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What is SOTA?

SOTA Logo Summits on the Air (SOTA), is an amateur radio operating award program that started in Great Britain in 2002 and has become popular worldwide. SOTA's aim is to encourage licensed amateur radio operators to operate temporarily from mountainous locations, combining hiking and mountain climbing with operating their amateur radios from the summits of hills and mountains.
Those who set up a station on a summit (usually for a few minutes to a few hours), are known as activators, and those who contact these summit activators are known as chasers.

Points are awarded to the activator for operating from a summit, and to each of the chasers who contact the activator. The higher the mountain, the more points are earned.

The rules include that the "method of final access to the Summit must be non-motorized," and "all equipment must be operated from a portable power source, such as battery, solar cells, etc." Because of the sometimes difficult hiking involved, activators have used innovative ways to minimize the total weight of their equipment, while still providing adequate antennas and electrical power. 

Mt. Kimpokusan

More information about SOTA, can be found on their website, SOTA.org. Another website, called SOTAwatch, shows real time information about ongoing and planned SOTA activations, and is especially helpful to chasers, for finding the whereabouts and frequencies used by various activators. An independant project called the SOTA Mapping Project provides extensive information about SOTA summits.



WS1SM Mountain Topping & Summits on the Air (SOTA) Activations

2011 Bradbury Mountain State Park, Pownal, ME

Bradbury Mountain was our first hilltopping expedition, and although it didn't qualify as a Summits on the Air hill, we had a great time. The first snowfall of the year came in mid November, but a few days later, the weather improved, and we decided to take advantage of it by going to Bradbury Mountain State Park, in Pownal, ME. 

Many club members turned out, including Frank Allen (then WA1PLD), Steve Freeman K1MV, Charlie Shepard W1CPS, Dave Wood KB1FGF, Thom Watson W1WMG, Tim Watson KB1HNZ, and Rory McEwen KB1PLY. The expedition is best remembered for an impromptu 'Ham Radio 101' course that we taught for a group of Cub Scouts that hiked to the summit. A few of them even got on te air! The moment was highligted in a future edition of QST.  

Bradbury1
Thom W1WMG, Charlie W1CPS, and Dave KB1FGF

Bradbury 3
On the summit

Bradbury 5
Thom W1WMG, Rory KB1PLY, Frank WA1PLD, and Steve K1MV

Bradbury 7
Thom W1WMG, Dave KB1FGF, and Charlie W1CPS
Bradbury 4
Thom W1WMG on the air

Bradbury 6
Steve K1MV, Rory KB1PLY, and Thom W1WMG

Bradbury 8
Some of the Cub Scouts that stopped by

Bradbury 9
One of the Cub Scouts takes the mic


2012 Ossipee Hill, Waterboro, ME  - W1/AM-253
SOTA

Ossipee Hill was our first true SOTA expedition as a group. We set out on the chilly morning of April 29, 2012 and hiked to the summit along a steep dirt road. Once there, we setup HF and VHF stations, using a BuddiPole, Icom IC706 MKIIG, a wire dipole for 40 meters, and a portable J-pole for 2 meters. 

A few brave souls even climbed to the top of the fire tower to take pictures and embrace the spectacular 360 degree view, which included the White Mountains to the West, the Atlantic Ocean in the East, and Little Ossipee Pond nearby. Club members who participated include Sam Webber N1WIG, Frank Allen (then WA1PLD), Thom Watson W1WMG, Tim Watson KB1HNZ, Dave Wood KB1FGF, and Rory McEwen KB1PLY. 

