The spirit of SOTA is something to be cherished. SOTA people are friendly and helpful, SOTA activating and chasing is infused with an air of comradeship because we share in two fellowships, that of ham radio and that of the mountains. There is something special about SOTA, we all feel it. It was therefore disappointing to hear the pile-up for the first ever 5B4 activation descend into the type of zoo more associated with the first day of a DX-pedition to somewhere rare. Tempers frayed, hot words were exchanged, and we were treated to the spectacle of well-known chasers chanting their callsigns repeatedly while the 5B4 was actually transmitting. This was shameful. Yes, we are all keen to work the new Associations, but the behaviour earlier today was NOT what SOTA is all about.
Guys (and it was all guys!) operate smart, not aggressively.
This is a shame. Although I am not a very experienced SOTA participant, my general experience so far has been that SOTA activators and chaser are good ops. The problem with any rare activation, just like the rare DX station, is that you only need a minority of chasers to start the nonsense. Once this happens, you get a kind of domino effect which leads to mob rule.
I certainly support your appeal for SOTA ops to behave in a more civilised fashion. Indeed, this should always be the aim of any amateur radio activity. The only thing I can think that may help to enforce better behaviour is that Activators on rare summits consider using FT8 Fox/Hound mode? This is what some DXpeditions are now doing and it seems to stop a lot of the usual pile-up nonsense you get on SSB and CW. Of course the obvious downsides are the Activator needs more equipment and it would exclude chasers not set up for digi ops.
Any solution that includes FT8 is a non-starter for me. I will burn my radios before I ever make even one FT8 contact.
That said, I don’t find myself in life threatening activation situations in Pennsylvania. I realize that is much more likely to happen on a “real” mountain. I will not shut down my activation till every patient chaser heard is in the log book. I do NOT encounter any ops with bad manners.
It’s been many times said in other threads. The way chasers in a pile up behave or misbehave is not only the chasers responsability or fault. The activator is the key actor in the activation and it’s fundamental that he behaves in a consistent clear and fair way, immediately enforcing discipline if necessary and not letting any chaser create the chaos or disregard the others in the pile-up having the same right to make QSO as the rest of the pile. It’s important that the activator knows how to deal with a pile up and a good way for newbies to learn this is listening. Listening other activators pile-ups or other DX-pedition activators is a very good way to learn what can and can’t be done.
It’s important too that the activator is able to make QSOs rapidly. When there’s a big pile up, the activator shouldn’t spend too long on each QSO or the pile of chasers waiting will ran out of patience.
The proposed FT8 thing is a red herring here anyway. It is quite clear in the smallprint that FT8 DXpedition mode is not to be used for SOTA activations. We might sometimes think we’re getting big pile-ups in SOTA, but in reality, they are nothing compared to the big DX pile-ups, and are certainly not what FT8 DXpedition mode is intended for.
There will never be a “solution” involving FT8 because FT8 is very much a minority pursuit in SOTA, and I don’t see this changing. It’s a fringe interest as far as SOTA is concerned, like topband, digital voice, kite antennas and homebrew rigs are.
As usual, Guru EA2IF is on the money here. The activator sets the tone and the parameters, and has the power to QSY, QRX etc or other techniques to control a pile-up.
This is true, but it takes no account of the chasers that call while the activator is actually talking! I have to assume that those particular chasers were calling blind, not being able to hear the activator, and it takes a special sort of stupidity to call an activation that you cannot hear!
I agree, Brian. It’s true that these days of poor conditions and deep QSB may favor this, but sometimes, several times unfortunately, some chasers shout blind calls and that’s poor operating manners.
It was yesterday or the day before (I don’t recall exactly) that an activador was spotted on 30m. I QSYed to the frequency and the activador just started his CQ SOTA call. At least 2 well known chasers were sending his call while doubling with the activator first CQ call. They obviously were not copying the activator. When he finished his first CQ call, I sent my call and he picked me up in spite of the other blind callers doubling and repeatedly sending their callsigns. He sent me the signal report, which I got with difficulties due to the blind callers persistently calling on top if the activator. When I transmited my report to the activator, I sent It followed by QRM FM CHASERS CALLING ON U in the hope that the blind chasers not copying the activator would, at least, copy me and would understant the problems they were causing.
I didn’t stay on the frequency after my QSO, so I don’t know how it went for the blind callers.
In my experience chasers have been VERY considerate…
When I started in SOTA last May, they all, were very forgiving and supportive as I learned the robes. (and I know I have a lot more to learn as time goes on) As of today I have made 75 summits & 598 points while making contacts all over the globe. ALL of them have been kind, considerate, and respectful.
Today while activating a summit on SSB, a chaser was having a hard time getting through (very poor signal and fading in & out). As we worked to successfully complete the contact, all other chasers were silent and stood-by. Only after we completed the contact and I once again called CQ did the other chasers start to call me again… Also only after I announced I was going QRT, did a CW station start to use the frequency. (I was on 60m 5.346.5)….
AND yes I have had “pile-ups” even some eager DX stations trying to get through.
Yes (mostly) and No (sometimes). It depends on the context. If an activator has been spotted on a frequency some minutes before I tune to it and if I can hear nothing then I will enquire if said activator is on the frequency. Sometimes I hear nothing but sometimes the activator responds - they have been taking a break and left the rx running.
Of course if I can hear chasers then there is no need for a blind call. If I can’t hear the activator, only the chasers, then I would be a complete idiot if I called. There used to be an old adage, possible now lost, “If you can’t hear them you can’t work them”.
I’m reminded of people raising their voice to people who do not speak their language apparently in the belief that if you are loud enough you will get through.
Earlier this week, on an activation, I thought I had found a clear frequency. I asked if the frequency was in use, and a chaser responded. I wasn’t even spotted yet. He was just scanning through the band because the alert had notified him that I should be QRV at some point. That’s dedication.
I’ve done this quite a number of times with my TOP chased activator George @KX0R when I was living in my house in the village near Pamplona, where I had my station with PA and TH5-DX yagi.
I remember seeing his alerts where he informed of his plans to start on 7.033, then 10.113 and later 14.063, even 21.063, when conditions were good and 15m was open.
When he was spotted on 40m, I already knew that within about 45 minutes he would be starting on 20m, so I several times waited for him to arrive and called him first. I even remember once or twice when I called him even before he had sent his first CQ call because I had copied a few dots or dashes he had sent to check SWR before starting to transmit.
That was very cool!
“It’s important that the activator knows how to deal with a pile up and a good way for newbies to learn this is listening.”
Indeed. I spend six years operating a Motorola for a company giving frequent dispatches. Listening was key to good operations. With my prior experience, the shift to Ham was easy. I listen and speak later rather than earlier. Operators know I’m on the air, and I give them time to get back to me. If they’re chasing /M while I’m stationary at Base or /P, I get why I’m dropping in the order. It has to be this way.
It’s not the words being said that one needs to listen to, but the flow, and the sound of the radio.
That being said, we read these notes. We get it. it’s those who don’t tune in and keep up on the discussions.