Mt Gawler VK5/SE-013

On Sunday the 27th of October, I activated Mt Gawler, VK5/SE-013 for the Summits on the Air Program.

I thought I’d kill 2 birds with one stone, as this date was also the day of our 1 year anniversary lunch for SOTA in VK5, to be held in at the Kingsford Hotel in the town of Gawler, just a short distance from the mornings activation. I thought I’d go down early, and knock over the summit before enjoying a nice meal and catch-up with the great bunch of VK5’s that participate in the SOTA program.

Not surprisingly, just as I got going 1st thing on the Sturt Highway coming down, I found myself driving behind a familiar vehicle…Larry, VK5LY was travelling in front in his distinctive Toyota Hilux, bristling with antennas! I had gathered Larry was on the way down for the VK5 get together, so I gave him a shout on the local repeater, and sure enough, he was heading down early to activate Mt Gawler as well!

Great minds think alike, and I was pleased that this was going to be a dual activation. Larry is great fun, and a very knowledgable fella as well…we chatted most of the way down to Truro and beyond on 2M simplex to pass the time which made the trip less boring. Before we knew it, we had stopped for fuel, a quick bite to eat and were now scouting out Mt Gawler…

Mt Gawler is just north of Adelaide, and is worth 2 points. It’s an easy access Summit and can be activated from public roadside land at a couple of places that are well within the activation zone.

Mt Gawler

We found a location where there was a small clearing not very far from the actual Summit itself to operate from, parked the cars and walked to set up the gear.

We decided to just use the one squid pole and share the activating with just the one antenna/rig combination…Larry mentiond that he had a new “experimental” antenna he was willing to try but doubted, and was also keen to give his newly acquired X1M qrp Rig another workout.

Larry's X1M QRP rig...

Larry’s X1M QRP rig…

We strung up the Larry’s doubtful endfed contraption with its mystery matchbox, plugged it in to the X1M and instantly found that  we weren’t hearing much…at all…not even band noise…after self spotting on SOTA watch, we put out a few calls but it became obvious that our signal was waaaaay down, as local VK5’s were barely copying and our best report was 3 x 1!!! The decision was made to change the antenna to a link Dipole, which Larry pulled out from his trusty antenna box. We quickly pulled down the original antenna and hoisted the replacement up in record time as we were keen to work some stations before and after UTC changeover…this was a vast improvement , and we began to make contacts, but signals were still down a bit. We then switched rigs to my FT817ND an i noticed an immediate increase in the background noise, whether this was because of increased sensitivity or just having louder audio, it was a lot easier for me to work stations, which had now had started to form a nice little pile up for both Larry and myself.


Larry, VK5LY working the pileup on 40M…

Daytime conditions on 40M were not that flash, something I have noticed on 40M since the spring equinox at the beginning of this month. We switched to 30M briefly before packing up to head of for lunch, and self spotted on SOTA watch. Ed, VK2JI/P on VK2/HU-076 popped up with a very nice signal for a S2S…followed closely by Tony, VK3CAT with an equally strong signal. I feel 30M is the way to go heading in to summer for these morning activations, signals just seem that much better than 40 lately. Hopefully more activators and chasers will use this band.

VK5LA operating 30M...

VK5LA operating 30M…(VK5LY Photo)

All in all a successful activation, even though conditions weren’t all that great. I was a bit disappointed in the X1M QRP rig, It doesn’t have enough volume in its recovered audio for me to be even remotely interested in purchasing one. As a wearer of hearing aids, I need my audio to be LOUD! The display, although bright enough in daylight to read, was too small for my liking. It also seemed a little “deaf” on RX, like me!!! Larry mentioned that there was no AGC action in the radio either. They are considerably cheaper than an FT817 though, and would be a consideration for those looking for a SOTA capable rig on a budget…

Larry and I packed up afterwards and headed into Gawler for the 1 year VK5 SOTA anniversary lunch at the Kingsford Hotel. This was extremely enjoyable, and I was able to catch up with some of our other VK5 SOTA tragics, including Paul VK5PAS, Ian VK5CZ, John VK5BJE, Keith VK5OQ, and Andy VK5AKH and others, where we all enjoyed a few beers/wines and some fabulous food. Various bits and pieces of radio gear were pulled out of a variety of bags for show and tell, which capped off the afternoon nicely!

See you on a summit!

Andy – VK5LA


SOTA VK5/SE-005 Mt Lofty

Date: 08/06/2013 – 09/06/2013

Time 23:20 – 01:00 UTC

Weather: Overcast. Forecast Fine 18 . Activation Temp. on Summit 9 Deg C

On Sunday the 9th of June (local), I successfully activated Mt Lofty, SE-005 for my very first SOTA summit…


The view from VK5/SE-005…

This was a going to be a lot of fun! After leaving my accommodation nice and early for a breakfast stop,  (Think ridiculous clown and a big yellow “M”) a leisurely drive up the South Eastern Freeway had me in the summit carpark with plenty of time to walk out and back into the activation zone before finding a place to set up and be out of the way of the hordes of people flocking to this place!

Mt Lofty has a very nice, well patronised Cafe right at the summit that is a Mecca for the Lycra/ Gym  Junkie types of all shapes and sizes, from dusk ’till dawn. It’s busy. REAL busy! Cyclists ride from near and far to it, and Fitness freaks traverse up the very popular but steep walking trail from Waterfall Gully some 7.5 Km away. Walking in and out of the activation zone the required distance just about killed me! Must work on the fitness Andrew!!!

