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Definition of a valid SOTA QSO

After my initial 2 SOTA activations back in 2017, I recently got back onto the (SOTA) trail but have a question about the definition of a valid QSO.

I read the rules several times and also trawled through SOTA reflector posts but could not find confirmation.

The rules on the validity of a QSO state:
“In order for the activation to qualify for the points attributed to that Summit, a minimum of four QSOs must be made, each of which must be with a different station. QSOs must comprise an exchange of callsigns and signal reports, it is strongly recommended that the summit identifier be given during each contact”.

In case I am on summit, ready to operate - first checking for any possible S2S contacts - if I were to answer a CQ call from anyone (not on a summit), just to check if my signal would ‘get out’ - the operator comes back to me, we exchange signal reports and I state my SOTA summit name/reference, would this classify as a valid SOTA QSO?

In all SOTA activation videos I have seen, the activator calls CQ and is answered by a chaser (whether the chaser participates in SOTA or not). They exchange signal reports and the QSO is counted.

In case an activator answers a random CQ call on the band, it kind of feels not quite right.

But as so many have written before, it may well be in the rules staring me in the face, but I have not been able to spot it.



You have quoted the passage from the rules on QSO validty, so what is the problem?

Why so? As you said yourself [after watching SOTA videos], the other station does not have to be involved in SOTA. On a few lonely summits, I’ve been known in desperation to break into a 2m ragchew to request [politely] one or both of those stations have a brief QSO with me. Correct exchange of callsigns and reports is all that is required for a valid contact provided you are in the Activation Zone of the summit and the other station is not.

Regarding the recommendation to give one’s SOTA reference on every QSO, I never do this. Whilst handling back-to-back QSOs during a CW pile-up, many chasers patiently awaiting their turn would rightly get a bit annoyed by that high level of repetition. I give my summit reference with S2S stations, or when asked for it, or every few minutes.

73 Andy


Absolutely - any simplex contact is valid, and non-chasers are often not bothered about the reference. On 2M FM I often get “I just like to call in to help”.

Last week I was having a mare on Twyn Glas GW/SW-019 with no responses to my CQ’s after the first two QSO’s. I checked the GB3VM and GB3CG repeaters and was getting excellent signals from both, so on each repeater as an ongoing QSO closed I asked “can anyone hear me on the input - if so can we have a quick simplex contact ?” That gained me another 3 QSO’s and a qualification that was beginning to look unlikely.


Hi Robert,

Welcome back to SOTA! Good to work you from GW/NW-011 last week.

Feels very right to me! Most of my activations are on 2m FM and I rely on others responding to my CQ calls. Seems only polite to answer if I hear someone else calling CQ, especially if they don’t get any other response, and it does all count towards your activation.

73, John M0VCM

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Thanks for coming back.
There is no problem, I was merely seeking confirmation.



Thanks for getting back.
In the rules as well as on here, the activator <> chaser relationship comes across as key.
On SOTA activation videos I have only seen people call CQ, not answering random calls - other than S2S.
I was not aware that I could answer other people’s CQ call, make at least 4 contacts, pack up without having called CQ once and not providing the opportunity for chasers to make contact with me.

Having read posts on here where operators expressed frustration having called CQ for a very long time and their calls gone unanswered appeared to indicate that people had to call you; hence my confirmation request post.

As a newbie, I may be alone in this misconception, but I doubt it.


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As others have pointed out to me, this misconception on my part is now clear.
Good to know that when calling CQ with 3 contacts, the option to move the dial a few kHz and try my luck answering other operators’ call may just safe me in future.


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Hi John,

Indeed, was very good to work you earlier this month from G/WB-013

It’s good to have confirmation that obtaining QSOs this way is acceptable.

Hope to speak to you soon on another summit.



Hi Robert,

We met recently on GW/SW-033!

It’s a question that I’ve often wondered about. I was pretty sure that it was ok, but as you say it’s good to have confirmation from other more experienced activators. I seem to remember rescuing my first activation (had forgotten a vital connector for my hf antenna) by butting into a local club net I heard on 2m and asking if they would mind having a quick QSO so I could qualify the summit.

