VK7/SC-006 – Collins Cap – 3 April 2021 Reprise

Hayden VK7HH asked me if I would like to accompany him for his first SOTA activation to Collins Cap and I jumped at the chance. The weather was forecast to be 30 degrees C so, we started early!

It was great to see the further regrowth of the blue gums, fagus and other vegetation in the burnt out areas that were quite obvious on the last activations in 2014 & 2015.

We walked up the Myrtle Forest track and across the fire trail and then up to Collins Cap.

Panorama from South to North (Collins Bonnet, Trestle Mnt, Mt Marian, Mt Charles, Collins Cap Cairn)

Hayden started on 2m handheld with local amateurs and the author started on 40m and quickly got seven contacts.

Hayden VK7HH making contacts on 40m using the author’s IC-705

Hayden then moved to HF and after a slow start made many HF contacts including a Summit to Summit with VK2VRO.

This was the first outing for the author’s IC-705 in it’s new 3D printed case and it performed well and was comfortable with it being put into the backpack and not worrying about damage to the knobs and touch screen.

ICOM IC-705 3D Printed Case from ON4VH available on Thingaverse

Hayden VK7HH runs a very successful YouTube Channel – Ham Radio DX and his video of the activation can be found at: Ham Radio DX First SOTA Activation

Thanks to all who contacted Hayden and myself for a successful maiden SOTA activation for Hayden.

Posted in Amateur Radio, Bushwalking, First Activation, SOTA, SOTA Activation, VK7 Association | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

VK7/NE-008 – Mt Arthur – 6 March 2021

I found myself accompanying my XYL Helen to another Harp Gathering – this time in Launceston at the replica Swiss village Grindelwald over the long weekend celebrating 8 Hour Day. I contacted the repeater team through Tony VK7YBG from the Northern Tasmania Amateur Radio Club (NTARC) of which I am a member and they were planning a trip up to the repeater site at Mt Arthur. I offered to help them carry equipment, etc up to mountain in return for a SOTA activation!

Mt Arthur from Grindelwald – Lookout

Tony VK7YBG and the author set off with car packed and picked up Andre VK7ZAB along the way and visited David VK7JD to pickup some heliax and equipment needed. Off along the Lilydale road until the turnoff to the Mountain Road and we picked up Colin VK7ZCF and Peter VK7ZPE who met us at the turnoff.

Heading up Mountain Road and given the 4WD we were in we could drive to the end of the track to a small corrugated tin hut that has information about Mt Arthur.

We headed up each with a roll of heliax around us, a new wind generator, test equipment and antenna pole. You head through fagus forest, there are a few areas where you need to clamber up rock shelves as you ascend about 600m from the carpark.

Mt Arthur is host to many many repeater and radio station sites all over the plateau. The first you get to is the NTARC site, you then continue to the old fire spotting tower and on to the cairn at the highest point going past many other repeater sites and radio station sites.

The weather was spectacular with blue skies and no wind! In fact we couldn’t test the new wind generator as there was no wind! According to the NTARC crew it is usually blowing a gale on Mt Arthur!

Panorama from West (NTARC Repeater Site) to East (Old fire spotting tower) – centre is looking North out to Bass Strait

Whilst the NTARC crew did their maintenance the author setup his SOTA station and made 13 QSOs. Thanks to all who contacted me.

With the maintenance completed we made our way back down with much less equipment and coax!

A huge thank you to the NTARC crew for chaperoning me up Mt Arthur and for all the amateurs who contacted me.

Tony VK7YBG, Colin VK7ZCF, Peter VK7ZPF and Andre VK7ZAB next to VK7RAB/RJG Repeater

Whilst in the Launceston area I made a trip out to the Tamar Island reserve and came across stump jump plough embedded in an old Oak tree on the highest point of Tamar Island. The tree has grown around the plough and therefore has obviously been there for many years. I find this fascinating and if anyone has any information or a story about the plough the author would be very interested.

Stump jump plough embedded in a Oak tree on Tamar Island!

