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ZL and VK expedition in July/August 2017

Dear ZL and VK friends,

I will be changing hemispheres temporarily this July and August! If anyone would like to try for a joint activation, or just get together to chat, then please feel free to get in touch! I have extensive skiing/mountaineering experience but I also enjoy a nice walk with good company.

My itinerary is loosely this: I’ll arrive in Sydney around July 8, then visit friends for a few days before renting a car to drive to Melbourne and hopefully do some SOTA on the way. From Melbourne I’ll fly to Auckland around July 16 where I’ll ski and SOTA as much as humanly possible until I leave around August 27. I may spend a few more days in Australia, then I’ll have to move on again.

As far as equipment goes I’ll be packing a mono-band 40m QRP rig (a modified CS-40) and a couple of different antennas, and possibly a 2m/70cm HT. I may be able to further modify my HF rig to include the 20m or 30m bands, but that would mean borrowing some tools.

Since this will be my first time operating HF South of the equator I’m not very familiar with the current state of the bands there. I’ve been told that 40m used to be a reliable SOTA band but lately has become difficult to use. If anyone has any advice, observations, or general wisdom to offer I’d be happy to get it!


Hi John

Are you coming to ZL3 (South Island)? By all means get in touch if you are. Would be interested in a joint activation if I’m available.

[callsign] at yahoo.com

Andrew ZL3CC

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Well you know about the “down under” issue requiring all operation to be done upside down. Fortunately the combination of rotations means we still use the same modes as those in the northern hemisphere. LSB on bands below 10 MHz etc. :wink:

The ionosphere appears to be equally uncooperative down here, the sun being the common factor.

The 2m band in vk is same as in North America 144-148 but channel allocations on fm are totally different. If you plan to use 2m fm do some research on channel allocations. I believe ZL is the same band but again different allocations.

On HF, very few licence conditions also specify sub bands. The only thing along those lines is that various licence classes either have access to bands or they don’t. The main bands affected are 10, 18, 24 and 50 MHz.

My FAQ page at Http://vkfaq.ampr.org/opersota.php provides some additional detail.

As you’ll start in vk2, and we recommend you divert to vk1 en route to vk3, you’ll pass many sota summits. Tell us how much time you will have and we can advise on choices.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH
AM for vk2.

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Hi John, have enjoyed reading your exploits over past years.
2 metre FM activity will be on 146.500 rather than 146.520 and activity will be much as you have found in GV.
Alerts and Spots are nearly essential, particularly so if activating mid-week.
40 metres has been the main stay of SOTA here but recently the more local NVIS propagation has been sporadic and generally poor. That said, 40m has provided some longer distance contacts.
There are a number of nearby summits to Melbourne, which ones are best may be determined by your available time and where you are staying. From my Bayside QTH it takes me an hour in average traffic to get out beyond the metropolitan area.
FYI, I never managed any 2 metre contacts from Burnaby Mountain -:slight_smile: and for that matter none at all in North America!

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Hi John

Canberra (VK1) has a couple of easy access local summits which you can activate on 2m FM 146.500. Alerts are essential with at least 24 hours notice. Even though we have 10 regular SOTA chasers, timings may conflict with work or family comittments.

If you plan to visit VK1 en route to VK3 please contact me via my email at QRZ. Happy to help out with SOTA SSB HF and VHF gear.

If 18 MHz is within your equivalent licence permissions I recommend 18.140 MHz SSB for ZL and JA chasers.

Popular SSB calling frequencies are 7.090, 10.130, 14.310, 18.140 and 21.300. VHF and UHF FM simplex call frequencies are 146.500 and 439.000. respectively.

73 Andrew VK1AD

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Hi John,

When near Sydney, You have VK2/HU-093 Mount Elliot on the Central coast about an hour north of Sydney and VK2/SY-001 Canoelands both of which are drive-up summits and there are a few easy access summits in the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney - Check though my reports at VK2JI.com and you’ll get details on them.

73 Ed.

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If you are in and around Syndey (VK2) and have time for an activation 3-4 hours min, then feel free to contact me.

Email on QRZ is good to use.

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Hi John,

an addendum to my earlier reply.

Sydney: only three summits are within easy reach of the metro area, SY-001, SY-002 and IL-018 to the south. Compton’s offer to assist in the Sydney area is worth considering, he knows where everything is and knows a few other things too, like the CT summits that are worth more points and just a bit further to the west. Ed’s suggestion of HU-093 is good too, depends on your time available to spend a few hours heading that way.

En route Sydney - Melbourne. Recommend stopping off at IL-001 Mt Gibraltar which overlooks the towns of Mittagong and Bowral and is a drive-up. Another summit nearby requiring a 20 min walk is Mt Alexandra, VK2/IL-005, to the north of the Mittagong town centre, steep final climb to the car park in your rental car but feasible. Local name is Katoomba Lookout. overlooks the Hume Highway.

Further south, divert to Canberra (VK1) just after Goulburn. This gives you access to Mt Ainslie VK1/ac-040, Black Mt Vk1/ac-042 and Mt Stromlo VK1/ac-043, all drive ups. See comments by Andrew VK1AD re alerts and letting the locals know - there are plenty but they need notice. If you time it right you could meet all the VK1 SOTA guys for a meal.

On the way out of VK1 back to the Hume Highway at Yass, Mt Mundoonen, VK2/ST-053 just 5 km east of the junction of Barton and Hume Hwy, right next to the highway and you can drive up most of the way. Stop when you worry about your vehicle damage agreement. Some NDB antennas and other masts at the top. Even if you walk all the way it’s only 20 mins or so.

