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My First SOTA Activation – Mt. Norwottock (W1/CR-004)

by on Dec.15, 2012, under General Ham Radio, HF, Local Happenings, VHF

I’ve been wanting to do a SOTA (Summits On The Air) activation for quite some time and I finally had the chance to go so I took advantage of it. For those who don’t know, SOTA is “Summits On The Air”. Take your equipment, climb a mountain (or hill) with your gear and make at least 4 contacts in order for it to be a successful activation. What’s great about SOTA is that it gets you off your butt and go outdoors. Another great thing about it is that there is a website where you are allowed to self spot so at least others know where you are.  After you are done you upload or enter you logs into the website and you can start competing with others in the area and possibly get awards.

In my last article, I made a 3EL Yagi using a tape measure that I didn’t use other than waving it around like a mad man in my back yard. I built the Yagi so I can participate in outdoor activities like radio direction finding and SOTA. So for the past month or so I’ve been itching and looking for any excuse to use this antenna.  Nick (K1MAZ) mentioned that he was going to activate Mt. Norwottock after he gets out of work alone. Since my night was free and available, I contacted nick to see if I can tag along which he said sure.

Since this was last second, I ran around the house trying to locate the things that I would think I need for a SOTA activation based off of what I’ve read from other peoples SOTA adventures. I took along my Yagi, Two 2M HT’s, adapters, lots of tape, extra stubby antennas, multi-tool, knife, stuff to keep me warm. Away I went into the dark to drive to “The Notch”.

Holyoke Range

 

Here is a map of the State park. The line is red is that path from the visitors center to the summit.

SOTA Map 2

Here is the APRS map of our hike. You will notice that we sort of took a wrong turn. Trail markers are a lot harder to see at night!  After we fixed our headings, the climb started and I realized a couple minutes into the “climb” that I am out of shape. I kept stopping, huffing and puffing while Nick was having no issue with the climb. I wasn’t sure if it was all due to being out of shape or wearing very thick clothing .

Once we reached the summit, I was hot to trot so I immediately got the Yagi going and left Nick to assemble his HF wire antenna. I should have helped him but I was a little to excited and wanted to get on the air right away. After making the bulk of my contacts, I’ve stopped to help him finish installing the antenna.

3EL Tape Measure Yagi  - COMPLETE

This was the setup that I was using. My homebrew 3EL Yagi and the Wouxun kg-uvd1p handheld.

Since there was cell/data coverage on the summit, I spotted my self on the local clubs FaceBook page and thought I spotted myself on SOTAwatch. Got on 146.520 Mhz (AKA National calling freq) and started calling CQ. As there is little to no activity around here on 146.520, I decided to stay on that frequency as it was not causing any harm. Not even a minute of calling CQ, I was contacted by ED (KB1NWH) from his QTH 22Mi away from my location as well as Mike (N1TA).   At the point I was assuming that they and some of the SOTA regulars in the area were going to be my only contacts. I was wrong…  One of the people that worked me or saw my post on Facebook went on the local repeater and announced that I was up there. That opened up the flood gates and I worked the following

  • AB1RS – Rich
  • KB1PWH -
  • WD1S – James
  • W1MSW – Matt (SOTA Jerks)
  • N1FDC – Phil
  • KB1VPN – Jake
  • K1YO – Bob (Mobile)
  • KK1W – Jim (SOTA Jerks)
  • WI1N – Charles
  • WC1Y – Rory
  • KB1JFQ – Chuck (SOTA Regular)
  • WW1X – Rockwell (SOTA Regular)
  • N1KXR – Rich

A total of 15 Contacts on VHF.

All these people coming out to work me made all the troubles I had getting up there worth it. I was going up there thinking that I wouldn’t have enough contacts to make the activation count but thanks to those listed above,  I now have 1 activator point.

I’ve learned a lot by this one trip. The tape measure yagi turned out to be a success! Almost everyone that contacted me on VHF was strong and DFQ.

SOTA Plot

I plotted out all the contacts I made based on their address on QRZ.com, Two of them were mobile stations so I just put markers to area where they reported they were.
Everyone was pretty much “From The Valley” and all contacts I’ve had were crystal clear. I had a backup two meter radio and I should have used it to compare using the rubber duck to using the yagi but that thought escaped me.

HF Side of Things

Nick was more interested in the HF side to the hike. He brought along his FT100, MFJ Tuner, G5RV and coax. When we reached the summit area, Nick when right to work putting up his antenna in the dark.  He didn’t get the antenna as high as he wanted it (8-10ft off the ground)  but used it anyways. Once everything was set, Nick  spotted then went on the air.

Here is a little video I took.

At first all the locals were calling and then some of the SOTA regulars started contacting him as well.

Between 80M and 40M, Nick had 15 contacts and I had 7.

Lessons Learned

This was just a quick last minute thing for me so I didn’t have much time to plan. I quickly gathered anything that would fit in my pockets of my cargo pants and was more worried about staying warm than anything else.

Even though the Yagi I was using didn’t weigh much and it didn’t give me an issue during the climb, It started to “feel” heavy while I was using it. Holding that and the radio at the same time made logging contacts very difficult. Not sure if it was me or the cold weather but the radio kept changing frequencies which made things a little more difficult.  I am going to modify the yagi so I can put it on a Tripod and I am going to make it so the radio can be mounted to the tripod as well and use a speaker/mic to make contacts.

Overall I had a great time and I want to do it again with VHF. If I keep doing it, I might pickup some portable HF gear.

Thanks for reading

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