Slaying the Dragon

by vk3arr

The past few days of SOTA have been crazy, to say the least. After the excellent activation from VK3/VC-032, where I’d picked up a ton of S2S points to go with the 4 points for the activation, I noticed I was on 97 unique summits. The many activations on New Years Eve saw Tony VK3CAT become number 100 for unique summits, and by the end of New Years Eve, I was on 674 points, having been on 488 only 9 days prior.

I woke up fairly early on New Year’s morning, despite having made it to midnight, and decided it was a travesty that I hadn’t successfully activated Flinders Peak during 2013. The closest peak and a lowly 1 pointer. If I wanted to rectify the situation, I had until 11am to get up the mountain and get set up. Light rain was falling at that point in time, and I figured if I did get out there, it wouldn’t be comfortable. But, still, it was a travesty, so I asked the wife, got permission to spend a few hours up there and went and packed up my stuff, but not before working Gregory VK2FGJW for another point, to take me to 675 points.

I arrived about 10am to an almost empty car park, and grabbed my gear and started to climb. The first few steps were taken at a brisk pace, like I would normally do, but it rapidly slowed down as I realised I had probably more than 10kg on my back for a change. By halfway up the mountain, I was starting to wonder if I wasn’t going to have a heart attack or stroke out before I reached the top. I stopped twice to rehydrate and rest the legs. New Year’s Resolution: get fit and a get a trail-ready HF radio.

Given my troubles activating this summit last time, I was beginning to wonder if this summit was cursed; my Moby Dick as such. I reached the top and found an empty summit. This should be a good thing, but that had happened last time, and a superstitious man would be concerned. I’m not superstitious (although I try not to walk under black cats and I try not to work any day with a ‘Y’ in it), but I can’t say I wasn’t concerned.

The wind was blowing strongly, and I chose to set up on the seat on the summit. I figured there’d be little traffic on the mountain before about 12, as most people would be sleeping in, and I was largely right. A few family groups that came up and climbed the observation deck before descending again was about all I saw until right towards the end. The wind was making setting up more difficult than normal and the squid pole descended once or twice before I had the dipole setup. I had loosely wrapped the feedline around the chair to stop it flapping in the breeze, but after the squid pole dropped the second time, I neglected to pay attention to it, raised the pole, and watched the feedline drop clean out of the BNC connector as the line jammed on the chair.

The station on the chair

The station on the chair

A superstitious man at this point would be certain that the mountain was angry with him. I, thankfully, am an engineer, and with a pocket knife equipped with a screwdriver, I was able to reattach the BNC connector, and, by turning the feedline around, kept the weak end at the radio and the strong connector up in the air. I got on air about 10:26am.

I wish that I had spotted myself on SOTAwatch as I might have made contact with Wayne VK3WAM working CW from VK3/VT-009. I had a list of stations that had alerted and worked out there was about 50 S2S points on offer; Wayne’s was 10 of those, which I missed. Instead, I dropped in on 7090 with Joe VK3YSP and Julie VK3FOWL on Mt Disappointment VK3/VC-014 for a Summit to Summit that I hadn’t expected. Joe and I spoke a bit about the mountain being angry and he suggested a sacrifice. There was a distinct lack of goats (both SOTA and the natural kind) and also virgins at the top of the summit. I suggested a burnt offering of some description until Joe pointed out the fact it was probably a fire ban day.

They kindly left the frequency to me, and I continued to work summit to summits as it seemed all of SOTA was out on mountains. I finally got a few chasers in the log, but by rollover time, I’d done 10 S2S contacts, including a three way Andrew-to-Andrew S2S contact with Andrews VK3BQ/2 and VK1NAM. Contacts included Phil VK2FPJR, Marshall VK3MRG, Allen VK3HRA, Ron VK3AFW, Ian VK5CZ, Tony VK3CAT and Rod VK2TWR.

After rollover, things slowed down a bit. Joe quite rightly got a bit shirty about me hogging his frequency so I relinquished it and went hunting for more S2Ss. I ended up working 11 post rollover. Most of those were duplicates from before, except that I missed working Phil VK2FPJR and Allen VK3HRA, but I added in 3 new ones, courtesy of Ian VK1DI, Al VK1RX/2 and Matt VK2DAG. All up, I worked 139 points worth of S2S, more than the 75 I’d informally set as my goal based on what had been alerted. This took me past 800 chaser points.

The contact with Matt was quite opportune. I jumped on 20m and was about to call “Is this frequency in use?” when the radio lit up with “CQ SOTA” from Matt. Matt was on a 10-pointer that I had no hope of working on 40m, but he was an easy copy on 20m. I QSYed up 10 but couldn’t place a spot, because by then we’d broken SOTAwatch from our sheer amount of activations (or at least, that’s what I want to think). I had no one come back to my CQ, so had a bit of a play around on 15m to see what I could hear. Another couple of JA stations, but with higher SWR on the dipole, I didn’t bother trying.

I switched back to 20m, called CQ a few times until the squid pole decided to collapse again, which I took as a sign it was time to pack up. I adopted a “That was meant to happen” look as I pulled the dipole down and no one who was on the now busier summit made a comment. An old bloke asked if I what I had was a ham radio and we chatted SOTA for a bit. Another guy overheard us and joined in the chat. Both were amazed I might be able to hear someone in Japan, but such is the knowledge of radio these days. A young girl asked a few questions too, having never seen a radio before. The innocence of youth, hey?

After I got home, I worked Rod VK2TWR on a few of his summits, and Andrew VK3BQ/2 as well. The latter was impressive to me as Andrew was only 1 and 1 to me, rising out of deep QSB and the noise floor, but we completed a contact, 11 to 3 and 1. Thanks for the persistence, Andrew! Rod’s two summits were 10 points, Andrew’s was 8 and I worked Wayne using CW for another point. I tried to work VK1DA on AC-008, but missed him by a small margin. I finished the day on 847 points, working 172 points for the day!

There were another 10 points on offer in the morning (VK2FGJW on Mt Stromlo, VK2YK on Mt Taylor and VK3YSP on Donna Buang), so I am now on 857 points. This is a nice number, as I’m contemplating an FT-857D as a more trail friendly radio. It weighs about half what the Icom does and has 100W out, which the 817 doesn’t, should I wish to try DX again from a summit. I think I’ll also put together a 12/15/17m linked dipole too to give me a few more band options up the summit.

All up, a great couple of days, including, most importantly, the slaying of the Flinders Peak ‘dragon’, 100 unique summits, plus a ton of chaser points with less than 150 to go to Sloth status. I’m rapidly appreciating the wisdom that the best place to chase is from the top of a mountain.

Melbourne from afar

Melbourne from afar

From left to right, Mt Anakie, Mt Buninyong and Mt Warrenheip.

From left to right, Mt Anakie, Mt Buninyong and Mt Warrenheip, in the haze

My view from the chair

My view from the chair, out to Geelong.