First SOTA summit activation

Got to activate my first SOTA summit today - W4V/GC-001 (High Knob near Norton, VA) and had a blast. Thanks to Pat, KI4SVM, for the spot and prior coordination. Wanted to make sure I could get access before spotting and have folks waiting in case I couldn’t get access. Was a bit windy today, and sometimes the local constabulary have to close the road at the bottom of the mountain due to high winds tossing over a few big trees.

Thanks to all that called, and I do apologize for any stations calling that I couldn’t pull out. The summit is on the way home to visit family, and never even thought about stopping. Last night I promised my 14 yr old daughter that I’d take her there to see the place. Then happened to think to look on SOTA maps and there it was, and 10 pts. Only had time to get on 40m for a bit, but the summit is close enough that I can stop and activate on other bands on future trips. Was on the way to see Mom (in a nursing home) so couldn’t stay too long. Will plan on taking time for other bands next time.

Now the fun(ny) part. Who has ever had a first activation go perfect?

  • Pre-coordinated with Pat to text on the inReach satellite communicator if there was no cell service. There wasn’t. Then couldn’t get the inReach to respond correctly. Of course I’d planned ahead for extra AA lithium batteries. Had them stored so safe it took 5 min to find them (they were in with the new MTR rig that I didn’t have time to try). Once new batteries installed, got comm with Pat.

  • I “knew” I had put the LNR Trail Friendly 10-20-40 antenna in the FT-817 radio case before leaving, but it wasn’t there. Had put it in a different backpack to keep it safer. At least that pack pack was in the car, too.

  • After finally getting on the air and making 5 contacts (I did try about 10 minutes more, but no takers I could pull out) I asked my daughter to take a happy snap of the setup and happy operator. My iPhone chose that time to decide its memory was full and didn’t want to take any pictures. A storm had went through last night, and the air was crystal clear, unlimited vis with zero haze. And a great 59 deg F with what seemed zero humidity. Of course the iPhone was happy to take photos again once we were off the mountain. Since I’d been up there last the observation tower had been rebuilt, trees had been cleared, and a new access path built. Was worth the stop besides the activation to see how nice the place now looked. It did have a few visitors, so I set up on a rock wall near the parking area. Did have a few few friendly curious visitors, so got to talk up a bit of radio and SOTA with interested parties.

But overall I had a blast, Pat was a great coordinator, the weather was absolutely beautiful, the calling stations were very well behaved, everything worked great once the bugs were beat out (and I did test/check/inventory everything last night), and my daughter enjoyed her first trip to High Knob. She’s an outdoor type, makes old Dad very happy.

Thanks again to all that helped, called, or tried calling, as well as all the folks posting the helpful hints I found on the web site and reflector.

73, it was a blast,

Mike, N4VBV


You can use that to send a spot direct Mike if you have no cell coverage. mail me at mm0fmf AT to get setup.

Hi Mike
your experiences with organising a SOTA activation are familiar even to those of us with dozens of activations in the log. Many will have read your tale and thought, "been there, forgot that too!"
I have arrived on top of a summit only to realise the microphone is not where it should have been, or without the feed box of the antenna I intended to use. These are all learning experiences and I learn something almost every time I activate. Organising the accessories in some way you are comfortable with will probably help. I use plastic food storage boxes but others use zip pockets on their backpack or cotton bags with drawstrings. The exhausted phone memory, the GPS battery, the rig battery are familiar problems to all activators, just as the great views, the photos of the landscape or wildlife and the log of contacts are familiar memories.

I hope you continue to enjoy it and fill your log with fun contacts.


Hi my old friend. Glad to see you are on SOTA. (I got your message from Pete )Hope tp work you on many sumitts. Tom N7AMA

Thanks for the contact and points
73 de Dow (W4DOW)
Nr.ONE Chaser in W4V


Thanks, will do. Had planned to do that before leaving home, but got busy getting everyone packed up. Had been following the discussion and was interested in having that option if necessary. Some places it is definitely necessary - don’t want to announce a pending activation early due to no cell Svc at the location, then not be able to get access and have folks waiting.

Thanks for the info,

Mike, N4VBV


Thanks, I did read up on all the suggestions I could, as well as inventorying and packing. Had reviewed and thought I was ready, but at least I just had to run back to the car vs hiking back down. Will mark it up as lessons learned and keep plugging on.


Mike, N4VBV


Great to hear from you! Nice pictures on your all’s summit and 6m stuff. And I still remember the crazy cat in the bag at dinner that night. Dad (passed in 2007) had a ball chatting with you and Joe that night.

73, and looking forward to catching you on the air,

Mike, N4VBV


Thank you folks for being a very civilized calling bunch. When I asked for certain letters, everyone waited very patiently so I could get everyone in. Made the contacts go very fast.


Mike, N4VBV

Sorry I couldn’t hear you on 40 meters but more importantly, welcome to SOTA and congrats on your first activation. I hope you find time for more. Also, I trust your mom is doing well in the nursing home.

Dennis - WA2USA


Thank you for the words, it’s getting to be really fun. Had planned an activation today, but family activities intervened. Mom’s doing well, holding her own, and was thrilled to see her granddaughter. Thank you for asking. They had a great chat/visit while we were home.

Hope to catch you on the air, I do plan on hitting more when I can.


Mike, N4VBV


Congrats on your first activation! I know you have been looking forward to it for a while and I am glad I could provide some assistance. Looking forward to working you on many more summits!

73, pat - KI4SVM


Thanks for the words and the help, had a blast. Had planned to activate a new one on Sunday, but family stuff intervened. Oh well, will give me another one to shoot for. Had planned to try other bands on High Knob, but ran short on time. Will try to plan a little better next time. Looks like a lot of outdoor fun for the future. Thanks again for all your help.


Mike, N4VBV