Today’s plan was to activate three summits to add them to my 6m/10m log and in two cases, gain activator points for 2015 as I had not activated them yet in 2015.
The summits were One Tree Hill near Hall, ACT, Isaacs Ridge to the east of the Woden Valley in Canberra and Mt McDonald, adjacent to the Cotter dam west of Canberra. This selection was designed to complement the plans of VK1NAM and VK4JAZ who were activating three summits that day.
Leaving Yass at 7:10 after discovering the chooks had no water (and getting my bike gloves wet), I found the Barton Hwy was fogbound for part of the trip to Hall.
I planned to ride my bike to the base of One Tree Hill, hoping to save some time. I recalled the walk as basically flat with a few undulations but I didn’t mind walking the bike for a few hundred metres. Well, it was about 4km and most of it seemed to be uphill. It took about an hour so to reach the hill so riding the bike seemed to have saved very little time on this leg of the trip.
At One Tree Hill I set up the antennas including the dipole for 6m, connected both to the FT817 transceiver and looked at SOTAwatch to see who was on from where. I was excited by the spot for JS1UEH on a Japanese summit and tuned to his 21 MHz frequency, but the whole band sounded dead. Hearing nothing there I resumed normal operation, moved the antenna links to 28 MHz and tuned up to 28.48. This sounds simple but my antennas were attached to the barbed wire fence and naturally, when the antenna was dropped down to make link changes, it caught on the fence when it was raised, making it a frustrating process. At the same time the 6m dipole was getting caught also. Finally I got the antenna up again and I could use it.
I found Gerard VK2IO at Mt Marulan on 28 MHz with a good signal. I called him and received a low signal report so I looked at my setup to check with antenna I had used on 28 MHz. The 817 has two antenna sockets and I use both, making it possible to switch between antennas as the 817 stores the antenna selection by band (or groups of bands actually).
I found that I had used the wrong antenna on 10m, so had been using the 6m antenna when I called and worked Gerard. What’s more (or less), one side of the dipole had disconnected from the binding post in the process of raising it with the barbed wire fence not helping. So I had used half a 6m dipole to make that contact. Later I called Gerard again on 10m and found he was much stronger on the 10m antenna and also upgraded my signal report too. Barbed wire fences are off my list as a possible mounting point for antennas.
At this point I abandoned 6m and used only HF bands. There were a few contacts to be made on 10m and 40m found a good list of chasers.
During the activation there were several visitors to the hilltop, including some goats. And no, none of them seemed to be SOTA goats.
After making a reasonable number of log entries I packed up and walked back to my bike. The return ride to my car at Hall took only 18 minutes, not bad for 4km and clearly it was nearly all downhill! That time included chatting with some other riders when lifting bikes over a gate.
Then a quick drive across Canberra to Woden Valley where I parked near Isaacs Ridge on Long Gully Lane. About 20 minutes to walk up to the operating position and 10 minutes to set up the antennas. This time I had the vertical for 6m so was able to work a few locals on that band, including VK1NAM on Mt Taylor, about 4 km away on the other side of Woden! We had exchanged SMS messages updating each other on our progress and plans, so I knew he and Grant VK4JAZ were planning to operate from Isaacs Ridge after me.
I made a page full of contacts on 40m and a few on 10m. I was slow walking up this one so was then considering whether I could manage Mt McDonald later. I decided against it as it would be near the end of the daylight when I got there and would almost certainly be walking back to the car in the dark and would still have to drive home. So while I wanted to add one more summit to my 6m/10m challenge scorecard, I had to drop the idea. Coffee and food seemed a more attractive option, so that was the next step.