Ossipee 1
The hike to the summit

Ossipee 5
The Fire Tower

Ossipee 7
Thom tosses out some rope

Ossipee 10
Frank makes a friend

Ossipee 12
Thom W1WMG climbs the tower

Ossipee 16
Looking down at the operating position

Ossipee 17
An Osborne Fire Finder, used in the tower
Ossipee 2
Overlooking Little Ossipee Pond

Ossipee 4
Finding a place to setup antennas

Ossipee 9
Sam N1WIG points at something

Ossipee 13
Rory KB1PLY operates 20m

Ossipee 15
The view from above

Ossipee 18
Inside the Fire Tower

Ossipee 20
Tim KB1HNZ takes a turn at the mic

2012 Mt. Washington, Gorham, NH - W1/HA-001
SOTA

On July 8th, 2012, club members Thom Watson W1WMG and Tim Watson KB1HNZ ventured to the summit of New England's highest peak, Mt. Washington, for a Summits on the Air activation. Using call sign WS1SM, the team operated primarily 2 meters, making over 50 QSOs in just a couple hours time. Equipment included an Icom IC706 MKIIG, a VHF/UHF log periodic antenna, and a Kenwood TH22AT HT with an extended whip.

Mt. Washington 2012
Tim KB1HNZ with the radio, battery, and BuddiPole

Mt. Washington 2012 7
Setting up

Mt. Washington 2012 12
Thom W1WMG adjusts the antenna

Mt. Washington 15
Tim KB1HNZ stands on a rock pile and works someone with his HT

Mt. Washington 2012 14
Tim KB1HNZ
Mt. Washington 2012 3
The summit is buried somewhere in those clouds

Mt. Washington 2012 11
Extremely windy and cloudy

Mt. Washington 2012 13
Thom W1WMG

Mt. Washington 17
The VHF/UHF log periodic

Mt. Washington 2012 18
Thom W1WMG operates 2m SSB

2012 Mt. Megunticook, Camden, ME  - W1/EM-001
SOTA & CQWW VHF

A few weeks later, on July 22nd, 2012, Thom Watson W1WMG and brother Tim KB1HNZ teamed up again to activate Mt. Megunticook, in the Camden Hills, for Summits on the Air, and the CQWW VHF Contest. Operating QRP, this time with a Yaesu FT857d, and a BuddiPole antenna, the team focused on 2 meters and 6 meters, making contacts as far away as Nova Scotia on 2 meter SSB, and a contest station in Namibia on 6 meters.

Mt. Megunticook 1
Tim KB1HNZ, operates 6m from near the summit
Mt. Megunticook 2
Tuning through the band

2013 Mt. Agamenticus, York, ME - W1/AM-381
SOTA

At the first sign of good weather, on April 28th, 2013, the WS1SM team of Charile Shepard W1CPS, Cindy Shepard W1CJS, Ryan Michaelson KB1YTR, Sam Webber N1WIG, Thom Watson W1WMG, Tim Watson KB1HNZ, Dakota Dumont KB1YYC, and Annette Dumont KC1AMQ, ventured to the summit of Mt. Agamenticus, in York, ME, to activate it for Summits on the Air (SOTA).

Being a former ski area "The Big A," Mt. Aggie is more developed than most of the mountains we hike to. There is a summit house, that was once a ski lodge, well groomed hiking trails, a parking area, and remnants of an old T-bar chair lift, among other relics. We set up our stations in a large field area, across the parking lot from the summit building. Charlie & Cindy operated mostly 15 and 17 meters, using a fan dipole and an Icom IC7000, while Ryan operated 20 meters QRP using his newly acquired Elecraft KX3 and random wire. Thom and Tim operated mostly 40 meters using a SOTA Beams dipole strung in the trees, and Dakota manned a VHF station, making contacts as far away as Rhode Island on 220 MHz!

Mt. Aggie 5
Dakota KB1YYC operates HF

Mt. Aggie 7
Yaesu FT857d

Mt. Aggie 9
Ryan KB1YTR operates 20m QRP

Mt. Aggie 11
Dakota KB1YYC at the mic while Ryan and Thom look on

Mt. Aggie 14
Tim KB1HNZ, works 20m while Sam N1WIG looks on

Mt. Aggie 22
Dave KB1FGF and Tim KB1HNZ at the VHF station

Mt. Aggie 23
Dakota KB1YYC and Sam N1WIG operate the HF station
Mt. Aggie 4
Charlie shows off his walking stick