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VK7/NC-003 and NC-028 – Mt Roland and Mt VanDyke – 17 January 2021

I found myself in the NW of VK7 accompanying my XYL who was attending a Harp gathering that was being held at the Claude Road Memorial Hall at the base of Mt Roland. Claude Road is C136.

Whilst Helen was at her Harp day I planned to activate Mt Roland, Mt VanDyke and Mt Claude – more on that ambitious plan later! These mountains make up what is called the Fossey Mountains.

Image of a cloudless Mt Roland by Tim O’Neill

I decided to start at the Kings Road track up to Mt Roland then across to Mt VanDyke past the O’Neills Creek Road tracks and end up at Olivers Road after activating Mt Claude. Best laid plans!! It was a cloudy day with a high of about 19 degrees and there was cloud visible across the top of the Fossey Mountains.

I signed the book at the start of the track at 8:30am and proceeded to walk up the hill. It is a steep track starting at 400m and rising another 700m (to 1100m) along about a 2.5km track to a plateau. There are very steep segments, boulder hopping and boulder clambering along the way. From the plateau you slowly rise up to 1234m over about another 2km with some boulder hopping in the middle before seeing the rocky outcrop with the Mt Roland trig point on it. It took me just under 3 hours to get to Mt Roland via the Kings Road track.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_1667.jpg
Less steep part of the Kings Road Track – looking up the ravine the track follows
Panorama of part of the Mt Roland Plateau – from East to West
Mt Roland Summit Trig Point – operating point at base of rocky summit out of wind.

I setup and operated just below the rocky summit outcrop and well within the 25m activation zone – this got me vaguely out of the wind. I quickly made six contacts on 40m and then packed up and moved on. The track leads on down the plateau past some block fields – track can be challenging as there are muddy patches and lots of rock hopping over the conglomerate that makes up the Fossey Mountains.

Typical track between Mt Roland and Mt VanDyke

A kilometre or so before the O’Neills Creek track there are duckboards and a lookout looking South Westish. The O’Neills track junction is very well marked with platform and signs 1.5 hours to Mt Roland and one hour to Mt VanDyke. I kept going on to Mt VanDyke and the track is a much easier walk mainly on dirt with few conglomerate boulders to navigate.

The Track gently rises to Mt VanDyke which is a rocky outcrop you see for most of the walk. For some of this walk you are pushing though low alpine shrubbery which when there is low cloud it is also wet!

This picture sums up the day with low cloud most of the day!

It was very windy and I managed to setup on the leeward side of Mt VanDyke in the gap between to outcrops and quickly made seven contacts on 40m. The low cloud very quickly wets any surface so, I was not sticking around. I packed up and headed back to the O’Neills Creek track junction. It was 3pm when I started back to the track junction.

Considering there was another 3km from Mt VanDyke to Mt Claude and then another 1.5km from Mt Claude to the the Olivers Road pickup point I decided to abort that stage and plan it for another day. I did not know the condition of the track and if it was like the Mt Roland track then it would be 3km of rock hopping which my legs were starting to let me know they were not enjoying!

Around 4pm I let my XYL Helen know I would not be meeting her at Olivers Road but at O’Neills Creek Road as there was good mobile coverage across the top of the Fossey Mountain Range. The longer O’Neill’s Creek road track is well maintained – only steep in some parts and most of it from the carpark is a gently rising firetrail that follows the contours! Luxury after the Kings Road track!

I got the carpark just after 5pm for pickup.

My Fitbit told me I had walked just under 20km and my legs were telling me that was pretty accurate!

Thanks to all who made contact with me and apologies I could not stay longer at each contact site.

I am planning Mt Claude which has a telecommunications facility on it with an access track to it so, this should not be anything like Mt Roland or Mt VanDyke!

73, Justin, VK7TW

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VK7/NE-006 – Mount Saddleback – 11 October 2020

I found myself in North East VK7 with WICEN Tas (Sth) helping with radio communications for a Equine Endurance ride from 9-10 October and planned to stay another night to activate Mt Saddleback on the way back to Hobart.

