Mt Stromlo VK1/AC-043 Sunday 23rd January 2022

Mount Stromlo is a popular Canberra destination for space nerds and cyclists, tourists, hikers and, amateur radio operators who enjoy SOTA. Today I had planned to activate this easy, drive-up summit at 8am local – so that suggested I be there by 0730 to 0745 in order to set up. Hmm…. the boom gates to the grounds were down, with a temporary (A4 sheet of cardboard) notice stating the opening hours were 8am to 4pm…. so I sat in my car and waited. Good old ANU, at precisely 8am the boom gates opened.. not a security patrol in sight!

On this activation I wanted to renew my interest in operating in the 1.2 GHz ( 23cm) and 2.4 GHz ( 13cm) bands.

I opened up on the 2m VHF band 146.5 MHz FM and quickly found myself on 144.2 MHz ssb. From there I enjoyed a couple of Summit to Summit (S2S) contacts with Andrew VK1AD who was not far away on Mt Coree VK1/AC-023 and Al VK1RX who was on Spring Hill VK2/ST-036 and Andrew VK1DA on Mt Mundoonen VK2/ST-053. From there we jumped up to the 23cm band SSB and repeated the exercise! We also added 13cm SSB to the S2S tally. In addition to the S2S, some local chasers added to the fun. Unfortunately I was unable to make contact with Andrew VK1DA on 23cm or 13cm.

To operate on these 1.2 and 2.4 GHz bands I need transverters which can just be seen on the feed end of each antenna. These are fed an intermediate frequency (IF) by the FT-817 which is top-right of the table. Also visible on my table – the KX-2 transceiver for HF and, a bit of SOTA class, a Begali Camelback Morse key which ONLY goes on drive-up activations, a Lenovo tablet for my logging app, and some solar panels to keep said tablet fully charged and also my phone. Normally such little luxuries are left at home – they pack a bit of weight for long hikes.. My backup log of course is the trusty Staedtler clutch pencil and note pad!

Today being Sunday, the usual steady flow of curious tourists, hikers and cyclists, ….. and a mob of over 30 kangaroos who came in quite close for a look! https://youtu.be/S_RY0rI4Y10

A fun day on an easy summit. A total of 31 contacts of which 15 were Summit to Summit ( some with repeat operators but on several frequency bands and operating modes). I made just one contact into New Zealand which was a little disappointing. On the home front there were chasers from the ACT, NSW, VIC, QLD and SA from 7MHz up to 2.4 GHz, covering FM, SSB and of course CW.

Pre UTC rollover (21 Jan)

TimeCallsignBandModeNotes
21:45VK1AD/P2mFMAndrew s59 r59 S2S VK1/AC-023
21:47VK1RX2mFMAl s59 r59 S2S VK2/ST-036
21:56VK1KW2mSSBRob s59 r59
21:57VK1DA2mSSBAndrew s59 r59
22:02VK1AD/P23cmSSBAndrew s59 r59 S2S VK1/AC-023
22:03VK1RX/P23cmSSBAl s53 r59 S2S VK2/ST-036
22:30VK1AD/P13cmSSBAndrew s59 r59 S2S VK1/AC-023
22:33VK1RX/P13cmSSBAl s59 r59 S2S VK2/ST-036
22:46VK5HAA20mCWJohn s589 r599
22:48ZL1BQD20mCWs559 r559
22:48VK5IS20mCWIan s579 r559
22:50VK3PF20mCWPeter s589 r559
22:51VK5CZ20mCWIan s589 r559
22:53VK2IO/P20mCWGerard s529 r529 S2S VK2/SY-001
23:03VK1DA/P40mCWAndrew s559 r579 S2S VK2/ST-053
23:07VK4TJ20mCWJohn s589 r559
23:30VK3UA10mCWMark s558 r419
23:34VK1CT10mCWChris s589 r559
23:37VK3ARH10mCWAllen s559 r539
23:56VK1AD/P2mFMAndrew s53 r55 S2S VK1/AC-005
23:58VK1MA2mFMMatt s59 r59

Post UTC rollover (22 Jan)

