Motivation for SOTA activations

Great question Reid,

I’m perhaps a little different than most SOTA folk in that I was climbing mountains long before I ever got my amateur radio license. I got hooked on peak bagging at a young age. I could never abide exercising in a gym. If the focus of the activity is exercise, I find it excruciatingly dull. Also team sports never really took hold in me. I tended toward solitary pursuits.

Hiking up mountains my mind is on anything but the exercise or competitive achievement that a gym or team sports engender. The geology, the weather, the stars and planets (I hike before dawn a lot), the animals and plants, philosophy, theology, books, movies, geography, history… all these things are part of the meditation I find in walking to summits.

When I discovered SOTA in 2020, it was such a natural fit with my radio interests that my mind was boggled as to why I hadn’t stumbled on it sooner. This program has turbocharged my motivation to hike and to get on the air.

Another country heard from


Actually there are quite a few of us around. Nearly 30 years in the mountains before being licenced in 2011.


I suspect we are the exception to the rule Gerald. I climbed Mt. San Gorgonio in 1967 and was licensed in 2002.

PS; a few minutes ago here in The Land of Enchantment… no summits this afternoon:


I’ll admit I’m the same. I was trail running and hiking for 20+ years before I became a ham. I’ve climbed a lot of great stuff, I just wish I had had a radio with me then! Thanks for the great talks everyone!


I have done Radio and Mountains for a very long time, but just not together until I discovered SOTA. My motivation … started with improve my fitness, then I discovered the buzz of being on the busy end of a pile up and I almost always feel great for days after the walk…and now I’m hooked on getting the Goat which, despite retirement probably won’t be until 2024 (494 points to go - but I’m not really counting…) . Until then I’m looking to get to 1000 S2S (Again not counting but just 111 to go!) and completes where I’ve got another 50 to go to get to 100…

I find completes and uniques really interesting in taking me up new hills, some of which are amazing and I don’t think I would have seen otherwise, and some that are just …there.

This was the amazing view from Housedon Hill G/SB-010 which I know I would have only seen because of SOTA!


I’m another one. My earliest clear memory is partly walking and partly being carried up a Welsh Mountain somewhere around 1944, I walked the local hills on holidays with Welsh relatives as a kid and started a bit more serious stuff as a teenager. My first ham radio mountain foray was a trip with a friend to Southern GM and operating from Green Lowther GM/SS-056 in the 60’s - all valve (tube) gear, on top band and 2m, we drove up and set up on a picnic table. In the early 1980’s I took an FT290R up several mountains but without the SOTA infrastructure contacts were few! So motivation is first and foremost a deep lifelong love of the mountains plus the romance of sharing a summit with other hams.


I have been outdoors in the mountains and on the water since my teens, long before getting licensed in 1990. I stumbled into SOTA in 2007 out of curiosity after reading about it in a ham magazine. In the early years I enjoyed operating portable QRP-CW with a variety of small, homemade rigs (different SSTs, PFR-3). Once I had reached mountain goat status the sheer collection of points became less and less interesting. I then tried to activate new summits instead of harvesting the same, easy ones in vicinity of my home again and again. With some I still do, but that’s because I like them.

Over the years I have improved my radio equipment and hiking gear significantly. With radios I moved from a PFR-3 to a KX-3 and since its appearance to a KX2. Batteries I have used include Pb-gel (!), NiCd, NiMH, LiPo and now LiFePO4 exclusively. Regarding gear I have now the 4th backpack and at least the 6th pair of boots, 3 still in use, 3 retired.

Thinking about what motivates me to still do SOTA today I came across the following reasons (most important first):

  • Physical exercise in nature in all seasons (hiking, including some rock scrambling, snow shoeing, skiing)

  • Exploring areas and summits I would have never climbed without SOTA

  • Running a nice CW pile-up

  • Activating for uniques and completes

  • Experimenting with simple wire antennas

  • Improving my equipment

The downside:

  • Spending a lot on fuel and emitting CO2 to reach new summits

Without SOTA I still would have been active in the mountains, but to a lesser degree and likely limited to the ones near to my home with maybe a few bigger tours now and then. I would be less of an “all-season-hiker” and more of a “fine-weather-hiker”.

