SOTA activations in December 2015 and January 2016

After the diamond quad experiment at Spring hill for the 10m contest and the 6&10 challenge, I planned a series of minor activations that were intended mainly to just add another summit to my activation list on 6&10m.

Goorooyaroo Hill

So an activation of Goorooyaroo, east of Canberra, followed on 15th December.  It was a joint activation with Adan VK1FJAW and we used 10m to obtain one new unique worked station, plus some contacts on 6m. During this activation the coax plug on the feedline for the 6m antenna disintegrated and I had to restore the connection temporarily using a BNC-binding post adaptor, which I had in my parts box, along with pliers, connectors and kitchen sinks.

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The failed connector was replaced by this concoction of adaptors.
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Adan is shown here operating a log

Mt Gingera for New Year’s Day

There was a gap of several weeks until the end of December, when Adan and I made the trek to Mt Gingera, VK1/AC-002.  We parked at the base of Mt Ginini and then rode our bikes 6 km to the final ascent point to Mt Gingera.  The long uphill trudge between the car park and the hill just before Prior’s hut was the main challenge of this trip.  I rode the bike for part of this.

At the summit we decided to operate from a grassy area just to the north of the trig point.  Adan set up his 10m antenna and made a few new uniques on that band, and I attempted to work Chris VK2DO at Batemans Bay on 2m and 6m, without success.  Having no phone coverage meant I had to count on others to spot me.  Chris was looking out for spots on sotawatch and seeing none, assumed we were not yet onsite.

6m gave me a few vk1 contacts but was not open to more distant points so was quite disappointing. A contact on 2m with John VK2YW at Wagga gave me some hopes of working him on 6m, but while I could hear him he could not hear my signal at all.  I had taken the IC706 in the hope that having more power would help with contacts.  After a couple of hours in the hot sun, and it was over 30C that day, I was finding it hard to keep any enthusiasm for doing any more of the same.  Adan felt he had worked all that were available on 10m so was ready to head back to the car.

The consolation for the unproductive 6m was that at least we had qualified the summit both before and after 0000 UTC, which meant qualifying it in both 2015 and 2016.   40m was poor that day, with unreliable propagation due to recent solar events.

Mt Tumorrama, Billapoola State forest

A week later I headed out to the Bondo state forest between Tumut and Brindabella, to activate Mt Tumorrama VK2/SW-027 and a hilltop in the Billapoola state forest, VK2/SW-034.  The second activation was made using the ft817 and with the 10m antenna mast held up in my hand.  Not ideal, but it was raining and all I wanted to do was make 4 contacts and get out. Fortunately it was possible to work into Canberra on 10m.

Mt Mundoonen VK2/ST-053

At Mt Mundoonen on 15th Jan gave me some new uniques on 6m and 10m.  I used the diamond quad on 10m and the half wave vertical on 6m.  I operated from the small sun shelter, and the impression you get in those things is a reduction of about 10 degrees when you are in the shade.  They have a good SPF rating. Makes operating outside in summer more comfortable and a lot safer.

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The SOTA shack on Mt Mundoonen
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The setup at Mundoonen

Webbs Ridge, Dingi Dingi, Baldy Range

A few days later I also activated Webbs Ridge, Dingi Dingi ridge and Baldy Range in company with Adan VK1FJAW, Tony VK1VIC and Grant VK4JAZ.  It’s always a good day in the bush with friends, lots of laughs and plenty of talk about antennas, how much power Matt and Mark run, etc. 🙂

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Tony’s car descending the trail to Baldy Range
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My 6m station at Dingi Dingi Ridge
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Unusual lump on a tree, en route to Dingi Dingi
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Follow the path?
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There is no path
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Descending the trail en route to Baldy Range
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Adan’s operating position at Baldy Range looks quite relaxed

Mt Coree VK1/AC-023

The activation of Mt Coree was with Adan after work one day.  It was a calm clear day, visibility was excellent and the sunset was impressive.  To add to that there was a 6m opening to VK5 and some 10m contacts into VK4 plus one contact into Indonesia.