00:01VK1DA/P2mFMAndrew s59 r59 S2S VK2/ST-053
00:10VK1AD/P2mFMAndrew s59 r59 S2S VK2/ST-005
00:26VK1AD23cmSSBAndrew s59 r59 S2S VK2/ST-005
00:27VK1MA23cmSSBMatt s55 r59
00:31VK1RX/223cmSSBAl s59 r59 S2S VK2/ST-036
00:40VK5CZ15mCWIan s599 r539
01:00VK2GAZ40mCWGarry s579 r579
01:02VK2YW40mCWJohn s599 r579
01:06VK2IO/P40mCWGerard s559 r579 S2S VK2/SY-001
01:22VK1DI/22mFMIan s59 r59 S2S VK2/ST-006

Bullen Range VK1/AC-033 Saturday 1st January 2022

Bullen Range looking west from Greenway Tuggeranong.


The summit in the distance. Still a few kilometers ahead, (with a similar number behind!)

Arguably the biggest day on the SOTA calendar. A day when many take advantage of the New Year roll-over at 1100 AEDT or midnight UTC ( Greenwich Mean Time, or Zulu time ) where the summit points count for, in this case, calendar years 2021 and 2022……. making the one 10k round trip hike to the summit worth the effort!

Bullen Range lies to the west of Tuggeranong/Kambah. Access via a fire trail hike from Tidbinbilla Road. The distance from my home to the parking spot at Tidbinbilla Road is about 20k … then, of course one needs to add the inclusion of the nearest drive-through McDonalds coffee.

A summary of the hike from my SUUNTO watch.

Some pundits suggest that this hike should take about 90 minutes… they probably don’t factor in a warm day (it was 35 degrees for the return hike), add to that, about a 20kg load of radios, first-aid kit, and a couple of litres of water, oh, and did I mention six ( 6) gates to get through/over/around? Only one gate was not locked.

It is a challenging hike. I was somewhat envious of many other activators telling about their 4WD journey – but then having to make several trips to unload all their kit – table, chair, sunshade, esky…. I wish……sigh! 🙂 I have activated this summit four times previously and this year I am 10kgs lighter and considerably fitter than in October 2020, being my previous visit to Bullen Range….. it is still a good slog workout! One previous visitor suggested using a pushbike would be a good idea…… SIX GATES!! It’s very steep in sections, I will let someone else give that mode of transport a try!

I arrived at the summit at 1020 local time… about 20 minutes later than planned – but things were only just warming up! There were many local VK1 SOTA activators out on summits – some were already driving to their second summit – others, like me, just had one summit planned.. I chose to restrict the time prior to “roll-over” to the GMT New Year to just 2m (VHF) FM operation – it was fast and furious! In less than 30 minutes I made 15 contacts of which 12 were ‘summit to summit’ (S2S). I probably could, and should have made more contacts, but it was very congested with so many people attempting the same thing. I also gave up trying to log each call using an app on my phone (alternatively on a 7″ tablet), however it was quicker and easier to simply log with pencil and paper – the way I did it for years in a previous radio life!!

At the stroke of midnight and Happy New Year ( GMT ) the chaos continued – everyone doing it all again to grab as many S2S contacts and chaser contacts as possible before slowing the pace and moving to HF. I logged 22 contacts post roll-over including 18 S2S – so that is 30 S2S contacts for the day.

Most contacts were local VK1, however once I chopped to HF, I logged good contacts into VK2 VK3 VK4 VK5 and ZL ( New Zealand) and an unsuccessful attempt to grab an S2S with a CW operator in Japan on 20m. I could hear his call quite well – but, not to be… I wont list his callsign publicly, but he was using a programmed keyer call of CQ and it was set to repeat – he would only stop if he heard a reply…. I doubt he was paying much attention or allowing more than 2 to 3 seconds between successive calls.. very frustrating! Put some headphones on and work your radio!

My radio for the day was my Yaesu FT-857D which is HF and 6m (52 MHz) plus VHF and UHF capable, and considerably more powerful than my FT-817 and KX-2 that are my SOTA regulars.

The treck back to the car was every bit as demanding as the climb… By now it was hovering around 35 degrees C. The steep downhill sections were quite treacherous with loose gravel ( again I stress the importance of using hiking poles!) and there were a few unwelcome climbs along the way….. and those six damned gates!

