QRP Portable from Dundee

By , July 6, 2013 6:44 pm
Martin & Kenny using the KX3 to make QRP contacts

Playing QRP with Kenny

I spent the day with my brother Kenny who is licensed as MM0CXB at his new house in Dundee Scotland (IO86KL).  We set up my KX3 and alexloop in the back yard.  The band conditions were really rough, there were only one or two signals above S5 on 20m and very little audible on the higher bands.

Our first contact was with a special event station.  We contacted ED7IQQ at The Dovecote of the Brena in the Brena Natural Park on 20m SSB at 0930Z.  Next up was Kurt, DL1GKT reporting that the weather was 22°C and sunny near Stuttgart, Germany.  Not unlike Dundee!!

At 1116Z We made a 20m CW contact with SOTA station OK/OM3CUG/P who was calling CQ from Maly Javornik, a peak in the highest part of the Javorniky mountains with elevation of 1019m ASL.  We then completed another 20m contact with Fred, HB9DAX in Switzerland.

At 1230Z we had a contact with HB9BIN/P and when I looked on sotawatch later I realized that Jeurg may have been on a SOTA summit.  Possible Spicher, Switzerland at 1520m ASL. Shortly thereafter we had a longer QSO with Jan SQ1PSA on the Baltic coast in Szczecin, Poland.

We tried 40m CW and attempted to contact Barry G0BJX/P in Walton in Essex around 1400Z.  It was extremely difficult and the best we could manage was an RST 518 report.  In lousy band conditions, the low gain of the loop is a struggle on 40m (it is much less efficient on 40m then on higher bands).

The last contact of the afternoon was at 1423Z was 20m CW with SOTA station OE/PC5A/P.  Aurelio was activating Gorfoin peak (the first time this mountain has been activated for SOTA).  Gorfoin is a mountain on the border of Austria and Liechtenstein in the Rätikon range of the Eastern Alps, with a height of 2,308 metres (7,572 ft).

A foggy SOTA activation of Watch Croft in Cornwall

By , July 3, 2013 7:14 pm
On the bridle path up to Watch Croft

On the Bridle Path

We drove to Watch Croft from Hayle following the excellent driving directions provided in M0TYM‘s activation report.   The weather in Hayle was warm and sunny, but we could see a fog bank in the distance.  I was with my wife, my brother-in-law and my sister.

As we approached Watch Croft (West Penwith’s highest hill), it became obvious that the summit was within the fog bank which had rolled in overnight from the coast.   The few meters of land we saw on either side of the B3306 on the drive from St. Ives was picturesque :-?.  This is probably a beautiful drive on any other day. 

A foggy scene with two hikers in the distance

Foggy on the walk up

The approach to Watch Croft was along a bridleway which meanders through heather and bracken amidst old tin mine shafts.   The undergrowth had been recently but back and the smell of cut grass and the noises from birds and insects made for a lovely walk.

As we approached the summit, the wind picked up a little bit and we started to get a little wetter as the fog was clumping into a light rain.

At the 830′ summit there is a stone (burial?) cairn into which someone has built an enclosure and there is a standing stone.

A few feet from those features there are some rocks onto which has been grafted a ‘National Trust’ plaque.   These rocks provided a partial shelter from the wind and rain so this became my operating position.

Summit Cairn & Trig Point

Summit Cairn

I set up the  alexloop walkham antenna on it’s tripod, connected my Elecraft KX3 and buddipole A123 battery, and I tuned up on 40m.   40m.  The band was in much better shape than during my previous activation activation of GM/SS-281 last week.  I heard stations from all over Europe on 40m SSB.   Last week in the wake of a solar storm I was struggling to hear stations in the UK.

I recorded a CQ SOTA message and set the radio to sending CQ.    After 10 minutes of no replies I thought I had better spot myself so I turned on 3G data service on my phone and posted a spot on sotawatch.

09:44 M/VA3SIE/P (Martin) on G/DC-007 (Watch Croft, 253m, 1pt) 7.124 ssb: On summit calling CQ [VA3SIE]

That did the trick!   Within a few minutes I got my first call.  At 09:47Z, MW0IML came booming in with a 5×9 signal from Snowdonia.  After that was EA2CKX at 09:49Z from Northern Spain with a 5×9 signal was hearing me 4×4.

