Microwave Challenge Tips

The PNWVHFS Microwave Challenge was introduced in October 2015 to encourage summit activity. Here are some helpful tips for successful microwave chasers and activators. See also our Microwave Equipment information.

Chaser Tips

The term "Chaser" refers to hams attempting to work stations on SOTA summits. Frequently, Chasers are home stations. But chasers can chase from anywhere, including from other SOTA summits. “Activators” are hams that operate from a designated summit in accordance with the SOTA rules. Here are a few points to help Chasers:

  • It is helpful for Chasers to understand what Activators do. A good source of information is the General Rules and Association Reference Manuals.
  • For the PNWVHFS Microwave Challenge, Chasers and Activators exchange six-character Maidenhead grids on 902 MHz and above. Your home Maidenhead grid can be found on QRZ.com (off-site). Alternatively, you can use a web-based tool like this one (off-site)
  • If you work mobile or portable, find your six-character grid using a cellphone app or a GPS.
  • Log your QSOs on SOTAData.org.uk (off-site) within a few days of the contacts, if possible.
  • Be able to operate SSB, CW or FM on microwave bands.
  • Review alerts on www.SOTAWatch.org (off-site) and the PNWVHFS reflector (off-site).
  • Be patient on activation times for those summits involving long drives or substantial hikes - it can be hard for Activators to be accurate on QRV times.
  • Use Google Earth or SOTA maps or the Association Reference Manual to identify Activator locations and antenna bearings: www.dl1dlf.de/sota-references-google-earth (off-site) www.sotamaps.org (off-site).
  • Keep in mind that indicated frequencies on microwave gear may be off considerably — know your gear and tune around.

Activator Tips

Activators operate from within the activation zone of a SOTA summit. Here are some tips for activators:

  • Read the SOTA Manuals and General Rules and be familiar with the SOTA radio sport.
  • Try out your gear in a park or your backyard - some find checklists useful to be sure to have all adapters, cables, etc. that are needed.
  • Begin with an easy activation - there's no need to make it epic at the start — a short hike or a getting away from the car on a drive-up summit can be a low risk way to try everything out.
  • Post an alert on www.SOTAWatch.org (off-site) and also spot yourself (via smartphone or text message or APRS) when you are on the air.
  • Provide six-character Maidenhead grid to those you work on 902MHz and above.
  • You can find your six-character grid in advance with a web-based tool or use a cellphone app or a GPS.
  • If you want to gather SOTA activation points AND credits for the PNWVHFS Microwave Challenge, be sure to work a minimum of four different stations.
  • Log your QSOs on www.SOTAData.org.uk (off-site) within a few days of the contacts, if possible.
  • Using a coordination frequency often ensures success with microwave contacts. But be certain that a full two-way exchange is made and confirmed using the microwave frequency. 144.200 SSB is often a good coordination frequency - remember horizontal polarization is standard.
  • 2m FM can also be good for coordination and for additional contacts. However, depending on where you are, 146.52 varies substantially in how many are listening and will answer.
  • Coordinate with another activator for a LOS Summit-to-Summit (S2S) contact. You can investigate paths here: Hey Whats That (off-site).
  • Use Google Earth or SOTA maps or PNWSOTA web site to choose summits:
    www.dl1dlf.de/sota-references-google-earth (off-site) www.sotamaps.org (off-site), and www.pnwsota.org (off-site).
  • Keep in mind that indicated frequencies on microwave gear may be off considerably — know your gear and tune around.
  • When using a yagi, be familiar with compass directions and make long calls in directions likely to be productive.
  • Be aware of the RF hazards of microwaves (off-site) and be responsible for minimizing risk to yourself and others.