Beginner’s Corner January 2019

Climb to New Heights with SOTA



We continue our series on portable operations by looking at SOTA, Summits on the Air. According to the web site (, SOTA is “an awards scheme for radio amateurs that encourages portable operation in mountainous areas”.

   This doesn’t mean you have to climb miles up a steep mountain or hike long distances in order to participate.  On the contrary, SOTA was set up even for those who, shall we say, are “climbing challenged”. I am one of those people.  There are awards for activators (those who ascend to the summits) and chasers (who either operate from home, a local hilltop or are even activators on other summits). Either way, SOTA is fun!

   SOTA is an organization with no dues and nothing to join.  The web site says it is helpful to register an account on line.  There is “SOTAwatch” to find out what is happening now.  There is also a reflector and a database. The web site has great introductions, the rules and guidelines, their environmental statement. (Basically, care of the environment is of high importance in SOTA.)

   OK, you have to go to a recognized summit, not just any hill that happens to be around.  I live about halfway up a hill, and this hill does not qualify as a summit.

   They suggest to start easy, first. We have Stone Mountain as a recognized summit.  For the physically fit, you can climb up the mountain on the recognized trail.  I did that twenty years ago, but I couldn’t do it today.  I will take the tram to the summit. Easy, right?

   I have heard people taking as little equipment as a handheld and a whip antenna on a SOTA activation.  You can’t drive to the Stone Mountain summit, so whatever equipment you take, you will have to carry it.  My IC-7100 fits in my go bag, a carry-on suitcase, and that can include a small battery.  I have a J-pole antenna that I could take, but it might be hard to find somewhere to hang it on.  You could take a beam antenna if you can get it up there.  I have a 222 MHz beam.  It is small enough to carry, and it would work with my handy-talkie (HT).  My HT is only five watts, as opposed to the 50 watts I could get with the 7100 on other bands,

   If you have HF capabilities, great! SOTA is worldwide and can be found on all bands.  Check the rules, whatever frequency you are using.

   It is a good idea to notify people that you are activating a summit.  There are several DX activity spots on the internet. You can always check what’s on the SOTA reflector, as well.  This is the place where I would start.

(to be continued).