Harpo Jaeger dot com

Meine ersten zwei SOTA-Aktivierungen

SOTA logo I activated W7A/AW-013 Spruce Mountain on July 22 and DM/BW-008 Schauinsland on August 22, during my current trip to Germany. Here’s a brief description of each activation.

W7A/AW-013 Spruce Mountain

We spent a weekend in Prescott camping in the Prescott National Forest. It was Chloé’s birthday, and our friend was calling the Prescott contra dance, so four of us drove up and spent the weekend hiking, dancing and exploring a dead railroad bridge in Prescott.

We found time for an afternoon hike before the contra dance on Saturday. We chose a nice-looking trail not too far from our campsite. Lo and behold, it led up Spruce Mountain, which my map helpfully informed me was W7A/AW-013! I had brought my new (to me) FT-817, LNR end-fed antenna and Shakespeare mast (a future post will examine my SOTA gear in more detail), but by the time we got to the top, we didn’t have long before the dance started. I opted to try an activation with my HT, and I was successful! After getting to go into the fire lookout’s tower on the summit, I got started. I put out a “CQ SOTA” call on 146.54 and got my four contacts in less than 20 minutes! In the picture below, I’m logging contacts from my operating position on the steps up the fire lookout. You can see the Shakespeare pole strapped to my bag, awaiting its moment to shine.

The next day, we drove up to Sedona and hiked in Red Rock State Park. At a small peak on one of the trails (not a SOTA summit), I set up my HF rig, but didn’t have time to finish tuning the antenna before a monsoon rolled in. Standing on a mountain top with a twenty-foot fiberglass pole wired to you is not a great look in an electrical storm, so I broke down the gear and we booked it out of the park, getting caught in heavy rain along the way. My dry bag performed beautifully during this trek – I was soaked to the skin by the time I made it out, but my gear was bone-dry.

A nice abandoned railway bridge in front of the sunset. Me shrugging in confusion in front of a useless, blank sign. Activating Spruce Mountain on the stairs up to the fire lookout.
Setting up the end-fed antenna in Red Rock. Setting up the Shakespeare mast in Red Rock.

DM/BW-008 Schauinsland

After three weeks in Berlin at JASS, I took off for Southwestern Germany. I stayed in Freiburg for two nights. On my first full day there, I hiked DM/BW-105 Schönberg, but I couldn’t make any contacts from the top. Nevertheless, a beautiful walk up and a beautiful view!

On the second day I hiked Schauinsland, and, over the course of a little more than an hour and a half, activated it! I again used my trusty HT. I even worked FDC1SK in France, and DC1SK summit-to-summit (S2S) from DM/RP-444! On this activation, patience was the name of the game. I got my first contact right after reaching the summit, called CQ unsuccessfully for a while and then sat down to eat some lunch. While eating I found a spot with some cell service and managed to spot myself, leading to one more contact. After eating, I climbed the observation tower and made one contact in about thirty minutes from the top. I was almost resigned to leaving the summit one contact short of a full activation, but I managed to make one more after I came back down from the tower!

Schauinsland is a busy summit, with many tourists, through-hikers and mountain bikers. I explained ham radio and SOTA to a number of interested people. I suspect that once I start carrying my HF gear, I’ll need to bring along one of the SOTA leaflets [PDF] to hand out, as I’ll be attracting a lot more attention.


The road through Wittnau up to Schönberg. The paved road ends as it winds around this pasture. View of the dirt road around the pasture, looking down from the beginning of the trail to Schönberg through the forest. Signposts on the trail to Schönberg.


View of Hofgrund from the road up to Schauinsland, after getting off the bus. Selfie on Schauinsland with the observation tower visible in the background. My lunch operating position on Schauinsland.


First of all, SOTA rocks! I get to be outside, go on gorgeous hikes and play with radios – all at the same time. It’s also a good way to continue honing my portable operating skills, which I put to use in public service events in and around Tucson. Once my HF setup is, well, set up, I expect to have even more fun and work some DX.

This was also my first time hiking outside the US. German trails seem to have much more signage on them than American ones, and there is also just more trail infrastructure overall. A trail that, in the US, might be a simple dirt footpath may well be paved in Germany. I had paper maps with me, but almost never needed them because of how well-signed the trails were.

Both of the summits I hiked were also accessible by car, and in the case of Schauinsland, by gondola. This means that a far broader range of people can access them. I saw other day hikers like me who’d been out for only a few hours, backpackers, families with small kids, elderly people, mountain bikers and more. It was nice to see the mountains being enjoyed by so many people – these are public resources, and they should be publicly accessible.

SOTA is a wonderful way for people who like radios to enjoy the outdoors, and for people who like the outdoors to learn about radio. It’s also very easy to get started – even with my portable HF rig not ready for actual field use, I completed two of three attempted activations with patience, persistence, and less power than it takes to run a CFL lightbulb. That’s pretty cool.

See you on the trail/air!