I thought I would revive this topic from April, 2017 and recommend it for reading.
Like KX0R and other ops, one of my favorite aspects of SOTA activations is chasing s2s contacts. Before leaving the house, I use the Alerts to preview what times, bands and regions of the country are being activated and plan my activation accordingly. This is especially important if there is no 4G cell service on my chosen summit. This is also helpful for home chasers to help plan their daily activities.
Yesterday I checked the SOTA Alerts early in the morning before leaving the house and found five (5) stateside CW activators who had posted Alerts for the 1500-1800Z time period. That is when I planned to be on my summit. In fact, a later review shows that there were at least thirteen (13) other CW activators participating in SOTA yesterday during that period !!!
If I had known you were coming, I would have baked a cake. Please post an Alert on SOTAWatch as far in advance as possible.
Thanks and regards,
Agreed, Mike. Over the past few years it seems there has been a decline in the number of alerts posted relative to actual summit activity. I don’t have hard data, but that’s what it seems to me. Many days the list is fairly sparse now. I know some summit activations can be spur of the moment, but it is mutually beneficial to post alerts. If I see a cluster of alerts around a certain time, I can often plan to be in the shack during that period. If there are no alerts, I go about my day.
I always alert, not least because I want RBNHole to do its stuff. I think in that earlier thread many said they didn’t alert because they weren’t sure of their timing and didn’t want to promise something and not deliver. I think saying you plan your activities around the alerts will make them even less likely to alert. You can’t win!
An alert is not a promise, just an indication of planned activity. I agree that every activator should alert. You can always add a comment to say it’s tentative, weather dependent, very approximate time etc.
Alerts involve the use of a very cloudy crystal ball! You estimate how long it takes to get to your summit while praying to the traffic gods that no idiot is going to meet his nemesis and involve you in hours of queued traffic and poorly marked diversions, then you arrive at the trail head and search for parking, you follow a poorly described trail climbing over deadfalls, washouts and fording streams before bog-trotting, then you arrive at the summit and search for a good spot before assembling your gear. Perhaps en route you see that your intended summit is hosting an unexpected thunderstorm and look for an alternative involving further driving, or a diner coaxes you to abandon your strict timing in favour of a coffee and a snack to fortify you for the coming ordeal…seriously, though, I rarely post an alert (well nowadays I rarely activate due to age) because I don’t want the extra bother of keeping to a schedule - after all there is no shortage of chasers nowadays! So while I sympathise with your request I don’t think I will heed it.
I think Alerts are important for chasers who check SW3 for the day to see who may be going out on SOTA. It’s nice to keep the sloth score ticking along and a sort of courtesy to give the activator a contact when possible and most times the regular activators will pay me back when I go out next time.
Ian vk5cz …
I definitely agree with you as I’m mainly a CW activator and very much into S2S contacts. I’ve had marginal or no cell coverage on many summits I’ve done here in Colorado. Being auto-spotted when you previously posted an alert has really reduced my stress! I can understand why activators who only do phone may discount that advantage though. The other factor is probably that some activators may choose to activate at the last minute and wait to either post an alert or post an actual spot when they summit. I try to post alerts the day before I activate but many times I’ve decided to go at the last minute. In those cases, I still post an alert before leaving home but that gives chasers or S2S activators a smaller window for planning.
Of course, there are some “old school” guys that would rather just call CQ with no alert or spotting tools. That’s how we did things years ago ;-)…
I must do better, I must do better, I must do better at posting alerts. Been saying that to myself for at least 3 years now, so don’t recommend anyone holds their breath.
There are 3 impediments that I found to posting sotawatch alerts:
- They are designed for single-summit, firm-plan trips. And impractical for the sort of multi-day, multi-summit per day tramps that I tended to do at the start of my SOTA involvement. Day 1, summit 1 I could predict to within a couple of hours (assuming I succeeded in summitting). By the time we get to day 5 I’m likely to be days out, if I even get there at all.
- There is still no way to (sotawatch) alert when not in data coverage. So alerting-as-you go on a longer trip is not generally possible.
- Many of my single summit activations are spur-of-the moment, and I wonder if posting an alert 1-2 hours before summiting is of any use.
- I also understand that there are already many heuristic traps encouraging bad decision-making regarding continue/turn back decisions, and ‘I’ve told everyone I’m going to summit this peak’ can certainly add another one.
Point 1: The end result of the first point is that for long trips I end up posting a trip outline to a mailing list before I start, stating the area I’m headed to, the trip duration and the list of candidate peaks. Sotawatch is not really suited to this.
Point 2: The end result of the 2nd point is that when I do send out ‘todays plan’ alerts mid-trip they are also to the mailing list, as I can email the mailing list from an inreach, but not Sotawatch.
Point 3 I’m open to feedback on. Is there any benefit from an alert with such short notice?
Point 4 is less of an issue for me. I’m pretty good at turning back when required - as a frequent marginal-weather / uncertain terrain tramper: trips have goals, not destinations. But it does come up in accident and fatality reports with some regularity.
