Category Archives: SOTA

A quick Activation

As today saw the temperature plummet from the heatwave of the last 4 days, I decided to duck up the hill to Mt Gawler – VK5/SE-013 and see what the bands were doing – well, that and go out and hope to get a VK5  to ZL1 S2S as there was some ZL1 activity going on.

This was a bit of a different activation today as I went with a little bit of new kit for the first time.

New Toys

Can you guess?  no ?

Ok, the SideKar and keyboard for direct entry logging is not new, had it for a while now and am really starting to get used to it rather than the paper log.

You might have noticed the external amplified JBL speaker, but no, that’s not it either!

Ok, it is the QRO! (well not quite) but the HR-50 amplifier to give the KX3 a bit of a bump from 10w up to the 50+ watt mark  (well, more like 60w on most bands).

I have had the kit for a few month’s and managed to put it together about a week ago and today was the first time I have had a chance to give it a run in the field.  By All reports – the bit of extra output helped – pretty good reports all day.

Band conditions were very strange – very short hops on bands where it was not really expected!

I started out on 15m and worked VK3, VK1 and VK7 stations.  On the suggestion of Tony, VK3CAT, I then gave 10m a try and was rewarded with VK3 and VK1 contacts for my log.  As I was using the 30m dipole for 10m, I then gave a call out on 30m and worked VK2, VK3 and VK5.  20m was the best band of the day and I worked VK2,3,4,5’s and ZL3CC for my only DX of the day.  I always end up on 40m for at least a bit of every activation and I worked into VK2, VK3 and VK5 before I packed up for the day.

I was able to round out the day with the final station logged of VI3ANZAC on the last day that this call will be activated.

I did see the spots for ZL1 activation on 20m and could hear a few of the chasers, but alas, no VK5 to ZL1 S2S today, but hope it won’t take too long to get one!

As always, thanks to all the chasers as you make it all worthwhile.


Leeches and Ticks

On a recent trip to VK4 I wanted to get in a couple of summits, so a quick look before going, and tried to work in a couple with where I would be and I ended up getting up to 2 Summits – VK4/SE-117 and then VK4/SW-001  As an added bonus, VK4/SW-001 is also in the middle of the Bunya Mountans National park – and VKFF-0067

Friday 23rd October – Tenision Woods Mountain

First off VK4SE-117 – Tenision Woods Mountain   a 6-pointer, looked to be easy from the Maps – with the summit a few hundred metres off the Mt Glorious road, about 2km West of Mt Glorious –  which itself is to the North-West of Brisbane.

As it turned out, it was an easy to access summit – with just enough room on the Mt Glorious Rd for 1 car to pull over on the track to the summit.  An un-expected surprise, was that the path to the summit was fenced with a National Parks’ sign on the gate!  So, I suspected, that this was also a VKFF location as well.

Now I am home, I have searched out the details and sure enough, Tenision Woods Mountain is within the D’Aguilar National Park, and is VKFF-0129.

Ok, onto the Activation. First off the Locality photos- 20151023_135450

The Sign at the side of the road at the track up to the summit.

The plaque located right at the summit.


The “shack”  Sitting on a log on the side of the walking trail just back from the comms tower at the summit.

As I was flyig to VK4 I was not able to pack my squid pole and had to rely on just throwing a rope over a convenient tree branch to pull up the Dipole.  I managed to get it about 5m high in the center in the rainforest.

Now, the first part of the blog post will become obvious – The Leeches -Yep, there rainforest here was home to leeches and the little blood-suckers jumped on everyone but me! So, take my advice – carry the insect repellent and apply liberally before venturing onto this summit!

Now, this was probably a bad time to be actually activating the summit it was Friday 23rd Oct in the mid afternoon – just after 04:00 UTC when we made it to the summit on the drive thru and were set up.   Knowing that I only had a short time, I only planned to activate on 15M and then 40M (both just using the 40M dipole).

