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!



Livingstone Hill VK2/SM-093 Sunday 7 February 2021

Parked just outside the gate. Short easy hike to the summit.

Having spent a lot of Saturday in the shack hoping to chase the enthusiastic ( it was rather wet!) team of SOTA activators gathered at Mt Hotham – and the propagation gods were not in the mood, today I ventured south along the Monaro Highway to Livingstone Hill VK2/SM-093. A relatively easy summit located on private property, but the land owner allows us to leave our vehicles at the gate and walk up to the summit.. I departed home at about 0815, – poor planning – I required a quick stop to get some petrol and the life-essential Maccas coffee enroute. By 10am local I was all set up.

The summit is covered in long grass and thistle, and billions of tiny insects that thought I had been delivered by Uber-Eats… Aerogard seemed to do the trick! Employed the ground sheet for some shade to protect the KX2 and FT-817 from the sun.

HF and 2m squid poles – and nice view towards the village of Michelago

Contacts were anything but prolific, but at least 40m did open up to VK3 – so it was great to grab some S2S. On 20m the pesky Woodpecker HF Radar kept spoiling the fun.. I was called by a station in the USA W6JP California ……. but just after I sent my RST, in came the Woodpecker ( as I call it) and it completely obliterated his signal – and by the time the interference had gone off to bother someone else, my US contact was gone, and an incomplete QSO….. Oh well.. Such is life. I did try for a while to get him back!!

Pre rollover
Post rollover

The view looking south from the summit

Livingston Hill is easily accessible, an easy walk from the car… yet is worth 6 ( YES SIX!!!) SOTA Points… It makes no sense to me – when not far away is an absolute BRUTE of a summit called Mt Tennent VK1/AC-025 ( still closed following the fires), that takes me several body and spirit breaking hours to ascend – yet is worth just 4 points.. Some of the local VK1 1-pointers require a longer and steeper hike than today’s stroll…. (Tuggeranong Hill, Mt Taylor, Bullen Range , One-Tree Hill)…. So I think I will spend more time going to VK2 summits – more “Bang for the Buck!!” 🙂

It is what it is – FUN! Thanks to the my S2S contacts – Andrew VK1AD on Ginini, Chris VK1CT on Black Mountain , Andrew VK1DA on Mt Hotham, and Mark ZL3AB Mt Guy, and my Chasers – Matt VK1MA ( always there it seems- thanks Matt!), John ZL1BYZ , Ian VK5CZ, Ian VK5IS, Paul VK3HN, Rob VK2MZ , Gavin ZL1BBW with a MASSIVE signal!!, Roly ZL1BQD, and a valiant effort by Jeffery W6JP – but alas, I could not log you – darn Woodpecker!! 🙂 ( Yes, I recorded most of the activation to video and on replay I have amended the missed call to W6JP ….)

This antenna gets a run on SOTA day journeys to and from summits and carparks. – It covers 70cm, 2m, 6m and 10m.. The mobile rig covers all these bands – FM only. Never had anything on 6 or 10…… yet.

Till next time



VK1/AC-043 Mount Stromlo – Saturday 30 January 2021

After a wet leadup, the forecast for Saturday was “Mostly sunny – with some showers..” I awoke to the sound of rain….it did not look good for SOTA! The local radio station however was insisting that it would be mostly fine.. I knew that a group of our ZL friends were planning their “Banks Peninsula activity day” – commencing at 2300Z…. So, after a 30 minute drive ( including a drive-through at Maccas for coffee), as well as slowly following a pack of very keen ( mad ) cyclists winding their way up to the summit – with hoards of much faster cyclists hurtling DOWN the hill, at times 2 abreast in the middle of the road…….. overtaking was simply not an option – besides, what was the rush, it was raining!!! I sat in my car with the car park all to myself with steady rain falling….. ‘Give it time”….. I elected to setup ( if the rain cleared) across from the Stromlo Cafe… ( even though, sadly, it remains closed due COVID-19….) . I considered the northern knoll, but as the ground was wet, the advantage of my preferred position, as you can see from this photo, was the ability to quickly get radios ( and self) under cover! ( See the other summit access reports for details on the North Knoll operating position…)

Well, it was never in doubt….. right on cue, at about 2245z the rain eased, then stopped – so I set up my FT-817ND as my 2m FM radio, and my KX-2 for HF. I elected to use my HyEnd 10m ,15m, 20m and 40m EFHW. I note that the HyEnd company in The Netherlands have ceased production of these and other portable antennas – so I am glad to have this one which does not require a tuner on any of these bands. My home brew EFHWs all require the KX-2’s built in antenna tuner on at least one band. For FM Simplex, the trusty FT-817 had the very popular and efficient 2m “oblong” that Andrew VK1AD was promoting last year….. So easy to make, so portable and light – simplicity plus – that works so well.

Convenient Squid Pole Supporting Infrastructure!

As I knew I was the only VK with an Alert posted, my chances of getting much action on 2m were pretty slim, and besides, I was there to get some Trans-Tasman S2S.

Thanks Matt VK1MA who, unsurprisingly, immediately replied to my initial 2m CQ…. then – crickets…. no dramas..

I then had 30 minutes of 20m CW fun as per the log extract below.

Pre-Rollover – 29 Jan2021

Roll-over to a new day, and the ZLs were still at it, so I hung around, this time on 40m and 20m and the fun continued.


HyEnd 10m to 40m EFHW

My thanks to the ZL3 SOTA community for the opportunity to chase from VK…. Had you guys not been active I most likely would have stayed home, as, thanks to the weather, SOTA activity in VK was somewhat lacking.. But that’s life – and it goes on! An easy, fun activation – as it should be.