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New to SOTA, intro & basic questions

Howdy folks! I’ve been licensed for just over six months and want to have a go at activating the 5 peaks we have here on the Isle of Man, but I just can’t find the kind of concise information that I need in order to get me started, despite having watched all of YouTube and reading what feels like the entire internet. Hope I’m not going to catch too much flak for asking this: :innocent:

I’m on a valid summit, calling CQ SOTA. Somebody responds.

  1. Does the other party also need to be enrolled in the SOTA programme, i.e. summit-to-summit or a chaser, or does any contact count as long as it’s not via a repeater?
  2. Is there a minimum number of contacts that I need before the peak is activated, and does that number vary in any way?
  3. Is there a way to maximise the points through repeat activations or additional contacts?
  4. Where do I log the contacts once I’m back at base, and is there a time-out window?

Once again, I’m sorry to be asking this here since there are so many FAQ pages and videos, but I don’t need advice on mountain-craft, clothing or radio, just some SOTA-specific skinny to get me started with this. Many thanks in advance for your understanding, and for any pointers. :+1:

Mark | MD7MUP

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Have you read the rules yet?

I am sure that there are people far more qualified to answer, but given the choice between starting a new piece of (work) work from home which will require a lot of thought and brain power at an early stage of the morning or an easy answer I went for the latter…

Does the other party also need to be enrolled in the SOTA programme, i.e. summit-to-summit or a chaser, or does any contact count as long as it’s not via a repeater?

No - You just need 4 contacts. See about spotting at the end…

Is there a minimum number of contacts that I need before the peak is activated, and does that number vary in any way?

Minimum to get ponts 4 contacts

Is there a way to maximise the points through repeat activations or additional contacts?

Each summit can be activated once per year ( once in 2022, again in 2023 etc… ) to get activator points ( If there is winter bonus it can be done twice, once for the points for the hill and again in winter for the bonus points )

Where do I log the contacts once I’m back at base, and is there a time-out window?

Carefully set up ONE account with SOTA - register from here Summits on the Air - after the activation just log in and upload your contacts. There is no need for chasers to do this for you to get your activator points but many will. AFAIK there is no time out window, certainly not a short one! The database does all the calculations for you!

Extra Thoughts…
It is worth “Spotting” yourself so chasers can look for you - the SOTAwatch3 website shows who is activating now, and usually after putting a “spot” on there will be more callers…

Many stations value a S2S ( Summit2Summit ) contact - which also has points attached and I bet there will be lots of opportunity from the IOM for S2S’s with lots of hills, it does have the advantage of having water rather than hills between you and the surrounding hills…

You don’t say if you are planning to do HF or VHF. If you have HF it would be worth trying to “chase” a few first to get a feel for how it works. It might be harder to do a VHF chase - you would have to look at the sotawatch website to find ifr someone is activating nearby summits.

WARNING - This ought to have one of those cigarette style labels… SOTA IS ADDICTIVE!!!

Hope to work you soon Paul G4IPB

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Every QSO made according to the general rules - see the Joining-in section on the main SOTA website

1 to activate and 4 for points but that’s in the general rules too

Nope. Once per year it is. Only exception are the 3 winter bonus point in case the summit qualifies for those.

SOTA Database
No timeout but the rules ask for a logging in a reasonable time span. I would say within some days or up to month would be good.
As stated register once with a username (that can be your callsign but any other name works too). When looging activations or chases your own callsign needs to be defined anyhow and everything gets saved in your account.

I see more infos popping up so I stop now :wink:

73 Joe

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Hello Mark,

Welcome to SOTA, and indeed to amateur radio! I think others have already answered your questions. The only additional thought is that whilst you only get activator points for each summit once a year, there is nothing to stop you doing repeat activations in order to accumulate summit to summit points if you get into that!

Good luck with it all and hopefully work you from a summit one day.

73 - Matthew M0JSB

Thanks for the detailed reply @G4IPB, really appreciate it. Just to clarify, there’s a distinction between activating a summit and getting points? I always thought those were one and the same thing, and your reference to 4 contacts minimum seems to suggest this is correct, however in his reply to me earlier today @OE5JFE stipulates ‘1 to activate and 4 for points’ so I want to be sure. With just 5 qualifying peaks in my country I don’t want to end up missing out on those points …

I’ve heard about Spotting from other users but to be honest that doesn’t sound like something I’d get into. For one thing, I simply don’t ‘do’ mobile phone or social media (so no Twitter, mobile email, or SMS) and I don’t know exactly when I’d be on the summit anyway - my mind likes to wander on days off and the body inevitably follows. :wink:

As for the activation method, I purposely left that out of my original message because that too is up in the air. I may just take the FT-5D with me and try 2/70, or I may pack my 705 and a multi-band dipole. Either way I’ll see where I get by flinging out my GD-land callsign before I think about spotting. Yep, I’m lazy …

Thanks once again for the help, Paul. Great stuff.

I’ve read that section in its entirety on two separate occasions, but I just couldn’t extract the info I needed Joe. Same for the General Rules. I’m sorry if that’s me being unusually myopic and I’m grateful to you for taking the time to help me out.

Gotcha. (thanks too to @G4IPB for same) I’m beginning to wish I’d started this endeavour a fortnight earlier in order to squeeze a couple of points out of 2021. Oh well, live and learn.

That’s a great point Matthew, thanks for calling out - and of course for the warm welcome!

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The 23 page PDF? Only those sections which seemed relevant, plus a few others out of curiosity. I’m sorry but I didn’t find the info I needed - my bad.

Hi Mark.
You can use that FT5D to spot yourself from the summit using APRS. Instructions in this thread:

You’ll need to register with Stewart, G0LGS.

APRS has the added benefit that people can see you approach the summit and might be ready and waiting even before you spot!

1 or more QSOs from a summit we call an activation
4 or more QSOs from a summit we call a qualifying activation - i.e. you get the activator points

As well as the other rules do be sure to understand the definition of the activation zone (AZ) which is a detail folk sometimes get wrong:

https://www.sota.org.uk/Blog/2020/09/01/In-The-Zone-2

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Mark, welcome to SOTA. It’s a ton of fun. Sounds like you’re getting most of the info you required. I just got a FT5D myself, can’t wait to try it.

The answers to 3 of your questions are directly given and the answer to the other is implied. I strongly suggest you read all of it several times even though it is a bit stodgy. Well very stodgy!

The definition in the general rules is that for a successful activation 1 QSO is needed (otherwise there is nothing to log into the database) but 4 QSO are needed to get the points for the summit.

You can set up an Alert on your PC before heading out to do a summit and then ask one or two of the chasers to spot you. If you’re relying on 2 m to activate you might need all the help you can get, but if you’ve got HF capabilities as well, you might be fine without alerting and spotting.

I suggest doing some chasing to get used to how SOTA works. If you’re chasing you can get chaser points for the same summit once a day, so you can collect those more easily.

If you want to get out more, you can also activate the same hills more than once a year. You won’t get any extra points for it, but other people will want to get the chasing points so they’ll be keen to get a contact with you anyway. Other activators will also be keen to get points for S2S contacts with you.

As some one already mentioned, do make sure you double check where the boundary of the activation zone (AZ) is, so that you’re definitely inside it when you set up your station.

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Hi Mark,

Welcome aboard!
Once you have activated a summit or two, and entered the logs into the database, you can see how you are getting on by looking at the “My Results” pages - see screenshot below.
Under “My Statistics” it shows how many activations you have done, as well as points gained etc. So, even if you don’t manage to “Qualify” a summit by getting at least 4 QSOs, you can take pleasure from watching that number grow!
There are lots of goals that you can set for yourself within SOTA, which is one of the reasons that it is so much fun. And addictive, as someone else pointed out :smiley:

73
Adrian

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Hello again Mark… my first activation wasn’t a success Didn't manage to activate G/NP-006 - advice needed but I have not had a “fail” since - and probably spotting made the biggest difference.
If you use CW then something called RBN Hole can do this for you - again making it easy…
If you put an alert up there is a better chance of people listening for you - even if the time is vague. I find it is a useful distraction when faced with an exciting work task…
On HF if you appear on some frequencies where activators usually work you are more likely to be heard 3.75MHz - although that requires quite a lot of wire to make an effective antenna, 7.1 MHz - but usually finding a gap on 7MHz (40m) can be a bit hard, and around 14.300MHz on 20m is a good starting point. Once someone hears you they can put a “spot” up for you and the masses will follow…

Finally SOTA is as easy (or hard) as you make it - it is your challenge and whatever kit or operating sytem you use will change over time - if nothing else so you don;t get bored. Even with something as simple as antennas on 2m you will find advice suggesting that either it should be done with a small rubber helical antenna, up to a station with 4, 5 element arrays all phased together… but what is right is what works for you!

