Tag Archives: Radio

Short activation at Mt Gillamatong vk2/st-034

A surprise invitation to a trip over to Braidwood with a bonus of “you can walk up that hill if you like” resulted in a short activation on Monday 24th October.

The climb up the eastern slope is always interesting, it presents a 3 dimensional challenge of not only climbing the bit in front of you, but also getting you to a place that will be easier to keep on climbing with a minimum of blockage by trees, rocks etc.  The rocks are big ones.

Eventually I arrived at the summit and found a clear area near one of the compounds containing an apparently disused dish staring pointlessly at a position in the sky.

I had enough time for a handful of contacts on 40m ssb and then packed up and headed down to where my patient wife was happily reading a book.

Using the Wifi hotspot from an iphone for the android tablet

I was having some trouble getting reliable linking to provide the android tablet (a Lenovo Tab3/7) with internet access while on hilltops or in parks.

A bit of research found a lot of wave-away-the-problems type of solutions, which didn’t solve it at all.

Finally I discovered a comment about the type of hotspot that the iphone actually provides.  It is not an infrastructure type but an adhoc hotspot.  And more to the point, it does not advertise it continuously.  It only advertises the hotspot for a limited time after being enabled, or after you visit the Personal Hotspot option in the Settings menu.

After some experimentation I now find that the tablet happily links to the iphone every time, provided I go to the Settings > Personal Hotspot item in the iphone and then wait about 10 seconds.  Nothing else needs to be done, provided the wifi password has been set in the tablet.

The other solution I have used from some hilltops is to take a personal hotspot device with me.  As my phone provider uses a provider that does not have as good coverage as Telstra, this provides my tablet with excellent network coverage from places without any service on the other network.

Here’s a pic of the hotspot lashed to a tree on the Boboyan Range summit, 40 km south of Canberra.


Telstra hotspot, tree mount variety.

SOTA updates and milestones

VK2 Update December 2014

The VK2 update was finally completed in time for 1st December. Even then, some summit name changes were not included in the final documentation sent to the SOTA management team for inclusion in the central website. This was my mistake but at least the approved summit position corrections and new summits are now available for use. The net increase was less than originally mooted, but we now have 1219 summits. Many have not yet been activated so there is still a chance to put your own flag on those.

My own activations in October-December were Bobbara Mt, Mt Coree, Devils Peak, Webbs Ridge, Tuggeranong Hill, Mt Ginini, Mt Stromlo, Mt Mundoonen (twice), Livingstone Hill and Mt Taylor.

Bobbara Mt, vk2/ST-044 11th October

This is a few km west of Binalong and is easy to reach. There is a gate to the cow pasture where there is an access road (for approved vehicles only). The walk uphill is easy enough and like others, I cut the corner and walked up a worn path used by animals rather than going the long way round. Up top is an Airservices Australia radar and various other services, none of which were a problem to me. Bowning Hill near Yass was visible on the horizon. The town of Binalong is visible down in the valley nearby. I operated from the eastern side of the hill, hoping for good conditions on 20m long path to EU. It was not so good.

Mt Coree VK1/AC-023 25th October

This mountain is visible from many parts of Canberra on the western edge of the ACT. It has steep slopes on all sides and the access road has been repaired by adding rather large rocks to the road, which your tyres crunch as you pass over. On top is a fire tower and various other radio services. I set up on the trig. The wind was strong and I configured the linked dipole to provide a slight bias in the wind direction so that the squid pole had some support. All except one contact were on 7 MHz, the other contact was on 21 MHz with Andrew VK1NAM as a test.


One end of the linked dipole, showing the re-installed antenna mounting pole.
One end of the linked dipole, showing the re-installed antenna mounting pole.

Canberra in the distance, Cotter dam (raised recently) visible
Canberra in the distance, Cotter dam (raised recently) visible

Squid pole bending to the east
Squid pole bending to the east

Trig legs with fire tower.  note the lack of vegetation and the clear view to the nearby VK2 summits that are worth many more points
Trig legs with fire tower. note the lack of vegetation and the clear view to the nearby VK2 summits that are worth many more points

The operations desk at Mt Coree
The operations desk at Mt Coree

Devil’s Peak VK2/ST-003 and Webb’s ridge VK2/ST-005, 31 Oct and 1 Nov.

These summits are both just to the west of the ACT/NSW (VK1/VK2) border. Devil’s peak is a bush bash of several km taking 30-40 mins. Webb’s ridge has a fire trail going over the top of it.
I accompanied Al VK1RX on this trip and we eventually made the minimum number of contacts required on Webb’s Ridge before packing up in the face of oncoming thunderstorms. We also saw a young snake on Devil’s peak, probably an eastern brown snake. We did not discuss it with the snake.
Used Al’s IC706 on hf and Al’s HT on vhf.