Mt Saddleback is accessed off the Mathinna Plains Road (C423) 4.5km south from the intersection with Mount Albert Road or 16.6km North from Mathinna. It is well sign posted. Head up about 200m to the marked track. If you have a 4WD then you can drive up the track about 1.8km to a small carpark where the track starts.

The track is well marked with tape and cairns all the way to the top. The path is steep for the first two thirds of the track as you rise up through some impressive dolerite pillars. It takes about 1.5 hours up and about an hour down.

Once you rise past the pillars there is a series of plateaux that rise in a Southern direction until you see the stone cairn at the highest point.

It was a brilliant day with sun and little wind on summit. I setup the squid pole, linked dipole and IC-705 and started calling CQ on 40m. I had sketchy mobile coverage with Telstra on summit and therefore I could not spot using the Parks and Peaks App. Thanks to those who spotted me when I contacted them.

Looking NE I could see the mountain summits on Cape Barren and Flinders Island in the misty distance.

At 1256m you have fantastic views – this panorama from left (west) to right (east) shows Ben Lomond, Ben Nevis, Mt Barrow, Mt Arthur, Mt Cameron, Mt Victoria and Mt Albert.

Thanks to all who contacted me during the activation.

Posted in Amateur Radio, Bushwalking, SOTA, SOTA Activation, Uncategorized, VK7 Association | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

ICOM IC-705 SOTA Activation

Well on Monday 31st August I received my ICOM IC-705. I think the first to arrive in VK7!

Given the delays in its arrival in VK the author had time to read up the manuals and watch the plethora of YouTube videos and come to grips with the rig before its arrival.

This resulted in a presentation to the local club – Radio and Electronics Association of Southern Tasmania Inc. on Wednesday 2nd September 2020 and the YouTube videos of the presentation can be seen here:

Whilst the weather was reasonable the author did a quick trip up to Mt Wellington (VK7/SC-001) to tests the ICOM IC-705 on Saturday 5 September 2020 in a SOTA situation.

When the rig was first switched on there was absolutely no noise and I thought I had a broken wire in the antenna! Then it was realised that all the Noise Reduction, Noise Blanking and narrow Notch Filter settings were on. Switch these off and things came to life. Trap for young (and not so young) players in a very low noise environment!

I operated mainly on 40m and all my SOTA contacts where made on this band I also listened and heard DX stations on 20 and 15m but didn’t make contact with them.

It was great to make a couple of IC-705 to IC-705 contacts with Perrin VK3PT/ and Peter VK3GV. It was also good to make some Summit to Summit contacts and also good to get some great comments about the voice quality from the Bluetooth VS-3 headset.

The 10 watts is certainly an advantage over my usual SOTA rig the FT-817 and the ease of operation and Bluetooth headset does make things easier when juggling a log, etc.

A YouTube of the activation can be found on the Author’s YouTube Channel at:

The IC-705 is certainly a nice rig for SOTA operations and will be my rig of choice for future SOTA activations. Thanks to all who made contact with me during the activation.

73, Justin, VK7TW

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UTC Changeover – SOTA Double Points

Reuben VK7FREU and I decide to activate Collins Bonnet VK7/SC-002 for the UTC year changeover from 2019-2020.

Instead of the usual track from Myrtle Gully we decided to take the Mt Connection track and started out at around 8:00am. This track starts about two kilometers along the Big Bend track. The Big Bend Track is accessed off the Pinnacle Road just next to the Lost World Track.

About a kilometre in on the Big Bend track I lost my footing and landed heavily on my right knee! After about 10m of rest we decide to continue and take it easy with a note to self about putting some pain-killers in the first aid kit! The Mt Connection track is well marked with a signpost and heads down and across the swamp area that forms the source water the Mountain River. The track in the swamp area is all duck boarded.

You then head up and around Mt Connection with some great views to the North East and Mt Dromedary and towards Collins Cap and Bonnet.


Looking towards Collins Bonnet on top of Mt Connection

The Mt Connection track eventually links with the East-West Trail and about two kilometres further on is well signposted track up Collins Bonnet. This is a rock hopping excercise for most of the distance with the track marked with long snow poles.

