Thank all of you - I wouldn’t be an amateur radio operator if not for SOTA.
I have never done HF that wasn’t also SOTA.
I started without knowing anyone or anything about amateur radio, the idea just popped in my head and I decided to learn it. (That’s not unusual for me.) I searched YouTube and found a SOTA video that described SOTA and the equipment you needed. (I’m a long time backpacker, so hiking amateur radio seemed the thing for me.)
I studied, bought equipment (Yaesu FT857) and turned it on [simplified description for brevity]. I started with VHF and listened to a man talk about raising potatoes for several hours and thought “I’ve made a mistake”. (Too much noise and antenna restrictions at home for an HF antenna.)
I pressed on with SOTA, and went out to Welsh Mountain (the only SOTA summit within 70km radius). I got all set up and sat in the middle of the woods, started to get very nervous about getting on the air. Then I pushed myself and started making contacts. The rest you know.
Let me just say that SOTA chasers are amazing! The feeling you get when you can’t get a spot out and they find you anyway - is like angels descending from heaven!
Thank all of you for all your help.
My plan forward is to shift from driving hard towards a goal, to relaxing & trying (& failing sometimes) different setups. Also shifting from my FT857 to a KX2 and lightening my pack - taking hikes that include SOTA, rather than SOTA only hikes. That means lower power - so, I hope I don’t get too frustrated.