Mt Majura VK1/AC-034 890 metres ASL, Canberra Nature Park
How many times have you turned on your rig to find you are receiving S8 noise from various noise sources i.e. Plasma TVs, computer power supplies, air conditioners or noisy power lines? How many of you have spent hundreds of dollars on ‘black box’ solutions to treat your noise problems with little success? How many of you are so frustrated with the noise levels you are on the edge of giving up on amateur radio? Believe it or not there is a way out of the noise quagmire. Would you like make 40 to 50 contacts around the south-east states of Australia or long haul to VK4 and VK6 and even more exciting, work DX into Europe with 5 to 40 watts output?
Do you have a low power rig sitting on the bench gathering dust, or a mid size rig that will fit comfortably in a back pack? If the answers are yes then there is a ready-made solution to your noise problem. It’s amateur radio Summits on the Air (SOTA), a lightweight portable operation from hill tops or mountains peaks. There is a growing movement of SOTA operators in Australia (VK) who are now realising the benefits of leaving the shack and deploying a back packable station on a nearby noise free summit.
Here is an example of what you can achieve on a week day evening, in the 90 minute period before sunset. On Sunday 24 Feb 14 I checked the weather forecast for the next seven days, Monday and Tuesday in VK1 are fine with a max temperature around 30 degrees. I decided I would activate a local VK1 summit Mt Majura VK1/AC-034 on the north-east fringe of the Canberra suburbs. Access to the summit is from McKenzie Street Hackett, walking (or running) along a 2.5 km track known as the Canberra Centenary Trail.
I posted an activator’s alert on SOTAWatch for 07:30 UTC (18:30 local) and posted a note on the SOTAWatch reflector. Don’t underestimate the value of using the SOTAWatch reflector. Posting a note provides the opportunity for potential DX chasers and activators to write back to you, providing you with vital information on their SOTA station configuration plus the potential for Summit to Summit (S2S) activity. When posting a note on the reflector be careful with your timing. You should give other activators plenty of warning to allow them to plan ahead. Say you post a note 12 hours ahead of your activation here in VK, most of Europe is sleeping, very few activators/chasers will have the opportunity to read your note until it’s too late. I recommend posting a note 48 hours earlier, it’s worked for me every time.
In this case Mike G6TUH and Don G0RQL replied as potential chasers. Saku OH2NOS in Finland advised he would be activating and would try for a S2S.
Equipment used at Mt Majura: Yaesu FT-857D, 20/40 link dipole, 4.2 Ah 4S LiFePO4 battery, 7 metre squid pole, 3 occy straps, log book, pen, mobile phone with RRT or SOTA Goat, food and water. I do carry a first aid kit.
Started the activation at 06:50 UTC on 40m working 8 VK stations including a S2S with Ian VK1DI/P on Mt Taylor in the southern suburbs of Canberra. While working 40m I kept an eye on SOTAWatch looking for EU/UK activator spots. Saku OH2NOS posted a spot, I moved to 20 listening on his posted frequency and could hear a very faint voice. The noise floor on Mt Majura is very low. I continued listening to EU chasers working Saku for 5 minutes. I made a few ‘blind’ calls to see if I could break in nothing came of that. Next I moved to my posted frequency 14.310, there were two German stations on 14.305 running high power with QRM all over 14.310. I moved up 5 KHz to 14.315 for clear air. Posted an alert using RRT, then realised I had posted the wrong summit reference VK1/AC-035 One Tree Hill instead of VL1/AC-034 Mt Majura, typo. Fiddled around on SOTAWatch to fix my error, in the meantime I could hear EU stations starting to call me. Fixing the error seemed to take for ever as the phone reloaded the SOTAWatch page. Phew fixed!
At 07:10 UTC I made the CQ SOTA call, first in the pile up was Mike G6TUH followed by Thomas DL1DVE. Next a big surprise was Herbert OE9HRV/P calling ‘summit to summit’ a familiar phrase to my ears, from an Austrian summit OE/VB-509 Hirschberg with an excellent 5-8 signal. Following Herbert was Brendan VK4MAC in Queensland and Viktor HA5LV (a regular chaser) in Hungary, as always a big signal Viktor! 🙂
A few minutes later a second summit to summit call emerged from the radio speaker, Mike 2E0YYY/P on Gun G/SP-013, Mike’s signal was in the clear at 5-5.
