SOTA UTC New Years's Party - new sumit to summit record

The UTC New Year's Midnight and the hour or so either side of midnight are as close to SOTA Christmas as you can come. Due to SOTA rules, an activator can claim summit actiation points once in a UTC year, ie 0000 01 Jan - 2359 31 Dec UTC, Locally that happens at 11am 01 January here in VK1 - so effectively you can claim double points if yu activate a summit before and after UTC Midnight! Accordingly there were a lot off VK SOTA activaors out on the recent UTC NY. I selected a easy to access summit, Mt Stromlo for my activation. I was out early and made 3 contacts on my VHF HT prior to even leaving the carpark at around 0930L (2230UTC), I set up in the usual location and made a decent number of contacts with activators and chasers to call Stromlo well and truely smashed. I worked a lot more than usual on 15m SSB HF than usual but watching the spots on my phone and reacting fast was the winning strategy for the day. I even managed S2S DX contacts with ZL1BYZ John and ZL2AJ Warren

As you can see below (red being Summit to Summit, Blue Chasers)  It was rather the day for it, quickly filling my log. In total I made 77 contacts, 41 were Summit to Summit alone.

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 The Video is here:

 

SOTA: Mount Gillamatong - with a nice fat black snake

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I had itchy feet again and wanted to get out to activate a summit a tiny bit further afield than VK1 easy walk ups, Mt Gillamatong near Braidwood in regional NSW seemed to fit the bill nicely. 

 

A warm easy 1 hour drive east of Canberra and 10m from down town Braidwood - Gillamatong as looks rather imposing from the base.  We approached from the west near the local water treatment facility. This apparently is not the way others have in the past, however is the easier of the East / West approach options.  

Progress on the dirt track was momentarily halted by the appearance of a rather slippery character  - a rather well fed Red Belly Black Snake quickly moved off in search of a less disturbed hideout and we passed on. 

This is one of the few times my partner Frankie has joined me on SOTA activations. He is keen on the walking side but the sitting around while the radio bits are down 

This is one of the few times my partner Frankie has joined me on SOTA activations. He is keen on the walking side but the sitting around while the radio bits are down 

  Activation side of things were only undertaken for an hour or so with no nibbles on 2m or 70cm sadly.      HF seemed to be ok with my regular bands of 40 and 15m yielding results.       Below is a video of the activation.  

  Activation side of things were only undertaken for an hour or so with no nibbles on 2m or 70cm sadly. 

 

HF seemed to be ok with my regular bands of 40 and 15m yielding results.  

 

Below is a video of the activation.  

SOTA: Mt Livingston VK2/SM-093 - Wet n Wooly

I will be the first to admit the last 3 months have been amazing.

Every activation has been under clear skies, the sun on my back (or frying my neck).

Well, Mt Livingston turned that on its head. Checking weather reports all week - windy but only 10% chance of rain.

And when did my activation come? you guessed it during that 10% window.

I had planned a LONG last activation hopping around the bands - sadly, all in all, I managed 10 min before and 10 min after UTC before succumbing to numbness of the logging fingers and worrying about water in the radio that was already nestled in the pack. Summit temp was below zero with windchill.

 

Although I said to John @ZL1BYZ and Jacky - no video, I made one on the hill and a few QSOs later.

 

Thanks for all the fun guys and girls. I will be back around Nov/Dec 2017. Until then I will be scuba diving in the Gili Islands of Indonesia undertaking my Dive Master program. Oh and I might have a new callsign by then - will also need to buy that web address too...

All 16 SOTA videos are here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA20AqXLbeiaNFfDBEAx7zZWX_iXSnQ9i2

The first couple are with a verticle - the rest on my Linked Dipole up a 7m squidpole.
Thanks again,

Wade

VK1FWBD.com
Wadeabout.com

SOTA: VK1/AC-044 Boboyan Ridge - Bush-bash and DX S2S

Summit number 15 for 2017 was HARD. Not because it is long but it is a bush bash. Zero formed trail. I couldn't take my eyes off the GPS track for more than a minute and I would be well off track.