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Great sunset on Mt Coree
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Adan busily racking up 10m points on Mt Coree

Bald Mt, Big Badja (fail), flat tyre

On 22nd January I drove down to Bald Mountain SM059, intending also to activate Big Badja however en route to the second summit the weather turned and I decided not to travel down the forest trail.  I thought I would go to Mt Cowangerong near Braidwood and decided to head north to do that.  On the way a storm blew through, with tropical level rainfall and hailstones, lasting about 30 minutes and giving way to a steady rainfall.

Postponing the summit until after lunch I called into the bakery at Braidwood for a coffee, a pastie and an apple pie.

Suitably refreshed I drove the car up the main street and found the steering pulling to the left so I knew I had a flat tyre.  Pulling into a parking spot 100m north of the bakery, I set about the job of changing the tyre.  I called off any more forest trips, though no doubt the nail or screw in the tyre was picked up in the street at Braidwood rather than in the forest.  Quite a long day for one activation as I got home at about 6pm.

Yankee Ned and Snow Gum Mt

Four days later on 26th January I returned to Yankee Ned Hill VK2/SW-026, making a few contacts on 10m, 6m and 40m. There was no cooperation from 6 or 10m and the only contacts available were with VK1 “locals”.  Then I drove east along Brindabella Rd, leaving the sealed section for several km, then heading north east along Nottingham Rd to reach the road junction at the base of Snow Gum Mt VK2/SW-028.  This is a short hill climb on foot, taking me about 20 minutes.  Again some 10m and 40m contacts qualified the summit for general activation points as well as adding it to my 6/10m summit list.

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An echidna seen in the Wee Jasper Forest
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Operating shelter on Yankee Ned Hill
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part of the climb up Yankee Ned Hill
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part of the climb up Yankee Ned Hill
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part of the climb up Yankee Ned Hill
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The operating setup at Snow Gum Mt
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Antenna mast strapped to a burnt tree stump

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Mt Cowangerong VK2/ST-001

On 28th January I decided that the weather forecast for late afternoon storms was not going to be right, so headed out to Mt Cowangerong to add that to the 10m log.  My first contact was with Dale VK1DSH, which was quite promising as he was using a general purpose doublet and his FT817.  Four other contacts on 10m were made with Canberra operators, but the band was not providing any interstate contacts.  The rain I drove through at Captains Flat threatened to resume in more serious form so I packed up without trying 40m.  The lightning crashes on 10m were strong enough to be a worry.

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The sun shelter doubled as a rain shelter on Mt Cowangerong

Mt Majura VK1/AC-034

On the second of February I activated Mt Majura VK1/AC-034.  There are two well defined tracks up this one, both departing from its foothills in the suburb of Hackett.    I have used the.more northerly of the two, thinking it looked shorter, however it seems to take longer so perhaps it is steeper and slower.    Contacts made:  a handful of locals on 10m, 12 on 20m CW and 24 on 40m ssb.

Mt Ainslie on 3rd Feb

An after-work activation and was fortunate to make contact into Japan as well as with several local 10m operators, plus several contacts on 20m CW.

 

Shelter on Mt Ainslie
Shelter on Mt Ainslie

The next activation was to be my last for the 6m/10m challenge.  A separate post will be written for that one…

Spring Hill VK2/ST-036 with diamond quad  

How would you find a new source of unique callsigns for your 10m log?  Operate in a dx contest.

The ARRL 10m contest ran for two days of the weekend of 12/13 December 2015.  I decided I would operate on 10m on one of the contest days.

I arranged to operate from Spring Hill, using the IC703 at 10 watts.  I had a 10m dipole and a quarter wave vertical that could be used for this event.  To give me another antenna option I decided to cut and tune a diamond quad for 10m.

The quad is a full wave loop, closed at the end opposite the feedpoint.  The conventional square quad is fed in the centre of one of the horizontal legs, usually the lower end.  By rotating it 45 degrees you have a diamond quad, a square with one apex closest to the ground.  This format has a great advantage for a backpack station, as it can be made using wire, with the outer corners held in place with guys.  The wire antenna is simply attached to a stock standard squid pole (aka telescopic fibreglass fishing pole).  I used a 7m pole and located the feedpoint about 1.8m above ground.

I used insulators made from chopping board plastic.  One was required for each corner of the loop, the top and bottom being used to attach the loop to the pole and the two lateral corners being points where the guys were attached.  I was unsure whether guying those points would maintain the loop in the right shape but it did seem to be ok.  If the insulators slipped along the wire, the guy would have to be attached to the pole at the top of the loop.

