There are a few reasons I love Summits On The Air (SOTA):
- I love hiking.
- I love going truly portable with my radio gear; packing an entire minimalist station in my backpack along with first aid supplies, water, and a bite to eat, then hitting the trail.
- I love the views.
- I love the sense of accomplishment (hiking to a summit doesn’t happen every day).
- I also love that post-hike feeling–my body telling me, “Hey, T, thanks for doing something today!“
No kidding: If I could, I would do a SOTA activation at least twice a week. Maybe when I retire, I will.
Living in the mountains of western North Carolina, I have no shortage of summits to activate–indeed, one is within (strenuous) hiking distance of my QTH.
So why don’t I activate more summits?
It’s because they are much more difficult to fit in my active schedule.
You’ll notice that the bulk of my POTA activations take place within a one hour window of time. This includes set-up, on-the-air, and pack-up time. The brilliant thing about POTA sites is that they’re so accessible in my weekly travels. (Plus, I absolutely love POTA too!)
My average SOTA activation, on the other hand, requires at least a three hour window of time. In fact, it’s usually much closer to four or five hours.
On Saturday, February 18, 2023, a rare thing happened: an entire day opened up for me to play radio. The only real obligation I had was to set-up and participate in a live stream with Josh (KI6NAZ) on the HRCC channel that evening.
At first, I thought about doing a five park POTA rove, hitting four parks and one game land all that eight hour window of time. It was very doable and I knew it would be fun.
But then again, park roves allow very little time for hiking–typically, they’re wham-bam style short activations. It was also a gorgeous day weather-wise so I scrapped the idea of a POTA rove. (This time!)
Instead, I had a hankering to do a SOTA activation and hike. I took a quick look at SOTL.as and remembered how much I enjoyed my last activation of W4C/EP-001 (Moore’s Knob) at Hanging Rock State Park (K-2753). And hey! It’s both a SOTA and POTA site!
It’s been nearly two years since I’d visited Hanging Rock SP because it’s a two hour drive in a direction I rarely travel.
Hanging Rock a beautiful park and I truly enjoyed the hike to Moore’s Knob.
As a bonus, Hanging Rock State Park is less than a 30 minute drive to Pilot Mountain State Park. I knew I’d have time in the schedule to do activate both sites! Score!
Hanging Rock State Park (K-2753)
I pulled into Hanging Rock that morning and made my way to the parking area by the lake.
Since it had been nearly two years, I consulted the hiking trail map at the trail head to confirm I was taking the correct loop (Moore’s Wall Loop).
Simon is a history prof at Duke University and an overall fascinating fellow. I really enjoyed his company on the way to the summit.
I’m not the type of fellow that normally strikes up a conversation with others easily. At the end of the day, I’m pretty introverted.
That said, I have met some absolutely fascinating people while hiking. Simon was one of those. It’s funny how the outdoors can bring kindred spirits together.
Once we reached the summit, I started looking for a spot to set up in the activation zone. The true summit was teeming with other hikers and drones buzzing around. I mention in the activation video (below) that I think drones are pretty amazing but I overheard others complaining that the constant buzzing was pretty annoying. It would have helped if the drone operators took a break, and didn’t fly the drones so close to where everyone was trying to enjoy the peace and gorgeous views at observation tower. It was a bit like having bees buzzing around your head.
I wished Simon an enjoyable hike and scouted out a better space to set up within the activation zone. I found a nice secluded spot–a small rocky shelf–on the north side of the summit.
My field kit was pretty minimal: KX2, paddles, throw line, and a random wire antenna. It all fit inside my KX2 pack.
I snagged a branch perhaps 12 feet above me–not a “text book” situation. That said, when you’re standing on a summit, these things matter so much less. If it radiates, you’ll activate!
I used my “no transformer” Tufteln random wire antenna which is identical to my 28’5′ speaker wire antenna, just much more compact. I’ve had lots of readers reach out and ask if there is any difference at all in terms of performance between my speaker wire antenna and this one. The answer is no. Performance is identical.
My radiator wire was essentially configured in a low-to-the ground inverted vee shape. Again, not ideal, but good enough to complete this SOTA/POTA activation!
Time to hit the air!
- Elecraft KX2 and KXPD2 Paddles
- Elecraft ES60 Pack (Note that mine is a discontinued LowePro CS60 pack, the ES60 is identical and Elecraft branded)
- Tufteln Portable EFRW No Transformer QRP Antenna
- Tufteln N0RNM Folding Knee Board
- Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC
- Elecraft KXBT2 Li-Ion Battery Pack
- Bare-Bones Arborist throw line kit: 25M Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch
- Moleskine Cahier Journal
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera with Sensyne Phone Tripod
On The Air
I plugged in the antenna, moved to a 30 meter frequency, then hit the ATU button on the KX2. This type of antenna (one with no transformer) requires a nice wide-range ATU.
I started calling CQ SOTA and wow.
The pileup at times was just a bit insane.
I worked my first ten contacts in eight minutes! Whew!
I continued working stations until I simply ran out of time. I had to call QRT after being on the air a total of 27 minutes and having logged 31 stations in that time. I hated to call QRT with a pileup in progress, but I had to because I still had Pilot Mountain on the schedule.
Here’s what this 30 meter SOTA/POTA activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map.
Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation. As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.
So much fun–!
This SOTA/POTA activation was just what the doctor ordered!
The hike back to the car was blissful.
This activation and hike also motivated me to find more time in my schedule to hit more summits this year.
I hope you enjoyed this rather wordy field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.
While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.
As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.
Thanks for spending part of your day with me! Have a brilliant weekend!
Cheers & 72,