I finally did it! I’ve had the idea of activating a SOTA summit for some time now, but like lots of ideas they sometimes take a while to come to fruition! This was one of my amateur radio targets for 2014 so i decided to bite the bullet and do it.
I activated my first SOTA (Summits on the Air) summit from the highest point in the Chiltern Hills, Wendover Woods (G/CE-005) at 267m ASL on Saturday 13th September.
The previous week i had been out on two practice runs, operating M0JCQ/P from another hill top, satisfied that my equipment was working and i could make QSO’s, i proceeded to jump at the chance when the XYL said she’d be meeting with friends and i’d have Saturday to myself!
The summit is easily reached by car, from which you only have to walk 400m to it, however i decided to make it harder and walk 2 hours each way from the nearest town, so it felt a lot more satisfying to successfully activate the summit and even more so to get back home!
The summit itself is not what i expected, it was an enclosed wood so there wasn’t much of a view and operating space was very limited, which made finding space for the 40m dipole quite difficult. The stone monument marking the summit was constantly busy with families, so i set-up about 20 meters away behind some bushes so i could operate in peace.
The Chiltern Summit monument:
Here’s what the operating site looked like:
I used my Elecraft KX3 with a simple inverted V dipole suspended from a 7m fishing pole for this activation. Light weight, but effective at minimal QRP power of 10w using a sealed lead acid battery.
The dipole was made in the morning and trimmed for resonance at the site:
Here’s the equipment set up on the picnic mat:
I made a total of 26 QSO’s on 40m in just over 2.5 hours at the summit, the first half were hard work with a packed 40m band due to a Churches & Chapels on the Air (CHOTA) event, however i made a number of contacts with these Special event stations, but my real chance was when GX0NWM (special event callsign) handed over his frequency and spotted me on the clusters. After this i encountered my first ever pile up with me on the receiving end! The action was non-stop with shack sloth’s trying to work me and it was good to experience 4 or so stations calling me at once, certainly a rare experience while operating QRP using 10w on SSB! I’d also only made less than 10 SSB QSO’s before this session, so it was a bit of a baptism of fire!
Here’s the log from the activation (if you’re here then you’ve been entered onto the SOTA website):
I learnt some valuable lessons from this activation that I’ll remember for my next activation:
- Operating space can be very limited
- Ensure equipment is as fool prof as possible – minimise the things that can go wrong on a real summit
- Summits can be busy, so ensure the safety of others during set-up and operation
- After being spotted on the SOTA site and DX clusters you can expect a pile up
- Pile ups are fun, but you need to be organised and methodical in order to remain in control
- Walking is tiring!
None the less i’m happy to complete another 2014 objective and hopefully the first of many SOTA activations!