Taken on the return trip this is one of the six!

I was too tired to think about a photo of the car and where it was parked. I was glad to get back into it, get the airconditioning going flat out and head for the nearest shop to buy a large bottle of Solo lemon drink!! Did I carry enough water? Yes, I kept hydratred and only finished what I carried at the final gate heading back to the car.

Happy New Year everyone — This was a fantastic way to welcome in 2022!

Bill VK1MCW

One Tree Hill VK1/AC-035 Sunday 5th December 2021 – a shorter way to the summit!

Until recently, SOTA activators have been advised to park some 4.5 kilometers from the summit of One Tree Hill in Hall Village and hike along the ACT Centenary Trail…. Now, the purpose of this report is NOT to disuade people from taking that hike along the Centenary Trail at least once – it is a most enjoyable walk – or if you are so inclined, to cycle!

However, sometimes I would prefer to spend more time ON the summit, than that taken to get to, and from the summit! In August this year Matt VK1MF told the local VK1 Sota community about a much shorter hike. A new suburb called Taylor is being developed right at the base of the ridge line on which One Tree Hill sits.

So the start point for this 1.8 kilometer hike is in Harry Seidler Crescent – Taylor.

Satellite imagery has yet to catch up with the rapid suburb development. Here my car is parked where that orange “Start” point can be seen in Harry Seidler Cresent.

The hike takes anything from 30 to 45 minutes…depending on what size backpack you are carrying and who you are!! There are four gates along the way, three of which are designed for hikers to get through easily. The 4th gate was open!

The path is well developed and easy to walk. You can see why it zig-zags up quite a steep gradient. I guess, for the ambitious and very fit it would be possible to hike directly up to the summit – I chose to stick to the path – no trip hazards or loose rocks to ruin your day.

From the summit – looking back at where I parked .

I reached the summit just as the WIA National Broadcast on our local 2m repeater was ending (0930 local) and managed to call in for the “call backs”. It was VERY windy, and I delayed putting the HF antenna up. The wind was doing its level best to knock over the tripod and 3 element 2m yagi. Andrew VK1AD was activating a summit in VK3 and I hoped to make a 2m ssb contact – however conditions were not in our favour, and not many aircraft were about for “aircraft enhancement”… I only managed three local 2m contacts prior to rollover.

To the amusement of the many curious hikers and park runners, and despite the incessant wind, I managed to get the EFHW 53′ random wire HF up ( 6m through 80m ) attached to my KX2.

Pre Roll-Over (FT-817)
Chris VK2DO 144.2 SSB- great contact to the south coast!
Matt VK1MA 144.2 SSB
Chris VK1CT 146.5 FM

Post Roll-Over (KX2)

7m all CW
VK3PF/P S2S VK3/VT-046, VK2IO, VK3XU, VK1MIC ( yes CW 😉 ), VK2YW, VK1CT, VK1DA

20M CW

ZL1BQD, VK5IS, VK4JJ

146.5 FM Matt VK1MA

One Tree Hill is now a very accessible summit – be prepared for many on-lookers and watch AND LISTEN out for push-bikes – there is no overtaking lane, so one needs to step off the narrow path to let them pass.

I have said this before – if you are hiking – I strongly encourage the use of hiking poles!

Stay safe!

Bill VK1MCW

Booroomba Rocks VK1/AC-026 Sunday 31 October 2021

There is hardly a square inch of this area that was not impacted by the fires of 2019-2020. Booroomba Rocks summit is in the distance.

When I last activated Booroomba Rocks in September 2019, little did I (or anyone else) know what was coming. Since then – save for Andrew VK1AD in November 2019, and he again just one week ago, it has been off limits.. It was completely burnt out. The damage is still clearly evident…..

Today’s activation started in the usual manner…. The Booroomba Rocks carpark is about a 45 minute drive ( allowing for….. yep, coffee!) The hike is quite steep – but there is a well established access path with (I did not count them) MANY rock steps/stairs. One further risk caused by the fires …. falling trees and or branches. One of these was very recent – the other maybe within the last week.

The bushfires went all the way to the summit. Little is left, except for one small lonesome tree that bravely lives on.. On the ground there are more signs of a slow recovery.

