SKCC 5123T----- FISTS 14979----- Flying Pigs 2331----- NAQCC 3610-----QRP ARCI 14176-----Polar Bear 257

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Taste of SOTA: Dowdell Knob Activation by N4KGL

My first Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation was Saturday, October 11th. The summit was Dowdell Knob WG4/CE-004 near Pine Mountain in Central Georgia. I was nearby on family visit with relatives in Columbus Georgia and had a day pass. This summit is a one point activation. It is easy access using a road takes you to the peak. At the top there is a scenic overlook and a picnic area.

I had a debate with myself during the planning stage on what power to use; QRP verses 100 watts. I chose the Elecraft KX3 at QRP power. I had fifty-nine contacts all together. With SOTA, QRP power seems to be enough as there are ample SOTA chasers who want to work you. They show up as soon you are spotted on the SOTA Watch web site. Of course, light weight QRP gear would be helpful for the more challenging activations that require a hike.

Greg N4KGL

As for the antenna it made sense to use the trees available.  I hoisted the center of a 40/20 fan dipole on a line I threw over a limb. I stretched the ends out to other trees with long cords. I used the KX3 tuner to match the 40/20 fan dipole on 15 meters.

the center of 40/20 fan dipole

My first contact was sweet. I had given Tom WD0HBR in Dothan, Alabama a heads up to meet me on 40 CW. We were both 599 at QRP power.  I think propagation was just right between the summit and Tom's QTH.  Tom runs a MFJ 9040 and a simple wire in his backyard.

40 CW continued to be good with a string of fifteen contacts. Then, I switched to SSB and picked up five more. 20 CW yielded twenty on CW and only two on SSB.  I was getting some weak reports for a time and a fellow tapped my shoulder and said a wire fell down. Hey that makes sense. He even put it back up for me. The end of the 20 meter dipole had fallen straight down.

The tree I used in the picnic area.

I had been emailing with Carlton K2CMH recently who lives in Columbus and I invited him up. He and his wife came and we had a nice chat about gear for portable ops. He has a KX3 and we had a 40 meter QSO before he left Columbus. I was also was monitoring 146.52 FM simplex. I caught a K4SCS mobile on and was very pleased to have a 2 meter contact.

I am always looking out for ops from the RaDAR group. I worked Fred VE3FAL on 20 CW and later on 15 CW. On 15 meters he was running his PRC 104 man-pack.  I also worked Pat NQ0N on 20 CW and did not realize he was as RaDAR buddy until later. I got some DX; M0BKV in England, CU3EJ in the Azores on 20 meters , GA8VL in Scotland on 17 meters, and Bert F6HKA on 15 meters. Bert is a awesome SKCC DX operator.

I used the Bravo 7K on 17 meters

A pleasant surprise was three operators from the Atlanta area that came in the afternoon. They were K2UFT Dick, KB4KFT Bill and KF4UPO Mike . Dick was the first activator of Dowdell Knob. Mike had a pelican case of Elecraft gear  including the KXPA100 amplifier and the PX3 panadapter. Now that is two items I don't have. Dick made some contacts on 30 CW while I went on to 17 meters. On 17 meters I used the N6BT Bravo 7K.

K2UFT Dick, KB4KFT Bill and KF4UPO Mike
So fifty-nine contacts makes for a lot of fun and the visitors were a great bonus. The weather was perfect.  I now have taste of SOTA. The SOTA operators and the web sites are very helpful. I may find my way to some other Georgia or Alabama summits in the future. There is lots of cross-over between doing RaDAR and doing SOTA. Both focus on light weight gear and adapting antennas to outdoor sites.  With RaDAR you can use any interesting site rather than specific summits.