There was no way I was going to set up near the cafe, so I chose a spot just to the north/north-east of the car park, just off of one of the many cycling/walking tracks…

The operating position at VK5/SE-005 Mt Lofty...

The operating position at VK5/SE-005 Mt Lofty…

This seemed as good a place as any, so I set up the trusty End Fed Half Wave for 40M inverted L style on the 9 M squid pole and occy strapped it to the trunk of some foliage and ran the top part out to a high branch out of harms way. WX wise I was protected from any wind but I didn’t have to worry as it was actually not bad, 9 degrees. I was lucky!

My FT817ND in its Crumpler "Haven" bag...

My FT817ND in its Crumpler “Haven” bag…

Firing up on 7.090 Mhz, I hit the airwaves at 23:28 UTC and Paul,VK5PAS/P came up from in the Pt Clinton Conservation Park, on his way to activating some SOTA and Parks on Eyre Peninsular was the first to answer my CQ call. I was then immediately spotted by VK2JI on the SOTA goat and the stations came thick and fast. It was evident that I had a problem though, as soon as I dropped the PTT, an awful switch mode noise came over the frequency at S9 for a few seconds then disappeared, enough to momentarily block out the stations calling. I soon realised that my new u-beaut DC DC converter for dropping the LiPo battery voltage down was a dismal failure in its current form! I had seen Andrew VK1NAM, using one on his activations in his photo’s so I decided to try one, but it looks like it might have to go in a metal enclosure with some bypass caps…

After disconnecting it I hurried back to the waiting pileup and worked VK3PF, VK1MDC, VK3JM and VK2UH before Marshall VK3MRG/P called me from VK3/VN-017 for my first S2S! Grinning uncontrollably, I continued with VK2JI, VK3CAT, VK3TCX, VK3MCD, VK3PI and Allen,VK3HRA/P called from VK3/VN-012, for S2S number #2. Rick, VK4KRX/5 wanted a contact for the VK Shires Contest and I happily obliged…Things then quieted down so I took a short break and checked the gear and had a drink and a bite to eat before starting again after the UTC rollover…

I self spotted on SOTA Goat and was instantly welcomed by VK5PAS, VK3PF, VK3TCX, VK2UH, VK3DET, VK3AMB, VK3PI, VK3MRG/P on VN-017, VK1MDC,VK5UG, VK5LY, VK3BYD, VK5EMI, VK5FMID, VK3HRA/P on VN-012, VK5NRG, VK3GHZ,VK3KAN/P and VK2JI…This site is also part of the Cleland Conservation Park so I was able to qualify this park for several stations chasing the VK5 National and Conservation Parks award

After things went quiet again I packed up the HF station and tried 146.500FM. I called CQ and  listened for a while after self spotting on the SOTA Goat but the front end of the handheld I was using was pretty much swamped by RF and I didn’t hear anyone!

I finished around 1:30 UTC and headed into the previously mentioned Cafe and intergrated with the fit looking by rewarded myself with one of these…!


All in all a great morning, a lot of fun and I learnt that I’ll need to equip myself a bit better in the back pack department and get some proper walking/hiking shoes if I’m going to do many more activations… As I knew Mt Lofty would be busy people wise, I left the VHF Yagi at home, but it will definitely come with me on the next summit!

Sunday’s chasing…

“There is nothing quite so much fun, as messing about with Radio”

After a couple of months of not chasing much SOTA with life getting in the way, I was able to fire up the HF rig from around 8:30 am on Sunday morning and have a good listen around. I was able to pretty much keep the rig on all day and listen out for the goat bleating alert from the most excellent SOTAgoat app to let me know of what was happening around VK!

This is what I ended up with for the day, between chores, shopping, and some plumbing repairs and the construction of an End Fed Half Wave for 40M

18/May/2013 23:42 VK1DI/P VK1/AC-038 Mt Tuggeranong 7MHz SSB
18/May/2013 23:46 VK3MRG/P VK3/VC-007 Mt Macedon 7MHz SSB
18/May/2013 23:47 VK3KAN/P VK3/VS-049 Crowsnest Lookout 7MHz SSB
19/May/2013 00:05 VK3YY/P VK3/VE-011 Mt Stirling 7MHz SSB
19/May/2013 00:05 VK3KAB/P VK3/VE-011 Mt Stirling 7MHz SSB
19/May/2013 00:12 VK3KAN/P VK3/VS-049 Crowsnest Lookout 7MHz SSB
19/May/2013 00:50 VK5PAS/P VK5/SE-009 VK5/SE-009 7MHz SSB
19/May/2013 01:18 VK5CZ/P VK5/SE-009 VK5/SE-009 7MHz SSB
19/May/2013 04:30 VK5PAS/P VK5/SE-002 Mt Cone 7MHz SSB
19/May/2013 06:22 VK3MRG/P VK3/VC-034 Pretty Sally 7MHz SSB
19/May/2013 06:27 VK3YY/P VK3/VE-204 The Paps 7MHz SSB
19/May/2013 06:51 VK3HRA/P VK3/VC-002 Mt Donna Buang 7MHz SSB

Highlight for me was the final contact of the day with Alan VK3HRA/P on the new antenna.


Testing out the EFHW with Alan, VK3HRA/P who was on Mt Donna Buang…