The start of the New Year brings with it the opportunity to revisit summits that had been activated the previous year and gain points from them again. For the changeover to 2015 there were many SOTA activations planned, and with the prospect of so many contacts possible, I joined the throng. For the festive season I was already holidaying with family on the NSW Central Coast and with easy access to Mt Elliot VK2/HU-093 decided to reactivate this summit for the third time for the year rollover. Mt Elliot is a few km NE of Gosford and about 70km N of Sydney.
Antenna and operating point
My last activation of Mt Elliot was in July 2014 and I set up at the same location on the picnic table after doing the walk out of the activation zone along the Graves Walk. I used the 10m squid pole allowing my recently constructed ZS6BKW doublet antenna to be raised to nearly 9m. I have used this antenna on my last 4 activations and it is currently my favourite. For this activation I was aiming to work Compton VK2HRX on VK2/CT-012 on 6m as well as the many activators in VK3 on 40m and some in VK6 on 20m/15m. Compton’s summit was virtually due west from Mt Elliot so I figured orienting the antenna broadside to the south-west would give me the coverage I was looking for. Due to the 28m length of this antenna, the pattern on 6m has many lobes. The evening before I had visited the summit to assess the operating location and direction of the antenna and also the 2m repeaters that were in range.
Everything went to plan. My alert time of 2300z was matched by the first contact at 2259z. There had been many alerts posted on SOTAwatch nominating a 2300z kick-off time with a few posted for half an hour earlier. A few spots had appeared by the time I got started so it was time to hunt for these other summit operators in the hope of catching them all before the UTC rollover. There wasn’t a moment to lose!
Most of my activations I try to start on CW to qualify it and then shift to SSB. Today’s strategy was different – work as many summits as possible regardless of mode. I started going through all the spots on SOTAwatch on 40m SSB. Propagation on 40m was good as I was easily able to work Paul VK5PAS on Mt Bryan VK5/SW-001 over a 1100km path and I was getting into southern VK3 as well. It would turn out to be a good day on the bands.
Within 15 minutes a spot appeared from Compton on 6m so I switched bands and turned up the volume expecting a weak signal over the 111km path. His call jumped out of the speaker and he was a good 5×3. Then I heard Andrew VK1NAM calling from Mt Tumanang VK2/SM-049, a distance of 315km and gave him a 5×2 report. The band was really buzzing. Unfortunately Andrew and Compton couldn’t hear each other, but these contacts were a real highlight for me. Next I wanted to do some CW on 40m. I tried to spot on 7030 kHz as Wayne VK3WAM was busy operating on my alerted frequency of 7032. RRT brought up an error on each attempt even though I had good mobile coverage, however I made three CW contacts without even spotting. By then it had ticked past 2330z so it was back to SSB to work more of the summits that had been spotted. Then another attempt to spot on 7075 kHz SSB but no joy. After several calls and no response I went back to hunting. I was lucky enough to be able to hear Justin VK7TW on Mt Marian VK7/SC-003 on 40m over an 1100km path. Shortly afterwards he was in the log with 3×3 received and 4×2 sent. Conditions were still holding. My last contact for 2014 was with Bob VK5FO on Mt Gawler VK5/SE-013 with 5×5 exchanged both ways. At that stage I had made 20 contacts with all but 2 being S2S. That seems a lot but there were many that I missed.
Rollover to 2015
My first contact for 2015 was with Paul VK5PAS so I certainly couldn’t complain about the conditions. Propagation on 40m was more like it is in winter yet I was basking under clear skies in the middle of summer with temps around 29 degrees. Contacts were being made into locations that are normally off the radar this far north in VK2. VK3EQ came up portable on Mt Wellington in Tasmania VK7/SC-001 for another 1100km path contact. After a bunch of S2S contacts I worked Andrew VK3BQ and he kindly put up a spot for me on 7135 kHz which led to a run of contacts with both summits and chasers. After 20 mins I switched to CW and 7032 was clear so I started calling. The Reverse Beacon Network skimmer at VK4CT heard and spotted me and then a bunch of CW contacts followed. After it went quiet I started looking for another way to spot on my mobile. I found the SOTA Spotter app and managed to get a spot out for 20m CW. This became my spotting app for the rest of the activation. The only disadvantage with it is that all fields are cleared when the spotting page is selected so everything has to be entered from scratch each time. The very big advantage is that the spots get through! (NB: I have since managed to send a spot with RRT)
Getting on for 2 hours after UTC rollover things had quietened down a lot, but there were still enough new activations to keep up the excitement level. Some of the pre-rollover activators were still on their peaks, but a lot had moved on. Anthony VK6MAC had a spot up for 28.510 but I heard nothing from him. I put up a spot on 15m SSB and within minutes Anthony called me for a S2S from Mt Dale VK6/SW-036. He may have been running 100W as he was 5×4 and I received 5×3. He then spotted himself just up the band and I expect made many more contacts. 15m would have been the band of choice for VK2 to VK6 contacts although I didn’t make any more. Later on I did work Nigel VK6NI and Mike VK6MB on 20m, but only received 4×1 reports.
