Tag Archives: Amateur Radio

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.

VHF/UHF field day at Mts Alexandra and Gibraltar, June 2015

This operation was intended to give me more contacts for the 6/10m challenge while qualifying as an entry in the VHF/UHF field day.

Unfortunately I did not pack the 3el beam for 2m and a third length of coaxial cable.  This limited my 2m antenna options and the range I could achieve.

Radio wise I was in a good position at the “Katoomba” Lookout on Mt Alexandra, just north of Mittagong, south west of Sydney. I could hear and work anyone others were working in the Sydney basin and also could work Geoff vk2ul in Yass and Gerard vk2io who was on various summits in the Blue Mts north of me.  One North Sydney station could be worked easily on 2m and 70cm but while I could hear him well on 6m, he was unable to hear me and gave the (SSB) contact away.

In a surprise Es contact on 6m I did work vk5kv who was s9 on peaks.

Another station called CQ frequently on 6m and was replied to by several others closer to him, but he appeared to receive only very strong signals. He called CQ many times on 6m but never seemed to understand something was wrong. I wondered whether his receiver was faulty or perhaps his antenna system had high losses.

After making about 20 contacts I moved to Mt Gibraltar. Another operator, VK2VOM,  had been working there but had generator problems and was closing down. I was on the air at Mt Gibraltar by 4:30 pm but by then all the other portable stations except for Gerard  vk2io had closed down. After spending 2 hours there and working Gerard on 6 and 2m and making very marginal contacts with Geoff vk2ul on 6 and 2, I was too cold to continue as it was around 2C and I decided to leave even though I had not made enough contacts to qualify the summit for SOTA purposes.

Very disappointed in the low level of activity for the VHF contest.

My gear was an ft817 at 5w running on a Lipo 3s and a LiFePO4 4s battery. At Mt Gibraltar I added a hl66v amplifier for 6m which should have raised my output power to about 30w. Antennas used were a wire dipole for 6m and a quarter wave vertical for 2m. Most of the 2m contacts were actually made using the 6m dipole.

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The operating position using a picnic table kindly provided by council.  FT817 radio, iphone, ATU (not used), log book, morse paddle, boxes used to carry the bits in my backpack.  No car access here, so you carry the lot.

IMGP1586s6m dipole just visible (red wires) attached to squid pole.

 

AM mode for SOTA on 1st April 2015

Arising from reports of plans to use AM and CW modes on ANZAC Day (Australia’s day to honour their fallen from the armed forces), I proposed using AM for an activation, asking for chasers to also use AM.

This was taken up by Andrew VK1NAM and Adan VK1FJAW, so on the evening of 1st April (note: after midday, therefore not a joke) I activated Black Mt VK1/AC-042, Andrew Vk1NAM activated Mt Stromlo VK1/AC-043 and Adan activated Mt Taylor VK1/AC-037.  I made my first call on 144.3 AM, to receive a loud and clear signal from Adan.  We then moved to 29.1 MHz and repeated the contact there at similar strength.  Adan had already made contact with Andrew 1NAM so I decided to check out 7 mhz as there was a spot on sotawatch.org for VK2IO on 7.180.  Sure enough on that frequency Gerard was there with a strong signal and before long I had my second AM S2S.

I then moved to 7.195 where Andrew VK1NAM was spotted, increasing the tally to 3 x S2S AM contacts.  He said he had made two pages full of contacts and was ready to try another band.  So I stayed on 7.195 to make more contacts.  I filled a page of my log and it was quite nostalgic hearing AM signals with the fading and phase distortion as the two sidebands selectively cancel each other.  (This is due to fading being highly frequency selective, the phase changing across the band.)   

I went back to 144.3 and made a contact with VK1NAM there and also just for fun, on 52.2.  Signal strengths were excellent.  

Following that I noticed a spot for VK1FAAM on Mt Ainslie (VK1/AC-040) on 144.3 AM.  I called him without success, then Andrew sent a text message to him saying don’t close down, there is another s2s available.  So he came back on 144.3 and that made my 4th AM S2S contact for the night.  

While some may have thought this was not a serious proposal, it was received very well, many home stations tried AM on 40m for possibly the first time and I received a number of favourable comments about the idea.  

