SOTA NEWS NOVEMBER 2008
Welcome to the November edition of SOTA News. My thanks go to the following contributors:- Barry GM4TOE, Lutz, DJ3AX, Tom M1EYP and Marc G0AZS.
One of the outstanding SOTA highlights of October was the achievement of no less than three chasers passing through the 20,000 points mark. First was Mike G4BLH on the 10th, then myself on the 13th and finally Don G0NES on the 19th. Although there is no SOTA award for reaching 20,000 chaser points it is nevertheless a remarkable achievement and a milestone requiring much skill and dedication over many years.
SOTA AWARDS ISSUED by Barry GM4TOE, SOTA Awards Manager
October was another busy month with many individuals racking up high chasing scores and several new activator awards also being sent out. The new Chaser Unique 1000 trophy for chasing 1000 unique summits was also made available and three have been delivered to very worthy Chasers. Wolfgang DL3AWK is the proud recipient of Activator 2500 certificate number 1 and Roy G4SSH has received certificate number 1 for Chasing 2500 unique summits and I am expecting some claims for quite outstanding achievements in both Activating and Chasing in the next few weeks – who will be the first to Chaser 25000 or Activator Unique 500? Chaser Unique 2500 has already been achieved by at least two stations so their next target is 5000 summits. When the programme started it was not envisaged that scores would attain these levels in such a short period, so when shall we reach Sloth 100K?
Mountain Goat Trophy
Shack Sloth Trophy
Sloth Unique Trophy
HB9DOT Kenton (Achieved on CW only)
DL3AWK Wolfgang 2500 points
DJ5AA Joachim 1000 points
M3ZCB Caroline 250 points
G1OPV Philip 250 points
HB3YNE Edi 100 points
LA1ENA Aage 100 points
M3ZCB Caroline 100 summits
DJ5AA Joachim 100 summits
DL3AWK Wolfgang 5000 points
G0TDM John 2500 points
M0EAF Richard 250 points
2E0BMO Roger 100 points
IK3GER Paulo 100 points
G4SSH Roy 2500 summits
DL2EF Frank 1000 summits
G4ELZ Jeff 1000 summits
HA7UL Ferenc 500 summits
G0TDM John 500 summits
I hope I haven’t missed anybody (or got the details wrong this time – my apologies).
Finally, I am away for some warmth and far too much red wine towards the end of November so if you require awards before Christmas please get your claims to me by 14 November at the latest.
FROM LUTZ DJ3AX
On 25.10.2008 I worked my 250th. SOTA activator unique in CW from DM/TH-397 near Ilmenau city. It was the world-wide SSB contest, which saturated the CW part of 40m so I activated only on 30m.
My best DX was W2SF who called me and sent a 569 report! My QTH was in the middle of a forest with big trees. My antenna was just a dipole 2 x 7,5m and my rig was FT857 (40 watts ) with a 12 Ah SLAB.
TNX to all for the many QSO’s!!
CU AGN on the summits
73 de Lutz DJ3AX
(Very many congratulations on 250 unique activator points Lutz. Your many activations and good signal strength from your FT-857 is always a welcome sound to chasers. Thanks also to Benny and your XYL who accompany you on many of the SOTA’s you activate. – ed)
TRENDS IN SOTA ACTIVITY by Tom M1EYP
“SOTA in the UK is on the decline”. “CW is taking over SOTA
to it’s detriment”. “SOTA is dying”. “There’s no SSB or FM
anymore”. These claims appear periodically, and
understandably with a programme as popular as SOTA.
Investigating these claims requires collection of
appropriate data, and carefully considered sensible
conclusions. Fortunately, an enthusiasm for statistical
methods seems widespread in SOTA participants, and these
issues can be addressed.
