I became interested in radio earlier this year after a 20 odd year sabbatical and decided to take the exam and gain my licence to operate within the law. It wasn't long before I found the SOTA website (Summits On The Air) and re-ignited another 'lost along the way' interest of mine - walking (not the general get from A to B type - proper walking, hills etc).
The basics of SOTA are someone (often referred to as a 'mountain goat') walks to a recognised (by SOTA) location (a hill) and makes contact with other stations (who are not on the hill) using their radio equipment. Providing certain criteria are met points are awarded to both parties and you accumulate points to gain awards. You can use many different modes and frequencies for the QSO which means you can operate with very minimal equipment and budget or take a bunch of gear up there with you and set up a bigger station.
If you check out the SOTA website (http://www.sota.org.uk/) all the details are there for operatIonal guidelines, what to do and what not to do etc, along with reports of activations (on the Reflector page), proposed activations (on the Alerts page) and live 'Spotting' of activations on (you guessed it - the 'Spots Page.
I decided my first go at SOTA would be a relatively simple affair using a budget hand held (as my other rig, a Yaesu FT 950 might be a bit large to carry further than about 50 metres) so my only option was my Baofeng UV-5R with a Nagoya NA-771 antenna (the rubber duck that comes with the hand held isn't up to much) which in all cost about £30.
After looking at the map of qualifying summits we decided on Great Whernside SOTA ref G/NP-008 as wether of us (that me and the XYL) had visited the summit previously. So I posted an Alert on the SOTA website and we set off in the car to our proposed starting point.
We arrived in Middlesmoor thinking we would be able to drive over the top to Scar House Reservoir (having looked at he map) only to find the road turns in to a very rocky track just beyond the village. We decided to see if the road from Lofthouse had an obvious turn off toward the reservoir but gave up and returned to the little car park at the top of Middlesmoor deciding to set off from there and 'walk over the top' adding a fair few miles on to our proposed route. Off we set on what was a lovely summers day (we did have one) toward the reservoir. I tried out panorama function on my new phone for the first time with some stunning results, although I should really spend a little time cleaning the images up.
It took us a good few hours to make the summit as the walking conditions under foot weren't great (andf we had a long way to walk) but once on top I put a call out on 145.500 and immediately G6XBF, Walt came back, we QSY'd to another frequency for the QSO, immediately after Walt I made contact with G4WHA/M, Geoff and then G4BLH Mike and finally M0XLT Kevin. All the stations appear to be regular SOTA point scorers and it was great speaking with them and I really appreciated they'd made the time to work me on my first activation. With 4 stations in the bag (which is required to gain my points) we decided to get moving as we had a long walk back to the car in Middlesmoor.
I think we walked around 18 miles in all, it was tough going but great fun with the added excitement of activating a summit and using the radio. I'm planning plenty more activations in the future and will be carrying more gear with me so I can work HF also!
Radio is certainly fascinating and there are so many different facets to the weird and wonderful hobby. Get involved, it's great fun!