April 24, 2022

Already the eight SOTA activation for me.

Wait! What happened to number 7?

That was done on Saturday night. BX2AI was going to activate BV/TA-013 Da Dong mountain for the Trans-Atlantic S2S party and I decided to join him, just for fun. I had already activated this one (it was my first ever activation), so no points for me, but I promised a local ham that I would do a VHF activation so he could score his first SOTA chaser point. We drove up and enjoyed a view of Taipei at night, then I called CQ on 2 meters and had some fun QSOs.

On Sunday (April 24) I had already planned to activate BV/TA-010 a.k.a. Pillow Mountain, named because of its steep sides and shape that looks like a pillow. This mountain has quite some history to it, because it was the site of fierce battles between the Japanese occupational army and Taiwanese aboriginals some 113 years ago. Hence, the sign says “Ancient Battery Trail.”

A half hour trip by motor took me to the entrance and it became clear very soon that this summit wasn’t a popular one and it wasn’t a going to be an easy hike, either. There wasn’t anything at the entrance, apart from a lonely house, no signs along the track, only some newly built but already overgrown stairs.

These were the nicest views I got. The second photo is the summit I needed to go to.

Then I saw the first rope, which usually means a treacherous section or a very steep one. It was the latter and there were many ropes to follow the initial one, because you needed them badly: inclines were steep, the ground was dirt with small rocks, with very few dents to put your feet in, so slippery. It took me over half an hour of pulling and struggling, and by then I wasn’t even half way through. The second half was a little easier and 20 minutes later I was there, at the top.

I was greeted by a observation platform without any view, some solar panels and a buzzing cabinet attached to one with a mast and antenna sticking into the sky. That installation was for a satellite positioning system and there was a sign nearby explaining it.

This was the view from the observation platform

But all-in-all a rather dreary looking summit and I decided to make it a quick activation. My mood was not improving when I noticed that the weather was turning for the worse and half an hour later I already heard the first thunder in the distance and soon after saw the first raindrops on my KX3.

The trig point.

I called CQ, put a spot on SOTAwatch and worked mostly Japanese stations (Thank you, chasers!), all on 17 meters. I also tried 20 meters, but some noise was found there and all the VK and ZL stations that were active on the SSB portions were not heard. There was also a JA contest going on, so not much chance to get through anyway. I tried 12 meters, but only found one station there (VK9NT) and worked him in a lull.

Then I looked up from the rig and my eyes were drawn to the left of me. There, at a distance of about 3 meters, was a huge snake lying on the stairs, curled up without a care in the world, looking at me with its mouth wide open. Apparently a SOTA snake, interested in joining my activation! It didn’t hiss, but nevertheless I was scared as hell, not being used to snakes. I quickly got up, hid behind the fence of the observation platform and grabbed my glasses and camera. With me gone the snake decided to leave as well and for me it was luckily in the opposite direction. This was the only photo I could snap of it.

With the help of BV3US it was identified as a Taiwan Beauty Snake 3 (黑眉錦蛇), a Taiwanese native snake with the Latin name Elaphe taeniurus friesei, the largest snake that can be found in Taiwan. It can become 280 cm long, but the one I saw was more like 150 cm or so. It’s non-venomous and its tail looks like a train track and that is what sets it aside from the more common King Rat snake.

After the encounter with SOTA snake I got another scare from a huge, sudden thunderclap nearby, so I decided to pack up and head down. Better be safe than sorry. It only took me 27 minutes to cover the 1.14 km distance and 200 meter elevation difference and luckily I had gloves to protect my hands from burns caused by the rope.

So not a very fun activation and Pillow Mountain is not one I will easily visit again. But it gained me 2 SOTA points and another good story to tell my students tomorrow. On to activation number 9.

April 17, 2022

Another couple of firsts today for our activation of BV/NT-025, Lion's Head Mountain, a SOTA 2-pointer in Xindian District, New Taipei City. I wrote "our" because my daughter accompanied me for the first time doing SOTA. At 16 years of age she has more experience with mountain hiking than her old man because of the numerous school outings she has had. But today's goal was to experience doing something together, a time-out from our regular lives, away from all the hustle and bustle.

