I’m going to make my first attempt at doing a SOTA activation this Thursday (3rd September). I would love for some helpful pointers and any chasers in the area are most welcome of course!
Summit: Hafod Ithel GW/MW-029 in Mid-Wales
Aiming to be set up and on the air by 10:00 UTC (11:00 local time)
I’ll be on 2m FM (145.500 MHz calling frequency).
I’ve set up an alert on SOTAwatch3 (hopefully correctly!) and I’ll attempt to self-spot from the summit, although it being Mid-Wales, the network cover is patchy at best. I’m signed up to use the SMS spotting service, but not quite sure on how to format the text?
I’ve got a 5W handheld radio and a ladder-line slim jim antenna that will go up a fiberglass pole. As a back-up, I’ve got another HT with a 1/4 wavelength whip antenna.
As the weather is looking a bit iffy, I’ll bring something to shelter for the radio and obviously all the usual hillwalking gear for ourselves.
Good luck! 2m FM from there might give slim pickings. But there are a few folk out that way who might pick you up if they know you are coming.
Your antenna choice is good and will give you a good chance of success with a 5W Handheld.
Before you leave the house (night before maybe?) lay everything out and check nothing is missing - it’s easy to forget something like the handheld SMA to BNC (or whatever you use) adaptor. Or a pencil and notepad - have you got a waterproof one?
Check all the batteries are properly charged.
Make sure the sets can’t be accidentally turned on in your bag (remove the battery?)
Then take 5 mins to check it again just before you leave the car to walk up. Although in this case it’s so close to the road it hardly matters.
Write the call process in your notebook at the top of the page. Helps you to get started. Something like this, but use your own style.
“CQ SOTA, CQ SOTA, CQ Summits on the Air, this is MW7SRA Portable calling CQ SOTA from the summit of Hafod Ithel GW/MW-029. This is MW7SRA Portable Standing by”
Put a few columns in your notebook to remind you what you need to get.
Time (UTC), Chasers Call Sign, Signal Report received and Signal Report given, Chasers name (optional but nice to have!). Comment space - you never know you might get a summit to summit so you’ll need space to write their summit ref.
Above all… take a sense of optimism and ENJOY it. Getting a sack full of contacts is great, but just getting one will let you activate it, 4 and you get the one activator point!
Good luck Sara, just call out cq sota and your callsign someone will pick you up,
The text format for the sms gateway is as follows
callsign association summit frquency mode comment
my last one read, G5ZX/P G TW-004 145.500 FM
Thanks, Gerald! I’ve got lots of time to get everything ready tomorrow, so will make the most of that. I’m just going to view it as an opportunity to get out and up a hill and hopefully get some QSOs and, if not, it’ll be a learning experience for the next, bigger hill.
Thanks, that’s very helpful!
‘locals’ have been informed so be prepared for a ‘pile up’ …hope wx holds. My beam will be pointing your way although we could probably wave at each other .
Pob lwc a hwyl am nawr
73 & 88 Allan GW4VPX
It’s found in the FAQ section along with lots of other answers to common questions.
With Allan mustering the troops you’ll be OK, but if you ever get stuck try calling CQ and say that you just need x contacts to qualify your summit. Those listening will often call you to help out even if they don’t chase SOTAs. Good luck! John MW0XOT
Oh, I have! But between there being three callsign shortcuts (is there any difference between ! and %?), me being new to both amateur radio and SOTA (in general and spots in particular) and the chances of getting a signal in the Welsh back and beyond being slim at best, I wasn’t too confident.
The forecast isn’t looking too bad for mid morning, but with all the rain coming through in the early hours, I think I’ll bring a chair to get off the soggy ground.
The original software was designed in 2010 to work effortlessly on a Nokia phone.
I had one of these at the time, a Nokia 6120 Classic. 3g, web browser, Bluetooth, USB/Bluetooth tethering, camera, SD card etc. A highly spec’d non-touch smartphone.
If you have never used one to get some chars from the keyboard required you press the keys repeatedly. So the 2ABC key would produce A on the 1st press, then B on the next then C then 2 then assorted non-Latin chars. A long press produced 2. The 1 key produced 1 and then punctuation (from memory) . , ! # $ % and so on. The entire spot format was designed to be easy to enter with this kind of phone.
Someone pointed out that some phones, Ericcson or maybe Samsung (D600 ?) I think, required many more presses to get a ! than a %. So % was added to make life easy for many non-Nokia users.
So it’s there for ergonomic reasons. Of course you can now use apps on smartphones to format up the spot message so the format is less of an issue.
The original reason for offering SMS was the SMS message was carried in the basic signalling that occurs between a 2G phone and the tower. If you could get a signal on your 2G phone, you could send/receive SMS messages even if you couldn’t make a call or make a (slow) data connection. As GSM has moved to 3G and 4G that is not so true but still if you have a marginal signal on a modern phone, you can still probably send an SMS when a mobile data connection will just not function.
SMS exists as a backup for when you have no viable mobile internet connection as every SMS costs SOTA money to receive. If you have a data connection that works on a summit, that’s what you should use. You can also see that your spot got posted as SW3 refreshes.
That makes a lot of sense I do miss just pressing the button a few more times to get the right character, rather than having to click my way through a touch screen keyboard.
I’ll definitely try spotting using the internet first, but since so much of Mid-Wales has appalling mobile phone cover, I thought it was worth having the SMS spot as a backup option.
/me Nods head in agreement
All the best for your activation tomorrow Sara. I well recall the summit and the activation that Paul G4MD and myself carried out in July 2008… the last of 10 summits over two days. Most enjoyable.
I well recall that we were able to maintain excellent punctuality over the two days which was key to making contacts without incurring delays. I was running 2m SSB and remember checking all was well by whistling into the mic on my working frequency of 144.333MHz. Back came “Good evening Gerald” - John M0JDK in Derbyshire was ready waiting for me. Funny how such things stick in the mind.
That’s impressive time keeping, especially considering travelling between sites and getting slower as the day progresses.
Hope you had a good first activation Sara. Sorry we couldn’t make contact for an S2S. We could hear you 4/4 but sadly you were unable to hear us on GW/NW-053. Look forward to working you on another summit sometime soon.
Karen 2E0XYL & Neil 2E0TDX
It was brilliant, although the wind made it quite hard to hear at times. It was a perfect little hill to get started on! I managed to get QSOs with people from Tywyn and Machynlleth up north to Kidwelly down south. It was a real shame that I couldn’t hear you, but if you heard me at least my newly made ladder-line antenna seems to be working. Thank you so much for trying and hopefully we’ll be more successful next time!