We summited around 10:30am (UTC 23:30) and setup the linked dipole and FT-817. There was plenty of activity however the power level on the FT-817 was down and we were struggling to be heard. We both managed three contacts before the UTC year changeover so, unfortunately did not activate for 2019.

The wind was strong and overcast clouds started rolling in. We made UTC 2020 contacts on 40m and local 2m to activate Collins Bonnet for 2020. Thanks to all those who contacted us. After the antenna collapsed due to wind and we put it back up I noticed that power level had increased on the in-build power meter. So there is definitely something that needs investigation including the possibility of a small power amplifier to boost our QRP power level given we are rock bottom of the sunspot cycle.


On summit selfie


Panorama South to North looking West – mid picture is the Huon Valley


Panorama from North to South looking East – with Mt Wellington next to trig point


Impressive ravine next to Trig Point operating position

At around noon local (01:00 UTC) we started back down and stopped for lunch before heading back up the Mt Connection track.


Looking toward the North facing side of Mt Connection on the East-West Trail

It was about a 15km round trip using this track and was a picturesque walk on a part of Wellington range we hadn’t walked before. We got back to the car around 3:00pm.

Thanks to all who made contact with us during this UTC Year Change-Over event.

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Gippstech 2019

I attended Gippstech 2019 over the weekend of 12-14 July 2019 along with five other VK7s which is a record number of VK7s for the event. Thanks to Hayden who passed on the group photo.

L2R: Rex VK7MO, Justin VK7TW, Richard VK7ZBX, Murray VK7ZMS, Larry VK7WLH and Hayden VK7HH.

The weekend was cold and wet but the presentations were inspiring as usual!

Starting with David VK5KK, Iain VK5ZD and Tim VK5ZT and their 5800km Epic Microwave DXPedition. This was a humorous presentation of the trip up through Victoria, NSW, Queensland and South Australia over 12 days. They took every microwave band up to 122GHz and made many contacts with the locals in the area and set a few records along the way.

Then the Doug McArthur VK3UM (SK) award for last year’s best presentation went to Jim VK1AT and Alan VK3XPD’s Microwave Enthusiasts Award went to Stefan VK4CSD.

Coffee break and some nice goodies from Brian VK3YNG – thanks Brian.

David Smith VK3HZ then gave us a presentation on his experiments on an Azimuth finder. This uses the Real Time Kinematics (RTK) – Carrier Phase tracking feature available in some GPS modules and communicates between the modules using the 900MHz ISM band. It uses the NEO-M8P – C94-M8P02 evaluation kits and with a 3-4m baseline it gives 0.2 degrees accuracy and better than 0.1m with a baseline greater than 5m. This was used in ZL by Rex VK7MO for extending the 10GHz EME world record.

Mark Spooner VK5AVQ gave a wonderful presentation on Non-Ionising / RF Radiation Safety. Mark’s presentation simplified the elements of the ARPANSA RPS3 standards and how to interpret and apply these standards in amateur radio scenarios. The comment was this would normally be a 5 days course that was condensed into 45m! Great work Mark.

Peter Schrader VK4EA – a first time presenter gave a fascinating talk on the way that VK4RBB derives its frequencies for all the microwave beacons up to 10GHz by some interesting mixing of base GPS locked frequencies and mixing them all the way up to 10GHz.

We then enjoyed a yummy lunch.

The first presentation after lunch was Dale Hughes VK1DSH with an automatic satellite ground station for satellite telemetry reception. Dale has been experimenting with the Fox and Funcube satellites and how to use their respective data capture, logging and upload applications. Dale has also built a nifty azimuth controller for his yagi which is fixed at 45 degrees. This system uses an Arduino, magnetometer and some control circuitry. Dale has also build a nice user interface using NatSemi’s LabView development environment.

Yours truly then presented the next instalment of his 10GHz Microwave adventure covering the updating of the White Box transverter to a GPS Locked ZLPLL, low noise preamp and 3watt Power Amplifier.

Peter Pokorny VK2EMR then gave a most humorous outline of how we end up with the Leap Second and the Status of UTC. This started as a very serious expose of what leap seconds were and why they are needed and then a bureaucratic nightmare of Utopian size developed with more and more organisations becoming involved until Peter put the following slide up….

