Other SOTA sites: SOTAwatch | SOTA Home | Database | Summits | Video | Photos | Shop | Mapping | FAQs | Facebook | Contact SOTA

First SOTA Activation Attempt - CO Pikes Peak 22/08/2020

Hello,

Tomorrow, Aug. 22 2020, I will attempt my first SOTA activation on the summit of Pikes Peak, CO. For equipment, I plan to use a Baofeng UV-5RA and a roll-up / portable J-pole antenna. I’ve posted my ETA on SOTAwatch. I intend to try to make some simplex QSOs on 147.42. However, if that doesn’t work out, I’ll see if anyone picks up on 146.52. I’ve never actually made a QSO on simplex before (only joined in a couple of local nets). A bit apprehensive but excited to try this out. Does anyone have any general advice or pointers for me? How to call CQ, the general QSO format, etc.

Thanks,
Jason (KE0UVL)

8 Likes

Hello and welcome, Jason.
General advice: Post an alert for best estimated time.
Yes, it’s still summer, but it can be very chilly up there; dress for it.
Call “CQ SOTA”, (3 times) “This is KE0UVL”.
Between now and then, listen to other activators and chasers’ exchanges.

Good luck on your activation!

Ken

1 Like

Hi Jason, as Ken says above. I remember my first ever activation and the trepidation of calling blind into the ether (on 2m like you). Just 2 comments:

  1. It gets easier with practice!

  2. Enjoy the experience of being the “DX” that people want to chase

Good luck

2 Likes

Just relax and have fun (thanks for reminding me about this on the last post @MM0FMF). Test your equipment before you go, “two is one, one is none” kind of mindset, and be ready to have a system to log your QSOs. I think that is a skill that took me a while to get comfortable with - manipulating a radio and logging callsigns with dates/times (and frankly something that I am still working toward perfecting each time I go out).

2 Likes

Try checking into a local net today, contact friends, etc. and let them know in advance, too.

Experiment and have fun up there!

1 Like

I suggest snacking and drinking water before you start making contacts. Once you ( I ) get started, you’ll only be thinking about making more contacts. I’ll also second having warm layers to add, it can be cold if it’s windy. Good luck, stay hydrated, and have fun! Peter KD0YOB

2 Likes

Good luck tomorrow Jason - follow all the suggestions here and I’ll add - check the weather before you head up and be prepared, conditions can change very quickly up there! When I call CQ on 2 meter simplex I always end the call with “anyone anywhere - just looking for contacts”. That usually draws out a few mobile contacts. I think some folks may avoid the contact not knowing what SOTA is - 73, Rick WB0USI

4 Likes

Good luck Jason, welcome to the fraternity and have fun. You will be fine. 73 de Geoff vk3sq.

1 Like

Thanks for all the advice everyone! I had a lot of fun, but was unfortunately unable to “activate” the summit or make any real QSO’s. There were several factors that contributed:

  1. I was an hour late beyond my posted “SOTA watch” time. We got a late start and it took us longer to reach the summit than anticipated. Turns out, it’s slow going at 12000+ feet.
  2. There is a lot of construction going on at the summit for a new visitor center. Lots of loud heavy machinery made it difficult to hear the radio. Also, the east-facing slope (the best side for making contacts) is currently inaccessible due to the construction. Actually, most of the summit is inaccessible due to their efforts to cordon off tourists. Pikes Peak is not the best mountain for a peaceful, quiet atmosphere due to the heavy tourism presence.
  3. I definitely fumbled around with my “roll-up J-pole” antenna. It was difficult to hold the antenna, operate the radio, and attempt to write down call signs all at once. Additionally, I’m not sure if my Baofeng UV-5R had the power needed to reach people, though I suspect the issue was more on my antenna’s side. I’ll have to think about better methods for erecting the antenna.
  4. I gave up too soon. The people I was with wanted to get off the summit due to the wind + cold. Potentially, If I had tried for longer and attempted to operate from a few different locations (facing different cardinal directions), I could have made some real contacts.

HOWEVER, despite the failure, I did actually manage to reach a few people! There were at least 3 different people that replied to my CQ. I’m still inexperienced at deciphering call signs over the air and there was a lot of static (probably due to my poor antenna setup). So, I failed to actually note down anyone’s call sign and make a successful QSO. Dang! Sorry to anyone who replied – I’m still a beginner at this.

Despite the “failure”, this was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to refining my technique + setup and trying again sometime soon. I learned a lot about operating in the “real world” and have definitely got some things to practice. Thanks again for all the advice everyone.

