Tell us your summit brain stories (Part 1)

In the interests in learning where others have failed I call on activators and chasers to share you best summit brain stories…


Summit Brain:

A state of mind brought about by one or more of the following: altitude, cold, heat, exhaustion, dehydration, distraction, absent-mindeness, lack of time, a misplaced sense of invincibility, plain stupidity or exceeding your masochism quota (1)

(1) I maintain that all SOTA activators are born at least 10% masochistic.

Note that Summit Brain can apply equally to activators and chasers, here is a case in point:

During this recent spell of ‘The Beast from the East’ there has been a distinct lack of SOTA activations, which demonstrates some sort of collective intelligence. In spite of this two souls have been tackling Scottish Summits on the past two days (callsigns omitted to protect the brave) and I felt obliged to try and do my bit to provide chaser contacts. Yesterday lunchtime, having just received the news that my house sale had gone belly up, I grabbed the rucksack and headed for the (local) hills to setup my portable station (FT817, Amp + Dipole) in the hope I would be there in time for maybe an 80m SSB QSO - that being a suitable skip. I was sure the endorphins we all receive in small measures, on each QSO, would make me feel better.

I spied a gatepost and thought this would make an excellent position for the antenna support and would afford some protection from the biting wind. Those poor guys on a Scottish summit! No bungies or straps in the bag. OK, no matter, I plodded up to the top of the hill (having retrieved my absently minded placed gloves) and started setting up again. No antenna either. Oh man… That’s that then. OK, maybe all in radio-land is not lost, I’ll give a shout out on 2m. No whip packed for the FT-817, no handheld.

Result: a frustrating dog walk. Lesson learned: keep the bag packed with everything regardless. Several times I’ve unpacked my rucksack on the bed and then hand picked what to put back in. Inevitably something gets left behind. On an ‘proper’ summit I got the Jetboil ready only to find I’d left the lighter behind. In fact I’ve done that several times. It became some sort of sick joke - my YL was none too impressed either on occasion. I recon folk have gone mad on summits when they find out they can’t have a hot bevvie.

So you get the idea. I’ve probably done worse, but I’m guessing forgetting the antenna can maybe only be bettered by forgetting the rig.


Today I did slightly better - still missed the Scottish guys but did have a couple of nice QSOs including a 20m one with HA8QRP - Lajos in Hungary, both running FT-817 QRP and sounding great. The bands are dead! Long live the bands!

Please share generously!

Mark. M0NOM


So many tales of “summit brain” errors that I’ve lost count - as well as tried my best to forget them as best I could!

The one that sticks out is when I made a very poor decision and ended up falling a long way down a steep slope in the Lake District, getting away with nothing worse than a cut finger, a bruised ego and the fright of my (and Jimmy’s) life.

Forgetting the mic was always a favourite…


I will never forget one chapter of errors. I went to the Lake District with the climbing club one winter weekend, Saturday morning I was kitting up to do G/LD-018 in the snow with a continuation to LD-011 possible, radio gear - check, ice axe - check, crampons - check, boots - NO BOOTS!!! After a panicked search drew a blank I decided to lower my sights to LD-037 and LD-035 which could reasonably be done in trainers. I got to the top of LD-037 and set up for 60 metres only to find that the power cable was now missing although I had checked it earlier in the hut. I packed up and retreated with my tail between my legs and went to the pub. Later the power cable was found on the floor of the climbing hut, where it had fallen whilst I was packing the rucsac. Grrr!!

Then there was the time I was heading out for a camping meet only to find that the sleeping bags had been forgotten! An afternoon was spent searching for inexpensive sleeping bags - they don’t do inexpensive in the Lake District! At least the activations went according to plan…


This thread has gone very quickly off-topic :wink:

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A couple of years ago I stayed in a hotel in Ireland, to activate a few of the Wicklow mountains (I can thoroughly recomend a visit).

One of the days I got wet, and on return, I hung up my waterproofs in the bathroom to drip.

