SOTA

SOTA is an awards programme that is aimed at radio amateurs who want to combine operating amateur radio with walking in the hills and mountains.

I first started with SOTA in August 2016 when one day I heard someone calling “CQ SOTA” from the top of Walbury hill.  I had heard of SOTA but had never really got around to investigating so I answered the call and from that moment on I was hooked.

I found the main SOTA web site at www.sota.org.uk and started reading.  Once I had registered I was able to log my first chaser contact and so gain my first point.  Only 999 more needed to get my first award.

In 2017 I started a programme of hill fitness training in anticipation of trying to activate a few summits.  Below you will find a few posts relating my progress.

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Walbury Hill 2018

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G/SE-001 – VHF NFD

VHF field day (NFD) seemed like a good time to activate Walbury hill again and at the same time enter the next backpackers contest.  Unfortunately when the day came around it did not work out as planned.  NFD started at 15:00 on the Saturday and almost immediately I heard a strong signal giving out the locator IO91gi which is Walbury Hill.  I quickly established who it was on the hill and realised there was no way I was going to be able to enter the backpackers contest from the same hill.  Instead, I relocated my backpacker entry to Granham hill nearer home and rearranged my SOTA activation for 15:00 on the Sunday when the NFD finished.

I met up with Ken at the car park for the walk up to the trig point.  Unfortunatly we were busy chatting and missed the gate into the field so had to backtrack a little.  The NFD station had set up near the trig point so we detoured over to say hello before heading for the trig point.  Once again I set up next to the trig point and soon had seven contacts in the log.  With the point in the bag I packed up and gave Ken a hand trying to operate on 20m before returning back along the same route we arrived on.

Journey Details

Date – 8th July 2018

Postcode – RG17 9EL

Parking – SU 370 620

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 7

SOTA points – 1

Group – Myself and Ken

Log

Walking Route Summary

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Scafell Pike 2018

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G/LD-001 – Scafell Pike

Another classic.  Ascending from the car park at the top of Wast Water, up via the tourist track.  Weather was a bit better than the previous day with some breaks in the loud at times.

It was busy on the way up with a number of large groups slogging up and blocking the path so not the most pleasant route.  At the top there were a fair number of people around so again I didn’t bother to set up the main antenna but instead just activated it from the rubber duck on the handheld.

I soon made seven contacts before heading back down.  As an alternative we tried to find the route down via Mickledore and Broad Stand but ended up coming back onto the tourist trail as that route was in thick cloud.

Journey Details

Date – 17th June 2018

Postcode – CA20 1EX

Parking – NY 182 074

Radio – Wouxan KG-UV6D

Antenna – Nagoya rubber duck

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 7

SOTA points – 10

Group – Myself & Peter

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Helvellyn 2018

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G/LD-003 – Helvellyn

Helvellyn via Striding Edge. A lakeland classic, it needs no introduction.  Starting from the main car park in the centre of Glenridding, up via Striding Edge around the top and back down via Swirral Edge.

Even though we did the walk in June it was still wet and windy on top.  Visibility was no more than 50m and the views were non existent.  I didn’t set up the main antenna as I was able to qualify just using the rubber duck on the handheld.

Journey Details

Date – 16th June 2018

Postcode – CA11 0PD

Parking – NY 386 169

Radio – Wouxan KG-UV6D

Antenna – Nagoya rubber duck

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 4

SOTA points – 10

Group – Myself & Peter

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Seat Sandal 2018

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G/LD-022 – Seat Sandal

Seat Sandal was a nice bonus summit.  We were meant to be driving home from the Lakes on the Sunday but I managed to slip this one in on the way past.

Parking is not ideal being on the side of the main A591 route through the Lake District but there is a lay by with room for a few cars.  If this is full there is another lay by on the other side or the road just to the North a little way.

Access is over the stile in the lay by and then follow the road North until Raise Beck.  Initially the path is not clear as there are many options created by the sheep.  Choose whichever seems the best option heading for the very obvious gully.  Once you reach the gully then just follow the wall up until you reach the remains of the old boundary fence,  This is quite obvious as it has bits of iron fence post still protruding from the ground.  Here turn right and follow the old boundary wall to the top.  There is a fairly easy, if steep, path alongside the wall to the top.

There is plenty of room at the top to set up the station, there is both a large summit cairn and a shelter, either of which are suitable.  On the day I did this summit it was also one of the 2m backpacker contest days so rather than calling CQ Sota I entered the contest.  I only had limited time on the top but managed to squeeze in eight contacts in half an hour operating during which time I logged stations as far away as the Isle of White and into Scotland.  See the contest map below.

Overall I was very pleased with this and only wished I had the time to work the full four hours of the contest.

