Tag Archives: QRP

Three SOTA activations on 6th September 2014

To support the anniversary activity for SOTA in VK2 I activated three VK2 summits on 6th September.

South Black Range, summit code VK2/ST-006 was first as it was the quickest to get to from my home in Yass.  I left home just after 7am and drove to Murrumbateman, then via the Gundaroo road to Bungendore, then to Hoskinstown south of Bungendore. From Hoskinstown I took Forbes Creek road for about 10km until reaching the South Black Range forest trail.  The track up to the summit is at about 1200m ASL and heads approx westerly. It is quite narrow at first but opens out gradually.  I parked my car about half way up to the summit and proceeded on foot.

There is a huge granite boulder at the summit and I guess surveyors considered that to be the real top of the mountain so they placed the trig point and a summit cairn on top of the boulder.

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I set up slightly north of the boulder and soon had my antenna up and the radio buzzing with signals.

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It was shortly before 0000 UTC so I ran through the chaser list very quickly, making sure everyone calling had a chance to put this summit into their log for the 5th Sept UTC.  Then the same process after 0000.  I tried 20m after running out of chasers on 40m.  The only contacts made were with VK1 home stations – noticed a spot stating that I could not be heard in northern NSW.  At that time I had not yet transmitted on 20m but after I had made a few local contacts, there were no other calls, so clearly conditions on 20m were not supporting longer distances at that time.

After completing the radio operation I packed up and then took a few more pictures of the rock and the forest as I walked back to the car.

A very old ladder, possibly a relic of the original survey placement, was rotting on the ground next to the rock.

 

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I placed my squid pole, about 1.2m length against the rock as a contextual measuring stick. maybe I should have extended the squid pole to its 7m length as a better measure.  Something for next time.

Contacts made from this summit: 57

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VK1DA/p operating luxury
VK1DA/p operating luxury
The radio gear dwarfed by the rock
The radio gear dwarfed by the rock
Black squid pole seen at the base of the rock
Black squid pole seen at the base of the rock

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the track returning to the car
the track returning to the car
The cruiser in the forest
The cruiser in the forest

After returning to the “main road”, a gravel forest road, I wanted to use forest roads and trails to Mt Cowangerong, summit code VK2/ST-001.  This took me longer than I had expected, the condition of the forest tracks was wet and slightly muddy in places.  I was taking my time and not trying anything heroic.  Possibly a better map would have made this a quicker trip, however I was enjoying driving a car with better clearance and with 4WD capability.

At Mt Cowangerong I decided to set up on the north side of the weather radar clearing.  I had experienced some interference on 40m when operating near the compound last year, so wanted to see whether keeping further away from the building reduced the interference.  The spot I chose was just after the power pole you pass on the track up to the summit, several hundred metres short of the compound and about 20m off to the north east of the track, in a clearing of sorts there.  I could see the tower through the trees, though my photos only just capture the tower base.  This position was very quiet and I had no noticeable interference.

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Contacts made from this summit: 35.

After this activation I returned to the car where it was parked down the track, headed to Braidwood and had a welcome cup of coffee with a hot pastie and a danish pastry.   There I decided I could still activate Mt Gillamatong, VK2/ST-034 before dark, so I posted an alert on SOTAWATCH for a 20m operation.

My radio friends Andrew VK1NAM and Ian VK1DI had both activated this summit.  From the town it looked quite prominent with steep sides.  The descriptions of their activations mentioned that it was a steeper climb than they had expected.  They are not wrong.

It took me about 30 minutes to get to a point near the top, I estimated about 10m lower than the comms building, so it was within the activation zone.

I set up the 20m vertical and checked SOTAWATCH for activity.  I eventually worked a number of European stations including some activators on SOTA summits, which I was very happy about.  Also worked Gerard VK2IO on a summit in France.  This was done using my IC703 running 10w output.