In the excellent September 2008 edition of the Summits
Knowledgebase news, John GW4BVE produced a graph that pretty
well answers three of these questions. It clearly shows
dramatic exponential growth of QSO’s as a whole, and CW QSO’s
individually. So CW is certainly increasing its “market
share” of SOTA activity. However, John’s graph shows that
the amount of phone activity continues to grow. In fact it
is heading towards new record levels. The percentage of
phone QSO’s in SOTA might be lower, but the actual number of
them is still on the up.
So what about SOTA overall, and SOTA in the UK? SOTA
globally is growing quickly. This is no doubt influenced by
the periodic addition of new associations, but individual
associations show growth as well. Analogous to the phone-CW
debate, the UK “share” of overall SOTA QSO’s is on the
decline - but the actual number of them shows and overall
rise, with 2007 - the last completed year for analysis -
showing record levels. 2008 data indicates a possible
levelling off in the UK, but this will be difficult to
confirm until the end of 2009, and the possibility to look
at three-year moving averages. In any case, the 08 UK total
will be very close to the 07 figure (current forecast over
50,000 activator QSO’s) and way in excess of 2006, and the
worldwide total will smash all previous records!
The basic unit of SOTA activity is the activator QSO; that
is what defines activity levels. An activation with four
QSO’s cannot be counted as an equal entity as one with 50+ -
in terms of analysing activity levels. (It may well be that
they are entirely equivalent - or not - in terms of
points!). Here are lists that show, year-on-year, the
number of activator QSO’s (a) globally, and (b) in the UK:
– Worldwide – UK
02 — 2536 — 2536
03 – 10409 — 8432
04 – 30311 – 20475
05 – 46368 – 30791
06 – 68084 – 38308
07 - 128227 – 54068
CW SPEED CONTROL by Roy G4SSH
I was down visiting my daughter in Cornwall again last month (the last one for this year because domestic flights suffer badly from fog and ice in winter, which can turn a comfortable scheduled 55 minute flight from Leeds/Bradford airport to Newquay into an all-day “hanging around the departure lounge” affair).
As usual, I used my FT-897 and indoor vertical antenna to casually chase a few SOTA’s when I had some spare time, and although the efficiency of this antenna is pretty poor I do usually average 100 CW points during a six day stay, mainly from the stronger stations.
One of my particular dislikes about modern menu-driven rigs is having to access the memory every time you wish to change parameters. Unless you have the operating manual to hand you find yourself consulting a “crib-sheet” of the most used settings.
As a CW enthusiast I need to instantly adjust my keying speed to match that of the activator. My comfortable keying speed is 23 wpm, which is the default setting, however Norby LX1NO keys at 28 wpm, Tom M1EYP and John G4YSS send at around 20wpm and new activators often transmit at around 15wpm, so unless you have instant access to speed adjustment it is necessary adjust the overall speed by lengthening the spaces between characters which often results in jerky CW and errors.
The alternative, on the FT-897, is to Press Function key F for at least one second, rotate the MEM/VFO CH knob, select Menu 030, rotate the main tuning knob to select the new speed, depress function key F for another second to save the new setting and revert to normal operation. By this time the pile-up has arrived and you are now at the bottom of the heap, destined to wait at least 30 minutes before making the contact.
I do not have this problem at home where my main rig is the old original FT-1000 where every control is on the front panel and keying speed, bandwidth, filters etc., each have their own instantly accessible control. I note with astonishment how modern rigs have become so complicated and small to use that dealers are selling an external keypad for £90.00 in order to make them user friendly- unbelievable!
I digress - whilst reading through an obscure part of the FT-897 operating manual, on page 60 was the answer that I did not realise existed. Basically it explains that if you extend the memories of the rig (menu 1), then select menu 57, you can turn the MEM/VFO CH knob into a CW speed control by simply depressing this knob, giving instant adjustment whilst in QSO. As the FT-817, FT857 and FT-897 are of the same family this may well work – give it a try. I am sure that many owners of these rigs already knew this, but it is a most welcome revelation to me.