  • Jason (KE0UVL)
4 Likes

The Alerts are general guidelines… remember once you are on the summit to place a SPOT, that is what will drive chasers to your freq…

Guarantee your radio has more than enough power, even at 5w. The 12,000 ft summit elevation works wonders, and I’ve never had issues making contacts even at 1w VHF/FM for a couple of hundred miles +

I forgot the exact saying, but something to the effect of it isn’t an adventure without adversity. Congrats on your first SOTA and good luck on the next one.

Best wishes & 73!

Dave - KM3A

2 Likes

Jason

My sense is that a lot of FM chasers are in the low lands east of the Rockies.

Reach out to the W0C Association Manager or even Bob K0NR (organizer or the CO 14 event and a big promoter of 2m FM) and get some recommendations of easy 2m FM friendly peaks. There are ways to troll the sota sites and determine which peaks have “significant” numbers of 2m FM contacts.

Here is Bob’s book which you might find interesting. https://www.amazon.com/VHF-Summits-More-Having-Radio/dp/179561319X

Dont be bashful about asking for a partial call sign to be given again. For example all you might hear is KB0 and not the suffix. Just say “KB0 again again”.

Not sure how you are logging but paper is sometimes better than an app but that is a personal perspective. I find with paper that I can correct things more easily when my brain isnt quite optimized for call sign decoding (too little coffer, too many pints the night before…)

Have fun and be safe.

Paul

2 Likes

Hello Jason, I wouldnt call it a failure, consider what you have learnt from your activation.
Good luck for the next SOTA.

73 de Geoff vk3sq

Won’t be the first, or last time, you will have these sorts of issues on summits. Although construction work noise is not something I’ve ever had to dealt with in the Lake District :slight_smile:

Every activation is an opportunity to learn, or sometimes pivot, on how activations are approached. Where possible redundancy is key, and don’t be afraid to just use the handheld with stock whip if other equipment is unmanageable. As has already been said, the altitude works wonders. More power is rarely the answer.

Best of luck on the next one, and keep going to you get a pileup - it’ll be at that time, if you aren’t hooked already, you will be :innocent:

Regards, Mark M0NOM.

Great first report, and problems we all are familiar with. My first summit trips yielded no contacts and no points, but it got better with experience. And, activation or no, the hikes in and out remain a pleasure!
73
Scott WB8ICQ

Congratulations on trying first activation. If you are around Colorado Springs take a ride up to Mt. Herman 1/2hr away. The front range is awesome for 2M simplex. I can usually get my 4 contacts (and more) in less than 15 minutes. In addition to Mt. Herman, Green Mountain and Genesee Mountain an hour north are great Peaks for a first activation. There are many pretty easy peaks to activate in the Front Range. If you want to practice simplex keep an eye out for me this coming long weekend. I am planning a SOTA blitz.

Erik

Jason:

Dude, I’m within two weeks of where you are now. Brand new ham, just did activation #3 today. A couple of ideas from the last two weeks.

  • Recommend trying a SOTA close to home and a dry run ‘practice peak’ before going all the way to Pike’s. Something easy, maybe go alone so you’re not rushed.
  • I got a Rite-in-the-Rain notebook and pen that stays in my SOTA bag for logging contacts.
  • Might be cheating, but I go onto the local repeaters and make a short announcement and ask people to come to my SOTA freq, seems to work.
  • I’ve started to bring a blow-up camp seat cushion so I can sit on a rock or up against a tree and be comfortable while waiting for contacts.
  • Patience. Took me almost 30 minutes to get 8 contacts this time. I CQ every few minutes.

Good luck man. SOTA is like the extreme sports of Ham radio, and it’s a ton of fun.

1 Like

Hi Matt and Jason,

It’s not cheating to drum up business on a repeater, as long as the contact you make and log is a simplex unassisted contact, so you can’t have a third party relay the signal report or any other essential part of the contact.

You can use any methods available to drive contacts to your frequency, whether it’s by radio, email, APRS, or the simplest of all, sotawatch. (Carrier pigeon not recommended, latency issues).

If you have a whatsapp/discord/fb/messenger group with locals in your area, that can be helpful too. Give the group progress reports as you make your way to the summit. This is a good way to provide a safety backup too. Report back to the group when leaving the summit and when you arrive back at your car.

Trying things out on minor summits is a really good idea. Save the big points summits for when you are really on top of the equipment and logistics issues. Otherwise a fail hurts too much, or the re-visit does.

Good luck and good planning/rehearsals!

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH