Operating Practices

Hi Everyone.
I am new to SOTA with one activation (VK3/VS-048 for 1 point - I see it as the first step).
I worked 2m FM simplex and 10m ssb for my first activation, and worked local stations in the area that I knew. I was hoping 10M might open up on the day, but unfortunately not.

Anyway, I called CQ SOTA and gave the summit number to all contacts, but I was wondering if there is a “standard” and/or recognisable way to call CQ for both SSB and CW for SOTA activations, and also give the summit number.

Also, I was wondering, as there are no band or mode multipliers for SOTA, how do activators decide on frequency and mode for the activation? Do you try to do multiple bands and modes, or just one band/mode?

Also, as there are no multipliers for the number of contacts, do activators just get the required number of contacts for official activation, or spend time on the summit to give as many chasers a point as possible?

And lastly, if you are some distance from the peak, say because the peak is on private property and you cant get any closer, but are still within 25M of the summit HASL, does that still count as an official activation?

Sorry for all the newbie questions,
Thanks for your interest.

1 Like

In reply to VK3UA:

Hi Mark,

Welcome to SOTA, take care this can become addictive!

To answer some of your questiones: Calling "CQ CQ Summits-on-the-air from on SOTA " is certainly a good format when activating SOTA. Most operators will give their Summit Reference with the first few QSOs, but once they have a little pile-up running will fall back to handing out the reference every 5th to 10th QSO, but there are no strict rules here. If your chaser has picked the reference by listening to you for some time or via SOTA Watch then there is no need to give it out repeatetly.

There are no multipliers in SOTA, because it is less of a contesting but more of an outdoor+fitness+radio activity. Depending on the time you can spend on the summit you might want to try different bands to maximize your coverage of chasers. Here in Europe you can allways raise a local pile-up on 7 MHz. I tend to move to higher bands whenever possible. I guess this will be different down under where you have less local chasers. You might want to start on 14MHz right away.

Most operators do not limit themselves to the required 4 contacts. That would be like being invited to a buffet dinner, picking 4 tiny bits and then walking away. Who would do this? Certainly not me, I need more contacts until satisfaction sets in.

I usually plan my trips to be about 2 hours on a summit. Deducting time for having a snack, taking some photos, talking with other people around and setting up and taking down the antenna leaves me 1 to 1,5 hours of net operating time. I usually run 2m FM to cover the locals and then turn to 10MHz CW. Depending on band conditions I will also try higher bands. Never forget to monitor weather conditions and quit in time to safely descent.

Regarding the vertical elevation you are right: As long as you stay within the activating zone defined by a 25m contour line around the summit you are fine. Please check the associations reference manual. These vertical distances might be slightly different from association to association.

Have fun and hope to work you soon!

73 Heinz, OE5EEP

In reply to OE5EEP:

“Most operators do not limit themselves to the required 4 contacts. That would be like being invited to a buffet dinner, picking 4 tiny bits and then walking away. Who would do this?”

I really like that analogy Heinz - it will no doubt come to mind as I work my way down the pile up on 10MHz CW. :slight_smile: As for picking just a few bits, I think most activators try to finish everything there is on the table!

73, Gerald G4OIG

In reply to OE5EEP:

Yes, I fully agree to what was said regarding the 4 QSO requested for a valid activation.
Let’s looking at it the other way around: Why should I wake up at 04.30, car drive for abt 1.5 h, hiking up for abt 4 h, to activate a (HB9-)summit rated at 8 points for 4 short SOTA contacts?
Dividing this effort by, let’s say, 40 contacts makes considerably more fun.

73, Heinz HB9BCB

In reply to HB9BCB:

I agree with Gerald, that was a very striking analogy and I do agree with it. However, for me being in the mountains and climbing mountains is such a joy that if an activation goes badly I do not feel too sad. I’ve had a few unqualified activations, and I’ve touched the summit cairn (like greeting an old friend) a few times and then descended in the face of bad weather without getting the rig out, but I got there and felt that I had my money’s worth!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:
I think an activator should NEVER stop after 4 contacts only.
That would be good for those with high power and rude manners
transmitting their call more than once.
Years ago I started to note how many calls I need for a rare station.
With carefully listening and waiting for the right moment on the
right frequency it is mostly less than 10 calls for a rare station.

On the summit I plan to switch to split operation if the PU does not
stop on my next activation and just listen 100 to 300 Hz up and down.

73 + cu on the summit
Mike, dj5av

In reply to DJ5AV:

Its a known trick, deliberatly transmit lower in freq. Your sigs will pop out at the activator’s end, provided you are not outside its filter’s edges.

