1 May 2016 – the day the ZL3 SOTA association went live! A huge thanks to Warren ZL2AJ, Andrew VK3ARR, Richard ZL4FZ, Don ZL3DMC and anyone else involved, for making this happen.

Unfortunately I had missed the first ZL3 activations by Warren, Andrew and Paul (ZL2RE) in Marlborough at the start of the UTC day. However, I was determined to activate on the first day. I couldn’t go far so chose Coopers Knob, one of the closest summits to home. After a spot of fence painting I finally got away about 4pm and headed up the Port Hills. As luck would have it, I heard Richard ZL4FZ on the 705 repeater on the drive up, so arranged for him to listen for me on 2m simplex. Geoff ZL3QR offered to do the same.

On such a warm day (for May) the Gibraltar Rock carpark was pretty full but I managed to squeeze in, and was soon carrying my SOTA gear to a summit for the first time. The top was soon reached, but occupied by a small group and not much room there anyway – luckily there is a bit more space below, still in the AZ and just wide enough for a 40m inverted-V. Couldn’t wait for that though, I put out a call on 146.475 and Geoff was my first SOTA contact. Then Richard, followed by Blair ZL3TOY and Ron ZL3RCK – successful activation!

Coopers Knob summit
Coopers Knob summit

OK, now to get the dipole up. A bit of learning for the first time in the field, but eventually I was calling CQ on 14.310. Richard had seen my self-spot and gave me my first HF contact, and then a nice little VK pile-up developed: Rick VK4RF and his alter-ego VK4HA, Ron VK3AFW, Ian VK5CZ (summit-to-summit), Matt VK1MA, Dave VK2ZK, Peter VK3ZPF, Adam VK2YK and Tony VK3CAT. Then a change to 40m but no luck with the CQ. However, Gerard VK2IO was getting a good signal out from VKFF-0383, and responded to my calling him.

By now it was 0540 and getting dark. Time to pack up (more learning about antenna wire v. scrub) and a few quick photos before heading down to the car.

Quite a buzz, and pleasing how the gear performed in the wild. Many thanks to all the chasers!

Waihora/Lake Ellesmere to the SW
Log: 1 May 2016
Log: 1 May 2016

ZL3/CB-806 Coopers Knob

Height: 573m ASL
Access: Summit Road between Dyers Pass and Gebbies Pass. Park in the Gibraltar Rock car park and walk north along the road about 1 min to where an unmarked but obvious path leads up some steps to the east. Follow this for about 4 mins to meet the Crater Rim Walkway, turn right (south). Soon another junction: the main track (right fork) is the Crater Rim Walkway, take the left fork up the ridge to the summit. Roughly 15 mins walk total.
Time to summit: 45 mins from Christchurch – 30 min drive, 15 min walk
Summit marker: Trig beacon
Land access permission: Not required, public reserve land
Map: NZ Topo Map
More information: sota.org.uk