Leo’s first SOTA activation included impressive SSB QRP DX and a CW pile-up!

Many thanks to Leo (DL2COM) who writes:

Hey Thomas,

[…]I just wanted to give you a quick update on my 1st SOTA activation (May 18th). We spent a few days in the south of France with the extended family. From the garden of the house we rented we were constantly looking towards a beautiful mountain front and it turned out to be SOTA summit FR/CR-205 (726m, 2382ft). So I decided to try and activate it since we had enough people around who offered to watch out for our kids.

Next morning: 6am my dear XYL and I started our ascent.

What a wonderful scenery with morning mist covering most of the mountain landscape and the sun in perfect shape for an early hike.

At around 7:45am we arrived at the summit and I started throwing up my arborist weight into pretty much the only suitable tree available.

From the valley I had looked out for trees near the summit with binoculars but wasn’t 100% sure what to expect up there. Since I didn’t bring a mast to France, this was my only option. After the first attempt the weight got stuck at the top of the tree.

The pine trees in this area have a ton of very strong and erratically grown branches. At this point I thought I might not even be able to start the activation (and lose the weight). Luckily after about 10mins I got the line where I wanted it to be and could pull up my 8,75m random wire to 1:9 unun and about 5,5m counter poise in an L-shape configuration.

To play it safe I started with SSB on 20m which went very well.

Then out of the noise VK5PAS came booming in 59. Wow! My first ever VK contact and I even got a 53 report (10 Watts out of the KX-2).

Click here to watch video of contact.

Boosted with confidence I thought “ok, I will give CW a try” and my goal was to get at least 4 QSOs to be able to tell myself this could have been a CW-only activation.

A few weeks ago I joined the German SOTA-BW group with a bunch of very nice and experienced folks who regularly keep themselves up to date on activations in messenger groups. With them I could get two CW QSOs under my belt and then got spotted.


Seconds later: Hello my first pile up!

Just “sit tight and listen” I told myself. If I can decode only the first one or two characters I can actually get this done. Chasers were very kind and patient so with their help I was able to pull out 16 stations one by one and by dishing out question marks like they were candy. So the bottom line is: Even with very limited CW skills a SOTA activation is possible and it motivates me to carry even smaller CW-only rigs such as the TR-35 or the QCX-Mini.

In between I was lucky to hunt a quick S2S QSO with SSB. Overall I got 29 QSOs and went home a very happy man.

Click to enlarge

By 10:45am we were back for a second breakfast with the family. This was a very special day for me and I am hoping to activate many more summits in the future. Thanks to all the chasers and ham radio/cw mentors!

vy 73 de Leo DL2COM

Wow, Leo! What an amazing benchmark for all of your future SOTA activations. You somehow managed impressive SSB QRP DX and even fit in your first CW activation and pile-up. All in a spectacular setting with your XYL while on vacation.

Does it get any better than this? I’m not sure. 🙂

Very well done. Good on you for braving up and hitting CW. You’re 100% correct: managing a pile-up is all about handing out those question marks without restraint. That, and trying not to listen too hard–just relax and let your brain pick out a couple of letters. 

I’m so impressed and hope that you continue to share your field reports. Thank you!

12 thoughts on “Leo’s first SOTA activation included impressive SSB QRP DX and a CW pile-up!”

  1. Leo-

    That’s one very impressive first SOTA outing- congratulations!

    You never know what you’ll find at a summit. I did a 1-pointer that had a granite bench and a small library-box at the top. The bench had to have weighed 300 lbs/150 kg! – K1SWL

    1. @Dave: on this occasion, tnx our POTA qso. We recently met on 20 m cw when you operated from K-4976 🙂 Propagation helped a bit. Hunting SOTA stations also is a lot of fun: Yesterday I found LU1MAW/p on LUM/PC-018, my first SOTA qso on 10 m SSB with South America. Really amazing and many thanks to activators for all the dx fun.

      Regards Harald, DL1AX

  2. Outstanding SOTA activation, Leo. As we used to say in the Navy: Bravo Zulu! That’s Navy slang for ‘great job!’ And I hear you on the CW: I can copy 20wpm when listening to W1AW code practice, but let a fast CW operator return my call and stage fright kicks in and my speed drops down to what seems like 5WPM, hi hi! Thanks for the great report and *beautiful* photographs. 73.

  3. Wow. Great job and yes ‘Bravo Zulu’. I am also shaky when too many ate calling me, cw, though it is great when a plan comes together.

    Fr Richard

  4. Leo,

    Congratulations on your first SOTA, and first pileup! I have not done any SOTA pileups (after 40 plus years of Ham Radio activity [I’m a young old timer – age 58], I’m only now considering trying to activate the few SOTA registered high points we have in WIsconsin), but I have done pileups, when I operated the portable special event station my hometown radio club sets up on occasion from the WW2 sub that is moored in the same river where the old shipyards used to launch it subs into during WW2 (the Manitowoc River). You did things right – pick a few characters here and there (“N7?”, “LZB?”, “???”, etc.), and bit by bit take care of the pileup.

    73 & Have Fun 🙂
    Ellen – AF9J
    Having a blast giving her new Lab 599 Discovery TX-500 a Trial By Fire in the CQ CW WPX

  5. “Bravo Zulu” indeed – even if it comes from the wrong service 😉 (service banter). Being at the centre of your first pile-up is a fabulous memory, but great DX on top too! Amazing photos – well done.

    Richard M0RGM

  6. Inspiration to us all. Thanks for posting

    73 de M0AZE

    Also in the south of France without radio ?

  7. What an impressive day, Leo! And many thanks to reporter Thomas. Keep this special sunshine for your future SOTA adventures!
    73, Markus HB9DIZ (@SOTA-BW)

  8. CONGRATS, Leo, on your first VK DX-QSO from a summit! There’s nothing like being called by a station from the other side of the globe. And you did very well mastering that CW pile-up, too!
    I really hope you’ll enjoy many further adventures with SOTA. It’s so much fun playing radio in the outdoors.
    73, Roman | DL3TU (@SOTA-BW)

  9. Leo, awesome experience and a great write-up. That’s the kind of stories aspiring CW SOTA ops need to hear! CW makes SOTA a richer experience. And I dig the arborist’s throw weight, it’s a game changer.

    TU and 72

  10. From June 11th at 08:00 UTC to June 12th at 18:00 UTC, come in large numbers to participate in the first national QRP week-end.

    The spirit of this new activity is the opportunity for the QRP community to have a weekend dedicated for this kind of trafic on all HF bands from 160 to 10m, all modes (CW, Voice, MGM) using mobile or fixed station from the moment you take pleasure. So, there will be no first, no last and no prizes to be won.

    In order to make the QRP activity, and this weekend in particular, known to as many people as possible, we would like to receive from the participants a small report reflecting their activity. Just a few lines to tell us about your best contact or exchange, a funny, incongruous, picturesque, atypical situation, etc. A brief description of the station (transmitter, receiver, antenna, power, …) will be appreciated.

    The nice meetings and our efforts to be active with a maximum number of QRP stations should help making this weekend a lively one.

    To send your reports : [email protected]

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