How long on one summit?

The activation time is entirely in the hands of the activator. There are many things that determine that, light, temp, wind etc and the safety of the activator is paramount. If someone is in a 10 pointer in the Alps then not staying very long on the summit is completely understandable. At the other end of the spectrum someone being on Snowdon or scafell in the UK on a beautiful sunny day and staying for 4-5 chasers will probably be due to the crowds of people on the summit and not wanting to get in the way of people more than necessary. Most activators stay as long as time and safety allows and as long as the calls keep being answered. After a few minutes of no contacts if I have my points, I’m afraid I’m going to get myself down to safety. On top of a summit you may not have spotting facilities and so once the calls dry up you have no way of knowing if someone can even hear your signal anymore. The band might have closed to my 5w SSb signal.
Keep at it, I know many people who activate stay on summits in the UK until all people he can hear have been worked.


Mike you’re lucky that you have a rotatable antenna. I and many others don’t. If it takes to long to turn, perhaps put up an omni-directional antenna, your signal is normally booming in, so even from an omni-directional antenna you’d catch the activators I think. The rotatable dipole could be used for really weak signals.

I want to echo what Uli said - in the damn cold temperatures on summits at the moment I don’t want to stay around calling with little or no reply. On a nice spring or summer afternoon in the sun, it’s different of course.

On the 5th. I went out and activated 5 summits in just over half a day. Obviously for that I needed to keep the activations short but in all cases by the end of the activation I was frozen through and ready to head back to the car. Activation length was between 15 and 30 minutes but you have to add set-up and take-down plus walking time to that. When out in very cold and in some cases windy weather, short activations make sense for health reasons.

I’m sure as we enter spring, the activation times will extend again.

Wait it out and please don’t give up chasing, you’re one of the constant chasers that I love hearing from.

73 Ed DD5LP.


No, it is NOT the winter temperature. I know abt activating in winter. My last activation was
6 Jan 2018 from new BW-854, some 30 QSOs in 30 min, no more chasers heard.
There have been others before doing only 4 QSOs or even logging only 4 out of the
pile up.
Naturally my rotary dipole will catch you also when out of optimal heading but possibly 1 S
unit weaker. But its 20m up. My place is 761m NN, overlooking the landscape.

73 de Mike dj5av

Throughout the history of SOTA there have been those who have made the required 4 contacts and then gone QRT. This is not something new - there are many references to smash and grab style activations. Thankfully the majority of us stay on frequency until no more chasers can be heard. Indeed on many occasions I have completed the activation, announced I was going QRT and left the rig running while I have taken some photos to hear someone arrive late on frequency and call me on the off-chance I was still listening.

I have always valued contacts with chasers highly, far above any casual contacts made during activations. Without the chasing side of SOTA, activations would be more difficult and certainly less pleasurable. Personally I believe the smash and grab operators are losing out on a lot. Don’t let these people spoil the enjoyment you get Mike, however annoying their antics may be.

73, Gerald G4OIG


We have 5,956 activators recorded, though only 2,218 recorded activations last year. I would say that at most only a few tens out of those thousands deliberately set out to do “smash and grab” or short activations. It might be annoying when it happens to you, but it is not a trend.

1 Like

Dear Mike,

I understand the problem, and I am likely one of the activators who often follow the pattern that you are annoyed by.

About a year ago, I opened a discussion on this particular topic at Fast & Short Activation Strategy?.

My situation is as follows:

  1. More than half of the SOTA-worthy summits I approach in winter, mostly on skis.

  2. Except for the very simple and popular ones, it is not wise to solo them; you need company for safety (e.g. avalanche rescue etc.).

  3. None of my mountaineering friends is a ham operator; they are understanding, but waiting 15 minutes on a summit in bad weather (even normal cold weather) is already much to ask. Time is the limiting factor for me, I have abandoned several 10+3 pointer ongoing activations because my friends could not wait any longer.

  4. The waiting time includes setup, finding a free frequency, waiting for a spot, QSY due to QRM, logging, and packing up. 15 minutes operating means ca. 30 minutes on the summit.

In my case, I only have two options: I can try to squeeze in a fast and “minimal” activation into those trips, or leave the ham radio gear at home. Often the summits are 10-pointers, many rarely, several never activated before. So the few lucky activators might also appreciate this.

I think that fast activations under these constraints are an acceptable option and do not put SOTA at risk, nor the fun of it. And in the discussion linked above, consensus was that the approach is okay for others.

It is equally annoying when I clearly ask for QRS and some power stations give their calls three times at 28 wpm.

73 de Martin, DK3IT

Edit: BTW Mariusz, @SP9AMH regularly manages to contact me on my summits with QRP power and antenna restrictions.


Hi Mike,
one more thing: I see from your log that you are a much more experienced activator than I. But the situation on significant alpine summits, especially in winter, is very different from the 300+ points on DM/BW summits you managed to activate. All alpine mountaineers try to minimize time on summit, because time on summit is a critical factor of risk. In summer, the risk of thunder and lighting increases after noon, in spring, snow bridges over crevasses melt and weaken, in winter it is cold and you might end in darkness if the unexperienced happens.

There is a reason why people get up at 2:00 a.m. when summiting Mont Blanc…

SOTA Summits is simply very different from SOTA Summits, even though both are 10 pointers.

And please: This is not meant personal in any way; I think we as a community should try to learn from our varying perspectives of operating ham radio in the mountains.

73 de Martin, DK3IT


Activator’s call. End of.