The weather wasn't great to start with, this Sunday morning and the rain had made the ground soggy, with the many fallen leaves making it slippery as well. Temperature only 17 C and foggy, too. I was hoping that by noon the weather would have improved a bit, but it actually became a somewhat worse and colder, so that was a first as well. BV/NT-025 is actually not the main peak called Lion's Head, but the one in front, so aptly named "In Front of the Lion's Head". If you enter from the south it is really pronounced.

You have to climb a wooden fixed ladder and this is quite steep.

At the top not much there, just the trig point and not much of a view.

I quickly used a rock and a fallen sign post to set up my station and in 20 minutes I had six QSOs in the log. It could have been even quicker, but cell coverage was mediocre and I couldn't get a spot out at first. But when I did the Kiwi with the best ears in all of New Zealand came back to my CQ: Andrei, ZL1TM. There were also JA1VRY, JH1MXV (he has chased me 5 out of 6 activations), YB1TIA (first time being chased from Indonesia), JF7RJM and JH7IOT.

I was getting really cold and we were both covered by fog droplets now, so time to pack up and get warm by hiking. We walked the ridge and got to Lion's Head. By then we wanted to get back to the car (also a first; my previous activations were all done by riding my scooter), but my daughter didn't want to climb down the wooden ladder because it was so slippery. Safety first and I agreed with her, but that meant that we had to find an alternative way down. So we walked down all the way to the Lion's Tail mountain entrance and then took an ancient hiking trail back to the car.

All-in-all we walked three hours without much rest and it was heavy on both of us. We didn't encounter any picnic or resting place, so we skipped our planned lunch of hot porridge. Instead we drove down the mountain into Xindian to find the first McDonald's Drive-thru we could find after which we chomped on hot french fries and corn soup in the car.

Not the most fun activation, or climb, but very interesting indeed and another good learning experience. My new backpack worked really well, although it is not the most comfortable pack to wear I found out. It is narrower than my previous pack, with a stiffer frame. It doesn't hurt or cut into body parts, but you feel it's there. For a day hike it's fine, for a multi-day through hike it's not. But hey, that's why they call it tactical backpacks.

But the experience of hiking with my daughter was priceless. I'm really proud of her, because given the choice she would obviously not have gone out with me. But she did, because I told her it would be good for both of us...........and it was.

Time(Z) Call RST sent RST received Name Freq Band Mode
0441 ZL1TM 539 429 Andrei 21.062 15M CW
0442 JA1VRY 559 559 Tadashi 21.062 15M CW
0444 JH1MXV 579 539 Hideo 21.062 15M CW
0446 YB1TIA 539 319 Tia 21.062 15M CW
0449 JF7RJM 539 559 Naoto 21.062 15M CW
0453 JH7IOT 559 519 Atsushi 21.062 15M CW

April 13, 2022

Until now I have using my son's 42 liter Rhino trekking backpack. I never found it a very handy packpack, with all the dangling straps, difficult access and too few compartments. It resulted in the loss of my HT on my second activation (and that still hurts, I can tell you) so I started searching for a handier solution.

Many hours of googling later it resulted in this....

.....the purchase of a Helikon-Tex Ratel Mk2 cordura fabric, YKK zippered, MOLLE/PALS compatible tactical backpack in Multicam color pattern, designed in Poland, crafted in Vietnam.

As with many things in Taiwan: there is choice, but limited. I could have gone for a cheap Chinese pack (nah, you'll regret it), a Taiwanese branded one (expensive), or order one from abroad and wait an eternity (.....). So when I found a store close by that sells Helikon-Tex and at a good price I decided to go for it. Online reviews of Helikon-Tex are usually positive, with quality almost always scoring high. The only thing that held me back was the volume: only 25 liters.

