Underchased Higher HF Bands

Lately I’ve been trying to activate on the more underutilized SOTA bands. I’ll hear activity on 10M/15M put out a spot, but hardly make any contacts if any.

Has anyone else noticed this? It seems most chasers are on 20M/40M only. Just an observation. Do you still try to activate on other bands or still primarily to 20M/40M


Recently, and if the bands are open, I’ve started activations on the higher bands and worked down. It’s a nice feeling to get four or more contacts on 12, 15 or 17m, although it doesn’t often happen.

I’m building a 10m vertical tonight…


Hello AJ,
The activators in Alberta, Canada have been using ssb on 17, 15 and sometimes 12m for the last few months successfully. What I have noticed is that the skip distance is very long. From Alberta I am getting responses from Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire, basically the US eastern seaboard. We are usually on our summits at about mid-day to early afternoon. So perhaps the time of day is making a difference for you in NJ, when the western part of the US is only just waking up.
Maybe check pskreporter or wsprnet to see if the bands are open at different times of the day.


I’m hoping to get out to test my 10 & 15m vertical Moxon antennas next week - so any chasers on the higher bands would be appreciated. I’ll alert on SW3 once the plans firm up.

73 Ed.

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I’ve been trying 17m and 15m. I’ve had a few QSOs on 17m but none on 15m from a summit yet. It could be my antenna or perhaps it’s the wrong time of day.

Hello AJ,

Out of 6,898 activation contacts (99% Eastern U.S. summits) I’ve made in the last 5 years, they come out:
10 M 1
15 M 67
17 M 588
20 M 2728
30 M 1439
40 M 1028
60 M 889
80 M 158

We should be seeing bigger numbers on 10M, 12M and 15M (hopefully) over the next few years. I admit to not trying bands higher then 17M much for the last couple of years because of where we’ve been in the solar cycle, but as time and weather allow, I’ll be attempting more on the higher bands as conditions approve. Even if contacts are few on the higher bands, I can check how well I got spotted on RBN when I return home and see if there are any trends. Note that my antennas sacrifice some efficiency for the sake of band and frequency agility.


Paul - N1ZF


Thanks Paul for the data. I was just trying to understand the reasoning why even though the band is open and I hear plenty of activity, CQ calls seems to come up empty. As a Chaser myself, I will try whatever the spot shows. But I guess once a chaser works you on say 20M, there is no incentive to work you elsewhere.

Sometimes a chaser will work you again on another band, but it seems that 20/40 are THE SOTA bands.


As a CW novice an advantage I’ve noticed on the higher bands is there is much less chance of a pile-up. A CQ call on 20m can result in multiple stations coming back at the same time, which I find a bit intimidating.

Using 15m last Saturday my CQ was answered only by HG9AGH and I was able to complete the QSO quite easily. There were a couple of other stations around but one was far too fast for me. Which is something I’ve noticed, although it may only be my imagination. It seems there are some very fast CW operators to be found on 17m and above. :slight_smile:

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I always try to work the activators on bands other than 20 and 40. 60 is my favorite to activate and chase. 15, 30 and 17 have been good lately. 12 is OK but 10 has not been good for me. 80 is rarely good during the day.
73 Gary

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Hello AJ and all,
The main reason I can’t chase too many activators on the higher bands is just because I
can’t hear them! If I can hear you I can most likely work you. When I’m in the shack and
chasing, I check out almost every spot on SOTAWATCH3. I have a small amount of QSOs
on the bands above 20 meters. 17 is pretty fair, 15, 12, and 10 are pretty sparse. Just
can’t hear the activators. 80 meters is not used much on the west coast. I think almost
all my 80 meter SOTA QSOs are with one station. 20,30, and 40 are the money bands
out here. 20 meters seems to have a minor hot-spot early in the morning around 1400Z
to the east coast then it dies down for a couple hours then comes back again.
John, K6YK


Thanks John, I always appreciate the chase

HI again AJ,
A good example just happened a few minutes ago. I worked AC1Z in Virginia on 17M. Now he’s on
15M and I can’t hear him at all. This happens a lot. THere’s also a Tennessee station on 15 SSB
and I can’t hear him either. You just never know what band is going to work. Whoops, that’s a
Georgia station on 15. Still can’t hear him, though.


