Activating Mt Cotton VK4/SE-115

This was one summit I have wanted to activate for quite some time, partly due its proximity and partly due to the excellent Sirromet Winery nearby. So when Sunday 30 April dawned with beautiful clear skies, I knew it was time. My wife decided this would also make an excellent day out.

The drive to the base of the summit took about 40 minutes. We parked at the bottom in a designated car park and headed for the gate that heralded the beginning of the path up.

This is the beginning of the path up to the summit.

Fortunately the path up is sealed, which made walking up easier, even though it was rather steep at times.

It took us 22 minutes to walk up to the summit.

Once at the top it was simply a matter of seeking out the best operating position. This was important as there are a couple of communication towers there and I didn’t want interference.

The going was tough at times.

I found a suitable spot among a pile of rocks, so I erected the long wire antenna on my squid pole, and connected it up to my Elecraft KX1. It tuned up beautifully on 20m and 40m. For power I use six internal AA 1.5v batteries that give me between 1 and 2 watts output to play with.

It was quite comfortable, really.

I put out my first call on 20m and within seconds was answered by VK3CAT in Victoria. Not bad for 2 watts. I then switched to 40m (only 1 watt) and worked VK2NP, VK2BJT and VK4TJ.

I find the Pico Paddle a wonderful device to use with the KX1. It is magnetically held in place on the tin plate on my home brewed QSO board.

That was sufficient for the activation to count, so it was time to pack up and head off down and to lunch at Sirromet.


SOTA Activation of Mt Tamborine, VK4/SE-059

Mt Tamborine is an iconic Aussie tourist destination situated in the Gold Coast hinterland. The summit is right in the middle of a suburb but fortunately there is a good lookout in the Tamborine National Park very nearby.

This activation was a good chance for me to try out my new Pico Paddle with my Elecraft KX1.

I had ordered a Pico plate as well; this is a thin plated piece of metal with self-adhesive tabs on the back. The idea is for this to stick onto whatever surface you want to mount the paddle on. I decided to mount mine on my newly made QSO board.

After erecting my squid pole to secure the end of a 24 foot long wire to, I ran out the two counterpoises and connected up the rig.

Installing the long wire antenna.

Installing the long wire antenna.

Then I began calling on 20m.

This was my first attempt at using my new QSO board, with the Pico Paddle mounted in place.

This was my first attempt at using my new QSO board, with the Pico Paddle mounted in place.

It wasn’t long before I realised the Pico plate was simply not up to the job; the paddle began moving around. The magnets were just not strong enough, even though my sending was gentle. I would need to fix this.

Anyway, the bands were in bad shape and I only managed three contacts all morning. Those were with ZL1BYQ and VK7CW on 20m, and VK4EKA on 40m. I also tried SSB with my Yaesu FT-817 on both bands but to no avail.

Back home I began modifying my QSO board.

The Pico Paddle with the Pico plate in place on the board.

The Pico Paddle with the Pico plate in place on the board.

A quick email to Palm Radio in Germany brought the suggestion that I should try using a metal plate instead of the Pico plate, so I raided my workshop and cut a piece of plate to fit. This was then hot glued into place.

The Pico Paddle now attaches itself really firmly to my board, thanks to the metal plate.

The Pico Paddle now attaches itself really firmly to my board, thanks to the metal plate.

Now to head back to Mt Tamborine some day to give it a go. Perhaps then I will manage four contacts and score the two points that are on offer.

SOTA Activation of Mt Mundoonen

Saturday 13 February 2016 dawned hot, with clear skies; a great day to head for the hills and activate another summit.

Tony, VK1VIC , collected me from outside my apartment in Canberra at 9am sharp. It was only a 35 minute drive into New South Wales and up Mt Mundoonen (VK2/ST-053). This time I was going to rely on my Elecraft KX1 at 1W and my Buddistick vertical antenna. Tony would be using his new Elecraft KX3 (the big brother to the KX1) and a trap dipole antenna supported by a squid pole.

Mt Mundoonen (1).JPG

Tony VK1VIC at his operating position

Tony is still getting used to using CW and loved the chance of working some true “gentlemen” who gave him lots of encouragement. He has also recently acquired a Palm Paddle, which is an excellent piece of gear.

Mt Mundoonen (5)

Boy, was it hot up on this summit!

My operating position was far enough away from Tony so as to minimise interference as we would both be operating on the 40m band. The only nice and flat piece of ground I could find happened to be very close to a huge wire dipole that I believe is used for aircraft business.

Mt Mundoonen (4).JPG

I wish I had one like this at my QTH!

All in all, we had a very successful day. I added nine contacts to my log, including two Summit-to-Summit contacts with Andrew, VK1AD, who activated VK2/SW-034 and VK2/SW-027.

Mt Majura; another VK1 activation

On Thursday 9 December Andrew (VK1AD) and I set out after work to activate Mt Majura (VK1/AC-034). Being only some 5.9km from my apartment, this summit was a comfortable evening expedition, thanks to daylight saving time.

Don’t be misled by the one point this summit is worth. Although it is only some 890m high, when you climb it is sure feels ten times that.


That’s where we were heading.


It always amazes me what you come across when you get out of the shack and into the great outdoors. Andrew heard this scuffling sound in the grass and spotted a Shingleback Lizard, also know as a Stumpy-tailed Lizard.


When the lizard is threatened, it turns towards the threat, opens its mouth wide and sticks out its blue tongue, which contrasts with the bright pink mouth. 

Once we arrived on the summit, we wasted no time setting up and getting on air. It would only be an hour or so before we needed to head back down as we didn’t want to be on the mountain in the dark.