Crouching down and operating KX3 radio on top of some boulders

Operating my KX3 on Watch Croft

A bunch of SSB contacts with stations elsewhere in the UK followed that.   Also at 09:49Z was Steve G6LUZ in South Cheshire with a 5×9 signal reported me as a 5×7.  Mike G6TUH reported me as 5×4 from East Sussex.  

Carolyn G6WRW was 5×9 from Worcestershire and reported my signal as 5×7 at 09:50Z.   Next up was Don G0RQL/P portable in a caravan at 09:53Z.   I had worked Don earlier in the week from Cairn Pat and before that from VE2/ES-009 Mont Sutton.  It was nice to work Don from England as well as from Scotland.  Don was a 5×8 signal and reported me as a 5×6.

 Brian G8ADD in Birmingham and I exchanged 5×9 reports at 09:55Z then Bill G4WSB gave me a 4×9 report (he was 5×9).  At 09:58Z, Victor GI4ONL in Bushmills, Northern Ireland was hearing me at 5×2 and again was coming in 5×9 into Watch Croft.  

My final 40m SSB contact also at 09:58Z was with Glenn GM6HFF/P in Scotland.  Glenn was 5×8 and gave me a 5×4 report.

Janice, Martin & Fariba at the Radio

Operating at Watch Croft

We were starting to get wet so I decided to switch over to 20m CW.   After a short break, I picked a free frequency and re-tuned the loop then I re-recorded a CQ call and set the radio back into a CQ loop.

At 10:06Z I got a call from Heinz HB9BCB/P on the 1,300′ summit of  Schwendelberg in Bern, Switzerland.    Heinz gave me an RST 559 signal report.  He was also RST 559.  Yay!  Summit-to-Summit contact!  Heinz spotted me some minutes later:

10:17 M/VA3SIE/P (Martin) on G/DC-007 (Watch Croft, 253m, 1pt) 14.06130 cw [HB9BCB]


VA3SIE operating from Watch Croft

CQ SOTA from Watch Croft

DL3XZ (?) (Ula?) gave me RST 559 then Carlos CT1BQH in Portugal heard me RST 549.   He was RST 599 into Watch Croft.  At 10:19Z, Friedrich DL1FU reported me at RST 579 into Biedenkopf, Germany and a minute later EA5YI gave me an RST 599 into Valencia, Spain.

I had to quit because we had a reservation at the Minak Theater to get to (this is a great destination for a SOTA enthusiast it’s a theater which has been built into the side of a cliff.

My penultimate contact of the day was the highlight of my SOTA contacts from the UK and was a great way to finish the activation.  I thought I heard a Canadian station and I called ‘VE2?  VE2?’…   turns out it was Jean VE2JCW.  Jean and I have done a couple of SOTA activations together in Quebec for example our activation of Mont Tremblant, here.  Jean posted about our contact here.  

At 10:23Z Jean gave me an RST 229 signal report from Ste. Jerome in Quebec, Canada.  His own signal was fairly strong but had some fading.

 The final contact of the day was with OZ4RT in Denmark at 10:25Z.  My report was RST 570.

I took the station apart, packed everything up into the backpack and hiked back down the trail.   We then headed for Sennen Cove and a Cornish Cream Tea was in order! 


Wet Antenna

Wet Antenna


Post SOTA Cream Tea

Post SOTA Cream Tea

CQ SOTA from Cairn Pat GM/SS-281

By , June 19, 2013 8:16 pm
Cairn Pat Climb

Climbing up to the summit at Cairn Pat

On June 17th I set up my alexloop indoors to test out my SOTA station and make sure I had remembered to pack everything.  From indoors in Girvan I was able to complete a QSO with VE2DH in Montreal, Quebec (my report RST 339) at 2100Z and also with Ber, OH9NB in Rovaniemi, Lapland who gave me RST 569.   The radio was working!

This afternoon (June 19), Fariba, my mum and myself headed out for summits on the air activation at Cairn Pat which is summit reference GM/SS-218.  It’s only a one point summit at only 182m in height.   It was very easy to access, we drove down through Cairnryan and Stranraer until we came upon a paved access road which led about half the way up the hill.

