20 Years of SOTA.

Today marks 20 years since my first SOTA chase and the start of my SOTA journey.

I passed my RAE in 1997 as a teenager, I lived at my parent’s house in a small village called Stanbury in Bronte country (near Haworth). Ham radio was an unknown in my family and I wasn’t able to establish a shack. I kept myself busy with RAYNET and operating my local radio club’s HF station. HF was a passion of mine, so I learnt Morse and gained my A licence in 1999.

Yaesu brought out the FT-817 around 2001 in the UK and I thought it would be the perfect rig for me. In April 2001 I paid £799 for an early batch FT-817 at a radio rally. I’d used my shiny new credit card to buy the radio that I simply needed to have! I’d been planning a trip to the Isle of Mull, I had just got my first car and wanted to go on an adventure. I took the FT-817 to Mull with me in May 2001 and I did actually manage a QSO from there.

Occasionally I would take the FT-817 out with me in the car and park up at a local high point and see who I could contact. One such occasion was on February 22nd 2004 when I went to Cock Hill, above Oxenhope on the way to Hebden Bridge. I tuned across a station on 2m FM. The station turned out to be Rod, M3HLD and he was on Pen Y Ghent. Rod explained about SOTA - I was fascinated and thought it sounded like a perfect fit for me. I already had the FT-817!

I got to know Rod a little bit and he upgraded to A licence with a M0 call. (M0FTL?) Rod was living about 30 minutes from me in Hellifield the last time I saw him a couple of years ago. I have a working Tektronix 465 oscilloscope that Rod once gave me.

SOTA quickly turned in to my main hobby. I’d done some mountains in Ireland with school in the 1990s but otherwise hillwalking was new to me. SOTA has lead me into the mountains …

I didn’t have time to do a SOTA activation today but I did want to celebrate my 20th anniversary with at least a chase. Unfortunately it was raining this morning but I still set up my gear on the local sports field. I decided to use my 23 year old original FT-817, mainly for convenience, it was only afterwards that I realised how significant using that radio was! Gerald @G4OIG had alerted for a Scottish summit and I thought I’d be able to chase him on 30m CW. I was keeping an eye on SOTAwatch and saw a spot which I hadn’t really anticipated, it for Gerald on 40m SSB as GM4OIG/P. By sheer serendipity, I had my FT-817 microphone with me, so I plugged it in. Gerald’s pile up was quite large but he was working it down efficiently and I managed an SSB contact with him. Gerald was quite surprised, it was fair to say, he said something like ‘what are you doing on this mode?!’. Time had run out, but I was pleased to have made a chase 20 years to the day since my first one - with the same radio!

SOTA grabbed me in a big way, so Wednesday 28th February marks 20 years since my first activation. I activated Pendle Hill G/SP-005 and I met Tom @M1EYP by chance at the bottom. Tom had already activated the summit and was on his way down as I was going up.

I plan to activate Pendle Hill this coming Wednesday, so I hope chasers can celebrate with me by calling in.

73, Colin


Wow - I’d forgotten about that - but you’re absolutely right.



:smiley: Does it make you feel old?

My call sign was M0CGH back in those days. Call signs were allocated in sequence at that time, you either had to accept a random call sign or wait until a particular call sign was issued in sequence. I never was keen on my A class call sign. I reverted to my old B class call when I took up Morse seriously, as I felt that M1BUU was easier to send than M0CGH, and also a bit rarer. With the removal of the requirement to take a Morse test for access to HF, my two call signs were equivalent in class anyway, so no privileges were lost.

73, Colin

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Nice article, Colin,
Ham for 70 years; SOTA the last 10.
SOTA really taking off out here in the colonies, and providing a lot of enjoyment.
Best, Ken

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