VK7/WC-005 & 013 – Rodway Range and Mt Field East – 17-19 January 2017

Reuben VK7FREU and I set off on the afternoon of the 17th January 2017 and drove up to Mt Field National Park, about an hour’s drive from Hobart. We called in at the Ranger station and signed in the Alpine walks book outlining what we were intending to do. Then a 20m drive up to Lake Dobson. Given the weather report we planned two and half days of bushwalking, camping and SOTA activations. There was rain forecast for the first night then two days of reasonable weather!

We walked up to Rodway Range via the Mt Field West track up past the ski lodges and ski tows.


Panorama of duckboarding between Mt Mawson and Rodway Range

The path then takes you past the Rodway ski tow and the end of the Tarn shelf track and up onto Rodway Range where the low cloud started to roll in. We walked to the highest point and setup our SOTA station around 4:15pm. We were in low cloud the whole time.


Walking across the top of Rodway Range

Condition on 40m were not good and we struggled to get contacts with poor signal reports. We moved to 15m and managed another two contacts. We decided to pack up and keep walking so we reached K-Col and Clemes Tarn with some light to spare. We walked down over Rodway Range and down the block field to the K-Col/Newdegate Pass track turnoff. We called in to the Peterson Memorial Hut and said hello to a couple who had setup for the night. We then walked about 500m further on to Clemes Tarn and setup our tent, had tea and went to bed – that’s when to fun started!!

Around 4am we woke to gusty wind that was hitting our little tent really hard. Unbeknown to us we were in an exposed saddle that was taking the full westerly wind and rain force. Around 5pm one of our aluminium tent poles broke (went off like a gun!) and ripped the tent. I was able to tape up the break with the roll of electrical tape but we decided to pack up  and head back to the Peterson Memorial hut. We then got some sleep and breakfast and bid the other bushwalkers goodbye as they were heading back down. The morning was still blustery and low cloud covered Mt Field West and Florentine Peak with bursts of driving rain and sleet.


Panorama of Peterson Memorial hut and Mt Field West covered in cloud.

We hung around the hut for a few hours and read all about the hut as it was opened by Sir Edmund Hillary back in Easter 1960 and had recently been lined with Tassie Oak and is in really good condition. The cloud didn’t clear and we decided to abandon the Mt Field West and Florentine Peak activations and come back another day. We decided to walk back the K-Col Track over Newdegate Pass and along the Tarn Shelf as Reuben had never been along Tarn Shelf.



Panorama view from Newdegate Pass to Florentine Peak left and Mt Field West still in cloud.

We had lunch just before Lake Newdegate and walked back along Tarn Shelf which is a great walk as you weave your way through many tarns and glacial features. This is an excellent ice age Permian landscape with some great geological features.


Looking North along Tarn Shelf from Rodway Ski Tow – Rodway Range on the left.

We walked back to the car at Lake Dobson via the ski fields huts and signed out at the Rangers headquarters and headed home for a night. The next morning we headed back to Mt Field National Park and signed in and up to the car park near Lake Fenton for the Mt Field East walk. The day was glorious with blue clear skies! The walk into Mt Field East takes you past Lake Fenton and steadily up and over the saddle between Seegers lookout and Mt Crooke then down into Windy Moor and up the rocky knoll that is Mt Field East. It took us about 1.5 hours up and 1.25 hours back.


Panorama across to Mt Mawson and Rodway Range from the saddle.


Panorama looking toward Mt Field East across Windy Moor.

Windy Moor lived up to its name and it’s muddy as well! Definitely gators and walking boot are the go! We climbed to the summit and there is a rock walled enclosure that provides shelter from the wind. We setup our station and started calling CQ around 1pm. The contacts on 40m were slow and signal reports not strong. We moved to 15m and managed to contact ZL1BYZ and could hear JL2OES but he could not hear us. Back to 40m and contacted a few more and up to 144MHz and managed to get VK7DX at Arthurs Lake on the 40m dipole!

Given the bright sunshine the skinks were out in force and at one stage I counted 11 in the little rock enclosure.


Friendly and curious skinks!


More friendly and curious skinks – one even jumped on to Reuben’s back and explored!


Panorama – North to South looking East from Summit.


Panorama – South to North looking West from Summit – Florentine Peak and Mt Field West – Perfectly clear!!!!.


Selfie L2R: Reuben VK7FREU and Justin VK7TW

Thanks to all who contacted us during our three days in Mt Field National Park.

In the words of Arnie…..”We’ll be bach”.

Catch you on a summit soon.

73, Justin, VK7TW

Posted in Camping, SOTA, SOTA Activation, Uncategorized, VK7 Association | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

High Performance Software Defined Radio (HPSDR)

I was invited to give a presentation at the Open Radio Mini Conference that was being held on the first day of the National Linux Conference 2017 being held in Hobart from 16-20 January 2017 thanks to Scott VK7LXX and Ben VK7BEN.

