My first activation wasn’t that easy. I had a number of unsuccessful activation attempts from February to November of 2016. It looked like nobody was willing to answer my cq-sota calls, initially on 2m FM, later on 20m SSB. Here is a picture from a field trip to sota summit Motka, E7/BO-049. The trip was enjoyable, but the sota score was embarrassing zero contacts, zero points.
After another unsuccessful attempt (could not even find a road to Vitreuša, E7/BO-014), we visited a nearby sanctuary and, as you can see, I contemplated deeply about my problems while inappropriately sitting on the bench.
Was it just by chance or St. Jacob guided me, but soon I found an old, very primitive straight key (which I’d used during my Morse code learning days, back in the seventies) and switched to CW SOTA activations. Well, the rest is history of E7 SOTA activations…
G/NP-014 Rogan’s Seat. 4pts +3 winter bonus in March 2015. I used an FT-817 with an MFD on VHF only (oh and how could I forget the SLAB! LiFePO is probably the best upgrade I’ve made). 5 contacts in half an hour.
I was a very inactive radio amateur until I discovered SOTA (I think I saw an article in RadCom). For me it combined 2 activities perfectly and has certainly increased my participation in both.
Thank you SOTA. (Thanks also to that amateur who wrote the trigger article!)
No piccies I’m afraid
Did not take into account wind speeds increase the more exposed you are to the surrounding land and and taking me me drive on stand and chucking it on the ground at Kitt Hill G/DC-003. Just could not get an antenna up safely.
Again almost failed got five miles in to trip to Kitt Hill forgot something had to go back and get it. But felt better prepared or was I.
Gets there what i want to use to hold up me pole not going to work. So lashed it to the trig point and got it up that way and broke out me Trio120V & MFJ949D and the home made 1/4w vertical up a 8m mast via a 9:1 home made Unun. Its a nice morning and wind is little and not too cold.
Goes on 20m and puts out first CQ Sota calls ever. The response almost made me fall out of me chair. Repeat call again sure you said DK. Nope turns out to be a VK chaser and hears me on a old banger radio and home made gear running max of 10w could not believe it. My very first chaser AND ITS straight into VK
How jammy can you get.
But things have developed a lot more since that nigh on 4 years ago as now running much lighter PPSU and Radio and Auto tuner etc. Even the antennas have developed some what more and things are lot lighter than first had.
Its all a learning experience and learn from ya mistakes and cocks ups and don’t let failures put you off.
My first SOTA activation was on September 25th, 2011. I went up Ćwilin, SP/BZ-024 with my boys. Using a Wouxun handheld and its stock antenna I managed to log 3 QSO, which made it a successful but point-less activation.
The photo was taken by then 9-years old Jakub, who in the following year as SO9ARK became the youngest SOTA activator in SP. Here he is with his younger brother while climbing SP/BZ-024: .
And here during his first activation, Koskowa Góra SP/BZ-057 on December 30th, 2012:
My first attempt at a SOTA activation was LA/RL-065 Vardefjellet on July 3rd 2016. This was under 2 months after I got my license, and I basically knew nothing of antennas or how stuff works. I barely managed to get one QSO with my wire antenna hanging 0.5 meter above ground and my insanely heavy Kenwood TS-480SAT with a 8kg lead acid battery. The activation had to be aborted very fast due to heavy thunderclouds and rain suddenly appearing. Since then I’ve activated the summit twice.
This photo is from where I activated, sadly I didn’t get any of my equipment.
Nice thread Chris - what a good idea. My oh my, we are going back in time…
I started in 2005 in Scotland long after my first chaser QSO with G3CWI/P on day one in March 2002. In June 2005 our daughter was graduating was a university in Fife in Scotland so we made a holiday of it and threw SOTA activating in for good measure. The first activation was Hightown Hill GM/SS-273 which is close to the English border. It was a unique summit which hadn’t been activated before my visit. In that same week I activated four more summits of which two were also uniques.
Interesting that Chris, a lack of 2m contacts in 2012 from Hightown Hill. SOTA did go through a change for me and others who gave up on 2m SSB and a beam. More awkward to carry basically and more difficult to keep pointing in the right direction in the winds we find so often on the summits.
In my case soon after my first activation I gave up trying to handle a beam on 2m SSB and moved over to either HF with a link dipole or where I was sure I could qualify, to 2m FM with a simple external vertical antenna and a handheld or more powerful mobile radio (I favour the old FT-1500M - a 2m pocket rocket if ever there was one).
When I started and certainly in the UK, 2m SSB was popular and there are still specialists around like G4OIG, GM7PKT and others who still use it enthusiastically with great success.
Many of us gave up on it. In my case I start operating CW from a summit on my 7th activation in 2005 and that is my preference. However as I enjoy garnering chaser points by any means possible including SSB at home, so I try to pay my dues by doing some SSB on HF on most of the summits visited. It’s also nice to work personal friends who one has met through our great hobby and who for whatever reason do not go on the key, as well as the many familiar callsigns of hams we have never met who we see chasing and activating almost on a daily basis.
