Going Euro-SOTA: from W3 to DM

°° summit abundance ° pile-ups ° call signs ° antenna comparison °°

Not quite a month into a six-month stay in Konstanz, Germany, I ventured out for my first SOTA-activating this past weekend in the Baden-Württemberg Region of the Deutsche Mittelgebirge Association. I rented a car and stayed in Villingen-Schwenningen, on the eastern side of the Black Forest, somewhat north of Konstanz and closer to a line of sud00eb3361fmmits running east and south of Villingen, from DM/BW-846 (48.3236N, 08.9675E) to DM/BW-235 (47.7869N, 08.5569E). I ended up activating six – the particulars on those in a later post.

Some random reflections:

  • What a SOTA abundance – so many summits, so densely situated, so accessible; so many points, with so much seasonal bonus. Wow!
    • Thoughts: the density of points and the ease of their access is astonishing. A local explained that it has to do with how the points were distributed early on in SOTA’s history and then never fully adjusted to parity with the other regions as the calculus developed.
    • This partially explains some big-data differences among associations.
      • In W3-land (my home association), it’d be nearly impossible to get up to 25 points more than twice a year because of how the points are spread out geographically; here, the limit is on much time I can take off from work.
      • At home I’m also at the top of the CW activator results list; in DM-land, I’d be 49th.
  • So many chasers too. It was pile-ups the whole time. I had actually been nervous enough about activating for the first time “in parts unknown” that I sent out a pre-alert to some of my more loyal chasers … how unnecessary.hohloh
    • Advantages
      • It beats the experience in W3 and  W4V of worrying sometimes that I won’t get the QSOs needed for the points.
    • Challenges – There’s a learning curve to managing a pile-up.
      • It’s hard to pull out call-signs from the pile. That’s a function of talent and experience (which I’m still working on).
      • Also of equipment. The HB-1B is a workhorse, but as for filtering through to the weaker signals … the IF-adjustment and ATT can only do so much.
    • Thoughts: We US operators are usually those piling-up, and rarely those piled-upon. As a result of this weekend I have a new-found appreciation for those who can’t call out cq without finding themselves within seconds at the bottom of the scrum.
  • DL/N3II/P . I spent a lot of time whittling down my call sign to its cw-lightest and was pleased to get N3II (weight: 36) in a recent FCC vanity call-sign lottery.
    • Thoughts:
      • DL/N3II/P (weight: 104) … oh well.
      • No later than March I’ll have to have a DL call sign. From what I can make of the system, I can propose some call signs as part of the application. I wonder how light I can get!
      • I noticed as I was working the pile-ups and with so many German callers that  my ear would hear “D” and assume that the next letter would be “E” to be followed by the real call sign. Even the fraction of a second it took me to remember “D” was actually usually the beginning of the call sign itself messed up my copy again and again. Funny how the brain works.csm_groses-landeswappen-farbe_700x360_74bce757cb
  • Easy access summits allowed me to carry in, use, and compare two antennas – a homebrew EF-W3EDP and the Alexloop SMLoop.
    • My signal reports were consistently better with the W3EDP.
    • The SML’s nulls seemed to make the pile-ups easier to manage.
    • Also, if there had been crowds on the summits, the Alexloop would have had an obvious advantage.
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