Yesterday was the first nice weekend day of the year, so I decided to get outside and try my first SOTA activation. Since I primarily do digital modes at home, I took my laptop along and tried a mostly digital activation, focusing on PSK and the JT modes.

The Kit


Stuff

Here’s what all that stuff is, starting in the top left corner and going clockwise.

Not pictured is a bunch of line I use to get my antenna in a tree. I attach the line to an arborists throw bag and have developed a sort of underhand throw. I’m able to get the line up about 40 feet regularly.

Everything fits nicely into my work backpack.

backpack

The Summit


I decided to do the closest SOTA peak to my house, W3/PO-029. The actual site is located just off the Appalachian Trail, about 2 miles from the nearest trailhead. Lucky for me, the trailhead is at about the same height as the SOTA peak, so the hike was mostly flat.

The hike

The trail was typical of the Pennsylvania section of the Appalachian Trail - very rocky! I had to pay careful attention to where I was stepping so I didn’t turn an ankle.

the trail

The Activation


Once I was at the site, I found a suitable tree and got my antenna up. The doublet is a challenge to set up in thick woods since the wires like to get snagged on every branch. I’m not sure I could have gotten it set up later in the year when there would be more undergrowth.

It’s hard to make out, but you can see the feedline of the antenna in this picture.

Portable Antenna

The center was at about 26 feet in the air and the ends sloped down to about 20 feet.

I found a nice looking rock and set up the rest of my station.

Portable Setup

First up was JT9 on the crowded 20m band. I called CQ and made several contacts, some even transcontinental. It’s amazing what you can do with 3W on the JT modes. Stations contacted included OR7S, DJ0QO, and M0SGO.

Curiously, I never showed up on psk reporter at any time when working JT. I think it may have been because I was calling CQ NV3Y SOTA rather than the normal CQ NV3Y FN20 and that may have broke the auto-spotting function in WSJT-X.

I also tried PSK on 20m, but with less success. I managed to get a few contacts, but was told I was being drowned out by other more powerful stations. I tried to QSY but was never able to make another contact. Very frustrating.

I next tried calling CQ on 20m SSB, but ran into the same problem of being run over by other stations. I did get a few contacts, the highlight being CT1EUW in Portugal. It seemed like I could only run for a few minutes before another station set up shop near my frequency forcing me to QSY.

I finished the day on 40m SSB tuning the dial around and contacting strong stations. I worked a few contacts doing the Ontario and Michigan QSO parties.

All in all, it was a successful day, with a total of 16 contacts made.

Time Call Band Mode
18:24z OR7S 14MHz Data
18:31z DJ0QO 14MHz Data
18:40z M0SGO 14MHz Data
18:46z W0PEC 14MHz Data
18:56z AA0OG 14MHz Data
19:16z N8LJJ 14MHz Data
19:18z W0GLB 14MHz Data
19:19z W4SPO 14MHz Data
19:47z K3JAE 7MHz Data
19:53z VA3DIF 7MHz Data
20:20z KX0R 14MHz SSB
20:27z NS7P 14MHz SSB
20:29z CT1EUW 14MHz SSB
20:44z VA3TIC 7MHz SSB
20:50z VA3PDG 7MHz SSB
20:55z W8LEW 7MHz SSB