At the summit

At the summit, Martin & Fariba with the Alexloop

The weather was spectacular.  The weather report said 16°C but it felt much warmer in the hot sun, felt like mid twenties.   I got a bit of sunburn… yay!

The climb up was easy…  just the job for a relaxing holiday!

There was nowhere to park that would not have impeded either the water board (there’s a water facility there) or the farmer’s tractors so my mum decided to drop us off and meet up with us later after the activation.  Fariba and I crossed the gate and walked up the rough track towards the broadcast tower at the top of the hill.

I was able to fit the entire station into a Briggs & Riley Exchange 26 duffle bag which meets the international carry-on regulations for air travel and which converts into a backpack. 

My station consisted of:

I unpacked the station components, set up a tripod and attached the Alexloop then I tuned up on 40m.

Sitting at the radio

Sitting at the radio, making contacts with my headset and KX3 radio

I heard a pair of stations just finishing up a QSO.  Bob MI0RGN was a booming S9+20dB signal from Northern Ireland and he was chatting with Charlie MM0GNS/P who was around an S9.  I called in with 10W SSB using the alexloop and both Bob and Charlie were hearing me so the equipment was working.  Conditions were not the best, there was deep fading present on all signals, the remnants of a recent solar flare but I was able to rotate the loop to peak up signals.

It turned out that Charlie was at a caravan park just up the coast and in fact I could see the caravan from my location!  The view was great from the summit, down to Stranraer and looking out over Loch Ryan.  It was a surprise to have bumped into someone so close to me!

I parked the radio on 7.112MHz at 1320Z and recorded an SSB CQ call, “CQ SOTA, CQ for Summits On The Air from GM/VA3SIE Portable” and I set the radio to repeat this recorded message automatically with 20 seconds of delay between transmissions.  I like this feature which I picked up in the latest firmware update very much I was able to eat a cheese sandwich my mum made me while calling CQ.

Waving to Fariba

Waving to Fariba

The first station to return my call was GW3XHG at 1334Z, he gave me a 4×5 signal report.    I had bought a 25MByte international data roaming plan for the trip so I switched on data on my phone briefly and sent out a spot.  Shortly thereafter I got a call from an MW3Z?T but that station faded out quickly before I could peak up the loop and I wasn’t able to complete the QSO.

After another few minutes of munching on my sandwich, I got a call from Don G0RQL at 1358Z in Devon.  The last time that Don called me, I was on VE2/ES-009 Mont Sutton which is an 947m 8 point summit in Quebec so it was nice to work him from Scotland this time 8-).  It was tough copy due to the fading.  Don was able to give me a 4×4 report.  Don dropped in a little later to tell me my signal had improved somewhat.

Next up and still on 40m SSB was Phil, G4OBK. in North Yorkshire followed by Dave, G0DRM in Crewe wrapping up my 40m operating.  David was able to give me a 4×6 report. 

Trig Point

I set up the station close to the trig point

I switched over to 20m around 1400Z and tuned the loop up on 14.062MHz CW and to my surprise I heard a CQ call from a SOTA summit.  It was Jeff G4ELZ/P and he was portable on Christ Cross (G/DC-005), a 261m summit in the Devon & Cornwall region of England.  I was very pleased to have made a summit-to-summit contact on my first SOTA outing in Europe!!  Jeff was able to give me an RST 569 report from his summit.  I have previously made contact with Jeff from VE2/ES-009 Mont Sutton in Quebec also as well as other summits.

What a coincidence!

The remainder of the activation was a run of European stations and one contact into Nova Scotia.   OK1MLP gave me a RST 569 from the Czech Republic.  EA1DFP was an ear-splitting RST 599 from Coruna, Spain.  DJ5AV in Heiligenberg, Germany was also very loud.  and gave me an RST 569.  At 1429Z, YO2LIW in Timisoara, Romania gave me an RST 559 report.  Hans DL6UHA gave me an RST 539 report.  My report from S58AL in Slovenia was RST 567.  At 1433Z, Friedrich DL1FU in Biedenkopf, Germany made contact and provided an RST 569 report.  EA5YI in Valencia, Spain had RST 569.

My next contact was Phil VE1WT in Nova Scotia.  We exchanged RST 559 both ways.  I was very pleased to be able to have a contact with Canada on this outing.