Afterwards we discussed the possiblity of making that day an annual AM day for SOTA.  Whether or not that happens, this exercise showed that activators on ANZAC day (25th April) will be able to make contacts on AM mode with some of the special event stations set up for this 100th anniversary of the event at Gallipoli, Turkey, 1915.  

Equipment used.  FT817 running 2 watts output, antenna was a linked dipole for HF and for 6m and 2m a dipole nominallly cut for 52 MHz, which worked quite well enough for local contacts on 2m as well.  

SOTA activation at SprIng Hill NSW

After battling the rain the previous Sunday at Mt Stromlo, I looked forward to this activation at Spring Hill.

I was encouraged by the contacts made from Mt Stromlo on vhf bands and on 23cm so I wanted to try that again from Spring Hill,  which is a few km north of Hall on the Northern edge of the ACT.

Access to the site needs to be arranged beforehand. I had texted the owner Phil but had not received a reply so before entering the land I phoned him to check. He said he had seen my text, there was no problem and he wished me a pleasant walk.  I think in the past I have spoken to him several days prior to the site visit, then as requested I have texted him to let him know I was on the hill.

At the road level there was a very mild breeze, but the further I climbed the higher the  wind became. When I reached the point where the track is exposed to the east the wind blew my hat off and continued to rise. At the top it was hard to stand up so I decided to operate from the lee side of the compound where there was some concrete and a steel mesh fence and almost no wind, though the acoustic noise created by the wind on the tower and dishes was quite loud.

The vhf and UHF antennas went up first and I made contacts on 50, 144,  432 and 1294 fm. I didn’t make enough contacts on 1294 to qualify the summit but the contact down south to Jayson vk1ja was a good distance and signal levels were quite good. The mobile whip worked well in horizontal mode. S2S contacts were made on 52, 146 and 439 MHz with Andrew VK1NAM on Mt Majura.

For 50/52 MHz I used a wire dipole supported by the squid pole.  Later I took that antenna down and set up the 40m antenna to make a handful of contacts before I had to pack up and head back down.  I closed down at 8pm 0900 UTC, took about 10mins to pack the gear and arrived back at the car at about 8:50.

The track is steep in sections and has many loose rocks, making the downhill walk quite slow and tricky.  Anyone planning to walk down in the dark needs a headlamp for safety.

SOTA feeding frenzy 1st Jan 2015

Alerts published on Sotawatch late in December 2014 had given some indication of how many activators were planning to visit summits on the morning of 1st January 2015 and it looked like being a busy day.

To make best use of this opportunity, Andrew Moseley VK1NAM and I decided on Mt Tumanang, coded VK2/SM-049, south east of Canberra and south of Captains Flat. Neither of us had activated this summit before today so we were hoping to gain not only the S2S points from working other activators from this summit, but two sets of activator points, being 2014 in UTC prior to 11AM and 2015 afterwards.

The trip was planned and marked on Andrew’s GPS so we would have some knowledge of distances and some warning of major turns needed within the forest. I left home at about 6:15 to collect Andrew at 7:30. About an hour to the Cowangerong fire trail turnoff on Captains Flat Rd and in another hour we were parked on the fire trail at the foot of the ridge extending north west from the summit. The walk up to the summit was in typical southeastern Australian eucalyptus forest. The walk only took 20 minutes or so. We set up just to the east of the trig station and decided to set up one rig on 40m and the other on 20m. In addition we used the 40m antenna on 6m.

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After making several surprising contacts on 6m, one to Gerard VK2IO at Mt Eliot near Gosford NSW, and another to Paul VK1ATP at Booroomba Rocks VK1/AC-026, we ventured onto the 40m band to see how conditions were.

Prior to 0000 UTC each activator was keen to score as many s2s points as possible, so many chasers probably missed out on contacts during this period. Each cq call was greeted with several S2S responses and priority was given to S2S, as this is the day when activators are out there to fish for S2S and are keen to make best use of the time.

For the next two hours it was frantic on the 40m band all the way up to 7170 where we found it was possible to provide contacts for chasers, but only for a few contacts at a time until other activators found us and requested priority.

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Eventually we decided to move on to Mt Cowangerong, which we had passed on the way to Mt Tumanang. It took about an hour of quite slow travelling with 4WD-low engaged for some of the time. The erosion control humps on the road vary in size but some are big enough that you don’t really know what’s on the other side.

