New Year’s Day 2019
Local New Year’s Day in Australia is a day for the SOTA operator to consider options carefully…. The SOTA Rules for Activating and Chasing are based on the UTC and UTC year. Given that UTC midnight occurs at 1100 local time in VK1, VK2 and VK3, an Activator can plan to be out on a summit earlier in the morning. As long as you make contact with at least four different callsigns before 1100 AEDT, and then four callsigns after 1100 AEDT, then you can gain the points for the chosen summit twice with only one activation – once for the year just gone, and for the New Year. Many SOTA Activators plan to use this provision in the rules. I heard on-air that around 40 Activators in VK and ZL had posted Alerts to operate on a SOTA summit across the critical time on 1 January 2019.
I had considered my options. An obvious choice would be to head to a summit with high points value that you were unlikely to Activate during the Seasonal Bonus period (Winter in VK3). I had been looking at some as yet unactivated summits in the North East of Victoria and southern New South Wales. In the end, I decided on a new summit and posted an Alert on Monday afternoon.
Great Yambla Ridge VK2/RI-018 656 m 2 points Not previously activated
Benambra National Park VKFF-0029
This summit had been on my RADAR for some time. Although it earns only 2 points, the activation zone extends into the Benambra National Park. The summit location is on private property, so permission is needed to activate the summit. The National Park is surrounded by private property, so members of the public need landowner permission to cross the private land to access the National Park. I believe that the Park had only been activated twice prior to my activation.
I had been examining the mapping to seek information over several months. Earlier in the year, I took a short detour up towards the area of the summit to see if I could find additional information that might be useful. I drove to the gate of a property that looked likely to provide access and noted the details on the sign. Back at home, I conducted a web search and found an email address. In the week prior to heading to Wodonga for this visit, I sent an email to the address explaining a little about myself and SOTA, with a request that I might be allowed to cross the property to access the summit. A day or two later, I received a phone call advising that access would probably be granted. I would need to make contact before I left Wodonga and all should be okay.
I rang the number in the morning as I was about to leave Wodonga and left a message when I got to the message bank – it was relatively early on New Years Day. Under an hour later and I was on site but could find nobody around the sheds as agreed. I moved up to the houses, took a punt and walked up to the obvious open door. Again, no signs of movement, perhaps not surprising on New Year’s day morning a little before 0900 local…. I called out “knock, knock” and waited. A few minutes later and I was chatting with a person in a dressing gown. I apologised for waking them. Soon all was sorted – I had discussed my preferences and proposed route was confirmed. I thanked to farmer and headed off to drive up the farm tracks to the summit.
There were a couple of gates to open and close, plus a couple which were open. The track was in reasonable state for most of the climb, with a few rougher areas. I reached the area of the summit – only about 50 m from the “high” point of a flat hilltop. I then moved back down the track to the boundary fence with the National Park and assessed my options for an operating site.
Operating site: Blue is the Park area, red is area below the Activation Zone
I set up using a squid pole lashed to a corner post on the fence, the folding table and chair, all inside the Park boundary as required by the WWFF Rules. I was also well inside the SOTA Activation Zone – I estimate only 5 or 6 metres below the actual summit.
The station set up beside the fence post, inside the National Park
As expected, things rapidly became a little hectic. With so many Activators on air, it becomes difficult to try to catch the other Activators.
I was on air by approximately 2245Z. When I turned on the radio, I could hear a contact in progress. I waited to call the Activator. My first calls were drowned out by louder stations, but I soon got through and had my first Summit to Summit (S2S) for the day in the log – Leigh VK3SG/p.
With the help of the SOTAwatch website, I tried listening for various Activators, bagging two more before 2300Z. I then Spotted on 7.144 MHz and soon had 10 more in the log. I now had both the summit qualified for SOTA and the Park qualified for VKFF.
When I had no more callers, I started chasing other Activators. I tried a listening for some of the ZL stations on 20 m without success. I did work John VK6NU/p on VK6/SW-039. I dropped back to 40 m to work Mitch Vk7XDM/p and Rik Vk3EQ/7, both on VK7/WC-013 in VKFF-0347. I continued chasing others, bagging Geoff ZL3GA on ZL3/OT-478 on 20 m SSB and Justin VK7TW/p on VK7/CH-057 on 40 m.
After 0000Z, I tried calling for a while with few responses. Back in chaser mode with some band changes, I managed a few more S2S contacts. I also had several unsuccessful calls to Activators on voice – the rig was only outputting 5 W due to the temperature.
I saw Ian VK5CZ/p spotted, so moved to 40 m CW to work Ian, followed by Andrew VK1DA/2. I then moved up a small way and spotted and soon had the summit qualified on CW. I continued with a mix of chasing others and spotting and calling.
My last contact was logged at 0213Z, by which time it was getting very warm – into the low 30s.
I had 51 contacts in the log, with 34 S2S contacts and 19 Park to Park contacts.
I packed up and headed back down the track. I took a short detour to the local trig point to have a look – the trig is in poor condition, located on a knoll lower than the summit.
I made my way back down to the road and drove back to Wodonga.
A new SOTA Activator Unique and a new VKFF reference qualified to WWFF level.
The farmer gave me permission to pass on contact details for any others wishing to activate the summit. Contact me direct for the details.
Summary of results for the day:
34 S2S contacts for 160 S2S points
156 Chaser points
4 Activator points
19 Park to Park contacts