SOTA DX – Mount McDonald to EU and UK – 18 February 2014

Mount McDonald VK1/AC-048 789 metres ASL, ACT Cotter Catchment

Mt McDonald is in the vicinity of the Cotter Dam in an area known as the Cotter Catchment.  Although clearly in the catchment area, public access is permitted via a management track to the summit or to the Cotter Dam lookout.  The walking tracks are well signposted, the likelihood of getting lost would be rare.

The parking area is off Brindabella Road on the left side of a sweeping right hand bend.  See details on the map.   You can’t miss it, look for the car park defined by large granite boulders.

Mt McDonald is a recent addition to the VK1 SOTA summits list on 1 Feb 14 with four other new summits.  What warranted the review of summits.   When ever I drove past this hill en route to Yellow Rabbit Hill or further south to Mt Ginini, the profile of the hill indicated (IMHO) it would have at least 150 metres of prominence.  One day back in August I spent 2 hours looking over topo maps and checking contours lines looking for the saddle that would confirm the hill’s prominence.  I eventually found a saddle west of Uriarra township on Brindabella Road which served as a reference point for the minimum prominence.  Some weeks later, following many hours of consultation with like-minded people (SOTA tragics), I submitted a proposal to SOTA MT (UK) for the recognition of 5 new VK1 SOTA summits of which Mount McDonald is one.  Fortunately SOTA MT (UK) agreed with my findings and now we (VK1 Association) have it, a new SOTA summit to climb and activate.   🙂

Wait for it…you have a summit named Yellow Rabbit Hill?  Yep another day…

The ascent to the summit (Mt McDonald) is 205 metres over 2.8 km, a fairly even and consistent grade taking 40 minutes (I was in a hurry).  Temperature was 30 degrees and jolly old me, well I was feeling the heat.  On a cooler day the walk would warm you up.  Sorry I didn’t have time to take the Cotter Dam lookout track and take pics, will leave that for another day.

Previous SOTA activator,  Andrew VK1MBE was very quick off the mark and hit the track last weekend. I will be the second Andrew to activate the summit, pressure is now on Andrew VK1DA or Andrew VK2FAJG to be the third and ahead of the non Andrew activators.   In case you are slightly interested in the popularity of names, the Australian SOTA activator group, which started on 1 Feb 12 with 1 activator and now 104 activators, is popular to activators named Andrew.  There are 8 Andrews, four live in the Canberra region.  We have regular Andrew to Andrew Summit to Summit (S2S) contacts or even triple Andrew (S2S) contacts.  There is a summit in the vicinity of Lake Burrinjuck appropriately named Black Andrew Mountain, one day we will coordinate a multi-activation with 8 Andrews on the summit.   🙂

Fig 1.

Mt McDonald GPS track log

Fig 1: Mt McDonald GPS track log

Fig 2.

Mt McDonald track profile

Fig 2: Mt McDonald track profile

Fig 3.

Ascent data

Fig 3: Ascent data, avg speed up hill 4.1 km/h, yep I was feeling it!

Information signs on the walks - distance and approximate timings

Information signs on the walks – distance and approximate timings

Secure gate and entrance to the track

Secure gate and entrance to the management track

VK1NAM SOTA shack on Mt McDonald

VK1NAM SOTA shack on Mt McDonald.  Yeasu FT857D powered by a 4.2 Ah LiFePO4 battery

Mt McDonald trig. The summit is a flat open area with ample space for a 40m dipole

Mt McDonald trig. The summit is a flat open area with ample space for a 40m dipole

There is a rock cairn on the west corner of the summit, it’s clearly not the summit peak.  Not sure of the relevance, perhaps the cairn was relocated some time ago?

SOTA action.  Arrived on the summit at 06:50 UTC, took a breather (that’s a rest period for hydration, 500 mils of water, it was hot!)  then set up the squid pole and link dipole using the trig as support.  When you step back a few metres a 7 metre squid pole on a summit is an impressive sight.   A couple of onlookers (nice friendly people) turned up, they too had made the climb to the summit and as you might expect were wondering why a very long fishing pole is semi-fixed to the trig?  I answered the obvious questions, got the usual puzzled looks and smiles.  Sorry folks if I seemed a tad impatient, I had SOTA DX to catch, the window of opportunity is very tight.