73, Heinz


As a reader of RadCom, I’d been aware of SOTA for some time, however the photos in the magazines were almost always of Old Boys wearing old Paramo or old Buffalo shirts, sitting on foggy summits with an FT-817. It didn’t really appeal to me, despite being a walker, climber and mountaineer.

Fast forward to 2019 and I started to unbox my amateur radio kit that hadn’t been used for eight years due to various house moves. The latest house wasn’t the best for setting up a base station, so my thoughts turned to portable operation. I started taking my handheld on hikes and started hearing a few stations. Spoke with Robin @GM7PKT and that sealed it. I’d do SOTA.

Fast forward again and the motivation is:

  • keeping me sane (although can drive me insane too)
  • exploring areas I’d never been to and would likely
    never go to
  • planning. I love planning the next big trip
  • fitness. I lost 10kg during lockdown
  • getting that forth contact against the odds
  • and of course working the surprise pile-ups
  • talking with you lot from your own summits
  • it makes amateur radio almost an extreme sport

73, From an Old Boy in a Buffalo shirt.


You forgot:

  • being a TV star

Much like some of the others, in that I’ve spent many years mountaineering/ x-country skiing, summer & winter climbing in the UK, Eire, Spain Norway & Switzerland along with canoeing, including some wonderful trips to extremely remote rivers in northern Canada.

I’d also been a Radio Operator in the Royal Navy and missed using CW, so when i discovered there was a Foundation licence in ham radio I took the exam. A year or two later one of the club members mentioned SOTA. I slowly got drawn into it and am now working my way to MG.

Its allowed me to visit hills and mountains I normally would have driven past on my way to some winter or summer climbing. Its been a bit of an eye-opener given all the areas I’d never really thought about visiting. So operating cw from the tops of hills combines two things I’ve always enjoyed.

Canoeing the Thelon.

X-country skiing

And being in the Hills using morse.


Awesome picture. It is now my wallpaper, and looks great stretched over dual monitors.


I can tell you where it went :joy:


As seems common in the thread, my motivations have evolved as time has gone on.

I was first licensed in 1997, I took my RAE (Radio Amateur’s Examination) before I knew much about ham radio. I was exposed to ham radio during my last few months at school, so I signed on to the full course as I began at college, in addition to my other studies.

I didn’t have a ham shack (and actually never have), so my only operating activities were out and about, and also at the radio club. I took my Morse test in 1999 after being helped to learn Morse by radio club members, so by February 1999, I was at the top tier with no idea! :laughing:

In 2001, I had been driving a car for a year or so, so I decided to go on a solo adventure to the isle of Mull for fun. The FT-817 had just launched in the UK, so I bought one for my trip. I had an awesome trip to Mull, it stands out as one of my best holidays, however I only managed one QSO on the radio!

In early 2004 I was operating my FT817 from a local high spot in the car when I worked Rod M3HLD on Pen Y Ghent G/NP-010 on 2m FM. Rod explained about SOTA and I immediately recognised that it would be a perfect activity for me - I even had the right radio!

I was hooked on SOTA straight away and started activating eagerly. Life then got busy; moving into my own home, girlfriend (later to become wife), a child, etc, all within a couple of years.

SOTA was a means to get on air and speak to people for me. I’d done a few mountains during school trips, but it has been SOTA that got me into hillwalking. Winter is a less busy time for me regarding family stuff, so I have concentrated on collecting winter bonus points to try to get my SOTA activator score up a bit. I finally got my Mountain Goat in 2017 after 13 years!

After my Goat, my next motivation was to gain what I termed ‘True Mountain Goat’, which is 1000 activator points without bonus points.