I was able to post an alert and then post a spot as I set up and it wasn’t long before I was rewarded with my first contact.  Logging just 2 contacts on 15M and then jumped down to 40M where we were rewarded with a further 9 contacts (with 7 uniques).  As I had just 9 unique calls in the logs I decided to give 20M a quick go – to try and get the 10 required for VKFF – and   making it a valid VKFF activation as well, so I decided to give 20M a quick try.  I was rewarded with my efforts with a further 4 contacts – and 2 more uniques to give me 11 unique contacts for the dual activation.

With contacts to VK4, VK2, VK3 and a single DX contact to RA3PCI it was successful for my first VK4 Activation.

We packed up, did a double-check for leeches and headed off to our destination.

Saturday/Sunday  24/25th October – Mt Kiangarow / Bunya Mountains

I had planned to spend a couple of hours on the Sunday Morning and activate the 10-pointer VK4/SW-001 across the UTC roll-over on the Sunday Morning.  I had already determined that this would be a dual activation being within the Bunya Mountains National Park VKFF-0067.

With the Guys meeting in Wagga Wagga and the expected activity of several summits being activated in the Riverina Area of NSW, I was hopeful of at least a couple of S2S contacts.

Like Tenision Woods Mountain this summit was one that was
reasonably accessable with a rad thru the National Park, and a short  1.3km walk along a well-maintained track to the Summit lookout.


The Sign showing the walking trail around and up to the summit.


The entrance to the track to the summit.

After an easy 15 minute walk up the track you could se thru the rainforest a comms tower on the summit, and about a 100m further on we came to the end of the track, with spectacular views out to the north and a convenient seat!


Sitting on the seat on the Summit.

As it was only 15 minutes util roll-over, I wasted no time in getting the Dipole strung up.  Unlike on Friday, there were not many tall tree’s here and I really wished I had a squid pole, but made do with what I had – and the dipole was strung up about 3m from the ground!

I decided to work 40M before roll-over to maximize the chance of a as many contacts as possible -and managed to get 5, including 2 operators on VK2/RI-031.

Post roll-over, I stayed on 40M and continued to work contacts and again worked the 2 Activators on VK2/RI-025 for some more S2S action.

I worked 10 contacts on 40M before moving onto 15M and worked a further 4 chasers before jumping onto 20M, working another 8 chasers including a S2S contact to VK2/RI-026.

On a whim, I jumped onto 10M and worked my only DX for the day and also my only contester (CQWW) W5PR in Texas. and again a repeat chaser as well.

I took a look over my logs and decided o jump back to 40M after looking at the spots in an attempt to work a couple more S2S contacts.  I tried and tried but had an incomplete – the other station could not hear me and was about to give up and finally completed a contact with my 4th S2S for the day to VK1/AC-009.

I was well please with this contact as It gave me something new that I had never done before when activating any summit – that last contact put into my Log  VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, VK6, VK7 and VK8 from the same summit (across 4 bands) -and all using just 10W with the KX3 and a dipole that was no more than 3M high!


Another shot of the shack for the day – with the stunning views!  That black thing in the top right is the winder at the end of my dipole about 2M high!

Yes, I do have more photos but have not pulled them off the camera yet – I’ll get to them soon!

It was nearly 2 hours, and  S2S with 4 unique summits, working All VK call areas except VK0 and VK9, some (well a single) DX and a total of 26 contacts (22 uniques) it was a great day to be out Portable.

Again, I had enough chasers to make this a successful VKFF activation.  I’ll get the logs up in the near future!

A big thanks to all the chasers who made the 2 activations I did in VK4 a success.  Yes, conditions were a bit tough and I know that there were a few that I just could’t hear, but next time!

I almost forgot – the Ticks – Well, yep, when we got home, I discovered that I was the unlucky one this time and picked up a couple of ticks!  1 uner the arm and another one on the other arm – so yeah, should have sprayed on the Aerogard!

2 new summits,  1 New association and I can’t remember who, but I even managed to give out a complete on VK4/SW-001 to someone else who had activated it on a recent trip to VK4.

I just wished that I had more time and had a chance to see more of the summits in VK4 – but there is always next time and a lot of summits to chose from!

It has been a while

… since the last time I have managed to get out portable, but this afternoon,  the opportunity came up and I grabbed it with both hands.