Next day I drove for an hour and then parked up in wet low cloud and drizzle. Round to the back of the car to get ready, and, erm, no waterproofs. I contemplated a two hour round trip to fetch them, but that would have upset the day.

It wasn’t very cold or windy, so I decided I’d just have to take a soaking. I did have a bothy bag as emergency shelter if necessary.

All went well, the rain cleared after an hour or so, and I had dried out more or less before returning to the car.

It was a useful lesson on two counts (1) I take a couple of moments longer to check my kit, and (2) I am far less worried by a bit of rain than I used to be!

As yet, I haven’t forgotten anything show stopping, though I’m sure that I will do eventually…


PS: Brian, I have done exactly that with a sleeping bag about 50 years ago. All I could buy locally (in Wales) were a couple of grey army blankets. We’ve only just discarded them, so it turned out nice again!

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I believe that gave rise to the expression “doing a Tom”. An example use is “I decided this was not the best route up so I took the other path because I didn’t want to end up doing a Tom on the way down.”

Me? I have forgotten the pole, waterproof coat, battery on separate occasions. Left gloves, leads, end fed matchbox on assorted summits. :frowning:

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I frequently wake up to a sunny day and by 5pm I realise that I forgot to do an activation.


Yes, brain stories,

I was planning to activate Cross Fell G/NP-001 on Monday of this week, all prep carried out, car loaded, winter clothing being worn, however at 07:00 Management read the WX forecast and noted the 20 km by mountain bike, the trip was postponed! (perhaps I should not have shown her the 25,000 map)
Then there was the activation of Sighty Crag G/SB 005 in thick snow just before Christmas. Set up the inverted vee dipole, worked stations with average results, must have been conditions I thought? Then, just about to pack, up I noted that I had not deployed the dipole, it was hanging limply one metre either side of the pole, oops.

Snowing again in Northumberland, not good SOTA wx

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Yay, back on topic!

Just my ability to remember a callsign read an S meter and retain it long enough to get it in the log… I’m sure it is the Oxygen deficit following the ascent…

Paul - Snowing agin in Durham… ( About 30cm in 24hrs which is a lot for England…)


In my case, it’s, errm, what’s that thing called when you can’t remember stuff?

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You are defining the topic too strictly, Tom. After all, Mark did say “Note that Summit Brain can apply equally to activators and chasers”, though if I started recounting my shack brainfades the post would be huge!

I often want to set the partial altimeter to zero in order to have the exact elevation I hiked, but I forget it at the start of the hike. Then I say to myself that I’ll do it before leaving the summit for the negative elevation during descent, but I always forget it again.

Do you remember when we used to speak all the way to the end without stopping to try to remember names, etc? :wink:




Operating from a summit always requires about 20 more IQ points than I have available. How hard could it be to get the summit ID right? I often get it wrong. Leaving equipment behind is embarrassingly frequent. Failing to actually connect my rig to my antenna happens all the time.

My first call from a summit is always, “CQ SOTA. CQ SOTA. This is kilo four kilo papa kilo from [summit name here] summit ID is [summit ID here].” One day, after I’d hiked just a little too far, I blanked on my summit, half-way through my call, so it went:

  • CQ SOTA. CQ SOTA. This is K4KPK and I have no idea where I am.

Precisely because of this I have a list of all the SOTA summits printed in a little booklet together with Wainwrights on the Air summits - laminated and bound.

Sometimes of course I forget the booklet… that’s usually when I haven’t made a note of the summit reference beforehand.

Coming back to the fire-making equipment - I took Jetboil and assorted snacks to my wife and kids today who were sledging locally. Packed a spare disposable lighter. Dropped that in the snow rendering it completely useless. Then mislaid the ‘proper’ gas lighter for a while. It’s amazing what you can lose in a rucksack! I was convinced the dog had taken and chewed the top bung of my antenna on Claife Heights, only to find it when back home, On the summit I conducted a most thorough ‘bloke search’ (as my wife calls it, but it applies to anyone including the kids on regular occasion when they just aren’t looking at what is in front of their eyes)

However, at times like that I categorize the problem using the Sir Ranulph Fiennes method - i.e. most problems aren’t problems, mere inconvenience. If you haven’t read his account of getting frostbite - a real problem which required immediate action - I’d recommending doing so.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes: ‘I am not a madman’



Guess I might have been one of the guilty :-s

Many thanks for making the effort Mark, and sorry we didn’t end up meeting on 80m, the band was in cracking form.

