My First SOTA Activation — W2/GA-212!!!

What a day yesterday was. My son, his girlfriend, and I, hiked up Azure Mountain and I had the goal of activating this summit while we were up there. The hike was pretty short at 1.1 miles but it was a pretty steep climb. There was quite a bit of mud, as you can imagine after all that snow, which slowed us down a little.
Once we got to the top, I dropped off my rock (wait for the video), took in the marvelous views, and then started setting up my rig. I was able to find a dead standing tree, which I strapped my Packtenna pole to, connected the wire of the Packtenna Mini (9:1) and raised it up and then connected to my antenna tuner and radio. This took me 7 minutes. I noticed that there was some wind, so I spent an extra 3 minutes to tie off a couple guy lines to make the sure the antenna didn’t blow over.

I was on the air in 10 min flat after I sat down and made myself comfortable. The first thing I did was use my HT to sent an alert to SOTAWatch via APRS. I started out on 40m but could not make any contacts, so after about 15 min. I moved to 20 m (14.285), sent another SOTAWatch alert, started calling CQ, then voila my very first SOTA contact K4MF. I was actually a little tongue tied but I got through it. I made contact with W0MNA then KI4SVM and then silence. For about 3 minutes nobody answered back my CQ’s. I thought just one more, please. Then the call sign came NG6R from Los Angeles came back. I received him at 59  but he could only receive me at 33 (not bad for 5 watts and a wire), but regardless the contact was made and I met the 4 minimum contacts for my first summit activation!!

I am totally hooked on this now. I can’t wait to do it again!!

First Bench Test of the Yaesu FT-817ND with Digital

I finally decided on a radio for my SOTA and ADK Fire Tower Challenge activations that will be starting soon.  Based off of many reviews, some consideration to budget, and a lot of consideration on simplicity and usability, I decided on the Yaesu FT-817ND.

Coming from a having owned all Kenwood’s, I am taking a very deliberate approach to learning how to operate my new 817.  With a little practice, I should be proficient on the rig and ready for the field within a few weeks.

However, I had one concern about the 817, that is, until I completed my first bench test today.  The Yaesu FT-817Nd has a maximum transmit power of 5 watts and if you are using the internal rechargeable battery pack, it defaults to 2.5 watts of output. So today, I decided to do a bench test to see how well it would perform with a TX power of 2.5 watts. My first test was to see how far I could log a report on PSK Automatic Propagation Reporter using JT65. So I hooked my radio up my Buckmaster OCF 7 band through a Z817 Antenna Tuner. Using my SignaLink, my linux laptop running WSJT-x and FLRIG I started the bench test of my radio.

I started on 20 meters with JT65 by calling CQ a few times and by answering a few CQ’s from various places around the US.  After about 15 minutes, I was not able to make a contact but I was quite happy to see the reports on PSK Reporter.  I got reports across the US and Canada into Western Europe and into the lower part of the South America!!  I conducted this test with only 2.5 Watts of power and with band conditions that were definitely sub optimal.  I also conducted the same test on 40 meters and got very similar results.  Unfortunately, I was not able to make a contact on that band either.

Overall I consider this a successful first test of my new radio.  As long as the weather is acceptable this weekend, I plan to take it out in the field, perhaps up to Thompson Park and do some additional tests on this radio along with my buddipole.