Mount Ainslie, VK1/AC-040 & VKFF-0850, 20th December 2016

I had been in contact with Andrew, VK1AD, about activating Mount Ainslie, VK1/AC-040, while in Canberra on our way to Sydney. This discussion followed an earlier one based on his blog and description of Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) and the new 70cm repeater for that mode commissioned in Canberra.  I noted from Andrew’s blog that he had used DMR on UHF for SOTA activations. But the story begins earlier than that.

In October I chaired a general meeting of the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Society, where two Adelaide amateurs presented an introduction to and demonstration of DMR. The Club President, Barry Williams, VK5BW, was ill with a late winter bug that had been doing the rounds in Adelaide.  Barry asked me to step up as Chair which I gladly did. Later I decided to purchase a radio for DMR: a Tytera MD-380 which I imported from China. I spent a week or more reading the reviews of non Motorola radios designed for DMR (which Motorola developed) but which is open to any manufacturer to use.  One of the Adelaide presenters sent me a Code Plug (DMR language for configuration file) for the new Adelaide repeater. I loaded this into my radio and travelled up to Mount Lofty and enjoyed my first contact with another Barry, in Sydney, via talk group 505. I was impressed with the received audio from the repeater, although there was some R2D2 on Barry’s signal into the Sydney repeater he was using. (R2D2 is the name of a droid from the original Star Wars film dating from 1977 and he/she/it had a very mechanical/machine sounding voice). Programming the radio requires a computer. I duly programmed in 439.200 Mhz which is the suggested simplex frequency for DMR. However, I found out that in Canberra 439.0125 is the simplex frequency. The Tytera is sold as capable of operation on 400 Mhz to 580 Mhz as a commercial radio. To be legal for amateur use it must only be programmed with amateur frequencies and mine contains Adelaide, Canberra and two Sydney repeaters only. It is not easily capable of being programmed from the key pad.

If you would like to learn more about DMR here is a link to the Australian information page:  In simple terms DMR, standing for Digital Mobile Radio, is an increasingly common commercial digital mode for use on VHF and UHF. Amateurs began acquiring used Motorola radios and using them on the VHF and UHF amateur bands. There are many commercial digital systems and another of interest to amateurs is P25. These systems compete with Dstar from Icom and Kenwood and other makers and C4FM from Yaesu. There are plenty of comparisons between the systems on the web and I have found these of interest, especially where the authors declare their biases. What makes DMR so interesting to the amateur experimenter is that is a TDMA system: Time Division Multiple Access, and thus supports two contacts simultaneously on the one repeater. I have been impressed with the recovered audio from Tytera MD-380 but the same applies to my Dstar radios. What you hear depends on  the quality of the in-going signal and the distance from the repeaters at each end.

I had from home arranged to meet Andrew on the summit of Mount Ainslie with the aim of securing four contacts using DMR to successfully activate the summit for SOTA. Andrew had emailed the club members in advance that the activation was going ahead and could they kindly listen out for me. Well the week before Christmas is always busy and no doubt that was the case in Canberra. I was delighted to gain one DMR contact with Jim, VK2MK/1. Many further calls were made on on 439.0125 by both Andrew and I without success. A change of plan was called for. Andrew once again alerted the locals via the Mount Ginini two metre FM repeater and I was able to well and truly qualify the  Peak on two metres FM. The highlight contact was with another on the Canberra amateurs called Andrew, VK1DA/p (also VK2UH) portable on Mount Taylor, VK1/AC-037. My log is reproduced below with ten contacts achieved. In addition to Andrew’s TYT DMR radio we used my ICOM IC 80AD hand held ( DStar and FM) and Andrew’s dual band FM Yaesu handheld. I think it is so good to use frequency bands other than 40 metres for SOTA and Parks activations.

The late afternoon was splendid, warm and with a breeze that dropped as the time progressed into early evening.

Date:20/Dec/2016 Summit:VK1/AC-040 (Mt Ainslie) Call Used:VK5BJE/1 Points: 1 Bonus: 0

Time   Call   Band   Mode   Notes
05:57z VK2MK/1 433MHz Data DMR Jim
06:14z VK1SP 144MHz FM Wedge
06:20z VK1FCBX 144MHz FM Ross
06:23z VK1EM 144MHz FM Mark
06:24z VK1GT 144MHz FM Graeme
06:28z VK1RX/M 144MHz FM Al
06:50z VK1MBE 144MHz FM Andrew
06:55z VK2MWP 144MHz FM
06:55z VK1MBE 144MHz FM Andrew
07:05z VK1DA/P 144MHz FM VK1/AC-037 Mt Taylor Andrew

This was my third activation on Mount Ainslie and I have activated it for SOTA and WWFF. I have previously qualified the park, Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve, for VKFF. I had a most enjoyable time and wish to thank Andrew, VK1AD, for his generosity in being part of the activation , together with the use of his DMR radio and the local amateurs who gave me a call. I am returning to Canberra on our return trip to Adelaide to meet up with Andrew again for further activations on HF.