Matching the quad

The feed impedance of a loop is in the region of 100-120 ohms depending in the height above ground.  To feed this antenna with a 50 ohm line a transformer is required.  I decided to use a quarter wave of 75 ohm feedline, using the impedance transforming behaviour of quarter wave feedlines.

The transformer action is given by the formula ZL/Z0 = Z0/Zi

or Zi/Z0 = Z0/ZL

where Zi is the input impedance of the quarter wave feedline, ZL is the load impedance and Z0 is the impedance of the quarter wave transformer/ feedline.

For a quarter wavelength of coaxial cable the length required is the free space quarter wave adjusted for the velocity factor of the cable used.  Most solid dielectric coaxial cable has a velocity factor of .66 and the cable I used was of that type.

The “free space” length of the quarter wave transformer was 300/28.4/4 = 2.64m approx.  This length needs to be adjusted to account for the velocity factor, so our final length is 2.64 x 0.66 = 1.74m.

I had a “video cable” of almost that length so I set up the antenna with the 75 ohm section connected to the feedpoint, then connected a short 50 ohm (RG58) extension to the radio.  The antenna displayed a reasonable SWR of about 1.2 on 29.4 MHz so I had to add some wire to the loop.  the difference in a full wavelength at 29.4MHz and 28.4 MHZ was about 400 mm so I added that length to the loop.  The SWR then was optimum at 28.4 and acceptable (1.5) at 28.0 to 28.8 MHz.

After testing and adjusting the antenna at home, I rolled up the wire and its guy ropes, ready for deployment on the hill.

How did it work?

Quite well.  There was a very strong sporadic E propagation in the first few hours of operation from the hill, giving excellent reports from VK5 and VK4.  This was very encouraging and I made steady progress in my log, handing out contest numbers to those who wanted them and giving others the SOTA summit code.

I later set up my standard linked dipole and was able to compare the quad loop with the dipole.  In some directions the dipole received and transmitted stronger signals than the quad, consistent with the orientation of both antennas.

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I did find that during the afternoon, signals from Japan were more consistent on the quad than on the dipole.

As for my unique callsigns score, I did make enough contacts to add 28 new uniques.  I had hoped for more, but conditions were just not good enough for contacts into the USA and that was a factor.  Still, the antenna experiment was fun and worth doing.

VK1DA

Bobbara Hill, VK2/ST-044 on 4th December 2015

Although I had activated this summit earlier in the year I wanted to get it into my log for the 6m/10m challenge.  So when an opportunity presented itself, with VK1AD on Mt Ainslie for an S2S, I packed the gear into the car and headed off towards Binalong, which is the nearest village to Bobbara hill.

I forgot how much longer it would take to walk up this hill in the heat.  It was about 30C when I left the car and by the time I was half way up I was confident it had risen to 40.  I finally reached my operating position after 45 mins of climbing and set up a shelter for the radio and the operator as the sun was still very strong.  Getting into the shade of the shelter was a huge relief.  I erected the squid pole with the linked dipole, which worked well.

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I started on 10m and had contacts with three Canberra stations, Matt VK1MA, Andrew VK1AD and Ingmar VK1BGT, who was kind (and keen) enough to drive up to Dairy Farmers Hill, just west of the Tuggeranong Parkway near the Scrivener Dam.  I could hear him faintly as he talked to Canberra stations en route, but when he got to the top of that hill near the Arboretum, he was finally able to hear me, albeit weakly.  I also had a call from Roald VK1MTS on the repeater who said he had listened for me but not heard me.  He is located at the eastern border of the ACT so it was a long haul for a tropo contact on 10m especially with only 5w from my transmitter.

I then called cq for a while further on 10m, on both ssb and on cw, without success.  I changed the antenna over to 20m, finding that one of the links could not actually be reconnected, so I was unable to go to 40m as planned.  I repaired the link later at home, crimping and soldering a new connector (spade lug).

On 20m I heard not much activity on the ssb end of the band but I  spotted myself on 14.062 and called cq for a while, netting VK6NU, VK4RF and several Europeans who were excellent signal strengths.

