Tag Archives: portable

VK1 SOTA 2nd anniversary 1st Feb 2015 at Mt Stromlo

In 2014 the VK1 SOTA group proposed a BBQ and joint activation at Mt Stromlo on 1st Feb, to celebrate the first anniversary of SOTA in VK1.  On the day the weather was very hot and the event was called off.

This year the group again decided to have a BBQ at Mt Stromlo, with a joint activation to provide contacts with the summit.  The plan was to have either a lunch or evening BBQ and set up a few antennas to allow the group to make radio contacts.

Towards the weekend, it was clear the weather this year was not going to be hot, instead it was likely to rain during the afternoon.  Several of the group were unable to make it due to conflicting social engagements so the remaining hopefuls decided to make it a 4pm start and hope for the best re the weather.  That turned out to be a mistake as the weather was moderately clear during the day but towards 4pm it looked more like rain every minute.

23cm band

I had borrowed a 23cm fm mobile rig from Compton VK2HRX who was keen to get chaser points for 23cm and was visiting Canberra that day.  So I wanted to make at least a few contacts on 2m FM and on 23cm FM. On 23cm the simplex frequency is 1294.0 MHz.

I arrived on the mountain earlier than 4pm and spoke with Paul VK1ATP on 2m FM soon after.  Simon VK1FAAS emailed the VK1 SOTA group suggesting it looked like a cancellation was going to be necessary and I agreed with that as the weather certainly did not support the event we had hoped for.  However after some initial thunder and rain visible to the south, it appeared that the main body of rain had passed us by, so I decided to set up the 23cm antenna and the borrowed 23cm fm radio. Paul had arrived on summit by then and was able to observe the 23cm contacts.

After making 3 contacts on 23cm I was looking for a 4th contact so as to qualify the summit on that band.  I monitored 2m fm in the hope that someone would call me there offering a contact on 23cm.

HF contacts

With the rain apparently having passed and no apparent imminent thunderstorm, I decided to put up the HF antenna and see how badly the bands were affected by the nearby storms.  At this point Paul was tempted to do likewise, but after considering his wife and kids he decided against this and departed, wishing me well on HF.

Once I got the antenna up, 40m sounded ok and after I fixed my antenna (again), prompted by Matt 1MA who thought I was not strong enough at his location about 10 km away, I made 19 contacts on 40m including an S2S (summit to summit) contact with Kevin VK3KAB and Glenn VK3YY.  During this period the rain started in earnest and I covered myself as well as the radios with a second tarp.  Weird sitting in the rain under tarps talking on the radio.  Why didn’t I take a tent…

The radios under the tarp.  The logbook with wet pages.  It was only just legible the next day for typing up the log. Radios under the tarp

20m and 12m, ssb and cw

Running out of contacts on 40m I then decided to look at 20m and higher bands.  At this point I also decided to send an email to the VK1 mailing list asking (begging) for anyone with 23cm gear to call me on 146.5 as I wanted a 4th contact on 23cm.

Having moved the HF antenna to 20m by disconnecting the two links I spotted myself on 14.310 and called cq, which resulted in 3 contacts into South Australia (VK5).  I did not receive further replies so I looked higher in frequency.  On 24.9 MHz I heard a strong KH6 (Hawaii) calling CQ on CW and I thought I should at least try a contact.  I received a good (579) report from the KH6 which was great as the antenna was still linked for 20m.

The 4th contact on 23cm

Before finishing the KH6 contact I heard Jayson VK1JA calling me on 2m fm.  I asked him to stand by a minute while I completed with the KH6.  When I went back to Jayson he said he was receiving me well and wanted to try 23cm.  We then made a good contact over about 15km to his location in Tuggeranong.

After completing with Jayson I removed the 12m link on the HF antenna and made another contact on 24.9 MHz CW with a Japanese station.  These dx contacts were completely unspotted as I was answering their CQs. Their power levels were most likely at least 100 watts or 10 db more than my IC703’s 10 watts, and possibly even higher.

As an anniversary event it was a fizzer but I got some satisfaction from making the 4 contacts on 23cm and handing out some points to SOTA chasers.  Also gained some S2S points from working VK3KAB and VK3YY.

 

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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SOTA VK2 1st anniversary September 2014

For the first anniversary of SOTA in VK2 (Australia – New South Wales), a weekend of VK2 SOTA activations is planned for the 6th and 7th September 2014.  The usual Sunday activations that are popular are made complicated for some by the coinciding Father’s Day on the first Sunday of September.  We might have to celebrate VK2 SOTA on the preceding Sunday in future.

In the past year VK2 has seen 728 activations of 228 summits.  Not a bad result for the first year.

About 250 extra summits are under review for addition to the VK2 Summits list.  This will fill in some gaps left by our initial survey in 2013.  Corrections to a few summit locations will also be made as well as summit name changes.   More details when the process is completed.

Mt McDonald VK1/AC-048 21 June 2014

This activation became possible on Saturday morning so I alerted for 1pm (0300 UTC), collected my radio and walking gear, then headed off along the road from Yass, across the Murrumbidgee and onto the Mountain Creek Road, along to the Uriarra homestead and east towards the Cotter. It was very foggy for most of the trip, even at that time of day. It is about an hour from Yass to the carpark next to Mt McDonald. The walk up to the summit took about 50 mins, via the formed road and all the way up the switchback for 4WD vehicles, no doubt a scramble up the hill under the power line would be a lot shorter, but after wet weather, of dubious safety and a lot steeper. I opted for the longer route.