I heard several other VK activators, working Andrew VK1NAM at the noise level, but was unable to hear VK1MBE who was in the Northern Rivers area of VK2. Others worked included Mike 2E0YYY, always an enthusiastic contact.

Contacts made: 18, including several s2s contacts in Europe and one s2s with VK1NAM.   10 ssb contacts and 8 CW contacts into Europe.

Finally I packed up at about 5:30 local time, 0730 UTC, as it was getting noticeably cooler and I could see that the sunlight was fading as we moved towards sunset.  I was on the eastern side of the hill so sunlight was fading even faster.

I got back to the car just before 6pm and was able to SMS my wife and to Andrew VK1NAM, telling them I was back in the car and about to set off home.

The trip home from Braidwood to Yass was about 1H40.

Some pics from Mt Gillamatong.

Scenery on Mt Gillamatong
Scenery on Mt Gillamatong

Total contacts for the day, 112.

SOTA operation is a unique combination of portable operation based on backpacked equipment and antennas, with all power from battery or solar sources.  It is nearly always a pleasant experience to operate a backpack radio station from a hilltop.

I highly recommend it as an antidote for the suburban interference blues, a condition endured by many amateur radio operators making it problematic or impossible to operate from the typical suburban block.

See the links section of this blog for information about SOTA world wide and SOTA in Australia.

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.

Gippstech Trek

A long weekend travelling from Canberra to Morwell and Churchill, Victoria, via Mt Delegate VK3/VG-034, Goonmirk Rocks VK3/VG-048 and returning via Mitchell River NP, Lind NP and Coopracambra NP.

For this year’s trip to the Gippstech conference in Churchill, Victoria, I travelled with my brother Chris VK1DO and had selected several SOTA summits for activations on the southerly leg of the trip. I used the IC703 for all radio activations, powered by a 4200 mAH LiFe battery. The battery was recharged after two activations.

We left the Canberra area on time at about 7:15am and arrived at the Nimmitabel Pie Shop on time just after 9am. Powered by coffee and food we forged on to Mt Delegate where we were on air by 11:10 local time. 30 contacts were made on 40m by 11:46, followed by one contact on 20m with VK6MB.

The hut at Mt Delegate
The hut at Mt Delegate
Inside the hut.  Air conditioned.
Inside the hut. Air conditioned.
Facilities
Facilities

Leaving Mt Delegate we turned southwards at the T junction and headed to Bendoc, then to Goonmirk Rocks, by continuing southward along the Bendoc-Orbost road. This was a good gravel road and we made good time along it to the junction with Gunmark Road. The parking spot for Goonmirk Rocks is about 10km along Gunmark road, travelling east and south. Again this road is a reasonable gravel road in fair condition. We were travelling in a comfortable 2WD car.

At Goonmirk Rocks we parked near the gate on Coast Road (where the gate post had apparently been ripped out of the ground) and walked about 2km up to the operating position on the road next to the summit peak. It is a gentle slope and an easy walk.

Starting on 40m again, we logged 26 contacts followed by 4 on 20m, including VK5WG, VK6MB, s58AL and VK2KTT. This site is within the Errinundra NP, VKFF-158. See ParksNPeaks for details of SOTA summits/National Parks names/VKFF numbers. The raw data about each summit can be found on the tab labelled “Data tables”.

Left Goonmirk Rocks at 2:20, back at the car by about 2:40, then almost 2 hours on the continuously winding road to Orbost, where we stopped for refreshments. There is no point trying to make highway speeds on that one. Calling it the Bonang “Highway” is an example of country humour, I think.

The leg from Orbost to Morwell took about 2h45, travelling mostly at 100 km/h. The main towns passed are Bairnsdale, Sale and Traralgon.

The pub dinner at the Top Pub in Morwell has become a standard feature of the Gippstech weekend, with the usual BS sessions where tall tales are told about the DX worked, the DX just missed, the QRM that made it impossible to get the DX etc. Plus the food portions served are generous.