Yes, the band conditions were not great wtih a CME less than 48 hours ago, but regardless, I still went out.

The location was Mt Gawler – VK5/SE-013 and today, I chose just to operate 15M then 40M, both off the 40M inverted V.

Firstly, it was good to see that the vegetation is slowly regenerating after the fires.


Well, a few things have changed with my setup since last time that I was literally trialing in the field for the first time.  Firstly, the new KX3 firmware that will allow 10W output with a power supply voltage above 10V.  This change means that I can use a 3S lipo and eliminate the (noisy) DC-DC converter I was using with the 4S lipo.  Glad to say it worked out great – and everything worked as expected.

The 2nd one is the ever-elusive quest to simplify logging!


Yep, got a QRPWorks SideKar to go with the KX3 – and a micro wireless keyboard to drive it.


A bit more on it shortly…

It was a really pleasant afternoon and started on 15M

Posted a spot and started calling and only had a single contact on the band – VK5PAS.

After abut 20 minutes of calling CQ SOTA (thank heavens for the voice keyer and playback repeat functions of the KX3!) I moved to 40M and again started calling.

Like 15M the bands were pretty quiet but with the alert, over the next  hour, I put a further 10 contacts in the log.

As expected because of the conditions and time of day there was not much close-in activity – just a couple of mobile stations.

A few of the regular chasers were there, but a surprising number of VK6 stations came back to me – I have never had 3 VK6’s in the log on 40M from here before!

Stations Worked on 40M


Now, Simon, VK2JAZ was asking what I could see from up at Mt Gawler – so I told him exactly what I was seeing – the sunset – and as promised – here is the photo of the sunset I took while we were talking – the photo does not do it justice!20151009_191840

Now, onto the SideKar.

Well, it was a little bit of getting used to using it – and today, I was thankful of it being fairly slow so I had plenty of time to actually use it and get to know how to do the logging.

At the start of the session, I had to read the manual – on how to do some of the setup.  This device is specifically designed with SOTA in mind – and first things I did was to set the clock,  then set my SOTA Reference.  From there, it was pretty much just learning the keyboard shortcuts to make a log entry.

As the SideKar interfaces to the KX3, I did not have to be concerned with frequency and time – it was all recorded with each log entry.

I  was able to enter every contact into the SideKar in real time, It is a couple of keystrokes and all good!

Now of course, with the logs being entered real-time and then when I got home it was simply a matter of exporting the ADIF right from the SideKar to the computer.

As we all know – we need a V2 CSV format for uploading the logs – and I managed to find an online converter to do this.  The converter was not perfect, but took care of most everything – with just a few minor edits needed to get it ready to upload.

I guess that I’ll look at developing a suitable conversion App in the future to export the ADIF as needed for upload to Sotadata.

Now, one of the issues I have had is managing the logs for WWFF – and now, I will be a lot closer to making this a lot easier as well in the future.

Of course, you will see that I used a very small wireless keyboard for interfacing with the SideKar – and it is perfect in so much as it is very lightweight – less than 50g.  You can use any USB or 2.4G Wireless keyboard, so a bigger keyboard might be used in the future for contesting etc, but for now – the lightweight one wins out.

At the moment, I have not really used the other features of the SideKar – extended display for PSK, RTTY and CW, but there is plenty of time for that.

As toys go – Pretty happy with this one, knowing that it makes the job of logging for the portable awards much easier.  Not only is it small and lighter than a laptop – it is useable in full sun – unlike the laptop!

Yes, a big success – and it is going to simplify my logging.

Ok, yeah, I know it turned into a mini-review of the SideKar, but by lowering the burden of having to enter all the paper logs when you get home, it makes the whole idea of going portable a lot more attractive!

Working the EU long-path on 20M

After working on other things for the last few month’s I finally had a chance to get out again at the right time of day to have a go at working EU on the long path.

We headed up to Mt Gawler – VK5/SE-013 and proceeded to set up the phased verticals on 20M.  Once set up a quick listen across 20M and it was fairly busy, and eventually found a free frequency and put up a spot.