Here are links to my previous activations on Mount Ainslie:

Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park, VKFF-0765 & VK3/VW-022, 15th December 2016

On the 14th December 2016 we left home on our driving holiday to Sydney to see our son and his family for Christmas. This is the seventh such road trip and before that he lived in Perth. We made at least three visits to Western Australia to see him and they were all camping trips with added expeditions, always involving radio and often staying in and activating National Parks before the WWFF program was conceived. Many, but not all, contacts were pre-arranged.

Our first overnight was at Naracoorte and early the next day set out for Ballarat where we were visiting old friends from our University days in the 1960s. On the way we visited Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park to activate the summit. I was not eligible for the one point on offer as I had activated Mount Arapiles in March. Here is a link to that activation, my second:

However, I was keen to secure sufficient contacts to qualify the Park for the WWFF program aiming for at least 44 contacts. I made 24 contacts with VK 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 stations and, with those already in the bank, now have the 44 needed. Here is my log for the activation:

Date:15/Dec/2016 Summit:VK3/VW-022 (Mt Arapiles) Call Used:VK5BJE/3 Points: 0 Bonus: 0 Delete

Time   Call   Band   Mode   Notes
00:06z VK5FANA 7MHz SSB
00:10z VK2UH 7MHz SSB
00:13z VK3PF 7MHz SSB
00:14z VK2KYO 7MHz SSB
00:15z VK3RW 7MHz SSB Ray Benalla
00:17z VK2HHA 7MHz SSB
00:19z VK2IO 7MHz SSB
00:22z VK7LTD 7MHz SSB
00:23z VK1DI 7MHz SSB
00:29z VK5GJ 7MHz SSB
00:37z VK5PL 7MHz SSB
00:39z VK5PAS 7MHz SSB
00:42z VK5ZK 7MHz SSB
00:44z VK2EXA/3 7MHz SSB
00:55z VK3KAI 7MHz SSB
01:01z VK3GP/M 7MHz SSB
01:12z VK5GP 7MHz SSB Glynn Murray Bridge
01:14z VK5NRG 7MHz SSB
01:18z VK5GI 7MHz SSB
01:18z VK5ZPG 7MHz SSB
01:18z VK3GV 7MHz SSB
01:18z VK5ZPG 7MHz SSB
01:19z VK3SQ 7MHz SSB
01:20z VK5FANA 7MHz SSB
01:25z VK2UH 7MHz SSB
01:26z VK1DA/2 7MHz SSB

I did set up my antenna for 80 metres, but the only way I could do this was with each leg at 90 degrees to the other. I could not get the VSWR down low enough to use it. One of the challenges of setting up a portable antenna (a dipole) for 80 metres is the space required and on Mount Arapiles this was a challenge. I have subsequently used the antenna in a more traditional layout and it works really well. See my forthcoming post from Greater Bendigo National Park.

I would like to thank all of those operators who, during the busy Christmas period, took time out to give me a call. I hope Santa brought you all a new radio!

Mount Zero, VK3/VW-020 & Grampians National Park, 13th April 2016

SOTA Summit, Mount Zero, VK3/VW-020, is within the Grampians National Park, VKFF-0213. I have activated the Grampians National Park a number of times. Here is a link to my last activation:

I wanted to activate a second summit in the Grampians National Park. I have previously activated Mount William. Mount Zero is worth one point to the activator, and it is a much harder one point to earn, than the one point earned at nearby Mount Arapiles! However, I did not think that the walk and time spent on Mount Zero would keep two active Grandchildren busy (as well as their parents). So the family, including my xyl, Jenny, all went rock climbing at Hollow Mountain. This suited me as Hollow Mountain car park to the Mount Zero car park is only a further two or three kilometres, but over a badly corrugated road.