THE ACTIVATION ZONE STATISTICS (AZS) PROJECT - by Marc G0AZS
This personal project was started as a result of a post on the SOTA reflector by Les, G3VQO. He posed a question asking whether Detling Hill G/SE-013 might have the largest activation zone (AZ) of all the G association summits.
I had never really thought about this in any detail but I was intrigued by the thought of a summit where it would take a day to walk from one end of the AZ to the other. So to test this and see for myself, I set about generating a topographical map using some rather nice software that I use occasionally called Radio Mobile.
Radio Mobile website:
This Freeware is really aimed at those who wish to model radio coverage from one station to another whilst taking the topographical features of the landscape into account (along with things like frequency, power, antenna system etc). It does this by generating a map and automatically downloading topographical data derived from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM).
More information about the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission:
This freely available data covers about 80% of the earth’s landmass and can be plotted in a variety of ways with the Radio Mobile software. I soon realised that I could generate a map centred on the summit of a hill and then ask Radio Mobile to select the area that is all within a vertical height of 25m of the summit thus giving you a nice map of the AZ.
So I went ahead and tried it for Detling Hill and the results agreed with Les in that it was indeed very large. I used the ruler tool in the software to measure the distance from one end to the other. It turned out that it was even slightly greater than first thought and was in fact 28.14 km long!
However, after further correspondence on the reflector, I soon realised that being able to know the area of the AZ in km2 (and other data) would be more interesting and I looked into whether Radio Mobile could also measure the area of the AZ that is indicated on the map.
Unfortunately there was no obvious way to do this. So I turned to Adobe Photoshop software that I use at work from time to time. In recent versions, starting from “Photoshop CS3 Extended”, image analysis tools have been included that will allow you to view an image, define a scale (that is already written into the map image by Radio Mobile) and then automatically have it select the AZ and calculate the area and perimeter of it. It will also calculate “circularity” but you can also do that yourself if you know the area and perimeter length, more of that later.
So I set myself the task of extracting all this data for the 179 current G summits by making a small JPEG map of each AZ and then having “Photoshop CS3 Extended” analyse the maps. After this was done (it was rather time consuming) it was easy enough to export the data in to an Excel spreadsheet for further analysis.
Here are some examples of the maps I created for each summit (AZ in white):
G/TW-005 – Normanby Top
G/WB-002 - Brown Clee Hill
Now at this point it is worth inserting a caveat or two. It is possible that errors may have crept into some of the results because there is the odd manual step involved and I have to admit that I am fallible (once in about 20 years or so). Also, the AZ’s are plotted such that the summit height is taken as the maximum height given by the SRTM data, not what the Ordnance Survey (or other mapping source) might say. This ensures that, although the datum for these absolute measurements might differ (and thus the summit height), the relative differences to plot the AZ for each summit should be OK. However, it all depends on the data from a mission that was flying around the earth at amazing speed a few hundred km high… but it does seem to work amazingly well.
So what about the results? I have decided to extract some “Top Tens” below. Each of which is fairly self explanatory apart from the ones on “circularity”.
“Circularity” is a measure of how much the shape of the AZ tends towards a perfect circle. If it was a circle, circularity would be 1. Anything that is disrupted by being oval, square or heavily dissected by spurs and re-entrants will tend towards a circularity of 0.
This would mean that a perfectly round or conical summit (probably some of the nice “pointed” ones) will be close to a circularity of 1. Whereas the larger AZ’s, which are probably dissected plateaux, will have much lower numbers. Judge for yourself from the results but I believe that this is indeed proven.