Mt. Aggie 6
40m dipole strung in the trees

Mt. Aggie 8
Ryan and Thom setup the BuddiPole

Mt. Aggie 28
Closeup of Ryan KB1YTR operating QRP with his new KX3

Mt. Aggie 15
Charlie W1CPS and Cindy W1CJS operate 17 meters

Mt. Aggie 24
Thom W1WMG works HF while Dakota KB1YYC helps with the logging

Mt. Aggie 25
VHF station with Ryan KB1YTR in the background

2013 Mt. Washington, Gorham, NH - W1/HA-001
SOTA & CQWW VHF

On July 21st, 2013, the WS1SM team of Frank Krizan KR1ZAN, the Dumonts (Dakota KB1YYC, Bert KB1ZLV, and Annette KC1AMQ), Thom Watson W1WMG, and Tim Watson KB1HNZ, operated from the summit of Mt. Washington for Summits on the Air (SOTA) and the CQWW VHF Contest. Equipment included a Yaesu FT2900 and portable J-Pole antenna, for 2 meter FM, and a Yaesu FT857d and BuddiPole for 2 meter SSB and 6 meters. The day started out extremely foggy and cold, but by mid afternoon, the sun finally broke through, and the view turned out to be spectacular.

Mt. Washington 1
Visitors on the summit

Mt. Washington 5
The BuddiPole in 6 meter yagi configuration


Mt. Washington 6
VHF/UHF J-Pole

Mt. Washington 9
Closeup of the 2-element 6 meter yagi

Mt. Washington 11
Closeup of the 144 and 220 MHz radios

Mt. Washington 15
Train tracks for the Cog Railway

Mt. Washington 18
The antennas setup just outside of the Tip Top House

Mt. Washington 20
Tim KB1HNZ, works 6m  SSB

Mt. Washington 25
The Cog Railway

Mt. Washington 28
A visitor stops by and operates the radio
Mt. Washington 2
Thom W1WMG, Dakota KB1YYC, and Bert KB1ZLV

Mt. Washington 4
L-R: Bert KB1ZLV, Dakota KB1YYC, Thom W1WMG, Frank KR1ZAN, and Annette KC1AMQ

Mt. Washington 8
Frank, Tim, and Dakota operate

Mt. Washington 10
Dakota operates 2 meter FM

Mt. Washington 13
Thom, Bert, Annette, and Dakota

Mt. Washington 16
Hikers stop to take in the view as the clouds begin to break

Mt. Washington 21
Bert and Dakota

Mt. Washington 19
Tim KB1HNZ, takes a break from operating

Mt. Washington 24
L-R: Bert KB1ZLV, Dakota KB1YYC, Frank KR1ZAN, and Tim KB1HNZ

Mt. Washington 30
...and he makes a contact!

2013 Douglas Mountain, Sebago, ME - W1/AM-140
SOTA

Douglas Mountain is probably best remembered for Dave Wood KB1FGF getting lost on his way to the summit. Club members, including Charlie Shepard W1CPS, Cindy Shepard W1CJS, Thom Watson W1WMG, Tim Watson KB1HNZ, Dakota Dumont KB1YYC, and Annette Dumont KC1AMQ, for some reason, chose to hike the "Eagle Scout Trail," which turned out to be several miles long and quite steep in some spots. When they arrived, exhausted from the hike, they met Rick Fickett K1OT, waiting for them on the summit. He didn't look at all tired, and the first thing he said was "what took you so long?" As it turned out, Rick took a much easier, and shorter trail to the summit, from an entirely different starting point. 

We setup a VHF station on the top of the stone summit tower, and an HF station at the base, and were well into working pileups when we heard a faint distress call over 2 meters. It was Dave KB1FGF, saying "help me, I've lost my way." Knowing Dave was a joker, we laughed it off at first, but the second time he called, we realized he was serious. Thom W1WMG and Annette KC1AMQ formed a two person search part and set off to find Dave, with Thom asking Dave to keep talking on the radio while he attenuated the signal on his HT by holding it against his chest, in order to determine the right direction. Soon, they found Dave and led him to the summit, where he joined the rest of the party.