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Temps have dropped in Canberra as they normally do after ANZAC Day on 25 April. I left home at about 0800 in 5C. The walk to the summit was in 7-10, not a breath of wind. a crisp clear day!

Driving about 90 mins south from my home location in North Canberra, entering Namadgi National Park which occuipes the entire south of the Capital Territory.

The summit is in the very south east of the park even off the tar road and about a 30-45 min bush bash. Not only any I watching the GPS track, I am making sure I don't fall into Wombat holes - and there are a few of them.

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The actual summit is a small rock Cairn, I added two to the pile.

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After setting up I ended up working about 23 stations, including ZL2ATH, a DX summit t0 summit. My first. a real buzz

 

Due to the location (no phone service) as well as the restrictions of my VK Foundation License (No APRS / DATA modes), Andrew @VK1AD provided radio overwatch via our local 2M repeater, which even on the valley slope I couldn't hit until getting higher. He did all my spotting too. I have said it before - everyone should get themselves an Andrew!

On the way back I stopped off at Hospital Hill Look out which gives an excellent look at the more challenging summits within the park.

 

The long video is uploaded and live now:

 

This will likely be my second last summit until almost Christmas 2017

Wade
VK1FWBD.com

SOTA Mt Rob Roy VK1/AC-031 - 3/3 summit challenge - Are my legs still there????

The locals not happy I disturbed their publish holiday sleeping  

The locals not happy I disturbed their publish holiday sleeping  

After the initial tortuously steep climb out of the suburbs, bursting into the morning sunshine before entering the Rob Roy Nature Park was a very pleasant surprise - i suspect the sleeping locals (above) were not impressed with my intrusion.

 

Rob Roy was the 3rd of the 3 summits I had challenged myself to complete by the end of the Easter long weekend. Each increasingly more challenging in height and approach as the last.

The actual summit is off the track however the entry to the foot trodden bush track is marked by a mini carn (below) .

 

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Mt Rob Roy's trig point is unusual, I have not seen one like this before.  3 metal support arms with a wooden upright indication.  Which makes for a good squid pole support!!

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As the log shows before I had a really good day on the radio, scoring some more ZL stations (NZ for non radio folks) 

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Map of my contacts: 

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Summit to summit contacts: 

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Video of the day's activation: 

 

 

SOTA and Mental Health - how it's helping.

SOTA, Amateur Radio and how it is helping me fight depression and anxiety

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I mentioned in one of my more recent SOTA videos that I was going to write about how SOTA was helping me fight depression and anxiety. I understand that some might consider it a long bow or even not get it entirely.

Before I get into the how or why it is helping, lets get some definitions at least as they relate to my brands of anxiety and depression.

Anxiety

In basic terms, Anxiety is the miss-timed or miss-activation of the fight of flight response. Faced with a bear? Flight or flight is normal, having an heart racing, mind running at a million miles an hour and feeling out of breath, having that repeating thought that some one is out to ‘get’ you in the middle of the supermarket? Thats my anxiety. Supermarket, car, work, laying in bed, it springs up on me .

Depression

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You know that thing you love? Being outdoors? Being with friends? Fishing? Building things? Exercising? You know that feeling you get even thinking or planning to do that? Yeah for me depressions is the colour sucked out of life, I simply do not get the same buzz from things that I know I love and enjoy. Some people see that as ‘Wade is just being lazy’ - I can tell you I WANT to do things, but my brain is all like “why bother”.

OK so those out of the way. Think mental health is just a ‘mental’ thing? Yeah tell that to the 10kgs that joined me this year since diagnosis because the normal active things I like have no ‘colour’ to them.

So back to SOTA and Amateur Radio

I recently obtained my Australian Amateur Radio License (Feb 2017) and since completing it, I discovered this section of the hobby that combines elements I really enjoy. Being outdoors, learning new skills and tinkering with different set ups. And it is making the depression and anxiety disappear - at least for the day I am outdoors!

