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W1/CR-009 Activation- The Good, The Bad and the Morse Attempt

Let me get this out of the way…I appreciate everyone who chased me today. Today wasn’t a total waste just because my first attempt at a SOTA Activation using morse was a disaster. I still got a point today which means 998 to go before MG.

That said the Morse code attempt AAR here everyone is going to get some dispersion including myself but we will get to that.

THE GOOD:
-The Midstate Trail is actually really well marked and maintained. I didn’t really start to feel the altitude changes until I had a half mile to go
-The Black Diamond Pro Shock Trail Trekking Poles worked amazing. Going uphill was effortless once you get into a rhythm. Thanks guys for suggesting these!
-The Summit is relatively comfortable to sit on and the wind gusts weren’t too bad. The view is great.
-The Chameleon Emcomm III Portable was a relatively quick setup in the slope configuration (Tie the end to the top of the SOTABEAMS Travel Mast, tie Mast to trees at 2 points and then connect antenna)
-It was great to work some legendary Chasers again: W0MNA, and his XYL aka W0ERI, and WA2USA
-People despite totally not wearing masks (It’s the law now here in Massachusetts) or exhibiting any form of social distancing were at least polite
-I was dressed appropriately for the summit (Bayern Munich “Mein Heim Mein Frein” T Shirt with Bavarian Mountains on it, Eddie Bauer Insulated Guide Pants and Winter Coat; plus my Pelagic facemask with surgical masks underneath while wearing my KC1MIJ cap and Cabela’s All Terrain Shoes). I was roasting on the way down but that’s an easier fix than being freezing.
-Asked one person on CW to send me a dot and they actually did it before disappearing
-Could send full sentences and was more comfortable sending a CQ
The Bad
-It took about 70 minutes in order to get to the summit due to parts of the Midstate trail not being well marker resulting in some detours
-Seriously? No social distancing or at least a mask? The last one is literally no effort at all
-Some of the chasers were shouting over people still in QSO. Not nice that whole contester crap but it seems like there is a ton of people not operating under the operator ethics guidelines or just plain courtesy lately.
-Lots of QRM on the bands today. 20M SSB had a lot of wind and static. 20M CW and 40M sounded underwater on my Yaesu FT-891 and my Heil BM17DIC headset
THE MORSE ATTEMPT
Background:
I am currently in the CWAcademy Beginner class and just finished my fourth week. I was cramming to learn the rest of the morse I would need. In the end, it didn’t matter.
MORSE AAR (AFTER ACTION REVIEW):
I didn’t get a single QSO and not one person actually slowed down to the exaggerated spacing despite sending QRS constantly on air and in alerts. I even spelt the word S–L--O–W and even Slower than Slow using my morse but it was in one ear and out of the other. I seemed to attract people who apparently can only send at machine gun staccato. It was I’m sure frustrating to both of us but I went out of my way to show how slow I was. I practically hit them over the head with it.
But it seemed their attitude was “This is my speed and deal with it.” News flash: When you are sending me a continuous strings of dots and an occasional dash…I have no idea what you are sending. I’m sure they got frustrated because I was so slow (Aren’t Chasers supposed to operate at the speed of the Activator? I don’t mean to pull rank but wtf?) and why isn’t he getting it. But I made every contingency to make this an easy chase. I posted in the Facebook group explaining this was my first CW Activation and I needed to have morse sent super slow. I put it in my alert and every spot. I begged people to send not at like 700 words per second. No avail.
As for why I had to ask someone to send me a dot, I couldn’t tell due to all of the QRM on my side whether they were sending a dash or not. Yes, it was that bad but not that person’s fault btw.
I was on 14.090 and 7.010 MHz for the curious.

DO BETTERS:

  1. Find the places on the bands where slow beginner CW Operators can send code and not be expected to send high speed telegraphy
  2. Need to be more adamant that people send me super slow CW. I didn’t push back hard enough until it was too late
  3. Get much better at copying high speed morse since it may be that no one will want to slow down
  4. Find out why my antenna and radio sound like I’m underwater at times.
  5. Pack less food and drinks. I had a trail mix and a red bull leftover
  6. Get into better shape so that the altitude changes don’t affect my asthma as much.

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AAR ?

After Action Review (AAR)

Hi Andrew,

Well done on your activation, that was a big achievement and in future you will look back on it with different eyes.

One possible reason for getting odd responses would be the frequency you mentioned on 14 mhz. That’s right where digital modes and rtty are used. You may find those signals were not cw at all and the ops didn’t hear any of your requests to slow down as they were not listening to you.

