Tell us your summit brain stories (Part 1)

Trying to activate Long Mynd (G/WB-005) last year on HF. I couldn’t get the antenna to match.
FT-817, LZG auto ATU and Sotabeams Bandspringer antenna.

Completed the activation on 2m FM.
When I got back home and checked everything out it was easy…

Any guesses?

Wrong antenna socket selected on HF!

The lesson I took from it was that what’s simple to sort out in a warm shack can be next to impossible in the cold with a strong wind.



No, definitely RG-58. You probably got the impression of a small cable from the size of the spigot on the disconnected PL259 which looks about the size of RG-174, but is actually just the right size to go over the inner insulator and under the braid of the RG58

Yes, I always carry a small pair of side cutters - very useful for fixing the most common hilltop HF antenna ailment, i.e. broken leg… Also good for removing mangled toenails.

73 de Paul G4MD

My ATU has a Bypass switch on the back… I only discovered this when it accidentally got switched from tune to bypass while setting up one day… took me the best part of an hour to find out why the ATU “wasn’t working” :blush:

Now my setup routine includes checking the switch position…

It seems that I must pay better attention, but probably it was down to the cold wind which it seems even had the power to shrink the number of contacts that I made… well, that’s my excuse! :wink:

BTW, I don’t remember you having a broken leg on an activatioon - wrist yes, but not leg…

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I have a cheap Leatherman clone. Best £1 I ever spent. It has just enough performance to justify its weight in the kit. Carried up hundreds and hundreds of summits. Been needed 5 or so times maybe. But when it was needed it saved the activation.

Last use was when I managed to jam a zip on my trousers. A zip on a rear pocket not the front. I must have looked somewhat special standing by the car with my trousers at half mast, shouting and swearing as I freed the zipper.

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You have planted an image in my mind which I suspect will persist for some considerable time :slight_smile:



This is the equivalent to that living in my rucksack. It has also served me well for an on summit emergency repair. Nothing to do, fortunately, with trousers lowered down to dishonest levels… :wink:



This thread is strangely related to another about wind strength on summits. I find that continuous high wind is quite disturbing and I sometimes really welcome the peace and stillness after leaving a windy summit.

School teachers report that in windy conditions, the kids go nuts, to use a technical term, and are hard to control or calm down.

For this reason, some of my activations are terminated before the battery runs out or band conditions force a ceasefire. But not too often. Wearing headphones can not only allow you to hear the radio better, and avoid qrm to the other visitors soaking in the vibes and the view, but also reduce the impact of the wind which I assume comes from continuous noise. Perhaps the noise of a high wind is recalled as indicating imminent danger?

Forgetting crucial equipment is not really summit brain, it’s just a sign of poor organisation and preparation. We have all done it. The key is to recognise those failures and take steps to ensure they don’t happen again. Whether it is a checklist or a box of important things that never leave your backpack, do whatever works for you.

After an activation was compromised by a missing 6.5mm>3.5mm adaptor for my IC703 key jack, after other activations were affected by missing a BNC F-F adaptor, and in another my GPS batteries failed just when I wanted to check my return path, I now carry a small plastic box with spares of those crucial items and I religiously return them to that box if I use them…

I still managed to rush out without testing my 2.4 ghz transverter the other day. That’s not summit brain, it’s just poor preparation.

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When I started with the SOTA program, I went to activate Kamenný vrch on the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands. It was in winter 2012. There is no way on the hill. It was windy and about 30-50 cm of snow. I used car navigation at that time (blue track). After activation, I probably crossed the vicious root and wandered in the deep snow into the night. The battery in the navigation worked for only a short time, I did not have a flashlight. After several hours of wandering in the woods, I have lost hope of getting back to civilization. Finally I went out on the opposite side of the forest. I went to the car on the road. The image shows the reconstruction of my path.