Jayden Hollow Mountain 2

The photo shows our six year old (nearly seven) grandson near the top of the cliff. The organiser of the rock climbing experience said her youngest climber was aged four and her oldest in her/his eighties. All three women (three generations) in the party abseiled down the cliff. Congratulations to them. JCD photo

In preparing for this activation I read a number of blogs from other amateurs who have successfully activated the summit. They were all helpful. However, my only reservation about the advice given was that I did not adequately consider the age differences between them and me. I am a few years older than all of them! The walk is rated at medium. I would rate it as hard. The track is marked with yellow triangles and, towards the summit, additional markers. I had trouble on the return journey missing markers near the end of the track. I thought I would find my own way back to the car park though the bush and I was only one hundred metres out! So that was no great drama. I did not feel in the mood to retrace my steps by climbing back up the track to see the markers. The car park, or rather vehicles in the car park, are visible on the return walk so I knew I was close to the target.

Another message I received from the blogs, and also over the air with am amateur who has previously activated Mount Zero, is that the summit area is small and very exposed. As there were walkers, climbers and ‘boulderers’ on the mountain I chose to activate from a ledge just below the summit. I wondered what the persons were who were carrying something looking a bit like a single bed up the mountain?  I stopped and had a exposition from a young chap so equipped! The ‘mattress’ is a safety device for when you fall! He was a ‘boulderer’!

I was given until about 13:30 local time to complete the activation and return to Hollow Mountain car park. However, I was given a reprieve via a phone message from my xyl who indicated that the family’s climbing experience would take longer. That was bad timing as I was already on the way down!

Here is my log for the activation:

Mt Zero Log 1

I should point out that the contact at 01:26z with Warren, VK3BYD/P was dual mode, that is he used CW and I responded in SSB. How did Warren know to do this? Well I have had contacts from home in CW using my CW call, VK5PF. I did not have any CW gear on the summit – that will come!

Also the contacts at 01:33z with VK2UHI/P , Steve and his son, Thomas, VK2FTES/P were summit to summit and park to park as Steve and Thomas were activating Mount Kosciusko, VK2/SM-001 and VKFF-0269. Logs in the SOTA data base cannot be edited and the other choice is to delete the log and start again!

My SOTA gear

Once again I wish to thank all the chasers who helped make this activation so enjoyable.

Was all the effort worth one SOTA point! Absolutely yes! I recommend the walk.

Mount Arapiles, VK3/VW-022, VKFF-0765, 11th April 2016

After leaving Butcher Gap Conservation Park and Kingston SE we drove to Naracoorte where we stayed overnight. The next day, Monday, we were to drive to the Grampians National Park to stay in the small resort town of Halls Creek for a few days. There we would meet our son and his family from Sydney. We had plenty of time for the journey so we had planned to re-visit Mount Arapiles, Sota peak, VK3/VW-022, worth one point to the SOTA activator. However, while I had qualified the peak on a previous visit, I could now activate the peak again in a new year for an additional SOTA point.

Here is the link to that activation:

Also since the last activation, Mt Arapiles-Tooan State Park has now been added to the available parks for the purposes of the WWFF program as VKFF-0765. So there are now two reasons to visit this magnificent location.

While driving to the summit, accessible to two-wheeled vehicles, I noticed that the sky was threatening rain. Perhaps this was the remnant rain which passed over the Coorong National Park as we drove from Adelaide. At Mount Arapiles the wind was blowing but not quite at gale force. On my previous activation I did not set up at the summit – there were simply too many rock climbers and visitors around.  This time I decided to seek a more sheltered spot.

We spent just over an hour at Mt Arapiles and I qualified the summit with 20 contacts and made a reasonable start towards WWFF qualification.

Here is my SOTA log for the activation.

Mt Arapiles Log

view from Mount Arapiles

JCD photo

This photo shows a view looking towards the summit of Mount Arapiles showing the grain cropping land of the Wimmera in the background. The views from Mount Arapilies are spectacular. The Northern end of the Grampians is just visible in the photo. The distance between Mount Arapiles and the Grampians is stated on a plaque at Reeds Lookout in the Grampians as 45 kilometres.

Once again thank you to all of the chasers. It was great fun.

Devils Peak, SOTA VK5/NE-080, 15 June 2015

Devil's Peak start of the walking trail. JCD photo

Devil’s Peak start of the walking trail. JCD photo

Devil's Peak. JCD photo

Devil’s Peak. JCD photo

We climbed the Devil’s Peak in fog and descended in sun-light. It is quite a difficult climb when slippery, especially carrying radio gear, squid pole and other items such as water. A highlight for me was working Ian, VK5CZ, on six metres. I was inspired to make a dipole after my visit to Canberra for the WIA AGM where I saw the local amateurs having contacts on VHF and UHF. I am hoping to do some more work on six metres closer to Adelaide and try and generate some more interest in this band for portable use.

