Keeping track of the correct Summit reference when activating

This is an issue far to often for activations. There are so many essential items you need to remember to take with you to the summit. The thing that seems to get forgotten most often is the Summit Reference. How? Why?

My one error was editing an old text spot on my phone, and missing one character in that process. I knew exactly where I was, but that one character slipped past me in the edit. Now I always put out a fresh text. Problem solved…

I ALWAYS take a GPS with a good Topo of the summit area. I save the summit Database coordinates as a Waypoint, and the name of the Waypoint is the Summit Reference. When I am on a summit, if that waypoint is saved in my GPS, the Reference Number for that summit will be at the top of the list in the GPS.

I imagine some write the Reference Numbers down in advance. What other strategies do activators employ? Obviously trying to do it by memory often doesn’t work all that well.

Just come up with a system. Put it on your checklist of things to remember, along with all the other essential gear. Thoughts?

And when someone announces that they gave out a wrong reference, do they at some point go into the Database to see which contacts didn’t get the message, for a follow up email?

Glenn AB3TQ

I try to write the reference number in my log book. Also, I take a screenshot of alerts just in case I don’t have internet on the summit so I might be able to get some S2S’s. If I forget my summit, I look at the screenshot and can get my reference number from that

Is it? I will grant you there’s been a couple lately but that may be the Frequency Illusion more than a real problem. I’d love to see an analysis of how many there have been in the last year versus the number of activations. A few are people also being mis-spotted rather than activator error. Activator can’t do anything about that.

I write the summit ref on top of my log book, but even then I’ve made mistakes, and throw in a different callsign if I’m activating overseas and it’s a wonder I get anything right!

Since I’ve started using a smartphone, almost no issues. When posting alerts, and later spotting myself, I place the cursor over the reference to display and confirm the summit name or elevation. I always write the name, designator, and lat/long at the top of the page of my field logbook, along with reminder for the ETA and frequencies I put on the alert. Occasionally I will say the wrong number while transmitting, but lately have realized it immediately to be able to then state it correctly. Editing and sending texts and aprs messages to self spot is trickier, but no errors I can recall for a long time (knock on wood.)


In preparing the previous day, I always write the summit name and reference code on the top of my logging sheets.

If using Rucksack Radio Tool on an Android phone with location services turned on, the app inserts the nearest SOTA summit automatically into the spotting field.

73 Ed.

I use RRT too.
Another Android app that is useful is SOTA FINDER
It shows the nearest summit on top of the list, distance + direction to summit, QTH locator etc …
73 Luc ON7DQ

Just before getting on the air I check the name of the summit using SOTA Goat (Summits/Nearby To You). I then self spot (New Spot). SOTA Goat comes up with the correct Summit ID.
Of course this will only work with if you have data coverage. European countries, except Germany, have very good coverage.

73, Hans PB2T

Actually Hans, the database is downloaded on your phone, so you don’t need data coverage. You do need a gps signal on your phone though

When I paper log I write it at the top of every page - because I forget.

Also I say it every 5th or so QSO and even add it to CQ calls in quiet periods.

More common now I use VK-Porta-logger where it is at the top of the screen (and any WWFF Ref).


I do that, too, although I actually use a reporters notepad because of the convenience of the spiral binding. However, I remember one activation where a sudden gust of wind tore the notepad out of my hands and sent it way down a rocky slope where it couldn’t be recovered without a hazardous scramble. I had some spare paper but had to make a contact to get somebody to look up the summit designation for me! Now I have a Chinagraph pencil and I write the summit on the top of the FT817 before going out on the activation. Later I clean it off with meths on a cotton wool ball - as a byproduct the rig gleams as if it is new! Its funny, though - I never forget the name of the summit, only its SOTA designation.

Same in RRT (and other Android apps I suspect) as SOTA GOAT(IPhoneOS) - as long as RRT can see a GPS signal it pre-fills the summit reference field with the closest summit in the spot and then you chose whether to send it via 3G data or SMS message depending upon what is working.

I have a strip of dry-erase tape on my flight board where I write the summit ref using a permanent marker (it comes off fine with rubbing alcohol). There’s an item on my activation checklist for having that written down before leaving so I don’t forget it.

The dry-erase tape is handy stuff around the shack and worth the trip to the office supply store or Amazon

Having the summit ref in front of me reminds me to put it in the QSO, too.


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I write it down on a piece of paper, or on the top of my log sheet. I’ve never had a problem (yet) with forgetting the reference. A lot of the summits in my area have good cell coverage, but I prefer not to have to rely on my phone or a GPS for anything critical (e.g. navigation) when I’m in the woods.

I’ve found I’ve had more of an issue mistyping the reference when self-spotting than forgetting it.

As for going into the database to see if chasers got the corrected information, I always do this after uploading the csv file, using the ‘show who chased me’ button. I do this partly out of curiosity. Chasers will occasionally have a typo on the designator, less often on my call sign, and I’ll send them a short email to the email address that’s on their page.

For notifying people, I used the nasota group on Yahoo. I would probably use both that and this forum in the future.
Peter KD0YOB

I think there is an android app called SOTA SPOTTER that tell you what summit you are on and also makes it real easy to post an alert. Sounds like there are other similar apps.