Category Archives: SOTA

SOTA activation at Mt Stromlo, Canberra – 22nd March 2013

I was running late for this activation and had not been up to the mountain for quite a few years.  In fact I had not seen the level of destruction by the 2003 bushfires, I might have postponed seeing that because I had heard and read about it.

The mountain has a restaurant on it which is apparently open at night.  There are sometimes stargazing events open to the public.

Access to the summit is limited by a security gate which is closed to uphill traffic at 6pm.  That gate is a fair way down from the summit so if you can go a bit further uphill it will save a lot of walking.  I parked just below the gate and walked from there.  It took me about 25 mins to get to the area I operated from, which was on the side of a fenced water reservoir.  I only used 7 Mhz ssb and 14 MHz CW for this activation.  I had about 10 contacts on 7 Mhz and then about the same number on CW on 20m, including contacts into Germany, Finland, the UK and New Zealand.

Signal reports received on 20m were low and I need to improve my signal strength on this band.  I have a few ideas I need to try out.  The best simple low antenna for dx contacts is a vertical, but it needs an effective ground radial system to be efficient.  I am probably going to try using 3 elevated radials, about 1m above ground.  The squid pole is a good support for the vertical radiator and as it only requires 5m of vertical radiator, the radials can be almost 2m above ground, further reducing ground losses.

On this activation I found I was being attacked by mosquitoes especially once it got darker.  I had not had trouble with these on earlier activations and my fellow SOTA activator Andrew VK1NAM also had lots of mossies on Black Mountain this evening.

No photos as I got there too late.

Closed down after the contact with ZL1KLP at about 7:45 local time, quite dark by then. Have to make the most of daylight saving while we still have it.  DST end date 7 April 13.

I have disabled comments as I was receiving no comments from fellow amateurs but dozens from spammers with automatically generated inane comments and links to irrelevant and usually offensive websites.

SOTA activation Mt Ginini ACT VK1/AC-008, 3 March 13

This was a joint activation with Andrew Moseley VK1NAM.  We met at 6:30am at Weston, ACT, and arrived at Mt Ginini around 8am.  Ensuring we complied with the SOTA rule of entering the activation zone on foot, we parked about 40m below the summit and walked up with the equipment, with some attached to a luggage trolley.  This reduced the number of trips up from the car, but the trolley was still lumpy with Andrew’s massive collection of SLA batteries on board.

We got onto 2m SSB and made a number of contacts with VK3BJM, VK1KW, VK3VL, VK2BXT VK2KOL, VK3II, VK3EJ, VK3ES, VK3AJN and were called by VK3KH on a peak that did not last long enough to make a contact.  To make the most of the aircraft enhancement peaks we tried to work each station using both our callsigns. These contacts were made using a FT857 running 40w output, to a 4 element yagi.  The mast was a 4m painter’s extension pole with a guying plate attached mid height.

4 el beam used for ssb dx
4 el beam used for ssb dx

At about 9am we got 40m going with the IC703 and continued on 2m with local contacts on FM.  40m seemed to have very selective propagation at that time of day, with contacts possible from some vk3 portables into the Canberra area but not available to us, presumably due to being just inside the skip (exclusion) zone for that frequency.  That situation gradually changed and by 11AM we were able to work any stations others were working.  Ionospheric propagation always has its interesting behaviour.

While we had qualified for our SOTA activator points for the summit, we tried to stay on air long enough to give chasers and other activators the contacts they needed.  Finally around 11:30 we thought we had exhausted the possible contacts.

Other bands were checked but available contacts were nil.  There was quite a bit of interaction between the IC703 and the FT857 when using two HF bands, not surprising given the close proximity of the antennas.  Separating the antennas by at least their own length to reduce that problem would be a good plan for future joint activations.

Calls worked on 40m were VK3KAN, 3DET, 3MRG/p, 1RX, 3ZPF, 3PF, 3YY/p, 3HRA/p, and VK1RX and 1XYZ were also worked on 2m FM.

Operating position on Mt Ginini

Andrew Vk1NAM operating the radio
Andrew VK1NAM operating on 7 MHz on Mt Ginini

Weather conditions: very windy, quite cold.  I wore a few extra layers and was not warm at any stage.  The mountain area was in low cloud for an hour or so after we arrived but gradually cleared up giving us the typical Ginini views.Mt Ginini Set Up


SOTA activation combined with special event call Vi100ACT, 1 March 2013

The Canberra Region Amateur Radio Club received authorisation to use the callsign Vi100ACT during the month of March 2013, to recognise the Canberra Centenary.  I volunteered to coordinate the roster of members who were keen to use the callsign during the month and rostered myself on for the 40m, 20m and 2m bands on the evening of 1 March when I would be activating Mt Ainslie as a SOTA station.

For this activation I set up the 20m dipole as well as the 40m dipole.  I made about 15 contacts on 40m including VK1/2/3/4/5/7, ZL2 and FK8.  A few contacts were made on 2m FM, then I moved to 20m and self spotted on to announce that I was calling on 14.061 CW.  I then worked 8 contacts into England, Germany, Austria and France (G, DL, OE and F) with reports varying from 339 (weak) to 559 (fair).  This seemed a fair result for the first use of the 20m dipole, not yet optimised for length or angle.  The power output of the FT817 is 5 watts.

The two dipoles shared a common feedpoint at the top of the squid pole support, and the dipoles were strung out in roughly the same plane, the longer one at the top and the shorter one below it.  No impact on the 40m antenna behaviour was apparent.  The SWR on 20m was not ideal as there was some reflected power indicated on the 817 meter.

Dipole feedpoint at the top of the pole
Dipole feedpoint at the top of the pole
antenna wires
Antenna wires

The Vi100ACT callsign is to be used on various bands by different club members during the month of March 2013.  The official centenary of Canberra’s founding/naming ceremony is on the 12th of March.


SOTA Activation at Mt Rob Roy, 1105m ASL, 22 Feb 2013

I was advised by Andrew VK1NAM that this hill was fairly difficult due to not only the climb needed (I measured about 420m, from car park 685m to summit 1105m) but the number of steep sections in the path.  He was certainly right.  I didn’t give up but I was close to it when I got to what seemed to be the high point of the road, then it started to fall and did not seem likely to resume a climb.  At that point I called Andrew on the phone and asked for advice.  Turns out that the summit is in bushland, quite rocky and treed, and I was within a few metres of the point where he had left the path to negotiate the final 100m of climbing through the bush.

I got to the summit at about 18:48 local time after leaving the car at about 17:10.  Quite a long trip but understandable for 420m of climbing.  Set up the 40m dipole, called cq and immediately had a contact with Andrew VK1NAM who was in Melbourne on a family trip.  Another 10 or so contacts followed on 40m and 2 on 2m FM including contacts on both bands with Matt VK1MA who was having problems at Black Mtn on 2m due to the TV and other transmitters at that site.  Although my signal was strong enough, spurious signals produced in the front end of his receiver were making it difficult copy at his end.

One contact on 40m was with Luke VK3HJ and we had a cw contact as well as ssb.  My first activator CW contact.

Packed up at 19:45 local just before sundown.  Left the summit just before 20:00 and got back to the car 1 hour later with a bit of moonlight helping me find the path and avoid rocks.  Nice lights from the city.  If I took my camera I would have better shots to show here.

IMG_1149h IMG_1148h Lower sections of the path   IMG_1150h IMG_1152h IMG_1153h    IMG_1157hc