Devils Peak VK5/NE-080 Log

Devils Peak VK5/NE-080 Log

Mount Arden, VK5/NE-034, SOTA summit, 22nd June 2015

We originally planned to activate Mount Arden, VK5/NE-034, on Sunday 14th June. This was not possible because of the rain and the track was closed. The land-owners, who were advised of our radio interests, invited us back to their property, the Argadells, on our return from Farina. They are of course well aware of radio matters. Mount Arden is the site of a number of commercial installations, a CB repeater and VK5RAE, the 2 metre repeater. Thus, 22nd June became Mount Arden day! Our Nissan was the lead vehicle on the trip to the summit. The sun was shining and we were looking forward to the challenge. David and Joy chose to travel with us to the summit. This was a genuine 4×4 track, steep, slippery and with loose rocks. They had previously experienced my driving on the approximately 100k 4×4 trip to Lake Torrens National Park. They survived that experience and were prepared to trust their lives to me again. I think if they had studied the track in advance they might have changed their minds! However, they are still speaking with me! There are a number of You-tube videos of drivers on this track. Mount Arden is a great platform for some excellent views south. The power station at Port Augusta was visible as was the gulf. On the summit it was very windy and cold. However, Paul, David and I all successfully activated Mount Arden. My log is reproduced below. Mt Arden After qualifying the summit on 40 metres using Paul’s radio I went back to my radio and had three contacts on 30 metres. I also tried six without success. I could hear the six metre beacon on 50.315 MHz in the Barossa Valley. Then came the drive down led by Paul.

Summit Mt Arden VK5PAS/P & VK5BJE/P

Summit Mt Arden VK5PAS/P & VK5BJE/P

Mount Scott, SOTA Summit VK5/NE-111, 19 June 2015

Paul and I activated Mount Scott during the afternoon of 19th June 2015. We had packed up at Farina to head south once again. We had to wait for our camper to dry off and got underway mid-morning. After a brief stop at Copley for lunch we were soon on the road again. We had earlier arranged to meet Paul and Marija at Copley. Paul and I had planned to activate Mount Scott, VK5/NE-111. I have examined a number of maps and Mount Scott is not shown. I can assure you, however, it is there! Mount Scott is the home of commercial radio installations and is visible from the Leigh Creek to Hawker Road.

Mount Scott in relation to Aroona Dam which is the water supply for Leigh Creek courtesy Google Maps

Mount Scott in relation to Aroona Dam which is the water supply for Leigh Creek courtesy Google Maps

You would need to know where to look to spot it! The other members of our party visited Beltana Station while Paul and I were busy. Paul had previously gained permission from the land-owners to activate Mount Scott. He was told where to find the track. However, following the instructions given to Paul we found what appeared to be the track. We were not convinced. We spotted a 4×4 on a side road and we flagged him down. He was a local man who very obligingly showed us the track by taking us to the turn-off. We were not far off the mark! The track to the summit was about ten kilometres of intermediate grade and slippery in places. Paul did a great job in driving the track and avoiding the worst of the wash-outs, jagged rocks and slippery sections. However, I was very critical of the activation spot on top of an ant’s nest!  Paul, sitting at his table avoided the worst of these landowners! I was walking around taking photos on Paul’s camera and video on my camera and this made a bad situation worse! Needless to say I picked up dead ants the next day from the floor of our camp and from my clothing! However, it was worth it. Mount Scott proved to be a great activation spot and we made some interesting contacts between us and also engaged in some band-hopping. My SOTA log is reproduced below.

Mount Scott VK5/NE-111 Log

Mount Scott VK5/NE-111 Log

DX stations were worked on 20 metres: I5FLN, Luciano; RW3XZ, Alexei and on 15 metres I worked JA3BOA, Hideo. I was also pleased to work VK8GM on 20m and VK6NU and VK6AG on 15m. Propagation was fascinating. The two VK6 stations were 5 and 9 at the top of the cycle but deep fading made them inaudible at the bottom of the trough. It is only since arriving home that I have become aware of the solar disturbances late last week and early this week. There was no internet coverage away from the major centres.

