Fall has arrived in the mid Atlantic area with mild temperatures to go along with it. The following weekend I did a Parks on the Air (POTA) demo in Rock Creek Park in Washington DC and decided to follow up with a Summits on the Air (SOTA) demo in Maryland. While I have completed several summits from Maine to North Carolina, I decided it was time to offer up my skills as a SOTA activator and help spread the word about this fun outdoor on the air activity.
I picked Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland for the summit we would activate. After doing my research on the site, I advertised via Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc and put the call out to all my friends in the radio community.
The day of the event I arrived at the base of the summit parking lot which was already packed. Dreier, KC3DWK and Nick, KC3DVY showed up and parked in the upper overfill lots and hiked down. David, W2LNX was the third participant and he was planning on parking near the summit for a shorter hike.
After a brief ten minute overview of SOTA and some tips on operating, we headed to the summit. About 45 minutes later we arrived and proceeded to stake out spots at the summit away from the large crowds of people at the top.
David set up near the trail junction using a KX2 and Buddipole, while Nick and Dreier partnered up to set up a Packtenna dipole (20m) and KX3. I decided to operate 2m simplex using my HT and arrow antenna.
David, W2LNX with his KX2 and Buddipole setup
*Women in green is all, “What the heck is this thing?”
Nick, KC3DVY and Dreier, KC3DWK setting up the KX3
I set up on a nice rock outcropping but had some really bad RFI that made it impossible to use.
Not sure if I had an antenna issue or just some local strong commercial interference. Decided to pack that all up and get my KX3 and DIY 6m dipole out. After spotting, I had no takers so I put up my Packtenna mini end fed antenna and with the help of my friends from NPOTA/POTA, made 5 contacts on CW. 20 meters sounded dead so I switched to 40 meters and had some decent luck getting contacts.
Big thanks goes out to my following NPOTA/POTA/SOTA friends who without them, I wouldn’t have activated the summit
(in no particular order):
Emily of “Cookie Lady” Fame, KB3VVW
Dreier and Nick logged four contacts with a KX3, activating their first summit. This was also Dreier’s first HF contact! Good job guys!
It wouldn’t be a portable radio operation without some issues. When setting up my antenna I managed to get my throw line snagged into a tree. The tree was dead with a spilt at the top so of course I managed to get it jammed in there. Pulling on it made it worse, so I lashed up my hiking poles together and used that to help push the line free.
I also noticed that my earbuds when plugged into my HT speaker mic would cut out. Need to investigate that further. I also need to verify that I don’t have an issue with my Arrow 2m antenna. I experienced a similar issue before while activating a summit in Maine but it seemed to resolve itself until today’s activation.
Also, operating on the ground full of dead leaves is a super easy way to loose small pieces of gear. I should have thrown down my Tyvek ground cloth to keep the pieces all in one place. It also makes it easier to flake one’s throw line on to keep it from snagging on leaves and branches.
Overall, it was an excellent trip. The weather was perfect at 60’s with great company. The Elecraft and Packtennas were well represented and I consider the overall experience a success.
I hope I helped increased the awareness about SOTA and portable operating in the outdoors. No one is going to learn about this niche hobby unless we share it with others.