My first fail was Great Shunner Fell (G/NP-006), three contacts but failed to spot myself or get spotted. With hindsight it was a contest weekend and my 5w of SSB didn’t really do much on 20m and I didn’t spend enough time on 2m to get found! First sucess we Hoove(G/NP-024) which I did on one of the RSGB backpackers contests and my 2.5w 2m SSB into a moxon got me as far as the south coast of England.
My next activation was Wild Boar Fell (G/NP-007) where I didn’t get a photo of the kit but did manage to scrape 4 contacts before I decided to leave in a bit of a hurry. I have climbed lots of hills but this was the only funnel cloud I have seen from the top!
Since my fierst attempts I have stopped carrying the lucky anvil with optional slab and with the solar cycle have moved down the bands with only one other fail (GM/SI-006) where there was rather too much weather and significant snow near the summit. Almost cracked the first 100 activator points!
My first was Hakarimata ZL1/WK-157 on the 12th of December 2015. 10 contacts - 9 on 7 MHz and one on 144 MHz. I had brought a KX3 ready for SOTAing and thought it would be a good idea to have it neatly mounted in a Pelican case. Never again! Hakarimata is only 374 m high but you climb almost all of that - and mostly in stairs. Its a busy summit with exercise buffs running up and down, but there is plenty of room at the top.
We (me and Emma) did this summit a year and a half later and it was where I proposed to my now wife. On April fools day I’m lucky she shares my sense of humour, and my love of summits.
My first SOTA activation was the day after the VK3 Association Manager gave a talk at our local club in 2013. I dragged a hastily commissioned home brew transceiver (never designed for SOTA and still unfinished), an old antenna coupler, a box of old tired MiMH batteries and the essential blacksmiths anvil to the top of Mount Kerang VK3/VU-010. The antenna was a dipole, almost lying on the ground. My first contact was a Summit to Summit. Since then, it has been all uphill.
Ah yes, a slight deviation from the thread title, but a painful memory for many I suspect!
Mine was Mynydd-y-briw GW/NW-060 on 12th August 2004. Just two QSOs made before I gave up due to the arrival of thunder and lightning! Not too much of a problem though, a very easy hill and I knew I would be back in the area shortly after. I qualified it properly a fortnight later.
Many after that have been “fails of zero frustration” as I’d already got the points earlier in the calendar year - so a single QSO was all that was needed to be able to record that a SOTA activation took place. The vast majority of my repeat activations in a year have large numbers of QSOs, but the score whether it is 100 or 1 is the same - nought!
I note with some amusement that it took me until my 4th attempt, in March, to get the requisite 4 contacts for my point from The Cloud G/SP-015 in 2006!
The most chilling fail was Kisdon G/NP-026, 21st October 2006. I was on a youth hostelling trip with Jimmy M0HGY and Liam when they were little lads, Jimmy had just become licensed as M3EYP. We tried everything - VHF (pretty useless as Kisdon is surrounded by higher stuff) and HF - 40m. This was before my CW days and I was a bit of a novice at operating on HF to be honest. I managed to run down the battery of the 817 before anyone heard me!
We made two QSOs each with Myke G6DDQM, and Roger G4OWG/M who had both driven out especially to chase Kisdon. We took it in turns to walk out of the AZ to work each other. But despite all this highly unsatisfactory tactics, that still only took us to three QSOs, and we had to consider descending before nightfall.
What’s more, Jimmy lost his mobile phone up there. We spent an age looking for it - but had to give up on that too. We felt very very defeated coming down that hill!
Jimmy’s phone was found by another walker, an astonishing 40 days later, and was posted to us in full working order - incredible. And we returned to Kisdon a couple of years later with Richard G3CWI and easily qualified it using 80m CW and SSB, before completing a memorable and enjoyable day with a cracking traverse over to Rogan’s Seat G/NP-014, and a snowy descent.
Static rain robbed us of 2 points each when we first activated Great Mell Fell G/LD-035 in November 2006. Richard G3CWI managed to get his QSOs through on 40m CW, but Jimmy and I couldn’t buy a QSO on 2m FM, even with the 817 and the original SOTA Beam. And all the time, the static noise level was rising to S9+.
It was a new activator unique for us, so we let Richard set off on his descent first, and at least give us one QSO each once he was out of the AZ. Then we reluctantly descended - with a new unique, but no points!
We managed to get the point a couple of years later in 2008, but it still wasn’t a happy experience. We struggled to scrape together the four QSOs each, battling with clouds of aggressive midges as we did so.
My first activation was 26 days after SOTA started in Australia.
VK3/VC-025 Mt Dandenong was my first summit, activated on 26 February 2012, using an FT-7, a 7 Ah SLAB and a linked dipole on a 10m squid pole.
7 QSOs including one DX on 20m.