My topic – An Overview of the HPSDR – I jumped at the chance to bang on about my favourite Open Source Software Defined Radio platform – I only have three of them at last count 😉

The presentation was videoed and made available on You Tube:

I included some material that was drawn from the SDR generations presentation from Dr Howard White KY6LA who presented at the SDR Academy at Freidrichshafen Hamfest in 2016. This enabled and explanation of where the HPSDR fits in the SDR evolution.

I was also able to include information on the fantastic work that John Melton G0ORX/N6LYT and Dr. Warren Pratt NR0V have been doing in developing the Open Source PiHPSDR control surface.

I was able to demonstrate both the Apache-Labs version of the piHPSDR and I have written a review of this unit that will appear in the national AR Magazine for March 2017:


Apache-Labs piHPSDR Serial Number 006

This unit was controlling a traditional HPSDR with Mercury, Penelope, Excalibur, Metis and Alex band pass filters with a Codan 100W power amplifier.

I also demonstrated the truly Open Source nature of the HPSDR project through my homebrewed HPSDR – Hermes based with piHPSDR control surface, Alex band pass filters  and Pennywhistle 20W power amplifier in a re-purposed Philips TX-815 case:


Homebrewed HPSDR with piHPSDR control surface

There will be more on this unit in a future blog post.

Thanks to the Linux Conference organisers for allowing me time to bang on about one of my favourite subjects.

Catch you on the airwaves.

73, Justin, VK7TW

Posted in Amateur Radio, Hobby, HPSDR, LINUX Conf 2017, Software Defined Radio | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

VK7/SC-063 – Mount Montagu – 1 January 2017

SOTA double points day came around again and Reuben VK7FREU and myself decided to try Mt Montagu VK7/SC-063. This is a new summit that was added to the VK7 Association back in November 2016 after a review of summits.

There are three ways into Mt Montagu:

1). The first Reuben and I did back on 31 December 2013 when we were dropped off at Betts Rd Nieka and walked up to Cathedral Rock, then along to Montagu Thumbs and then up Mt Montagu and walked out through Mountain River where we were picked up.

2). Walking in from Mountain River up the fire trail – a long steep rocky walk!

3). Drive up to the Mt Wellington and parking in the large carpark just about 500m past the Big Bend track. Slightly hidden on the Western side of the road is start of the Thark Ridge track to Mt Montagu. Our first mistake – we estimated two hours and the sign said three and the signs usually underestimate! We started the walk about around 8:15am.


Start of the Thark Ridge Track to Mt Montagu

The top of Mt Wellington was in low cloud and we could just see the next track snow pole through the cloud however it wasn’t raining and didn’t rain until about a third the way back from Mt Montagu so it was a pleasant walk.


Eerie low cloud for most of the walk in

The track takes you up onto Thark Ridge then along the ridge and steadily down into the saddle next to Mt Montagu and Wellington Falls. The track is a combination of rock hopping across block fields, muddy sections and pushing your way through vegetation which was wet from the moisture in the low clouds so, we got reasonably wet from the waist down. This soon dried out once we cleared the vegetation.


Top of Thark Ridge

The turnoff to Wellington Falls is marked by a cairn on the track. We got to the base of Mt Montagu around 10:40am and we still had a 180m steep climb and we abandoned any chance of making 2016 contacts before UTC year changeover.

We made it up to the summit of Mt Montagu at around 11:10am and setup the squid pole and radio and tried to make some contacts. Signals on 40m were pounding in!

Then we had our second problem – no power being transmitted – traced this to the microphone and managed to get two contacts made with VK1DI/2 Summit to Summit and the microphone died altogether! I took it apart and couldn’t see anything obvious and played with the cable thinking it was a broken wire but could not get it going.

Later found out the Yaesu MH-31 dynamic element went open circuit (wasn’t going to fix that one in the field!!!). The microphone has since been converted to an electret condenser element thanks to the M0UKD design.


Trig point Selfie

We then used Reuben’s handheld to make some 2metre contacts to complete the activation. These did not come easily as we had to find the best spots on the summit to get best reception. Thanks to all who persisted with us running around the top to find the best radio location.

We had lunch and packed up and made our way back. It is mostly down hill when you walked in so, walking out is mostly uphill and my knees were telling me just that!!!


Panorama of dead snow gums coming down Thark Ridge

About a third the way back the rain started and got progressively heavier all the way back. With rain coats and pack covers on we still got drenched through and the boots were a little squelchy! Even though it was wet it wasn’t cold and we were walking through a sea of wildflowers.


Spice bush (that’s what we call it) flowering

Coming down off Thark Ridge into the start of the North West Bay River basin we watched the low cloud slowly roll in over Dead Island.


