SOTA: Mt Livingston VK2/SM-093 - Wet n Wooly

I will be the first to admit the last 3 months have been amazing.

Every activation has been under clear skies, the sun on my back (or frying my neck).

Well, Mt Livingston turned that on its head. Checking weather reports all week - windy but only 10% chance of rain.

And when did my activation come? you guessed it during that 10% window.

I had planned a LONG last activation hopping around the bands - sadly, all in all, I managed 10 min before and 10 min after UTC before succumbing to numbness of the logging fingers and worrying about water in the radio that was already nestled in the pack. Summit temp was below zero with windchill.

 

Although I said to John @ZL1BYZ and Jacky - no video, I made one on the hill and a few QSOs later.

 

Thanks for all the fun guys and girls. I will be back around Nov/Dec 2017. Until then I will be scuba diving in the Gili Islands of Indonesia undertaking my Dive Master program. Oh and I might have a new callsign by then - will also need to buy that web address too...

All 16 SOTA videos are here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA20AqXLbeiaNFfDBEAx7zZWX_iXSnQ9i2

The first couple are with a verticle - the rest on my Linked Dipole up a 7m squidpole.
Thanks again,

Wade

VK1FWBD.com
Wadeabout.com

SOTA: VK1/AC-044 Boboyan Ridge - Bush-bash and DX S2S

Summit number 15 for 2017 was HARD. Not because it is long but it is a bush bash. Zero formed trail. I couldn't take my eyes off the GPS track for more than a minute and I would be well off track.

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Temps have dropped in Canberra as they normally do after ANZAC Day on 25 April. I left home at about 0800 in 5C. The walk to the summit was in 7-10, not a breath of wind. a crisp clear day!

Driving about 90 mins south from my home location in North Canberra, entering Namadgi National Park which occuipes the entire south of the Capital Territory.

The summit is in the very south east of the park even off the tar road and about a 30-45 min bush bash. Not only any I watching the GPS track, I am making sure I don't fall into Wombat holes - and there are a few of them.

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The actual summit is a small rock Cairn, I added two to the pile.

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After setting up I ended up working about 23 stations, including ZL2ATH, a DX summit t0 summit. My first. a real buzz

 

Due to the location (no phone service) as well as the restrictions of my VK Foundation License (No APRS / DATA modes), Andrew @VK1AD provided radio overwatch via our local 2M repeater, which even on the valley slope I couldn't hit until getting higher. He did all my spotting too. I have said it before - everyone should get themselves an Andrew!

On the way back I stopped off at Hospital Hill Look out which gives an excellent look at the more challenging summits within the park.

 

The long video is uploaded and live now:

 

This will likely be my second last summit until almost Christmas 2017

Wade
VK1FWBD.com

SOTA: Quick activation of Canberra's iconic Black Mountain VK1/AC-042

As you can see there is a fair bit of interferance possible from the tower site, I have been advised that 2M is practically a no go.
However even with the quiet morning activation I managed to snag enough to activate a 'day' eariler than I had planned!

Video is up.

Summit number 14 for me.

Wade

VK1FWBD.com

SOTA: Double Activation today - VK2/IL-001 & VK2/IL-005

Thanks to @VK1AD for the suggestion of 2 summits close by each other that allows a fast double activation.
As you can see from the log, the calls came thick and fast.

Odd trig point hidden amoung the bushes

Dual summit log

This was also my first activation with my partner. He wasn't too keen on the sitting around while I was having the fun.

I think I counted 5 or more S2S, in fact IL-005 was activated in short order with just S2S!

Thanks to Compton for trying both FM which I was just monitoring and 40m later too!

Fluffy carpet of soft moss

Did anyone follow on APRS? VK1FWBD-5. It if it useful for chasers to know my timing I am happy to run it again.

EDIT:  received a number of comments from other operators - NO I did not transmit on RF. I was using the phone network. Entirely within the rules. Checked multiple sources and multiple times. This was at the request of much more experienced and knowledgeable operators. 

