VHF SOTA Failure on Dundry Down 7

I drove to Dundry on the 25th of June after work and stayed at the Collisters B&B which is 6 minutes drive away from Dundry Down (G/SC-010). The plan was to activate the summit in the evening, stay at the B&B overnight and drive 25 mins to Beacon Batch (G/SC-003) after breakfast the next day.

After checking in at the B&B I drove straight up to the summit for an evening activation. I parked on a residential road (ST 5563 6686) just past the radio masts and walked back to find an activation point that was public. The first thing that struck me was how much of this summit is within the activation zone and the fact that there are houses within this zone, it’s not quite the remote hilltop you imagine when you think of Summits On The Air.

Horse & Transmitter Site near Parking Spot

Horse & Transmitter Site near Parking Spot

I setup in a field along a public footpath overlooking Bristol city. I had wanted to activate the trigpoint for WAB  but this is on private farmland. This is the only summit I’ve been to where you can see any real area of civilization and it made a change with the twinkling lights of Bristol underneath me.

It was already 20:40 in the evening so I decided to try and activate this summit on 2m FM, as the equipment is quicker to setup than my HF gear.

2m Setup & Sunset

2m Setup & Sunset

I used my Elk Log Periodic 2m antenna and a Baofeng handy and assumed that beaming into Bristol and neighbouring Wales would net me a few QSO’s. I started by calling on the FM calling frequency but despite calling for some time nobody came back to me, not the best start! I then decided to find a clear frequency and spot myself so some of the regular SOTA  chasers could get me in the log, but after another 15 minutes I hadn’t heard anything… so this is what the 2m band is like outside of contests 🙂

In desperation and conscious it was getting both late and rapidly dark, I setup the 40m dipole and Elecraft KX3 to save the activation.

Elecraft KX3 tuned to 40m

Elecraft KX3 tuned to 40m


Getting a Bit Late to be on a Summit!

Getting a Bit Late to be on a Summit!

HF had been dodgy all week due to solar storms and tonight was no exception. I spotted myself, but either the usual chasers were eating their dinner, sleeping or simply couldn’t hear me! After some calling I was thankful for ON6ZQ answering my call.

I didn’t get any G’s in the log and the nearest contact was with MM6TNM on the Scottish Island of South Uist. After my hard won 6th contact with SP9AMH I decided to cut my losses and pack up for the night. I left the summit at 22:08 with just some twighlight left:

Dusk on the Summit

Dusk on the Summit

In conclusion the VHF activation failed and thankfully I had 40m to save the day. This was my first ever attempt at a VHF only SOTA activation and reminded me that it can be tough sometimes if this is all you have.

I drove 6 minutes back to my B&B to rest up before the following days activations of the nearby Beacon Batch and the High Willhays down in Devon. I slept well that night!

Time Band Station
20:28 7MHz ON6ZQ
20:30 7MHz DL3JPN
20:32 7MHz F5PLR
20:44 7MHz MM6TNM
20:46 7MHz DJ5AV
20:49 7MHz SP9AMH

7 thoughts on “VHF SOTA Failure on Dundry Down

  1. Reply Phil G4OBK Jul 3,2015 07:52

    Hi James

    Its happened to me… I find VHF FM with 5 watts and a vertical dipole will easily qualify you from North Wales, South Wales and most the NP, SP, LD and WB summits during the daytime. It won’t work in the evenings though once the Hams have had their dinners and then turned to the telly. You did right to have HF with you to qualify. The horses were there when I visited about a year ago. I have a relative living north of Bristol now and we go and stay there two or three times a year. It’s a good launch pad for South Wales, where I still need uniques and we are going there again in August.

    73 Phil G4OBK

    • Reply James Stevens Jul 3,2015 08:19

      Hi Phil,

      Good advice, thanks for the tip! I’ll have to try a vertical dipole, now you mention it has one large benefit over a Yagi in that it’s omni-directional, so great for SOTA!

      I read about the horse in your activation report and was surprised to see the exact same one as soon as I arrived 😉

      James M0JCQ

  2. Reply Alun Jul 5,2015 10:32

    Hi James

    When you say Baofeng, do you mean the UV5R? If so I wouldn’t be surprised if people were calling for you and you couldn’t hear them. In my experience with several of these radios the receiver simply cannot cope with any antenna other than the supplied rubber duck and simply collapses. I’ve done a lot of experimentation with this and although they sometimes work, usually its a no go. Fortunately someone has actually done some tests which you can see here which vindicated my assertions.

    I had real trouble with an activation in south Wales with the Baofeng. I could only hear one person when using the external antenna and they kept cutting out. They told me there were loads of people calling me and they couldn’t believe I couldn’t hear them.

    Check out the report I previously mentioned here:


    If you had the 2m module in your kx3 at that point, you should have tried that out 🙂

    • Reply James Stevens Jul 6,2015 12:58

      Thanks for the information Alun. It was the Baofeng UV-5RTP which is based on the UV5R just has up to 8w of output. I have a Yaesu handy as well so will give this a go next time as well my KX3+2m transverter!

      I’m not surprised the receive isn’t great on the Baofeng, the price is unbelievable but there had to be some drawbacks 😉

  3. Pingback: Sporadic E on Beacon Batch Summit ← M0JCQ's Ham Blog

  4. Reply Ben Spencer Apr 2,2017 19:48

    I have a Baofeng UV82 – I haven’t done any lab tests and would not expect much receive performance for a dual band handie that only cost £20 new.

    I have worked through 70cm repeaters 25 miles away from the top of Cheddar Gorge with a long rubber duck.

    But if I wanted to work DX (100 miles of so) I’d be using an FT857 and a ten ele Yagi.

    • Reply James Stevens Apr 28,2017 10:09

      The Baofengs are not bad, certainly a bargain for the price. I tend not to use mine on SOTA activations anymore due to pager breakthrough problems, my Yaesu FT270 has much better filtering to reject this interference and it’s also (nearly) indestructible!

      That said, the Baofengs are getting better all the time and are already quite a lot better than the early models I have.

Leave a Reply