Even more finally have a look at sotl.as SOTLAS loads of information about summits, and also what contacts other people have had from them which will give you an idea of what has been done!

Still hoping for a S2S at some point. Paul

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Welcome to the addictive world of SOTA!

If you don’t want to spot at least put out an alert. This way chasers will know to listen out for you. You can say that the time is very approximate (everyone knows they are approximate to some extent). I am sure the MD prefix will help attract callers too.

Here in G/NP land 2m FM is usually quite successful although it can sometimes be a struggle depending on the summit. I am also an HF CW operator and putting out an alert means I get an automatic spot. CW is also much more effective than SSB, especially with QRP.

73 Richard

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Boom! Now that’s an elegant solution using technology at it’s best. Thanks Simon. I’ll dig deeper into how I can best implement this without sending out spurious SOTA messages via APRS, as I’m a frequent user and don’t want to alert spotters unnecessarily. That’s a topic for another thread…

Great definition, thank you. (and to @OE5JFE for same) The point regarding the AZ is also noted - I’ll research this some more. Wonder if activating GD/GD-001 from the cafe counts, having ridden up in the electric tram. :wink:

Thanks for the warm welcome Matt. The FT5D is a cracking little radio but its menu layout takes some getting used to, at least for this Icom user. I think the jury’s still out over Yaesu’s APRS implementation, but then again I’m still quite new to all this. Enjoy!

I’ll have a go at chasing, thanks Sara. To date I’ve not yet heard anybody calling CQ SOTA from either my home setup (IC-705 with end-fed longwire) or while portable (IC-705 with Sotabeams multi-bander) probably because I tend to play radio in the week between shifts, with weekends taken up by a number of other hobbies. I also seem to ‘suffer’ from skip whereby I usually fail to reach UK and Western Europe, but get across to Eastern Europe no problems on 5W. Sadly there’s not much SOTA going on in Croatia on a Tuesday… :thinking:

Thanks Adrian, must be quite nice to reflect on your achievements once you’ve been doing this a while. I very much hope to work my way up to a full license so that I can combine SOTA with my other travels, assuming we ever get to do that again. Not sure the XYL will be pleased, at least not at first … hehe.

Thanks for another +1 on spotting first, Paul, I can see where this is leading. Sadly no CW at this end, though to be fair SOTA presents the best reason so far to give that a go. The frequencies are noted too - very useful! I don’t think I’ve seen SOTA in band plans yet, though if QRP centres of activity are in there… hmm.

Oh yes Richard - I’m hoping to ‘dine out’ on that ticket before too long. Certainly makes one popular on the worldwide digital channels! :v:

Your post is noted via the email notification Nick, thanks for sharing. Love all, Serve all - as they say the the 'rock. :+1:

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Given where you live with the Lake District and Wales not far away then 2m FM should work well. Simply calling CQ on 145.500 should get a response. I would recommend an improved antenna such as a Slim Jim or Yagi but give it a go first if you want with the stock Rubber Duck.

HF can be done without spotting but you may find it slow going. If you stay around the QRP zones it might help. Band choice is important. For example, 20m will probably go over the heads of most folk in the UK. 40m is often better for inter-G but can be very busy especially at weekends. If you are working mid-week you should find a slot.

I use a 705 and the AH-705 ATU with an end fed wire and it works well but I do use a phone to spot except when using CW when the RBN system does it for me. It was a life-saver in Scotland last year on a windy summit with no mobile signal. :slight_smile:

My suggestion would be to try 2m FM first and get your first activations that way. Using HF without spotting may be more frustrating and you don’t want to be put off at the start.

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Hi Mark,

often when wanting to make a contact to a certain region it is about selecting the right band and the right time of the day.

Have a look at the following tool.
https://www.voacap.com/hf/
This will help you to select the right band at the right time of the day.

Welcome to SOTA! Enjoy!

73s
Ingo

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