I am convinced of the advantages of these shelters in hot weather.  Just need to sort out a good way of carrying them.  The bag has straps which are not really much use when you are already carrying a back pack and walking with a squid pole.  I can’t use a HT while all that junk is occupying my hands so I don’t usually run the HT while walking to or from a summit.  Having a better operating environment is very good in hot weather.

Inside the shelter - shade and coolth
Inside the shelter – shade and coolth
Activating Bowning Hill during the CQ WW DX contest (CW section) 

I hoped this activation would allow me to add some new unique callsigns to my stations worked list for the 10m part of the 6m/10m challenge.  I used three new pieces of equipment for this activation.

First, the antenna.  I thought my inverted Vee dipole could be improved upon for long distance contacts (DX), so I cut a quarter wave vertical with 4 radials as a trial antenna.  It seemed to work very well and I heard and worked stations in Japan and the USA without much difficulty despite using 5 watts from the FT817.

The base of the main vertical element was at about 1.5m above ground, with the radials sloping down to ground level but insulated off the ground by small lengths of hootchie cord.  The main radiator element was taped to the squid pole.  It was actually the lower half of the 20m vertical I have used for several activations on that band.  I simply cut it at half its length, then crimped a set of  spade lugs onto each half.   Thus, a linked vertical.  I should probably do the same for the radials.

Signals from some of the Japanese and US stations were indicating s9 on the strength meter of the 817.  What I found was that it was necessary to call the louder stations, sometimes several times, to make contacts. I did have a “run” of about 5 contacts on 28.052 where I called cq for about 15 to 20 minutes at one stage.  But to really attract attention you need a big signal and mine certainly wasn’t big.

The second new piece of equipment was a sun shelter, kindly bought for me by my wife, who worried that I would get badly burned sitting in the sun on hilltops.

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And the third new item for this activation was the guying kit that Adan VK1FJAW made for me, complete with 3D printed guying ring that sits right on the top of the first segment of the Haverford 7m squid pole.  With guys about 2m in length, the pole was as stable as if it was tied to a fence or a steel stake.  I’m very pleased with that one, Adan!

After working about 25 stations on 10m CW I decided to take a break from the pressure of the contest speed (about 22 wpm in my case but some of them were running somewhat faster).  I pulled down the squid pole to put up the usual linked dipole set to 40m.  Then I found I was almost the only SOTA portable on the air, apart from Greg VK1AI who I could barely hear.  The parks weekend was in full flight, with a dozen or more portables workable at various locations around NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

After the break on 40m ssb I decided to have a final listen on 10m and after removing the 40m dipole and feedline, I made a few more contacts on 10m CW.

 

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Final 10m cw contact count was only 28.  More power and an even better antenna next time!

 

VK1 Deferred QSO Party and VK2/4/6 SOTA anniversary

It’s not hard to think of a reason to have a QSO party. SOTA contacts are a lot of fun for all involved.  For activators there is the question of whether to reactivate a summit already visited, possibly visited this year, or whether to look for a new personal unique summit, ie. one you have not previously activated.

This event was a combination of the postponed VK1 QSO Party and the anniversary of SOTA for VK2/4/6.   For this event I wanted to make the best use of the winter bonus and also activate some new uniques.  Yankee Ned and Mount Tumorrama seemed to be good options and I looked carefully at maps and planned my trip.

It was a fairly clear day as I drove from Yass to Wee Jasper, then continued towards Tumut on the Wee Jasper Road.  There were many roos and wallabies feeding near the road, some creating hazards by reacting unpredictably to the approaching or passing car.  I realised when I reached Brindabella Road that I did not have the map prepared at home.  I looked up the lat/lon of Yankee Ned using Sotagoat on the phone (which had no coverage there), converted the decimal degrees to degrees, minutes and seconds and input the coordinates into the Garmin GPS.  That gave me a direction and distance to reach the foothills of the summit, however on reaching the vicinity of the summit, my location was clearly wrong as there was a much higher summit to the west.  I decided to walk up the higher summit and on reaching the top I compared the lat/lon details with SOTA Goat data.  It was identical so I knew I was in  the right place.  I later decided I must have made an error in the conversion of lat/long in decimal degrees to degrees/minutes/seconds, so in future I will use decimal degrees on the GPS unless there is a reason to do otherwise.

