my apologies for the mis-information.

In the October 23cm NEWS: Regarding the “new” C710, it made its SOTA debut on Great Shunner Fell NP-006 on 7th October, followed by a further QSO from Lovely Seat NP-030 a few hours later. Both contacts were with Mike G4BLH/P who spent a total of more than an hour travelling back and forth to his local high spot to make these contacts possible.

73, Gerald

That’s it for another month. As we expand the News, the SOTA News Team hopes that there is something of interest for everyone. As always, your feedback, whether good or bad, is always very welcome so that we can do our best to improve the news for you and include any other topics at your request.

Thank you for your continued support.

Mike GW0DSP (Chief Editor)


#3

In reply to GW0DSP:
Wondered where this had gone - was reading it earlier.
Another excellent read Mike but I think reflector maximum length of post needs increasing :slight_smile: its stopped mid brack(en).

Roger G4OWG

That was quick its all there now :slight_smile:


#4

In reply to G4OWG:

Hi Roger, It was too big to go on as one so I have had to delete the original then cut the news in half, post part 1 then reply to my own news to get part 2 on there. Maybe it’s time for the news to go on the Website with just a link to it on the Reflector. I’ll wait and see what Jon suggests, we are in email contact over it.

73 Mike GW0DSP


#5

In reply to G4BLH:
Or even Biblical proportions,Thanks Mike Gripping stuff,of varied interests,

Cheers Geoff.


#6

In reply to GW0DSP:

Yes, an epic and very enjoyable read. Thank you Mike.

A little disappointed there was no mention of the RNLI SOS Week on the 19th to 25th January. Absolutely no takers on the main thread so have no idea what else we can do to publicise this cause.

Best 73’s
David/G4CMQ


#7

In reply to G4CMQ:

If you would care to do a small write up and email it to me gw0dsp@hotmail.co.uk
before 28th December, I’ll get it in the 1st January news edittion for you David.

73 Mike


#8

In reply to GW0DSP:

Thank you Mike, I will do that although my last email to that address bounced!!
It will be getting tight to obtain sponsors by then, but every little helps.

Best 73’s
David/G4CMQ


#9

In reply to G4CMQ:

Write a small piece now and I’ll edit it into current News David

gw0dsp@hotmail.co.uk


#10

In reply to GW0DSP:
Thanks for the news Mike i’m already looking forward to the next one.

Timothy 2E0KEA


#11

Well done Mike, Fantastic work… This needs to go on the main SOTA site with more images etc…


#12

In reply to 2E0HJD:

Either you are missing the point, Mick, or I have expressed myself poorly.

The intention is to have only the SOTA lads involved which is why Derek/G4LFC included mention of it on the Yahoo SOTA Group. This way we could get publicity for SOTA, hence the MT’s agreement. Putting the suffix /SOTA after our registration call would enable our total to be calculated. Not knowing many here I thought, like other groups I am involved with, that there might be a charitable aspect. Why else would some consider the 24 in 24 for the Alder Hey Hospital? At present I am thinking my hopes might have been misplaced.

In reply to GW0DSP:

Thank you Mike. I will send you something shortly. Sorry to get he thread hijacked.

73’s
David/G4CMQ


#13

Hi Mike,
you did a great job…

very nice to read .
thanks also to roy for the monthly cw-report ,
and all others who worked on the news

vy 73 Klaus


#14

In reply to G4CMQ:

In reply to 2E0HJD:

Why else would some consider the 24 in 24 for the Alder Hey Hospital?

The 24 in 24 challenge is pure sota David, ie a team of 2 sota activators and 4 sota chasers will be driving/walking around the country in an attempt to activate and chase 24 sota summits in 24 hours. Also, they will be handing chaser points out to sota chasers at home where possible.

As Mick said, nobody is belittling the fantastic work of the RNLI, but it has no involvement in sota.

The offer is still there David, get a small article to me and I’ll edit it into the current news for you.

73 Mike


#15

In reply to GW0DSP:

Many thanks for the excellent news to Mike and his team.
Vy73 and have a good winter-time de Fritz dl4fdm,hb9csa