Aside from the radio activities, when one goes through all that effort to reach a summit one should take advantage of the situation and appreciate the beauty of this great country…. Even with the devastation left by the bushfires, it is breathtaking.

Oh that’s right – this is about my SOTA activation..

There was no way I would even consider using that sole surviving tree as an antenna support – so I took advantage of those poor unfortunates that did not survive the fire. For HF and 6m (52 MHz) I use an end fed “random wire” 9:1 dipole purchased from Nelson Antennas in the US ( they have an eBay site). One antenna to cover 80m to 6m – the ideal SOTA companion! Before anyone mentions home brew I have plenty of those. For 2m (VHF) I use a home brew “oblong loop” (right of picture), and my thanks to Andrew VK1AD who sets the bar at a very high level for antenna design and very generously shares his designs and ‘how to’ information. The antenna is a very simple design and very easy to make. It works incredibly well, and is light-weight and very compact – essential criteria for SOTA operations. Check out Andrew’s brilliant work here. https://vk1nam.wordpress.com/

My radios – HF Elecraft KX2, and for VHF and 6m Yaesu FT-817ND – which is also HF capable. I also carry a hand-held dual band Yaesu FT-60R.

There were several other local SOTA operators out and about. We all managed to grab valuable local Summit to Summit (S2S) points. My results below:

Tait VK1TRL S2S on Mt Gingera VK1/AC-002 2m FM / again after UTC rollover

Andrew VK1AD S2S 2m FM on South Black Range VK2/ST-006 and again after UTC rollover

AndrewVK1MBE S2S on Mt Ainslie VK1/AC-040 2m FM and again later 6m SSB

Matt VK1MA 2m FM / again after UTC rollover, also a 6m SSB

Peter VK1PDW S2S on One Tree Hill VK1/AC-035 2m FM

Mat VK1MF 6m SSB

Wade VK1MIC 6m SSB

Andrei ZL1TM 20m CW

Ian VK5CZ S2S 20m CW VK5/SE-010

Roly ZL1BQD 20m CW

John VK5HAA 40m CW S2S VK5/SE-010

Garry VK2GAZ 40m CW

Paul VK3HN 40m CW

JA5QJX/0J 15m CW

JH1MXV 15m CW

I packed up and made my way back to the car.. Along the way I encounted many small groups of hikers out taking advantage of the glorious weather… One was a young couple with their very young daughter (early primary school age) and it was so good to see the enthusiasm from someone so young after the long hike up from the car park. Her mother told me that kids gain far more from walking through the bush, avoiding trips and falls, than going for a walk along some suburban bike path or around the block…. and hopefully maybe both parents might look into ham radio!

Another great day – it was good to be back in the Namadgi Natonal Park.

Mt Gillamatong VK2/ST-034 Sunday 24 October 2021

With the ACT coming out of lockdown this week it was great to get back out in clean fresh air and head to a nearby summit. Mt Gillamatong is just outside the town of Braidwood on the Kings Highway… The town is within “the bubble” surrounding the ACT in which we are free to roam without the need for permits or going into quarantine on return…..

I left home at 0800, and yes, along the way, I enjoyed the requisite caffeine hit via a drive through Maccas at Queanbeyan. An otherwise uneventful easy drive to the foot of the summit taking about an hour and 15 minutes (including the coffee stop!)

A half-hour climb and I arrive on the summit…As you can see, everything is lush green.. All the paths are completely hidden as I don’t think anyone has hiked up this mountain for quite a few months .. hmmm something to do with the lockdown! It was very hard going, but the obvious direction was UP!

There were four other local ham radio operators out on summits in and around the ACT region today, and we each made the most of the opportunity to claim valuable Summit to Summit or S2S points! When I uploaded my log to the SOTA Database this afternoon I was greeted with the news that I have now surpassed 1000 S2S points! No prize or reward, just one of those little things that make this such an enjoyable side of the hobby! I am also just 4 points shy of 2000 chaser points – something I hope to leap over in the coming week!

All in all, 7 VHF (FM) S2S contacts and a total of 15 HF CW contacts – with the 40m (7MHz) band keeping me busy with 12 CW contacts across NSW, the ACT, Victoria and South Australia, and then 3 contacts on 20m (14 MHz) into New Zealand.

