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SOTA

First SOTA 10 pointer: Poteau Mountain W5A/PT-001

After building up my new antenna, the QRPGuys Portable Multi Band End Fed Half Wave Antenna, I was hankering for an excuse to go try it out. After some plans fell through, I decided that today was the day for this antenna’s maiden voyage.

Poteau Mountain is only an hour from my house and required no bushwhacking, which is a nice bonus during our tick-and-snake season here in Arkansas.

The final 9.5 miles of the approach from Hartford were all gravel, about half of which was in suitable condition for any car. The last four would have been a bit rough on something with low clearance. My old Ford Ranger did just fine.

The summit was easy to spot from a long way off since it is populated with towers of all kinds, from cell companies, public safety, electric company, oil and gas companies. Although the SOTA summit database refers to a 70cm repeater, RepeaterBook doesn’t list anything existing amateur radio related on this peak anymore. Perhaps it is offline.

As I pulled up to the turn off for the summit access, I could hear a truck coming down the mountain. Of course, it was a man performing maintenance on an antenna used by an oil and gas company. We got to talking and as it turns out, he’s a radio guy as well. He wasn’t a ham but knew quite a few repeater owners in the area. I would have liked to talk more with him but he was on the clock and had to keep moving.

Keeping with the spirit of the program, I hiked the final half mile to the summit using the road. This road, too, is fairly good as long as you have something with higher clearance.

Once on top of the mountain, I found a suitable clearing to the southeast side of all the antennas and got set up. It was one in the afternoon by the time I got on everything setup.

My SWR readings were a bit high at 1.4:1, higher than they were during my testing but decided that they were low enough to get on the air. I managed to make five contacts on 20m in ten minutes. Unfortunately, I had two busted contacts (one of which was S2S) during that time due to poor conditions.

After that, the pool dried up a bit so I moved to 30m. I could tell someone was trying to come back to me there but I just couldn’t make them out. I tried 30m for about 10 minutes total before listening to 40m. Didn’t hear anything down there so I packed it up.

There’s a few things that I wish I would have done differently this activation.

First off, I think that I had such a low chaser count because my antenna was rather deaf. It wasn’t very high off the ground. Upon returning to the house, I discovered that I only had one hit on 20m on the RBN and two on 30m. Usually, I have way more than that. Perhaps it was just poor conditions, but the SWR readings on my antenna make me think otherwise.

Second, I should have returned to 20m and tried to drum up a bit more business. I think I could have made a few more chasers happy. There’s always next time. At least I can take a bit of consolation in the fact that this particular summit is among the most popular in the state with some 45, now 46, activations.

A big thank you to you stations who worked me this afternoon. Your QSL cards are sitting in the mailbox waiting for the post truck tomorrow morning!

Stations Worked:

  • KY9KYO
  • W7HO
  • KB7HH
  • W0MNA
  • W0ERI

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