We activated Rhialgwm GW/NW-046 late one winter day some years ago - somewhat later than expected at the road in was terrible with large puddles of unspecified depth so we had set off later than plannd. We toiled up a bad forestry track and eventually came out into the open and onto a small heathery summit. After qualifying the summit with my black VX7 and dipole I packed everything away and joined M0JLA who was ready to march down the hill. Some way down, I had misgivings and checked my waist ‘holster’ - the radio was not there…! Of course it wasn’t, I had put it down after releasing it from the dipole and inserting a small stick aerial, and it was still under a large bunch of heather - or so I hoped. Alternatively, it had fallen out on the route down. With fingers crossed I retraced my route up to the heathery ridge - and there it was, just where I’d forgotten to pick it up. Great relief - and it hadn’t really delayed us that much but it was getting rather dark on the track down so, on encountering a fallen tree rather closely we searched for the head torch which is ‘always carried and available’. Rod’s came to hand very quickly but there wasn’t a glimmer. I had to upturn my sack (it’s now in the side pocket in the Winter) and eventually the little plastic box emerged and the tiny head torch got us both back to the car.

On another occasion in the Lake District on Low Fell it was deemed essential, apparently, to photograph the GPS screen at the top (I don’t think there is a trig) to prove our ascent and we descended happily in the pleasant weather, greeting fellow walkers who were on the way up. I’ve never been up that hill again but Rod has - while I attempted to contact Cockermouth police (they’d moved out of town to a posh new building but the shop a few doors down the street hadn’t noticed!) and reported some lost property. As we drove home a few days later we were most impressed when they phoned us to report it hadn’t been handed in. Our local force wouldn’t even have kept my phone number let alone used it.

Then there was that vital bit of the mast system which is made of white overflow water pipe, only about 12" long with pipe connectors each end and a copper ring with 3 sets of guys neatly tied onto large blue butterflies (winders made from the covers of A4 files). It went up North Barrrule, in the Isle of Man, with me as the mast was erected and I was flooded with calls but it wasn’t in the kit when i checked it back at base. As it takes some time to assemble and we were away on a trip I decided to go back up the hill the next day (t was raining so I wasn’t wasting good SOTA time) and retrieve it. The car got me as close as possible but I still had a steep heathery hill to stagger up. No sign of it and I searched down to the scree on the other side but I couldn’t find it despite its large blue winders. In the end I concluded that the 2 people I’d met on the way down the ridge had spotted it and either tidied it up (litter) or carried it off carefully (potentially valuable?) … but it may still be there so if you spot it please retrieve it and let me know. I know the hill is only a Hump but it is a beautiful spot and there is a splendid ridge walk to it - and lots of contacts on a nice day on 2m fm!

Then there is the little digital clock left sitting on the stone wall on Trichrug GW/SW-022 in July 2016. I didn’t use it very much as about 40 mins of calling on 2m fm had raised only one usable contact and a torrent of swear words from another caller who wouldn’t even give me his call sign so i could record him as a valid contact! M0JLA was being equally unsuccessful on HF and the rain which arrived just before we reached the car didn’t improve the shining hour - and that was before I’d realised the loss of the clock.

Does anyone claim the SOTA pencil I picked up in the shelter of the stone wall on the Begwyns GW/MW-025 some time ago? It’s my favourite spot too and even has a handy stone to sit on. As a general rule - if you find any potentially useful SOTA item lying around on GW/SW, MW or G/WB summit that you don’t want - then please get in touch as it will probably be mine.

Viki M6BWA


Latest casualty… pair of Berghaus Polartec gloves… “mislaid” on the way down from Cairnsmore of Carsphairn last Monday :frowning:

How does that happen :-s

String gloves
This them?


Sadly not…

Perhaps I need the string down my sleeves though :blush:

Ooo, that’s posh! Definitely not mine. :wink:

It’s amazing what stone walls can hide. I found a 7AH SLAB on the wall on Sharp Haw G/NP-029 back in 2009, but nothing anywhere near as exciting since. Of course I won’t mention that someone left a bright yellow GPS on a summit once… oops, now I’ve said it - the not so secret is out (once again)! :grinning:

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Without their GPS how would they ever find it again?


Hmm, I didn’t know GPS were self-aware. Perhaps technology has moved on and now if you lose them, they find their own way home. :wink: Or maybe you are referring to the owner who I know did manage to get home without his GPS.

That’s next years model!

Come on Gerry, who is the subject? (Hint: they are doing the finding!)