The Gippstech technical presentations started at 9:00 on Saturday morning in a lecture theatre at Federation University, Churchill (previously known as the Gippsland campus of Monash University Melbourne). Ably chaired by Peter Freeman VK3PF the sessions proceeded throughout the day, punctuated by coffee breaks, with some new and used equipment on display and for sale. The transverters designed by Graham vk3XDK were on display with the Eastern Zone club’s table offering printed and CD versions of past proceedings.

Following dinner on Saturday night and a morning of more technical presentations, a pizza lunch marked the end of the conference and after saying our farewells to the large number of friends we set off back up the highway. Due to overnight snow, the SOTA activations considered before the weekend were dropped in favour of activating Mitchell River National Park for both the VKFF award and for the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks award. I had discussed several possible National Parks with Peter VK3PF on Saturday night and on Sunday morning Peter kindly presented me with notes and Google trip instructions for three such parks. Thanks again, Peter.

Following those instructions we left the Princes highway between Sale and Bainsdale, drove about 25km up a sealed road, then about 5km on gravel to find the Mitchell River National Park. With the squid pole attached to a fence post and the radio on another fence post, we made 17 contacts on 40m.

The next morning after leaving Orbost we were travelling towards Cann River. The highway passes Lind National Park so it was dead easy to stop on the side of the highway, locate the antenna and radio inside the park and make 13 contacts on 40m. From Cann River travelling north on the Monaro Highway, the Coopracambra NP is located to the east of the highway and a short drive up the forest road took us to a T junction where there was ample space to stop and make another 17 contacts.

The activations of summits and national parks this weekend made a big difference to the road trip. I always enjoy a field operation, no matter how short or limited it is. The SOTA and National Parks angles add a motivation to it and having the stations worked say how much they appreciate the contacts is also rewarding, adding to the fun.

Equipment used: Icom IC703, 10 watts output. Antenna: linked dipole made using chopping board insulators, spade lugs and a BNC connector at the centre insulator. Power: LiFe (Lithium iron) battery pack 4200 mAH.

SOTA activation of Mt Cowangerong VK2/ST-001

On Sunday 6th October I activated VK2/ST-001 which is the site of a weather radar installation owned by the Bureau of Meterology.

The previous activators from Canberra had provided plenty of good information about how to get there and what to expect when I arrived.  See VK1NAM’s blog and VK1DI’s blog for those details.

The Cowangerong Track off the Captains Flat road was littered with stones, rocks, dirt etc, due to recent road treatment by the machine parked on the side of the road a few hundred metres in.  It is about 10 mins drive to the mountain from the Capt Flat road.  I drove right up to the peak and turned back down to be sure of being outside the activation zone.  This took me almost all the way back to the Cowangerong Track.

It was a few minutes walk back up the slope to the summit, where the compound surrounds a few buildings and the weather radar tower.

I first setup in the clearing to the south of the compound but after listening to 7 mhz and having one contact with the background noise at s7 I decided to spend a bit more time and move my whole station further away from the compound, going about 20m into the forest roughly south of the compound.

39 contacts made.  Stations worked: VK1NAM/3 VK3AFW VK3PF VK3GAJG VK3JM VK1RX VK2YW VK5LY VK3CAT VK3FPSR VK2FHRK VK3FB VK3UBY VK3LO VK3DET VK3GHS Vk5WG VK5CZ/p VK3AMB VK3YY/p VK3YE/pm VK1DI VK3MCD VK2GEL/p

And after 0000 UTC, VK3CAT, VK2JI (30m) VK7NWT VK5LA VK5PAS VK3AFW VK3UP VK1DI VK3PF VK1MA/2 VK3FPSR VK3UBY VK3MRG and VK1NAM mobile in vk3.

Duration of operation from first contact to last was about 2 hours 30mins less the 20mins while moving the station away from the noise.  This operation was completely done using a 3S LIPO battery, which was 12.4v at the start of the operation and was 11.4v at the end.  The two SLABs I took were not needed.  The ATU ran off the LIPO too, for the few seconds of power it requires when changing bands and resetting.

