What on earth is Summits on the Air?

In an increasingly interconnected world where technology often dominates our daily lives, there is a growing desire among outdoor enthusiasts to reconnect with nature and pursue exciting adventures. One such pursuit that has gained increasing popularity in recent years is “Summits on the Air” (SOTA). This blog post aims to introduce SOTA to outsiders, shedding light on this fun activity which combines amateur radio, hiking, and sometimes, mountaineering.

What is SOTA?

Summits on the Air (SOTA) is an international award scheme that encourages radio amateurs to venture into the great outdoors, scale mountains, and operate portable amateur radio stations from the summits they conquer. It offers a unique blend of physical activity, exploration, and technical challenges that attract a diverse community of outdoor enthusiasts and radio hobbyists.

How does SOTA work?

The core concept of SOTA revolves around the activation of mountain summits. Participants, known as “activators,” hike to designated summits carrying portable radio equipment and attempt to make radio contacts with other amateur radio operators, known as “chasers,” who operate from their homes or other locations. Successful activations involve establishing two-way radio contact, exchanging call signs, signal reports, and other pertinent information. This can be done using various modes of communication, such as voice, morse code, or data.

A typical Summits on the Air mountain top radio station.

A minimum of four different stations must be contacted in order to “qualify” the summit and receive activator points. The higher the summit’s altitude, the more challenging and rewarding the activation becomes, and the more activation points the summit is worth. Planning hikes to summits, linking multiple summits in a day, and selecting the appropriate radio equipment to carry all factor in to the challenges of SOTA activating.

Chasers vs. Activators

While activators hike to mountain summits and set up their portable radio stations, chasers play a crucial role in the SOTA community. Chasers can operate from anywhere (typically at home, but they could be on another mountaintop), listening for activators' calls and trying to establish contact.

Chasers provide support and encouragement to the activators by responding to their calls, facilitating the successful activation, and exchanging required information. Both roles are equally important in the SOTA community, creating a symbiotic relationship that fosters a sense of camaraderie.

Awards and Achievements

SOTA offers a range of awards and achievements for participants to strive for. These awards provide motivation and recognition for their efforts, enhancing the overall SOTA experience. Here are some notable awards:

Summit-to-Summit: This award recognizes participants who make many successful contacts between two mountain summits. It encourages activators to venture further and establish radio connections with other SOTA enthusiasts on different peaks, promoting cross-summit communication.

Mountain Hunter: The Mountain Hunter award is granted to chasers who successfully establish contacts with a specific number of different summits. The award levels are defined based on the number of unique summit contacts made, ranging from the initial level of 100 summits to higher levels like Platinum, Sapphire, and beyond.

Shack Sloth: Shack Sloth is an award specifically designed for chasers who achieve a significant number of contacts by operating from their fixed station or “shack.” It recognizes their dedication and commitment to supporting SOTA activators from their home locations.

Mountain Goat: The Mountain Goat award is the pinnacle of achievement for activators. It is granted to those who have successfully collected 1000 summit activation points.

Useful Websites

The official SOTA website provides comprehensive information on associations, rules, summit listings, and resources for participants worldwide. It serves as a central hub for the SOTA community and includes a popular online forum (“reflector”).

The SOTA Atlas by Manuel HB9DQM is a valuable resource for tracking activations, chases, and trip planning. It allows you to post “alerts” and “spots”, view summit details, and explore the achievements of other SOTA participants.

SOTA Maps is an interactive mapping tool that displays SOTA summits worldwide. It provides essential information, such as summit locations, access routes, and elevation profiles, assisting participants in planning their activations and finding new summits to conquer.


Summits on the Air (SOTA) offers a unique blend of adventure, physical activity, technical challenges, and community engagement. Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, a radio hobbyist, or simply someone seeking a new and thrilling experience, SOTA provides an excellent opportunity to explore uncharted heights while connecting with nature and fellow adventurers. So pack your hiking boots, grab your radio gear, and prepare to scale new heights with SOTA!