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Tuggeranong Hill VK1/AC-038 on 13 Nov

This hill is readily accessed via Callister Cres at the top of the suburb of Theodore. 20 ssb contacts made. IC703.

VK1DA pictured in his natural environment, on a hill with a radio
VK1DA pictured in his natural environment, on a hill with a radio

Mt Ginini VK1/AC-008 on 21 Nov

While on the mountain for the VHF UHF Spring Field day, I set up my SOTA gear and antennas, using battery power for SOTA compliance. 58 ssb contacts and 7 on cw using the 20m band. The weather conditions for this visit were quite ok. Rig used: IC703 at 10w output. 20m contacts using quarter wave vertical with elevated radials.

Mt Stromlo VK1/AC-043 on 9 Dec

This activation was partly to support an activation by Andrew VK1NAM on Mt Taylor. He was aiming to boost the QSO count for Mt Taylor above 1000 and knowing he was going to be there, I saw it as a chance to give him some contacts and to gain an extra S2S point. 15 contacts including VK1NAM on several bands and a JA on 20m cw.

Mt Mundoonen VK2/ST-053 on 12 Dec 2014

This was one of the recent additions to the VK2 summit list and it is also only about 15 mins travel from my place in Yass. Andrew VK1NAM invited me to join in an activation and I readily agreed once I had sorted out the timing for family events later in the day. I operated nearly all on CW for this activation, with a few 2m FM contacts and one ssb S2S contact with Gerard VK2IO.


Livingstone Hill VK2/SM-093

This summit is just off the Monaro highway to the west, near the village of Michelago (some years ago I overheard a pilot requesting approach clearance for Canberra Airport, reporting his location as abeam Michaelangelo – suppose he thought the map had a typo).

Made 23 contacts including 4 on cw. My keyer was faulty – later traced to the cable having been damaged by repeated winding the cable around the key for transit. Much amusement for the chasers from my low quality sending, but we got the message through. To add to the fun, just as I was about to go to CW and make a few contacts with CW chasers, it started raining. If you are not prepared for rain, you worry about damage to the radio apart from personal discomfort. I need to carry suitable clothing and also make arrangements for the radio.

Mt Taylor Vk1/AC-037 on 18 Dec 2014

With Mt Taylor requiring 46 contacts to break the 1000 QSO tally, I thought I would help the cause by activating this one, thinking of making 20 or so contacts. After I alerted via sotawatch, Andrew VK1NAM circulated a suggestion on the VK1 SOTA mailing list suggesting everyone try to work me on every band possible. So eventually I had contacts on 2m fm, 10, 12, 15, 17, 20, 30, 40 and 80m on this occasion and in fact got 47 contacts, breaking the 1k goal and there was still enough light to walk down the hill afterwards. Saw some elaborate Xmas decorations on houses in Kambah, the suburb just south of the mountain.

Also on this activation I hastily packed my gas powered soldering iron so as to repair the keyer paddle cable. However after cutting off the last 100mm where I thought the problem was, I found that reterminating it resulted in no improvement. There must have been intermittent shorting of the dot and dash lines to the shield of the cable. I always use shielded cable for the paddle, after an earlier keyer failed miserably on 10m and 6m due to RF affecting it. So I regretfully had to cancel ideas of running CW contacts on this activation.


Mt Mundoonen VK2/ST-053 on 21 Dec 2014

As I had already activated this summit in the current calendar year, I would get no activation points for this one, but I had seen that my S2S score was about 960 and I only needed 40 more points to reach 1000 S2S points. With several activations posted on sotawatch I thought this was too good an opportunity to miss. Even if I only made 20 or 30 it was mean an easier target for the next activation. I used the FT817 for this activation, with the repaired paddle cable now operating perfectly.

It was very hot. I used the tarp (that I usually sit on) as a kind of poncho, but over my head. With a few surprises including a VK7 summit, Ian VK1DI on Bobbara and Andrew VK3BQ & wife Christine VK3FCEK on Mt Kosciuzsko I was delighted to find later that I had just edged over 1000 S2S points by the end of the activation. Another 1k goal reached.

I think the next worthwhile goal will be 1000 CW chaser points. Only 604 to go…


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 goes live in VK1 – a day of firsts

The documentation was cleared during January 2013 by the SOTA management team after some amendments and updates. VK1 was then given a start date of 1st February.