My plan was to work the one hour window between 07:30 and 08:30 UTC (18:30 to 19:30) and try to take advantage of the grey-line on the opposite side of the world.  This strategy or approach worked well throughout November and December, I would soon find out if it is still a concept or a proven method to make a successful S2S contact between Australia and distant summits in Europe.

I was on air at 07:15 UTC for 15 minutes of local chaser contacts on 7.090 MHz using 5 watts QRP.  In that short period I completed S2S contacts with Rod VK2LAX and Ed VK2JI both on Mt Elliot VK2/HU-093 on the NSW Central Coast and fellow activator Ian VK1DI positioned on Mt Ainslie VK1/AC-040.  Regular chasers were Peter VK3PF, Peter VK3FPSR, Al VK1RX, Mark VK1MDC, Greg VK2QE and Greg VK5GJ.

40m went silent and as per the plan I moved to 20m 14.310 MHz.  I think the EU/UK folk were waiting patiently.  I adjusted the link in the half wave dipole for 20m, changed the output power on the FT-857 to 45 watts then called CQ SOTA,  OMG!, can I say that again, OMG the pile up was huge and took the best part of a minute to find a recognisable callsign.  After a minute or two the group settled down sufficiently for me to start working through the list.  First was Michael DJ5AV in Germany then Mike G6TUH in Sussex and Viktor in Hungary.  Please check the extract of my log below for the full list of European and UK chasers.

I worked through the list of 20 EU/UK chasers and three VK chasers John VK6NU in Western Australia, Adam VK2YK in Newcastle and Matt VK1MAT in Canberra.  Next a couple of German stations started operating within 5 KHz causing interference (QRM), I moved to 14.335 and spotted myself on SOTAWatch using RRT.  Ian VK1DI reported in with similar results working multiple European and UK chasers from Mt Ainslie.  While chatting to Ian I heard Mike 2E0YYY, in the UK call ‘Summit to Summit’ (S2S) from G/SP-013 ‘Gun’ in the Southern Pennines.  Eureka, a rare UK S2S for the log and a new ‘G’ summit for the Mountain Hunter Award.  🙂

Yes lots of smiley faces in this post.

I had planned to be off the summit by 19:30 local but extended my time by a further 10 minutes, then another 10 minutes to pack up.  I made a last ditch ‘CQ SOTA’ call on 2m 146.5 FM simplex with the HT, looking for stragglers in Canberra.  Matt VK1MA called in, fortunately I was well inside the 25 metre activation zone.

Thanks everyone for a jam-packed evening on Mt McDonald, had loads of fun working through the pile up.   🙂

