Summits on the Air (SOTA)

The Summits on the Air (SOTA) program is starting to get some traction in Colorado. The Colorado 14er Event Task Force has decided to encourage SOTA activity during the annual Colorado 14er Event.

The basic idea is to encourage SOTA activations during the 14er Event, while at the same time not limiting existing 14er Event activity. In other words, you can go out and do your 14er thing the same way you've always done it. On the other hand, we'll encourage you to consider making it a SOTA activation as well.

In particular, we are encouraging SOTA activations from summits that are NOT on the official list of Colorado 14ers. This opens up a whole new set of summits (>1700) that you can put on the air. This will be particularly attractive to hams wanting to operate backpack portable but finding a 14er climb to be too much for them.

The SOTA organization is relatively new to Colorado but it is well established in Europe. Here are some resources to help you get familiar with SOTA:

Main (worldwide) SOTA web site: http://sota.org.uk/
The SOTA web page for Colorado: http://w0c-sota.org/
SOTA Watch website for posting activity: http://sotawatch.org/

There are 1748 summits listed as SOTA summits in Colorado, which provides many options for mountaintop operating. Most (but not all) of the 14er Event mountaintop operations are already “SOTA compatible”.

Issues with SOTA from a 14er Event Perspective:

1. The Colorado 14er Event is focused on operating from the summits of the 54 Colorado 14ers, as listed here: Colorado 14er List

The SOTA rules require a 500-foot drop between summits for them to be recognized as individual peaks. The 14er list uses a 300-foot criteria (not applied consistently). This results in these eight 14er summits NOT being listed as SOTA summits:

Crestone Needle, Mount Bross, El Diente Peak, Tabeguache Peak, Sunlight Peak, Ellingwood Point, Little Bear Peak, North Maroon Peak

Most of these are a minor concern since these summits have only rarely been activated during the 14er event. One exception is Mount Bross, which has been activated quite a few times. (Bross used to be accessible via 4WD but not lately. Check on access issues before you go.) Mount Bross is not considered separate from Mount Lincoln for the purposes of SOTA. You could ascend Mount Bross and then activate Mount Lincoln. Or maybe do both. Mount Bross would be considered a 14er but does not qualify as a SOTA peak.

2. The Colorado 14er Event does not place any restrictions on the means to get to the summit.
The General SOTA rules say:

The method of final access to the Summit must be non-motorised. Operations must not be in, or in the vicinity of a motor vehicle. No part of the station may be connected in any way to the motor vehicle.


And

All equipment must be carried to the site by the Activator team.


3. The Colorado 14er Event does not place limits on the station power source, but does recommend not exceeding 50 Watts output power to avoid interference to adjacent mountains. The SOTA Rules place limits on the power source:

All equipment must be operated from a portable power source (batteries, solar cells, etc). Operation is expressly forbidden using permanently installed power sources or fossil-fuel generators of any kind.

Most of our hike-up summits are naturally "SOTA compliant". The problem will be with the drive-up mountains (Pikes, Evans) where it is common for participants to use vehicles to get to the summit. The SOTA requirements for a "non-motorized ascent" are not difficult to achieve, even if one drives to a summit. The basic idea is that your ham station needs to be portable, such that you can carry it to the site, while no minimum horizontal or vertical distance is required. Put simply, it is allowable to drive up Pikes or Evans, then carry your station a few feet away from your vehicle to operate. (And don't connect to the vehicle for power.)

While we have listed some of the SOTA Rules here, it is important that you investigate and understand the SOTA operating requirements and direct any questions about them to the W0 SOTA Management Team (http://w0c-sota.org/contact/). The Colorado 14er Event Task Force has no official standing with the SOTA organization, other than encouraging people to give it a try!
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