What is SOTA?


There are designated mountain / hill summits world wide, in the ACT there are currently 48. They are assigned a rating based on height and difficulty, with some earning a bonus 3 points in winter due to possible snow.
The aim of SOTA is to make 4 contacts (voice or morse code) from the summit to consider it ‘activated”.
A station / operator on the summit is the activator, the home station is called a chaser. Summit to summits contacts between 2 ‘activators’ are a real bonus with points shared.

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Every weekend (apart 1) since I have been licensed I have been out activating a summit. This involves selecting a summit, planning or researching a route, packing gear, planning the activation, recording video and photos to share with you.

How is it helping? Well many MH professionals suggest being outdoors and doing physical activities along with having goals that are achievable - guess what ticks all those boxes?? SOTA it is. Also side note have lost between 3-4kgs lighter!

SOTA: My SOTA EDC / Kit

I thought I would share the gear I use on the summit activations.

So here is a bit of a list:

Berghous 30L pack

3lt CamelBak bladder

GoPro Session 1

Lenovo 7in Tablet

Rite in the rain notebook (with Pencil)

Yaesu FT817ND

SotaBeams Linked Dipole 20/30/40

Squid Pole (10m)

Ratched Tie downs (2)

2m/70cm Slim Jim antenna

Jetboil Brew kit

Blue tarp

10m lightweight Coax

SOTA: Activating Mt Majura VK1/AC-03

Right in the heart of the Bush Capital

This was my first 'real' SOTA activation, where I walked up Mt Majura and operated my radio and made SOTA contacts.  

This was my single most successful day operating my radio as well as my longest range VK (Australia) contact to VK7CW in North Tasmania - 700kms, and my first summit to summit contacts - 400kms all on 5 Watts.

It was a warm day in Canberra and the operating position is right next to the Canberra Airport as well as a shooting range is below which made for interesting exchanges on the radio..

 

Log:

Chasing stations:

Time    Call    Band    Mode    Notes
02:06z  VK1AD/P 144MHz  FM  Andrew S59 R55
02:56z  VK3ANL/P    7MHz    SSB S51 R43
02:59z  VK7CW   7MHz    SSB Steve S59+ R55
03:02z  VK3LED  7MHz    SSB S59+ R44
03:04z  VK5IS       7MHz    SSB S52 R53
03:09z  VK1MA/P     144MHz  FM  S59+ R57
03:25z  VK1AD/P     7MHz    SSB S58 R57
03:32z  VK3FCMC     7MHz    SSB S57 R54
03:35z  VK1MA       7MHz    SSB S59 R57
03:37z  VK3PF       7MHz    SSB Peter S57 R43
03:38z  VK3FOTO     7MHz    SSB Mike S53 R53
03:58z  VK1ATP/M    144MHz  FM  S59 R55
04:00z  VK1MH       144MHz  FM  S59 R59
04:15z  VK3MRG      7MHz    SSB S53 R41
04:22z  VK2UH       144MHz  FM  S51 R32

Summit to Summit contacts:

Date    Time    My Callsign Station Worked  Chased Summit   Chased Summit Name  Activated Summit    Activated Summit Name   Band    Mode    Distance (km)   Chaser Points   Activator Points    Total   Notes
11/3/17 02:06:00    VK1FWBD/P   VK1AD/P VK1/AC-008  Mt Ginini   VK1/AC-034  Mt Majura   144MHz  FM  49  8   1   9   Andrew S59 R55
11/3/17 02:56:00    VK1FWBD/P   VK3ANL/P    VK3/VS-009  Ben Nevis   VK1/AC-034  Mt Majura   7MHz    SSB 580 4   0   13  S51 R43
11/3/17 03:25:00    VK1FWBD/P   VK1AD/P VK1/AC-008  Mt Ginini   VK1/AC-034  Mt Majura   7MHz    SSB 49  0   0   13  S58 R57

Gear:

HF:

Radio: Yaesu FT-817ND running on 5w using internal battery

Antenna: PAC12 QRP loaded vertical with ground radials

2m:

Radio: Baofeng UV5R, using SMA to BNC antenna connection

Antenna: 2m BNC antenna that came with the Yaesu FT-817ND

SOTA activation of Mt Stromo, Canberra VK1/AC-43

My First Solo SOTA Activation!

