First for me times 3

I got my license 2 years ago, but thought I’d have to wait a few years to afford an HF rig. Plus my wife gave me two options: I could put an antenna up at our home and buy her a new house, or buy myself a new house and put my antenna there. It’s nice to have options. Then I discovered SOTA and the inexpensive CW options. I bought an app for my phone and started learning Morse Code at 5wpm. Thankfully I saw some videos that recommended starting at 20wpm with Farnsworth spacing. I used to advance through the characters, W1AW code practice files, and Morse Runner to gain practice with a pileup. I highly recommend Morse Runner to gain confidence for a real QSO. When I first started the program I realized I knew exactly one speed, one tone, one transmission at a time, and no noise. Even the slower speeds threw me off at first.

Last week I was elated to successfully activate W5N/SI-023! It was my first activation, my first CW activation, and the first activation for that summit. The excursion took 9 hours instead of 6 like I estimated. There is no defined trail most of the way.

I of course made a few mistakes:
My antenna fell partway through - lesson learned that I need to crank my telescoping mast tighter for the wind on the peak.
Someone sent their call sign, and I echoed it back. They sent it again, and I echoed it back again. In my head I was thinking why don’t they continue with the typical data. It wasn’t until later that I realized I was the activator and they were waiting on me.
I wrote down a call sign that ended in K. My poor scratch looked like an H. When he resent the call sign I saw it as a K. When I transmitted it back though, I kept sending H. Some of that was nerves, some of it bad penmanship that I’ll have to correct.

I found everyone absolutely friendly and tolerant of my inexperience. That’s the point I wanted to make for anyone else considering an activation - do all you can to get ready then go for it.

I also combined the SOTA excursion with my other hobby, geocaching, earning 9 smiley faces on the way back. I think they’re a perfect combination. The SOTA peak is near the bottom center of this picture.

I bought a nice carrying case for my equipment, but found it was too heavy. In the end I wrapped bubble wrap around my paddles and radio, securing it was the paddle leg strap, then threw it and the battery into my backpack.

One last item of interest, when I built the QCX kit I was short a capacitor. Fortunately I found one locally just before the lockdown closed the store. Later I found the sneaky little devil:

Hint: Look inside the earphone jack.

73, NM5BG


Brian -
Great story - well done - keep it up.
And watch out for those tricky capacitors…
73, Etienne-K7ATN

Sounds like a great 1st experience! Congrats on getting it done and even more so for doing it with CW! I did the same thing with the carrying case when I started. My gear has changed a number of times over the years

Nice job and welcome,
72/73 Mike AC0PR

You did extremely well if you’ve managed to learn morse and make your first morse & SOTA activation within two years. I hear people who are still struggling and trying to learn morse after four or five years.

Well done, Brian.

Morse runner is a very useful tool to practice pile- ups. Just keep on practising - and activating!
You’ll soon develop habits which help avoiding the mistakes one makes when under pressure.

Here are some hints from OH2BH, the grand seigneur of DXpeditioning. Of course, not all of them apply to a SOTA activation. Split operation is scarcely being used and the pile- ups are usually fairly small. But I find it’s still worth reading:

73, Roman

1 Like

Hi Brian,

Congrats on learning CW and on your first SOTA activation in CW! It sounds like you had fun on Manzano Mountain!

I think it is remarkable that you did not bring a second radio with a microphone as back-up. With full commitment into CW, I like that! And seeing that you had 14 CW QSOs in about 20 mins shows that your code proficiency is way above beginner level.

Keep going!
73 Heinz

Inspiring thnx

Thanks, Mike. You contributed to my success since I subscribe to your YouTube channel. The Prosigns and Abbreviations video was particularly helpful. 73, NM5BG

Way to go Brian! Sounds like an excellent activation. Thanks for the Summit-to-Summit!

Keith KR7RK

Keith, I was nervous about encountering a summit to summit so I wrote down a few of the nearby alerts. Yours was one I already had on hand just in case I couldn’t copy the summit info, but your speed was just perfect for me. The S2S was another first for me. I hope to get out there again soon, 73

Good show Brian!
Be listening for you on the bands.
All Best, and 73