Extract of my SOTA log

UTC Band Mode Chaser Summit Details
7:15 7MHz SSB VK3PF Peter S59 R59
7:16 7MHz SSB VK3FPSR Peter S59 R59
7:16 7MHz SSB VK1RX Al S59 R59
7:18 7MHz SSB VK1MDC Mark S59 R59
7:20 7MHz SSB VK2LAX/P VK2/HU-093 Rod S2S VK2/HU-093 S58 R59
7:20 7MHz SSB VK2JI/P VK2/HU-093 Ed S2S VK2/HU-093 S58 R59
7:22 7MHz SSB VK2QE Greg S55 R53
7:24 7MHz SSB VK5GJ Greg S57 R57
7:26 7MHz SSB VK1DI/P VK1/AC-040 Ian S2S VK1/AC-040 S59 R59
7:35 14MHz SSB DJ5AV Michael S58 R57 Germany
7:36 14MHz SSB G6TUH Mike S56 R55 Sussex
7:37 14MHz SSB HA5LV Viktor S59 R56 Hungary
7:39 14MHz SSB ON5SWA Franc S56 R52 Belgium
7:41 14MHz SSB OE7FMH Franz S58 R57 in Innsbruck
7:43 14MHz SSB F6BIA Alain S57 R55 in Paris
7:44 14MHz SSB G4UXH Colin S58 R54 in the Lake District
7:46 14MHz SSB EA2LU Jorge S57 R55 Spain
7:47 14MHz SSB DJ3GG Rudi S59 R57 Germany
7:49 14MHz SSB F8FLK Tierry S57 R55 France
7:50 14MHz SSB IK2ILH Maurizio S58 R55 in Milano
7:51 14MHz SSB G4OBK Phil S59 R57 Yorkshire
7:53 14MHz SSB EA3HND Jamie S56 R55 Spain
7:54 14MHz SSB OH5HUZ Pekka S55 R56 Finland
7:55 14MHz SSB VK6NU John S53 R51 W.A.
7:57 14MHz SSB EA3BDE Sal S58 R55 Spain
7:58 14MHz SSB VK2YK Adam S51 R41 Newcastle
8:01 14MHz SSB IZ8LMR Renato S58 R55 in Sorrento
8:03 14MHz SSB OE9HRV Herbert S58 R45 Austria
8:05 14MHz SSB G3MWV Dave S58 R56 in Cromer
8:08 14MHz SSB ON4TA Phil S58 R51 Belgium
8:11 14MHz SSB DF5WA Berthold S59 R57 in Mainz
8:25 144MHz FM VK1MAT Matt S59 R59 Canberra
8:35 14MHz SSB 2E0YYY/P G/SP-013 Mike S2S G/SP-013 S51 R31 17,000km
8:50 144MHz FM VK1MA Matt S59 R59 Canberra

I do enjoy chatting to people on summits explaining the role of Amateur Radio in the community, particularly our role through WICEN in supporting community events and the provision of support to emergency services providing critical HF or VHF backup during natural disasters.  Take a few minutes to read the role Amateur Radio played during Cyclone Tracey. Whilst the example is from the 70s the same principals apply today.  In the application of SOTA, the operational field experience is valuable in testing the capability offered by Amateur Radio equipment and the ability to sustain ourselves.  (see health and essential services)


5 thoughts on “SOTA DX – Mount McDonald to EU and UK – 18 February 2014

  1. Pingback: SOTA – VK1AD portable 70cm update #14 – Mount McDonald | Get out of the Radio Shack and Live Life

  2. Pingback: SOTA DX from Mt Majura – 25 February 2014 | VK1NAM Summits on the Air (SOTA)

  3. Wow Andrew, that’s stunning. Can’t wait to sort out my home dipole to chase and for SOTA to start in VK6.

    • Hi Merton I will send to you the dimensions of my link dipole. I don’t use a balun, need to keep the antenna design simple for storage in the backpack. Instead I use two rf clamp chokes on the coax feed line very close to the feed point.

      What rig are you using? You are unlikely to copy SOTA on 40m from the eastern states, VK5 SOTA possibly. I would encourage you to upgrade to Standard or Advance licence as 20m offers more opportunities for SOTA reception. Don’t give up trying though. There are two regular SOTA chasers in VK6, see if you can contact Mike VK6MB or John VK6NU on 40m both are regular chasers on 20m.
      Andrew, VK1NAM

      • Hi Andrew. I’m using a Barrett 950 lent to me by a friend. Heavy, but currently vehicle mounted and easy to remove for base operation. Looking forward to the local Hamfest later this year to see what’s around. Made a portable dipole earlier this year that works on 40m and will tune up on 10m as well, oddly. Still looking at the physics behind that. It has a very small balun on it that is very light but can be removed easily. Tested it and managed to throw 10W approx 900km on 40m mid-afternoon.

        I’ve been reading the posts in the Yahoo group and getting hints on antenna gear from there and various blogs, including yours 🙂 Once I get my wire up and out of my local QRM at home I’ll be able to at least receive better. License upgrade is in the works. My email address is vk6fmtg at gmail dot com. Any input is greatly appreciated.

        BR & 73
        Merton VK6FMTG

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