Thank you !

I hesitated for a long time but I wanted to share my SOTA adventure and feelings to the Community. Sorry if I waist bandwidth…

I have been licensed in 1981 while still staying at my parents. My main interest had always been CW (sounds like « real » radio for me) and have a lot of fond memories of my radio adventures of that time. But after the years, being busy building a career, getting involved with Internet and raising a daughter, my interest for hamming dwindled down. End of the nineties, I sent my license back and sold my gear (I only kept my faithful Hi-Mound hand key). New adventures, interests and hobbies…

And then last year (march 2012), my life “hit a bump in the road”. While returning from my daily dog walk with our belgian sheperd and on a pedestrian crossing, we were both hit by a car driving a 70 Km/h and and were shot 3 to 4 m high. I was a so called traffic poly-trauma and stayed for two and half months in hospital. The dog (that didn’t take the direct hit) didn’t move from the couch for two weeks but now is OK. The worse was that my knee (where the impact happened) was not in a good shape at all as well as the shoulder “pulled appart” as I was still holding my dog’s leach when I became airborne.
But every morning I am so thankfull that I am still alive. I think my gardian angel made a pretty good job that night. I could have slipped under the car instead being shot in the air, it could have been a truck or a 4X4 (hitting at belly level), there could have been a car coming from the other side when I was laying on the ground, or …, or …

When laying at the hospital, I knew that I had to make a cross (at least for a long time) on walks (with or without dog) and my geocaching activity. A colleague, still “radio active” (ON6ZQ), visited me several times there and suggested that, in my state, hamming would be the perfect activity: think about projects, plan, experiment, meet people on the air or in real without requiring too much physical skills. He left me a pile of QSTs on my bedside table…

And all the memories came back… Many things had changed in 13 years but the thrill and the essence was the same. There were articles and pictures about SOTA… I said to myself : “this is what I want to be able to do one day”. You have absolutely no idea how much energy and optimism I got from reading about SOTA and watching activation videos and pictures, especially during my long sleepless nights (I will be eternally thankful to those who enabled free Wifi in the hospital). These pictures triggered feelings between “I WILL be part of it and also enjoy these beautiful vistas on a moutain top, talking to the world” and “I will never make it, it’s too far away, too hard, … I have to give up my dreams”.

But step after step, I got nearer to my goal. With the unmissable support of my wife, I slowly learned to walk again, to get back to normal life and return to hamming with the help of my buddy, Christophe ON6ZQ (and other hams). I got my license back and was lucky to get my faithful call (ON4KJM) back. I was also very happy to realize that CW is like bicycle riding: once learned, you never forget it.
Aiming for portable operations triggered mixed feeling from my wife: relief that I would not start erecting huge and ugly antennas around the house but worries that I could get hurt with these “wild” adventures.

I started to set-up a portable station and try it out in the backyard or a few hundered meters from home (see pictures on ON4KJM - Callsign Lookup by QRZ Ham Radio). During our well deserved Christmas vacation week in EA8-land (Gran Canaria), I attempted a pseudo-SOTA activation. I had equal joy to see that my portable setup is working but also to be able to make the 300m ascent and 2.8 km to the /P QTH (but, boy, was I exhausted when we returned to the hotel.)

Then, on the 5th of January, I took the plunge and tried my first activations (ON/ON-028 an ON/ON-001) based on the advise and tips of Peter, ON4UP, Belgian’s SOTA association manager. The weather was cold (about 3°C) and very wet (it drizzled all the time).

I knew the first place (ON-028 Henri-Chapelle, an hour drive away from home) : it is a few kilometres away from where my grand-parents had a farm and where I often stayed for summer vacations. But I didn’t recognize the place at all: it was covered by a dense freezing fog (and finding a car park without clear view isn’t easy at all). I walked then the 300 meters to the activation spot that Peter, ON4UP had recommended: a nice picnic table with some trees to hang antennas in. After sending an SMS to my buddy ON6ZQ to tell him that I arrived at the activation spot, I started to set up the station. It took me more time then expected to set up my antenna. The 6 meter fishing pole was easy to rig (I have a nifty foot for it, no guys required) and the W3DEP assembly (clipping the plastic spacers for the feed) was ok even with the cold hands. Getting the other side of the W3EDP in the tree was more tricky then expected: either the 30gr lead weight had a tendency to miss the target and fall on your head or when on the right branch to stick there and not to come back to the ground. ON6ZQ, not getting the QRV SMS, was getting worried that I had fallen or got hurt.

When I was ready, I sent my SMS self spot, sent the QRV SMS to ON6ZQ and placed my first SOTA CQ…

And the roof came falling in…

Ten or more stations answered my call ! Unbelievable… Never experienced something like that… I tried to pick-up somebody in the “call marmalade” that I was hearing. When I had the prefix OK the rest of the call was swamped by other callers. And when I answered a call I felt so clumsy and inefficient, surprised by the confirmed contact, thrilled and exited by the incredible animation and hesitating to what to say as these contact are so far away to all the QSO I did until then. At the end I started to be more efficient but far from what I had heard as a chaser.

An incredible experience.

I was so exited that I had the impression that I held my breath during all the operation. I realized that the water was dripping off my cap and was make a brown puddle on my paper log. Thank god I used my rain-proof logbook from RiteInTheRain, a left over of when I was actively involved in birding and wildlife counting. As I promised to activate 20m, I QSYed to that frequency and CT1BHQ answered at my first CQ call. Amazing. I answered a handful stations and realized that I was getting very cold. So I decided to call it off and break down the station before I completely freeze. 35 stations contacted in about 45 minutes operation. I never experienced this kind of action. The antenna seemed to have worked quite well.
Breaking down the /P station took less time then mounting it. Double check that I didn’t forget some gear behind, and on my way to find a nice place to warm up and dry a little before going to the next target summit.

