Here’re my first sota trip reports. I made some mistakes and have lots to learn still, but they were great days out and I’m dead keen to do more. Most importantly, I’ve got better at radio in general - I’m much more comfortable on a microphone, I understand the flow and format of an HF contact far better. It’s very different from the datamodes I’ve been doing for years!

One thing that I’ve noticed, and it probably deserves mentioning, is that the SOTA web infrastructure is some of the best I’ve seen in ham radio. Modern looking sites, coherent single sign on and services sharing data in a really clever way. I upload CSV format logs generated by my logging program, cqrlog, and the SOTA infrastructure handles them and shares them with services like sotamapping, to show me maps of my contacts. SOTA spots appear on APRS, and I can spot myself to sotwatch using APRS messages. I’m super impressed!

July 12 - GM/ES-072 Cairn William

448m ASL, ~11mi, Accompanied by [tj].

Me, sat at the base of a mast operating a radio on a beautiful day

Cairn William was a warm day, a little more windy than we expected at the top of the hill. A brisk walk up, a rest here or there to cool down and catch our breath (I’ve been rather static during lockdown) brought us to a broad, flat, heather covered summit.

Some antenna faff later, and the mast pictured above was erected and I was ready to radio! I sent a ‘self spot’ using the sotawatch website, and I was ready to go.

The battery worked nicely, and I made a pile of contacts. In fact, I had my first pileup! It was difficult to manage. I opted to log on my iPhone using RumLogNG, however failed pretty quickly and had to scribble everything down in notes!

I made a total of 17 QSOs ranging from Aberdeen to Italy, Czechia to Spain! The bands were alive, and things were good fun. The list & map are available at sotamaps

I also had a little fun doing datamodes - I did some JS8 call, and I managed to get received on 30m APRS - FINALLY!

By the time we got back to the car, I had some big blisters from badly damaged shoes - they somewhat fell apart on the walk, but it was a great day out.

Inbetween times

The next weekend we had a BBQ at 57N. I expanded the battery to 7AH, and used it. By the end of the day I’d killed a BMS. Somehow.

In debugging, I shorted the battery, replaced the BMS, got nowhere and eventually redesigned the battery from the ground up.

August 1 - GM/ES-077 Millstone Hill

409m ASL, ~5 mi, Accompanied by /[tj/].

Me, sat behind a cairn, at the base of a mast operating a radio

Millstone hill was a short, sharp ascent - a really difficult 20 minutes uphill, then it eased off for the next 10-15mins, and all of a sudden we were at the top.

Some setup faff later, and the mast was up! There was a little wind, and while it had been raining in the morning, it was dry initially.

Radio didn’t go so well this time - I managed to scrape through 4 contacts. 1 on 20m, 3 on 40m, it was tough going! A contest on both bands made it quite difficult - there was lots of QRM on my wee 10W signal. Towards the end, the rain came in, and I began to worry about the gear getting wet. Once I’d managed my 4th contact to qualify, I rapidly packed everything up and we started off down the hill.

The list & map are available at sotamaps

Takeaway for future times:

  • Better wet weather planning (Maybe use my tarp as a shelter or similar).
  • Be sure to know what’s happening on the bands
  • VHF as a backup to get more than 4 contacts!

August 2 - GM/ES-062 Lord Arthur’s Hill

518m ASL, ~10mi, Solo

A quarry

Lord Arthur’s Hill proved to be a nicer ascent, and better day weather than the previous day!

Today saw some new ‘innovations’ - headphones, better antenna setup and working logging! I also loaded a .gpx file from Walkhighlands to my iPhone to use as navigation. Great idea. All of these helped to make things less stressful and smoother - headphones especially.

Things went well, 10 contacts in half an hour on 20m before I resumed the walk - see sotamaps. I was inclined to change to 40m, but it was 5pm or so, and I still had a good 7 miles or so to hike before the drive home!

This was a peaceful walk, some time with my head to enjoy the world around me - I saw plenty sheep, many birds and even a few deer. The views were great - Bennachie distant to the east, Tap O Noth (pictured) a little north and Morven to the south. All hills I’m yet to climb & activate, but keen to!

Tap O Noth in the distance

I found the little quarry, and shed towards the end of the walk pictured above, and it had the below in it!

A note from a child, with treats for walkers

Maybe I need to start taking treats to leave in huts I find on the walk!