Right, I would think if you can work Bob on AC1Z on 17m , 15 may not work, however, I’m sure 15M is open somewhere else, maybe in KP4 or W4 etc. So I try to spread out my “RF Footprint” so to speak.

For example, I may work W6 on 20m, but I hear W5 stations on 15M. Which is why I try that also

But I understand your perspective also as a chaser.

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I can’t resist chiming in as I nearly always spend 10-20 minutes trying to round up contacts on 10 meters, and often try 12, 15, and 17 as well. If you filter the Activator Roll of Honour to show 10, 12, or 15 meters only, you will see that I have made contacts on the high bands quite regularly, not just recently but throughout the past several years.
It’s not unusual for me to call CQ for a while, get zero or very few replies, and yet when I check RBN I see that the band is open to somewhere. So yes I do think that many chasers are not bothering, because they assume that the high bands are closed. It’s not unusual for me to see the propagation forecast tools showing “Band Closed” in Red type, even though I’m making contacts, so I recommend ignoring those tools and giving it a try instead.
I activated last Friday in Arizona, and the only 10 meter QSO I got was to VK4TJ in Australia. My only 12m QSO was to France. Sometimes the bands are “long”, and it’s easier to get DX than stateside…but RBN was picking me up stateside, so I can only assume Chasers were not trying.
I’m not really complaining as it is a Chaser’s right to choose where they like to spend their time, and where they prefer (or are able) to place their equipment priorities. During sunspot cycle lows it’s not unusual for amateurs to focus there energy (forgive the pun) on lower bands where propagation may be more reliable. The reality is that 10, 12, and 15 are less predictable most of the time. On the other hand, for some of us, that unpredictability creates an extra boost of excitement when we make a successful high band QSO.
There are a few tricks that I believe may increase your odds of success if you are trying to activate on the upper bands. One is to start there - many Chasers who have already worked you will not try again on another band, so if you start out on the money bands of 20 and 40, you may not have a lot of chasers looking for you after your run there.
Another is to be consistent. If folks know you enjoy the high bands, they will more likely try to help you out by checking to see if they can offer you a QSO. SOTA ops are awesome in this regard.
Also, make sure the locals know your interest in the upper bands. There have been plenty of times when I could not round up anyone outside my home state, but enough ops gave me ground-wave contacts to claim success in my log.
You can also browse around for others calling CQ. These days there are many stations calling on SSB between 28.400-28.500. They don’t need to be actually “chasing” to be a qualified contact in your log. I sometimes work DX this way on 10 while on a summit.
One last one, be willing to call CQ without any replies for a while. Sometimes I’ll call for 15 minutes and suddenly get a short pileup. You just never know. Maybe there’s an E-Skip cloud that will give you a window, maybe people are tuning up, etc.
Anyway thanks for bringing this up and I hope to catch you on 10 sometime soon!
Keith KR7RK


Keith, I agree about all your main points.

Usually I start on 40 CW and move up in frequency, band by band. This results in many contacts, and it gives the chasers some options. It does not favor the higher frequencies, because most of the chasers have logged me before I go higher up.

Recently I did an activation of W0C/SR-052, Thorodin Mountain, and just for kicks, I started out calling CQ on 18.093 MHz CW. Thorodin is over 10,500 feet high, it’s quiet, and it has a nice low-angle takeoff from the east end of the summit ridge. I was spotted by the RBN Hole quickly, and within the first few contacts, it was obvious that I had not only the usual long skip to the East Coast, but also short, strong skip out for several hundred miles, probably sporadic E.