Results are as follows with the original question first:
TOP TEN LARGEST AZ – LARGEST FIRST (KM2)
G/SE-013 Detling Hill 33.0857
G/TW-005 Normanby Top 13.4989
G/TW-004 Bishop Wilton Wold 6.6185
G/SE-015 Cheriton Hill 5.3435
G/SP-001 Kinder Scout 4.1433
G/TW-003 Gisborough Moor 2.8071
G/NP-031 Birks Fell 2.4116
G/SE-005 Botley Hill 2.2392
G/CE-001 Cleeve Hill 2.1078
G/NP-028 Rombalds Moor 2.0940
TOP TEN SMALLEST AZ – SMALLEST FIRST (KM2)
G/LD-015 Grisedale Pike 0.0306
G/NP-027 Dufton Pike 0.0335
G/LD-006 Pillar 0.0367
G/LD-005 Great Gable 0.0415
G/WB-006 Caer Caradoc Hill 0.0419
G/LD-001 Scafell Pike 0.0467
G/LD-057 Swinside 0.0491
G/LD-028 Harter Fell 0.0494
G/LD-024 Pike of Blisco 0.0575
G/LD-043 Hallin Fell 0.0634
TOP TEN MOST CIRCULAR AZ – MOST CIRCULAR FIRST
G/WB-002 Brown Clee Hill 0.844
G/LD-037 Little Mell Fell 0.835
G/LD-047 Loughrigg Fell 0.826
G/NP-014 Rogan’s Seat 0.819
G/LD-033 Lord’s Seat 0.816
G/LD-041 Binsey 0.809
G/LD-051 Holm Fell 0.805
G/LD-035 Great Mell Fell 0.804
G/NP-029 Sharp Haw 0.799
G/LD-005 Great Gable 0.796
TOP TEN LEAST CIRCULAR AZ – LEAST CIRCULAR FIRST
G/SE-013 Detling Hill 0.062
G/TW-005 Normanby Top 0.141
G/SE-005 Botley Hill 0.157
G/SE-015 Cheriton Hill 0.160
G/TW-004 Bishop Wilton Wold 0.190
G/SE-008 St Boniface Down 0.191
G/SC-004 Staple Hill 0.192
G/CE-005 Wendover Woods 0.193
G/WB-022 Seager Hill 0.196
G/NP-031 Birks Fell 0.212
REGION WITH THE SMALLEST AZ’S
Lake District – 0.174 km2 average
REGION WITH THE LARGEST AZ’S
Tyne to the Wash – 4.995 km2 average
REGION WITH THE MOST CIRCULAR AZ’S
Lake District – Average circularity of 0.624
REGION WITH THE LEAST CIRCULAR AZ’S
Tyne to the Wash – Average circularity of 0.329
I hope you have enjoyed this diversion and of course there are many other things that one could do with the data. You might find all sorts of other interesting things when you start examining summits in this manner during the long, dark winter evenings.
Please note that if you want to do this yourself, it does take time. I would estimate that, if you are very familiar with the software, it takes at least 3-5 minutes to map each summit, save the image, analyse in Photoshop and then export the data. Also, although Radio Mobile software is Freeware, Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended (the current version) will set you back about £900.
73 Marc G0AZS (Activation Zone Statistician?)
SOTA CW REPORT by Roy G4SSH
A combination of bad weather, the ending of summer time and world-wide contest traffic at weekends resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of HF SOTA activations during the month of October. Activity should peak again during weekends in November, but most SOTA activators will be heading off the hills by 1400 UTC as we approach the winter.
My chasing time was suspended during the last week of the month due to a visit by my nine year old grand-daughter during half term, so I traded the relaxing pastime of on- air chasing for trips to the beach/fairground, feeding horses and learning the mysteries of playing bowls on a Wii machine. My apologies therefore to anyone whom I omit to list as active in this report. Peace has now descended and my recuperation is progressing quite well.
A warm welcome is extended to the following newcomers, heard active on CW for the first time during October:-
Hans OE8SPK, Louis HA5AZC, Rolf HB9DGV, Lada OK1LV, Ruda OK2QA, Urs HB9DDE, Frank DL1JET and Wolf DJ9UJF.
