SOTA tools

You don’t have to look very hard to find a few threads telling you which piece of radio kit you ‘need’ to take on a SOTA activation. There are fewer that give you a bit of advice about planning your trip. This is one of those, a short look at the tools I use to take to the fells (for the uninitiated a fell is a hill in Cumbria or the Lake District).

The lakes are a great place to SOTA, there are 55 summits to choose from and nearly all of them have well understood routes to the summit. Alfred Wainwrights 7 volume ‘Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells‘ gives you a great reference point for the SOTA’s as well as all the fells (214 in total). But they aren’t ‘proper maps’ they are guides. They do however have a few benefits they describe the routes brilliantly. So what else can you use.

In my mind there is only one map. The ordinance survey map used almost exclusively by everyone. There are a few exceptions to the rule as always but this is all about me right! These are great tools, but dsometimes you don’t need a full map. So another tool that uses just parts of these maps is an online tool called bikehike. It is an amalgamation of several map types one of which is Google maps and another is the OS map. Below is an example of a route I did the other day that took in Dub’s Hut bothy and High Stile.

Pretty handy really. Its a click and click again type mapping tool that gives you elevation data and distance. What it doesn’t tell you is how long it’s going to take. Bring in Naismiths rule. The rule that states ‘Allow one hour for every 3 miles (5 km) forward, plus an additional hour for every 2,000 feet (600 m) of ascent’. This is good to know. So for example this route had around 2850ft of climbing so fire up the calculator (or use an online tool such as Trails NH) and that tells me that it should take around 4hrs 45mins. So in this case how long did it really take? well it wasn’t too far off the mark. The last bit from High Stile to Gatesgarth was a bit of a slow slog because of the state of the path. This brings me onto the last point – Not all path are paths!

Just because its on the map doesn’t mean its on the fell. Even if it is there are endless sheep tracks to confuse you and tiring boulder fields that intersect the paths. If you’re not too fit then stick to the Wainwright guides otherwise feel free to follow the other routes some are very direct and very strenuous as well as good fun but know what you’re getting yourself into.

When I said last point I really meant it. But I can’t talk about getting outdoors without mentioning the GPS, I will breifly. Love them or hate them I always go out with one….my phone (complete with Back Country Navigator). Mainly because it has OS maps but also because it ‘does’ APRS via APRSDroid. A very handy spotting tool. Having said that the Mk 1 eyeball beats them all. If it doesn’t look sensible it probably isn’t.

Enjoy the fells and don’t forget to plan

Alex Hill, G7KSE, is a regular contributor to and writes from Cumbria, UK. Contact him at [email protected].

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