So I went to the store with all my gear in the Rhino backpack and they gave me a Helikon-Tex Ratel Mk2 to try it out.

I had room left in the Rhino when I was packed up, but amazingly I also had plenty of room left in the Helikon-Tex Ratel. So much so that I decided to buy one on the spot. The two boxes with radio gear fit in snug and so does the orange cooking kit. In the lower front pockets there are spare clothes and rain gear with room to spare, and in the upper one essentials that you need to grab in an instant: mosquito repellent, sunscreen, spare battery, etc. Exactly the way I want it.

But as I said, in Taiwan you have choice, but only limited: I could either choose between a very foul brown looking one or the camouflage version. The latter one was US$10 more expensive, but one sigh later it became mine.

Tactical backpacks usually don't come with side pockets, but since the Helikon-Tex Ratel Mk2 has MOLLE webbing I bought two additional water bottle pouches and a pouch for my HT. One water bottle pouch acts as a pocket to strap the antenna and walking stick to the pack, the other is for an actual bottle. I really wanted to buy a shoulder strap pocket for the HT, but they didn't have one that could clamp around the strap, so I went for a regular MOLLE one. Not ideal, but at least the HT has a fixed place and hopefully won't get lost again.

One hundred and two US dollars lighter I walked out the store, but happy that I found the pack I like. And since the weather is looking good enough this Sunday, I can try it out for the first time and I'm really looking forward to it. Stay tuned.

April 9, 2022

Already my fifth activation and another couple of firsts: first time I climbed 溪洲山(Xi Zhou Mountain), BV/TA-011. First time this summit was activated and also the first time I had the luxury of a table and bench to make my QSOs even more enjoyable.

BV/TA-011 is one of my two "home town" summits, so it only took 20 minutes on my scooter to get to the entrance near the old hiking trail called 大艽芎古道 (Dà Jiāo Qiōng).

Usually people take the longer route, starting in Longtan, passing 新溪洲山(New Xi Zhou Mountain, but I was running late on this Saturday afternoon. Afterwards I was glad that I took the shorter trail, because the 2 kilometers up took me a little more than an hour. But it was a great hike, alternating between walking and climbing, with some parts a little treacherous.

At the top views from both sides, one being Taoyuan City, the other Shimen Reservoir. In Taoyuan and Hsinchu we rely on this reservoir for our water supply and without rain or typhoons we will get into trouble, with water rationing as a result. Last year it didn't rain all spring, so rationing was imminent, then it started to rain in earnest in June and we were saved at the last minute.

View of Taoyuan City.

At the trig point.

Setting up was a breeze and by 0830 UTC I gave my first CQ. Half an hour later 9 QSOs in the log, one of which an S2S and two calls from Europe (with vaguely familiar call signs like F4WBN and OK2PDT; thank you both for the first contacts ;-). All on 21 MHz, but for the last QSO I switched to 14 MHz, because I wanted to give Gene (BX8AAD), an old friend from down south in Taiwan, a couple of chaser points and 21 MHz was just skipping over him.

I also wanted to do some local 2 meter FM contacts, but knowing that going down would also take an hour and with dusk rapidly approaching I packed up and was back at the trail's entrance just in time before it became dark. A pity, because I really liked 溪洲山(Xi Zhou Mountain), both the climb as well as the views on top and the relaxed way in which I could activate it. I'll be back there next year, without a doubt.

But the last surprise I had was when I looked at my APRS beacons and found that I had received one from BV6YA-2, all the way from Tainan. So there were some conditions that afternoon.