Yankee Ned operating site
Yankee Ned operating site

Getting the radios going I made contacts with Matt 1MA, Andrew 1NAM and Andrew 1MBE, Roald 1MTS.  Then on 40m I had some CW contacts with a number of VK3 and VK5 callers.  Close-in contacts were difficult, indicating propagation was favouring longer distances than usual.

Yankee Ned operating site
Yankee Ned operating site

I was hoping for a good number of S2S contacts from this summit.  With conditions so unusual, I failed to reach Adan VK1FJAW at Mt Gillamatong.  While I was on Yankee Ned, he ended his operation at Mt G and drove over to Mt Palerang, where he had a (self-imposed!) steep climb up the eastern side of the mountain.  Conditions were still unfavourable so we missed each other on that occasion.

At about 1pm I packed up and walked down the north side of Yankee Ned, reaching the fire trail that encircles the hill, then walking back along the fire trail where my car was parked.

Lunch
Lunch

I spent 10 minutes making a cup of tea and lunch. Then drove on to Mt Tumorrama, which is easily reached by car all the way to the top.  In fact the track I used to access Yankee Ned went back to Wee Jasper Forest Road and the access for Tumorrama was about 10m along the road, almost opposite where the Yankee Ned fire trail emerged from the forest.

At Mt Tumorrama I was unsure of whether the equipment in the building there would create any radio interference for me.  In fact there was a lot of noise on 40m and 20m, making some frequencies very hard to use.  The noise coincided with the running of cooling fans inside the building compound.  I think operating further away from the building would be a better plan next time.  Avoiding the blackberry bushes would also be better.  A few thorns pierced my jeans and that was not a good experience…

Mt Tumorrama
Mt Tumorrama
Mt Tumorrama
Mt Tumorrama
view from Mt Tumorrama
view from Mt Tumorrama

On  this summit I spent some time on 2m FM working into the Canberra area, then some time on 40m, both CW and SSB.  A text message to Adan discovered he was about to arrive at his third summit, so I asked him to let me know when he would be ready for a contact on 144.150 SSB, as it was clear that HF would not allow any contacts between us.  It was about 100km and I felt sure that our little radios would be able to do that distance on 2m ssb.  Eventually we did make that contact so that was worth waiting for.

The weather on the hill had gradually changed so by 4pm it was quite cool and rain clouds were building up.  I packed up soon afterwards and started the 2hr trip back to Yass at about 4:15pm.

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view from Mt Tumorrama
view from Mt Tumorrama

On the way back I noticed this unusual circular pattern of partly submerged rocks on the hillside opposite the road.  Not related to SOTA.  Included as a bonus.

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Two summits on 9th August 2015

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.

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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.

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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.

VK1 SOTA party 2nd August 2015

The SOTA party on 2nd August was almost washed out, with all night rainfall and rain continuing in the morning.  By about 8am though, there was some sign of the rain easing for a while.  Some of us decided it was too risky as we are generally not prepared to operate in the rain, but others decided to activate though not on the original sites.

I changed from my planned activation of Castle Hill to Mt Stromlo.  A retreat could be made from Mt Stromlo within 15 minutes whereas at Castle hill it would take more like 30 minutes or more to reach the car, including packing time.

I originally set up on 6m and was about to set up the 10m antenna when two things happened. First I heard Dimitri VK1SV/VK2COW operating at his new home location near Gundaroo on 6m so I had to log contacts with him.  Then Mark VK1EM arrived on site, so we organised for him to make the 6m contacts that were available.

The linked dipole went up then, giving us 10m coverage.  ALthough not all originally planned activations were on the air, enough were on to keep us busy, with Mt Ainslie (AC040) operators including Marcus VK3TST and Paul VK1ATP, Adan VK1FJAW was at Black Mt (AC042) using 2m fm only (and having trouble with overload in his Baofeng), Roald VK1MTS and John VK1JP were at One Tree Hill (AC035).  Then Grant VK4JAZ arrived on Mt Ainslie and it must have been bedlam on that site.

After struggling to make his contacts on Black Mt, Adan decided to join us on Stromlo and was soon there, making his contacts on 2m and 10m.

In among this a few spots turned up on 40m so the antenna was changed over to 40m to work Tony VK3CAT, then a spot turned up on 10m showing Gerard VK2IO, so the antenna was changed back to 10m, but although I even rotated the dipole to favour that direction better, I could hear nothing of Gerard.  Should have tried CW.

