Some SOTA basics

For those who are wondering what Summits On the Air, or SOTA, works here's a quick summary.
SOTA got is start in the United Kingdom, and has been popular in Europe for years. It has gained popularity in the US the last few years.  The object is to make two-way communication with another amateur station that is being operated portable on a summit.  People activating from a summit are activators, those working them from home or other summits are chasers.

Summits are designated by location. Summits in Arkansas are W5A (US fifth call area and Arkansas) and a alphanumeric designation.   When I refer to summits I'm activating, I will give both the common name and the SOTA designation. Every summit is assigned a point value given that is awarded to chasers who work the station and to the activator. An activator has to make four contacts to count it as a an activation.  Lots of information is available at SOTA's web site, which is comprehensive and very well organized.

SOTA can be operated in any mode.  Some people operate in the voice bands, some use Morse code (CW) and some are even experimenting with digital modes.  I'm a CW guy, and CW is much more efficient than voice, so I stick with CW both for activating and chasing.  I've chased a few phone stations, but have yet to plug in a microphone when activating.  Maybe one of these days.

The radio and antenna system is up to you, but one of the rules is you must walk at least part of the way to your operating position and your station can not be connected in any way to a vehicle.  Most of my activations have required an uphill hike ranging from 1/2 to four or more miles, so weight is a factor.  I use a small, lightweight transceiver -- and Elecraft KX-2 -- and carry a light, but powerful, lithium ion battery. This limits me to either 5 or 10 watts, but in reality that's plenty for CW operations like this.

For antennas, I started out using an small vertical I purchased years ago from Ventenna.  It works, but must be reconfigured for every band. I've switched to using an end-fed long wire from PAR antenna which allows me to instantly change bands.  I had bought that antenna years ago at a Hamfest and had never used it.  My biggest challenge was finding it.

That's enough of the basics. I'll go into detail on different aspects in later posts.   Here's a photo of a typical operating position.  I carry a small stool and often operate with radio balanced on one knee and the iPad or phone for logging (keeping record of the contacts) on the other.


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