Had my own “moment” on Shalloch on Minnoch on Tuesday - whilst wrangling the patch lead for my ATU (RG58 isn’t the most malleable of materials at -6C or so) managed to pull the crimped-on PL259 off the end. Fortunately I had two spares but unfortunately both were in the car 4.5km distant and 400m lower :-s

Luckily, abandoning the plug part of the PL259, stripping the end of the coax, then wrapping the inner core round the inner insulator to form a plug that would go into the centre of the socket, followed by trapping the braid between the socket and the screwed outer ring of the connector worked well enough to get me on the air :slight_smile:

Hope to catch you from a summit one of these days!

73 de Paul G4MD


Long before I was involved in SOTA or I should I say before it came to the NA colonies …I was doing my goat packing thing on a summit which happened to be Mt Herman now W0C/FR-063 …my IC703 was perched on top of rock and I was in QSO with a gentleman on 15m SSB (back when we had spots)! Rooster goat (225-lbs) was napping beside me and the rock. A blood thirsty B-52 sized deer fly decided it wanted some goat meat and made a direct hit on poor old Rooster! He sprang to his feet wide-eyed exiting stage left with his leg wrapped around the coax …I somehow manage to jump up just in time to grab my 703 as it was lurching off the rock following Rooster. I trailed behind as fast as possible shouting into the mic “Going QRT, see you down the coax, OB -73!!” hearing a loud pop and woosh! The buddipole vertical which was secured to a log remained steadfast but it’s missing feedline had shot past my head like a bull whip! …not exactly a summit brain story but more of a summit life w/goats story …nonetheless worth sharing.

I’ve also had my share of leaving the battery on the charger, forgetting my lunch, or forgetting my micro-spikes and doing the ice dance boogie just pry to my face plant. Or leaving the cell phone in the truck only realized when I went to self spot! But having goats it was always too easy to just blamed on them for such bonehead stunts! However recently at 73-yrs young I seem to be having more summit brain stunts which I attribute to being altitude induced or just plain brain fade events.

See you down the coax, Hah! Steve/wGOAT


My biggest bloomer was on 9 May 2016, I climbed Ben Nevis using my crampons for the last few hundred feet and after a lengthy walk set up my 2m station and worked 3 contacts. Numerous calls just couldn’t bring me the fourth contact so I set up my HF link dipole and took out my HF rig but to my horror I found I had the wrong connectors! I had no choice but to walk back down completely gutted! On the 12 May 2016 I went back up the Ben dispensing with the crampons to keep the weight down and although there was six feet of compacted snow on the summit walking was relatively easy. This time again only 3 contacts on 2m but 36 on HF! The journey back down was very interesting to say the least but that as they say is another story!



Erm, isn’t that patch lead RG-174? It seems the cold was starting to seep in or my eyes had been more seriously affected than I thought by the wind! Anyway, I was mightily impressed that you had a pair of snips with you as I would have been down to using my teeth to bear the end of the coax, but the less said about that the better. :zipper_mouth_face:

After several missing bits on early SOTA outings, I now deploy the 6P principle of cross-checking the kit against a typed list which occasionally gets reviewed and updated (note to self - add snips to the list :wink: ).

On the principle that I use the same kit for most of my outings, the 817 and everything else generally lives in the backpack 24/7. Hopefully these measures minimise “issues” when on a summit. After all, usually there has been a considerable amount of effort to get there… and I am not just referring to the walking bit!

73, Gerald G4OIG
(the other half of the guilty pair)

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