To make the day memorable we encouraged VK1 activations via email lists and a presentation at the local club a week earlier. We asked chasers to tune in and help us get our required contacts. Activations at 0000 UTC were by Andrew VK1NAM at Booroomba Rocks, Matt VK1MA at Mt Stromlo, Russell VK1JRM at Tuggeranong Hill and by me at Mt Taylor. I logged 20 contacts on a combination of 7 MHz SSB and 146.5 MHz FM. Later in the day Ian VK1DI walked up Mt Majura and activated successfully with VK3 and VK5 contacts.

There are a few possible approaches to climbing Mt Taylor. The route I chose was from Sulwood Drive, Kambah. This route may be a little longer than the Pearce or Chifley approaches. Parking on Sulwood drive near the intersection with Manheim St, the walking path is easy to find and leads up a steady rocky path, which eventually becomes a bitumen sealed path, gives way to compressed gravel, some concrete in places and some wooden framed steps in other parts of the trip.

Looking back down the path on Mt Taylor

Concrete section of path

On arrival at the summit, the squid pole was extended and the central feedpoint of the 40m dipole was attached to it using cord. The ends of the dipole insulated by several metres of cord are attached to tent pegs hammered into the ground. A stone could be used as a hammer but I took a rubber mallet for this purpose.



The FT817 was powered by a 2.1 AH SLA Battery. Note the miniature morse paddle, purchased as a kit at Dayton Hamvention in 2010. This paddle is nice but too light so it needs to be held with one hand while you send with the other. Attaching it to a lump of heavy metal (not a Metallica album) would solve the problem but also add to the weight in the backpack (see below).


Signals on 40m were very good. Easy contacts were made around VK1 and with VK3 stations, including some SOTA activators on summits in VK3.

After liaising with Bruce VK1HBB on 2m we also made contact on 7090 where we had our first SOTA contact for VK1. After that the fun began and at times three frequencies were in use on 40m, while on 146.5 FM the Icom radio chattered away with a continuous series of contacts between VK1HBB, VK1FPIT and VK1FTAY who were portable at Mt Ainslie, VK1NAM at Booroomba Rocks, VK1MA at Mt Stromlo, VK1JRM at Mt Tuggeranong, VK1DR, VK1SV and VK1DI.

On HF I did call cq on CW at one stage but activity on CW during week days is rather low. This must be why my signal was discovered by an automatic skimmer run by Lyle VK1LW, whose station logged my CQ call and that ended up on SOTAWATCH as a spot.

Everyone involved seems to have enjoyed the day. A field day with a difference. Several operators took leave from work to activate on this day and we appreciated also the efforts of VK3 and VK5 activators and chasers who turned up on time to give us contacts and get these new SOTA summits into their chaser logs. No doubt from this point on we will gain new activators and chasers as familiarity with the award increases.

I would like to use more bands for these events. Some activators are routinely making CW contacts into Europe and the USA, some are making some ssb contacts, using 20m and 15m bands.

I underestimated the amount of equipment I would be trying to stuff into my ordinary backpack, and how much it weighed when I did! And that was a single band wire antenna, and a 2m handheld with its own flexible antenna. Carrying a real 2m antenna would add more complexity and weight. The SOTABEAMS enterprise in the UK offers readily assembled beams for various bands. For HF, some operators like horizontal antennas, both centre fed and end fed. Some like verticals. Your mileage does vary depending on what you are trying to do. The verticals would surely be better for DX contacts.


On the way down Mt Taylor I noticed a panoramic map installed by our friendly local government, showing the features of the Tuggeranong Valley and naming the mountains in the distance and on the horizon. Some of these will be familiar to readers, and some will be more familiar in a year’s time as many of the names seen here are SOTA summits.

Panoramic map on Mt Taylor
Panoramic map on Mt Taylor
Pano map on Mt Taylor
Panoramic map on Mt Taylor

The prominent mountain behind the town centre is Mt Tennent, named after a bushranger.  The fable is that he buried treasure of some kind up there before being captured.

Mt Tennent
Mt Tennent

Picture taken two days earlier without the mist was a lot clearer.


Mt Tennent
Mt Tennent


When is the sun due north?

I needed to know at what time the sun would be positioned due north, to enable me to validate some previous measurements.

I found the following US Navy website which has a universal calculator allowing you to find this data for your lat/long which can be extracted from your iphone or any GPS.


For readers in the northern hemisphere, the calculator does allow for north and south latitudes, as well as west and east longitudes…

Joining VK9NA VHF/UHF dxpedition to Norfolk Island

I am joining the VK9NA team for January 2011. All the details of this expedition are on the VK9NA.COM website. This is a VHF/UHF/microwave expedition which will include some 2m EME capability and will have reasonable power (75w) on 5.7 and 10 GHz too.

The station should be on the air by 9th January and will be active in the following weekend’s VK VHF/UHF Summer Field Day event.

More details on the VK9NA website vk9na.com