My first ever SOTA activation on Easter Monday (6th April) 2014 was typical of my radio activities of late — unplanned, somewhat ill-considered, but great fun nonetheless. The drive from the north-east suburbs of Melbourne to Healesville, then on to the mountain, the maiden activation with homebrew radio and antenna, and the descent and return drive all went without a hitch, suggesting that my basic portable station is well and truly ‘fit for purpose’.
The mountain is well known to Melburnians and a popular destination out of Healesville. There is a section of unsealed winding road which presented no problems, and may only be difficult during winter after snow. At the top I found a sealed car park, a large cleared area, a covered picnic shelter where a log fire burned low, and a four storey lookout tower. There are some popular walking tracks from the summit, including Mt Donna Buang to nearby Mt Victoria and back, a moderate 6km 3 hour return walk. There are lots of activator’s pictures of Donna Buang so I did not bother add further to them.
I set up just south of the main cleared area in order to use the coverage of trees for the dipole. The setting was magical lyre bird country, standing in a sea of mature tree ferns, under a canopy of alpine mountain ash, with the setting sun streaming in from the west.
My timing in propagation terms was also excellent, with powerful signals from all south-eastern states, and dozens of operators all vying to work the summit, in fact 50 in all. Low noise, big signals, great reports, beautiful environment, cool, fresh alpine air… so this is what SOTA is all about!
|07:12z||VK3OF||7MHz||SSB||Rex Swan Hill|
|07:26z||VK3TCX||7MHz||SSB||Ian, E Gippsland|
|07:29z||VK5PZ||7MHz||SSB||Andrew, Port Elliot|
|07:42z||VK5EE||7MHz||SSB||Tom, Mt Gambier|
|08:03z||VK3KAB||7MHz||SSB||Kevin, VK3/VE081, Ebenezer Range|
|08:11z||VK3MPM||7MHz||SSB||Ivan, West Geelong|