SOTA is an amateur radio activity, which is specifically designed for shortwave enthusiasts. Any amateur radio operator can participate in SOTA without being a mountaineer. Hams are awarded based on their contribution and score earned. There are two types of awards for SOTA for activators and chasers. Activators operate amateur radio from the top of a hill (also called mountaineers). And, chasers can operate from home or from a local hilltop.
Today, SOTA is one of the most popular activities among amateur radio operators. In more than 100 countries SOTA is operated and managed by dedicated associations. Until April 2016, more than 95.500 summits are registered. The record of these summits is published on the SOTA database, so with this figure you can evaluate the popularity of this amateur radio activity.
Both, activators and chasers receive points based on their performance. An activator gets points to operate the station and the chaser gets points to contact the activator. To get an award, you need to collect more points. One of the secrets to get more points is to setup the summit on a high hilltop.
Like any other radio activity, SOTA is also governed by some rules, which are listed here.
An activator must have a transmitting license. He can also have a club license, but this license should match with the conditions of the operations like frequency limits. Supervised license is not allowed.
The activator must undertake the amateur radio regulation, such as using the allowed bands only. The use of transmitting equipment might also be limited, and the activator must understand and follow the conditions.
The activator is not allowed to setup the summit nearby a bike, car, or any other such vehicle. However, using a vehicle is allowed to reach to the activation zone.
The operator’s position must be within the activation zone. It should be within the contour line, which is generally 25 meters below the peak height of the summit.
The activator and his team should carry all equipment to the activation zone.
Being a tough challenge on a hilltop, you are not allowed to perform the operation using a permanent power source. You will have to use power sources like solar cells, batteries, etc. to operate the equipment.
To get the summit qualified as an active summit, minimum one QSO is must. And, to start collecting points, at least four QSOs are must. Making the challenge more interesting, every QSO should be made from a different station while exchanging callsigns and signal reports. You may also request for the summit reference for identification purpose.
Making QSOs with other summits in the same activation zone will not be counted as a point, so avoid making such contacts. Also, the QSOs made through terrestrial repeaters will not be counted as a point; however, you are allowed to make QSOs using artificial satellite.
Log submission is mandatory on the SOTA database website by filling a form or by uploading a log file.
If it is found that the activator has breached the rules, then the points will not be considered and other action may also be taken.
Chaser must also follow some strict rules to be able to claim an award. The participant must have an appropriate licence; without a license, nobody can participate in the activity. At least one QSO should be made where the chaser has to exchange callsigns and two-way reports. If possible, the SOTA reference number can be exchanged as well. Moreover, one QSO per day will be counted for points. Similar to the activator, the QSOs made through terrestrial repeaters will not be counted as a point; however, you are allowed to make QSOs using artificial satellite.
Log of the activity and QSOs made is must to submit to be a part of the award scheme. The chaser does not need a QSL card for the verification of QSOs made. Also, many QSOs made with the same activator will not be counted as additional points, so it is better to avoid making contact with the same activator again.
There are many awards for the SOTA participants and winners. The more points an activator or a chaser collects, more are the chance to secure an award. The most acknowledged award is named “Mountain Goat”. It is an award for activator, which is awarded upon making 1000 points. And, for the chaser who collects 1000 points, the most recognized award is named “Shack Sloth”. Announcement of the awards is done online on the SOTA website.