After setting up a 3 el beam for 2m I was able to work Geoff VK2UL at Yass on 2m and 70cm, later with the dipole up I also worked him on 6m for the winter vhf field day. Signals were s9 both ways on the higher bands with a real antenna. Also Andrew VK1MBE was on Spring Hill just north of the ACT/NSW border VK2/ST-036 so I earned some chaser and s2s points. Moved onto 40m and made another 30 contacts, then to 20m where I made a cw contact into Czech republic with OK2PDT, an SSB contact with a mobile in Romania, YO6PSD, who listened for my callsign several times and copied it finally – a great effort for a mobile operator hearing a 5 watt signal from the other side of the world. Then I tried 18 MHz, with only one completed contact, N0OI on CW from California.

The temperature dropped at about 3pm and some darker clouds were approaching, so I packed up and walked back down, stopping to take some photos of the Cotter catchment, then some photos of the new Cotter dam from the roadside and the pedestrian bridge over the river. Compared to the old dam, the new one is more than twice the size, towering over the valley and completely dominating the downstream area, which is what dams should do.

Photo gallery from flickr, using Awesome Flickr Gallery Plugin.

SOTA activation – Bullen Range – VK1/AC-033

Encouraged by unexpectedly warm autumn weather I decided that activating this readily accessed summit was a good way to spend Sunday morning on 25th May.

Recent blog postings by Andrew Moseley VK1NAM and Ian Sinclair VK1DI
had confirmed the access and even provided a GPS track to load into my GPS62S. It was hardly necessary though it is interesting to look at the contour lines and levels as you walk along this path and up the hills.

I left home at about 6:45 and arrived at the start of the walk at about 8 am. On the way up I counted six gates to negotiate, one of which had a chain latch to open but the rest had to be climbed over or through. They are multiplying as others mentioned five.

Much of the pathway would be readily ridden on a bike. It might be just as well to leave the bike at the foot of the final ascent because it is steep enough to be difficult on the way down.

The photos taken by Andrew Moseley and Ian Sinclair show the route and the scenery. At the summit, the log and the stumps provide luxurious lounge room standard SOTA operating bench. For once I didn’t sit on the ground and fight off the ants, though I did get a mosquito bite from something that looked like it needed to file a flight plan before taking off.

The FT817 with mike and cw paddle at the ready
The FT817 with mike and cw paddle at the ready

 

All the comforts of home, a table and a choice of chairs
All the comforts of home, a table and a choice of chairs
Southern view towards Castle Hill with Mt Tennent towering over it at the rear
Southern view towards Castle Hill with Mt Tennent towering over it at the rear

On the radio I put 48 contacts into the log, mainly on 7 MHz, but also on 146, 24, 28, 14 and 10 MHz.

Two contacts come in for a special mention. One was on 10.12 MHz with Peter VK3YE/m on the beach, literally barefoot (*) in ankle deep water, carrying the radio and a loop antenna. Signals were up to s9 from Peter but in a very short time went down to inaudible. A VK5 was also on the frequency but conditions dropped out so quickly I didn’t have time to get a report from him.

The second contact was incomplete because of battery problems at the other end. It was Paul VK1PAW who was using a recently built MST (Minimalist SSB Transmitter) on 20m. Unfortunately the battery problems prevented a contact being completed but I received an email from Paul explaining the problem. I really like the concept of the MST and want to build one myself. The power level of 5w is adequate for some remarkable contacts on 20m. I have proven that with the 817, working European stations several times, including some activators on summits themselves.

My audio recording was not successful due to low battery on the MP3 player I used to make the recording.  Another device to recharge before SOTA activations!  The recharge list is now:

  • 4200 mAH Main radio battery,
  • 2500 mAH backup battery
  • phone
  • GPS batteries
  • camera
  • video camera (optional, usually left at home)
  • mp3 player.

* radio joke. Barefoot normally means using a radio without any external power amplifier.  In this case the radio and the operator were barefoot.  😉

Mt Majura SOTA activation on 13 April 14

I was late arriving at the summit of Mt Majura partly due to forgetting what a long walk it is.  For some reason I had 30 mins in my mind but obviously I was mixing it up with other summits in vk1 because it took more like 50 mins this time.

I made most of the contacts on 40m plus a few on 20 and 12m.

There were quite a number of family groups, walkers, runners and cyclists on the summit during the 2 hours I was there.  I wonder if one of them picked up my reading glasses without realising they were mine.

I was also puzzled by a comment from some walkers I passed on the way up.  They suggested I should have identification to prove I was doing something legal and legitimate.  Perhaps reflecting their past employment they seemed to think someone with a radio was rather suspicious.

I pointed out that mobile phones are radios and have access to anywhere in the world, with GPS and other functions that are far more powerful than a simple voice and morse radio.  We chatted amicably for a few minutes and departed in our separate directions afterwards.

16 contacts made.

Some photos taken on the return trip.

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