Forget clam bakes — it’s a NE SOTA party!
NE stands for New England, SOTA for Summits on the Air, and it all began with Nick Maslin, K1MAZ, a 22-year-old student and SOTA Jerk who apparently has nothing better to do during the summer than organize mass assaults on New England summits.
This particular assault, set for Aug. 10, 2013, would be code-named New England SOTA Day. Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf, heck, maybe even Old Blood and Guts Patton himself, would have been proud!
I first read of the impending assault Aug. 2. A friend and newly minted ham, Charles Piso, N1CAI, earlier had asked about teaming up sometime for a summit “activation,” as operating from a moutaintop is known in SOTA-speak. Charles knows Vermont well. So this seemed to be the time to go for it.
We picked Putney Mountain as our site. It’s modest by any measure — especially SOTA’s. At 513 meters above sea level, it is worth one point for activators like Charles and me or for the ops who “chased” us. By the way, that’s on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the SOTA equivalent to the nosebleed seats at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
The morning of the assault, I left my home in Franklin, MA, for a drive that — after the requisite stops at the bank, Dunkin’ Donuts, plus encounters with slow weekend traffic outbound on the Massachusetts Turnpike — put me in Putney a little after 10 a.m.
Charles, who came south to rendezvous at the Putney Food Co-op, was waiting as I pulled up. Not long after, we were at the trailhead for the short hike to the summit.
One phenomenon I suspect many SOTA operators have experienced when teaming up with an activation companion: Lively conversations make any hike seem shorter than it is.
In this case, the conversation included tales related to the upcoming World Radiosport Team Championship next July in New England. Charles, who has retired from law enforcement, is serving as the liaison between the event organizers and local law enforcement agencies
In addition, we had sights to see along the way. Tiny salmon-colored salamanders were skirting across the trail, to the delight of kids who were on a scavenger hunt. Volunteers with the Putney Mountain Association Nature Reserve run the event.
And who wants to miss the locally famous “Elephant Tree,” a white ash — or maybe two — more than 200 years old?
At the summit, one of the mavens of the association sat regally in camp chair, complete with metal water bottle in the chair’s cup holder and neatly netted gaiters to ward off ticks. She was the scavenger-hunt verifier and award patch hander-outer for youngsters who successfully completed the hunt.
Yes, this is a family friendly summit.
Of dogs and operating spots
Once on the summit, it was time to pick an operating position.
Have you ever watched a dog circle a spot, maybe a favorite sleeping pad, over and over again until you want to scream: “Hey dawg! That pad’s only three feet across. Pick a spot and set a spell!”
Well, that’s how I went about picking my operating location. I must have walked slowly back and forth across the broad, overgrown summit three or four times, pausing to consider, then reject, one spot after another.
I can’t speak for Charles, but one mother whose family was enjoying the summit noted later that she watched my meanderings and wondered what the heck I was up to.
Once the antennas started going up, it all became clear, and a small crowd gathered to ask questions about ham radio. The aforementioned association maven, whose name escapes me (sorry, ma’am), allowed that had she known we’d be there, she would have posted an item about our activation on the association website. Help me remember that for next time, Charles.
This, of course, is half the fun of an activation, especially on a heavily trafficked summit — talking to people and watching their eyes widen when they hear about ham-radio activities. This time, unfortunately, no hot young women looking at a keyer in an Altoids tin and exclaiming: “Is that electronics in an Altoids tin?? My husband would *love* that!”
At the end of the day, another family paused to chat with Charles, who had packed up. I was striking my station when I heard that one of the family members lived in Santa Monica, Calif. That brought me out of my shady spot to chat as well. I lived in Santa Monica from 1956 to 1966, during those formative years, six to 16. It was like old-home week.
My gear included my FT-817ND, a pair of 9.8 Ah lithium-ion battery packs, each about the size of a cigarette pack. I used an end-fed, half-wave antenna cut for 40 meters. It went straight up from my tuner about 20 or 30 feet, over a treetop, and out to a four-foot-high marker post about 40 or 50 feet away. The antenna had a slight slope to it. One radial went off in the other direction to round out the arrangement.
I’m working up another wire antenna, designed by a friend of mine, Carl Achin, WA1ZCQ, for the next outing, which looks to be Chowdercon in September.
In the end, I logged 32 contacts for about three hours of on-and-off CW operation. C’mon, those rock ledges are hard; you have to get up and take a break every once in a while.
Charles ran sideband with his FT-817ND and used a handheld for 2m FM direct. These netted him enough contacts to claim his first activation.
Among my contacts: seven summit-to-summit QSOs — five among the New England operators, one in southwestern Virginia, a 10-pointer, and another in California’s northern Sierra Nevada, an eight-pointer. Sounds a bit like deer or elk hunting, doesn’t it?
Charles and I topped off the day with an early dinner at The Marina, a restaurant in Brattleboro on the West River, where it joins the Connecticut River. All in all a delightful day.
As for the SOTA Jerks who took part, the cast of this show also included:
NE1SJ Yes, that’s New England 1 SOTA Jerks, the club call, used this day by N1FJ, Frandy Johnson
KK1W, Jim Mullen
K1MAZ, Nick “the organizer” Maslon
NT1K, Jeff Ball
WN1E, Dave Cayen
KB1RMA, Chris Snyder
N1EU, Barry Gross
N1AW, Al Woodhull
And, of course, yours truly and Bro Charles, N1CAI.
Here’s a map showing the range of my contacts — from California and Oregon to Portugal and Germany. Zoom out one level for the full view.
Thanks again, Nick! The idea for a New England SOTA Day? In the immortal words of John Cleese: “Brilliant! Brilliant!”
This entry was posted on 2013/08/13 at 20:47 and is filed under General Operating, Portable operations, Summits on the Air with tags amateur radio, Ham radio, ham radio outdoors, portable operating, QRP, SOTA, Summits on the Air. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.