Douglas Mountain 1
The trail map

Douglas 5
Charlie W1CPS works his way up the hill

Douglas Mountain 8
Finally at the summit

Douglas Mountain 11
Surveying for a good spot to setup antennas

Douglas Mountain 12
Not for himself, but for all

Douglas Mountain 14
From inside the tower

Douglas Mountain 16
Checking out the view

Douglas Mountain 18
Dakota works 2 meters from the stone tower

Douglas Mountain 23
Dave KB1FGF finally made it!
Douglas Mountain 2
Sign pointing the way to the "Eagle Scout Trail"

Douglas 4
Thom W1WMG points the way

Douglas 6
Cindy W1CJS struggles for grip

Douglas Mountain 9
Closeup of the stone tower

Douglas Mountain 13
View of Sebago Lake

Douglas Mountain 15
Thom W1WMG operates 2m FM from the stone tower

Douglas Mountain 17
Vistors at the top of the stone tower

Douglas Mountain 22
Looking down from the stone tower at the WS1SM team

Douglas Mountain 24
The trusty Yaesu FT857d

2014 Pleasant Mountain, Bridgton, ME  - W1/AM-038
SOTA

As you can see from the pictures below, there was still plenty of unmelted snow around when the WS1SM team of Charlie Shepard W1CPS, Thom Watson W1WMG, and Tim Watson KB1HNZ, made the trek up the slopes of Shawnee Peak Ski Area, to reach the summit of Pleasant Mountain. The trails were muddy and steep in spots, and it took well over an hour to reach the peak. Once there, we setup an HF station, using a Yaesu FT857d and BuddiPole antenna on battery power, and a 2 meter station, using a Yaesu FT2900 and a portable J-Pole antenna, also on battery power. 

After a few hours of operating, a storm blew in and it started to snow and sleet. We took shelter in a chairlift-operator's station for a little while to keep the equipment dry, before heading back down the slopes, but not until after Charlie decided to climb to the top of one of the chairlift towers for "better reception." 

Pleasant Mountain 3
Charlie W1CPS  and Thom W1WMG take a break along a trail

Pleasant Mountain 5
Tim KB1HNZ, takes a break

Pleasant Mountain 7
Charlie W1CPS and Tim KB1HNZ take a moment to set down their bags

Pleasant Mountain 10
Thom W1WMG, operating VHF

Pleasant Mountain 12
The Yaesu FT857d

Pleasant Mountain 14
Charlie W1CPS leans on a snow bank

Pleasant Mountain 19
Yes, Cindy, that is Charlie up there!

Pleasant Mountain 23
Thom W1WMG, operates HF from within a chairlift station
Pleasant Mountain 2
The Pine Quad chair lift

Pleasant Mountain 4
Charlie W1CPS, and Thom W1WMG pause  along the side of a slope

Pleasant Mountain 6
Tim KB1HNZ takes in the view

Pleasant Mountain 9
One of the muddy trails

Pleasant Mountain 11
Looking down at Moose Pond

Pleasant Mountain 13
Thom W1WMG logs a contact

Pleasant Mountain 18
Charlie W1CPS makes contacts on 2 meter simplex

Pleasant Mountain 22
Tim KB1HNZ takes the mic

2014 Mt. Washington, Gorham, NH  - W1/HA-001
SOTA & CQWW VHF

2014 marked the second consecutive year we operated CQWW VHF from the summit of Mt. Washington. The weather was cold and windy for most of the event, so we couldn't keep the BuddiPole fully extended for very long, but we tallied well over 100 QSO's on both 6 and 2 meters. The operator team included Thom Watson W1WMG, Tim Watson KB1HNZ, Dakota Dumont KB1YYC, and Emily Baizley. 

