First SOTA Activation, W1/CR-001


I’ve had my eye on SOTA since last year (2019) but there were several hurdles preventing my involvement: No Amateur Radio License and lack of free time. The Universe or whatever you believe in decided to clear the barriers in November 2019. I now had a lot more free time. I decided to dedicate a month preparing for my Technician and General Class Exams. In the U.S. there are 3 levels: Technician (VHF/UHF and basically no HF except for 10m cw), General (Most of the HF frequencies available in the US Amateur Bands) and Amateur Extra (All amateur frequencies as well as reciprocal international operating privileges. If you took only one exam t get your license then Amateur Extra is the equivalent level in the US). I passed both Technician and General class Exams on 12/6/2019. I waited a month and struggled with a defective radio (Hint it starts with IC) before studying for Amateur Extra and passed on 2/28/2020. After getting my Yaesu FT-891, I began to activate for Parks on the Air (POTA) proper in March 2020. I attempted a Wachusett Mountain (W1/CR-001) on 3/10/2020 and that was a disaster. A month later, I would succeed.

I parked at the Wachusett State Reservation. I initially planned on using the Bicentennial Trail and even went .20 mile until I saw that it’s more of a rock quarry than a trail. Carrying my Chameleon MPAS 2 antenna, Yaesu Ft-891 and MFJ-939Y antenna, I didn’t want to take the risk. I double backed to the Pine Hill Trail which is only 0.70 miles to summit but incredibly steep. This trail is separated by the road to the summit about half mile up. It was still super muddy on 3/10/2020 and I took nasty tumbles on the descent. Lesson learned. On April 10, I got to the road and then marched up to the summit using the road which was .40 miles.
My plan was to use the vertical configuration for my MPAS 2. However, the summit gusts had other plans. I screwed the Cha Micro into the spike and heard a sickening snap. After an hour of trying to get this to work, I decided to tie my antenna setup to the Pine Hill Trail sign at the summit (the junction sign is different) with the guying lines I brought with me. I made sure that this didn’t obstruct the path.(I had a mountain biker run over my Radial on Super Bowl Sunday 2020 despite my best attempts to shout to watch out. Not fun). This took an hour as opposed my usual 25 minutes.

SOTA Activation:
I turned on my Yaesu ft-891 and moved around the dial until I found 14.245 MHz. There was still some noise but I asked if the frequency is in use. No response. I setup my spot using the SOTASPOTS app on Android. Just use regular internet connection up at the summit. SMS Gateway won’t work up there. After several reports of noise 1KH above me I moved down to 14.244 and setup an updated spot.

I was able to get my minimum four contacts which comprised of three US Chasers and one Spanish chaser. Everyone was super patient. Thank you all.

However, the weather began to turn on me. The gusts became even stronger and I saw Black Clouds in the skyline. I apologized to everyone and explained that I needed to switch to POTA in order to get credit for the activation which requires 10 contacts minimum(K-4638). I ended up with 17 contacts.

Do Betters:
-Just suck it up and go Pine Hill Trail.
-Only use a wire antenna and a collapsible antenna mast.
-Train to better handle the elevation changes. I have asthma and it normally isn’t a factor until I get into an elevation change which results in no air in the room for me.
Did Wells:
-Avoided the slick muddy half of Pine Hill Trail
-I was able to get a spot out
-Gave everyone the chance to get me
-Everyone was super patient with me.


Awesome, good job! Welcome to the group and hope you enjoy it out there. That’s a good write-up, I would suggest keeping that going as you continue along. Personally I did that and then had a book printed my first year (and did the same for the next two years as well).

Stay safe out there!

Mike AC0PR

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Welcome to the SOTA people.

You wrote a nice report. All beginnings are hard, but there’s magic in every beginning.
Here at the reflector, you’ll get lots of information and advice.

cu 73 Armin

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Hi Andrew,
I’ll add my welcomes and well done’s to the other’s comments.

One clarification, the way the report read you were at the summit which is in the park and decided after getting 4 contacts for SOTA went on to get 10 contacts for Parks on the Air. If the summit is within the park limits (which it sound like it is) - you can use the same contacts for both award schemes. ie you could announce that you are on a SOTA summit W1/CR-001 within the park (whatever the park reference is) and it doesn’t matter whether your contacts are with SOTA chasers, Parks hunters or just “normal” amateurs, all contacts would count for both schemes. As it was though, you got more than enough contacts but this might be useful for next time if the storms are coming in quicker.

73 Ed DD5LP.

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Hi Andrew,thanks for the very informative write up and welcome to sota.
Pleased I was able to work you for both sota and pota.
73 Don G0RQL

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Thanks for the contact and great report, Andrew,
I was delighted with our QSO and I’m astonished now after seeing the mobile whip type antenna that you used on the ground with just one single wire radial.
I’ll be looking forward to making more QSOs with you in the future.
You can see here what I used to chase you:



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Welcome Andrew and FB.
I hope this will be the first of thousand and thousands activations

Dear Edward,

Thank you so much for reading my report. I used two different CQs so both Summits in the Air and the Parks on the Air kids could play. I also had 2 different log files for the Ham Logger app I use and wanted an exclusive one to send to POTA.