Date Time(Z) Call RST sent RST received Name SOTA reference Freq Band Mode
09/04/22 0837 JA1VRY 599 559 Tadashi   21.062 15M CW
09/04/22 0839 JP3PPL/3 559 559 Takeo JA/HG-269 21.062 15M CW
09/04/22 0840 OK2PDT 439 449     21.062 15M CW
09/04/22 0842 JH1MXV 599 579 Hideo   21.062 15M CW
09/04/22 0844 F4WBN 549 599 Chris   21.062 15M CW
09/04/22 0845 JH7IOT 579 419     21.062 15M CW
09/04/22 0847 ZL1TM 569 539 Andrei   21.062 15M CW
09/04/22 0848 JA1VVH 599 519     21.062 15M CW
09/04/22 0856 BX8AAD 599 599 Gene   14.062 20M CW

Mar 20, 2022

The JA SOTA QSO party on Sunday March 20th was my fourth SOTA activation. A week before the event the weather forecast didn't look very promising, with lots of rain coming in. After consulting with BU2EQ I decided to activate BV/HS-017(大山背山), not far from my third activation in Hsinchu. BU2EQ would be camping at the nearby summit BV/HS-013(向天湖山), and BX2AI would be camping a bit further down south at BV-HS-012(梅山頂). So in Taiwan we had a real SOTA triangle, but don't worry: nobody vanished in this one. During the week the forecast started getting better and better and by Friday partly sunny skies and 28° Celsius were predicted!!! The SOTA gods were clearly in our favour.

Learning from my past SOTA activations I scouted the route to my summit on Saturday and found that BV/HS-017 was basically a drive-up with a big pagoda acting as a resting area. Many locals come here to enjoy the view of Hsinchu, have lunch or afternoon tea. There is a possibility to walk up from the other side, but for this time I decided to take it easy and ride up and park my scooter close by.

So on Sunday I got up at 05:30 and after packing some sandwiches I mounted my scooter, which covered the 37 kilometers to the summit in 55 minutes. When I arrived I had a bit of a surprise: an army jeep was parked behind the pagoda. Two green masts with vertical antennas mounted to it and two men in green fatigues keeping watch. Being afraid that I there was a possibility that I had to blow off my activation I inquired if they would mind me doing my thing and if there was a change we could interfere with each other. Luckily they were just a portable air force VHF repeater system set up for the day and they only used the lower part of the VHF band, so no conflicts there.

Setting up after that was quick and easy and by 07:30 I made my first QSO, which was my first S2S one of the day. Many more S2S QSOs followed. 15 meters was the hot band and I stayed there most of the morning. I had some problems with BU2EQ being only 5 kilometers and a few kiloHertz away, but he luckily he didn't operate CW all the time, dividing his attention between CW, SSB and FT8. BX2AI, who was a bit farther away, was coming in very strong but not wreaking any havoc to the front-end of my KX3. I alternated between calling CQ and chasing other SOTA stations, mostly staying on 15 meters. When calling CQ I did experience some pile-ups and didn't really know how to handle them. I might have missed some nice DX calls because of my inexperience, but that's life.

I also brought my new HT - a LanchonLH HG-UV98 with build in GPS, Bluetooth and APRS - and an Arrow 3-element yagi and I had 8 QSOs on 2 meters FM with local OMs. With the Arrow, 5 Watts and being 705 meters ASL it was easy to cover the 55 kilometers to Taipei. I got some nice reactions in our local chat group later on and it is good to see that a SOTA activation can bring people back to VHF, which is largely underused here in Taiwan, except for unlicenced taxis and truckers.

In the end the military guys turned out to be really nice. They were army, but deployed to the air force to handle communications. One knew a lot about amateur radio and we all agreed that the local situation in Taiwan is messy, to say the least. They gave me some army food which was pretty good and I brewed coffee for them. Advantage of riding up most of a mountain is that you can bring your Bialetti Moka Express and a small camping stove. For me SOTA is about being outdoors and enjoying life and this fitted right in. Nothing better than enjoying a fresh brew while enjoying some nice scenery.

But in the beginning of the afternoon I was getting tired and it was getting busy as well, so time to break up and head for home. It was kind of disappointing that I didn't work any VK stations and only two chasers from north America, but with 31 QSOs in total, of which 15 were S2S, I was still very much satisfied.