Watching the cloud roll back in over Dead Island

We got back to the car around 4:30pm and literally “poured” ourselves into the car and headed home.

Thanks to all who contacted us.

Catch you on a summit soon.
73, Justin, VK7TW and Reuben VK7FREU.
Posted in Amateur Radio, Bushwalking, First Activation, SOTA Activation, Uncategorized, UTC Year Changeover, VK7 Association | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

VK7/EC-030 – Mount Graham & VKFF 0188 – 3 October 2016

Just back from a fantastic three days hiking, camping, SOTAing and VKFFing trip!
Confused by those acronymns?
SOTA = Summits On The Air – making radio contacts from the top of summits!
VKFF = Australian (VK) Flora and Fauna – making radio contacts from within National Parks.
Sunday 1 October, 2016 Reuben VK7FREU and I drove to Freycinet National Park on the East Coast of Tasmania – about 2-3 hours from Hobart (170km). This National park is very popular with tourist and hikers and we chose Freycinet NP as the Spring weather can be quite unpredictable and this proved to be the case. We had planned to spend four days and three nights camping and activating and this was cut short to three days and two nights as the weather closed in.
Our walk in took us 4.5hours with full packs and radio gear – my pack was about 17kgs which is nearing my limit! The walk was across the Hazards saddle down in to Wineglass Bay, across the Isthmus Track, along Hazards Beach, over the Peninsula Track and along Cooks Beach to Cooks Hut camp ground. The distance was about 12km and was very picturesque.

Panorama of Hazards Beach. Mt Freycinet on left.


Cooks Beach due South – camp ground is at the other end of the beach. Track to Mt Graham is off the left.


Our Cooks Hut campsite


This Bennet’s Wallaby Mum and Joey visited each morning around breakfast time.

On day two we repacked our day-packs and setup off back along Cooks Beach to the turn-off to Mt Graham. This track risessteadily up onto the East Freycinet Saddle that takes you around the back Mt Freycinet then up into the saddle proper between  Mt Freycinet and Mt Graham. The track then steeply rises up Mt Graham to the summit. The track is cut into the vegetation down to the granite bedrock and this forms a water courses that can make the rocks slippery along with the weathering granite. It can be a challenge at times!!


Panorama L2R – Schouten Island – Mt Freycinet – Mt Graham (Foreground) – Hazards

We setup the antenna in gale force winds on top of Mt Graham (SOTA Designator – VK7/EC-030) and keeping the antenna in the air was a real challenge – we each made 6 contacts and decided to give it away as we just couldn’t keep the antenna in the air! Thanks to all who did contact us. We had lunch in a sheltered place and took in the view from Mt Graham.


The Hazards looking down into Wineglass Bay from Mt Graham

We decided not to do Mt Freycinet as the wind was strengthening and the round trip to Mt Graham and back was 13km. We headed back to the campsite and had tea.


Cooks Hut – used by the farmers who drove sheep on Freycinet peninsula before it became a National Park.

The Cooks Hut campsite has all the modern conveniences! – composting toilet, rain water tanks as well as sheltered campsites. Note – it is a fuel stove only area – not fires allowed. Surprisingly there was good Telstra mobile coverage at the campsite – which was good as we were regularly checking the weather reports!After tea we setup the radio and started calling on the VKFF 40m calling channel (7.144MHz) for contacts for the Australian Flora and Fauna award – Freycinet National Park is VKFF-0188 and we managed to get another 14 contacts to activate the National Park for VKFF. Thanks Paul VK5PAS for spotting us on Parks and Peaks.


We woke on Wednesday morning and the weather report was still for rain and storms in the afternoon. We had wanted to go through to Bryans Beach and then on to activate Point Geographe but decided to head back out in the morning as try and miss the storm.

We packed up and started our walk out and the sun came out! It doesn’t get much better than this 17degreesC and relatively clear skies. Although there were storm clouds forming in the distance!


Life’s a Beach! – Looking back along Hazards Beach toward Mt Graham and Mt Freycinet.

Our walk out took us along Cooks Beach, across the Peninsula Track, along Hazards Beach and then back around the Hazards Beach Track around to the car park. This is a slightly longer but flatter path back to our starting point. It is about a 13km walk out which took us 5 hours.


Looking across to the Freycinet Peninsula on the drive back to Hobart!

By the time we got back to the car the grey and black storm clouds were starting to blow across Great Oyster Bay and by the time we left Swansea the storm cell was over the Freycinet Peninsula as evidenced in the above photo. I think we made a good decision to leave early!
A great trip and there are certainly some activation left to do. Thanks to all who contacted us we had a great time and will certainly be back to this piece of Tasmanian paradise!
Catch you on a summit soon.
73, Justin, VK7TW and Reuben VK7FREU.
Posted in Amateur Radio, Bushwalking, Camping, First Activation, SOTA, SOTA Activation, VK7 Association, VKFF Activation | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Gippstech 2016

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Peter VK3PF the Conference convener welcomed everyone and reminded them that the WIA bestowed many awards on people who are regulars to the conference.

