Tag Archives: SOTA

Summit Prowler 6: A pocket-sized SSB/CW transceiver for 80, 40, 30 and 20m

Peter DK7IH is a master of compact homebrew transceivers. I’ve been reading his excellent blog where he chronicles more than half a dozen homebrew HF transceivers and related projects. Most are compact SSB superhet transceivers with digital VFOs, AGC, metering and PAs in the range 5 to 50 watts. A few of these rigs are just so remarkably tiny I wonder how he has the persistence and patience, not to mention how he gets them stable. With Peter’s fine examples in my head, I started daydreaming about a compact SSB/CW transceiver, hoping to go a fair bit smaller than my slightly chunky attempt at a hand-held from last year.

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Mt Hotham SOTA Weekend Feb 2-3 2019

A brief post to share a short video from last week’s Mt Hotham SOTA weekend. Once again, Brian VK3BCM hosted several dozen SOTA and mountaineering enthusiasts at Anton Huette Lodge, Mt Hotham, for two days of summit bagging and SOTA talk. On the way up I activated the two ‘easy’ summits on the Mt Buffalo plateau, The Hump and The Horn.

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Homebrew 50 watt amplifier for 80-17m (W6JL)

Don W6JL’s 50 watt FET amplifier is a popular afterburner for FT817s and other QRP rigs and exciters. Don won the QST Homebrew contest in 2009 with this design. The amp offers a useful order of magnitude (12dB) power lift over QRP levels, and apart from the power FETs can be built from an averagely stocked junk box. The FETs are commonplace and cheap — they can be bought for as little as 98c each!

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Mt Feathertop (VK3/VE-002), 19th Jan 2019

This year I tackled Feathertop as an overnight walk, leaving the car on the side of the Alpine Highway near Diamantina Hut at 1645 on Saturday 19th Jan 2019, after having driven up from Melbourne. It was about an hour later than I’d hoped for, but a daylight savings sunset time of 2032 gave me nearly 4 hours in the warm but cooling air to get to Federation Hut. The walk in along the Razorback Trail was in good conditions, but I was carrying my SOTA kit and camping gear, not well optimised, way too much weight, and it all started to hurt in the last hour. I met at least a dozen summiteers on their return leg, some looking like troops limping back from a battle, a few considerably worse for wear. More on this later.

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A compact Arduino, si5351 VFO with Keyer and OLED display

The remarkable compact transceivers of Peter DK7IH inspired me to dream up a compact transceiver of my own. This project would be an experiment on a shirt-pocket scale — not as dense as some of Peter’s rigs, but small on my scale. Starting with the PLL VFO/controller along the familiar lines of Raduino (Arduino Nano and si5351), I sketched out a physical design, and it became clear that the display choice would dictate the size of this module. Where small displays are concerned, there’s only one option … OLED.

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A scratchbuilt G6LBQ BiTx ‘Walkie-Talkie’ for 40 and 20m SSB/CW

After completing a 6-band SSB/CW QRP transceiver (Summit Prowler IV) I found myself thinking about a more compact QRP SSB/CW rig for SOTA, with two of the main day-time SOTA HF bands (40/20m). The design driver this time was to try a different ‘form factor’ — I wanted a rig with a narrow and long case, such that it would easily slide inside a backpack, and on a summit sit vertically against a rock or be hand held. All my SOTA rigs so far use both front and back panels for connections and controls, so they need to sit level on a horizontal surface. As most rocks or tree stumps are low, you can’t easily read the display. Some designers get around this by putting the display on the top of the box, a sensible adaptation but one that makes the rig look like a flounder. Because I spend a lot of time building and using these radios at home on the shack bench as well as on a summit, I wanted a design for use in both situations.

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Federation Range (VK3/VN-029) ski day, 2018

Last year I cross country ski’d into Federation Range VK3/VN-029, 1490 meters above sea level, activated it for 8 points (+3 winter bonus points) and ski’d out again. This is possible because this summit is just off groomed cross country ski tracks at Lake Mountain, ninety minutes north east of Melbourne, a popular sight-seeing, tobogganing and cross country skiing spot. Time to do it again. After picking up skis at Marysville I took Royston Trail from the car park up the long incline, to Panorama, then Hut Trail to Boundary Hut, the remains of a hiking hut, long since burned out, only the stone walls standing to waist height. Distance out is about 4km.

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Arduino GPS experiment for SOTA

How could a GPS unit integrated with a SOTA transceiver assist in activations? I’ve been turning that thought over for a while now after seeing David VK5KK’s GPS and Arduino based grid square locator (posted to the ‘VK Homebrew’ group on facebook).   The ready availability of cheap GPS units with a simple serial interface makes the option straight-forward.  As my homebrew rigs are using Arduino Nanos and si5351 breakout boards, the GPS is just another (serial) attachment.

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‘Summit Prowler IV’ — Homebrew 160m to 17m QRP SSB/CW transceiver for portable and SOTA use

‘Summit Prowler IV’ is a scratch-built six-band SSB and CW transceiver, designed for portable and SOTA activations. It is based on Leon VK2DOB’s MST3 (Minimal Sideband Transceiver, third version) from 2016, with alterations to support multiple bands, my Arduino-based digital VFO/controller and keyer, and a few extras to support portable operating. The transceiver is a conventional single-conversion superhet with 12MHz IF and an si5351 and Arduino Nano-based digital VFO. This project comes after having done more than 50 activations with my 2013 MST Mk I kit radio on 40m SSB. This rig has performed well on 40m SSB (and CW after I added it) and has launched my interest in SOTA activating, turning me into an occasional weekend ‘summit prowler‘.

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Mt Hotham SOTA Weekend Feb 2-4 2018

VK3’s ARH, YY and PF on Mt Murray.

On the weekend of the 3rd and 4th Feb 2018 I joined about 18 others at Brian VK3MCD’s now annual VK Mt Hotham SOTA weekend, starting with a night on Mt Buffalo camping at Lake Catani the night before, and with some activations at Falls Creek on Friday. With the summits at Mt Buffalo (The Horn, The Hump) and Falls Creek (Mt Nelse, Mt Cope), then 2 days four wheel driving, I accumulated 124 activator points.  A productive long weekend!

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