Another 37 kilometers back on my scooter, but this time it took a little longer due to a short stop at a McDonald's to enjoy a well deserved ice cream. What a wonderful, enjoyable and relaxing day. And all because of the excellent idea to hold a JA SOTA QSO party. I hope we can do it again, soon.

Date Time(Z) Call RST sent RST received Name QTH SOTA reference Freq Band Mode
19/03/22 2332 JG1BOK/1 539 599     JA/NN-142 21.069 15M CW
19/03/22 2339 JA1CTV/1 539 559     JA/KN-022 21.062 15M CW
19/03/22 2354 JG3UVN 559 559 Hiro     18.08 17M CW
20/03/22 0010 JS1IFK/1 539 559 Gen   JA/KN-021 21.065 15M CW
20/03/22 0021 WB6POT 599 449 Peter San Jose   21.062 15M CW
20/03/22 0022 NS7P 559 549 Phillip Elmira, OR   21.062 15M CW
20/03/22 0024 BX2AI 599 599     BV/HS-012 21.062 15M CW
20/03/22 0025 JH1MXV 599 579 Hideo     21.062 15M CW
20/03/22 0027 JA1VRY 539 539 Tadashi     21.062 15M CW
20/03/22 0042 JH0WMN/0 579 579     JA/NN-156 21.062 15M CW
20/03/22 0046 ZL1TM 339 419 Andrei     21.062 15M CW
20/03/22 0106 BU2EQ 59 57 Willis   BV/HS-013 21.192 15M SSB
20/03/22 0119 JO3WLQ/3 559 599     JA/ME-021 21.058 15M CW
20/03/22 0123 JA3NAP/3 579 599     JA/KT-060 21.06 15M CW
20/03/22 0137 JF2LXU/2 419 539     JA/GF-246 21.065 15M CW
20/03/22 0147 JS1JNM/1 329 519   JA/YN-065 JA/YN-065 21.055 15M CW
20/03/22 0207 BV3UJ 59 59       144.62 2M FM
20/03/22 0209 BV2QS 59 59       144.62 2M FM
20/03/22 0216 BX2AHP 59 59       144.62 2M FM
20/03/22 0223 BV3UN 59 59       144.62 2M FM
20/03/22 0225 BV3UV 59 59       144.62 2M FM
20/03/22 0230 BU2BV 59 59 Wang     144.62 2M FM
20/03/22 0311 JG0AWE/0 429 599     JA/NN-246 21.062 15M CW
20/03/22 0318 JA3NAP 599 559     JA/KT-060 21.06 15M CW
20/03/22 0322 JA5QJX/0 559 559 Yasu   JA/NN-191 21.06 15M CW
20/03/22 0327 JH7IOT/7 539 539     JA/AT-135 21.06 15M CW
20/03/22 0406 JR1LLD 429 599       21.062 15M CW
20/03/22 0415 BX8AAD 439 579     BV/TT-076 14.061 20M CW
20/03/22 0503 BV3UL 59 59       144.62 2M FM
20/03/22 0505 BX2AB 59 59       144.62 2M FM
20/03/22 0514 JO2ASQ/6 599 599       18.09 17M CW

Mar 14, 2022

I got myself a new toy to replace my lost toy. Thanks to BX2AB who ordered it for a factory price, directly from Quanzhou.

Mar 12, 2022

The weather bureau promised fine weather last Sunday, but it was also a Sunday I had to work. So why not a Saturday late afternoon activation? Maybe a good chance to work some Europeans when they wake up on Saturday morning. So I chose the only 1-point summit in Hsinchu county, BV/HS-019, a.k.a. Xiahengkeng mountain (下橫坑山).

I set off at 2 p.m. and I rode my old but trusty 125 cc Sanyang scooter to the township of Guanxi, in Hsinchu county. I had calculated a route to a local temple and from there I would traverse one 468 m mountain to go to the one needed for my activation. The name of the temple also happened to be the name of the local scenic area, so Google decided to send me in a totally different direction. Lesson learned: don't trust Google maps and double check your input. But it being the mountains it took me over an hour and a 25 kilometer detour to finally get to another starting point where I could get to Xiahengkeng mountain.