The return route is simply a reverse of the route up so shouldn’t be a problem.  If you have more time than I did you may like to take in Grisedale Tarn which is just beyond the saddle.

Sheep trying to shelter from the rain

Although the weather was lovely for most of the day, half way back down the clouds gathered and after a nearby clap of thunder the heaven opened, needles to say by the time we got back to the car we both got absolutely soaked and what had been dry stream beds on the way up were now running off the side of the mountain.

Journey Details

Date – 10th June 2018

Postcode – LA22 9RS

Parking – NY 329 111

Radio – Wouxan KG-UV6D + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 8

SOTA points – 6

Group – Myself & Belinda

 

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Skiddaw 2018

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G/LD-004 – Skiddaw

A weekend in the Lake District and a chance to do a couple of Sota summits.  On the Saturday we went up Skiddaw. The weather was favourable forecast as a clear day with occasional showers and cloud above the summit.

We chose the shorter route, starting from the car park East of Applethwaite (CA12 4PH).  This can get busy so on a good day it’s worth getting in early.

The path up to Skiddaw summit is very obvious and well frequented.  You won’t travel up alone!

There is the option to also bag the summit of Little Man, I chose to do it on the way back down so bypassed it on the way up.

On a clear day as expected the views are stunning.  As you gain altitude Derwent water will emerge below you as the main summit of Skiddaw appears above you.

 

At the summit there is plenty of room to set up the station.  I found a spot to the NE of the cairn with just enough grass to get the pegs into.  The summit will be busy so it is best to be far enough away from it so as to not annoy other visitors.

There was plenty of activity on the bands and I soon had eighteen entries in the log including a couple of summit to summits.  All to soon it was time to pack up and after a bit of lunch to head back down to the car park.  On the way down I took in the summit of Little Man, not a Sota summit but a nice bonus on the side.

On reaching the car park we were welcomed by the sight of a small van selling ice creams and soft drinks which was a welcome finale to a lovely day walking.

Journey Details

Date – 9th June 2018

Postcode – CA12 4PH

Parking – NY 280 253

Radio – Wouxan KG-UV6D + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 18

SOTA points – 10

Group – Myself & Belinda

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Dunkery Beacon, Selworthy Beacon, Periton Hill 2018

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A break in Minehead offered the opportunity to bag the three summits nearby.  It is possible to walk between the three but in this case we decided it would be easier to drive to Dunkery Beacon and Selworthy Beacon and then get dropped off for Periton hill and an easy walk back into Minehead.

G/SC-001, Dunkery Beacon

There are two good car parks for Dunkery Beacon, we chose the higher one located at TA24 7AT with a slightly longer walk in but less height to climb.

The path up to the beacon if very obvious and even though we were in cloud it is not a problem to follow.  The beacon is very obvious and there is plenty of room to operate although the ground around the beacon is very stony and difficult to get pegs into.

 

Journey Details

Date – 29th May 2018

Postcode – TA24 7AT

Parking – SS 903 419

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 9

SOTA points – 2

Group – Myself, Belinda & Jacob

G/SC-005, Selworthy Beacon

The drive to Selworthy Beacon is not easy as there isn’t a nearby postcode that I could find on the right road.  Just have to do it the old fashioned way and use a map!  TA24 5LB will get you one the right road but it’s still quite a way from the parking.

 

Once parked it is a short walk over to the beacon where there is plenty of room to set up.  Being a bit lower than Dunkery Beacon it is a bit more difficult to get out but I still managed to log six contacts which isn’t bad for a Tuesday morning.

Journey Details

Date – 29th May 2018

Postcode – TA24 5LB

Parking – SS 923 478

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 6

SOTA points – 1

Group – Myself, Belinda & Jacob

G/SC-006, Periton Hill

It’s a short drive back into Minehead and out to Periton Cross for the walk up Periton Hill.  The A39 is fairly busy making it difficult to stop there so it is easier to stop in Hopcott Close, TA24 5TA.  There is room to park in the close, the walk up the hill starts on the other side of the A39 which is accessible from the close.

The route up the hill is fairly obvious.  Once you reach the top path, the highest point is set back on a second path behind the trees so I decided to operate on the more northerly path which has a better takeoff towards the North and East.  This point is at 292m so well within the AZ.

I soon made six contacts which I was happy with as it’s such a low hill.  I only saw one other person out walking on the hill, the tourists preferring the pleasures of Minehead.  From the summit I walked back into Minehead via the town centre which was certainly a contrast to the peace of the hill!