Peter then referred to his book of acronynms to decode and display some of the key relationships from the diagram. A most entertaining presentation.

A coffee break with more raffle tickets and goodies!

Rex Moncur VK7MO then presented how he and the ZL team extended the 10 GHz EME World Record from ZL to the United Kingdom. The talk covered how Rex managed to get a 1.13m dish from Australia to ZL in suitcase!

Roger Harrison VK2ZRH took the audience through an interesting presentation on the mechanisms of sunspots and the conveyor belt that powers the sun and creates and presents sunspots. The important question was pondered – namely “Are We There, Yet?” with a bottomed out sunspot cycle and the scientists are still unsure and much of the current thinking was presented.

We wrapped up the day and retired to a nice dinner at the Morwell Club.

On Sunday the first presentation was given by another first timer at Gippstech – George McLucas VK4AMG entitled – GPS Disciplined Frequency Reference – traps for Young and Not- So-Young Players. George took the audience through some thought provoking aspects of building a GPS Disciplined Oscillator and many of the things you need to take into account. This included the errors when generating a frequency, overcoming those errors and some other factors that need to be addressed. George then took the audience through his development of his frequency generators for a range of rigs and how they can be GPS Disciplined.

Our last coffee break and last chance for raffle tickets, goodies and books from Pages of Cobram, thanks to Peter VK3FPSR.

Tim VK5ZT then gave a quick talk on the 3.4GHz panel documentation that he has created which runs to over 60 pages about the panels and their modification and this is available of the EARC.org.au website.

Glen English VK1XX then presented the issues with the ICOM IC-9700 (in)stability and showed his work on developing an oscillator that can be GPS Disciplined for the IC-9700 to improve the stability of the rig for narrow band weak signal work on the microwave bands.

Another Gippstech first timer presenter Wayne Pearson VK5APN gave an entertaining presentation on Grid squares which then lead into his experiments with an independent location finder that gives a range of data including Maidenhead to 10 digits.

Yours truly finished up the presentations with a K3NG based AZ/EL GPS rotator for 10 GHz EME. This showed the applications and the equipment along with the easy of configuring. Pictures showed the Arduino based controller including GPS module that can be used to determine your location and the CCTV AZ/EL based mount to track the sun and moon.

We then retired to the common room for the raffle draw before enjoying pizza and heading in many different direction following another enjoyable Gippstech.

73, Justin, VK7TW

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SOTA Double Points Day

It’s been a long time between drinks!

Been a bit busy with other aspects of the hobby of amateur radio!

New Year’s Day 2018 – Reu VK7FREU and myself decided to activate Hartz Peak VK7/SW-008 for the Summits on the Air UTC Year changeover. The Eastern Seaboard of VK (Australia) offers the opportunity to activate a summit twice in one day and get double the points!

SOTA rules specify that you can only get the activation points for a summit once a year. However, on the first of January of each year in Eastern VK the UTC year change-over occurs at 11:00am local time. This allows for the SOTA activators to get to the summit before 11am – get at least four contacts and then reactivate after 11am for double points across two years.

Reuben and I did not activate Hartz Peak in 2017 so we chose this one!

You drive from Hobart through Huonville, Franklin and Geeveston. In Geeveston you turn right off down Arve Rd as if you are heading to Tahune Air Walk. On the Air Walk road there is a turn off to the Hartz National Park on Hartz Rd. It took about 1h:15m to drive from Hobart. You need a National Parks Pass to enter the Park. It was raining on/off from Franklin to the National Park.

We signed the walk book to see that a party before us had set off at 4:30am and returned at 9:00am – must have tried to see the sunrise of 2018 from Hartz Peak! We set off and only saw one family coming back down. It was raining on/off and the westerly (Roaring-40s) were strengthening. We were walking through mist all the way.

Duck board path into the misty distance

It took us about 70 minutes to climb to the top with some stops along the way. We didn’t see the summit until we were actually on it due to the thick mist.

Erie horned tree across a tarn

We setup on the leeward side of the Peak to get out of the wind and was setup around 10:44am. The propagation on 40m was crap and our signal reports reflected this.

