On the 15th of May 2021, I activated my first SOTA (Summits on the Air) with my good friend G5DOC (Christian). This activation was under my old callsign 2E0GPU.
What is SOTA (Summits on the Air)?
According to the official SOTA website, SOTA is “an award scheme for radio amateurs that encourages portable operation in mountainous areas” SOTA is fully operational in nearly a hundred countries across the world. Each country has its own Association which defines the recognised SOTA summits within that Association. Each summit earns the activators and chasers a score which is related to the height of the summit.
There is a handy leaflet here which tells you more. Summits on the Air
Where did we go?
As we live in Cambridgeshire, we lack any kind of summit. My home QTH is only about 2 meters above sea level. The closest summit to us is Bardon Hill near Coalville, Leicestershire. This SOTA point is referenced as G/CE-004. So, on the 15th of May 2021, myself and Christian (G5DOC) travelled over to Leicestershire. As we both had our Yaesu FT3D radios in our cars, we could follow each other via the APRS system. We parked in a small cul-de-sac near the path to the summit.
The walk to the SOTA summit
The walk to the summit did not take too long at all – about 30 minutes. As it had been raining, the mud paths were slippery in places. The building that used to house the BBC TV repeater station has been opened by vandals, so we had a quick peek inside – no equipment left but there was some documentation and spare parts. We then continued to the top of the summit.
I took the following equipment with me
- Yaesu FT3D
- Homebrew 2m slim jim antenna
- Sotabeams Tactical Mini 6m pole
G5DOC took the following
- Icom IC-705
- Yaesu FT3D
- Inflatable 2m/70cm antenna
- Sotabeams 40, 20 & 10m dipole.
Once we were all setup, we started to call CQ SOTA on both the HF bands and 70cm. Amazingly, we had a reply to our CQ on 70cm FM – it was 2E0UAC in Coventry. Myself and Christian were buzzing – we had our first ever SOTA QSO!
After the 70cm QSO, Christian tried to make a contact on HF. Unfortunately, at that time, the 5w of power we had could not break into all the strong stations coming in from Europe. We stopped using HF for a bit.
Another friend of ours (M7APO) was also operating portable from the Burton Dassett Hills in Warwickshire which was about 37 south from us. We had a quick QSO with each other. We were then called by another station 2E0YZV who was in Solihull which is to the south east of Birmingham. At his point I realised that my new homebrew slim jim antenna was not working as well as expected. It was picking up a lot of interference from the very close by PMR radio transmitter. We switched to the small antenna that came with the FT3D
By this point, more calls were coming into us and M7APO then became out unofficial pileup co-ordinator! Calls were now coming in fast! In total, 16 QSOs were had on 2m, all from the small stock antenna that comes with the FT3D.
The rain was starting to get heavier, so Christian gave 40m one last go – and had a successful QSO with a station in Scotland.
We then packed all of our kit away and heading back down the hill to our cars.
Here are the results of my first SOTA activation. 17 in the log – not bad for our first attempt.
I really enjoyed working a SOTA activation. Took a bit of time to get used to the speed and number of calls coming into us.
Would I do another SOTA activation? Oh yes! My next planned summit should be on the 23rd of May 2021 from Wendover Woods – G/CE-005. I will be attempting this summit on my own this time – I hope there isn’t another crazy pileup!
G5DOC’s video of the day
G5DOC put together a video of our adventues. Have a look at what we got up to.