Cross border expeditions were heard from DL/LX1NO, ON/DL8YR, DL/HB9BAB, OE/HA5CQZ, DL/OK2QA, M/LA1ENA, M/LA!KHA, MW/LA1ENA and MW/LA1KHA,
The 40m band, in particular, suffered from many weekend contests in October and many activators moved up to 10m. Heard on this band were S53X, F5UKL, LA1KHA, DL7VKD, DL2DVE, G0AZS, F5TIL OK1DDQ, OE5EEP/5, GW0DSP, M/LA1ENA, MW/LA1ENA, MW/LA1KHA, OK1CYC, G4RJQ, DL8DZL, F6ENO, DJ5AA, LA1ENA, F5VGL.
When SOTA chasing on CW you become familiar with the habits of the regular chasers and notice any patterns that emerge. However, these change at regular intervals. Six months ago you could be certain of copying Klaus DF2GN two or three times per week, along with Dan DH8DX; a few months ago the trend was to copy Milos S53X or Jurig S57X early in the day, around 0700, then Jirka OK1DDQ or Miro OK1CYC late in the afternoon. Now we have newcomers such as Gerd DF9TS, Aage LA1ENA and Ruda OK2QA appearing in the log quite regularly, supporting long term activators such as Lutz DJ2AX, Juerg HB9BAB, Norby LX1NO and the many French CW stations. It is also a pleasure to hear Tom M1EYP giving a good signal on 80 meters, which should improve as we move into winter propagation. (Speaking of winter reminds me that now the cold weather has arrived John G4YSS will shortly be back on the air again as GX0OOO/p, GC0OOO/p or GS0OOO/p).
A major DX’pedition to Willis Island VK9DWX ran for about 10 days from the 15th October. One of the regular spots was around 7025 KHz, listening up, so the pile-up of callers extended up to 10 MHz, totally swamping out and SOTA activators around 7032 KHz.
Unfortunately there were quite a few QRP activators who insisted on using 7032 KHz in spite of the QRM and I heard many chasers failing to make the QSO. If only the activators had moved down to below 7025 KHz or QSY’d to 10118 KHz they would have had much more success. A report from Mike GW0DSP reflects the dramatic advantage of activating on 30m. He remarked that he had a cracking time on GW/NW-062 on the 24th October. Unfortunately 40m was dire with contest and RTTY traffic and he managed just 2 QSO’s, DL2EF and F6ACD/P on 7.018 KHz. However, a switch to the old reliable 30m brought in 20 QSO’s with some reasonable DX to the East with just 20 watts to a linked dipole. He managed to work SM, DL, UY, UA, UX, HB9, RZ, OK, HA, RU, YL, F, LZ. on this band.
I have been particularly disappointed at the behaviour of some chasers during the last few days. On two occasions I heard activators announce “SRI NW QRT VRI COLD” after about 30 minutes of activating in the snow, which, as usual, resulted in replies of “MNI TNX OM” but also to my amazement also a few calls of “LID” from those still waiting. I immediately sent my call and WHY? But all they did was repeat it. OK, so some chasers, including myself, had not made the QSO, but come on folks, do grow up and have consideration for the comfort and safety of the activator. One occasion was to a first time activator. Not a very warm welcome to SOTA. Fortunately the majority of chasers are understanding and the idiots are very much in the minority.
THE CLOUD G/SP-015 - the first 200 activations
by Tom M1EYP
Well, 211 actually. But having now completed over 200
activations of my favourite local summit, time for some
analysis and reflection.
Why my obsession with The Cloud? Well, it’s more an
obsession with SOTA actually. Before SOTA, my amateur radio
activities were little more than chatting through the local
repeater while driving to and from work, and continuing to
collect QSL cards through my HF short wave listening. SOTA
has been a catalyst through which I have developed my
operating practice, my equipment and my CW.
However, I increasingly found that while doing these things
in the home shack was all well and good, it just didn’t have
the same exhilarating feeling as operating from a hill.
