Since moving to Tasmania in mid-2016 I have tried to mix our WWFF park activations with some SOTA (summits on the air) activations. To date, we’ve activated three SOTA summits in the North West at Tinkers Lookout, Mt Montgomery and Mt Gnomon in January this year. Very few summits in this region have been activated and Tinkers Lookout was the only one with any prior activation history.
To date, all my contacts with SOTA activators have been from my home, mobile or portable but never with me on a summit. Late last year I was asked by Ed DD5LP if I would consider activating a summit for an international SOTA event. This event was to encourage activators in the Pacific region (Australia, New Zealand and Japan etc.) and activators in the UK and Europe to try for long distance summit to summit contacts.
Whilst I wanted to participate, I declined the invitation due to time concerns. Whilst we had gone into daylight savings, the openings to the UK and Europe were occurring late and at that point I was not aware of any summits that could be reached in a relatively short timeframe here. Fortunately the activation of Mt Gnomon in January changed all that. Mt Gnomon is located in the Dial Range south of Penguin and easily accessible from here. It is a drive of little more than 30 minutes from our home, although the last few kilometres are a bit difficult in our road car. It is better suited to a 4WD vehicle but is ok if you take it slowly.
I found out early in 2018 that an international SOTA event was planned on March 10. I indicated I would participate but must admit I was sceptical of my odds of any long distance DX contacts, let alone any summit to summit contacts. However, in the weeks leading up to to March 10, long path DX had been slowly returning. Mike 2E0YYY did an activation a day or two before the event and I could hear him from home, albeit in my noise level, so I decided to give it a go.
Whilst it would have been good to also have an antenna for 40 metres, I went with the same gear as I used during my January 2018 Mt Gnomon activation. This time though I also took a tripod so that the Buddipole shock chord mast did not have to be tied to a tree. The tripod is designed for the full size 6 metre telescoping mast but I improvised it by stuffing some bubble wrap so the thinner mast wasn’t too loose fitting. Not an overly elegant solution but hey it worked! I will return there sometime with the longer mast which will give me the flexibility to try additional bands with the Buddipole.
My XYL Helen VL7FOLK accompanied me again but understandably wasn’t quite as enthusiastic this time because as a VK Foundation licensee she is not allowed to use 20 metres. She grumbled when she realised she had forgotten her book but enjoyed the outing more than expected.
We reached the Mt Gnomon summit at around 4:45 pm local (05:45 UTC) and the antenna was set up and running on 20 metres with two radials/counterpoises with an excellent SWR by 06:15 UTC. I immediately heard ZL1BOS who told me I was 5/9+ with my then 20 watts so all systems were go. I upped the power output to 30 watts and got started on 14.320 with contacts into ZL and VK4 including a summit to summit contact with ZL2ATH but then there was some confusion when I realised that a VK1 had begun activating on exactly the same frequency as me! I thought that EA2LU was calling me when he wasn’t.
Fortunately before moving frequency Mike 2E0YYY found me and we were delighted to get an easy summit to summit contact. Mike tells me that I was his first VK7 summit to summit contact in 8 years of SOTA activating and I think it is an understatement that we were both thrilled with a contact in excess of 17,000 kilometres.
After moving frequency I worked three further summit to summit contacts, ZL3CC, VK6NU and finally LZ1GJ in Bulgaria. Fortunately EA2LU called me on my frequency so we made the contact. After 07:15 UTC I listened to my own voice for about half hour with all my calls and spots on the SOTA app resulting in zero contacts. I went QRT at around 07:45 UTC which gave me plenty of time to pack up and descend from the summit back to the car. We reached the car by around 08:30 UTC and still had some light for the drive back home.
All in all, a very enjoyable outing and a nice surprise getting the summit to summit contacts with England and Bulgaria. It is good to have relatively easy access to a SOTA summit for these events and I’ll look forward to participating in future ones. My search for other summits in this region that are safe to even attempt continues. Watch this space!