Operating position on the leeward side of Hartz Peak

Selfie on the peak before heading back

We only managed to get three contacts each before 11am and therefore unfortunately did not activate the Peak for 2017. Oh well! We did manage to get seven contacts each after 11am. We had some early lunch and headed back to the car.

There were lots of plants in bloom along the track and one in particular was fascinating – the cushion plant.

Cushion plant flowering

Cushion plants ( Donatia novae-zelandiae ) are incredibly slow growing and take many years to get to this size plant. They have small five pointed flowers that embroider the cushion. Thanks to Reuben for this photo.

Another successful SOTA trip.

Hear you on a summit soon!

73, Justin, VK7TW

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WIA Election Results – Thank You

G’day All,

Thanks to all who voted for and supported me during the election process for the Board of Directors for the Wireless Institute of Australia.

WIA Election Results

I am humbled by the result and have this feeling of being in the foothills about the climb a very large mountain range.

There is much to be done to put the focus back on amateur radio and so little time to do it!

The hard work begins!

73, Justin, VK7TW

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Nomination Backgrounder

Why am I willing to be a candidate for election as a director of the WIA?

Good question!

I’ll start with some background information….

I have been an amateur radio operator for the last 30 years, my callsign – VK7TW – previously VK5ZJV, VK7ZTW, VK7KTW and have been “active” since about 2004.

Current amateur radio interests include:

I have written the VK7 column for AR magazine since 2003. I collate and write the Sunday VK7 Regional News broadcast for 51 weeks of the year and have done this since 2004. I have held President, Vice-President and Secretary roles in the local club since 2004. I am also a WIA Assessor.

I was awarded the 2007 WIA – Ron Wilkinson Achievement Award, the 2010 WIA – Al Shawsmith Award with Rex Moncur VK7MO and the 2012 WIA – Al Shawsmith Award.

My formal qualifications include a Bachelor of Science (Geology and Geochemistry), Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Management and Graduate Diploma of Public Policy and Management.

I started my working life in 1983 in a small private IT firm where I learned my computing/IT trade. I then went back to study then started working in the Tasmania State Government in 1993 and have worked in a range of roles including IT, Policy, HR, IR, Project, Change and Management positions. A couple of highlights have been the project management of major government system implementations and being a member of the team that introduced new state government employment legislation. I am currently a public service manager within the Tasmanian State Service, Department of Premier and Cabinet.

I am 50 years old, married and we have a 14 year old son, Reuben VK7FREU.

Back to the question of why I nominated?

I bring a skill set that I hope will be of value to the WIA especially in the area of inter-government relations, process re-engineering, project, change & financial management and legislative interpretation.

I am passionate about my hobby of amateur radio however, I also realise it is just a hobby.

I am also passionate about getting more young people interested in amateur radio and this was highlighted for me through a recent experience where I was involved in the Festival of Bright Ideas for Science Week 2016. This demonstrated to me that there was huge un-tapped potential for amateur radio in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) learning and promotion. We as a national organisation need to provide practical material to support STEAM teachers to integrate amateur radio into their primary, secondary and tertiary curriculum.

We need to continue to foster and build on the relationship we have with the Australian Communication and Media Authority and ensure we are in a stable, financial and strong position when the opportunities present and future World Radio Conferences. We need to be a strong advocate, contributor and supporter of the IARU in Region 3 and continue to build on the fantastic work of Michael Owen and the many others who work tirelessly in a volunteer capacity for our National organisation.

I am concerned about the slow erosion of our National body and declining membership. We can only survive with a strong and effective national voice to represent, advocate and educate existing and new amateur radio operators throughout Australia. We have a great foundation upon which to build thanks to those before us.

If you are a financial WIA member and you are concerned about our National body then please 1). Vote and 2). Carefully consider who you want representing you at Board level.

I will be attending the AGM in Hahndorf, South Australia and if you would like me to be a proxy at that meeting then please contact me as I have a pre-filled proxy form I can send you.

Catch you on the bands and/or a summit soon.

73, Justin, VK7TW

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