Journey Details

Date – 29th May 2018

Postcode – TA24 5TA

Parking – SS 955 457

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 6

SOTA points – 1

Group – Myself

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Drosgol, Banc Llechwedd-mawr, Plynlimon-Pen Pumlumon Fawr 2018

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We spent the Easter weekend in Aberystwyth so I took the opportunity to log three of the local summits on Easter Saturday.  The weather had been bad but was forecast to improve during the day.  I planned to get dropped off to the West of the Nant-y-moch resevoir in the morning and to be picked up in the afternoon to the South on the A44 at Eisteddfa Fach layby taking in the three summits on the way.

As we left in the morning it was raining and as we climbed to the drop off point the rain turned to light snow.  From the road the tops were showing a light covering of snow already.  It looked like it would be an interesting day.

GW/MW-008 Drosgol

Drop off at the western end of the reservoir.

 

Leaving the road at SN 736 886 it was a wet start in light rain.  There is a clear track to the East and then South following the edge of the reservoir. The track was very wet, in places flooded to the point where it was necessary to walk on the banks alongside.

Reaching the third inlet at SN 749 881 it was time to leave the path and head up the hill.  There was no discernible track that I could find to the top.  It was just a case of setting a bearing and heading uphill.  At this point the top of Drosgol was still in cloud so I had to follow the compass.

It is typical Welsh mountain landscape of rough grassy slope.  The snow line was at about 450m so the last 100m or so was in snow at about 4 – 6 inches deep.

At the top there is a large cairn and a shepherds shelter, either of which make a good support for the aerial.

As it wasn’t too windy I set up the station next to the cairn and proceeded to make a number of contacts.

I set the radio to record my QSO’s which is what I normally use as a log.  When I get home I listen to the recording and extract the log entries.  For some reason though the radio failed to record anything this time so I don’t have a proper log.  Fortunately I was able to recover enough entries from what other people logged to qualify the summit.  This is the log I managed to recover.

GW/MW-007 Banc Llechwedd-mawr

As I left the top of Drosgol the cloud started to lift which was nice as it meant I was able to appreciate the views a bit more.

The bridge at SN766888

To reach the next summit I would have to cross the river Afon Llechwedd-mawr.  This is a significant river for at least 4km upstream but fortunately I had read that there was now a bridge crossing near rge reservoir end, exactly where I needed it.  From the top of Drosgol I couldn’t see the bridge as the drop is somewhat concave and my eyes are not that good.  To avoid missing the bridge I aimed for the top of the estuary  when descending, planning then to walk upstream until I found the bridge or until I found a safe crossing.

As it turned out the bridge is exactly where you would expect to find it from the map, where the footpath meets the river at SN 766 888.

The climb up to the summit of Banc Llechwedd-mawr is more of the same slog.  There is no path or track that I could find and again the top was covered in snow.

At the top there is another cairn and shelter.  Again I set up the station and this time made quite a few contacts.  Unfortunately due to the logging issues, again I don’t have a full record of the contacts I made.  Unfortunately from this one I was only able to recover two confirmed contacts so although I am fairly sure this was the summit I made the most contacts from, it is also one I am unable to qualify at the moment.  If you read this and were someone I contacted from the summit I would appreciate you letting me know so I can add you to my log.

GW/MW-001 Plynlimon-Pen Pumlumon Fawr

Once again there is a river crossing between this summit and the next over Afon Hengwm and Afon Hyddgen.  Without a bridge this would mean a 3km detour up river and another 3km back down the other side but luckily speaking to Allan GW4VPX from the summit he was familiar with the area and assured me the bridge was there at  SN 779 891.

The bridge at SN779891

With this knowledge I headed off down the hill on a bearing for the bridge.  Again the hillside is slightly convex so it is not possible to see the bridge from the top but it soon comes into view as you descend.

I stopped at the bridge for lunch and enjoyed the glorious views both up and downstream.

From the bridge there is at last a bit of a path for a while.This will take you up into an old field system at SN 784 890 but there the paths are a bit misleading.  I missed the path to the SW and instead ended up back by the river.  From here it is necessary to follow a bearing to find the route south towards Pumlumon Fach although after a while it is possible to follow the course of the river Nant y Llyn for a while.
At some point you will need to leave the river and find a route South up the flank of  Pumlumon Fach.  If you pick up the old track heading up to the lake you can follow this until it starts to lose height at which point it is back to the wild heath-land undergrowth.  Keep heading South and uphill for another Km or so until you reach the top.  Above about 650m it was white out conditions so navigation was by compass and slope angle.

The top

At the top there is a summit cairn and marked on the map is a trig point but if it’s there then I didn’t find it.  Visibility was down to about 20m on the day though!

Setting up the station for the third time that day, I soon made about ten contacts although once again the logging problem means I don’t have a full record.  I was able to collect enough entries though to qualify the summit fortunately.