Dale VK1DSH – GA Taylor Medal, David VK2JDS – Ron Wilkinson Award, David VK3QM and Lou VK3ALB – Technical Excellence Award and Ron VK3AFW received a President’s Commendation.

We remembered friends who were no longer with us – VK1WJ, VK1VP, VK3UM


David VK5KK started the presentations with an excellent expose on his VHF and microwave SDR adventure.

He started with his experiments with the mCHF from M0NKA which is a KX3 equivalent and used this HF SDR transceiver to drive the UHFSDR by WB6CGR.

David used the SDR2GO software with the WB6CGR board. David also experimented with the STM-32-SDR and SDR2GO software but shelved as other options became available. David uses a DDS as a VFO with a optical step encoder with 600 steps. David claims he gets 2-4dB better SNR on an SDR than an FT-817.

The mcHF is still in development out of Germany and uses the I/Q signals into NAP65.

This is primarily sad a User Interface for the UHF SDR board. He uses external DDS – from Minikits (si570PLL) or the PLL boards from VK3XDK. You do need 144/432 helical filters for block filtering and uses a Mitsubishi module for a 2.5W PA from Minikits. The DDS is a AD9951 up to 160MHz and uses the 2 phase shifted outputs to double up to  288MHz for 144MHz SDR.

There was some noise from the user interface and needs a shield between the PCB and shielding the CPU. Sequencing was done in software through UI libraries available. Another SDR was the Russian Tulip SDR – all in Russian! David also mentioned G0ORX and the piHPSDR available from GitHUB. PI3 using Hermes board. Definitely follow-up on that one!

LimeSDR is the next BIG thing – US$289.00!! about AU$400 and this is a game changer for us  and will enable microwave operations as an SDR. The next generation apparently goes to 10GHz!


The next presentation was by Alan VK3XPD for the Microwave Enthusiasts  Award which went to Doug Friend VK4OE.

Very impressive glass engraved plaque that lights up!


The next presentation was by Joe VK3YSP and Julie VK3FOWL and was on the Schools Amateur Radio Club Net activity on ANZAC day with the SARCNet school kids, scouts and volunteers. This event included a high altitude balloon launch and Joe and Julie took us though the technical aspects and the colour and movement they have added to make a balloon launch appealing to primary school kids. This included the ability for the kids to track the balloon on their smartphones via the web.

The SARCNet has a website – SARCnet.org.au and has been setup to inspire primary school age kids who are at an age where they must differentiate from parents and peer group – the ANZAC day celebration provided a great day of combined activities to showcase amateur radio.

The schools program also run a grade 5 elective for soldering where they build a LED flasher kit which goes into owls eyes. There is Morse Code, First Aid – CPR Course, the High altitude balloon launch. There was also ARDF on the day. Murray Taylor VK3MJT helped with the Scout side.

They demonstrated the colour and movement of the HAB launch including strobe – beeper and count down!

There were over 300 HABS around the world – huge event. The balloon regs currently allow up to 50grams with no approval BUT the  law is changing on Sept 29.

Joe used an interesting techniques of working the PSK numbers out on a spreadsheet for the function to create the lookups table in the Arduino that was used to transmit the PSK. Joe then went through the process of uploading the data on the notebook into the HABHUB website for tracking using DLFLDigi

The story will be in the August Issue of AR has the Anzac Day event


The next talk that Joe and Julie did was the AIS Saves Lives presentation. This is the automatic identification system on ships around the world.

There are many AIS black spots and amateurs can help to fill the black spots – on 162MHz and is easily decoded and uploaded to the 5 websites that display this information. All Class A vessels over 300tonnes are required to have AIS and it’s optional for class B below 300 tonnes.

You can use a cheap RTL SDR and even an early RaspberryPi  version will work and it can be stand alone. Need to calibrate it using the local Cell tower 900MHz signal but this is easy to do using some Linux programs. (Linus – Kal -2 GSM900, Kal -c 15, RTL AIS software)


The next presentation was by Glenn VK1XX on the next generation of semiconductors that are hitting the market – Gallium Nitride and Silicon Carbon devices.

These devices have very low capacitance and therefore are excellent for microwave frequencies and the SiCs have high breakdown voltages and high power levels and can run hotter than most silicon and germanium devices.

The SiC are high voltage – 1200-1700V 100A on resistance of 50milliohms!