Non-SOTA hills were a possibility, but didn’t attract
anywhere near the same interest as those with a valid SOTA
The SOTA rules did not forbid me to reactivate a summit
within the calendar year, just would not award me any points
for it. However, when I started doing some repeat
activations, I did notice a subtle little reward that the
SOTA database did give me. The total number of activations
went up by one!
So when I started doing almost daily Cloud activations after
work, it is interesting to see how that first column went up
rapidly - and accordingly how the average column went down!
These activations were mainly 2m hand-portable operations,
as I got to grips with time-management. Initially, you see,
I had identified that the long warm summer afternoons would
afford me activation opportunities on the way home from
work. (The Cloud G/SP-015 is approximately halfway on my
commute from Stoke-on-Trent back to Macclesfield).
I didn’t get bored with the summit; in fact I got to like it
more. The views after a short steep initial ascent were
rewarding. The walk out along the gently rising
heather-coated peak was satisfying with views across to
Sutton Common and the land below seemingly getting lower as
fast as the ground underfoot was getting higher. Out onto
the rockier summit area, and the whole of the Cheshire Plain
suddenly opened out before me, and I always felt pleased I
Now what if I could do an activation on the way to work, as
opposed to on the way home? That would be quite something,
and so one morning I went for it. Again, it was a 2m
handheld operation, and I felt rather satisfied to have
completed it and still got to work on time!
The next extension to the challenge was to do this for five
mornings in a row, and then to combine it with Gun G/SP-013
to actually complete two SOTA activations before work in a
morning. After proving this was possible, what next?
The decision was made according to the personal development
I needed in SOTA. Namely, I had to get faster, both at
setting up HF dipoles, and at CW. So now I was setting up
my 40m dipole every morning and operating CW on 7.032MHz.
Now this really inspired me, as I was getting genuine
pile-ups of genuine SOTA chasers, and rattling off the DXCC’s
at the same time. And still all before work in a morning,
so no need for any planning, working around family
commitments or negotiating pass-outs from the XYL.
Ahead of my SOTA trip to GI, I practised operating both CW
and SSB on 80m, and since then have mainly used either 80 or
40 in a morning.
Other Cloud activations have been the Tuesday night RSGB
activity contests, on 2m SSB, 70cm SSB/FM and 6m SSB, some
all-day mega activations, comprising many band/mode
combinations and 70+ QSO’s, a night-time double on 160m with
friends from the Macclesfield & DRS where we crossed the
midnight UT “dateline” and effectively activated twice and
even a Christmas Day activation that included a live link-up
with local station Canalside Community Radio on FM.
But … as I say, it’s an obsession with SOTA, rather than
The Cloud. Subtracting all my SP-015 activations from my
record still leaves 460 activations of other summits, of
which over 300 have been outside of my “home” G/SP region."
Statistics of interest:
Top ten M1EYP SP-015 chasers:
- GW0DSP: 114
- GW7AAV: 79
- G3CWI: 47
- 2E0PXW: 41
- DJ5AV: 31
- G4BLH: 26
- HB9DOT: 23
- G0TDM: 20
- SM6CMU: 19
Distribution of times (UTC) of QSO’s:
The most common QSO time has been 0623 UTC, with 20 occurrences!
QSO’s on band/mode combinations:
Total = 2014 QSO’s:
LIST OF CONTESTS DURING NOVEMBER 2008
The following scheduled contests are expected to cause severe QRM to SOTA activity, especially on the 40m band. Activators should plan accordingly with alternate spots/bands.
1st - 2nd 1200-1200 Ukrainian DX contest SSB and CW
2nd only 0900-1200 High Speed Club CW contest
8th - 9th 1200-1200 OK/OM CW DX contest
29th - 30th 0001-2359 CQ WW CW DX Contest (major disruption to 40m)
SOTA News 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