Invalid Activation W4C/EM-085 Pilot Mountain

I’m so sorry to do this but my activation today of W4C/EM-085, Pilot Mountain in North Carolina, was NOT a valid activation due to a misunderstanding, and I won’t be uploading my Activation or Summit-to-Summit logs.

Pilot Mountain is a very popular destination and there is a tourist trail leading towards the summit. However, the true summit is off-limits. We erroneously believed that the top of the tourist trail was well within the Activation Zone. On the rare times I’ve been unable to reach the true summit on other activations, I’ve always been quite careful to confirm the A.Z. boundaries, using topo maps and GPS readings; but today I assumed all was well and didn’t do the proper homework. It certainly looked visually like we were less than 75 vertical feet below the peak, and Derek (WF4I), Gordon (KW4CZ), and myself (KR7RK) proceeded to set up and make contacts.

Just as I began packing up, we received a message that said we must be outside the A.Z. Derek, WF4I went to get his GPS unit and checked the elevation, and sure enough we were approximately 140-150 feet below the summit. It was terribly disappointing, as our logs contained many contacts including some great DX.

The SOTA rules regarding what constitutes a valid activation are clear, and I don’t want to be a rule breaker or even “stretch” the rules. Yes we were very close, and yes it would not have been legal to go beyond the top of the trail; but that does not override the activation zone definition. I feel very bad that our many Chasers today thought they were making a good SOTA QSO, only to find out it wasn’t, but we did not know this until afterwards. I’ve discussed this with the W4C Association Manager, KI4SVM, and I appreciate his thoughtful evaluation of the situation. I hope you’ll all forgive me, and I look forward to making it up with a whole bunch of legitimate SOTA QSO’s in 2020!

73 es HNY,
Keith KR7RK


Hi Keith

I had a similar experience in Bulgaria. I felt bad for the chasers too, but everyone understands that it isn’t easy being an activator, and that mistakes can happen. I had lots of help too from the SOTA community to ensure that things were straight and proper.

You have my sympathy. Best of luck with the next activation!

Regards, Mark.

1 Like

Ahhh Well…
At least you got some good exercise! And got my co-ax warmed up!
John, K6YK


Hey Keith, that’s a real bummer for you guys. Thanks for the explanation, good stuff for activators to think about on summits that could present a similar issue. Look for you on the next one!

73, Stan

1 Like


All is not lost. You can claim your S2S contacts as chases. I will update my log accordingly. Dean ~ K2JB

1 Like

I sympathise with the disappointment and applaud your frankness in acknowledging the problem.
73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH


Exemplary spirit of integrity Keith.

Ariel NY4G


Hi Keith,

Indeed the deception is understandable, but one learns a lot from one’s mistakes.
Thank you for pointing that out. Look for you on the next one !
73’s and HNY
Laurent de F8CZI

1 Like

Keith, I worked NW2Z yesterday from there also. Was he with you guys?


73, Todd KH2TJ

Thanks, Keith! It is an unfortunate situation where the activation zone of W4C/EM-085 - Pilot Mtn will probably never be legally accessible. Unfortunately, yesterday seems to have been a banner day for Pilot Mtn, with 5 activators in two different groups out on the mountain (KR7RK, WF4I, KW4CZ, NW2Z, KN4RBN). So, any contacts made yesterday with activators on W4C/EM-085 are not valid SOTA QSOs. There are two previous activations logged for Pilot Mtn (09 Mar 2018 & 20 Sep 2018) which are also unlikely to be valid activations, but will need confirmation from the activators first.

73, pat - KI4SVM

1 Like

Thanks Keith for the information. Logs are adjusted. It sure was easier for me to nulify than for you guys!

HNY es 73,
Gary K3TCU

I just deleted S2S contacts from 12/28/19 with NW2Z and KN4RBN Ref W4C/EM-085 when I was on W1/NL-024. Thanks for letting me know. There is another Pilot Mt. W4C/CM-021, which I assume this one is valid?
Bob AC1Z

Thanks Keith for the information and for being so honest.
I have deleted from the SOTA database my SOTA QSO with Gordon @KW4CZ, but I’ll still keep it in my main log because we had a valid and very nice ham radio QSO.

You can see there’s no ref. on the SOTA REF field and I put a comment explaining the unfortunate fact of the activation being invalid.


1 Like

Hi Bob, that summit is valid but has a steep climb to get to the top. The rewards are nice views of the Blue Ridge Parkway area.

73, pat - KI4SVM

Thanks for the info Pat…NW2Z was also working a POTA activation from there as well, so if you guys chase WWFF or POTA, and he uploads his log to either of these programs, they would be valid for those…

I did the same sort of thing on Scott Mtn, W4C-CM-156. K2JB kindly suggested I was not in the AZ, based on his activation there. I had eyeballed the 75 feet and got it wrong. Had to come back and re-do it a few days later. Got in the AZ that time!

Andy, N4LAG

What is this 75feet people talk about?

The AZ is 25m in W4C. Or 82ft


In addition to Andy’s comment be wary also of simply checking the elevation difference. It is necessary but not sufficient that your elevation is within the 25-m interval. But also the drop (by minimum descent) between the true summit and your position must not exceed 25 m. In other words the AZ does not extend to a nearby island of within-the-AZ elevation. It covers only the contiguous area down to the enclosing contour 25 m below the summit.

1 Like

There is also a discussioin on using GPS devices for checking elevation here:

Thanks, Keith!