SOTA so far

Long before Summits on the Air (or SOTA for short) went live I have always been keen on hiking and the idea backpack portable operation. eg Spring Field Day . I have been working towards getting a sweet Portable Setup before venturing into the bush.


SOTA VK5 went live on the 1st of October, thanks to the big effort from Iain VK5CZ and Wayne VK3WAM for getting all the paper work done.

I was out of the county at the time of VK5 going live, but while Stateside I did go to an interesting talk at PACIFICON by Steve WG0AT (And yes he uses Goats to transport his gear), as well as visiting the Elecraft booth (KX3). This really got the juices going for portable operation.

SOTA VK5 Website

SUMMITS near me

Unfortunately living in Adelaide I don’t have mountains near by 🙁 . There are 3-4 summits close to home but most of them are a little further afield and some very remote which will require some serious planing and an overnight stay somewhere. we also have a very long hot summer here so hiking for a few hours with no shade in 35+ Deg heat and fire risk wipes most of January and February out for activation.

My Portable Kit
  • Elecraft KX3 with internal ATU and Roofing Filters
  • iCom IC-T90A for repeters and simplex.
  • 9m Squid Pole
  • 9m piece of wire for Vertical element to be wrapped around squid pole. and a 4 leg counter Poise
  • Garmin Oregon 450 with topo maps and SOTA waypoints (not used on first summit)
  • Paper/ Log Pens
  • iPhone for updating SOTA watch updates, twitter, APRS tracking(as 2m and 5W does not get into the network)
  • 3L Hydration Bladder, Trial Bars, First Aid Kit, Backpack. with plenty of loops for antenna attachment.
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Looking south to the Southern Ocean, with squid pole.
VK5/SW-039 My First Summit [21-10-2012]

I had to drive over to Port Lincoln for work (7hr drive from home), I convinced my coworker to leave early Sunday morning so I would have enough time to play radio in the afternoon. The summit (VK5/SW-039) was not far out of town and 4WD was required for the last part along some tracks and an access key was required from the tourist information centre, ($50 deposit). Finding the summit was not very easy as I did not have a good GPS or app. I used the in vehicle GPS to get me close, then eye balled the summit and hiked up the required distance.

I strapped my squid pole to a bush and wound out the counterpoise (left). I was running the KX3 off a set of 8 Energiser Lithium Cells. Being late in the afternoon I chose 20m hoping to get some long path EU  but only running 5W at best off the AA Li Batteries. Phone coverage was a little in and out but I did manage to spot myself on SOTAwatch and began call in CQ. Well what was to follow was amazing, a pile up of EU stations calling, see log below.

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KX3 in and Log Book @ the Summit of Vk5/SW-039 Activation

I was blown away by the success of this activation, thanks to all the stations that came back to my call. This was the early stages of the KX3 proving it is an amazing radio.

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Me and Iain(5CZ) at the SOTA display at the AHARS Buy and Sell

Iain (VK5CZ) organised a table to promote SOTA at the AHARS Buy and Sell, the largest Hamfeast kind event in VK5. It was the first change people interested in SOTA a chance a to meet face to face. There was a lot of interest and a heap of flyers handed out and people shown the website, and given tips etc.

The table had 3x Elecraft KX3s and Yeasu FT-817s on display as all SOTA operators brought there backpacks and gear and thew it out on the table for public display. There was also a few different antenna options as well as a a few different morse keys on display.



Summits a Little Closer to Home
Vk5/SE-013 Mt Gawler [10-11-2012]
Photo 10-11-12 10 01 04
No turning back now

After the thrill of my first activation it was time to try something a little closer to home. Mt Gawler VK5/SE-013 is very close to my home QTH and was a good change to test out a few things. New GPS and APRS on a HT vs iPhone APP. The GPS worked really well with a constant bearing to the summit even while walking though the pine forest, which was more of a casual walk to the summit complete with fallen tree(right). The APRS testing showed that APRS from a 5W HT did not get into the APRS network very well considering i was very close to several digipeaters, this lined up with similar reports on the YahooGroup. The iPhone app worked OK but a better app would not go astray.

I set up on the side of the road within 5m altitude of the summit, as the trig point is on private land. QSOs were very hard to come by on 40m in the mid morning, the band was very flat and even pre arranged contacts did not make the grade. ThankfullyI I was in coverage of a local repeater an managed to get a few local HAMS to come up on 40m for a few ground wave contacts and to make up the 4 QSOs required. Contacts were made with the following stations. Vk5FSCK, VK3HRA, VK5ZD, VK5FDCA, VK5KX. thanks guys.

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Activation setup on top of Mt Gawler VK5/SE-013
Vk5/SE-005 Mt Lofty [17-11-2012]
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Vertical Up

The following weekend after activating Mt Gawler I decided to head up to Mt Loftly VK5/SE-005 . As for a bit of extra exercise I decided to do the very popular Hike from Waterfall Gully. (Which is the most popular Walk/Hike in the Adelaide Region). Mt Lofty is the tallest peak in the area as such it has a heap of RF services up and desense anything on VHF or UHF so simplex FM was out. I invited Scott VK5FSKS to come along for the hike and to play HF.  It tool longer than expected to get to the summit with lots of very fit people passing us two hams on the way up. Once on top we opted to not set up at the public lookout but a little out of the way spot inside the activation zone. Being Mid morning 40m was once again very. with contacts only just being made with 4 stations on 40m. VK3VTH, VK3UP, VK5KX, VK5CYM(A rare SSB contact from Andy :P).

So moving forward; maybe a few antenna improvements but all in all SOTA is very do able with 5W from a KX3 if band conditions are appreciated and operating times selected accordingly. thx to all those for the contacts on the summits, catch you on the next one 73 de VK5AKH. Andy.

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