Finally as lunch time approached, so did the dark clouds so we packed up quickly and were being lightly rained upon by the time we reached our cars.

In something of a compensating operation for the cancelled activation on 2nd August, VK1NAM has alerted for a 3 summit day on 9th August.  I am planning a 3 summit day too, activating two of the same summits and another different one.  Aiming for 10m/6m contacts on each, so hoping for fine enough weather to let it happen.

In addition, there will be a combined VK1/VK2 focussed SOTA QSO party on Sunday 30th August.  Already, interested VK1/2/3 activators are making plans.  Why not join in?  VK4/5/6/7/8 activators would be welcomed with many potential contacts…

Goorooyaroo Nature Reserve, VK1/AC-036

Reviewing the track logs stored in my GPS I found the track log of my walk up to the less frequently activated summit in the eastern end of the Goorooyaroo Nature Reserve in the ACT.  It is north east of the Canberra Airport and is slightly controversial due to it including a now disused military firing range.  There are signs within it indicating unexploded ordnance, suggesting shells or even bombs may be lying dormant but still dangerous.

However the VK1 SOTA group was advised by the NSW Ranger who drives a 4WD vehicle along the service track, that as long as walkers stick to the track they will be safe.  So after a cautious start, this summit was eventually activated by several of the regular activators.

I visited it myself in January 2015 and the path is shown here.  Access is via a track (dotted in the image below) off the Sutton Rd between Queanbeyan and the Federal Highway.  Park near a gate with signage indicating no entry to unauthorised persons.

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The walk to the summit took about 20-25 mins, it is a fire trail and easy to follow.  Stay on the path!

My activation of this summit was marred by very low performance of the antenna – later discovered to be due to one side of the dipole not being connected.  But I got my 4 contacts…

 

SOTA activation at Boboyan Range VK1/AC-044 1st August 2015

Andrew VK1NAM and I set off for Booroomba Rocks and were watching the weather as it seemed likely to rain some time during the day.  But as it turned out there was a locked gate several km away from the parking area with a sign advising people to keep out of the area.  This was probably due to fallen trees, slippery rocks on the ascent or other hazards.

A quick evaluation of the alternatives along Boboyan Road resulted in the choice of Boboyan Range VK1/AC-044, which Andrew VK1NAM had activated recently but I had never been to.  Other options were either going to be longer walks or likely to be unsuitable.

Having parked just off the road we headed up the hill finding our way around various trees and parting the undergrowth.  Half way up the first section of the trip was this pair of trees making a grinding noise as they moved with the wind.

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After checking our location with the GPS we were eventually high enough to be inside the Activation Zone (within 25m of the top) so we selected a small clearing with a suitable log and set up the gear.

We were happy to be able to add this site to our 6m/10m tally, including a contact with WH6WI in Hawaii, who was also pleased to make a contact with us using both his home station radio (TS480HX) and with his FT817 running 5 watts.  He then asked for a CW contact on 28.028 MHz which was readily done.

While operating the FT817 I noticed a small visitor on one of the knobs.

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The weather stayed fine though the wind remained gusty.

Some pics of the forest on the way back to the car…

IMGP1660s IMGP1666s IMGP1665s IMGP1664s IMGP1662s IMGP1661sComing around a corner on the way back to Canberra we found an eagle busily munching on some road kill.  I didn’t get my camera on and focussed in time for the photo, unfortunately.  By the time of the exposure the eagle had decided he didn’t like visitors, gathered the meal in his claws and took off to the west.

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Another successful activation. Thanks to Andrew Moseley VK1NAM for driving and providing the equipment for the activation.

South Black Range and Mt Gillamatong

South Black Range is accessed by first driving to Hoskinstown (via either Bungendore or the Captains Flat Rd) and turning east along the Forbes Creek road, which after you cross Forbes Creek (I think) becomes the Mulloon Fire trail.  About 10 km east of Hoskinstown, you find the North Black Range fire trail heading left (north) and you proceed somewhat more slowly along that trail for about 2km,  until you see an even lower standard track heading left up to the summit.  At that point you might easily park and walk. It would be less than 1 km to the summit.     

