Summits on the Air
By David Harden, KJ4CMY
Whether you just got your license or you have had it a long time, Summits on the Air might be just the ticket for you.
What is Summits on the Air (SOTA)? According to their web site (sota.org.uk), “SOTA is an award scheme for radio amateurs that encourages portable operation in mountainous areas.” Wow! That sounds like I have to climb the Swiss Alps with a backpack of heavy equipment, doesn’t it? On the surface, it does, but it can be done with a simple handy-talkie (HT) and a decent antenna. You do not have to have an extra, or even a general class license to participate. Of course, as a technician class licensee, you are mainly restricted to anything above 30 MHz. That being said, the six-meter band has been hopping on occasion lately. This might be a good band to try if you have six-meter capabilities. Just have an HT? two meters is worth a try. I would start with the two-meter calling frequency (146.520 MHz).
How do I get involved with SOTA so I can start activating summits? First, go to the SOTA site (www.sota.org.uk) and register. You do not have to register with them, but if you do, according to their web site, “you can use SOTAwatch to see what is happening right now in SOTA and, join in discussions on the Reflector and log your activity in the Database.” Check out the web site to get a good background on just what the SOTA program is. SOTA can be as easy or as difficult at you want it to be. Some adventurous souls hike to a faraway mountain to activate it. I personally like the summits you can drive to.
Where can I go to activate a summit? There are at least a couple places in Metro Atlanta that you can activate. Stone Mountain is right nearby. You can hike the mountain, or take the cable car (my way). Kennesaw Mountain is another summit that is close by. Again, it is a summit that you can drive to. Feeling a need to go out a bit further? Brasstown Bald is an excellent one to go to. There are many others in the state.
If going to a summit is not your thing, you can be a “chaser”. Chasers let others go to the summits and then try to contact them.
If you know Morse Code (or willing to learn), there are numerous kits available for QRP (low power) operation. Even technicians have HF privileges in the HF bands. If you have even seen an Altoids tin, there are QRP kits that fit in them. After you have built and tested the kit, you can bring that, along with a Morse Code key and some wire for an antenna and go for that activation. There are even QRP voice kits, and some ready-made equipment available for Generals and Extras.
Check out sota.org.uk for more information. Also, go to YouTube and type in “SOTA” and see what videos come up. That will give you some visuals as to what activating summits is all about.