Photo 1: the entry point.

Photo 2: mountaineering clubs usually put ribbons at various points to indicate the correct path.

Photo 3: this was an easy part of the climb, with typical vegetation on either side of the path.

Photo 4: the best view I could get on this climb.

The route from there was actually better than the one I originally planned to go on, because it only took seven minutes to go the 60 meters in elevation and reach the triangular marker. But it was in quite a secluded spot. Really nobody around, far from civilization and I didn't see or speak anybody, not even in the distance. Quite a contrast to my first and second activations. No view at the top, either, only vegetation. But being far away from people and buildings was actually a good thing, because even with the preamp turned on my KX3 was whisper quiet. That was one of the reasons for me to start doing SOTA: I can never ever get this at home. Pure joy!

Photo 5: not much room to move at the top.

Photo 6: the triangulation point; number 88.

First QSO was with OH1MM on 15 meters, so reaching Europe was a success. Then some Japanese chasers and one S2S QSO with JP3PPL/3 who was on JA/HG-052. Another OH station and then VK6NU to round it off. I took a little break to eat and drink something and then packed up.

Photo 7: the GP extended for 15 meter operation.

Of course I made a wrong turn going down and wasted a couple of minutes going in the opposite direction (lesson leaned: don't trust your sense of direction), but by five-thirty I was back where I left my scooter. Another hour and 25 kilometers later I was home in time for dinner.

So a successful third activation. I didn't lose anything this time, except an hour to get to the right spot. I could have spend that hour relaxing on the summit and having some more QSOs, but it wasn't to be. On the other hand, my now finished SOTA antenna performed really well and it only took a minute to set up and take down. The rest of the setup is also working fine, so that part is sorted now. The new thing I tried was logging with VK3ZPF's VK port-a-log app for Android. That worked a charm and saved me a lot of stress and time. I haven't done a lot of CW for a while and I was never good at it. But I find that by not using pen and paper to write down what you hear (that's what I do at home) and only enter the essentials in the VK port-a-log app you concentrate more on the code and that makes decoding easier and much more enjoyable, at least for me.

So now the next thing to improve is navigation. I already found that Open Street Map's maps are much better when it comes to hiking trails. They are more complete and detailed than any other offering. The OSM Android app is really good for checking where you are on the trail, but not so much for taking directions. On my phone the combination of the OSM app and my GPS is really slow, especially then you change directions. The Google Maps app performs much better and also has a much better interface. OSM also always wants me to take the highways, which have restricted access for motorcycles here in Taiwan. (Not that I want to go on the highway with a 125cc scooter, but even larger bikes are forbidden to use the highways. I know, Taiwan is sometimes very weird).

Next weekend is the JA SOTA QSO party weekend and I'll be in Hsinchu again for my first 2 point summit activation. Let's hope the weather stays as warm, friendly and especially dry as the last few days. Looking forward to it.

Date Time(Z) Call RST sent RST received Name SOTA reference Freq Band Mode
12/03/22 0815 OH1MM 599 449     21062 15M CW
12/03/22 0824 JP3PPL/3 559 559   JA/HG-052 21064 15M CW
12/03/22 0826 JA1VRY 599 559     21064 15M CW
12/03/22 0828 JH1MXV 599 599 Hideo   21064 15M CW
12/03/22 0830 JH7IOT 599 529     21064 15M CW
12/03/22 0831 OH1MM 559 559     21064 15M CW
12/03/22 0832 OH1XT 599 559     21064 15M CW
12/03/22 0833 VK6NU 539 539 John   21064 15M CW

Mar 11, 2022

First time that I can hear the IBP beacon KH6RS on 28200 kHz around 0300 UTC. VK6RBP also came in, but nothing else.

Mar 10, 2022

28.262 kHz VK2RSY beacon from the Sydney area coming in at 0344. 28260 kHz VK5WI from Adelaide also coming in around that time.

