It's never as good as the first time?

Do you still remember your first time?

Sade sings: It’s never as good as the first time…
With my experience today: I can’t really agree with that…

When I started to itch again in 2018 after almost 20 years of abstinence from amateur radio (you never quite get rid of this virus), I visited the HAM RADIO in Friedrichshafen. There I somehow came into contact with SOTA and knew immediately that this could be something for me… especially as I am otherwise very outdoorsy.

My possibilities to set up a shack at home are extremely limited. My antenna is a wire from the balcony to a tree… and as a transceiver I have an IC 703. Surprisingly, CW was like riding a bicycle. You quickly get back into it…even if it didn’t run so smoothly at the beginning…and so I managed a qso from home every now and then.

On the summit it should be even better. I wanted to test it and activated my first summit.
It was clear: it had to be an activation on short wave in CW. But how and where?
I could only use the equipment I had. A large hiking rucksack, IC 703, an unfortunately somewhat heavier 12 V battery, the antenna was a 16.5 m long 2.5 mm bronze wire fed via a fat 1:9 Unun, a Daiwa cross pointer SWR meter for control… and of course my Bencher BY-1 morse key. Everything was carefully packed.
When I set off, I felt like I had set off on an expedition.
Fortunately, I had chosen a more comfortable peak, DM/BW-055, where there are tables and benches.

Fortunately, there were no visitors on the Summit that morning. I threw a string over a branch and pulled up the antenna wire. Everything was assembled, working and I had a first qso. EW4DW called CQ and I answered… it wasn’t really SOTA yet but more a /P activity on my part.
Then I ventured into SOTA and called @HB9CBR /P on HB/VD-016… Bruno was my first SOTA contact … later I dared to call CQ SOTA. After 3 hours I had 18 qso in the log. With my excitement it was not always easy for the qso partners…

But when I went back in the early afternoon, I was happy and knew SOTA is for me!

How was your first time?

73 Armin


My first SOTA was Red Screes G/LD-017 a summit for which the most direct ascent is 20 mins drive from my QTH. I had recently purchased a second hand FT-817.

It was 28th December 2016, I had done very little walking in the Lake District except for a few obvious lower hills. The WX was cold and misty, and if it hadn’t been for another group of walkers setting off in front of me I think I would have driven home. After 45 mins of a stone staircase, with some careful traversing about 3/4 of the way I reached my first proper summit cairn horseshoe. It was bitterly cold. I shared the horseshoe with the other walkers, one of whom had operated radio in the Army until they moved on.

I setup my Nagoya 2m/70cm antenna on a tripod I’d taken and couldn’t believe when I turned the radio on that I was hearing stations. It was all very ‘amateur’ and ‘n00b’ but it did work. Having operated from the valleys previously here I heard virtually no-one, so this was quite a shock.

After a 30 minute pileup I was hooked and also had onset Hypothermia. Rime ice had formed on the antenna and the surrounding grass.

I don’t remember when I first tried HF which is a shame, as I think HF really sealed the deal for me!


My 1st time was on Burnt Jacket Mountain W1/AM-265 a previously unactivated summit in the Maine woods. I had a borrowed Elecraft K2 with a slab battery, a random length of wire tossed up in a tree and my trusty J38 key. My wife and 2 kids were lunching on the summit.

I didn’t know about spotting and called blind, bagging 3 qsos in 40 minutes and didn’t get number 4 until 50 minutes later. The family gave up shortly before that last Q and started heading down.

That inspired me to find easier, lighter and faster ways to activate. Sometimes the family will still go with me!


It was Richard G3CWI that got me into SOTA. For quite a number of years we were both members of the De Montfort University Amateur Radio Society, having met in the early 1970’s. Richard was one of the founding members of the scheme and had been trying to encourage me, amongst others, to join in the activity. Early in 2006 he organised a SOTA day for those of the Radio Society that wished to operate radio out on a hill. Several members went out to the G/CE summits. Living further south, I elected to go to Walbury Hill G/SE-001.

The summit is an hour and a half drive from my house. I arrived at what serves as a car park for Walbury in good time - about 11.15 a.m. local time. I unpacked the kit from the back of the car, pleased I had put the poles and the antenna in the car and not in the car boot! Wearing 4 layers of clothing, ski gloves and armed with two small seats (the folding tripod type), an overlong length of UR67, 3 metres of 25mm aluminium masting, a 7 element beam and a haversack full of battery, FT-290R, linear amplifier, cabling, etc., I set off, much to the bemusement of walkers who were evidently not used to people encumbering themselves in such a fashion.

The walk up to Walbury is an easy one - thankfully (do you think I’d be so stupid as to try this on another hill?). The grassland at the top is designated as a conservation area, so the track shown on the OS map was the one to use. When I arrived the temperature would have been about 7 degrees, with a light wind, no sun. Tolerably pleasant. When the sun came out, the clouds went, the temperature dropped and the wind got stronger - I took refuge behind the trig point!

I cringe when I look at this. :joy:

I was QRV at 12.00 exactly and heard Bob G3ORY/P on Bardon Hill G/CE-004 at good strength. Tim G4ARI’s carrier was detected (Walton Hill G/CE-002), but no audio. No response when I called in. I tried again - no response again. I checked the rig on SSB – no transmit audio! Arghh! Locate problem - mic plug not making with the socket - loosen off collar and now I have audio. Back to 145.400MHz and call again - still no response. Oh well - I go and play radio elsewhere!