Enjoy the radio and perhaps meet you again one day on another random summit!

73, Matthew - M0JSB

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Well we’re collecting updates and changes to the rules right now. So this is the time to check we have the words right.

If the words “QSOs must comprise an exchange of call signs …” left you wanting confirmation after you had exchanged call signs, reports and a summit reference, then can you suggest some alternate words that would be explicit and left you in no doubt?

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Hi Matthew,

How can I forget!
What a random encounter that was.

As you said, it’s good to get confirmation from more experienced activators that this practice is OK.
I was not aware of it, merely by having watched YT videos of SOTA activations where CQ is called rather than tuning the band looking to answer CQ calls.

Looking forward meeting up at some stage.

All the best.



Hi Robert, I think you may be over-thinking it a little.

Looking at from a different point of view - SOTA is about activating a summit by means of a QSO, and qualifying for points by means of four QSOs. How you get them is up to you.

I once had to phone a friend to get on his 2m set to give me the fourth! I felt that it wasn’t the most ethical qualification I’d had, but was it any different from Activators scheduling a microwave QSO beforehand, or indeed using one of the many apps?

Today I was working 2m SSB. Both contacts were delighted to be working someone from a mountaintop over some distance. Neither were interested in SOTA.

Good luck with your SOTA re-start!


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I don’t think I have enough SOTA experience to comment on any wording to enhance the SOTA rules.

Having watched excellent SOTA YT videos from @M0JCQ @G0POT and @M0RSF just to name a few, they all call CQ in their videos and then make contact with chasers.
Perhaps had I not watched their videos in an effort to equip myself in the best possible way, I may never have asked the question.

Based on what I saw/read I was under the misapprehension that people had to make contact with me on a summit (where I had to call CQ and other answering my call), rather than me tuning the band and making contact with any random operator that calls CQ; i.e where I effectively would never have to spot myself nor call CQ to qualify a summit as long as I make contact with 4 operators.

Perhaps a reference that you can answer someone else’s call rather than someone having to answer your call could clarify things.




Thanks for the response.
You may well be right.
Had I never watched any YT videos nor read any SR post where activators express their frustration having called CQ for extended periods, I do not believe I would have made this post.

But as a novice, it’s good to get the confirmation from experienced SOTA activators that this is OK to do.



I would change “comprise” to a more common English word, like “include”. That makes it easier for non-native readers.



I’ve been enlightened by this Thread as not having read the rules very thoroughly I had always assumed a valid QSO consisted of an exchange of callsigns, signal reports and finished with an exchange of “compliments”. The latter bit I picked up from something written by Joe Taylor of weak signals fame which is why an FT8 QSO includes 73s. Nothing to do with SOTA but it makes sense to me.

The exchange of 73s is a way of ensuring both sides have heard the other’s signal report. If this is not done the last person giving the signal report might then move on to another station and be unaware their signal report was not heard.

I’m not suggesting a change of the rules but perhaps 73s should be included as recommended? For example I’ve had QSOs where I’ve received an RST and sent mine but not heard anything more. Was that a QSO?


More traditional would be QSL, or Roger Roger, or r r r or cfm on CW.
73 could be a bit ambiguous, as in “sorry, no copy, 73”

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It’s not 73s but just 73.

It originates in the Phillips code designed to cut down the number of characters sent for common expressions and phrases. Pluralising it is wrong on two counts, one is that 73 means “Best Regards” and so is already a plural and the other it was designed to cut down on characters sent (when you were charged by the character) so the last thing anybody would do is add another redundant letter.


Would, perhaps, be clearer to everybody adding something like “either worked in running or S&P (Search & Pounce) mode”?

But I fear these “running” and “S&P” expressions, which are familiar to hams participating in contests, may complicate comprehension to the newbies and non involved in contest hams.

I think a QSO is a QSO as long as it comprises the exchange of the callsigns + signal reports and who called who to start the QSO is irrelevant.