SOTA Activation – Jan 18th – Mt Tom (W1/MB-006)

It’s a new year! For those who are into activating summits, this means we can go back out and activate our easy and close-by summits that will count for points.  A known SOTA activator in the region (Doug, W1DMH) was going to be in the area activating a couple summits which caught the interest of a couple other hams in the area..  It was reported that it was going to be a rain/sleet/snow mix for the entire day so I was under the impression that I wasn’t going to be out. While out running errands, I’ve noticed it was clear enough so I ran home, got my gear and went to Mt. Tom.

It’s been awhile since I activated any kind of summit. I would also say it  was the last time I really ever “exercised”. The hike up was not easy. I had to stop a few times to catch my breath and I ended up taking baby steps to  the summit.

SOTA 1/18/14 - Mt Tom

Once I got to the top of the mountain, I was able to catch my breath but then I had to setup shop. Visibility at the summit was poor due to weather. Due to other activators in the area were already on the air, I had no time to walk around to see what was up.

Setting Up

After seeing a lot of activators using some sort of monopole to support their antenna, I jumped on  the band wagon and purchased a fiberglass kite pole during the holidays

Jack Kite Pole

I ended up going with the 31′ Jack Kite Pole.  I wouldn’t say that it’s the best choice for activities like SOTA. Soon as I got it out of the box, the threaded cap came off. It happened more than once which caused all the sections to fall out. I’ve also read reports of the top sections breaking under light loads. To be fair, it was designed to be use with kites. To combat the issues, I’ve removed the top two sections and made a sheath using left over outdoor canvas that I used for my Elk antenna. The sheath has a shoulder strap that allowed me to carry the pole w/o much issue.

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Here is the kite pole with antenna mounted to the top.

In past activations that included the same exact spot, I’ve used a Mini G5RV by throwing rocks with a rope attached into the trees. The trees on some of these summits are not that tall and could only manage to get the antenna 6ft off the ground. It worked but I could have done better if it were higher. This time with the kite pole, things went much faster even though I had some issues  with getting the wire  snagged  in nearby tree branches.

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I try to stay as minimal as possible. Even more so if  know the layout of the mountain/hill. What you see in the above photo is what I took up. I packed the KX3, microphone, battery, 90 degree BNC adapter, antenna, kitepole, mason line (rope), elastic cord, tape and 2m HT. Due to the massive amount of RF that is already present on top of the mountain, doing a VHF activation is out of the question. I’ve heard other people up there trying to do VHF and they always had trouble receiving.

Getting On The Air

Once the antenna is up, getting on the air is quite easy. However getting spotted or spotting yourself (which is allowed using SOTAwatch) could be difficult depending on conditions and which mode you’re using. I lucked out because I had cell service and was able to spot myself. Since this was last second, I didn’t have the time to give advanced warning of the activation.

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A minute or so after spotting, my first call was from Doug (W1DMH) who was on another summit nearby. This counts as a Summit to Summit (S2S) contact that gives both doug and myself extra points. I was hoping to work Jim (KK1W) and Frandy (N1FJ as NE1SJ) that were also on nearby summits but I sort of arrived late to the game and missed out on 2 additional S2S.

After the first contact, the rest came in one after another with the occasional pileup. It was very exciting and made it worth the trip up. Talking on SSB with stations all around the US is fun when you’re using low power. I can see why people find QRP to be very rewarding. I also made some DX contacts with stations in Canada, England and my furthest contact with GI4OUL in N. Ireland. Approx 3000mi only using 7W (428mi per watt)  is not bad.

Thanks to the following who worked me.

Call Time Band Mode Notes
W1DMH 17:43 14MHz SSB Thanks For S2S
N4EX 17:44 14MHz SSB Thanks!
AE4FZ 17:44 14MHz SSB
VE1WT 17:45 14MHz SSB
AJ5C 17:45 14MHz SSB Thanks!
K0LAF 17:45 14MHz SSB
W0MNA 17:45 14MHz SSB
WG8Y 17:46 14MHz SSB
NS7P 17:46 14MHz SSB
KI4SUM 17:47 14MHz SSB
W7RV 17:48 14MHz SSB
W4DOW 17:48 14MHz SSB
NE4TN 17:49 14MHz SSB
WA4WKL 17:49 14MHz SSB
W4SKC 17:50 14MHz SSB
VA6FUN 17:52 14MHz SSB 2000mi on 10W TY!
AD5A 17:52 14MHz SSB Thanks for TX!
W5ODS 17:52 14MHz SSB
K4WAI 17:53 14MHz SSB
G4UXH 17:54 14MHz SSB Thanks for DX!
N6KZ 17:55 14MHz SSB
AA7DK 17:56 14MHz SSB
WB9EAO 17:57 14MHz SSB
K9ICP 17:58 14MHz SSB
GI4ONL 18:00 14MHz SSB Thanks for DX!
KC4TAC 18:00 14MHz SSB
W7RV 18:14 24MHz SSB
W1MSW 18:15 24MHz SSB

After doing a few summits, some of the callsigns start to become familiar as they chased me on other summits in the past. It’s nice to hear them and it makes it real easy to pick them out on packed/noisy bands.

Lessons Learned

Even though I’ve done over 6 summits alone, I’m still learning things along the way. For example, my logbook.

scratchlogsota

 

It’s an envelope… Not an logbook. It works but not well. I need some better way to log contacts w/o using some big and bulky notepad.
The G5RV needs to replaced with a SOTA version. Right now the current G5RV is using #14 electrical wire and the ladder line is solid core. It’s bulky and tangles to easily.  I would like to still use the G5RV as it works well but I would like to use polystealth wire and a ladder line made from stranded cable that was thinner.

Thanks for reading!

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