Does this look like a rooster to you??

Does this look like a rooster to you??

Taking my summits to 13 since Mid Feb '17 when I was activated. I am out again tomorrow near UTC to keep an eye on sotawatch.

Wade
VK1FWBD.com

SOTA Mt Rob Roy VK1/AC-031 - 3/3 summit challenge - Are my legs still there????

The locals not happy I disturbed their publish holiday sleeping  

The locals not happy I disturbed their publish holiday sleeping  

After the initial tortuously steep climb out of the suburbs, bursting into the morning sunshine before entering the Rob Roy Nature Park was a very pleasant surprise - i suspect the sleeping locals (above) were not impressed with my intrusion.

 

Rob Roy was the 3rd of the 3 summits I had challenged myself to complete by the end of the Easter long weekend. Each increasingly more challenging in height and approach as the last.

The actual summit is off the track however the entry to the foot trodden bush track is marked by a mini carn (below) .

 

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Mt Rob Roy's trig point is unusual, I have not seen one like this before.  3 metal support arms with a wooden upright indication.  Which makes for a good squid pole support!!

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As the log shows before I had a really good day on the radio, scoring some more ZL stations (NZ for non radio folks) 

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Map of my contacts: 

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Summit to summit contacts: 

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Video of the day's activation: 

 

 

SOTA: VK1/AC-033 Bullen Range - Gates, Deer and DX- Summit 2/3 this weekendOTA:

Summit number 2 of 3 this weekend, I shall remember Bullen Ridge for 2 things - its gates (5) and the BIG Buck Deer that snuck on on me in the AZ while I was setting up.

This summit also saw my first DX stations on my own gear on 5w - 2 ZL stations.

LOG:

 

 

Some of the locals enjoying the afternoon sun:

QSO, including 2 ZLs

4 S2S 

Video:

Long video but its all good 

SOTA VK2/ST-053 Mt Mundoonan Summit 1/ 3 of the Easter weekend

I set myself the challenge of knocking over 3 summits over during the easter long weekend - and they are all more challenging than my others to date.

The Mt Mundoonan Summit is exactly 50km North of GPO Canberra city, just to the east of Yass NSW.

It was an absolute smashing day, no wind and with early low lying cloud - the summits was above them!

A great day on the radio, knocking over my 1st NSW summit along with my 1st of my weekend 3.

 

SOTA and Mental Health - how it's helping.

SOTA, Amateur Radio and how it is helping me fight depression and anxiety

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I mentioned in one of my more recent SOTA videos that I was going to write about how SOTA was helping me fight depression and anxiety. I understand that some might consider it a long bow or even not get it entirely.

Before I get into the how or why it is helping, lets get some definitions at least as they relate to my brands of anxiety and depression.

Anxiety

In basic terms, Anxiety is the miss-timed or miss-activation of the fight of flight response. Faced with a bear? Flight or flight is normal, having an heart racing, mind running at a million miles an hour and feeling out of breath, having that repeating thought that some one is out to ‘get’ you in the middle of the supermarket? Thats my anxiety. Supermarket, car, work, laying in bed, it springs up on me .

Depression

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You know that thing you love? Being outdoors? Being with friends? Fishing? Building things? Exercising? You know that feeling you get even thinking or planning to do that? Yeah for me depressions is the colour sucked out of life, I simply do not get the same buzz from things that I know I love and enjoy. Some people see that as ‘Wade is just being lazy’ - I can tell you I WANT to do things, but my brain is all like “why bother”.

OK so those out of the way. Think mental health is just a ‘mental’ thing? Yeah tell that to the 10kgs that joined me this year since diagnosis because the normal active things I like have no ‘colour’ to them.

So back to SOTA and Amateur Radio

I recently obtained my Australian Amateur Radio License (Feb 2017) and since completing it, I discovered this section of the hobby that combines elements I really enjoy. Being outdoors, learning new skills and tinkering with different set ups. And it is making the depression and anxiety disappear - at least for the day I am outdoors!