31 DX contacts across 10 countries: England, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Slovak Republic, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Denmark, Holland and Sweden.
VK states worked: VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5 and VK6.
Thanks all chasers and a big thanks to the DX activators for getting out early in the cold weather.
Extract of my SOTA Activator Log:
|6:50||7MHz||SSB||VK5WG||Nev S58 R43|
|6:52||7MHz||SSB||VK2FPQ||Graham S59 R56|
|6:55||7MHz||SSB||VK2IO/M||Gerard S59 R56|
|6:59||7MHz||SSB||VK1MDC||Mark S59 R59|
|6:59||7MHz||SSB||VK2YK||Adam S59 R59|
|7:00||7MHz||SSB||VK1DI/P||VK1/AC-037||Ian S2S VK1/AC-037 S59 R59|
|7:02||7MHz||SSB||VK2DAG||Matt S56 R56|
|7:04||7MHz||SSB||VK3FPSR||Peter S55 R21|
|7:10||14MHz||SSB||G6TUH||Mike S55 R55 Sussex|
|7:12||14MHz||SSB||DL1DVE||Thomas S54 R53 Germany|
|7:13||14MHz||SSB||OE9HRV/P||OE/VB-509||Herbert S2S OE/VB-509 S58 R57|
|7:15||14MHz||SSB||VK4MAC||Brendan S57 R58|
|7:17||14MHz||SSB||HA5LV||Viktor S59 R56 Hungary|
|7:19||14MHz||SSB||2E0YYY/P||G/SP-013||Mike S2S G/SP-013 S55 R41|
|7:20||14MHz||SSB||ON5SWA||Francois S57 R54 Belgium|
|7:23||14MHz||SSB||OM1AX||Vlado S55 R53 Slovak Republic|
|7:24||14MHz||SSB||IK2ILH||Maurizio S57 R53 Milano|
|7:25||14MHz||SSB||G4UXH||Colin S58 R53 Lake District|
|7:26||14MHz||SSB||G0VWP||Terry S58 R56 Yorkshire|
|7:27||14MHz||SSB||G0RQL||Don S59 R57 Devon|
|7:29||14MHz||SSB||ON3EA||Eddy S56 R53 Belgium|
|7:30||14MHz||SSB||EA4FJX||Javier S57 R53 Madrid|
|7:32||14MHz||SSB||G4TJC||Simon S55 R42 Glossop|
|7:33||14MHz||SSB||OE5CCN||Christian S57 R57 Austria|
|7:34||14MHz||SSB||HA8IE||Feri S59 R57 Hungary|
|7:38||14MHz||SSB||OK1IEC||Jiri S55 R45 Czech Republic|
|7:39||14MHz||SSB||PH9HB||Jerry S57 R44 Opperdoes|
|7:40||14MHz||SSB||SA4BLM||Lars S57 R57 Sweden|
|7:43||14MHz||SSB||I1CHC||Renzo S59 R57 Italy|
|7:45||14MHz||SSB||OE7PHI||John S55 R44 Austria|
|7:47||14MHz||SSB||OK2SW||Jaromir S58 R55 Czech Republic|
|7:49||14MHz||SSB||OZ4RT||John S57 R55 Denmark|
|7:52||14MHz||SSB||VK6MB||Mike S55 R57|
|7:55||14MHz||SSB||ON4CCI||Hugo S55 R54 Belgium|
|7:57||14MHz||SSB||G4OBK||Phil S59 R57 Pickering|
|7:59||14MHz||SSB||VK6NU||John S55 R55|
|8:00||14MHz||SSB||OK1SDE||Dalibor S57 R33 Czech Republic|
|8:02||14MHz||SSB||OE7HPI||Holger S55 R42 Austria|
|8:03||14MHz||SSB||DJ5AV||Michael S58 R57 Germany|
|8:16||14MHz||SSB||VK5PAS||Paul S55 R51|
|8:19||144MHz||FM||VK1DA/P||VK1/AC-042||Andrew S2S VK1/AC-042 S59 R59|
|8:24||14MHz||SSB||M0WYZ||Keith S59 R57 Dudley|
|8:24||14MHz||SSB||ON4BB||Luke S59 R55 Belgium|
|8:25||14MHz||SSB||DF5WA||Berthold S59 R55 Germany|
Local wildlife: Eastern grey kangaroos