Black Mountain, VK1/AC-042, 10th May 2015

After successfully activating Mount Ainslie, VK1/AC-040, we travelled the short distance to Black Mountain, VK1/AC-042. In 2010, at the 100th Anniversary AGM of the WIA we visited the Telstra Tower for an inspection and dinner later in the restaurant. This time we were looking forward to coffee!

While the sun was still shining the wind was ferocious. Andrew’s squid pole came down at least twice and on one occasion the operator at the other end gave a 5 and 9 report with the squid pole erected and 5 and 2 when collapsed! We were joined by Heath, VK3TWO and his partner, Monique and we persuaded Heath he should join the activation as well.

Despite the weather we successfully activated the Peak and also gain a six metre contact. After contacting VK1DI, Ian on 40 metres, he agreed to migrate to six metres and we all contacted him on 52.200 ssb. The six metre contact was a first for me portable and Paul and I both resolved to make dipoles for this band.

Here is my log.

Black Mountain, VK1/AC-042 log

Black Mountain, VK1/AC-042 log



VK5PAS (log-keeper), VK5BJE (on-air) & VK3TWO (supervisor)

VK5PAS (log-keeper), VK5BJE (on-air) & VK3TWO (supervisor)

At last, coffee in the tower restaurant!

At last, coffee in the tower restaurant!

Here is a link to a video taken by Andrew, VK1NAM/P1 of the activation on Black Mountain.

Mt Ainslie, VK1/AC-040, 9th May 2015

On Sunday morning VK5PAS, Paul and I met Andrew, VK1NAM, who had arranged on Saturday afternoon at the WIA AGM, to take us out for more SOTA activations if the weather was reasonable. Well the weather was wet on Saturday evening and the weather bureau predicted strong winds and more rain for Sunday. Paul and Andrew had discussed the matter earlier and we agreed we would all go and take one peak at a time and stop the activations if it became necessary.

So we set out for Mt Ainslee, VK1/AC-040. This peak is right in Canberra and accrues one point for a successful activation. The winds were gale force. However, we successfully activated the Peak and took some photos before setting out for Black Mountain, VK1/AC-042, just a short drive away.

Mt Ainslee log 09052015

Eleven contacts were made. When the activation was finished we set out for Black Mountain, VK1/AC-042.

Canberra from Mount Ainslie

Canberra from Mount Ainslie

Andrew setting up squid pole in the wind

Andrew setting up squid pole in the wind

Black Mountain from Mount Ainslie

Black Mountain from Mount Ainslie

I would like to thank VK1NAM, Andrew, who so generously gave up a fair bit of his Sunday to enable me, Paul and Heath to enjoy these activations. The activations on Thursday and Sunday enriched an already splendid weekend at the WIA AGM. On Sunday evening we enjoyed a casual meal with members of the Canberra Amateur Radio Club. I also enjoyed the presentation of home brewed equipment from members of the Club which was on display during the AGM. This display was orientated to low frequency transmitters and audio equipment. The gear was impressive and mainly illustrated published articles from Amateur Radio Magazine. Finally, of course there are the chasers. Without chasers we would have become cold and wet for nothing!

Mt Ginini, VK1/AC-008, Namadgi National Park, VKFF-377, 8th May 2013

After lunch we travelled to Mt Ginini. While the sun was still shining the temperature had dropped to 4 degrees Celsius and the wind was blowing really hard. It was also very cold! We all activated the summit successfully and I secured ten contacts. Mt Ginini, like Mt Coree is in Namadgi National Park, VKFF-377 and these ten contacts together with the 15 from Mount Coree means I have successfully activated the Park for the VKFF program. By the time we had finished our activation the temperature had dropped to two degrees Celsius. It was very cold and the wind chill factor was severe. I thought it was going to snow.

Mt Ginini log VK1/AC-008

Mt Ginini log

Mt Ginini has been a place I have long wanted to see. It is, of course, the site of the ACT repeater, VK1RGI, 149.950 – 600Khz transmit, also 91.5 Hz tone, provided by the Canberra Amateur Radio Club: a repeater I have used on previous visits to the ACT and while in New South Wales. But Mt Ginini is also a very significant peak in the Brindabella Ranges also known as the Brindabells. Mt Ginini is 1,762 metres above sea level (5,781 feet). The NSW/ACT border runs along the ridge of the Brindabella Range and the surveyors would have had lots of challenges in their work during the early part of the 20th century.

The picture below shows VK5PAS/P1 operating a Icom IC703, ten watt transceiver, contacting European stations from Mt Ginini. He is in a prone position to minimise the cold wind.