Activation report Pheasant's Peak VK2/SM-086

Last Saturday I activated Pheasants Peak in SE NSW. This summit has only been activated twice before, even though access is fairly easy.
However, it turned out to be a slightly stressful activation, not least due to having limited time available on this particular afternoon.

I approached from the southern side (more south-western really). Starting at the T-intersection where the southern end of Waratah Rd meets the Coolangubra Forest Way, it’s a few kilometres drive along Waratah Rd to get to the start of the Pheasants Peak Trail which is marked by a large information board. So far, the route is 2WD friendly, but after this point it becomes definitely 4WD only. Turning onto Pheasants Peak Trail, it’s fairly steep in parts but mostly in good condition. There is one more difficult section however where the track squeezes between large boulders up an eroded steep slope. I made it without much difficulty on the second attempt in the Land Rover but it has real potential to cause vehicle damage if not approached with due caution… you’ve been warned :grinning:

Right after this bit there is a peak on the eastern side, but this is not Pheasants Peak itself.

After a bit further (around 2km from the start of the trail) Pheasants Peak is marked with a small wooden sign on the eastern side of the track. Opposite is a flat area to park in.

The sign, with the summit among the trees in the background

The summit is only a few hundred meters from here. The whole hill above this point is a mass of rounded boulders in all shapes and sizes, with some very imposing ones at the peak. I didn’t feel like heading straight into the big boulders, so skirted round in an anticlockwise direction, climbing gradually. My phone was struggling to get a GPS fix in the trees (there’s lots) so once it looked like I was in the Activation zone I set it down on a boulder and waited for a fix, which it found fairly quickly once it wasn’t moving.

My operating position was somewhere around the centre of this photo, maybe halfway up the mass of boulders

I wasn’t there yet, so scrambled a bit further up eventually setting up south-west of the actual summit, just inside the AZ, as far I could tell from the contours on the topo map.

Incidentally, the contours on the NSW topo map show the summit as 1080m ASL as opposed to 1060m on the SOTA Summits site. What’s more, on the NSW map, Pheasant’s Peak is marked as being an adjacent summit. Any thoughts anyone?

This screenshot shows a marker on the VK2/SM-086 location.

I tossed my weighted string over a obliging branch and pulled up my 40m EFHW, finishing up with it in a sort of inverted J shape - not ideal, but I’d already wasted 5 minutes untangling the “tidily wound” string…

Set up the tuner and uBitx, after a bit of fiddling. I’ve been meaning to remember to arrange a convenient method of giving a carrier for tuning - the uBitx is only SSB and CW - and I didn’t have anything to plug into the key socket :neutral_face:.

After peaking the tuner (a long suffering portable MFJ) on receive, I tried to tune it with a whistle into the mike - but my whistle was too unsteady to find the fairly narrow dip in SWR. So, I had a rummage and found a piece of spare wire, and I jammed the end of it into the keyer socket. That did the trick, but not very elegantly.

As is probably obvious, I don’t exactly have a standard SOTA setup. This was the first time I’d used the uBitx with this antenna setup hence the complications.

I’d already put out a spot on the way up saying I’d be there in 20min, but the time estimate had been optimistic - to put it mildly! Once set up on 40m I heard a VK2 calling CQ, so made the first contact, after which ZL1BQD found me for the second QSO.

At this point I took a break to put up a new spot, only to find no phone signal. But after trying a few locations was able to spot myself on SW3. After this I worked 5 more stations on 40m, before going to 80m using the same antenna as a 1/4 wave, with the addition of a random wire radial/counterpoise. Here I worked Peter VK3PF and VK2VAR.

I would have liked to try 20m next, but was already going to be late - so called it a day, stuffing everything back in, before hurrying back down to the Land Rover. Even this last part didn’t go altogether to plan, as on the way down I slipped on a loose rock and took rather a tumble. Fortunately no serious damage was done - to radio or operator. But it could have been much worse and it was a real reminder of the importance of taking care when one’s out in the bush, and to make sure someone knows where you are - things can go wrong!

Apologies if I missed anyone who called, or caused any confusion with my rather incoherent spotting. My only excuse is that I need more experience!

Thanks everyone, 73.


H Steven, thanks for your fine and interesting report. Great photos too. Well done in what you achieved, good learning for sure. look forword to future activations. :grinning:

73 de Geoff vk3sq

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Hi Geoff,
Thanks for the feedback! Look forward to working you next time.


Great to read the report of your experience out on the hill - something different to most UK summits. That’s an interesting set up you use, particularly for someone like me that uses an FT-817 and a multi-band linked dipole. I can’t recall ever using a tree to support my antenna either.

Hope your future outings go well.

73, Gerald


Hi Gerald,
Thanks for your reply. :grinning:

I used a link dipole for my first 5 or 6 activations, but find the current setup easier to - um - set up.