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The FJ Cruiser shown on top of an erosion barrier

 

 

The photo does not really show the size of the hump. See similar photos in the account by Mark VK1EM.  The FJ cruiser has plenty of clearance and is probably a little shorter than Mark’s Pajero so the angles of these erosion barriers did not pose any problem for us.

At Mt Cowangerong it was somewhat more subdued, though we still earned and handed out many S2S and chaser points.

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Andrew VK1NAM relaxing into some contacts at Mt Cowangerong

 

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VK1DA at Mt Cowangerong

Overall a great day for some SOTA operation on HF, some surprise contacts on 6m and fairly low conditions on 20m and above. While we did hear one VK6 station, signal levels were very low and we had no luck in being heard despite a sked lined up by VK5PAS.

I know some operators are not keen on these big activity days. But they create a big splash on an otherwise quiet band and give many people a chance to earn some new points, new unique summits worked and a boost to the S2S tally. I think my own S2S tally increased by over 270. Given that i was hoping to reach 1000 by the end of 2014 and was very pleased to do so (something that took almost 2 years to achieve)  I was stunned to see my S2S score rise by 27% on one day.

We wanted each of us to be able to make all the s2s contacts possible, so we needed the equipment to be closely located. That meant some interference between the two radios, both emitting wide band hash whenever transmitting. We will need to consider alternative layouts if we want to operate simultaneously in future. The obvious method is to separate the equipment widely and that would normally be the case with each of us using different bands. On other sites we have been able to operate on different bands with a separation of 20-30m and we know that other joint expeditions have managed to even operate on the opposite ends of the same band, one on ssb and one on cw.

Thanks again to Andrew VK1NAM for his guidance, navigation and good humour during the day.

Mt Tennent activation 12 Sept 2014

Mt Tennent is a prominent mountain at the southern end of the Tuggeranong valley in the Australian Capital Territory. It is visible from the Barton Highway 40km away. It is very visible from my office building in Tuggeranong but I had never climbed it. Its reputation was for being a tough, long walk and a steep climb in places.

The mountain is 1384m above sea level and about 750-800m above the average level in the Tuggeranong Valley. Access for bushwalkers is from the Namadgi Visitor’s Centre carpack just off the Naas road, several km south of the village of Tharwa. The length of the walk is 6.5-7 km each way.

Andrew VK1NAM had planned this trip several weeks earlier and invited me to join him, knowing that I had not activated this summit or ever climbed this mountain. After several changes due to household plans for spring gardening work, I was able to confirm I would join him and I even did some training – several trips to the gym this week included some sessions on the stepper. Ha! some training that was… should have just gone down to the mountain and got serious about it!

So we met at 7:15 am at the Namadgi Visitors Centre and set off across the road and onto the walking path. After a few mild hills along the path, several creek crossings and even one of the dreadful downhill sections (which I dislike because I know that means I have to climb some distance twice) we came to the rock stairs, which accounted for over 1km and about an hour of the climb. Andrew referred to this as Stepper 101, but afterwards I considered it was 301 or the master’s course. About the first 10 minutes may have been equivalent to what I had done on the stepper at the gym.

Here are some photos of the upward trip.

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After the stair climb and some easy sections we arrived at the fire trail leading to the top of the mountain. This section was endless and steep going in parts. Finally we were at the summit where there are several buildings housing communications equipment for various emergency services.

I set up the 20m vertical on its squid pole and looked at conditions on 20m using the FT817 on 5w output. Andrew VK1NAM set up his linked dipole and wanted to try 10m dx hoping for contacts into the USA. We both found that radio conditions were unusually quiet with few long distance signals audible. On 10m the best contact was to VK6 (Western Australia) with Anthony VK6MAC. On 20m I made 5 contacts, into VK4 (Queensland), VK5 (South Australia) and VK6 (Western Australia).

Having found 10m so quiet Andrew reconnected his 10m link and went straight to 40m where a number of “local” chasers were keen for contacts (mostly in VK2 New South Wales and VK3 Victoria).

The view from the top speaks for itself. Other pics show parts of the descent.

Again thanks to Andrew VK1NAM for his guidance, good humour and being willing to wait while I caught up. My walking/climbing pace is not quite his. Another great day in the bush and on a summit.

Timings: the upward trip took just over 3 hours and downhill took a bit less. The rock stairs can’t be rushed, for safety reasons.

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