The current LDMOS will be around for a while but will be soon overrun by the GaN and SiC – the devices are Broadband = no capacitance = less matching required and are more efficient and therefore less heat sinking for equivalent power levels. These are Game Changers in the high power microwave space


The next talk was by Roger VK2ZRH about where regulation is going. Roger started by mentioning that VK amateur numbers have actually increased from 14035 in 2014 to 14144 in 2015 whereas in Germany and Canada they have dropped. There is SIGNIFICANT change ahead for the industry, Technological Change is upon us and demand for the spectrum is increasing incredibly.

The WIA’s position is we cannot go backwards with conditions, bands, modes, etc as they start the negotiation.

The Q&A afterwards showed the need for Digital Modes for Foundation licensees, that the Curriculum will need to change and the WIA is waiting on ACMA/Act Review results, Regulation will go to the industry in the new world order, Power assessments are SAR based – Technical standard needs work – ARPANSA sets this and the regulator is responsible for setting the standard, Global EME band plans are not aligned – IARU pushing the relevant regulators in each country, ACMA wants to make their life easier therefore functionality will Probably come to WIA, Amateur service is competing for spectrum along with all the other users that need spectrum and 5G is coming along with IOT, etc. Bill for the new act is out there and ACMA digesting – caretaker has stopped progress. Watch this space!


Great lunch as usual!


The first afternoon presentation was David Rowe VK5DGR on his open source – SM-2000 VHF SDR with embedded FreeDV. David showed the evolution of the SM-1000 an then the development and progress on the VHF SDR radio – SM-2000.

He was accompanied by Brady KC9TPA  from the US who has been helping David with development. There was a demonstration of the latest FreeDV modes and SSB signal in dodgy conditions and then the fully digital chained SDR and the results were remarkable from 3/1 to 5/9.

David passed around the SM-2000 PCB and it is a great development board with the discrete RF and radio blocks accessible and understandable. These boards, circuitry and software are all open source  – great work David! There was a plea from David for more people to get involved with the team and actually help with different aspects of the project. This presentation was videoed and is available with last Year’s FreeDV video.


Joe VK3YSP and Julie VK7FOWL  then did a presentation on a. Homebrew Speech synthesiser for the FT-817

Joe took that audience through the process of using the Arduino and voice synthesis chipo to take the various settings on the FT817 the voice used was the  British female voice nicknamed Rachel. Enough Said!


The next presentation was by Glenn VK1XX on the near effects of ground on your field day setup or repeater site.

Glenn took us through the theory of Fresnel zones, wavefront and Ray diagrams and the different diffraction patterns

The key principle demonstrated was the Knife edge diffraction attenuation through the blocking of the various fresnel zones.

Glenn applied this knowledge to Rex’s 10GHz operation and concluded that on flat ground Rex really needs to be on top of his vehicle to improve performance!

For field day operation with a tower and 6/2/70cm Yagis it would actually be better to put the 6m yagi on the top of the tower to clear the fresnel zones unless on a cliff or steep sloping ground.


The last presentation for the day was Tim VK5ZT with his alternate 3.4GHz Panel mods

These panels have been made popular by the Geelong ARC and Tim has improved on the modifications and simplified them.

VK5ZT mod doesn’t require as much mod as GARC. Tim also reprograms the Microcontroller ATMega  with the help of VK3HZ who disassembled the code. Tim uses an Arduino Nano to the ISP port to the on board ATMEga to reprogram the on board ATMEga8 – use io pin 10 for reset to the on board atmega8.

Tim finished up with the faults and issue with the boards that he has seen – Yellow boards worse than green versions – be careful.


Gippstech Dinner – Morwell Club


Sunday 10/7/16

Rex VK7MO presented about QRP EME on 10GHz

Rex took us through the intricacies of his tests with Charlie G3WDG and the EME low liberation path which enabled them to drop the power to 5W between the 77cm and 3m dishes. Rex then used a neat feature in WSJT which allows you to introduce random noise that degrades the SNR to test what level you would be able to receive the signal at and Rex estimates that it would be in the order of 2W when moon liberation is low.


Julie VK3FOWL and Joe VK3YSP – az-el satellite antenna rotator

Joe and Julie took us through the project they built for an az-el portable satellite antenna mount.

Joe took us through using an $11 accelerometer as a gravity meter, etc module with an Arduino which is mounted on the boom to calculate convert the position to Az-El and that enable you to feed the positioning servos with power to position the boom of the arrow 2/70cm satellite antenna at the satellite and track it through the sky. Joe uses GPredict on Linux to drive it and the Hamlib Libraries. Joe took us through the mechanical challenges and the operation.


Roger Harrison VK2ZRH – Norfolk Island microwave jaunt

Roger took us though a pictorial collage of the 3.4GHz microwave activity on Norfolk Island during the WIA AGM weekend using the GARC modified 3.4GHz panels.