W0MNA and W0ERI were 599 from eastern Kansas. Usually they’re not audible on 17M here.

As the activation went along, I made contacts all over the USA, in many directions and distances. Eventually F4WBN and DJ5AV called from EU, and they were easy to work. There were S2S contacts, as well as many of my regular chasers, including many that I usually get on 40M.

This was a lot of fun, mostly because it was such a pleasant surprise. I was running 10W with my KX2, and just my normal 66-foot end-fed wire, which has a less-than-ideal pattern on 17M. It’s also not resonant, but my tuner feeds it well with no counterpoise.

The action didn’t stop until I had 30 17M contacts logged. I sensed than many of my chasers had fun too!

There was nothing particular going on with the sun that I could tie this too. The big solar activity dropped down more than a week ago. Sporadic E is really fun, and it enhances bands like 20 and 17M, as well as much higher frequencies. It comes and goes…

That’s it - vary your routine, and who knows, you might get lucky!




Okay, let me chime in with an Asian perspective.

TL:DR – activators in EU/NA are not interested in DX stations.

You folk over there in NA and EU are lucky to have a lot of chasers in a very small footprint, so it’s kind of obvious that you use 40m for short skip QSOs. Also an EFHW antenna is compact enough to set up on a summit without much hassle, then just get your 4 QSOs with some regular chasers and go home. If 40m doesn’t work then 20m as an alternative and then you can still easily get your 4 QSOs and go home. Why would you spend more time to erect another antenna for a higher (DX) band which will not yield many QSO?

Here in Asia we don’t have a lot of chasers. Japan is a very active SOTA country, Taiwan and Korea a little bit, China not at all and below the equator only Australia and New Zealand. So 80% of my activations have been on 15m, simply because that’s the only band which can reach JA, VK, NZL in the daytime easily. 17 meters will also work and 20 meters too, the latter especially for shorter distances, so those are my alternative bands. 40m is difficult in the daytime and JA will work, but only minimal, so why bother?

So I count on chasers that are living at least a 1000km away, which for me is starting to feel like DX. So I am very much interested in the higher bands, simply because I need them for making my activation valid. It is therefore a bit frustrating that I hardly get any chasers from NA/EU, so far only 6. It is not that difficult: from 00~02 UTC NA is not that hard and 06~08 UTC is a good window for Europe and those are my SOTA activation times.

Same goes for VL/ZL, by the way. They tend to stay on 40/20m and in SSB, so they keep it in their own backyard. Still, most of my activations I have worked ZL1TM, so the propagation is there.

My plea: please do check the higher bands and keep an eye on SOTAwatch for activations above 20m. And if you activate, please do use the higher bands, even if it is for a short time.

P.S. always amusing when I watch YouTube videos of NA SOTA activations and the activator is called by a DX station and doesn’t even know what country they’ve just worked. A bit sad is that often they are hardly excited by it; they seem more content by working regulars close by.


It was like that last Sunday. Plenty of FT8 on 17m but one weak CW signal. I called CQ for a while and had no QSOs but checking showed I was being received well in Bulgaria 2500km away.


There’s a word in English that accurately describes wild and inaccurate generalisations like that and it rhymes with rowlocks.

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Definitely not true.

There are few that do that.

Because it’s fun to work DX.

Sometimes time or weather limitations mean you can’t spend very long on a summit but if you’ve driven a long way and climbed to the top why wouldn’t you try to make the most of your time there? I’ve certainly been trying 17m and 15m in the hope of some DX.


I’d have to disagree with all of that.

Weather, summit terrain, length of expedition, band conditions, time of day, amount of daylight & load carried all play a part in how easy it is to set up and operate my summit station (and for how long). On many occassions I have been relieved and delighted to make that 4th contact, either because the conditions were so bad (weather) or the conditions were so bad (SFI, flares, lack of sunspots & QRM).