SOTA-Inspired License Upgrades: Thomas activates two Edinburgh summits with his Elecraft KX3/AX1 kit during business travel

Many thanks to Thomas (DM1TBE / M0KEU) who shares the following SOTA field report he also shared on the excellent SOTA reflector.

How two Scottish SOTA activations encouraged me to upgrade my German license

by Thomas (DM1TBE / M0KEU)

I just wanted to tell someone this story. Not sure if you want to hear it, but I will tell you anyway :wink:

During June last year, my boss asked me if I could step in for an ill colleague and visit a business partner in Frankfurt and Edinburgh. As a SOTA activator, I first checked the map and have happily spotted a summit within walking distance of the hotel in Edinburgh.

Unfortunately, there were three issues to solve:

  1. The UK does not accept my German “Klasse E” (CEPT novice/intermediate) license;
  2. operating a radio on the summit requires written permission and
  3. as the duration of the trip was planned with just 2 overnight stays, only hand luggage was possible.

At the Ham Radio in Friedrichshafen, I asked an RSGB representative if it is possible to get a British license as a German. Mark, M1MPA, explained to me how the process worked, so I started the online course provided by GM6DX. It was not too difficult, and I soon passed every mock exam. Roughly, two weeks before the trip, I passed the RSGB operated online exam and got my UK foundation license, so I could operate in Scotland as MM7TBE.

Regarding the issue with the permission to operate on the summit, I first chose to ignore and pretend being a stupid foreign tourist until I was told that it is really enforced, and my activation could be deleted. So, I asked the Ranger Service at Historic Environment Scotland for permission less than two weeks before my activation and received it just one day later with a comment that it is usually expected to ask one month in advance. Many thanks to the Ranger Service, next time I will come earlier – I promise!

The last issue was the size of the equipment.

There is no tree on top of the summit Arthur’s Seat GM/SS-272, and I had very little space left. So I went with a KX3 with an AX1 antenna and a FT2D for 2m FM.

Now the journey could begin.

On the first day, I was at a very high place in Frankfurt but unfortunately, it did not qualify for SOTA. That evening I arrived in Edinburgh.

The next day, late afternoon, the fun could start.

A colleague and I walked from the city centre to the summit Arthur’s seat.

The AX1 worked way better than I had thought. So, while it became dark, I made 15 HF contacts (4x SSB, 11x CW) and 2 contacts on 2m FM. It was also my first activation outside my home association.

View from Arthur’s Seat.

During one QSO I was told that there was a second SOTA summit not too far from Edinburgh, which could be reached by bus from the city centre. That came in very handy, as I just received a mail from the airline.

Thank you very much, Lufthansa for extending my stay.


The next day, I took the bus to activate Allermuir Hill GM/SS-171.

The walk and ascent would probably be worth 8 points in my home association, but in Scotland it counted just as a small summit. The actual activation went smoothly, and surprisingly I made a lot of 2m FM contacts, so I ended up with 7x FM 2m and 14x CW on HF.

On the way back, I met a … not sure what this is called …lying next to the trail. We agreed not to harm each other, and I passed it cautiously and slowly.

Many thanks to all the chasers for these and all the other activations.

Back home, I thought about all this. I always wanted to upgrade my licence in Germany, mainly due to the band restrictions, which limits HF to 160,80,15 and 10 meters here. But I couldn’t be bothered with the outdated and overly theoretical roughly 1000 exam questions.

The way I experienced the British Foundation license exam made me thinking about whether I could proceed in the UK. So, I searched and stumbled on the Online Amateur Radio Community. They offer online courses for all three licenses in the UK. It is a great help for learners and with their help I passed the Intermediate exam in October and the Full License exam in December 2022. The Full License comes with a Harmonised Amateur Radio Examination Certificate.

This certificate allows you to apply for a license abroad–in my case at home–and get the highest-class license. So, I am now able to operate as DM1TBE and M0KEU and use all available bands on SOTA here in Germany and elsewhere.

I will always remember these two activations, and I am very grateful for all the help I had.

Thank you, Historic Environment Scotland, for your very quick response. Without the RSGB’s offering of an online exam, I could not have done this. You have a new member. And thank you too, OARC. It is very hard to get a Full licence as non-native speaker. But with your great help I made it and learnt a lot about the Brits and their way of doing things.

Kind regards
Thomas, DM1TBE, M0KEU

6 thoughts on “SOTA-Inspired License Upgrades: Thomas activates two Edinburgh summits with his Elecraft KX3/AX1 kit during business travel”

  1. Thomas from ‘across the pond!’, great report.

    Congratulations on the activations, and the license upgrades… a cleaver way ‘to side-step the raging bull.’

    Elecraft never disappoints! I need to plan my travels in advance.

    I recently traveled to Mexico, which has no reciprocation agreement currently with the US. A vacation shouldn’t just be spent laying poolside in the sun.

    72 de W7UDT (dit dit)

  2. Thomas, thanks for sharing your story. This is how we motivate and inspire one another in our hobby. I’ve ordered a KX2 and AX1 for a trip to Nova Scotia this summer and am looking forward to using this setup. As Rand commented, travel can be more memorable when we add radio to it as you did.

  3. Thanks for the info. Maybe I will also try to get a UK license.
    Your story is an excellent demonstration of the resourcefulness and high activity of a radio amateur.

  4. Hello! I am very surprised that one needs a special permission to operate a radio on the summit which appears like wild (I’d understand it if there was e.g. a military object, etc.). Why is that necessary? And finally, how would talking to a handheld differ from using a phone? Finally, KX2 with a telescope is basically a HT too… Just wondering…

  5. Thomas,

    Thanks for the report and it’s a shame I didn’t hear you on 2m FM. The thing you saw was a Highland Cow.

    I grew up at the bottom of Allemuir Hill on the southern edge of the city so know Allemuir and it’s nearby summit, Caerketton, well!

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