Heading south-west along the Hume, pass through Gundagai (stop 5km before the city to see the dog on the tucker box - famous icon) then continue towards Albury. Some nearby summits along the way, just south of Albury you go over the border into Victoria (VK3) and Huon Hill and Mt Big Ben are both accessible and quite close to Wodonga. After that my knowledge peters out as I haven’t activated much in that area. Others have more local knowledge than me.

Your planned trip from Sydney to Melbourne seems to be in the week of the 10th to 14th July, weekday activity is definitely lower than on weekends, but if you alert beforehand, you will make enough contacts to qualify the summits.

Hope that helps.

vk1da/2uh at Yass

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Hi John,
During the winter I manage a Ski Lodge at Mount Hotham, the premier ski resort in Victoria. We have relative easy access to a number of peaks in the vicinity of Hotham. If you interested in doing an overnighter on your way to Melbourne let me know. I have great friends at the bottom of the hill where we can arrange reasonably priced accommodation, we can then access a number of nearby peaks. When you’re in Oz we are in the bonus season.
I have my SOTA gear with my at the lodge.
Please feel free to contract me via email bcmcdermott@tpg.com.au if I can assist.


Wow, what a fantastic community!

My travel dates are still being finalized, but I’ll try to stick with the original plan as much as possible. I’ll be getting in touch with all of you once I book my final flights. As it stands I’m flying in to Perth on July 8 (all flights to Sydney or Melbourne were booked out) and then out from Melbourne on August 28. In between I’ll need to get to Sydney/Auckland/Melbourne, can anyone recommend a low cost airline?

Stay awesome,

I laughed out loud when I read that, unfortunatley this is not the US!!

Low cost in VK is JetStar or Virgin. The other is Qantas which may be better than the others depending on where/when you are flying etc.

Drop me line warren at zl2aj dot com (AM for ZL) or via facebook group zl-sota. If you in zl there is a plethora of varied summits to do. If i have activated it my blog writeuos are linked on www.sota.org.uk as well. Happy to do a joint activation if our paths cross :slight_smile: de ZL2AJ warren.

As did I - I frequently have to tell folks I work with (US company) about the fact that Australia is about the same size as the continental US. Flying into Perth while planning east coast stuff is about the equivalent of flying into San Francisco in order to visit Miami :slight_smile: If you can fly into Brisbane you’ll do better - it’s only a 1 hour flight to Sydney instead of 4.5 from Perth. (Think Boston, Washington, Atlanta, Miami as very rough analogues for Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne)

Also, as Perth is a long way away (Auckland is closer to Sydney than Perth), and has limited population, the demand for flights isn’t as great as for the East Coast corridor, so you’ll have about 5 flights a day with Qantas (pricy but full service), 3 with Virgin (about $10 cheaper than Qantas, slightly more budget), and 1 each with Jetstar and Tiger (Deathstar and Deathtrap), and the pricing can be quite expensive. There’s little margin in the market, so if you have luggage to take, expect you won’t see much difference if any between the airlines once you get down to exact pricing.

might even be better to go via Auckland to Sydney

Hi John, If you are coming to Wellington and want to do a joint activation or just need advice email me (should be on QRZ.com) and if the timing is right for both of us I will jack something up. Plenty of summits to choose from. Also would be well worth your while to join the ZL-SOTA FB page as Warren suggested, so you can post your intentions as you go for the benefit of ZL chasers to see.

Hi John,

I responded to your email last week, but let me know if you didn’t get it. Lots of options for you I think! I also agree with the other comments on coming in via Perth - that’s a lot of extra flying if your focus is the east coast! However, Perth is also a good place to visit although most of the SOTA peaks are some drive from the city.



Hi folks,

Itinerary update!

I’ll be arriving in Melbourne early Sunday morning (July 9) then renting a car and knocking around Victoria and NSW until about July 17. My schedule is pretty flexible and, other than seeing some friends in Sydney, I don’t really have a lot planned. Individual emails will go out in a bit, but if anyone else wants to plan an activation or just get dinner I’m happy to try and fit that in!

Questions for the group:

  1. Where can I get a good pulled pork sandwich?
  2. Does anyone have a recommendation for hostels or other places of lodging?
  3. At some point (sooner is better) I’ll need to finish some modifications to my transceiver that I haven’t been able to fit in before I leave. I don’t want to spill too many beans, but I’ll need to cut a hole in an aluminum enclosure to mount a TFT display and maybe do a bit of soldering and alignment. Are there any clubs or makerspaces in the Melbourne area that might accommodate me?
  4. What are the more commonly used repeaters? Any frequencies to avoid?
  5. Which cellular provider should I use?
  6. How much snow can I reasonably expect this time of year?

I’m getting decidedly pumped, when I’m not fighting with SDR firmware!


There are some questions missing.

  1. Where do the Minogue sisters live?
  2. Will they accompany me on a night overtly excessive alcohol consumption in the bars and clubs of NSW?


The UK

See above. (Unless you mean North and South Wales)

It feels like any hipster cafe in Melbourne will do a pulled pork sandwich these days. There’s also a big increase in the number of (pricy) burger joints around.

Airbnb is not as prevalent in Australia as it is in the US or Europe, nor are there the very cheap options you get in the US as part of the budget chains. Plenty of backpackers places around though, if you can tolerate backpackers (I’m more towards the Ivan Milat end of the spectrum in that regard)

If you’re going anywhere away from the main population centers (ie, out bush on a SOTA summit), consider Telstra, although they’ll be most expensive. If not, your choices are basically them, Optus or Vodafone. There are a bunch of resellers that roam on these networks, so if it’s not one of those three, ask them what underlying network they use. Will most likely be the last two.

My experience is 2m repeaters are dead for the most part, but I do live out of Melbourne. Simplex calling frequency is 146.500 FM.