Thursday, March 1, 2018

Keep The Faith, Having Fun With No Sunspots

I was motivated to write this today after looking at the solar flux number which sat at 67.  I don't know if I've ever seen the flux this low. I think I've seen 68 a lot, but not 67. Truly, things must be really bad.

As it would happen today, with the flux at 67,  I did my 258th SOTA activation on a summit near Santa Fe, NM that has no name, but goes by it's elevation, 8409. There are beautiful views in every direction, from the summit of 8409, and I enjoyed them immensely. With me, on my trek up the mountain, was my KX2, a 21ft. collapsible pole to support a 29 ft. piece of wire through an 81 to 1 transformer. I feed the antenna about a foot above the ground and run the wire up the pole in an inverted L configuration. The pole was propped up among the branches of a pine tree and I tied off the antenna to a close-by pine branch. I had the power set to 5 watts and tuned the wire with the KX2. I  operated CW using the Elecraft plug-in paddle and I logged with a golf pencil on a, Rite in the Rain, index card. The temperature was a crisp 39 degrees, but the sun was shining and not wisp of a breeze. It was a good day to be on the mountain top.

I was on the air from 1642z - 1722z. I operated on 40, 30m, 20m and 17m and completed 40 QSO's in the 40 minutes that I was on the air from 8409. Also, with the flux at 67, I managed to work two EU stations, ON and EA. I heard a 9A calling me but we couldn't complete the contact. So, 40 QSO's, coast to coast in the US and 2 DX QSO's from EU was my catch for the day. Not bad for a short QRP/portable outing. Keep in mind that's with the flux at 67. I'm glad I didn't look at the numbers before I left or I might have been a bit discouraged and perhaps wouldn't have gone out at all. I would have missed the beautiful views, the warming sunshine and a QSO a minute QRP operation. I wouldn't have worked EU with 5 watts and a wire. I would have had to put off my 258th SOTA activation for another day.

The moral of this story is simple, don't look at the numbers. In fact I would recommend that you ignore them. There is plenty of fun to be had keying up your radio even when conditions, or at least the numbers, are this bad.

Keep the Faith. Go call CQ. I was glad I did.


  1. Very inspirational Mike.
    I looked at the numbers this morning and thought I'd stay in but now I'm going to get out and see if I can put a few qsos into my logbook.
    I'm not familiar with the 81:1. Googled it but came up a bit short. Can you tell me a bit about it?
    I've had good success with the 9:1 earchi but always looking for the next best thing.
    73 Paul VA3ZC

  2. The 9 to 1 is virtually the same thing. I went out yesterday, 2 March 2018 to Cerro Grande, a peak over 10,000ft above sea level, near Los Alamos, NM and made 25 QSO's. One of my SOTA buddies, K1JD, worked ZL1BYZ with 5 watts from there. I didn't look at the numbers before I left:-)

  3. Well said, Mike. Some of our colleagues disparage short QSOs. I regard them, especially the unexpected ones, as a celebration of the remarkable natural properties of the ionosphere.

    Unlike my high school buddy K1JD I have not done a SOTA climb, but some of my most memorable QSOs were with European SOTA ops who didn't expect to be heard in North America.

    73, Dave K1ZZ

  4. Nice comments, Mike, and well written. Agree totally.