What is SOTA?


There are designated mountain / hill summits world wide, in the ACT there are currently 48. They are assigned a rating based on height and difficulty, with some earning a bonus 3 points in winter due to possible snow.
The aim of SOTA is to make 4 contacts (voice or morse code) from the summit to consider it ‘activated”.
A station / operator on the summit is the activator, the home station is called a chaser. Summit to summits contacts between 2 ‘activators’ are a real bonus with points shared.

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Every weekend (apart 1) since I have been licensed I have been out activating a summit. This involves selecting a summit, planning or researching a route, packing gear, planning the activation, recording video and photos to share with you.

How is it helping? Well many MH professionals suggest being outdoors and doing physical activities along with having goals that are achievable - guess what ticks all those boxes?? SOTA it is. Also side note have lost between 3-4kgs lighter!

SOTA: Mt Taylor VK1/AC-037

I keep saying it, another weekend and another summit!

The VK summer is definitely coming to an end, the weather is Canberra has started its usual turn for the worse in April. That being said yesterday it was a rather glorious day on the summit of Mt Taylor, VK1/AC-037 one of the tallest summits located within the ACT residential area at 850m ASL.

Taking Andrew (VK1AD)'s advice I stayed clear of the trig point as it gets VERY busy with walkers of all descriptions. This gave me a chance to test out not only my new 7m squid pole which was much lighter than my 10m one but, also my DIY free standing guying system. Up until now, I had always had the trig or another structure to strap the squidpole to.

 

Activation:


Another HUGE (by my standard) day with the summit qualified on HF 40m in under 5 mins!

Longest distance was over 950km just north of Brisbane (VK4).

I had not looked much into the WWFF or Parks program however the last 2 summits were also in parks. My (limited) understanding is 44 contacts are needed to activate the park over a UTC year, I managed to activate both parks in 1 sitting each!
4 2S2 

Working VK1DI, Ian on 2 summits in one day!
 

 

 

 

 

DIY guying system:

I had been looking for a super lightweight guying system. I had seen some operators using 3D printed collars etc, but as I was building it on a Friday prior to a Saturday activation (I am a bad planner) to a trip to the local hardware was in order.

I managed to put together a system using a plumbing collar and 3 stainless steel wire key ring loops.  
How did it work? PERFECTLY. It sits about 3m up so gives a good stability point.
 


 *Video will be pasted here once uploaded*

Resources:
Log to Map: http://www.on6zq.be/w/index.php
Summit logging, I use a Lenovo tablet ($90AUD) and VK-Port-a-Logger

Hope you enjoy, look forward to hearing you on the air.

Wade
VK1FWBD
VK1FWBD.com

SOTA: My SOTA EDC / Kit

I thought I would share the gear I use on the summit activations.

So here is a bit of a list:

Berghous 30L pack

3lt CamelBak bladder

GoPro Session 1

Lenovo 7in Tablet

Rite in the rain notebook (with Pencil)

Yaesu FT817ND

SotaBeams Linked Dipole 20/30/40

Squid Pole (10m)

Ratched Tie downs (2)

2m/70cm Slim Jim antenna

Jetboil Brew kit

Blue tarp

10m lightweight Coax

SOTA Tuggernong Hill VK1/AC-038

What a day!!!

Far from being a joke, 1 April went down pretty awesome on Tuggerong Hill AC-038.

1 - 2 April is also AM weekend, I had never made a contact on AM.

A number of chasers didn't see the note on the AM mode to being able to pick when a chaser is on SSB was also a new skill.

NB I have only had my license for 7-8 weeks. I have managed now 7 summits, even if 1 pointers.

After a solid 4 hours working the band I managed a phenomenal 44 contacts and 9 or more contacts S2S.

SOTA: VK1/AC-035 One Tree Hill

It was a weekend, so you guessed it. I was out playing radio.

