First FM activation and some very nice views.

  • Summit height: 2502m
  • Transportation: driving + cable car
  • Rig: TH-D72E, 5W, internal battery
  • Antenna: Diamond RH770 telescopic, handheld
  • QSOs: 6 on 2m band, all FM

Wanting to spend a couple nights with the family to celebrate my wife’s birthday, I wondered how to best combine the occasion with a SOTA activation. Using HB9SOTA’s “Bähnli-Gipfel” list for inspiration, I picked the Säntis hotel for the very nice location and easy cable car access to the nearby 10 point summit. Wanting to keep weight down and setup time to a minimum, I only brought a Kenwood HT radio and thus planned to make this my first FM activation.

Weather was forecasted to be bad and to get worse the following day, so we headed up the cable car soon after arriving at the hotel. A cloud layer made it impossible to see the summit from the valley but thankfully the cable car lifted us above it all, presenting us with a wonderful view from the top.

I spotted myself and started calling CQ on the 2m band as soon as we got there, hoping to finish before any rain started. Chasers showed up right away, although the first few QSOs were a mess on my side: having only used the radio for APRS before, I kept turning the VFO knob while attempting to increase the audio volume! A few frustrating minutes later I figured out what I was doing wrong and things got better.

One of the chasers (HB9DHA) had asked whether I was planning to also try 70cm afterwards so I did once nobody was around on 2m anymore. The calling frequency at 433.5 MHz was busy with what sounded like a digital voice transmission, so I had a look at the band plan and tuned around. I found a free spot at 434.8 MHz and… time for the second embarassing screwup! For some reason band “A” on the radio did not allow me to transmit on that frequency (still not sure why), so I kept calling CQ without actually doing anything. It took me a few minutes to realize what was going on, switch to band “B”, and try again – with no results. Oh well, at least things worked on 2m (these were my first ever FM and VHF QSOs!).

Once all the radio stuff was done, I rejoined my wife and baby and we enjoyed the breathtaking view some more before heading back down to the hotel. It was overall a very nice activation, with one lesson learned: get to know and practice using the equipment before arriving at the summit.