However, the end reality is that given 3 years of living with the above, I’ve developed ways of working and alerting that do not use Sotawatch when on long trips - which will be a hard routine to break.
I must do better!
When possible, I also try to update my ETA of course ,if cellular coverage allows.
That way chasers knows my progression.
There is a way to alert for multi summit days, use question marks for part of the summit ref, chasers will know to expect you on air and can get the ref when they work you. For multi day trips you could post an alert for each day with question marks in the ref which will work unless you are switching regions during the day.
Alerts are important…they can save the day. The “Wild Card” alert is a good tool. Please don’t be afraid to use it to your advantage.
A good example: Let’s say you plan to activate hypothetical Peak Z, W0C/LL-123, on a busy Saturday morning. You post an alert for that peak at 1600Z. You get to the parking lot and discover that it’s full, and there’s no alternate parking available. So you go to Peak Q nearby, activate it, and waste a lot of energy trying to convince your chasers and S2S partners that you’re on a different peak. Some people log you incorrectly, and some spot you incorrectly, for all the other chasers to see and log!
Instead, when you post your alert, you remember that parking for Peak Z may be tricky, and you might have to go to Peak Q instead. So you post your alert for W0C/LL-XXX, or some other “wild card” designator. Regardless of which peak you activate, you’ll be spotted by the RBNHole with your wildcard designator. As you call CQ, you send your correct designator, and then you send it several more times during your activation - in particular, each time you go to a new band and/or get re-spotted by the RBNHole. Some chasers may ask you to confirm your summit reference, and some may spot you with what you send them, so be careful to send it correctly every so often.
If you don’t know your ETA, or you want a wider window, add S+5 - or similar - in your alert comment, to add some time beyond the normal window for the RBN Hole. You can post your start time early and add time for the end, etc. This doesn’t work well for multiple summits in close succession, but that’s a different topic.
The “wild card” is a good trick for when you think you might try for a second summit, but you’re not sure which one, etc.
An alert with a “wild card” designator is much better than no alert. This is really a special case of the “Golden Rule”.
QSL, Mike. Alerts do help.
BTW: I know what TV program and personalities from whence you borrowed the phrase: “If I had known you were coming, I would have baked a cake”
. . . nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.
73 de Sevim, WB8BHN
Thanks. I didn’t know you could post an alert that didn’t match a valid SOTA reference. That’s a good trick to know.
Alerts with RBNHole have allowed me to have successful activations that would have otherwise almost certainly failed due to limited time available on the summit. I like to do multi-day SOTA/backpacking trips where the summit choices and timing are not usually determined until the night before in the tent. There is usually no phone or APRS coverage, so a successful spot is solely dependent on the Alert-RBNHole combination. Before the trip I typically upload daily Alerts with “W7M/??-???” (or similar), a UTC time that corresponds to local noon, and a comment similar to “Backpacking Trip - Summit numbers and times uncertain S-4 S+8”. This allows RBNHole to operate from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm each day. I was under the impression that this would work for multi-summit days also - so long as the 2nd summit was not on the same frequency, but George - KX0R’s comment makes me wonder if I am missing something.
Rob - AE7AP
It’s always the same activators that don’t alert. I don’t think it’s out of ignorance…and that’s unfortunate.
73 - Chris F4WBN
I know some activators that don’t want to alert because they feel under time pressure to be at the summit on time. Or feel that changing plans on short notice is not possible then.
But ultimately it is just a plan. If it does not work or happen also no big deal.
It’s always interesting to hear a range of views, which can inform what we choose to do.
I don’t think we should pressure people into behaving in a particular way, though.
Sometimes I alert, sometimes I don’t. I never make that choice to be mean to chasers. (I am a chaser too)
If we all worked in exactly the same prescribed way, perhaps it would become a bit routine and less fun.
I always alert but I must admit it’s for selfish reasons. I am exclusively CW on HF so I want RBNHole to spot me.
It works in that spots will be posted if either frequency changes or 10 minutes have elapsed since the last spot. It doesn’t work in George’s sense in that people will inevitably get confused at multiple ??? summit numbers and log the wrong summit because they don’t listen for the ref.
Multi-day alerts can work by extending the window backwards - ie, post an alert for the final day and have an S-240 comment if you’ll be out for 10 days. Obviously you might want to also post an alert for day one for chasers to know you are heading out, but it will disappear from the alerts page by day 10 and RBNHole won’t know about you.
Its a misquote of the title of a song (If I knew you were coming…) published in 1949, popular in 1950, seeing that comment took me straight back to my childhood!
My point of view towards this topic is as follows:
I set an alert to inform the SOTA-community that I intend to make an activation.
Even when I cannot estimate the exact time of starting the activation, I post the possibility of updates. If someone is interested in chasing me, he will keep an eye on my alert and wait for a spot. If I would not post an alert, nobody knows my intention to be qrv on that SOTA-summit.