S2S contacts all 146.5 MHz FM

Ian VK1DI on South Black Range VK2/ST-006
Andrew VK1DA on Mt MundoonenVK2/ST-053 (also 40m HF CW)
Wade VK1MIC on Mt Goorooryarroo VK1/AC-036
Andrew VK1AD on Booroomba Rocks VK1/AC-026

Chasers (40m)

Garry VK2GAZ, Peter VK3PF, Wallis VK2WP, Ron VK3AFW, Gerard VK2IO/P, Ian VK2MET,
Allen VK3ARH, Ian VK5CZ, Paul VK3HN, Ian VH5IS and Rob VK2MZ

Chasers (20m)

John ZL1BYZ, Andrei ZL1TM and Roly ZL1BQD

That was followed with finding my way back down the steep hillside in well hidden trails and lots of wildlife!

Some photos of the summit – all the communications infrastructure that is installed makes it easy for SOTA activators to just blend in!!

A great day out. Huge thanks to my fellow activators and many chasers!

Bill

VK1MCW

Mt Ainslie VK1/AC-040 Wednesday 30th June 2021

Wait… What? Wednesday? What the?

It is not often I have the opportunity to go bush (well… to a summit) mid week. Thanks to the quirks of working as an ADF Reservist, I found myself at a loose end with the change of Financial Year – and an opportunity to take some time off. I had hoped to head out of town, even activate a wheat silo ( look up SiOTA – Silos On The Air.. a new game in portable radio operations , but the nearest recognised silo is several hours drive away in surrounding NSW, and under the current COVID situation I decided against it…

My motivation for this activation was provided by Andrew VK1AD who made the call for others to join him on air whilst he ventured down Boboyan Road to activate Pheasant Hill. So after I put my hand up, so did many others and suddenly we had an EOFY VK1 SOTA party with at least seven of us heading for the hills… Sadly for Andrew he discovered that access to Pheasant Hill was obstructed by major road work… so, while an S2S opportunity was also denied, Andrew did find a suitable VKFF park to activate , so not all lost – and we exchanged reports on 2m simplex ..

I dared the mask wearing “public area” of Mount Ainslie – however a mask, while readily at hand, was not needed as the place was deserted. I had one person stand a respectable 5 metres away while I explained the fishing rods and dits and dahs coming from my radio… Other than that, I enjoyed a remarkably warm sunny morning.

As we all ‘Alerted’ for similar start times 146.5 FM was predictably busy – requiring a little bit of circuit discipline not to trample each other! What a great fun morning.

My log – a total of 20 QSOs including 9 S2S contacts, with a good mix of 11 FM simplex and 9 CW 40m and 20m contacts including VK2 VK1 VK3 and ZL.

Thanks to Andrew VK1AD (I was at least able to provide a Park to Park contact!), Mat VK1MF, Doug VK1DJ ( and as ZDJ), Andrew VK1DA, Chris VK1CT, Ian VK1DI, Gerard VK2IO, Allen VK3ARH, Peter VK2PET, Lilly VK2LIL, Wallis VK2WP, Wade VK1MIC, Matt VK1MA, Roly ZL1BQD, John ZL1BYZ, Andrei ZL1TM and Wynne ZL2ATH.

Radio -HF/CW the KX-2 connected to an EFHW ( 6 through 80m) and the trusty FT-817 for 2m connected to the increasingly popular, easy to build 2m ‘Oblong Loop’ antenna. Look it up on Andrew’s page here – https://vk1nam.wordpress.com/tag/2m-oblong-loop-antenna/

Only one photo ( it must be the most photographed summit in VK) and that was an afterthought during the pack up!! Sorry!!

I might have to take more Wednesdays off – these mid-week activations are a great idea! Thanks again Andrew!