Andrew J O’Brien

Dear Mike,

Will do on the logs. I’m going to have to wait a bit on my next activation until Corona lessens here in Massachusetts. From my scouting so far it looks like any one that’s worth the gas will need a hotel stay and most aren’t open yet. I’m looking at Mount Greylock and parts of New Hampshire at the moment. Plus I’m going to be spending a month with my fiancee which pretty much means a lockdown.
Maybe I’ll go for Mountain Hunter who knows but the goal is MG like everyone else.

Andrew J O’Brien

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Dear Don,

I’m so glad you found my Activation report. It is always a pleasure talking with you. You are always a gentleman.

Andrew J O’Brien

Dear Guru,

I would have given everyone a shout out but didn’t have my log handy. Lo siento. As for the antenna, but it’s actually 17 feet or at least 5 meters tall. It definitely does the job but you’re right that end fed is king when portable or when you can’t setup a huge tower. I looking forward to working you again.

Andrew J O’Brien

Dear Jon,

Looking forward to it and working you.

Andrew J O’Brien

Hi again Andrew,
There might be a good reason for that, but I don’t fully understand the point with having 4 QSOs in the SOTA log and then 10 contacts for the Parks on the Air log. Why don’t you have a log with 14 QSOs for both SOTA and POTA as suggested by Ed @DD5LP?
In the case that some of your POTA chasers become one day interested on and starts participating on the SOTA programme, you will have already given them the very first SOTA summit.
My very first SOTA contact took place in May 2012 without even knowing about the SOTA programme. I just had a QSO with Andy MM0FMF/P one day, he gave me a reference GM/SS-049, which I wrote down on my log without even knowing its meanning, and it was 1 year an a half later, in November 2013, when I learnt about SOTA, started my participation on the programme and found by pure chance that I had already chased a Scottish SOTA summit several months before.
Some of your POTA chasers may get someday involved in SOTA. Likewise, some of your SOTA chasers (like myself) may get someday involved in POTA.
If you include us all in boths logs (SOTA and POTA) we will have that reference worked for whatever the future brings to us.


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I’m not sure if it’s been updated yet, but there was an issue with the W1 ARM document which stated that you need to walk a certain distance to qualify for a SOTA activation. This isn’t the case as it contradicts the SOTA General Rules, and Wachusett is as far as I can recall, drive up all the way. So, you could potentially avoid the trail entirely. I haven’t done it myself, although my company has a large campus in Westford which I visit semi-regularly, so I’ve looked at it a few times.

If you’re looking for simple summits that aren’t too far from the I-93 in NH, you could consider some of the MV summits, like MV-003 or MV-007. I did them in early May, so they should be fine if not now then soon.

Dear Andrew,

In the past you could drive to the summit. I know because I did on 9/11/2019. However, because of Coronavirus; these roads are closed. Except for if you take a trail up to meet the sections within the barriers. The typical route according to Goggle is currently blocked by a large yellow vehicle barrier and the snow of the nearby closed ski resort. I think my point was that I needed to stop trying to find ways around it such as Bicentennial Trail and just take the trail. As such, I did way more than 30 feet prescribed to walk from the summit. If you can drive up then show me the route which incidentally isn’t against the rules if I park away from the summit and walk the remainder provided I meet the prescribed distance. I did .90 miles uphill so yeah I’m good.

What is this prescribed 30 feet you speak of?

I think I read that somewhere but it would fall under the SOTA General Rules 3.7.1 Subsection 3 that says "Operations must not be in, or in the close vicinity of, a motor vehicle. No part of the
station may be connected in any way with the motor vehicle. However, the use of a bike
(non-motorized) or animals to enter the Activation Zone (25 meters vertical) is permitted.

This was exactly my point - there’s a prescribed distance in some associations’ ARMs that was put there probably because of some notion of “challenge” by the local Association Manager, or was copied from another ARM that had it, but there is no minimum distance you have to walk to be compliant for SOTA. The ARMs contradict the GRs, and the GRs take precedence.

The SOTA guidelines are deliberately non-prescriptive to allow as much participation as possible - imagine someone in a wheelchair activating a drive-up. They may not be able to move far from the car at all due to terrain. Should they be excluded arbitrarily? The rule of thumb for 3.7.1 is if the car is driven away, could the activation continue exactly as before? The car can’t provide power, shelter, an antenna, or act as a rest for your logbook or your backside; but there’s no minimum distance from it you have to be.

In any case it’s moot right now for Wachusett as the summit is closed to vehicular traffic due to COVID-19, and for most summits its moot anyway as there’s no road to the top. I wanted to point out the discrepancy though and say (if the summit was open) you could have driven all the way to the top.

Hi Andrew
Congratulations on your first SOTA activation. I enjoyed walking up that one with my son last year and we had superb weather with great views.
Nick G4OOE

Congratulations on the first activation, Andrew!

Tnx for sharing your lessons learned. I think all of us continue to learn new and better ways to activate, both from each other and our own efforts, no matter how many we’ve done previously. I’m almost constantly refining my kit.

While no guarantee against injury, if you’re not using hiking poles on the trails, consider doing so. The poles also can serve as antenna and tarp supports, to reach an antenna that’s gotten tangled in the trees, and to carry items like duct tape (when wrapped around the top of a pole several times).

Hope to chase you from your next summit!

73 Paula k9ir