Activated 16 August 2014
With a rare Saturday free to escape and do some SOTA activating, I jumped in the Triton and headed for Warburton and the Acheron Way. I arrived at my parking spot on the hairpin bend near gate 15 with the promise of clear weather which was a great improvement over the conditions endured on my last visit to Mt Ritchie over a year ago. It is a nice walk on wide fire trails with nothing too steep most of the way to the summit. This time however, several trees had fallen across the tracks along the route slowing progress a little.
As I ascended to the summit patches of snow started to appear for the last 500 metres or so. From this point on I was also able to get into the VK3REC repeater on my handheld radio and have a couple of chats prior to setting up the FT-817. The sun was out and there was no wind and the ambient temperature was warmer than I expected. On arrival at the summit I surveyed the area with no shortage of well spaced trees to string the doublet.
It took me longer than I was hoping to get the antenna up but once it was up I had trouble getting the SWR down to an acceptable level. The main reason for this seems to be the length of the 300ohm ladder line feed which has been getting progressively shorter and shorter after continual stripping back. One disadvantage of this wire is the lack of copper strands to connect to the tuner which break off frequently in use. In the past I have lengthened the feed another metre or so using heavier gauge wire and a twin terminal block but this is only a temporary measure. With too much movement or tension on the terminal block, the wire soon weakens and breaks so most activations require a little careful wire stripping and reconnecting.
Once again I ventured out when It was probably not the best weekend for SOTA. I only logged one other SOTA contact, Nick VK3ANL on nearby Mt Donna Buang. There didn't seem to be the regular number of chasers or activators around and 40 metres was fairly busy with lighthouse stations and RD Contest stations.
I logged a few lighthouse stations and was hoping for a more. The ILLW weekend seemed to get quite a few chasers on the air as several lighthouses that I monitored had pileups to work through. Once again I noticed a higher percentage of stations that sounded over compressed and over driven than usual. It seems to be event weekends like this that attracts them.
One of the lighthouses I contacted was seemingly only interested in talking to other lighthouses and not non ILLW stations that were interested in chasing him. I thought this was odd as the lighthouse weekend is not a contest, nor are there any prizes or awards for making the most ILLW to ILLW contacts. I responded to his call after he had put out a number of calls without a response. I would have thought that most lighthouse stations would be quite happy to make contacts with any station as indeed most others were. Maybe some ILLW stations need to review their reasons for going portable and operating in the event as it is quite obvious that the majority of chasing stations are not lighthouse stations but regular operators who enjoy the extra activity on the bands and want to log as many lighthouse stations as they can over the weekend for their own enjoyment and nothing more. As a SOTA operator, I'm glad for any contacts from anyone as they all count for my goal of activating the summit under the rules of SOTA, particularly when I'm freezing in snow or rain, trying to keep my logbook from flapping away in the breeze.
What can sometimes be lost in events like ILLW or contests is the excitement of working another station that could be working under interesting operating conditions. My most memorable contacts are not under contest conditions, trying to bust through the pileup that is usually no more than a numbers game, but contacts that clearly stand out as different.
Many of my most memorable contacts have been when I have been portable myself. A VK3 to DL summit to summit SOTA contact QRP both ways, or a bicycle portable contact with a pedestrian portable contact in the UK. Or another occasion with me portable in VK7 talking with VK0KEV on Macquarie Island, both on battery power and QRP creating a pileup with stations in the US where we both worked DX stations non-stop for hours one evening. Someone sailing solo around the World, the list goes on. Quality not quantity.