Mt McDonald VK1/AC-048 Sunday 6th June 2021

Another fun activation of Mt McDonald VK1/AC-048….This was my 3rd visit to this, one of my favourite summits in VK1. Three years ago I took the hiker’s track which was a bit of a scrub bash! For my second visit I hiked up the vehicle track. This time, having heard some reports of some track work having been completed, I decided to again take the hiker’s track from the car park as opposed to Mt McDonald Road… Wow – it is soooo much better than my first activation. Easy to navigate, good surface, clear of over-grown scrub – and I reckon it saves a good 15 minutes off the alternative.  Unfortunately,  I did not take photos of the track…it is just a track – but it is now a very good, easy walking track… In the image below, you can see the shortcut leading up the mountain from the car park “A” off Brindabella Road. The vehicle track “Mount McDonald Road” (vehicle access is closed to the public) is a reasonably easy 40 to 45 minute walk up from the carpark to the summit. The Cotter Dam wall can just be seen at the bottom of the picture – it is overflowing!

I reached the summit at 11am local – and set up first on 2m FM and SSB… First contact, Matt VK1MA – wonderful signal. easy 59 plus each way….. but then… crickets…. I was using my FT-817 for 2m… I could hear Matt and other chasers 57 to 59  (146.5 FM) but  I was obviously not  keying the radio. . 
So I reverted to my trusty FT-60R and qualified on 2m-FM – I then fired up the KX-2 and had great success on 80m,40m an 20m across VK2 VK3 VK5 and ZL… ( CW.. naturally – no microphone thingy!! 🙂 ) 



I then went back to LOOKING at my FT-817…  Prior to an activation, other than check that it is packed,  I never “look” at the microphone which spends most of its time coiled up in a small pocket on the radio pack.  I knew it just had to be the microphone connection – but I foolishly focused on the connection to the radio itself…. it took me longer than I would have preferred to identify the issue was the connection between the cord and actual microphone.. …

Spare me the ” Use the mic more often Bill!!”   🙂 :).. D’Oh!!  Such a quick fix.. It had simply worked loose…disconnect, check, reconnect…. voila! 
Simple – and  a simple lesson… Never over think it!! While I was thinking $$$ in having my lovely FT-817 repaired – all it took was some basic, simple trouble shooting – something I have always done in all walks of life…….

This hobby is really no different!  After solving that issue, I  experienced the reward of  persistence –  I could hear other local operators working Andrew VK1AD who was out on Tumorrama Hill VK2/SW-036 which I activated in early May this year with no 2m contacts. I could NOT hear Andrew – I swapped between the Slim-Jim (mostly vertical)  and the rectangular loop antenna which can be seen to the right of the trig in the photo above…. Then with the invaluable coordination efforts of Matt VK1MA I finally heard a weak but readable signal from Andrew 1AD  on 144.2 SSB… Using the FT-817 we achieved a 51 each way S2S! Thanks Matt and thanks Andrew for persisting…a promised S2S delivered, taking the S2S total for the day to four.



Mt Rob Roy VK1/AC-031 Sunday 11th April 2021

With an alert posted during the week and a favourable weather forecast, I set my sights on activating this local 2-pointer. Last night ( Saturday 10 April) it began to rain – albeit very light rain.. The the Bureau of Meteorology put out a weather alert for the region with winds of 35 to 40 kph warning farmers of a predicted wind-chill factor temperature of 2 degrees Celcius – nudging 3 degrees C – and that was the forecast for in and around Canberra…..NOT up on a summit!.. I awoke and I admit came very close to cancelling. However, the rain was gone (thanks to the forecast wind) and the sun was shining.. So at 8am I left home via my standard departure ( yes Maccas Coffee!!)

The hike up to the summit is 4.5klm and it IS a taxing climb! I reached the summit in time to open up at the alerted ETA..

I stuck to using my FT-817 for 2m, and my KX-2 for HF… With many of the local VK1 community volunteering for a WICEN activity, I expected 2m 146.5 FM to be quieter than usual – and I was correct – However

VK1AD S2S ( VK1/AC-048), VK2KI, VK2VEX, VK1MIC, and VK1RX ensured a 2m quallie!

Then to HF. Began on 80m not expecting much, not disappointed, just the one – Thanks Allen VK3ARH.

Had mixed results on 40m and 20m… BUT the highlight of my day – was when I gave 15m a go ( expecting NOTHING)..Well – how wrong… An S2S with JJ1SWI/1 who was on JA/TK-035 a little west of Tokyo.. a range of 8000k on QRP.. It did take about 20 minutes to pull his very weak signal out of the noise – not helped by the wind as it generated more noise against the outside of my headphones!! But we persisted and got the S2S – two very happy CW operators!