Contacts with OM7OM in Slovakia (RST 559 both ways) and Sake, PA0SKP (who was RST 599) in the Netherlands rounded out the operation at 1440Z.  I was RST 559 into the Netherlands.

Thanks for all the contacts and for making this a very memorable SOTA expedition for me!

Summits on the Air from Mont Sutton, QC

By , October 15, 2012 11:18 pm


Fariba and I drove to the Eastern Townships in Quebec for the Thanksgiving long weekend.  We intended to hike to the summit of Mont Sutton and set up a portable radio station for ‘Summits on the Air‘.  We had intended to hike on Saturday but the weather was atrocious;   Heavy rain and high winds.  So we spent Saturday at the BALNEA spa instead 😎

On Sunday the weather was much improved so we got ourselves to the base of the mountain nice and early.  Mont Sutton was running a ‘Fall Colors Festival’ encouraging folks to ride the chair lift up the mountain to view the colors.  Worried that we would be faced with a very busy summit, we were relieved to discover that the chair lift which was operating only went about of the way to the top.

We hopped on the chairlift (since we still had a considerable hike left to us) and started our climb.  It wasn’t very busy though there were some others coming up the trail with us at the beginning.  By the time we were into the forested area surrounding the peak, we had lost everyone and we were on our own… yay! We got a little snow and hail during the hike…  I’m glad that we had our paclite shells in our backpacks.



I was beaconing APRS on the hike up and there is a digipeater nearby so I had a nice consistent track on aprs.fi.  My track is here.    When I got to the top of the mountain we started setting up the equipment.  A large group arrived to take lunch as we were setting up (sigh) but I had already planted my packs and seat in the critical places so we had our operating position.   I got the inverted-L W3EDP antenna up and tossed the weighted end high into some nearby trees.

I updated my APRS status, tuned up the radio, found a clear frequency and started sending CQ.  I also used APRS2SOTA to send a SOTAWatch spot.  I was surprised to get an acknowledgement APRS message from the system :mrgreen:    I settled down in my chair with the KX3 on a clipboard on my knee and started making CW QSOs.  Fariba did a great job of ‘Public Relations’, describing what I was doing with the Jackite pole, launching the weights into the trees, tuning up the radio, etc.   She even explained what the morse code was, the pileup, etc.   Left me free to get on with the radio operating – that can often be the toughest part when I am on my own.   People don’t realize that your fingers are talking and so they chat to you while you are sending or receiving morse code and I just ‘aint good enough to be able to do that and talk at the same time.



The hail got stronger so I packed up the radio back into my backpack and waited it out.  After 10 minutes or thereabouts I got back on the air on 40m and we able to make some closer in contacts, some with other VE2 activators which was great!!   I was feeling a bit guilty about subjecting the 15 or so folks who were watching to a barrage of CW so I switched over to single sideband.  I was amazed at how easily I was able to complete SSB contacts into Europe with only 10W of output 😎

The summit slowly got more and more crowded and I realized that taking down the antenna was going to be tricky with a lot of people around.  So I pulled the plug.  At the last minute I asked Fariba if she had her blackberry with her.  She did and I checked SOTAWatch only to discover that there was another summit on the air at the same time.  So I plugged the antenna back in, re-tossed the counterpoise wires over the side of the mountain, tuned over and heard Kevin “Forehead of Steel” Kleinfelter / K4KPK stating that he was going QRT because of rain on Stratton Bald (a mountain in North Carolina at 5360′).

I immediately yelled ‘Summit to Summit, Summit to Summit’ into the microphone.   Kevin stayed on the air for a few moments more to complete the QSO. 

When I got home I realized that this was Kevins first contact with a station in Canada and also Kevin’s first summit-to-summit QSO.   So I was glad that I checked SOTAWatch at the last minute.

Not surprising since on this same outing, Kevin also had his first QSO with his KX3.  And his first QSO.  Ever.  Kevin is a newly minted general class amateur radio license holder.  What a great way to start the hobby – a summit expedition to a 5360′ summit with his son.  Congratulations to both Kevin and his son.

Here is Kevin’s story:


Finally here is my video of this activation (or click the ‘High Definition’ button to view in HD):


Or watch full screen in High Definition:

High Definition


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