Dale Hughes VK1 DSH – Arduino SSTV TX/RX

Dale took us through his project to build Arduino Robot20 SSTV transmitter and receiver using Arduinos. He related some of the coding issues he had and some interesting solutions like self aware adjusted timing to ensure the horizontal sync was in the right place. Dale promoted this project as a possible advanced STEM project to introduce students to TV technology.


Rex VK7MO – Update on WSJTX

Rex gave us a look at the latest version of WSJTX and its performance improvements and some of the great built in features of the program – system performance testing, and being able to predict how little power would be needed for a contact. And even some nice programming Easter eggs that Joe Taylor K1JT has included in the program.


Dave Hardy VK2JDH Android phone controlled Arduino via Bluetooth

Dave showed how to use an online tool to built Arduino based control code that can be down loaded to an Arduino and controlled via android webpage controls via Bluetooth. Dave originally used this for controlling and monitoring an Engel fridge in the car and thought this has application for amateur radio and demonstrated the control of an IC706 via the CI-V port. This has some great AR applications and is easy to use.


Three themes were prevalent at Gippstech 2016 – Software Defined Radios, Arduino controllers and Coding – we are seeing the predicted transition from soldering to programming for homebrewing!!!

Raffle – I was lucky enough to win two prizes!

We had our traditional Pizza lunch and then back to Tullamarine to fly home, thanks to Rex our wonderful driver!

73, Justin, VK7TW

Posted in Amateur Radio, Conference, Gippstech Microwave Conference | 5 Comments

VK7/SC-008 – Grey Mountain & VKFF 1149 – 28 March 2016

Easter weekend – time for a combined SOTA and VKFF activation. This is a reprise for the author who activated Grey Mountain (VK7/SC-008) back on 20 January 2015 by walking in from the other direction. I have since found out that you can drive up to the gate at the base of the Mountain and walk the last (steep) kilometre up to the summit.

The track starts on Cradoc Hill Rd (between Huonville and Cygnet) heads up to the Cradoc Hill Abattoir where you go straight on along Bells Rd and this comes to a four way junction (5 way if you count the powerline easement) head up the track to the right of the powerline easement and the track rapidly becomes a (steep in sections) four wheel drive track. This track eventually comes to a tee junction with a locked gate on the track up Grey Mountain. The other track takes you into the Snug Tiers Nature Recreation Area (VKFF-1149) and ends up at the end of Van Morey Rd in Margate via some challenging 4WD tracks!


Track up to Grey Mountain looking South East toward The Neck on Bruny Island.

Weather was good with some grey rain clouds threatening in the NW. We setup at the Trig point and deployed the hootchie which nicely fits the base of the trig point. Reuben wanted to try his recently homebrewed portable 2m yagi and the author started on 40m. Conditions were fair and some contacts with other parks and amateurs (VK1, 2, 3, 5 & 7) made.


Trig point Hootchie with Reuben VK7FREU operating on top of Grey Mountain.


Linked dipole and 2m portable yagi next to the impressive commercial antenna array.

We then moved to 15m and made two contacts into VK4 and called for a little while but alas no one else. We headed back to 40m and made a summit to summit with VK1RX/2 and VK1AD/2 (thanks) and a few more contacts with VK3, 5 & 7. Reuben made some 2M FM contacts with the portable yagi but we need to do more work to get it higher and away from ground effects.


Panorama from South to North.

We were watching the rain roll across the surrounding hills and decided to call it quits and head back to the car. On the way back down Reuben spotted some very interesting beetles on the side of track.


Iridescent blue beetles on the track.

With the author’s original activation and this activation we almost have the requisite 44 contacts for the VKFF and had fun reactivating the summit for SOTA.

Thanks to all who contacted us.

Hear you on a summit soon.

73, Justin, VK7TW

Posted in Amateur Radio, SOTA Activation, Uncategorized, VK7 Association, VKFF Activation | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

VK3/VW-020 – Mt Zero – 10 February 2016

On a recent driving trip back to my home state of VK5 I decided to break the trip and activate a summit on the way. A quick look at the SOTA map and Mt Zero seemed a logical option. At the end of the Grampian Mountain range it is easily accessed just after Dadswells Bridge (the big Koala!) along the Wonwondah-Dadswells Bridge Rd, on to Winfields Rds and then Mt Zero Road and follow the signs to the Mt Zero Picnic area.

The day I chose put me at the picnic area around 11am and it was already 30 degrees centigrade! Plenty of water, hat, sunscreen and covering and I set off along the very well marked track.


Sandy track up Mt Zero

The track heads up through the sandstone rocks and is easy to follow with yellow triangles painted on the rocks marking the track. It is steep toward the end with natural sandstone steps. The direction cairn is the first feature you come to and further along the ridge line is the trig point. Caution is required on top as there is a scary cliff face that you are next to along the ridge line. I decided to operate from the cairn as there was a tree I could velcro the squid pole to and it was within the activation zone.


