… though I knew I might get hooked on it.
usually I don’t look that worried, but you always start with the best picture, don’t you?
I’ve been licensed since the end of the 20th century and heard about SOTA years ago but somehow it didn’t seem very interesting to me. After being told stories of SOTA activities this summer and more or less accidentally bumping into the SOTA websites in autumn I had to try this. And it even fits perfectly to another combination of electronical gadgets and nature, Geocaching, wich I’ve done since 2003.
I wanted to start cheap and simple, so most items for my first activations I found somewhere in my shack, including the FT-857D. What I needed was an SLAB and an antenna. Finding the right answer to the antenna question took some days. It shall be light-weight, handy, efficient, easy-to-erect by one person under any circumstance, usable from 10 - 20 m without tuner, simple and cheap. On my van I use a modified CB aerial from 10 - 20 that has proved to produce good signals throughout Europe and even to be capable of DX. The aerial is ~120 cm excluding top, works as a center-loaded quarterwave and I adjust it to the different bands by changing the steel top, so no tuner needed.
I only had to attach a mount, bracket and some radials to use it as a groundplane. It’d be easy to clamp the antenna to a viewtower, fence, pole, rail, information sign or anything else. But, what if there’d be none of the named objects on a summit? Mechanically, no problem to place the antenna directly on the ground. But you need as many unlengthed radials as possible for a grounded vertical and you need at least 2 lengthed radials for an elevated one. A dilemma, isn’t it?
The solution was to attach three bundles of radials, each bundle existing of four lengthed radials for 20 m, 17 m, 10 m and 6m. When erected above ground I twist each bundle and get three radials. According to the log-ped theory each radial is only close to its resonance active, so I got a proper triple leg antenna. In case I really can’t find an objet to attach the antenna to, I can just place it on the ground and spread all radials on the ground. At least that is the theory.
Walking poles fixing the radials. Yl pouring tea.
Still don’t know if my theory is right, but the antenna works ‘nice’ on 20 & 17 and I really can’t complain about the reports I got. Several stations mentioned my remarkably loud signal for a /p. Nice to hear since I only use a power out around 25 W. Though it seems to make a big difference for DX, if the antenna is close to the ground or elevated.
While waiting for the mailman to deliver the 9 Ah SLAB I ordered, I chose a summit close to my home co-ords for a first try. I wasn’t very confident as I’ve never operated a portable HF station in the field and so I didn’t want to drive for hundreds of kilometers and hike for several hundreds of meters in height just to take the risk of a failure. DM/NS-164 Turmberg (293 m) seemed to be a good candidate… Ding-dong, postman, pack my things and yl, start the van, and off we go!
View from DM/NS-164 Turmberg
I really expected some issues with my equipment, but everything worked fine! The antenna was adjusted to 14 MHz and clamped to a steel pole at 2 m a.g. 2E0GOA and EU2MM made their way into the log easily. EI7GEB mentioned at the end of our QSO he’d spotted me on sotawatch. Two minutes later on there was a pile-up of several stations calling me! This situation was completely new to me, but it was fun to work this pile-up. Hope I didn’t perform too bad and dind’t annoy anyone. Condx were quite good and all stations calling were 57 to 59, so I often could only get some call sign fragments. After ~30 mins and 50 QSO I looked at my left hand and realised I have five fingers, but it felt like four because I couldn’t feel my pointing finger. While descending back to the van we decided to hike up DM/NS-002 Achtermann (927 m) the next day.
On Achtermann I got my first S2S when I managed to pick GW4WSB/p on GW/SW-011 out of the pile-up. I was annoyed about some stations who kept on calling me though I asked them to stand-by due to S2S. So it took several overs until I got all the needed information from GW4WSB. S2S was in the log! A few minutes later on a station from England beginning with “G6…” called me. But there was no need to complete her callsign as I recognised Carolyn by her voice and simultaneously with her I said to myself “Whisky Radio Wisky”. Amazing! She was the one who infected me with SOTA back in August by telling us how much fun it is. Brits, colonies, goats… you probably know that stuff.
Six more acivations followed the next days, all 17 and/or 20 m. One day we activated DM/NS-121 Fast (419 m) and NS-107 Grasberg (375 m), the other day even DM/NS-136 Bloße Zelle (480 m) , NS-129 Ebersnacken (460 m) and NW-135 Köterberg (496 m). Yl (unlis) was always with me (except of one activation) providing hot tea and even helping me with callsigns I dind’t get. She likes hill walking, too, and is really fascinated by the shortwave.
Using an abandoned hay trailer as a shack on DM/NS-107
I heard rumors, I’d have to hurry to activate DM/TH-828… And would it be nice to operate on a summit on a sunny day and 20 C. Relaxed activations with a picnic and some caching, that’s what I’ve in mind for summer… So I’ve even begun to make plans for future activations. Am I hooked now?
- SOTA is highly addictive. Best keep your fingers off!
- Thank God I’ve a yl who likes this nerdy stuff.
- Several call signs appear again and again. Five activations - two
stations worked four times, another six worked three times. It
seems like you get more familiar with many call signs with each
- 20 m is really annoying during contests. Good luck, I can easily
tune to 17 m.
- Yes, I am, I think.
PS: Put in smilies wherever you want.