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A few things waylaid me today by over an hour from my spot time, sadly this means 2 thing - Temp is up and the atmospheric layers have risen.

Never mind, more than activate. Managed more VK2s than ever before with even a station in Bondi coming back (VK2NNN from memory)

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Time(Z) Freq   Mode CS                    S2S?
0131 7.095MHz SSB VK3LED
0131 7.095MHz SSB VK3FQSO
0132 7.095MHz SSB VK2IO
0134 7.095MHz SSB VK2NNN
0136 7.095MHz SSB VK2YW
0138 7.095MHz SSB VK7FAMP VK7/SW-008
0142 7.095MHz SSB VK5IS
0145 7.095MHz SSB VK3WAR
0149 7.095MHz SSB VK1CT
0208 7.095MHz SSB VK3SQ
0218 7.095MHz SSB VK1DI
0228 7.095MHz SSB VK2UH
0318 145.9MHz FM VK1MA

There was not a breath of wind - was truly an amazing spot on the north border of ACT. I have included some pictures of the day. There wasnt much shade.. so I made my own!

A special thanks to the VK5 couple who waited on their summit before ceasing operations to work a summit to summit contact. 

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And YES there was another SNAKE! .. a big fat brown. Another top 10 deadliest.

 

SOTA: Activating Mt McDonald VK1/AC-048 - including a Snake!

2 summits in 2 days, starting to get regular SOTA contacts now

Turning around right on the heels of Activating Mt Majura yesterday, I thought I would give Mt McDonald a try. This trail was a different type to Mt Majura with less shade. I am also learning that I am hitting the trail as well as the airwaves too late in the day - noon local. Not only from a safety perspective but from a band conditions point of view.

This activation was a "just get it done" one for me. It was hot, dry and exposed. I only made 1 HF contact this trip. But 4 contacts is 4 contacts!

On the way back I even came across a small snake crossing the path. I think it was an Inland Taipan. Nothing to worry about, only the worlds' number 1 snake.

 

Log:

Time    Call    Band    Mode        Notes
01:34z  VK1MA   144MHz  FM      Matt S57 R59+
02:07z  VK7CW   7MHz    SSB     S52 R33
02:13z  VK1DI   144MHz  FM      S59 R59
03:00z  VK1XX   144MHz  FM      S59 R59+

Longest range contact on 5w again 700km: 

Gear:

HF:

Radio: Yaesu FT-817ND running on 5w using internal battery

Antenna: PAC12 QRP loaded vertical with ground radials

2m:

Radio: Baofeng UV5R, using SMA to BNC antenna connection

Antenna: 2m BNC antenna that came with the Yaesu FT-817ND

SOTA: Activating Mt Majura VK1/AC-03

Right in the heart of the Bush Capital

This was my first 'real' SOTA activation, where I walked up Mt Majura and operated my radio and made SOTA contacts.  

This was my single most successful day operating my radio as well as my longest range VK (Australia) contact to VK7CW in North Tasmania - 700kms, and my first summit to summit contacts - 400kms all on 5 Watts.

It was a warm day in Canberra and the operating position is right next to the Canberra Airport as well as a shooting range is below which made for interesting exchanges on the radio..

 

Log:

Chasing stations:

Time    Call    Band    Mode    Notes
02:06z  VK1AD/P 144MHz  FM  Andrew S59 R55
02:56z  VK3ANL/P    7MHz    SSB S51 R43
02:59z  VK7CW   7MHz    SSB Steve S59+ R55
03:02z  VK3LED  7MHz    SSB S59+ R44
03:04z  VK5IS       7MHz    SSB S52 R53
03:09z  VK1MA/P     144MHz  FM  S59+ R57
03:25z  VK1AD/P     7MHz    SSB S58 R57
03:32z  VK3FCMC     7MHz    SSB S57 R54
03:35z  VK1MA       7MHz    SSB S59 R57
03:37z  VK3PF       7MHz    SSB Peter S57 R43
03:38z  VK3FOTO     7MHz    SSB Mike S53 R53
03:58z  VK1ATP/M    144MHz  FM  S59 R55
04:00z  VK1MH       144MHz  FM  S59 R59
04:15z  VK3MRG      7MHz    SSB S53 R41
04:22z  VK2UH       144MHz  FM  S51 R32