Mt. Washington 2
Thom W1WMG working 2m FM

Mt. Washington 5
Thom keeps going despite the rain

Mt. Washington 6
Tim operates 6m SSB

Mt. Washington 11
From the roof of the Mt. Washington observatory

Mt. Washington 15
A view of the antennas (Dakota and Emily operating)

Mt. Washington 17
Cone of silence?
Mt. Washington 3
View of the BuddiPole and Thom operating

Mt. Washington 9
An opening in the clouds

Mt. Washington 7
Tim KB1HNZ with BuddiPole in 6m configuration

Mt. Washington 13
Dakota KB1YYC and Emily

Mt. Washington 16
A vintage radio setup in the museum

Mt. Washington 18
Thom checks out the view from the lodge

2014 Mt. Blue, Weld, ME  - W1/AM-019
SOTA

We picked a beautiful fall afternoon to hike to the summit of Mt. Blue, in Weld, Maine, and we had quite a few turn out for the activation, including Bert Dumont KB1ZLV, Dave Wood KB1FGF, Sebastian Ames KC1BMY, Thom Watson W1WMG, Tim Watson KB1HNZ, and Charlie Shepard W1CPS. 

The trail was about 4 miles long, and extremely steep in spots. In a few places, we had to form a human chain to pass some of the equipment up, but once at the summit, the view was worth it. Thom W1WMG setup a Yaesu FT2900 and portable J-Pole on one of the upper platforms of the fire tower, while the others setup antennas for the HF stations in a clearing just below. One consited of a 40m SOTA Beams dipole, and a Yaesu FT857d, while the other consisted of a fan dipole for the upper bands, and an Icom IC7000. 

Mt. Blue 1
Thom, Sebastian, and Bert, take in the view

Mt. Blue 5
Dave KB1FGF

Mt. Blue 6
Getting steeper

Mt. Blue 8
Destination in sight

Mt. Blue 10
Rocky trail

Mt. Blue 12
View from the top

Mt. Blue 14
Bert KB1ZLV on the upper platform of the fire tower

Mt. Blue 16
Dave KB1FGF made it to the summit!

Mt. Blue 18
Looking down at the HF setup

Mt. Blue 20
The SOTA Beams dipole

Mt. Blue 22
VHF/UHF portable  J-Pole

Mt. Blue 24
Closeup of the VHF station
Mt. Blue 3
L-R: Bert KB1ZLV, Sebatian KC1BMY, Thom W1WMG, and Dave KB1FGF

Mt. Blue 4
Thom W1WMG and Bert KB1ZLV take a break

Mt. Blue 7
Dave, Charlie, and Thom stop for a break

Mt. Blue 9
King of the Mountain

Mt. Blue 11
Charlie W1CPS at the summit

Mt. Blue 13
Foliage across the hills

Mt. Blue 15
Radar tower disguised as a traditional fire tower

Mt. Blue 17
Thom W1WMG opeartes VHF from the upper platform

Mt. Blue 19
Solar panels

Mt. Blue 21
Tim KB1HNZ operates 40m

Mt. Blue 23
Storms moving in

Mt. Blue 25
Charlie W1CPS with his multiband fan dipole

2016 Cadillac Mountain, Mt. Desert Island, ME  - W1/DI-001
SOTA & NPOTA

As part of their NPOTA expedition to Acadia National Park, in September of 2016, Stefania Watson K1GJY, and husband Tim KB1HNZ, activated Cadillac Mountain for Summits on the Air. After spending much of the day on HF from Bass Harbor Head Light and the Natural Seawall portions of the park, the SOTA activation was only 2 meter FM Simplex, using a Kenwood D710 on battery power.

Cadillac Mountain 1
View from the summit,
Cadillac Mountain 2
View from the summit, overlooking the islands

2017 Mt. Equinox, Arlington, VT  - W1/GM-003
SOTA

In May of 2017, Stefania Watson K1GJY, and her husband Tim KB1HNZ, activated Mt. Equinox, in Manchester, Vermont, for Summits on the Air. The views from the summit were spectacular, and the 2 meter band was equally as good, as we had QSOs as far away as Connecticut, Central Massachusetts, and the Adirondacks of New York. The station used was a Kenwood D710, on battery power. 

Mt. Equinox 1
Looking South towards the Berkshires and Mt. Greylock

Mt. Equinox 4
Chapel in the summit house
Mt. Equinox 2
View from the summit house

Mt. Equinox 3
Looking North from the summit




  

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