Station on Mt Elliot picnic table
The sun was now streaming down on the picnic table and the radio was getting very hot, not to mention the operator. There was still shade in the grass nearby so I shifted the station down to there. The ribbon cable is a few metres longer than the squid pole so that restricts where one can set up, but that turned out to not be a problem. There was plenty of length so I diverted the slack through a short tree nearby to prevent it from dragging on the ground. I would have to lie on the ground myself for a while, but at least the radio was happier even if I was a bit less comfortable.
Hoping for a repeat 6m contact I sent a message to Compton VK2HRX, but unfortunately he had already packed up. I spotted myself on 52.200 but did not attract any chasers so went down to the bottom of the band. On 50.110 I heard Murray ZL3MH calling from Christchurch so went back to him and we shifted to 50.130 for a chat. Bedlam ensued as then many ZLs started calling me, unable to hear each other. I made three contacts into ZL with the best report being from Dave ZL1AKW of 5×7. I now have a better understanding why they call 6m the “magic band”. There were many more contacts possible, but more spots had appeared so I was keen to get back to chasing summit-to-summits on the DC bands. A whole bunch of 40m S2S contacts followed. Another contact was made with Justin VK7TW this time on Trestle Mountain VK7/SC-004. The QRN had come up so there was a storm happening somewhere, but even so the contact was reasonably comfortable.
Home on 7090
I found 7090 kHz was clear so decided to spot there and work anyone who had missed me on 7135 3 hours before. That brought 6 more contacts including some S2Ss. Andrew VK1NAM and Andrew VK1DA had shifted to Mt Cowangerong VK2/ST-001 for their second summit of the day. I would have been up for another try on 6m but it was early afternoon and likely to be poor conditions. I had listened for them and called them after rollover on their previous summit and not heard anything.
30m + 20m + 17m
Operating point on the ground
From then on the S2S contacts kept coming about every 10 mins so I stayed on the peak. At 0500z (3pm) it got a lot quieter so I spotted myself on 30m SSB and logged some more chasers, mainly from VK3 but also worked Stephen VK2RH who was staying nearby. After that I tried 20m SSB and worked VK6NI and VK6MB mentioned earlier. Finally I decided to give 17m SSB a try but there was no response to my calls on that band. By then I had run out of VK6 chasers I reckon.
Wayne VK3WAM had put up an alert for Mt Gordon VK3/VN-027 so I decided I would wait until he appeared before packing up. The weather was still nice and I hadn’t run out of water plus it would be great to get another CW S2S in the log. I had already worked Wayne 3 times on 2 different summits, so good to collect the whole set, so to speak. In the meantime I was content to tune around the bands and listen to some QSOs. True to form Wayne appeared a bit after his alerted time and an easy CW contact on 40m followed. I had been calling CQ on 7032 CW without spotting and Wayne suddenly replied. Great!
10 mins later I was thinking of packing up and a spot came up from Rob VK2QR and Brian VK3MCD on VK2/SM-036, an unnamed 10 point summit. I was in luck! I worked them both with good reports to end the activation. I packed up everything and then just about to head for the car when another spot appeared. It was Tim VK3MTB on Mt Hoddle VK3/VT-076. It was an easy decision not to set up again for a S2S. I strolled to the car and worked him as a chaser, the last chaser contact for the day.
That was the end of my epic activation of Mt Elliot. Some stats for the curious:
Bands used: 40m, 30m, 20m, 17m, 15m, 6m
Transmit power used: 12W for first 4 hrs then 10W
Modes used: SSB, CW @ 12-15wpm
Contacts before rollover: 20
Summit-to-summit contacts before rollover: 18
Contacts after rollover: 72
Summit-to-summit contacts after rollover: 47
Total summit-to-summit points: 359
Areas worked: VK1,VK2,VK3,VK4,VK5,VK6,VK7,ZL1,ZL2,ZL3
Activation duration: 8hrs 14mins
Activation points: 1
With the number of S2S points collected, I reached 1000 S2S points so am now a S2S sloth – yippee! My contact with Tony VK3CAT on Mt Mitchell VK3/VN-012 at 0021z took me over the 1000 points. What a fun day at the ‘office’. The ZS6BKW doublet antenna had performed better than expected and the 4200 mAh LiFe battery had lasted the distance.
Thanks to all the chasers and other activators for making this the most successful, frenetic SOTA outing for me so far.