On the IBP frequency of 28200 JA2IGY came in strong and at times VK6RBP as well.

Mar 8, 2022

Interesting propagation again on 10 meters. JA2IGY and 5Z4B from Kenya were the only two beacons that came in on 28200 kHz, but nothing else heard. No VK, no ZL, no UA.

Mar 7, 2022

Cleaning and organizing the shack and having the TS-2000 on at 10 meters. Signals are booming and already two beacons heard.

VK5WI on 28259.5 (but listed at 28260) kHz from Adelaide

VK8VF on 28268 kHz from Darwin

Both heard at 0520.

Some IPB beacons on 28200 kHz were also coming in just after 0530: KH6RS and 5Z4B respectively.

On 28228 kHz ZL3TEN came in briefly at 0535.

On 28263 kHz VK3RRU at 0538 very weak, but 10 minutes later S4.

Mar 5/6, 2022

Not something I say often, but I was a bit bored this weekend. I finalized the SOTA setup, fixing up a connector box for the antenna and getting a mike to play nice with the KX3. I worked on the SOTA database, but I wanted to do some radio stuff and turned on the TS-2000 for some HF ops. 15 meters is the best here right now, with the least amount of noise. I worked HS0ZJF and OK2LA Saturday afternoon and later that night I even got a new DXCC entry in my log: 8Q7WM from the Maldives.

Sunday morning I wanted to update this website, but got caught up when I found that there was SOTA activity from Japan. I couldn't work them, but worked HL5BLF instead. Then YC0RNC/1 for a new SKCC number and finally another SKCC QSO with JJ1FXF. Worked him on three bands now, so that is awesome.

Feb 28, 2022

Today was a national holiday here in Taiwan and the end of a sunny weekend, the first in over a month. It was time for my second SOTA activation. I haven’t been mountain hiking in Taiwan for over 25 years, and being out of shape I chose an easy one: BV/NT-045, Yuan Shan, a one pointer. At first I wanted to do an FM 2 meter activation only, but since it was a national holiday I suspected that there would not be many people at home to answer my CQ. The Taiwanese really like to go out and about, that’s one of their many traits. So I also packed my not-quite-finished-but-usable DIY HF antenna and my KX3 plus paraphernalia. I aim was for just a quick test to learn the ropes of setting up my portable station.

Yuan Shan turned out to be a lot harder to climb than I thought, the path up being steep and not well paved. It took me over an hour in the end. At the top I first tried 2 meters and indeed not many people around and the ones that were didn’t come in well or at all. So I set up my HF station and had a difficult SSB QSO with BU2EQ on 20 meters. But I knew from asking JG0AWE that 15 meters towards Japan would be open around noon and so I switched to there. First two local QSOs with BU2EP and BU2EQ and then I finally had my first international SOTA QSO with JH1MXV.

Having fun makes you hungry and it was already after 1 p.m. and I hadn’t eaten yet. But unbeknown to me BU2EQ had spotted me on SOTAwatch and he IMed me that New Zealand was calling me. Luckily you can do CW with your mouth full, so I had a sandwich during my QSO with ZL1TM. I was ill prepared, because I didn’t have paper and pen ready, so I had to do all the CW in my head anyway. So my second SOTA QSO was with another continent. Could it get any better?

Oh yes, it did get better. After two QSOs with Japanese chasers JA5QJX/0 and JF1NDT, my first S2S QSO with JS1IFK/1 who was activating JA/KN-020. Quite something to have your first SOTA HF activation and working a DX station plus an S2S station in one go.

I finished my lunch and had two more local 15m ground wave QSOs with BX2AG and BX2AN before packing up an heading home. I was happy with the test, finding a lot of things to improve so that next time I can operate even more relaxed than this first time.

It was only after I got home when the anticlimax came: I couldn’t find my trusty Kenwood TH-F7e HT. Gone! The only HT I had, my first ever transceiver that I got when I passed my novice licence in 2009. My workhorse, always by my side. I must have put it on the ground or placed it in the grass and forgot to pack it up when I left. My own fault, nobody to blame but me, and the heartbreak hurts extra because of that.