The radio, ATU, log book, pack
The radio, ATU, log book, pack
Black squid pole just visible centre
Black squid pole just visible centre
VK1DA operating the gear
VK1DA operating the gear

SOTA activation at Black Mountain, Canberra, 8th March 2013

Delayed by work, I did not have enough time to walk up the mountain from the base so I settled on a walk from the parking area and lookout that is 2/3 the way up the mountain.  The road to the summit from that area still requires 40 to 50m of climb, satisfying the 25m activation zone rule.

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The summit path from the parking area has some decorative fallen logs over it.

Some views of the Canberra CBD buildings through gaps in the trees.

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At the top I passed the tower building and the car park and found a suitable location where I could put up the antenna and sit on a rock to operate the radio.IMG_1174 IMG_1175

The 40m band was very active with many signals from Australia, New Zealand and some US and Canadians heard working VKs.  I made 10 contacts on 40m band using ssb (voice) and two on 20m using CW (morse), one of which was to Germany.

SOTA activation combined with special event call Vi100ACT, 1 March 2013

The Canberra Region Amateur Radio Club received authorisation to use the callsign Vi100ACT during the month of March 2013, to recognise the Canberra Centenary.  I volunteered to coordinate the roster of members who were keen to use the callsign during the month and rostered myself on for the 40m, 20m and 2m bands on the evening of 1 March when I would be activating Mt Ainslie as a SOTA station.

For this activation I set up the 20m dipole as well as the 40m dipole.  I made about 15 contacts on 40m including VK1/2/3/4/5/7, ZL2 and FK8.  A few contacts were made on 2m FM, then I moved to 20m and self spotted on sotawatch.org to announce that I was calling on 14.061 CW.  I then worked 8 contacts into England, Germany, Austria and France (G, DL, OE and F) with reports varying from 339 (weak) to 559 (fair).  This seemed a fair result for the first use of the 20m dipole, not yet optimised for length or angle.  The power output of the FT817 is 5 watts.

The two dipoles shared a common feedpoint at the top of the squid pole support, and the dipoles were strung out in roughly the same plane, the longer one at the top and the shorter one below it.  No impact on the 40m antenna behaviour was apparent.  The SWR on 20m was not ideal as there was some reflected power indicated on the 817 meter.

Dipole feedpoint at the top of the pole
Dipole feedpoint at the top of the pole
antenna wires
Antenna wires

The Vi100ACT callsign is to be used on various bands by different club members during the month of March 2013.  The official centenary of Canberra’s founding/naming ceremony is on the 12th of March.

 

SOTA activation Tuggeranong Hill 15 Feb 2013

This activation was on Friday evening after work, similar timing to the Majura exercise a week earlier.  The climb was not as long but had some slippery rocky sections.

I had forgotten to put the 2m hand held radio back into my backpack so I used the FT817 on 2m FM for some local contacts, including two other SOTA summits.  On 40m the conditions were quite good yielding 18 contacts into south eastern states of Australia and one to New Zealand (VK1, 2, 3, 5 and ZL2).  All on SSB with 5 watts to the dipole supported by the squid pole at the feedpoint, coaxial cable running down the squid pole to the radio.  Powered by the 2.1 AH SLA battery.

Stayed talking on 40m too long, did not pack up till about 20:30 and it was quite dark when I got back to the car around 20:45 local time.  This would be ok at a site with a decent path but the rocky slippery road is not a good one to descend in the dark, even with light from a torch.

Andrew VK1DA operating radio on Tuggeranong Hill
VK1DA talking

 

view of the suburbs south west of Tuggernong Hill
view of the suburbs south west of Tuggernong Hill

 

Mt Taylor as seen from Tuggeranong hill
Mt Taylor as seen from Tuggeranong hill