<edit 13 April> ..BUT WAIT! There’s more!! Moments later another call from Japan – this time Katsu JR8MHA… Katsu even emailed me thanking me for the S2S.. I was so excited about the previous contact minutes earlier I did not appreciate that I was in another Summit To Summit! Because of the need for headphones, freezing and a strong breeze I had reverted to using pencil and paper to log contacts – and this was at the very bottom of the page… I missed entering it on my phone app (VK port-a-Log).. How did I do that? No idea! But all fixed and up to date now.

I also had the following chasers on 15m YC1RIK, JH1MXV, and thanks again Mark VK2KI from Yass who enjoyed making a number of CW contacts with me!

Others to enter my log today ( all CW) ZL1BYZ, ZL1BQD, ZL1FV, ZL1TM, across 40m and 20m.

I would have stayed longer given the opening to JA, but that wind was cutting through four layers of clothing and I was so cold! I just had to pack up and head for home…. No time for SSB … I was fully CW occupied for the entire time on the summit.. Those JA and Indonesian stations needed quite a bit of work – but I would have had no show ( given the same conditions) with SSB ..

A word of caution for those who have not tackled Mt Rob Roy.. Yes the ascent is very steep – especially the first 700m or so from the car in Banks — but I STRONGLY recommend the use of hiking poles . The descent is treacherous in parts with marble like gravel on very steep grades… I managed to stay upright with the backpack – but those hiking poles are a must. Don’t leave home without them!

Isaacs Ridge VK1/AC-041 Saturday 27 February 2021

Isaacs Ridge as viewed from the Monaro Highway near the turnoff to Isabella Drive

There is a popular band called ‘Five Seconds of Summer’. I honesty could not name one of their songs, but I do know they are good. The name describes this summer – it seems over before it began – and after the previous horrendous summer, I do not mind a bit! So, for the last weekend of Summer 20/21 and with yet another perfect day on offer, I just had to find a summit. I managed to post my SOTAwatch alert, but as I will show in this report, it pays to get your alerts posted with as much advanced notice as possible. I think 5 days is ideal, but even if it is just before you grab your keys to leave for your summit, make sure you post an alert!!

I took the 10 minute drive (yes, again via my regular SOTA Cafe – aka Maccas.. for a coffee), parking just off Long Gully Road at the entrance to the Isaacs Ridge Nature Reserve. The climb is reasonably steep, but quite short – so I arrived at the summit only 10 to 15 minutes later, but I wasn’t really counting!. I had not planned on opening until after the rollover at 11am local ( midnight GMT ), but as I got to the summit and had everything set up so quickly, I decided to give it a crack to see if I could qualify the summit (four contacts) in the 15 minutes remaining…. It was never in doubt!

My operating position – Simple end-fed half-wave antenna – only 53′ of wire. KX2 tunes 80m through 10m easily.

I opened as usual on the local VHF FM simplex 146.5 MHz,-but I only logged the two contacts…Thanks Matt VK1MA and Andrew VK1AD. Here is where it is important to get your SOTAwatch alert posted as early as possible. If you want chasers, you need to let them know you will be activating! Anyway, not much happening on 2m, so I then moved to HF, firstly on 80metres (3.5 MHz) – nothing.. again I should not be surprised as this band is primarily used for close in contacts that are beyond the line of sight VHF… Then, with less than 5 minutes until midnight GMT (or if you prefer UTC, or, how about Zulu ?)…. I moved to 40metres CW. I logged five CW contacts in the 4 minutes prior to rollover… summit qualified thanks to Ian VK5IS, Peter VK3PF, Tony VK3CAT, Allen VK3ARH, and JUST before the rollover, Gerard VK2IO. No rest for the wicked though – the 40m contacts kept rolling in for the next hour. My good friend Garry VK2GAZ was my first contact for the new UTC day and was closely followed by VK3BYD, VK2WG, Peter VK3PF and Gerard VK2IO.