Direction cairn commemorating Major Mitchell who explored this area

I started on 40m and scraped up four contacts as conditions were not good. I then move to 15m and called CQ for about 15 minutes and out of the noise came AI0L Mark from Colorado with a 5/7 5/7 contact. This proved to me propagation is always open….to somewhere! We talked for a short while and completed the contacts and I called but no one else came back on 15m.


Panorama from Trig point in 180 degree to ridge line toward Flat Rock


Panorama in other direction showing the olive plantation

I went back to 40m and conditions had improved and I worked VK2, 3, 5, & 7 including Murray VK7ZMS/3 who was on the Spirit of Tasmania with me and was helping to drive to Port Douglas with a mate, thanks Murray.


Looking toward Flat Rock from Mt Zero – huge monoliths of sandstone.

With 13 contacts and the temperature in the middle of the day rising I decided to call it quits and made my way back to the car and continue driving to South Australia. I had lunch just down the road in Horsham and was in Adelaide by about 7pm. I slept well that night…HIHI.

Thanks to all who contacted me.

73, Justin, VK7TW


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VK7/CH-020 – Mt Rufus – 26 January 2016

Australia Day 2016 saw Reuben VK7FREU, XYL Helen and myself VK7TW rose early and head off to Derwent Bridge at the start of the Derwent River. Derwent Bridge is 174km (about 2.5 hours)  along the Lyell Highway which ends up at Queenstown on the West Coast of VK7 (Tasmania).

We called into the Walker Registration at Lake St Clair (parks pass required) and registered the short walk from Rufus Canal Rd via Gingerbread track to Mt Rufus and then back to Lake St Clair via Mt Rufus track. We also checked the track wasn’t closed due to the fires.

Then we went through Derwent Bridge and west down the Lyell Highway 8.6km to the Rufus Canal road. Head down the Rufus Canal Rd about 2km until a bridge and just after the bridge there are painted poles marking the track on the eastern side of the road. This is the start of the Gingerbread track. It was already smoky from the West and NW coast fires.

The walk in along the Gingerbread track to Mt Rufus is about 6.5km and is a series of rises to button grass plains then around the Spur and across to Gingerbread Hut and then a steep ascent to Mt Rufus.


Button Grass plain – yes it’s marked with road markers – nice and reflective!

Gators were essential walking through button grass and some muddy patches. It was mostly dry though. This is normally a muddy and wet track! We came across a Copperhead snake skin that was not very old as it was still flexible and estimate it would have been at least a 1.2m snake with a 16cm circumference in the middle of the skin. Fortunately we didn’t see the owner of the skin!


Copperhead snake skin (300mm ruler) estimate over 1.2m with tail and head included.

The first landmark was Joe Slatter hut which is looked after by the Wellington Ski Club. This hut is large and sleeps 14 in bunks. It is well looked after, we signed the log and continued on.


Joe Slatter Hut – sleeps 14 – great hut

Vegetation varies from Myrtle Forest to Tea tree forest, button grass plains, pandani groves, low scrub to cushion plants and alpine vegetation up the top.


The last saddle up to Gingerbread Hut then up to Mt Rufus.


Gingerbread Hut

This hut is much smaller and would sleep 4-5 at a squeeze upstairs in the roof – emergency accommodation only – signed the log book and followed the snow poles up to Mt Rufus, this was steep in sections.


Panorama looking back down the Mt Rufus ridge line whilst descending the Mt Rufus Track

On top is a large stone man-made square cairn that can be seen from way off. Plenty of spots to plant the squid pole and setup and operate. There were many people passing through doing the Mt Rufus Circuit down to Shadow Lake who were interested in what were doing. Reuben and I each made 10 contacts from around Australia on 40m. We tried 15 & 10m but had no-one come back so after 45m on summit we decided to make our way back. Thanks to all who contacted us.

Mt Rufus straddles the Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. We decided to give out Wild Rivers VK Flora and Fauna Award (VKFF) numbers – VKFF-0185.


Mt Hugel through the Smoke

Mt Hugel is the closet summit and is only 2.5km away but it’s a steep climb and has to be negotiated from the Northern slopes up from Shadow Lake and Little Hugel. The smoke was thick and the other summits were a distant silhouette.


Mt Rufus escapement with Little Hugel and Lake Solitude in middle background. Mt Olympus in the background.

The Mt Rufus track from the Summit to Lake St Clair is 7.5km and is a constant descent starting with Alpine vegetation, low scrub, snow gums, tea tree, pandanis, sword grass and Myrtle forest.


Ancient Myrtle Forest – really dry!

It took us about 3 hours to walk out and were back at the carpark with Helen about 4:30pm. Thanks to Helen and all who contacted us. Another great SOTA activation and another first peak activation in VK7. 2.5hours back along the Lyell Highway and we slept well that night 😉

Hear you on a peak somewhere!