Chasing other activators will show you where they tend to operate. Many if not most SOTA ops run qrp power levels. The qrp ops tend to use 14055 to 14065. I typically use 14062 if it’s free. I use a kx3 or a ic703, at 10w. Checking the band plan is recommended. Chasing will tell you a lot about how ops use sotawatch, when they self spot etc. and where they operate. Chasing also gives you cw practice.

Once you are definitely in a cw contact the code for “please slow down” is QRS and most operators know that one. Also, most operators will certainly slow down or adopt wider spacing to accommodate an operator sending at their comfortable receiving speed, which is exactly what you should do.

Keep on activating and rack up those points. Lots of low point summits do add up and they provide good activation learning points.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

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Just about heard you over the noise here (14.270 SSB) so something was working fairly well given the general state of the bands - but not quite well enough for a QSO. You were the first North American SOTA I’ve heard here in the last few months ( I’m just using a wire antenna rather than something that rotates)… Didn’t hear the CW but if I had we might have had a QSO as mine is still very slow… Paul.

Appreciate the insight. You’re probably right. I was just looking for a clear spot on the band.
I’ll write down those frequencies you listed and will try those later.

That’s crazy. I had no idea. Usually I can get my buddy G0RQL but didn’t hear him so I despaired.
Hopefully one of these days we can do a slow cw qso. Could use the contact and the confidence boost. You’ll have to activate though since I have a long wait for any peaks in my area to open up due to Corona.

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Those first CW activations can be brutal! My CW skills are a bit lacking and once in a while I will try a CW activation but always with some sort of decoder–either in my phone or otherwise as backup. Oh and I always pack a mike just in case CW is not going to work for me that day. Of course the decoders are pretty poor with straight key senders but its better than nothing.

Its admirable that you are taking the plunge and don’t give up! It only gets easier with time. Don’t get carried away and give up on SSB :slight_smile:

73,
Tom, N2YTF
W1 Area Manager

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No activations here in England yet - we get an update on Sunday but I think we have a few more weeks at home yet.

Well SSB is my current default so there’s no chance of me giving that up. My CW needs work but I’m not afraid of that. I’ll be back on CW

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I’m surprised you had trouble following the trail. The Wapack Trail up to the summit is extremely well marked and heavily used, and I thought the Wapack and Midstate were the same trail from the parking lot to the summit. It has been a few years, but I remember the Wapack was easy to follow up to Binney Pond.

And on 40, you might have better luck finding clear frequencies in the old novice band, 7100-7125 or so.

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There were spots where there weren’t yellow flashes. Especially the area around the Nutting Ledges. There weren’t any marking there when you go through the stone wall.

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Hi Andrew. You really gave it good go. A geat effort on your part. Well done! Your self reflection certainly identified your learning areas to focus on for the future. Hang in there, you will achieve. As they say, practice, practice and more practice. And have fun :grinning:

73 de Geoff vk3sq

Well said Andrew, great advice. 73 de Geoff vk3sq

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Andrew, after some thought about where on 20m you were activating, some of that CW you heard may have be digital stations sending a CWID and not replying to your calls. They just want to ID and so blast it out as fast as they can before moving to the next digital QSO. The other CW may have been telling you (probably impolitely) to QSY out of the digital suband, at least on 20m if you were on 14.070-14.090.

Anyway, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. So hopefully this will all be good practice for your next trip out. Operate near the well known CW QRP frequencies will help. I try to operate 14.055-14.058 and 14.062-14.065 CW and not too close to 14.060. Whilst I may be QRP, many of my cashers wont be, keeping that small window centered on 14.060 clear allows QRP-QRP (often rock bound) QSOs to take place with less strong signal QRM from my chasers. Likewise for 40m 7.025-7.028 and 7.032-7.035, and somewhere around 10.118 for 30m.

I appreciate the heads up, Andy. Thank you so much. Now just have to work on my stage fright but I’ll get there.

Hi Andrew

I’m also new to SOTA and hamradio (no CW), I can relate to the situation you were in. But i think you can be proud of what you did, even if it wasn’t the nicest experience.

You went out there and you did it. This is the important thing. With every activation the stress level will decrease. And soon you will enjoy the pile up’s. In German we have the saying “Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen.” It means no master has ever just fallen from the sky - if you want to be good in something it takes time and practice. I’m sure if you are passioned about your hobby you will make progress very fast.

Good luck on your way to MG & don’t give up!

73 Sabrina HB3XTZ

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