In reply to VK3UA:
Mark, we’re close to the peak of the solar cycle. Check conditions on 10 and 12 meters before setting out. For example, right now the solar flux is 133 with A and K indices of 3 and 0. One would expect those two high bands to be open, and sure enough, I’m hearing very loud Europeans on 12 meters whilst my morning sun is barely 10 degrees above the Eastern horizon…same as the setting angle in Europe. Get on air at 1930z and you will have all the USA callers you can handle using those bands, while 0800z gets you Europe. I’ve emailed a few Aussies about this, and I’m praying that the message gets through!! See you on the air.
Elliott, K6ILM
Nuisance Guy

In reply to DJ5AV:

I think an activator should NEVER stop after 4 contacts only.
Well that very much depends on the bands used and working conditions. Using only 2m FM the 4 qualifying QSO can be quite hard here in BM-land. On the other hand you can have a nice, long QSO talking about weather, the summit, your gear,… on 2m. On HF the number of chasers limits most of the QSOs to calls and reports. On 40m SSB I give my reference in every QSO for the first few QSOs. Later on I limit it to about every 5th QSO.

On 40m SSB I would never stop the pileup after 4 QSO without important cause. I always try to work all stations calling. It is fun to do many QSOs and work all the chasers you know. Of course I want to give every chaser the possibility to get points from my activation. This normally takes about half an hour. Interesting observation: The change from pileup to no stations coming back is very abrupt. I wonder where all the stations calling on top disappear so quickly. Do they give up all the same time? Or are they attracted by an other activator?

Regarding the way of calling: I normally call “CQ SOTA, CQ Summits on the Air” and my call. From time to time I also give the summit reference in the CQ. During my last activations I announced the last CQ including summit reference. So chasers know, this is the last chance to work me from this summit.

Concerning the activation zone:
The VK ARM allows 25m vertical distance from the summit. While I tried to operate from the exact position of the summit in the beginning I now more often use the 25m vertical distance in order to find a nicer place, not to disturb other hikers on the summit,…
The GPS receiver is a valuable tool for locating the AZ on site.

73 de Michael, DB7MM

Hi Everyone
Thank you all for the great advice and tips.
I am happy to receive so many positive replies.
I wont quote everyone but I will respond to each point:

The CQ replies were exactly what I wanted to know. I will feel more confident when calling now. Also, I understand now you dont have to give the summit reference every over as those listening will already have it down. Every few overs is what I will do from now on.

It seems the band/mode is a cross between preference and conditions. Here in VK, I think 40m is going to be important, with the higher bands for DX if they are open. I am working on a fan dipole with 40 / 20 / 15 / 10 for inverted V operation with a 7 metre squid pole for the mast. I also plan to try an end fed long wire with an L match.
SSB is the obvious operating mode, but I will also try CW as there will be more chance of DX contacts at 5 watts (FT817). My CW is only about 12wpm, so if you ever do hear me, give me a break :slight_smile:

The number of contacts got some interest. The only reason I asked that is that I noticed some activators did 2 or 3 or even 4 activations in one day. Here in VK3 a number of summits are close to each other so I was wondering if I should be just getting 4 contacts and then packing up and moving to another close by summit. Personally, as it is rare to be the centre of a pile up here in VK, I would welcome one and LOVE it, and would not consider closing down until the activity subsided, or the battery expired. Current problem here is that there are not many summit chasers in VK yet, so I think a pile up will only result if the bands open to the northern hemisphere. Hopefully as more people learn about SOTA here in VK the situation will improve. I think if VK2 can get approved summits then that will help a lot.
Anyway, I hope there are plenty of northern hemisphere chasers interested in VK summits as I will be calling over (our) summer. I like trekking and camping (ex-army signals) and plan to actually camp at some summits and try to operate as long as possible.

Thanks for the clarification of the 25M vertical distance of the summit. I have a Garmin 12XL gps which shows HASL. As was mentioned, I can use this to find a good operating position, not in the way of tourists, etc, around the summit, as well as to check when there are access issues. Quite a lot of summits here are on private property and the laws here dont allow automatic access like in Europe. You have to get the landholders permission. I am making up a access permission form that I can take with me to get signed by the landholder if they do give access to a summit on thier land.

Thanks Everyone for your interest and advice, and I look forward to hearing you on air (maybe even s2s, wow).


In reply to VK3UA:
Hello Mark welcome to sota in vk i am trying to contact you if you would like to check out the vk sota yahoo group as iam not sure if you have joined yet. i hope to be doing a summit next Saturday if wx is cool and i will be trying 10m in my morning . watch sota watch for a time. iam seting up a simple vertical using a hustler mobile whip on a pvc pipe support to get it off the ground and 4 radials as conterpoise and guy supports. my home email is
vk5cz@bigpond .com or Skype ianvk5cz good luck on those pile ups they can get busy . My first SOTA activation took 45 minutes to work the pile up on cw to eu on 20m cw.
73 Ian vk5cz …

In reply to K6ILM:
You might finally get your chance. Next week, we have a series of activations planned, and I will be taking a vertical + a tuner, so I will have 10/12 capability. I also find the vertical is better for DX contacts than an end fed on a 7m squid pole as well.

73 de Wayne VK3WAM