First SOTA activation: GM/ES-061

Took a day off work for myself for a change and decided I try out an activation. I picked Bennachie, GM/ES-061, for the bonus :sunglasses:, plus the option of a short route up and down as I still had to make sure I was back to pick up the kids from school.

I started from the back, and took the direct route up. Took about 40 minutes to get to the summit, which was quicker than I was expecting. The weather was fine, overcast but dry, until I got to the top when I entered the cloud and wind.

I had brought my boafeng to try 2m but I hadn’t told anyone so it was probably a bit too optimistic. I should’ve called @MM7MWL ahead of time! I found a nice outcrop to shelter behind that was in front of the summit, and setup the pole and radio on a rock. I had a little nook to crouch in and there I started to see if I could make any contacts.

The mast was installed vertically at the start…

Radio-wise, I have a Xiegu G90, which was my first radio, that is portable enough. It’s got a bit of heft to it (2.5 kg :cold_sweat:), but is 20W, has a great ATU and a nice waterfall.

For the antenna, I wanted to keep it as simple as possible and to make use of my carbon 6m mast. I found @MM0EFI’s random wire suggestion and it looked ideal. This is 5.5m radiator, with two 4.25m counterpoises. They’re attached via bananaplugs to a BNC, then a short piece of coax with a common mode choke into the radio.

The battery situation isn’t ideal. I’m using an ultramax 18 Ah LiFePO4 battery, which has loads of capacity and much better than a lead acid or a LiPo one but it’s still around 2.5 kg. I use it when out in the garden, but have never had to carry it very far. I do have a few 18650 lithium cells which I’m meaning to make my own portable battery but I’ve not got round to it yet. So the ultramax had to do.

Once I’d fumbled about with finding a free frequency - which someone asked if it was free, I said no, we had a chat, and then they started using it :sweat_smile: - but I moved on and once the spot was out, I was jumped on by the chasers! First time being “the DX”, and sometimes hard to make anything out of just sheer noise, but it was good fun… “the alpha go again…:man_shrugging:

I started on 40m, had a listen to 10m, but it seemed dead, then moved to 15m and then finally 20m. I managed 37 contacts, with 14 countries, two summit to summit QSOs (LA/RL-149 and DM/BM-002), and one POTA contact. My furthest contact was with Z36T in The Republic of North Macedonia at ~1,500 miles.

(A few QSOs don’t show on sotadata?)

By this time it had been about 50 minutes and I was cold! My logging hand (without a glove) had had enough, and it was time to pack up and head back. The trip down was quick, and it was nice to see the sun peaking through a few times. I met a couple of other folks out for a walk and the car park had quite a few cars in, so I wasn’t all alone.

It was back home for a cup of tea, and see how badly I managed to mess up my log. I was using cloudlogoffline app on iOS and hadn’t found the setting to set a default frequency, plus entering the s2s locations was a pain so I’d just written them in random boxes. After what seemed like a whole day away from home in the morning, the afternoon on the computer to sort things out went by in a flash and it was time for the school run.

Now to decide where’s next! :thinking::mountain:


Congrats on your first activation, Alex, and delighted that it was a good one for you. Was great to get you in the log, despite the fact that had the clouds parted a bit more I could have waved to you from my shack! Beware though - SOTA is addictive. Here’s to many more for you. 73 Mike :grinning:


Sounds like a very productive first sota activation. It does get addictive though !
Look forward to s2s with you sometime.


Congratulations on a successful first activation, which also included some winter bonus points. Nice! Hopefully the first of many. As already mentioned, SOTA can be very addictive.

Looking forward to a S2S one day soon and 73,
Matthew M0JSB

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Hi Alex, congratulations for the first activation. Welcome to the fraternity.

Geoff vk3sq

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Alex, Congratulations on your first activation! That’s a decent log you have there, so you must know what you’re doing. :grin:

I remember you chasing me when I was on Carn Ealasaid GM/ES-030 last year. I remember it well because I’d been shouting on 2m for ages with little success, and then you, a local-ish station, popped up on 40m.

Well, I’m delighted that worked for you. I built that for confined spaces and should have really brought it to Switzerland with me, but that’s a separate story.

Your radio plus battery is quite a load, but the 5kg will keep you fit! I managed for a year with a similar weight. Once I realised I was addicted to SOTA I started investing in some lighter kit.

Well, between Aberdeen, Fraserburgh, Aviemore and Forfar you have the choice of 78 summits. North and south of you is mainly one pointers. Along the Deeside and Strathdon roads, lots of nice hills with good tracks, 2 and four pointers. Once you get near Braemar, that’s when things start to get really interesting, with 6, 8 and 10’s!

Coiliochbhar Hill
Lord Arthur’s Hill
are all good ones.

If you need help with routes, then check walkhighlands or give me a shout (I’ve done them all). If you’re super keen on SOTA, then we have a whatsapp group. It is often the only way to guarantee success on VHF from a summit in GM/ES.

Oh, the SOTAmaps sometimes doesn’t have the latest QTH details for folk and some folk aren’t on, where it lifts the data from. Try this site:

If you upload an .adi file to it, you’ll instantly see a map.


Thanks for the well written report, hopefully the first of many. I’ve tried different logging ideas, and currently have gone back to paper on the summit ( rite in the rain ) but the best iOS app I’ve found is HAMRS which does a SOTA type log and exports painlessly to the database and my logging software at home (macloggerDX) I now tend to use it to transcribe the log somewhere warm at the end of the activation. (The adif file generated uploads from the phone without too much faff). You will find everyone has their own way of logging so I don’t think there is a correct answer but lots of my previous approaches were sub- optimal
Good Luck

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Paper, pencil, then transfer to an FLE style minimalist format text file and upload that direct. The FLE format is flexible and involves the minimum of typing.

DATE 2024-03-03
1311 10m CW YO3FFF
12 F4WBN
16 KF9D
17 NE4TN
18 N1ZF
20 W4GO
23 LZ3RS
23 EA7GV
25 N4MJ
26 NT2A
29 G4TGJ/P G/NP-022 <S2S>


Thanks for your (and everyone else’s) words of support! It must’ve been all those radiorover videos I watched :sweat_smile: We certainly have a lot of great options nearby. As much as I want to jump straight to a 10, I might try a few lower ones first. I’m already working on cutting down the radio gear weight, but I might compliment it with some hillside comforts…like something to sit on or a wind breaker etc. not sure, haven’t properly looked into it yet.

I’ve seen several people say this, so I might open my wallet and buy a copy. Although I do like the idea of FLE, as Andy points out:


Congratulations on a successful first activation and a nice report Alex.

Beware, as others have said, SOTA quickly becomes addictive, and with the huge selection of local hills and supportive community that Fraser identified I would say that it is probably too late.