As always, I erected my Buddistick antenna and connected up my Elecraft KX1 transceiver. Power output was 1W

Andrew was concentrating on the 10m and 6m bands that are part of the SOTA challenge.


Andrew set up his station near the trig beacon

I was more than happy with the ten CW contacts I made on 20m and 40m.

On the way down we came across some of the locals, who seemed interested in what we were doing there.



DX on 1.5W from a SOTA summit

Who said life is too short for QRP? Not true. Let me explain …

Andrew (VK1AD who used to be VK1NAM) and I activated Mt Goorooyarro (yes, say that with your teeth out!) which lies on Canberra’s border with New South Wales the other evening and it was up there that I made my first real DX contact with my Elecraft KX1.

But let me start at the beginning and save the juicy bits for later.

Mt Goorooyarro (VK1/AC-036) has an altitude of 872m and comes with only one SOTA activator’s point as a result. But don’t let this minimal number fool you; it lies on private property behind a locked gate with a sign warning visitors to keep out as there are unexploded ordinances there. This area, you see, used to be a military firing range and even today it borders on a range that is still in use by the military.

We had permission as long as we kept to the track to the top. So we parked the car on the dirt road near the gate, hoisted our backpacks on and made for the gate.

It was an easy matter to climb over, but not so easy to keep our eyes from that warning sign.


That sign! Scaling the gate backwards was the way to go.

The walk up to the summit took about 45 minutes with the going ranging from easy to pantingly tough. But we did pass some interesting sights.


We did wonder how these old cars got there.


Andrew with one of the many ant hills we encountered.

Once on the summit, we set up our stations and set to work.

Now for that juicy bit I alluded to earlier.

I heard Bernard, F9IE calling on 14.028 CW and as no one responded, I did. And he answered! We had a lovely, longish QSO, which was my first SOTA DX contact. My station consisted of the Elecraft KX1 putting out 1.5W and a Buddistick vertical antenna. Then I worked a JA station (JL1MUT) but conditions were noisy at his end.

That got me thinking about the magic of QRP. Think of it this way: if 100W gets you a S9 reading on someone’s S-meter, what will that same meter read you if you were, like me, putting out a meagre 1.5W?

Here’s the thing: it takes four time the power to move the S-meter one S unit. So going the other way, it takes a signal four times as weak to move the S-meter one S unit down.

So if 100W registers an S9, 25W will register S8, 6W will register S7 and 1.5W will register S6. Remember, we are reducing power by a magnitude of four each time.

So is life really too short for QRP?


Activating Mt Ainslie VK1/AC-040

Although I have already activated Mt Ainslie, I decided to walk up there again on Sunday 5 July as Andrew, VK1NAM would be activating VK1/AC-044 Boboyan Ranges, which is a four-pointer.

My plan was to do a summit to summit contact on 2m FM.

The day dawned cold and wintery, and for Canberra that means foggy too. So it was on with the cold weather gear, including beanie and gloves. I also packed my backpack with my Elecraft KX1, Buddistick antenna, tripod, coax and headphones. Seeing I was up there I would get onto CW as well.

The walk from my city apartment was via the Australian War Memorial and up the pathway to the summit from the Remembrance Nature Park at rear of this world class museum.

The walk would be 4.5 km return, with some sections being quite steep. The walk is called the Kakoda Track. The path is good and the trees along the way are fantastic, especially when shrouded in mist.

A winter wonderland on the way up.

A winter wonderland on the way up.

At the top I made contact with Andrew on FM and bagged another S2S point. Then I worked VK1VIC and VK1GVC, also on 2m FM. Time now to set up the CW station.

While walking along the summit to find a good location to erect the antenna, I came across Al, VK1RX, who had erected a wonderful homebrew 10m two element yagi. He was well into working the USA as part of the 6m and 10m challenge.

Al, VK1RX in the thick of 10m action.

Al, VK1RX in the thick of 10m action.

Once I was organised, I put out a spot and began calling CQ. It wasn’t long before the calls began coming in. I worked VK3PF, VK3AFW, VK2IO, VK2AOH and VK3HRA in quick succession. I was delighted. As I was only using six internal AA alkaline batteries, I was only putting out 1w, so this was well and truly a QRP activation.

That being the end of the activation, I packed up and headed back down the mountain. My SOTA scores are now:
Activator’s Log: 8 points
Chaser’s Log: 25 points
Summit to Summit: 20 points.

Activating Black Mountain VK1/AC-042

Sunday 28 June arrived, cold and foggy. Early morning temperature in Canberra CBD was around 1 Degree C. It was the day I had decided to activate Black Mountain as it is one of the easy ones to get to. It is one of the tourist destinations and is on the bus route.

As I approached, I could see the Telstra Tower that is located on the summit just poking out of the clouds.

You can just make out the tower in the clouds.

You can just make out the tower in the clouds.

By the time I disembarked from the bus, the imposing tower was very impressive indeed. I wondered if all that transmitting gear would interfere with my signals, especially 2m FM.


The Telstra Tower is an impressive sight from my operating position.

I set up my Buddistick antenna and tuned it for 20m and 40m. SWR came in at around 1.1 with the help of the built in ATU in my Elecraft KX1 so I was happy.

The Buddistick in position amongst the trees on the summit.

The Buddistick in position amongst the trees on the summit.

Operating CW at 15 words per minute is my favourite mode of operation. And with six internal AA alkaline batteries, the rig was putting out a constant 1W, which was fine for the job. I made contact with four stations; VK2CCW, VK2COX, VK3BYD and VK2YW. Then it was time to disassemble the station and head for home.

This summit has a brass plaque to let visitors know how high up it is.

Some useful information here.

Some useful information here.

Black Mountain only counts for 1 point, but that’s OK. I spend an enjoyable hour there using, and proving, my portable radio set-up.