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 Ainslie, SOTA, VK1/AC-040, VKFF-0850, 24th December 2015

After discussions with Andrew, VK1AD, I decided to activate Mount Ainslie, VK1/AC-040 (also VKFF-0850), on the 24th December 2015. I had previously activated this summit courtesy of Andrew, then VK1NAM, in May 2015. Here is a link to that activation:

Andrew planned to visit Mount Stromlo, VK1/AC-043, hoping to work six and ten metre contacts via sporadic E propagation. Six metre contacts to VK5 have been achieved and early morning 10m contacts into the USA also have also been fairly regular occurrences. I was keeping my fingers crossed in relation to six metres. After my experiences of six metres in Canberra in May 2015 during the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) Annual General Meeting, I decided to make a six metre dipole. It was that antenna I planned to use from Mount Ainslie on this occasion. However, I began my activation on 40 metres and my log is reproduced below. I had an hour and a quarter playing on 40 metres before the six and ten metre activity began. I had a great time.

Mount Ainslie 23122015

Mount Ainslie Log 23/12/2015

Mount Ainslie Log 24/12/2015

Mount Ainslie Log 24/12/2015

As can be seen from the log I had a number of contacts on 6 metres: all were with Canberra stations except one, VK2UH, Andrew at Yass. My radio was set for ten watts and I was using a half wave dipole. I was delighted with all of the six metre contacts, but especially the contacts with VK2UH. I also had a contact with Andrew, VK1AD, on two metres FM on 146.500. This was a first for me in the SOTA program. I used an ICOM 80AD set for 500 milliwatts. Signals were 5 and 9 both ways both before and after UTC roll-over. All contacts with VK1AD were, of course, summit to summit (s2s). I have resolved when I return home to add ten metres to my six metre dipole by turning it into a two band linked dipole. While there was no sporadic E on this occasion I had a great time and wish to thank Andrew, VK1AD, for being on Mount Stromlo and making the VHF s2s contacts possible. I also wish to acknowledge VK2HRX/P, Compton, who called me on 7.090 Mhz from VK2/MN-132 also a s2s contact.

The Park

Mount Ainslie rises 843 metres above sea level (or 2,766 feet). It is a hill in the City of Canberra and is visible behind the Australian War Memorial. The views from the top are great. There is a photo in my account of the previous activation in the archives for May 2015. Mount Ainslie is a summit in the Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve which now counts for the World Wide Flora and Fauna Award and has the VKFF-0850 number.


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!