The awesome thing about SOTA is that you can come and go as you please! An activation is always at the discretion of the Activator. I usually try to do 15-20 minute activations, but that is not possible. In particular, during the winter, I have had some activations last less than 5 minutes. This might be because of weather. It might be because I have others in the group that are not necessarily fond of someone being on a radio at a summit, where they are trying to avoid electronic devices. I always am appreciative of chasers, even if we are not able to make contact on a particular activation.


Depending on if I am solo or someone is joining the time might vary.
I let my hiking partner know upfront to expect about one hour at the summit. I’m asking them to bring extra cloth and food.

With both HF and 2m FM used between 30 minutes and 1,5 hours including setup is common for me.

Shortest activation in winter with just 2m handheld was still about 20 minutes with 8 QSO.

73 Joe

A short activation is presumably better than no activation? I get cold quickly on hilltops and I am not inclined to hang about. I will work those who are calling but after a couple of unanswered CQs or QRZs I often QRT.


I allow an hour for activation. Usually 2m, 4m and 23cm. In the winter it can be less. From a very popular summit it may be less but then most chasers will have the summit. The hour includes a look around and a few photos. Most of my expeditions are solo so I don’t have to consider anyone else.

I am always grateful to chasers, without them SOTA wouldn’t work.

I enjoy operating as long as I am able. That way I’m able to work multiple bands and sometimes even get some nice DX (like this past Sunday when I logged DJ5AV while up on Pass Benchmark W7A/SC-014, thank you Mike!)

My most common time limiting factor is actually my XYL, who tends to be unhappy if I linger too long which means I’m away from her :slight_smile: But sometimes the hike is very long, and if I’m going to make it up and down safely I can only operate for a half hour or so.

Keith KR7RK


This is a description of a SOTA activation that is valid and qualifies for any points available, in accordance with the General Rules. So there should not be a problem, nor any criticism of this.

Hundreds of other activations will be more to your taste, so still plenty for you to work.

1 Like

I am guilty of doing this…sometimes. Others I stay up there for a good long while or across to another day for chasers to get double points. Let me explain why I may leave after 4 contacts…Silver Star Mountain in Southwest Washington where it was freezing, wind was blowing and I could not feel my hands…or feet. Also, I take my kids with me and they get impatient sometimes. Everyone has their reasons. Enjoy what you do and let others enjoy what they do. No reason to get worked up over differing of circumstances.


Less of the “guilty”! The SOTA rules for a point scoring activation, require 4 QSOs. Four is for a reason. It was never intended that SOTA activations would be anything other than short-term - both for reasons of personal safety, and consideration to other people on the hill.

Now many of us do longer, sometimes much longer activations on occasions, but it is important for everyone to understand that you only need 4 QSOs for the points, and this will not change. Therefore, if an activator, for any reason whatsoever, wishes to go QRT after 4 QSOs (or even after 0, 1, 2 or 3 QSOs for that matter), then that is absolutely fine.


I hope you don’t stop chasing Mike, it is always great to get you in the log.

I try to spend at least one hour on the air from a summit unless chased off by weather or darkness. In summer I prefer to spend at least two hours per activation, but that is just me and each activator has their own goals.
Malcolm VE2DDZ

Hello Mike,

maybe there are a few activators that stop the activation after the required 4 QSO’s … but my impression is that the huge majority of SOTA activators is trying to work everyone that is calling.

I for my part like to stay on top of a summit as long as possible, sometimes up to three hours! But on some activations in summer I only make a few contacts on VHF, just because of approaching rain or thunder. In winter I reduce my HF activations to a minimum … and the only reason are the low temperatures. I also get out on the mountains in winter, but I personally have no fun working a pileup on HF on a cold, fogy and windy alpine summit. That’s why during winter I do short activations and normally on 2m only.

Let’s turn things around and let me tell you how I see things as being mostly an activator. On my activations I regularly come across things i don’t like …

  • these contests on the weekend, when you have almost no chance with QRP
  • when people tune on the frequency
  • when other operators take over your frequency
  • when people call and don’t listen (happens quite often …)
  • when people cause deliberate QRM

I think at least one of these annoying things happened to me on every singe activation (on HF) so far . But I never thought of turning my back on the SOTA programme just because of these things.

So please don’t let this small minority spoil your fun in SOTA!! I hope to work you soon again on the HF bands.

73 Martin, OE5REO


In Colorado, a 10 point summit is one over 13,500 feet. It gets cold at altitude in CO in the winter. I recently bought a bothy bag to make things more comfortable.

My CW copying is still slow and terrible and I think chasers get tired of me trying to copy them and they go away. I am not getting the number of chasers I would like. I am happy to make 10-15 CW QSOs on a summit.

I live in a mountain valley and have a hard time hearing activators. I wish I could chase more often than I do.


1 Like

Hi Mike

Last QSO with you from a summit (CT/BL-004) was a few days ago. On that occasion I was able to operate only 11 min because of the Wx (cold, wet and foggy). Condition deteriorated quickly - as often happen in the mountains - and became very dangerous stay longer. The descent was done with 200% attention to the trail track.
Operation was just 11 min but if wx condition change before, operation could took only 3 minutes or be cancelled.

Here, in the summer, sometimes conditions are dramatic. You could have a pleasant 21C at 7AM and 40+C at 10AM…

While it is my desire to stay in the summit long enough to answer to all calls (and how important those are to the particular chaser…), sometime the best/safest solution is to forgot the activation and be back to safety!

This is not a new way of activating and I hope that you understand this. Your presence as a chaser is important to all in the SOTA community!

And a very big thank you for all the QSOs (39) with you from a summit!

Vy 73 de Pedro, CT1DBS/CU3HF

Initial condx


10min after