Summit to Summit contacts:

Date    Time    My Callsign Station Worked  Chased Summit   Chased Summit Name  Activated Summit    Activated Summit Name   Band    Mode    Distance (km)   Chaser Points   Activator Points    Total   Notes
11/3/17 02:06:00    VK1FWBD/P   VK1AD/P VK1/AC-008  Mt Ginini   VK1/AC-034  Mt Majura   144MHz  FM  49  8   1   9   Andrew S59 R55
11/3/17 02:56:00    VK1FWBD/P   VK3ANL/P    VK3/VS-009  Ben Nevis   VK1/AC-034  Mt Majura   7MHz    SSB 580 4   0   13  S51 R43
11/3/17 03:25:00    VK1FWBD/P   VK1AD/P VK1/AC-008  Mt Ginini   VK1/AC-034  Mt Majura   7MHz    SSB 49  0   0   13  S58 R57

Gear:

HF:

Radio: Yaesu FT-817ND running on 5w using internal battery

Antenna: PAC12 QRP loaded vertical with ground radials

2m:

Radio: Baofeng UV5R, using SMA to BNC antenna connection

Antenna: 2m BNC antenna that came with the Yaesu FT-817ND

SOTA activation of Mt Stromo, Canberra VK1/AC-43

My First Solo SOTA Activation!

Those of you that follow me on Instagram know that I undertook my 2-day face to face lessons and testing in mid-January 2017 to become a licensed amateur radio operator (AKA HAM Operator). In mid-February I received the much-awaited email from Australia's national regulator ACMA that told me I am now a licensed amateur being designated VK1FWBD. In Australia (AKA VK in the AR world) Foundation License holders - the first step, are designated a "F" following the Country (VK) and region (1) parts of our call sign. So all ACT callsigns are VK1...

A few Tuesdays ago  I was fortunate enough to be shown a section of the AR world that greatly interests me - Summits On The Air (SOTA). I was shown the ropes by the legendary VK1AD, Andrew who was kind enough to let me dive straight in after he made enough contacts.

SOTA is a points based AR "game" that requires AR operators to climb designated hill or mountains and transmit, often on low power in an attempt to be heard by "chasers" - home based receivers or other SOTA operators - this is called Sumit to Sumit (S2). 4 such contacts are required before a hill or mountain is considered 'activated'.

Andrew was able to get me well placed to start receiving overseas stations (DX stations) on low power. Once the DX stations started rolling in my first calls and first on HF frequencies I knew I was hooked!

I was immensely lucky to have 3 DX stations 2 NZ Stations (ZL) and 1 Japanese station (JA). All while overlooking our gorgeous capital from VK1/AC-040 Mt Ainslie

Andrew's Yaesu radio (I can't remember which one) was pumping out a reduced 10w - to comply with my license requirements, on his linked dipole antenna, were a great match (gotta love an antenna pun).

The following day (Wednesday) my new (preloved) FT817ND radio turned up in the mail and I was keen to get on the air - I booked a day off that Friday and thought I would be a keen bean and try a Friday daytime SOTA activation.  

Activating Mt Stromo VK1/AC-043

This time on another 1 pointer, (easy access mountain) with basically a walk of only a few hundred metres.

On Friday after hours of calling, I was not successful in reaching my needed 4 contacts. I was switching between my newly assembled PAC12 antenna on my DJI OSMO MOBILE base as a tripod and a long wire with a matching box from Nelson Antennas (on EBAY) up my 10m Squid pole and no joy. Only sunburn! (Note to self.. maybe you might want to make sure the spotters aren't all at work....)