I found the Mulloon fire trail in good condition and ok for a 2WD.  The North Black Range trail was muddy in parts, slippery and the steep bits would be a challenge for a 2WD and the Forester with constant 4WD (but no low range) only made it up some of the steeper slippery bits after backing down and having a bit of a run up.  Last time I came along there I was in the FJ Cruiser and I may have used low range but didn’t remember it being this slippery – but that was in September so there’s the answer most likely.

Along the trail you see some interesting sights including this remmant of someone’s history.

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The radio activation, oh yes, that’s what I came for… I took two squid poles with me and used one for the 6m coaxial dipole.  This has a coax-based choke at the lower end of the dipole, and another choke a quarter wave below that.  The second choke was found to be a very useful addition keeping RF off the outside of the coax.

Several 6m and 10m contacts were made back into Canberra and then a session on 40m filled the log.  This location is within the Tallaganda NP.  The antenna used on hf was the usual linked dipole.

The weather on this summit was occasional rain drops and cold wind.  When I got back to the car the outside air temp was 4C.

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After activating South Black Range I headed east along the Mulloon fire trail and passed the turnoff to Mt Palerang. The creek was about 200mm deep, as a guess. the Forester went through it quite ok, slow speed and stay in 1st gear. Keep the bow wave ahead of you, don’t try to overtake it…

I removed a few minor trees from the road along the way.

After passing the Palerang trail I continued east to Braidwood. Within a few km of the Palerang trail there was a more substantial tree lying across the road. I had no saw. I looked at ways of snapping off upper branches, found it was too green and I didn’t have any way other than a long period of sawing with my swiss army knife. So then I looked at driving over it where others had. It looked like the Forester had enough clearance so I drove over slowly. Hopefully someone better prepared, with a chainsaw or at least a bush saw like the one at home in my shed, will have cut it up before anyone else goes that way.  Note to self: put the saw in the car before setting off next time.
When I got to Braidwood I took a right turn to get closer to Mt Gillamatong on the western side. There is a gate on the road into the paddock so presumably that is the track marked faintly on the GPS leading up to the summit. It looked like a longer walk from there – but without the rocks. Might be worth considering another time. The road is called something like saleyard lane. It joins up with Gillamatong lane around the eastern side of the mountain.

After leaving the car at the top end of Gillamatong lane, going through the gate with the very makeshift catch, you walk along to the south staying at about the same altitude. Then there is a locked gate into the cow pasture but just before the gate, the track leads around uphill and to the right on the north side of the fence. At the top of that fence there is a small gate. This seemed new and different from last year. A fence along the contour line is then slightly uphill but if you walk back northwards you come to where a tree has fallen on the fence making it easy to step over it. From there it is a zig zag path to the top, with lots of slip risks and I think using two squid poles as walking poles did help on a few occasions. I went a bit closer to the towers this time, I saw one tower and thought I was close enough, then I realised I could also see several dishes and another tower. At that point I sent a text to Andrew VK1NAM telling him I was onsite and setting up.

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During setup I had several issues with the dipole including pulling the adaptor apart by lifting the pole while standing on the coax.  Amazing how a sloping floor puts all your normal instincts at risk.  But finally I was on 10m with the IC703 calling VK1ATP who was portable on Black Mt in Canberra.  Then Matt VK1MA and Andrew VK1NAM followed.

On 40m the propagation had turned to nighttime long skip and conditions were marginal for close-in contacts.  No contact for VK1NAM, a marginal contact on CW with VK2IO (who I worked last time I was on this hill, but he was on a summit in France that time!) and it was a surprise and a pleasure to work Warren ZL2AJ mobile in the north island.  Warren will be the Association Manager for SOTA in New Zealand.  He commented that the survey process is well under way.

Finally I tried to work Andrew VK1NAM on 80m.  I could hear him well enough but my signal back to him was too low.  I need some extensions to my linked dipole to resonate it on 3.5 mhz.

I walked down in the dark, about an hour after sundown, using a headlamp. Again the poles were great and provided necessary stabilisation on the rather steep, slippery and rocky slope. I was retracing my steps with the aid of the GPS and I ended up right on the fence crossing, which was a great relief.
The highlight last year was an S2S with Gerard in France. This year I didn’t use 20m at all, as I was too late for the grey line propagation on LP into Europe. And it hasn’t been all that good this winter. Closer to the equinox it will improve a lot.