Subject-verb-object. :wink:

one of my seemed like a good idea stories was doing calf top G/NP022 .It looked a long walk from Barbon but not so far as crow flies it looked steep on the map but looked feasible It was so steep I finished up rescuing the wife slithering back down but we did struggle to the top and found an easier way down .Geoff G6MZX

Here in Colorado, we have an abundance of high summits. We have so many that our SOTA points distribution is vastly shifted upward compared to most other SOTA Assocations, providing a strong incentive to climb high.


9,000 to 10,500 feet 4 Points
10,500 to 12,500 feet 6 Points
12,500 to 13,500 feet 8 Points
13,500 UP 10 Points

This means that those of us who participate seriously in The Program do many activations in thin air, and we experience many “Summit Brain” effects of moderate hypoxia.

Here are two of my favorite examples:

  1. I had a fun activation in beautiful, late-afternoon sunny weather on W0C/PR-025, Rogers Peak, at 4085 M, 13,391 feet. I felt great, in fact, I was high-altitude happy, one of the most common effects of being up so high. After a gleeful activation, I packed up, and headed down the tundra along the ridge. Then I followed a long, steep slope down to the road and my car…only my car wasn’t there where I’d parked it. It was nowhere to be seen!

I knew I’d made a mistake, but it took longer to figure out than it should have. I pulled out my trusty GPS and looked at my track - the track was OK and complete, but I still couldn’t quite figure out where the car was, or why I wasn’t where I thought I was! I totally realized it was the altitude making it harder to think, but I still had to study the GPS track for several minutes before I understood which way to walk on the road to find the car!

What happened was that I had continued further down the high ridge above than where I’d come up, so I had dropped further east than where I’d left my car. The tundra had few obvious waypoints to notice - just rocks and flowers all over - so it was an easy mistake to make.

Why hadn’t I pulled out the GPS up on the ridge to check my perfectly good track and be sure where to descend? Because I felt so happy-confident due to the altitude and the reduced anxiety that comes with less oxygen! It was my second activation of the day up there, so I’d been above 4000 M for much of the day…

Of course the car was there, hidden around a bend in the road, a considerable distance from where I descended!

  1. On W0C/FR-019 Sundance Mountain, 3800M, I set up my gear and began my activation on a sunny June morning in 2014. I started out on 15M CW, but I made only one contact after several minutes of calling CQ. I decided to QSY to 20M. I was using my ATS-3B, which uses small plug-in modules to change bands. After changing the module and re-matching the tuner, I started calling CQ on 20M, and soon made 6 more contacts. I never moved down to another band, because rapidly developing cumulus clouds convinced me to get off the summit and get down.

Later, at home, I looked at my spots, and I was amazed to see that somehow I’d been spotted on 15M for the entire time period when I had been on 20M. There must have been something wrong with my spots!

Then I looked at my RBN record, and there were several spots from different skimmers, all on 15M !

What happened on the summit is that I had opened my box of band modules, removed the 15M module from the rig, put it in the box, and then pulled it back out and put it back into the radio, instead of the desired 20M module. Because the SOTA frequencies we often use are near XX.060 on both bands, and the ATS-3B doesn’t display all the digits, I never saw the difference. I also never thought about it, and never noticed that my tuner settings had not changed.

I was lucky to get 7 contacts on 15M, but I didn’t know which band I had been on until I studied my spots!

The usual thin-air effects we experience include feeling happy or carefree, forgetting things, misplacing things, becoming single-minded, ignoring problems, having trouble with knots and tangles, and making decisions too easily! Long experience leads to a better ability to cope with loss of oxygen, mostly through planning, habits, and awareness; however, the loss of good judgment and the ability to think with a sharp edge is relatively profound above 4000M.

My experiences with high activations suggest that going up high often, several times a week, greatly reduces the problems caused by hypoxia, for various reasons. The reverse is true - the worst effects occur to those who come here from near sea level, and who then climb above 3000 M without any adjustment. Physical sickness and tragic errors of judgment often occur. While we often joke about the silly things we do up high, the risks of going high are subtle but real, especially when everything seems so nice…