Those of you that follow me on Instagram know that I undertook my 2-day face to face lessons and testing in mid-January 2017 to become a licensed amateur radio operator (AKA HAM Operator). In mid-February I received the much-awaited email from Australia's national regulator ACMA that told me I am now a licensed amateur being designated VK1FWBD. In Australia (AKA VK in the AR world) Foundation License holders - the first step, are designated a "F" following the Country (VK) and region (1) parts of our call sign. So all ACT callsigns are VK1...

A few Tuesdays ago  I was fortunate enough to be shown a section of the AR world that greatly interests me - Summits On The Air (SOTA). I was shown the ropes by the legendary VK1AD, Andrew who was kind enough to let me dive straight in after he made enough contacts.

SOTA is a points based AR "game" that requires AR operators to climb designated hill or mountains and transmit, often on low power in an attempt to be heard by "chasers" - home based receivers or other SOTA operators - this is called Sumit to Sumit (S2). 4 such contacts are required before a hill or mountain is considered 'activated'.

Andrew was able to get me well placed to start receiving overseas stations (DX stations) on low power. Once the DX stations started rolling in my first calls and first on HF frequencies I knew I was hooked!

I was immensely lucky to have 3 DX stations 2 NZ Stations (ZL) and 1 Japanese station (JA). All while overlooking our gorgeous capital from VK1/AC-040 Mt Ainslie

Andrew's Yaesu radio (I can't remember which one) was pumping out a reduced 10w - to comply with my license requirements, on his linked dipole antenna, were a great match (gotta love an antenna pun).

The following day (Wednesday) my new (preloved) FT817ND radio turned up in the mail and I was keen to get on the air - I booked a day off that Friday and thought I would be a keen bean and try a Friday daytime SOTA activation.  

Activating Mt Stromo VK1/AC-043

This time on another 1 pointer, (easy access mountain) with basically a walk of only a few hundred metres.

On Friday after hours of calling, I was not successful in reaching my needed 4 contacts. I was switching between my newly assembled PAC12 antenna on my DJI OSMO MOBILE base as a tripod and a long wire with a matching box from Nelson Antennas (on EBAY) up my 10m Squid pole and no joy. Only sunburn! (Note to self.. maybe you might want to make sure the spotters aren't all at work....)

Log:

Time    Call        Band    Mode    Notes
04:23z  VK1MA       7MHz    SSB Matt S54 R43
04:27z  VK1AD       7MHz    SSB Andrew S59+ R58
04:40z  VK1NAM      7MHz    SSB Andrew S59 R55
04:47z  VK8GMT/P    7MHz    SSB Matt S59 R55
05:00z  VK3LED      7MHz    SSB Col S59 R55
07:10z  VK5AW       7MHz    SSB Adrian S58 R55
07:12z  VK5PAS      7MHz    SSB Paul S58 R47
 

Not to be deterred, I wanted to strike while the iron was hot, so headed back out the next afternoon (Saturday) to a second operating position on the western side of the peak as seen on VK1DI's blog.  2 hours and only local VK1 contacts - but enough to activate (THANK GOD) before moving to a new position as described by the 2m Simplex contacts I was talking to (again thanks to VK1AD and VK1MA who provided radio overwatch for my first solo SOTA session). From this new location, the PAC12 picked up 2 booming VK5 (South Australia) stations.

Wade

VK1FWBD

Gear:

HF:

Radio: Yaesu FT-817ND running on 5w using internal battery

Antenna: PAC12 QRP loaded vertical with ground radials

2m:

Radio: Baofeng UV5R, using SMA to BNC antenna connection

Antenna: 2m BNC antenna that came with the Yaesu FT-817ND