My first SOTA activation

Today I activated my first summit. I think this aspect of amateur radio is going to be addictive!

The summit I chose to activate was Mt Ainslie in Canberra. I chose this as it isn’t too far from where I am staying as I would be relying on leg power to get there. Also, being close to the CBD I figured there would be a fair chance of making some contacts. Bearing in mind that four are needed for the activation to count, I didn’t want to waste a Sunday without results.

I needn’t have worried.

I started out by posting an entry on the SOTA web page announcing my intentions and the time I anticipated commencing operations.

The gear I would be taking included my Elecraft KX1, Buddistick antenna, headphones and a length of RG58 coax. I also packed in my Yaesu FT-250 for 2m work and my Jingtong for 70cm. All this fitted nicely into my backpack, but I would need to carry my camera tripod, upon which I mount the Buddistick, by hand as it wouldn’t fit into the backpack. A bottle of water and some lunch completed my kit.

I set out at 8:35am local time and after about 35 minutes arrived at the turn off to Mt Ainslie.

Now for the hard part - uphill all the way.

Now for the hard part – uphill all the way.

I arrived at my destination one hour fifteen minutes after leaving my QTH. That was some walk! Climbing to the summit took the best part of 45 minutes and was very tiring; I had to stop and rest no less than three times.

Once at the summit I located a nice quiet spot out of the way of people and set up my gear. It took a fair while to tune the Buddistick but I eventually achieved an SWR on 40m of 1.7:1, and 1.9:1 on 20m. Power levels were 1.5W for both bands as I had chosen to load six alkaline AA cells into the KX1.

I found this large rock to sit on during the activation.

I found this large rock to sit on during the activation.

At the advertised time I put out a CQ full of enthusiasm, but this soon began to fade as nobody replied. I tried both HF frequencies without luck, then tried the VHF and UHF frequencies, both of which were dead quiet.

Then the calls started.

For the next two hours I fielded calls from as far away as Victoria (VK3-land) which was most gratifying.

I was interested to note that of the eight stations I worked, only the first five were at 1.5W. The batteries faded pretty fast after that with 1W being all I could squeeze out of the rig. By the time I had made my 8th contact, battery power was down to 0.7W, which was too low for me to operate the rig’s internal ATU.

VHF and UHF saw no activity at all, so all that was left was for me to dismantle my station, pack up and begin the long walk back home.

As soon as I had cooled down, I fired up my computer and logged the contacts into the SOTA database. Mt Ainslie (VK1/AC-40), which is situated at grid square QF44NR, is worth 1 point, so I am on my way to Mountain Goat status!


10 thoughts on “My first SOTA activation

  1. Way to go Grant!
    I should like to make a few comments;

    Battery. I suggest you invest in a Lithium ion battery. I have used a DC 1298A which are available from eBay at very good prices including charger, with shipping included. I use it for my FT817 and I can put out the full 5 watts for a long period. It puts out about 11 volts 9,800mAh and is the size of a pack of cards (OK a bit longer than a pack of cards.) Bear in mind that the FT817 can tolerate low voltages and still put out 5 watts on CW. Not sure about the KX1

    Reading your blog I am not sure if you were SSB or CW. I always thought of you as a CW person but maybe a microphone is lighter than a paddle. The Palm Mini Paddle is lightweight too.

    It seems as if the wx was good to you. I guess you have to be fit to get to the summit and the less weight you have to carry the better for you.

    I never got up to the summits in the Drakensberg, but I did mark them out for SOTA before leaving for New Zealand.
    Ian ZL2AIM

    • Ian, Yes that’s my next purchase. But they will have to be AA ones for the internal tray as it’s risky flying with batteries when using the major airlines. They had me unpack my bag and looked long and hard at my radio gear when I flew to Canberra. I wouldn’t like my chances with lithiums in my luggage.

    • Yes, the Buddistick has a length of wire for the counterpoise that attaches to the base plate. I wound off around 20 feet and left the rest to the internal ATU. The KX1 is CW only.

  2. Grant, well done indeed. I would love to be also active in the Sota activation, but I hate sports. So I tried to push Vota (Valleys on the Air) but to no avail. So I was sitting today on a little hill only 30 minutes to walk and no summit and worked “only” stations, but it was fun. Keep up!

  3. Hi Grant,

    Sorry didn’t get more advanced notice of your activation. The SOTA guys here is VK1 will usually help out any visitors with VHF contacts if we know when you are going to be on air.

    Your spot on Mt Ainslie doesn’t look familiar, wonder where it was. Usually operate from the round metal thing on the true summit. My SOTA blog

    73 Ian VK1DI

    • Hi Ian,

      I set up just near the top, on the approach road in a safe spot where I could sit on a nice flat rock and have the Buddistick’s counterpoise stretched out out of the way of passing pedestrians. I was overlooking the city and had a nice clear take off angle etc. I plan to activate as many other summits as I can, so look forward to many more contacts.

    • Hi Andrew,
      Being new to SOTA I am still finding my way and learning the ‘tricks of the trade’. I must say, this is turning out to be the best fun in amateur radio. And being CW only, I think I should attract the attention of many chasers. Looking forward to working you on my next activation. And living in a city apartment in Canberra, I can’t chase activations either as there isn’t the room for me to erect my antenna. Such is life.

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