I went back the next day, via an alternative shorter path and it took me 45 minutes to get to the top then. The Taiwanese are friendly people and my hope was that they would have just left the HT where it was, or put it in a safer place. Unfortunately that was not the case. I have already been to the local police and no found items have been reported in the last few days, so I now have to live with the realization that I have forever parted with my beloved Kenwood. But you live and learn and after this second SOTA activation I have a whole list of things to improve not related to the radio ops. First thing on my list: get sturdy stickers with my telephone number on it to put on everything I take with me.

To end on a positive note: I climbed the same mountain twice in two days, improved my health with that and met a lot of nice people on the way.

Feb 2, 2022

There we go!

Feb 1, 2022

Three passes of Falconsat-3 and 444 frames received. Especially the pass just before midnight was excellent. Reached 218.245 on the Falconsat-3 leader board. Still 5th place, only 11 frames to go till 4th. Tomorrow then? The bird will probably have quit by then. Low current and voltage already dropping to 8.5 Volts for the last pass.

Jan 16, 2022

Today I activated my first SOTA summit: BV/TA-013, also known as DaDong Mountain (大棟山).

Here I am, still fresh after a 50 minute scooter ride from my house to Shulin.

Only 3 kilometers, but it took a little over an hour (not the hour and 48 minutes on the screenshot).

The second entrance to DaDong Mountain.

My walking partner for the day. Just a guy who I met and we started talking and walking and one hour later we were at the top.

View of Taipei.

An intermediate summit.

Finally there.

A microwave tower at the top.

Some signs explaining the triangular point.

No idea what this is.

Another walker took this very cool picture of me.

But I also did it with my selfie stick.

This was after I made 5 QSOs with my trusty Kenwood TH-F7 handheld. Here is the SOTA log.

V2    BX2ABT    BV/TA-013    16/01/2022    03:50    144MHz    FM    BV3UV        1st ever SOTA Activator QSO for me.
V2    BX2ABT    BV/TA-013    16/01/2022    04:01    144MHz    FM    BU2BV        
V2    BX2ABT    BV/TA-013    16/01/2022    04:02    144MHz    FM    BX2AB        
V2    BX2ABT    BV/TA-013    16/01/2022    04:06    144MHz    FM    BU2FF        
V2    BX2ABT    BV/TA-013    16/01/2022    05:06    144MHz    FM    BV3CE        With 43 km the longest distance of this activation.

Taipei getting a bit dark.Time to go down the mountain.

On my way back down the mountain.

Not many people in the afternoon.

Nice contrast in this picture.

Still 1 kilometer to go.

Which way to go? Left or right?

Another signpost. Only 600 meters to go.

A weather observatory station across the valley.

I parked my scooter under this broadcast tower: 89.7 MHz, Danshui River Broadcasting Station. After another 50 minutes on the scooter I was back home. A day well spent.

Jan 15, 2022

SOTA point scored: BU2EQ was QRV from BV-HS-017 on 144.920 MHz and he came in weak at 32, but he gave me a 59. Time (local) 11.52 or 03:52 UTC.

Jan 2, 2022

Always jealous of folk on Twitter who show off with their photos of nice walks in nature. Took a 45 min motorcycle ride today and found some nature. The airport and the civilized world in the background. Pity it isn't a SOTA summit.

Jan 1, 2022

2022 flies by like there's no tomorrow. Spent all morning sorting and testing my humidity sensors. Got some address conflicts, so need to get software I2C going.

But by the end of the day I got the Arduino code ready for writing data to an SD card, then added two BME280 sensors and the HTU21d. As you can see there is a considerable deviation between the three sensors. Still two to add, then we can have a shoot-out to see which ones behave best.

And I don't know if this counts as a first QSO of 2022, but I uploaded a HNY wish to Falconsat-3 today. Glad to see the bird alive again, although not performing as it used to be. Ah well, neither am I.