SOTA summit: Rubers Law, GM/SS-210
Activation Date: August 21, 2018
Portable operation: Yes
Radio: Yaesu 857D operating at 20 watts HF SSB and 30 watts 2m SSB
Antenna: AlexLoop 10-40m magnetic loop and 4 element 2m Yagi
Bands used: 2m, 20m and 40m
Hike: ~2.4 miles and ~800ft ascent. (<–click left for GaiaPro track etc)
Solo operation: Yes
Cell Coverage: Excellent
Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2018
The attraction of SOTA for me, beyond the vistas and exercise, includes the possibility to use a variety of radio gear and operating frequencies/modes. Over the years I’ve varied my radios from a small commercial handheld through to a bulky kit I built from a pile of components, I’ve tried different antennas from bits of wire hanging from a fishing rod to 3 feet of coax acting as a magnetic loop and even thought lugging a laptop to try the ultra fashionable FT8 mode from a mountain top a good idea (it wasn’t really). Goals vary and for some variety of radio gear etc is secondary to the act of activating but for me variety is attractive and can be a refreshing tonic.
For whatever reasons, geographic compactness, different ham community interests or the success of the RSGB at promoting 2m usage through monthly contests, VHF/UHF SSB has a fair amount of traction in the UK.
Today’s tonic is 2m SSB.
2m (VHF) and up tends to travel shortish distances, is best when line of sight exists between the sender and receiver and is stumped my large intervening mountains. This might explain the lack of general traction for 2m (VHF) usage in the Western US. We have active pockets such as 2m FM in the LA Basin and an active weak signal VHF/UHF (SSB and CW) in the Pacific NorthWest and simplistically I think its safe to declare that for most SOTA in the US is HF and not VHF.
Winding back the clock two years Guy (N7UN) and I were roaming the Pacific NorthWest for SOTA and the then ever popular National Parks centennial event and he brought along his Arrow Antenna 4 element Yagi for use on 2m VHF.
Not that Guy and I nabbed many 2m SSB contacts but my interest had been piqued and I acquired an Arrow antenna soon after getting home. I had some inkling that the LA basin, near my home, might offer some 2m SSB action.
A year latter during a series of joint activations with Mike (KX6A) in the Los Padres Forest north of LA, I hauled my Yagi and 857D onto Frazier Mtn to christen my station with what I hoped would be a flurry of 2m SSB contacts. Not a sausage, not a single 2m SSB contact despite 40 watts and my directional Yagi.
LA was a bust!
Its the present and I’m in the UK, land of 2m opportunity!
My first attempt three days early on Hownam Law at nabbing 2m SSB contacts was tough, very tough. Somewhat self inflicted but coupling a jet stream wind with my remarkably sub optimal mast/antenna combo, I struggled to keep the Yagi pointing in a fixed direction for more than a second or two. So in hindsight my contact with Barry (GM4TOE) was a miracle, especially as large Scottish mountains sit between us and along our line of sight conspiring to block and disperse our signal.
It’s been about a 90 minute jaunt across the Scottish countryside and through familiar towns such as Coldstream, Kelso, Hawick and to a road that narrows to a single car lane and then a parking spot in a break in the trees. At first it’s not clear if the 10 ft high wire fence is new enough that unlike previous activators I’m left on the outside staring at my peak. Fortunately the trail skirting the fence bends right and I soon realize I have a path, atleast for the moment up and toward Rubers Law.
I pick my way across fields, stare at skittish deer who bolt off and then cautiously nudge back towards me curious at to who I am. A valiant and determined growth catches my eye and is consigned to my iPhone. The non-existent meteorologist in me tries to interpret the clouds to fathom if rain is coming my way and I think what a contrast this is from the ultra hot California August I have recently left behind, definitely a case of the grass is greener on the other side. Approaching the peak I’m picking my through various bits of bracken, gorse and other plant like things that aim to trip. A gate and a break in a stonewall suggest I enter and then I arrive at my peak.
Yeasu 857D deployed and I’m off to the races. HF in the bag I focus on 2m SSB. It’s quite a run as Gerald (G4OIG) chases followed by Barry (GM4TOE). Things are looking good and my tripod is doing its job and turning the Yagi from one direction to another leaves it motionless and able to capture a descent signal for a finally tally of 10 contacts up and down the UK. In the grand scheme of things not a remarkable tally but for this kid that has been lusting after 2m SSB contacts this is deliverance.
I haven’t operated in the UK long enough to be super familiar with call signs but I do know Don’s (G0RQL) and I also know he is in the Southwest which while my UK geography is rusty I know is a fair distance from the Scottish Borders.
Back home and measuring distances, I realize the contact with Don covered a distance of 322 miles. Not bad for 30 watts on 2m SSB —- a personal best!!