20M vertical
A close-up of the base of one of the 20M verticals. You can see the Coax, the vertical and the 4 elevated ground radials

On the 2nd call  the spot was out and I had my first EU contact in the log with Danny, ON4VT at 05:52,  and quickly followed with a whole lot more!

Working the Pile-Up
Working the Pile-Up

Now, I normallyforget that my phone has a easonable video camera in it, but today, I asked Ray to grab a bit of video.

At 06:20 once things started to pick up, we grabbed a few minutes – and the last 30-40 seconds where what it was like for at least 30 minutes!

It was a constant go and between 05:52 and 07:10 where I worked 75 contacts on 20M.   In the mix there were 1 JA station, 2 US stations, 1 Canadian, 10 VK stations and 61 EU stations across several countries – including a new country for me from a summit – SV9RGI  in Crete.    In the mix there was around 15 EU contries in the 80 minutes I was on 20M

Full Logs – vk5se-013-20150613

Of course, I always give 40M a quick (or not so quick today) go to give the VK chasers a chance to score the points, so up went the 40M dipole.

As the sun was starting to go down and the temperature was falling, I added another 26 VK chasers to the log to give me a grand total of 101 chasers for the 2 hours.

It was a hectic time, but again, even if you are only a 2-pointer, if you are at the right place at the right time of day you can log a lot of contacts!

And yes, I love 2 elements on 20M from a summit!


Repeat Performance

After Yesterday at  Brookfiled CP, I was really keen to get out again and look LP EU on 20M, so I headed up to Mt Gawler – VK5/SE-013 this afternoon.

It was a windy and threatening to rain, but got up there and set up both verticals again pointing at around 120Degrees.

Got on the air just after 05:00UTC and found a clear frequency on 20M and posted a spot on sotawatch.  A couple of VK’s responded and then a few EU stations started coming up.  About 20 minutes into the activation the rain did come in and threaten to make it uncomfortable, but fortunately it only lasted 3 or 4 minutes.

It was fairly steady going and in tough conditions managed to get Ed (DD5LP) in the logs – which he subsequently reported I was the 2nd ever VK sota summit he has managed to complete from his home QTH)  and in Ed’s words,

I'd say that your antenna is an unmitigated success!

I had someone else in EU then start calling CQ over the top of me, but lasted only a minute or 2 – and then the floodgates opened for the next 30 -40 minutes and I suspect it was as a result of Ed posting a spot on the Cluster and  in just over an hour, I had logged 45 contacts on 20M with 36 of them being EU DX!

Again, I need to stress that I am just using the KX3 and only 10W – Yes, QRP power only and not running a big battery and a high-powered station.

A highlight was to get VK4FO in the logs! he said there are only a few of us and when he saw my call on the cluster he just had to give me a shout – Thanks Gordon!

Mt Gawler 20150510


Again, I set up the table between the 2 Verticals.  I was able to use an exiting post to mount 1 of the antennas against and had to drive in a stake to support the 2nd one.  Hopefully, next time I am there, I will be able to pick the same spot to set up.

For the 70 minutes I was on 20M I worked the following prefixes.

VK6, VK3, OK2, S58, G0, DL2, HA8, HA6, VK4, DD5 (Hi Ed), VK7, VK5, ON3, OP7, ON7, DL5, I5, OK7, OE5, IW0, IZ8, DK1, IK6, OE8, IW1, 9A7, IK1, IZ3, HA0, I3, DK4, G1, ON4, HA6, PB2,  F2, RV9, DK2, VK2

As always, I fired up on 40M before leaving and worked another 6 stations to finish this cold activation with 51 contacts logged.

So yeah, this experiment of going back to a basic resonant antenna’s has been a real eye opener for me – as over the years I have used all sort of multi-band verticals and never really had much success with them.

Yes, 2 elements on a summit are really a lot better than a dipole and Now I have to totally re-think my portable antenna’s and probably spend the next several month’s building antenna’s for other bands as well.  I can see the weight going up with carrying  more antenna’s.

EDIT: I have just checked my logs – and this activation was my most successful sota activation of all time – with 51 contacts logged. Additionally, I added 3 new DXCC countries to my tally.