VK1 SOTA Party

by vk3arr

The word went out a week or two ago from Andrew VK1NAM that the second annual VK1 SOTA party was going to run on the 27th of July. I initially had plans for that day that would have limited my involvement to idle chasing, but when those fell through during the week, I entered the fraught world of negotiation to join in as an activator.

The choices were limited for me. I needed somewhere close so I could get there pre-UTC, and I’d already activated most of the close ones this year, other than Mt Buninyong. I’d been saving that one for a family dinner and some SOTA DX later in the year (similar to last year), but ultimately, it was sacrificed for the greater good of a ton of summit to summit opportunities.

The kids had wangled their way into a sleepover at their grandparents, leaving me with a completely free morning. My wife wanted some time to herself, so I told her I’d be home around lunch time, and headed off just prior to 8am. About halfway there, the fuel light came on in the car, but that merely posed a challenge rather than a warning. On the way, I had views of Buninyong shrouded in light mist, which lifted about half the time. I drove to the top of Mt Buninyong, then walked out of the activation zone and back up to the top.

I set up with the radio under the pergola thing, with the squid pole attached to a picnic table nearby and strung off to a tree and another chair. Equipment was the FT-857D and linked dipole, with a 4.2Ah LiFePo4 battery providing the power. I used 5W consistently throughout the day, other than a brief spell at the end.

The shack

The shack

My suspicions that it was going to be cold at the top of Buninyong were borne out. I had gloves on, although I had to take them off because you can’t work Velcro cable ties with woollen gloves, no matter how hard you try. I spent a lot of the morning shivering a lot, and was very grateful for the public toilets on top of Mt Buninyong, as the cold weather was impacting my, ahem, comfort.

It only took about 10 minutes to set up and scanning the bands, I found Nick VK3ANL first on Mt Wombat (VK3/VU-002) for a S2S, then up 5 was Dave VK5NQP in Sandy Creek CP, his contribution to the VK1 SOTA party. Mark VK1EM followed from Mt Stromlo VK1/AC-043, and then John VK5BJE on Mt Lofty VK5/SE-005.

Peter VK3PF was my first non-portable contact, followed by Ron VK3AFW on Mt Macedon for another S2S. Another Peter VK3FPSR was non-portable, and then consecutive summit S2S’ with Tony VK3CAT on Flinders Peak (VK3/VC-030), and Mike VK3XL on Arthurs Seat (VK3/VC-031). My run of summit to summits came to a brief end here, with my first VK2 station, Matt VK2DAG and my only VK7 contact, Scott VK7NWT.

More S2S came from Glenn on Mt Donna Buang (VK3/VC-002) and Andrew VK1MBE, portable in Queensland on Tallai Range VK4/SE-094. This was my first chase of a VK4 summit, a region I’d already qualified as an activator.

By now the action was starting to hot up, Andrew VK1NAM starting with my missing VK1/AC-032 consecutive summit (much appreciated!) and then Al VK1RX on Mt Tennant VK1/AC-025. At about this point, I went chasing a few S2S, finding Brian VK3MCD chatting with Allen VK3HRA from Mt Hotham VK3/VE-006 for a 10 point chase. I also gave Allen a quick report, his schedule being unable to find him on top of a hill.

I settled down again on a frequency and worked Matt VK1MA from VK1/AC-042 and another Andrew-to-Andrew with VK2FAJG on VK1/AC-038. Just prior to UTC, I went hunting again, and worked Gerard VK2IO on VK2/CT-082, and finally Ian VK1DI 2 minutes to UTC rollover on Mt Coree VK1/AC-023. Gerard’s summit took me to 1999 chaser points, making Ian’s contact the one that took me over double sloth!

After UTC, things went nuts. I had found another clear frequency and the mountains came to me. It is an unusual thing to encounter a situation where a “Summit to Summit” call results in a dog pile of unintelligible calls and the best you can do is pull a chaser callsign out of the air. Still, Andrew VK2FAJG and Ron VK3AFW went back into the log for S2S, and then Larry VK5LY waited patiently while Andrew VK1NAM busted the pileup with an “Andrew to Andrew” call.

Later in the day, I worked VK4IL on VK4/SE-035 for my second VK4 summit, and a unique, qualifying the VK4 region for me for Mountain Hunter in the space of 51 minutes. I also added Robbie VK3EK on VK3/VT-041 and Rob VK2QR on VK2/ST-006, plus getting second contacts from Mark VK1EM, Nick VK3ANL, Mike VK3XL, Ian VK1DI, Tony VK3CAT, Matt VK1MA and John VK5BJE.

I decided to head up to 20m at that point, and just as I got back to the radio having dropped the links for 20m, I noticed a spot for Scott VK2SWD on VK2/CT-019. I dropped one end of the dipole, reset the link, and then tried to break the pileup. Surprisingly, it worked, even with a slightly higher SWR than I would have liked.

I moved onto 20m proper shortly after that, adding a S2S with Andrew VK1MBE/4 again, and then Gerard, just a fraction too close and end on to my dipole. I gave him a 21 and I was 90% certain he’d given me a 51 and QSLed my acknowledgement. That was S2S number 32 for the day. Ernie VK3DET also came up on 20m to give me a report. This was the third contact from Ernie, located in Ballarat, and despite my constant pleading for him to bring up a heater, he never appeared…

I finished with Dave VK4DD as my second VK4 contact, and then, noting that Mike VK6MB had spotted that he couldn’t hear me, decided to think about packing up. I put out a final call, and who should come back to me, but Mike himself, adding VK6 to the mix. I packed up after that, and headed home.

In total, I worked 70 QSOs, from VK1 through to VK7, almost double my previous best, and 32 S2S contacts for 112 S2S points. I broke 2000 points as a chaser, added 8 uniques on the summit (and 2 more when I got home), as well as 10 Andrew to Andrew contacts. In short, the most fun I’ve had on a summit with my pants on. I almost made it home without having to fill the fuel tank on the car, but eventually chickened out at Meredith. Thanks to Andrew VK1NAM for the organising of the day. Looking forward to the next SOTA party!