Settled for an hour of CW fun. KX2 and WWII vintage J-37 legstrap key

I gave 20m a shot expecting, or at least hoping for some Kiwi action, but sadly the usually reliable cross-Ditch frequency band was not playing today – but for one VK contact, Allen VK3HRA – yes I double checked that 😉 when reviewing my log I feared I had mixed up a similar, but related callsign!! Not so. I also had a disappearing 20m contact VK4BJS and I was unable to complete that QSO. ..So it was back to 40m with VK3ANL/P activating a park and James VK2TER/P – our first QSO. I made one final attempt on 20m, again no contact with ZL but thanks again Tony VK3CAT who gave me my second 20m contact for the day. One last splash in the local 2m FM simplex pool – Thanks Matt VK1MA who Top &Tailed my log! I could see some spots from Japan on 20m and 15m, but the DX propagation gods had not yet got out of bed….

In my previous blog report I mentioned the sorry condition of the ACT Nature Reserves. Sadly the Isaacs Ridge Nature Reserve is just as over-grown with weeds – especially Scotch Thistle. I have read that goats happily graze on this weed… I am some way off gaining such an appetite!! 🙂

The View looking East towards Hume with Mugga Lane Tip. Another ACT Nature Reserve covered with uncontrolled Scotch Thistle.
Looking South

An easy summit on a great day – and a lovely way to see off summer. Bring on Autumn – my favourite season living in the Nation’s Capital .

Tuggeranong Hill VK1/AC-038 Sunday 14 February 2021

A short 7.3 kilometre drive from my home to the carpark at the entrance to the Canberra Nature Park and the track to the summit of Tuggeranong Hill. Weather perfect, a light breeze and low 20s max expected. A short, relatively easy hike to the summit – but the track is in poor condition with many loose rocks – so trekker beware – and walking poles are I think an essential accessory especially for the downhill bit!

As can be seen , the entire summit area is covered with very thick, sharp thistle… So quite literally the only place to set up was under the trig! Fortunately I had the summit pretty much to myself, and the two couples out walking were given an easy path through had they wished – but they were not planning on progressing any further into the thistle either.. So they stopped and chatted – which was great. It would be good if the ACT Government spent some of all those rates dollars they collect each year on looking after our local public parks and nature reserves….at least attempting to control all the weeds – if it’s not thistle, it’s Patterson’s Curse…..

Today I again took the FT-817ND for 2m simplex ( and handy back up HF!). It ran on its Windcamp internal battery the whole time.. gosh it is a great little radio!! Prior to the rollover to the new day (GMT), I had 4 local contacts on 2m VHF (FM Simplex) including a Summit to Summit (S2S) with Ian VK1DI who was activating Mt McDonald (another local 1-pointer). Another pre-rollover S2S contact was with Gerard VK2IO 126k to the west/south-west on VK2/RI-006 40m HF operating CW. Again my HF radio today was the Elecraft KX2.

Rollover to the new day and the 40m CW fun continued. Thanks to Tony VK3CAT, Paul VK3HN, Gerard (S2S again) VK2IO/P, Chris VK1CT, Mark VK2KI, Peter VK3PF, Ian VK5IS, and Warren VK3BYD. Moving up in frequency to 20m, Andrei ZL1TM, Allen VK3ARH, John ZL1BYZ and capping the outing off, Andrew VK1AD on 2m Simplex.

The view to the south-west Mount Tennent VK1/AC-025 as viewed from Tuggeranong Hill – still looking somewhat battle scarred after last year’s bushfires.
Looking north towards Mt Taylor VK1/AC-037 with Black Mountain VK1/AC-042 in the distance.

One of the great pleasures of activating a popular local summit, is the opportunity to meet new people and chat about amateur radio… My walk back down to the car took about 15 minutes longer than planned thanks to a great chat to a couple heading up the hill and they were very interested in what SOTA is about…. They did mention that on a trip to Adelaide a few years ago they camped by some lake – which I gather was also a “Park” and they mentioned meeting some guy camping with a 4WD and radio set up who was on the radio “all damned night!” …. but they were not bothered by it… I then went on to talk about that other ‘going portable’ aspect of the hobby!

Thanks to those who were also out on summits today and to all the chasers. It was a great couple of hours spent just a few kilometres from home!

73

Bill VK1MCW