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Contributing Trip Reports Using PNWSOTA

Etienne Scott, K7ATN
 
Edited

Here are some blogging guidelines using http://www.pnwsota.org/ .pnwsota.org that can help the next activator be successful. 
To obtain editing privileges, contact Etienne-K7ATN. Note that the pnwsota.org site admin may edit or revise any material without notice.
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"How do you get to the trailhead?" and "Will my Prius make it?", "What's the trail like?", and "Miles round trip and vertical gain?" --- these are the kinds of questions that newbies or visiting activators have about SOTA summits. Here's some guidelines that will help you write trip reports for the next activator. You can also look at other trip reports and emulate one that you like. This is a nice  contribution by Troy-KF7SEY: http://www.pnwsota.org/blog/kf7sey/2021-may-23/sugarloaf-mountain-or-april-2021

"Blogs" on  http://www.pnwsota.org/ are summit trip reports - or something you know about a particular summit, like that it's posted "No Trespassing." A title with a clear summit name and state is a useful way to start, as is the month and year of activation. There are many summits throughout the Pacific Northwest with the same name, so adding the state can help ease confusion, the month indicates the season, and the year would tell folks if this is recent information or something that may not be current. A descriptive trip report title might be, "Larch Mtn, WA | October 2021."

The content of a trip report should help others activate the peak. Directions to the trailhead, condition of the road, necessary permits are a great start. Then information about the trail distance and elevation gain, any issues with following the path, and what one will find in the activation zone for antennas, views, RFI, cell service for spotting, etc. You can always look at previous reports to see what they missed - a turn, a sign, or a photo that would help the next person. If you provide coordinates, the regional standard is decimal degrees as SOTA Atlas uses https://sotl.as/.

You’ll want to link your report with SOTA summit info. Copy the URL of your trip report blog to the clipboard, then click on the summit reference in your blog – it will take you to the SOTA summit page. You’ll need to be logged into www.sota.org.uk, click on External Link and then you can paste the URL for your trip report. This is also linked to https://sotl.as/ so anyone in the world can learn from your experience and chasers can see where you've been.


Logging SOTA Contacts - Including S2S

Etienne Scott, K7ATN
 
Edited

Logging SOTA contacts can be a bit tedious, especially Summit-to-Summit. It can be done manually, or better, by uploading a simple log file. S2S contacts are entered as both Activator and Chaser contacts. It's easy to do with a CSV file that looks like this (from Excel) or you can use a text editor and put commas after each field:

     V2   WA7JNJ   W7W/SN-105    27/8/2020  19:02  144MHz   FM   KI7EMX   W7O/NC-015
     V2   WA7JNJ                             27/8/2020  19:02  144MHz   FM   KI7EMX   W7O/NC-015
     V2   WA7JNJ   W7W/SN-105    27/8/2020  19:02  144MHz   FM   KI7EMX

The V2 indicates the file format for the parser, then your call, your summit, date (in Euro format DD/MM/YYYY - for Excel I use a single quote '27/8/2020), time in UTC, band, mode, station worked, and then their summit (if they are on one). If you or the person you are working is not on a summit, leave the respective field blank (both summit fields can't be blank).

So Line 1 above is S2S. Line 2 is a chase. And Line 3 is an activator contact.  Of course, you should log every contact you make.

Use  https://www.sotadata.org.uk/en/. Log in and use the menu "Submit Logs" >> Upload CSV. You should have Activator points, Chaser points, and S2S points. AND as a fun bonus -- the S2S contacts Roll of Honour shows distance in km.


Things to Have on a SOTA Activation

Etienne Scott, K7ATN
 

Here's a sort of minimalist list of all that you should have for a successful and fun SOTA activation. 
 
  • Ten essentials - see https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/ten-essentials.html.
  • The "lapse rate" or drop in temperature as altitude increases is about 3.5F per 1000 feet and wind speed is usually higher with an increase in elevation. Warm, windproof clothing, including gloves and a hat, can be good to have any time of year.
  • A checklist of gear, reviewed in a practice session in a nearby park or the backyard. There are many stories of first activators leaving behind a battery, adapter, feedline or antenna.
  • A quality HT and enhanced antenna (MFJ 1714, RH-770, roll-up j-pole, small yagi, etc.). A Rubber Ducky is often inadequate for all but the closest in-town Summits. Extend your gear checklist for your favorite portable HF rig and antenna.
  • It can be helpful to have your intended Summit Reference written down where you can find it (in a logbook, sticky note, in your phone). And in case you can't make your intended Summit, having a backup Summit plan can save the day. 
  • Not always required, but for summits where the peak isn't obvious or with bushwacking involved, a GPS can help you be sure you are on the summit or in the Activation Zone, and when you are done, to get you back to the car. Otherwise, a map, compass and directions to the Summit are essential.
  • A method for logging - using your cellphone can be okay, but waterproof paper and pencil is a reliable choice under all conditions.
  • A good attitude to represent SOTA and ham radio to the public should you be on a Summit where there are other folks. Many fellow hikers are curious and relate well to the idea that you are practicing emergency communications using ham radio. 
  • Permission to be there. 


SOTA Resources

Etienne Scott, K7ATN
 

SOTA main site: www.sota.org.uk
Spots & Alerts:   http://sotawatch.sota.org.uk
SOTA logging:    https://www.sotadata.org.uk/
PNW regional:  www.pnwsota.org
Mapping site:     https://sotl.as/
Mapping site:     https://www.sotamaps.org/

General Rules & Association Reference Manuals:
                         https://summits.sota.org.uk
                        www.sota.org.uk/Joining-In/General-Rules

NOTE that SOTA uses UTC time and Euro date format - dd/mm/yyyy


Tips for 2m FM SOTA Success

Etienne Scott, K7ATN
 
Edited

For those considering a SOTA activation using just a HT, here are some ideas that could contribute to success with 2m FM for Summits on the Air:

    • Post an Alert for your intentions a day or two before and a Spot when you are on the air --- use https://sotawatch.sota.org.uk/.
    • (Facebook isn't effective for letting folks know you are on the air.)
  • You might let your friends and your radio club know you'll be out on a summit --- remind them that you'll be using simplex. 
  • Consider that your success will increase when you are within LOS of urban areas - contacts maybe somewhat random otherwise.
  • Start out with a previously activated summit where you can find good access beta on http://www.pnwsota.org/ and https://sotl.as/
  • Consider using the National Calling Frequency of 146.52 only as a backup --- a spot for a simplex frequency like 146.58 will get you regular Chasers in the Portland/Vancouver area. If it's busy, try a spot for 146.54 or 146.56.
  • Note that some HT hear better than others - for example, the Baofeng UV-5R seems to be particularly deaf for simplex work. 
  • "Rubber Ducky" antennas will be inadequate most of the time - you will be well served by using enhanced  antennas --- 1/2 wave antennas like the MFJ-1714 "Long Ranger", the RH-770 or a roll-up j-pole are popular.

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