73, Justin, VK7TW


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VK7/SC-002 & 006 – 31 December 2015 – 1 January 2016

The UTC year changeover holds special significance for SOTA activators! It’s SOTA Double Points Day…HIHI.

Reuben VK7FREU and myself setoff early for Collinsvale and then into the Myrtle Gully track (starting 0639). Unfortunately, part way up the track Reuben VK7FREU wasn’t feeling to flash and he decided to abort. Fortunately his mum was able to pick him up. Reu has been fighting off an upset tummy and went off to the Doctor after that. Thanks Reu and Mum for letting me continue on.

I continued up to the Collins Cap Fire Trail seeing a White-lipped Snake on the track just before the trail. I then walked across to the East-West Fire trail. There was low cloud over Collins Bonnet the whole day.


Looking along the Collins Cap Fire Trail toward Collins Bonnet in cloud

Managed to get to the Collins Bonnet track at 0805. Headed up through the cloud to the trig point. Cloud was thick enough so you could only just see the next snow pole through the cloud!


Rock hopping in the clouds – Collins Bonnet track and you could only just see the next snow pole indicating the track!

First setup the hootchie over the trig point to keep the wind and moisture from the clouds off everything. Temp was about 17 degrees so not cold! It was interesting in the cloud as the ground and trig point were not wet however anything at a cooler temperature condensed water.


Hootchie using the Trig point

Standing in the cloud my polar fleece would progressively become white with small droplets of water. The vertical coaxial feed line to the antenna and squid pole was dripping with water.


Water from the clouds condensing on the coax.

Made many contacts (in 2015) mostly with other summit stations around Australia leading up to 1100 when in UTC time it became 2016. I then proceeded to contact many of the same stations. Ended up with two pages of contacts. That was an easy 20 activations points! Thanks to all who contacted me.


Set off from Collins Bonnet back down the East-West then Collins Cap fires trails back to Collins Cap and was on summit at 1349. Collins Cap was free from low cloud and setup the antenna and started making contacts.


Collins Cap selfie – no cloud therefore no hootchie required – just sunscreen HIHI

Radio conditions were a little more challenging and I tried a few different bands to rouse up about half a page of contacts. At our last activation of Collins Cap a week earlier – ten metres was excellent and we made many contacts. Unfortunately this time 10m propagation was fantastic into VK4  (5/9+ both ways) however I only made a couple of contacts. Proved to me that propagation is always open to somewhere however there may not always be people listening!!


Panorama on Collins Cap looking toward Collins Bonnet which is still in cloud.

Started down about 1548 and was back at the car at 1700. All up about 11km of walking and climbing. A great day of SOTA’ing and the weather was perfect – not too hot, wet or cold.

Thanks to all who activated on the UTC changeover and the many chasers. Another successful SOTA activation.

73, Justin, VK7TW

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VK7/SC-006 – Collins Cap – 27 December 2015 Reprise

With the UTC year change over looming large Reuben VK7FREU and I decided to reactivate Collins Cap given neither of us have activated it in 2015.

The reason was two fold – firstly we needed to time how long it took us to walk the Myrtle Gully track from car park to East-West fire trail and secondly to activate Collins Cap in 2015 prior to reactivation on 1 January 2016.


On Collins Cap Fire Trail about to head up the track to Collins Cap.

On UTC year change over we are intending to activate Collins Bonnet (VK7/SC-002) and we did not want to take the Myrtle Gully – Collins Bonnet track as last time it was very overgrown and you were pushing through scrub for about 40% of the hour long walk!

There are two alternate routes – East-West fire trail or come in on the Big-Bend to Tom Thumb Track. Given we want to activate Collins Cap again in 2016 on the way back from Collins Bonnet – the East-West Track was the logical choice. It is slightly longer but a much easier walk.


LtoR: Collins Bonnet and Trestle Mtn with Collins Cap Fire trail.

It was great weather and it was a pleasure to walk. The wind on top of Collins Cap was cool and we setup the Hootchie (for the first time!) and sheltered behind it. There are plenty of small trees on top that you can lash the squid pole to.

We had lunch and then started operating on 40m and conditions were difficult and thanks to those who persisted. We did make a S2S with Matt VK1MA/3 which was excellent. Reu then suggested 10m and that was a great choice with many stations from VK2, 3, 4, 5 & 7.


Panorama – LtoR: Hobart, Mt Wellington, Collins Bonnet and Trestle Mtn.


Panorama – LtoR: Mt Wellington, Collins Bonnet, Trestle Mtn and Mt Marian.


Panorama – LtoR: Trestle Mtn, Mt Marian, Mt Charles and rain over New Norfolk.

A great half day walk and activation and thanks to all who contacted us and we are looking forward to our UTC year changeover activation.

Speak to you soon from a summit somewhere.

73, Justin, VK7TW

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