I’ve never used anything else! :grin: But I haven’t done many activations, and have always had trees available, so far…
And again, the uBitx with tuner isn’t particularly light or compact, but that hasn’t been a problem on the fairly short walks to the summits I’ve done.


Hi Steven,

A lot of summits are not well marked and indeed sometimes signs are placed at lookout points rather than at the actual top of the hill. If the summit has a trig marker, which are white four sided pyramidal concrete obelisks in most of NSW, the name of the summit is normally on a metal plate embedded on one side. Often there are also the remains of a black steel marker which should be mounted on the concrete pyramid, but unfortunately weather and vandals have caused a lot of damage over the years.

The surveying done for sota was all map based. No summit inspections were made. So the accuracy of the maps used is what we were relying on.

Any questions about summits or suggestions for new ones are preferably sent by email to the contact named in the Association Manual, and for VK2/SM that’s me, currently. So I will take a look at the relevant maps and see if any revision in position or elevation is needed for this one. If you drop me an email I’ll have a return address to use.

Your reports are very informative and I wonder if you have considered starting your own blog. It’s very useful to those who follow in your footsteps, to be able to look at what you’ve reported.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

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Hi Andrew,
Thanks for the info - in this case I didn’t get to the top, to see if there was a trig marker.
But the sign in my photo does agree with the SOTA mapping, so I don’t think there’s any problems - except maybe with the NSW topo map! I’ll send you an email shortly so you have my address. Thanks for the suggestion about the blog.
I’ll think about it, but I don’t have a particularly high opinion of my own writing :face_with_raised_eyebrow: … or my ability to keep one up to date.

Hi Steven,

A good read - thanks for the report.

How about a momentary contact switch connected to the key line and earth? You could do the wiring inside the uBitX and mount the switch at a convenient location. Switch the rig to CW and press the new switch - you effectively have a simple CW key…

Regarding the mapping, let us simply say that the quality of mapping easily available has improved significantly since SOTA started in Australia! I helped out with mapping in the VK2/RI region and also in VK7. The freely available online mapping resources are now much better than those available when the initial mapping for SOTA was undertaken in VK.


Peter VK3PF

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Hi Peter,

That’s a good idea - actually I’ve been considering doing either that or the same switch on a very short lead.
Noted about the available mapping too - it’s been improving rapidly, even in the last couple of years.
Thanks for the 80m QSO on Pheasants Peak, one of only two contacts on the band.

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Building on Peter’s suggestion of using cw mode, if you never use CW then you could install a shorted plug into the key socket. Then whenever you switch to cw mode, the key is “down”. This may simplify the cw switching.
If it’s a 3.5mm plug, it’s pretty simple to just wire it up to short tip to sleeve.



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Good idea — except that the uBitX design can’t be “switched” as such between SSB and CW. It only has the one filter anyway, and when you push the key it goes straight into CW, including offsetting the VFO by 700Hz (I think) so that if you’re replied to on zero beat you can hear a reply through the SSB receiver.
IIRC, the CW carrier is produced by unbalancing one of the mixers in the TX, as well as probably changing the DDS frequency… but I’d have to look it up to be sure. Not sure if this is extraordinary or not! I’ve only ever used it in SSB anyway.
But thanks for the suggestion :grinning:

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Ok I didn’t recall any cw mode with the bitx and assumed your rig was more recent than the ones I looked at. So the external switch does look like the best idea.
Cheers, Andrew…

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Hi Steven.

Which height do you want? A quick check of my maps shows summit heights of 1,060, 1,068, 1,070, 1,075, 1,080 and a spot height shown on one map only of 1,087m.

I would check the NSW SIX series of maps for a definitive value but that would require exertion on my behalf and I’m not moving from my armchair

Spot heights are normally surveyed heights and therefore the best available. Heights by contour can be in error by 70% of the contour spacing but that’s an average and exceptions do occur. This hill seems to be one of those.

I shall leave the decision on whether to up date the height to the RM.

Until advised otherwise I take the SOTA listed height as correct. A phone GPS isn’t likely to be any better than the maps in terms of accuracy. The main thing is to be in the AZ.

As one person on the MC dryly remarked, the summit is the high bit. You will recognise it when you get there.

Well maybe yes, and maybe no. Sometimes you can’t see the summit for the trees and understory. And piles of rocks like the one on that summit are heaving with irritable snakes in Spring so you only climb it if you have to and then carefully. There’s a reason why Pheasants aren’t common up there. Their eggs get eaten

Thanks for the story


My thoughts exactly… :laughing:
But seriously, thanks for the feedback and input, Ron.
I think mapping could be a whole hobby in itself!

Surveying is an excellent profession.

There is a lot of remote sensing data available and various bits of computery instructions take that and draw contour lines.

Not all processes are equal, especially the free ones. Boots on ground surveying gives the truth. But every truth had its uncertainties.

Best not to think too much about some things.