I always had an interest in small portable radio’s
During the early 80’s I obtained a photocopy of a 1972 QST article by Wes Heywood W7ZOI of his Mountaineer CW transceiver, this unit was a crystal locked transmitter with a tuneable DC receiver.
It’s reasonable to say I was still on a fair learning curve back than and I could not replicate Wes’s success. But that did not stop me trying this and other projects inspired by Drew Diamond VK3XU and from publications like, Solid State Design for the Radio Amateur and others by Doug DeMaw W1FB. There are a few radios that worked but sadly never quite meet the expected performance let alone the performance of a commercial transceiver.
Like many others the internet allowed me access too other like-minded hams in particular the ATS rig’s developed by Steve KD1JV and in 2010 I was lucky enough to purchase one of the ATS4a kits, a 5 band pocket size CW rig. After a few more runs of the ATS4 in 2012 Steve then went back to the more compact MTR series of which the first build had only two bands and was supplied as a board only build with a case becoming available after the second run of kits.
Armed with a couple of compact good performing rigs I was looking to combine my hiking and radio interest. I had completed the KRMNPA award back in the early ‘90s but with the extra national parks available I decide to take the gear into the field for some KRMNPA action.
By this time SOTA had arrived in VK3 and it seemed logical to combine the two so off I headed for the KRMNPA weekend in November 2012 to Mt Nelse (vk3/ve-004) in the Alpine National Park for my first Park and Peak activation, gear was the MTR, powered by a small Lithium pack with in built step up to 9v and an end fed half wave for 7Mhz, with the QRP Kits tuner.
In some respects it was probably lucky that I was both very naive and very patient as it took me 2 hours to get the required four contacts on CW, (thanks to VK5CZ, VK3XU, VK3WAM/p and VK2UH).
After qualifying the summit I then head down to camp at the nearby Johnston hut. Whilst I could have walked out this trip was also about hiking not just playing radio.
It’s fair to say that the two hours of calling CQ in CW on a cold alpine summit had not put me off as in 2013 I followed it up with 11 activations. In these years the number of chasers were small so I decide help encourage chasers by also activating on SSB, and built an ILER40 a Spanish design VXO controlled radio.
This radio joined me on a number of activations before I decided there were more than enough chasers and to only take CW on activations again. For the 2013 KRMNPA weekend I decided simply to activate a park and operated from the Chiltern Iron Bark NP.
2014 saw my activation numbers increase to 30 for the year. The increasing number of chasers meant it was possible to qualify more than one summit in a day on CW. By this stage I had swapped to the ATS from the MTR as my primary rig. This gave me access to 80, 40, 30, 20 and 18(later converted to 15) and gave me greater access to chasers and the odd DX station.
For the KRMNPA weekend in 2014 I activated The Hump vk3/ve-019 in the Mt Buffalo NP, this was a late activation to include working the EU DX at dusk
2015 saw and even bigger increase in activations with a total of 55 for the year. Two trips stand out for 2015 in March Allen vk3arh and myself had planned an overnight trip along the AAWT (Australian Alpine Walking Track) to access four summit, Mt Despair (vk3/ve-043), Mt Speculation (vk3/ve-022), The Razor (vk3/ve-044) and The Viking (vk3/ve-037). At short noticed we were joined by Wayne vk3wam whose local knowledge was invaluable.
The second standout was my KRMNPA weekend trip to the Burrowa Pine Mountain NP. I activated both Black Mountain vk3/ve-093 and Mt Burrowa vk3/ve-072. Mt Burrowa is a big walk through some rough and near trackless bush and certainly not for the faint hearted, cost me a watch (still out there somewhere) and a camera that did not survive a fall.
2016 has me maintaining the pace with 51 activations. An unexpected work trip to vk7 allowed me to do a joint activation with Steve vk7cw of Tinkers lookout vk7/nw-046 in the Rocky Cape NP VKFF0432.
After the success of a SOTA weekend in February 2016 Rob vk2qr put his hand up to arrange a similar event in the Snowy Mountains over the October long weekend. This was a great chance to activate some lovely summits, plus catch up with a number of people who I only knew by sound of their voice or the style of their CW sending.
So for the KRMNPA weekend in 2016 I decide to re-visit Mt Nelse in the Alpine NP. In four years I have done, 148 Activations, averaged 6.77 points per activation, made 1032 CW contacts to 53 different callsigns. Of these different callsigns the stand out regulars have chased me, 111, 101, 83 and 64 times.
Band; Number of CW contacts
So has all of this time in the outdoors effected me I don’t think so….
A big thanks to Those who dreamed up SOTA, Those who got it running in VK and provide support through various on-line resources, and the Chasers who allow me to sit on a summit somewhere calling CQ with a radio that fits in the palm of my hand and runs off a 9V battery, whilst soaking in the views.