Along the way I got really interested in building my own gear, SOTA is a means to test my creations :slight_smile:

In recent times, my motivation for SOTA is just to get on air and connect with ‘friends’. Some friends I have met in real life, others I haven’t. The SOTA points are not too important to me these days although I would like to reach 2xMG.

73, Colin


Thanks Colin for sharing your story. Very interesting.

cheers Geoff vk3sq

For me it’s the whole package. Each outing is a mini-adventure, some more so than others. I enjoy the planning, logistics, navigation, the hike (if there is one). setting up an antenna under varying, and sometimes difficult, circumstances and finally, playing radio to prove it all works. It’s an addiction.

In past years, when I still had my airplane, I could fly to some out of the way airport (e.g. Lonesome Pine airport (KLNP) in SW Virginia), rent a car and do a mountain.


How the tables turned :rofl::rofl:


Good question!
You’re like a child asking “is it worth living on planet earth?”…

My attitude towards sota changed vy much within the last years. Score vs. meaningfulness, CO2 emission to get to the summit, how much time am I willing to spend,… what’s the real goal for me personally?
But apart from my personal sensitivities: sota is a fixed star in my life. After months of laziness, I come to the summit and everything is fine, just meeting the old friends - no stupid questions nor accusations.
I had an effort to reach the summit and I get respect and appreciation, as it should be … always … for all of the actions I take in my daily life … … … well - should be … but with sota it’s real!
I reach the summit - put up my stn - call cq - and the world is still in order…
73 Martin


It’s a (pretty thin) pretext to get out and go up hills. Much like hunting. When I’m out tramping it’s a pretext to make the extra effort to go up a summit instead of passing it by. Something to do of an evening in camp too.

I would have been doing this back in the day when I was still a stripling, and tramping and climbing remote areas. Sometimes we carried mountain radios anyway on the more remote trips.
But, they had the morse requirement, so we had VHF only licenses, and the very thing I could have used ham radio for best was closed off, and along with the annual license fee, and the increasing pull of the pussy, we let our licenses lapse.
If licensing was like it is today in ZL, we would have taken HF radios, and I expect that several of the YL’s along the way would have picked up a license, and I would have kept it up, as it has proven to be quite a satisfactory activity to do with the XYL, and would have been fun when the kids were little too.

With hindsight, Ham radio here missed the boat 40 years ago, when they should have changed licensing to how it is now: No morse, realistic exam difficulty, perpetual licenses, and run by NZART


CB then.

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As an avid ourdoorsman, I’ve never lacked the motivation to get out there into the hills. However, day or overnight trips have never appealed - tramping (hiking) has always been about missions into new territory, multi-day or multi-week trips into the unknown. Walking up a valley and back, or up a peak and back always seemed like a pointless effort in comparison.

So SOTA came as a godsend. Fitting neatly into a day or weekend, and motivating me to visit so many places that would never have come to my attention were they not marked by a small purple ‘SOTA summit’ triangle on my map! Hours of pouring over maps stringing together efficient multi-summit ridgeline trips, or squinting at contours looking for ‘breaks’ in the terrain hinting at access. Less expected, but equally welcome has been the sense of community that comes with SOTA. The pleasure on picking out that familiar voice from the noise (or in some cases being deafened by it as you reach to back off the volume).

But the distance to new peaks grows and the ethics of travelling such distances for day-trip recreation becomes more and more questionable. So the question becomes: ‘what next?’.

  • The new job working with a crew/team makes tacking SOTA onto work trips less realistic.
  • I can still use vacation time to spend a week or two in a new area and explore new peaks, but vacations are limited and shared with so many other objectives and challenges
  • And I am lucky enough to still have a whole host of private-land peaks nearby, so am learning the art of landowner-diplomacy.

However, once they’re gone, I will need a new source of inspiration to get me out of the door and into the hills. Or a new mode of transport to get there. Hopefully SOTA will be part of that.