It took me some time to reach the Signal de Botrange (ON-001), highest point of Belgium, just short of 700m. I reached the well marked parking place at 15:30. I loaded my rucksack and walked away to find an adequate place to set-up a station. Despite the bad weather there were some tourists around. As I didn’t want to be an unexpected tourist attraction with this second attempt, I was looking for a quiet place with trees for the antenna and something reasonable to put the radio on. I found the perfect place at the end of a small (muddy) path. It led to the rest of the Hauptmann’s column, better said a cubic stone (1 x 1 m) dating from the 1566. It was part of an escape route for persecuted protestants leading through the high country. I led my tarpauline on the stone and started to set-up the station. It appeared to be trickier then expected because of the drizzle making everything slippery and the many branches laying on the ground. And deploying a 25m long W3EDP required some walking to and fro. So I took my time and was very cautious. With all I have been through, it made no sense to get hurt, especially alone in the woods. When I was ready, I sent one single CQ on the 40m calling frequency, and there went the pile-up again. Despite the many people calling me, I needed to keep the time checked as I wanted to reach the car before dark. I felt rather impolite for calling “QRT ES CL” with still so much action going on. I got back nearly on time to the car but still managed to take a self picture as a souvenir and to log the nearby geocache.

This was a tremendous experience and adventure.
I am incredibly thankfull to this community for what it is giving to me: projects to think about, meeting interesting and friendly people and give me a dream and a goal. One day I’ll also be on a real mountain with a beautiful scenery to share. My goal for this year is to activate all the Belgian summits.

Thank you !


Jean-Marc, ON4KJM

In reply to ON4KJM:


I enjoyed your report and find it inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

Doug, N7NGO

In reply to ON4KJM:
That’s a great story, Jean-Marc, and it serves as a reminder of how many years of English language study the Belgians and Dutch, among others, are required to take in school.
See you on the air.

Elliott, K6ILM
Chaser Clown

In reply to ON4KJM:
Thank you Jean-Marc for sharing such an inspirational personal story. I look forward to having a S2S with you soon. Good luck and best wishes for the future.

Roger MW0IDX

In reply to ON4KJM:

Congratulations and welcomme back Jean-Marc.

It was a pleasure to work you on both SOTA’s.
but I copied the first SOTA as ON/ON-026, not ON-028?

73 Hope to hear you active again before long.


In reply to G4SSH:

I also have it logged as 026

ON/ON-026 has the name that matches the text of the post.
ON/ON-027 is the last summit on the ON list, o28 does not exist so I guess that the 028 is just a typo.

73 de Ken G3XQE

Thank you for the kind words.

ON-028 is indeed a typo. Summit was ON-026.

73 de Jean-Marc ON4KJM

In reply to ON4KJM:
What a fantastic story. Good luck with your SOTA activations!


In reply to ON4KJM:

Hi Jean-Marc,

Many thanks for putting the story behind your activation on the reflector. It was good to exchange emails with you earlier in the month and now to read about the activation in more detail. All the best for your future activations.

73, Gerald G4OIG

In reply to ON4KJM:

Wow! Thank you for this truly inspirational story!

It was a pleasure to work you on ON/ON-026 as it was also
logged in my books.

Well done Jean-Marc, hope to chase you on the next one!

73, Toni OH3T

In reply to ON4KJM:

Thanks for sharing your story Jean-Marc. I know that a number of people have found SOTA a useful way of getting exercise after illness or accident. I don’t recall thinking of this benefit when John and I established the scheme but it’s a great by-product!

Good luck with your recovery.


Richard G3CWI
SOTA Co-founder

Superb post and report Jean-Marc, many thanks for putting it on. I wish you well in achieving your target this year.


In reply to ON4KJM:
Hi Jean-Marc, I can fully equate with your sentiments. After a serious accident in 1999 I was unable to walk for some 14 months and twice during that time, prior to surgery, I signed a consent form to have my right leg amputated above the knee - no easy task believe me. Despite having 10 fractures between the knee and ankle and a mangled knee, thankfully the surgeons were able to save my leg. After months of physiotherapy and learning to walk again, gradually over the next 5 years I got back to almost full fitness. My right knee is still pinned & screwed together and I have to be careful on steep descents and usually have to crab in order to avoid stressing it. I too was first licensed in 1981 and always had an interest in QRP and portable operation, however around 1995, due to various reasons, my involvement in amateur radio declined, but I always hoped to re-kindle the fire. In 2010 I caught the bug again and bought a Yaesu FT-817ND with the prospect of using it portable but this never really happened UNTIL late in 2011 I met the other Victor, MI0JST, and about the same time became aware of SOTA. I mentioned SOTA to Victor and he agreed we should give it a try which we did for the first time in January 2012 - the rest, as they say, is history. On each of my 56 activations I have felt a huge sense of achievement, and like you, would like to thank everyone involved with SOTA, both chasers and activators alike.

I look forward to working you sometime and can only give you one warning - IT’S ADDICTIVE !


Victor GI4ONL

I am very happy that you are having such a good time with SOTA Jean-Marc. Good luck and a lot of fun with you project of activating all the Belgian summits! Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need some summit info.

73, Peter - ON4UP

In reply to ON4KJM:

Thanks for the inspiring story and for the QSO! Hope to hear you again soon!

73, Jan-Martin