Log:

Time    Call        Band    Mode    Notes
04:23z  VK1MA       7MHz    SSB Matt S54 R43
04:27z  VK1AD       7MHz    SSB Andrew S59+ R58
04:40z  VK1NAM      7MHz    SSB Andrew S59 R55
04:47z  VK8GMT/P    7MHz    SSB Matt S59 R55
05:00z  VK3LED      7MHz    SSB Col S59 R55
07:10z  VK5AW       7MHz    SSB Adrian S58 R55
07:12z  VK5PAS      7MHz    SSB Paul S58 R47
 

Not to be deterred, I wanted to strike while the iron was hot, so headed back out the next afternoon (Saturday) to a second operating position on the western side of the peak as seen on VK1DI's blog.  2 hours and only local VK1 contacts - but enough to activate (THANK GOD) before moving to a new position as described by the 2m Simplex contacts I was talking to (again thanks to VK1AD and VK1MA who provided radio overwatch for my first solo SOTA session). From this new location, the PAC12 picked up 2 booming VK5 (South Australia) stations.

Wade

VK1FWBD

Gear:

HF:

Radio: Yaesu FT-817ND running on 5w using internal battery

Antenna: PAC12 QRP loaded vertical with ground radials

2m:

Radio: Baofeng UV5R, using SMA to BNC antenna connection

Antenna: 2m BNC antenna that came with the Yaesu FT-817ND

First dive of 2017

 

“Oh god I needed that, I was starting to think I was drying out”

 

Those were the words that ran through my mind as I broke the surface of the warm water on one of the first days of 2017.

Ascending from one of the 2 shallow photography dives planned for the day into the bright warm sunshine of Bawley Point NSW, I knew that it was going to be a good day.

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Planned over a Christmas BBQ a few weeks earlier, the double shore photography dive was chosen as when you are the buddy with the camera, you often are the slowest one of the pair. This can lead to your non camera toting buddy already looking at the next aquatic marvel while you are still taking your 900th photo of the tiny Nudibranch you spotted, trying to get the light just right.

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The day had no particular aim other than to increase comfort and practice skills. It so happened to be one of the warmest dives I had done at Bawley Point - 21degrees.  In August during my rescue course the temp did not get about 13 degrees. The warm bath-water like temp made for an even more enjoyable dive.

Amongst the small group we were able to practice our photography and camera handling while snapping pictures of one of the countless octopus who live in the rock crevices, or the bottom sleeping Port Jackson sharks soaking up a few zzzzz. The regular appearance now of a large cuttlefish is also a highlight.  To round out the cephalopod team, a school of small squid remained in the warm current for both dives. 

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All in all it was a perfect day and was much needed to get the 'gills' wet again.

In the below video you will also see the preparation that goes into getting ready for a dive when you have to travel 1.5 hours to a dive site.

Ever bathed an Elephant ?

Have you ever bathed an elephant?

Heading west from Chiang Mai, Thailand we met up with the amazing team from Elephant Discovery Chiang Mai who introduced us to their 3 female elephants and one cheeky young male

The location is home to a Karen ethic tribe in western Thailand and their village Elephants. 

The village have opened up their community to the eco tourism trade in an effort to save their elephants, particularly the young male elephants. Our guide was particularly worried about their young male who was starting to grow tusks. He said (the guide, not the elephant) he is constantly worries and has heard that forest elephants near by are poached and their bodies found by the road. Truely heard breaking stuff.

 

 

Check out a quick video about the day!

Ep01. Starting the journey to PADI DiveMaster in Indonesia

A view from my classroom

A view from my classroom

As a first in the of a new YouTube series I am hoping to share the process and excitement of not only moving and living on Gili Air as well as becoming a PADI DiveMaster.  

The count down is on for May 2017.

Subscribe to keep up to date with the process! 

 In coming weeks there will be episodes covering what I am packing, where I am staying (and living) as well as the study side of a Dive Master course