I was hoping that the route back down from Plynlimon-Pen Pumlumon Fawr would be a bit easier but it was not to be.  There is a path marked on the map but I didn’t manage to find it due to the snow cover and the white out conditions, so I ended up once again forging a way down through the undergrowth.  Eventually once I started to get out of the deeper snow I did manage to find the path and eventually picked up the track back down to the road.

I reached the car park about ten minutes ahead of my estimated arrival time which I was quite pleased about on such a long day and with the variables of operating times as well.  Fortunately Belinda had arrived at the car park 15 mins early so was there waiting there for me.  All in all a superb day out in the hills and apart from losing the logs a successful days SOTAing.

Journey Details

Date – 31st March 2018

Postcode – SY23 3AG & SY23 3LE

Parking – SN 736 887 & SN 798 840

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 4+2+4

SOTA points – 2+0+6

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

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Brown Clee Hill & Titterstone Clee Hill 2018

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G/WB-002 Brown Clee Hill

Sunday was a perfect day for walking.  Cold but with clear blue skies.  There is a good service track all the way to the top of this hill on the North East flank. Parking is restricted at the bottom of the track but there is room for one car if you park carefully so as to not block the access.

The route to the top is straightforward, just follow the track and enjoy.

Once you get nearer the top you will probably notice the radio masts.  There are some fairly high power signals transmitted that will play havoc with your front end.

I set up my station alongside the summit marker, it’s not really a trig point although the remains of the old trig point seem to have been built into the path nearby.

Between the QRM I soon managed to make six contacts.  Although the day was clear and sunny there was a lot of wind chill on the top so I didn’t hang around once I had worked everyone calling.

The return back to the car is as straightforward as the ascent and I was soon on my way to the next summit.

G/WB-002 Log

Journey Details

Date – 25th February 2018

Postcode – WV16 6TP

Parking – SO 602 877

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 6

SOTA points – 2+3

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

G/WB-004 Titterstone Clee Hill

I had decided to attempt Titterstone Clee hill from the South West which with hindsight was perhaps not the best decision I ever made.  Although the walking is fine, the parking is not.  I managed to find a spot in the village which whilst it was safe and legal was not an ideal spot.  What I hadn’t realised from the map was there is good parking at the viewing area to the South of the summit at SO 593 775.  Next time I will try from there instead.  Yes I know it’s obvious on the map now I know it’s there!

For anyone who wants to try this route, once you have found parking there is a good track up as far as the incline.  This is the remains of an old narrow gauge railway built as part of the extensive quarrying activities which have taken place in the area.

It’s now just a grassy trackbed but still very obvious. From here there is no defined path to the top, the going is easy enough but it’s just a case of take a bearing and follow it.

At the top there is a trig point and a small shelter to operate from but more significant is the large radar dome just off the top.

Either this or the radio masts alongside interfere quite a bit on VHF although not as bad as it was on Brown Clee hill earlier.

I set the station up between the trig point and the shelter as there was still quite a bit of wind chill.  The summit seems quite popular and I had many visitors whilst I was there.

I’m not sure if it was the weather or the location but there was a lot of activity on the band and I made nineteen contacts before I managed to clear the pileup.  I was glad of the limited shelter keeping me out of the wind.

G/WB-004 Log

The return to the car is a straightforward reverse of the route up.

Journey Details

Date – 25th February 2018

Postcode – SY8 3PP

Parking – SO 584 773

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 6

SOTA points – 2+3

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

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May Hill & Ruardean Hill 2018

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G/WB-019 – May Hill

Had a spare Saturday afternoon and the weather was looking good so thought I would bag a couple of 1 pointers.

May Hill summit

I decided to try May Hill from the road to the West.  This is a narrow road but there is parking available for about four cars in a small lay-by at SO 688 213.  It is a short walk up the hill to the small copse on the summit.

I soon set the station up alongside the trig point and logged six contacts.

G/WB-019 Log

Journey Details

Date – 24th February 2018

Postcode – GL17 0RF

Parking – SO 688 213

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 6

SOTA points – 1

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

G/WB-021 – Ruardean Hill

A few miles to the South or May Hill is Ruardean hill.  This has to be one of the shortest SOTA walks there is.  The summit is on the village green and there is room to park on the roads nearby.

If operating on VHF then there are a couple of small masts on the buildings nearby that create a lot of interference on the channel.  You will need a radio with a reasonable front end to avoid overloading.  I soon managed to get four contacts in between the bursts of noise before packing up and heading back to the car.

Journey Details

Date – 24th February 2018

Postcode – GL17 9AR

Parking – SO 634 169

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 4

SOTA points – 1

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

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