In all I worked 18 in 4 hours of operating, surprisingly giving quite a few people the summit for the first time. I worked Richard G4ERP/P on two summits. Most of the QSOs were on SSB. I ran 20 watts to the 7 element at 3 metres. Best DX - Phil G4OBK near Pickering in North Yorkshire - 323km.

The only time I used these seats!

So for 88 miles travel each way, was it worth it. Yes! I really enjoyed time to myself and it was good to talk to people. I had three visits during the day - the first were a hiking couple who came for the view from the trig point, second were the herd of 50 sheep on Walbury came to say Hi and third - I was visited by a group of four Red Kites circling close in at 30 feet who came to see whether I had brought a pocketful of raptor food with me. Unfortunately I hadn’t.

Some of the locals.

Richard G4ERP told me that the SOTA bug is easily caught. Maybe it is… when I got home my first thought was “now where’s that shorter length of UR67 got to”?

73, Gerald G4OIG


My first activation was back in September 2011. I went climbing Hohes Rad (OE/VB-021) in the Silvretta range together with a friend. This was our primary goal and SOTA was just a sideline.
The equipment consisted of a rather old Kenwood TH-205E and a J-Pole antenna which I suspended from the summit cross (no other hikers at the top).
I didn’t know anything about spotting. Subsequently only a single QSO with a local OE9-station went into the log before we had to pack up.

It stayed with this single activation because of this experience and other obligations. SOTA sank into oblivion until 2015 when I did my first activation on HF from Farrenberg (DM/BW-089).
This activation went much better and I enjoyed the trip to my local summit as well as the 15 QSOs I made that day. That’s when the SOTA bug got me. So it was rather the second time :wink:

73, Roman


I remember my first activation. It wasn’t a glowing success. I tried 2m FM and managed all of 2 QSO. :slight_smile:


Well, first of all, I want to say that I really love Sade’s music.

I remember very well my first time tasting a SOTA activation:
It was an afternoon of September 2013 when Ignacio EA2BD and Santi EA2BSB (SK) went to the not anymore an active SOTA Mt. Arangoiti EA2/NV-031 for a joint activation and antennas testing. I had returned to my birth land Navarra about a year before, in summer 2012, after an 8 years time living in Madrid and I had not yet met Santi EA2BSB by that time, and I had only had some brief encouters with Ignacio EA2BD. But I felt interested with what they were going to do and asked if they would mind me showing up there to see and hear what that was up to. Of course, they showed no objection and there I drove with my little daughters. We met at the summit when they had already installed or they were installing their antennas (I don’t remember exactly). They started their operation and at one point, Ignacio offered me his paddle to operate on 20m CW. I accepted and worked some stations calling in a small but very attractive pileup. I operated using EA2BD callsing. The pileup and continuous stream of chasers calling in definitely hooked me up. Ignacio spoke me about SOTAwatch and then I started my SOTA chasing.

About a month later, on November 1st, 2013, we met for a joint activation of Mt. Adi EA2/NV-017. The hike was unforgetable for me as it was the first after a long, long break of 20+ years.

Although I already had my FT-817ND and MFJ-941B antenna tuner by that time, which I had bought a couple of years earlier for playing radio during my family holidays in Galicia coast, I didn’t take them with me because I didn’t have a suitable battery, not even a proper rucksack to carry them up. So, my first SOTA activation with my own callsign was done using Ignacio EA2BD and Santi EA2BSB (SK) HF and VHF stations.

If I was hooked after my first experience in September, this November 1st activation, my first ever SOTA activation, definitely made that hook sink very deep inside my flesh.

Soon after that activation, I prepared my first SLAB battery, bought a rucksack at Decathlon (the same I’m still using now) and you can imagine the rest…

I will always feel inmensely grateful with Ignacio EA2BD and Santi EA2BSB (SK) for what they did for me to know and get involved with the SOTA programme.
And they even made this 1st activation award for me:

Thank you so much.




My first activation was in February 2016 on the Schönberg DM/BW-105. I had heard about SOTA and just went for it. 2 QSOs were in the log. The following 2 further SOTA activations were also characterised by “just go for it”. Again, only 2 QSOs each. No matter, it’s fun :slight_smile:

The spotting came much later and then the whole thing was much more fun. Little by little, everything became more and more solid. It is still a lot of fun and when I laugh I remember the beginning :wink:

But my first Chaser QSO is much more exciting. Date 22.09.2010. I was cycling at the time and made a stop at the Globushütte in Musbach (Google Maps). I had my handheld radio with me when I suddenly heard Herbert @OE9HRV on 2m. He told me that he was on Schesaplana SOTA QRV OE/VB-019. I couldn’t do anything with it - because I had taken my licence exam only a few days before (at that time still with the callsign DO5TMM). Everything was new to me and S O T A were unknown letters.

For me it is somehow unbelievable today that one of my first QSO was a SOTA Chaser QSO. And today I’m on it myself :+1:

Exciting of course when I heard Herbert @OE9HRV on 06.09.2018. I was active on Fluh DL/AL-278 with the family. I recognised the call immediately. Our second QSO - this time I was the activator - almost exactly 8 years later.

SOTA has been with me since I was a radio amateur.

See you soon in a QSO!

73 Marcel DM3FAM