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.
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.
Final 10m cw contact count was only 28. More power and an even better antenna next time!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
Today’s plan was to activate three summits to add them to my 6m/10m log and in two cases, gain activator points for 2015 as I had not activated them yet in 2015.
The summits were One Tree Hill near Hall, ACT, Isaacs Ridge to the east of the Woden Valley in Canberra and Mt McDonald, adjacent to the Cotter dam west of Canberra. This selection was designed to complement the plans of VK1NAM and VK4JAZ who were activating three summits that day.
Leaving Yass at 7:10 after discovering the chooks had no water (and getting my bike gloves wet), I found the Barton Hwy was fogbound for part of the trip to Hall.
I planned to ride my bike to the base of One Tree Hill, hoping to save some time. I recalled the walk as basically flat with a few undulations but I didn’t mind walking the bike for a few hundred metres. Well, it was about 4km and most of it seemed to be uphill. It took about an hour so to reach the hill so riding the bike seemed to have saved very little time on this leg of the trip.
At One Tree Hill I set up the antennas including the dipole for 6m, connected both to the FT817 transceiver and looked at SOTAwatch to see who was on from where. I was excited by the spot for JS1UEH on a Japanese summit and tuned to his 21 MHz frequency, but the whole band sounded dead. Hearing nothing there I resumed normal operation, moved the antenna links to 28 MHz and tuned up to 28.48. This sounds simple but my antennas were attached to the barbed wire fence and naturally, when the antenna was dropped down to make link changes, it caught on the fence when it was raised, making it a frustrating process. At the same time the 6m dipole was getting caught also. Finally I got the antenna up again and I could use it.
I found Gerard VK2IO at Mt Marulan on 28 MHz with a good signal. I called him and received a low signal report so I looked at my setup to check with antenna I had used on 28 MHz. The 817 has two antenna sockets and I use both, making it possible to switch between antennas as the 817 stores the antenna selection by band (or groups of bands actually).
I found that I had used the wrong antenna on 10m, so had been using the 6m antenna when I called and worked Gerard. What’s more (or less), one side of the dipole had disconnected from the binding post in the process of raising it with the barbed wire fence not helping. So I had used half a 6m dipole to make that contact. Later I called Gerard again on 10m and found he was much stronger on the 10m antenna and also upgraded my signal report too. Barbed wire fences are off my list as a possible mounting point for antennas.
At this point I abandoned 6m and used only HF bands. There were a few contacts to be made on 10m and 40m found a good list of chasers.
During the activation there were several visitors to the hilltop, including some goats. And no, none of them seemed to be SOTA goats.
After making a reasonable number of log entries I packed up and walked back to my bike. The return ride to my car at Hall took only 18 minutes, not bad for 4km and clearly it was nearly all downhill! That time included chatting with some other riders when lifting bikes over a gate.
Then a quick drive across Canberra to Woden Valley where I parked near Isaacs Ridge on Long Gully Lane. About 20 minutes to walk up to the operating position and 10 minutes to set up the antennas. This time I had the vertical for 6m so was able to work a few locals on that band, including VK1NAM on Mt Taylor, about 4 km away on the other side of Woden! We had exchanged SMS messages updating each other on our progress and plans, so I knew he and Grant VK4JAZ were planning to operate from Isaacs Ridge after me.
I made a page full of contacts on 40m and a few on 10m. I was slow walking up this one so was then considering whether I could manage Mt McDonald later. I decided against it as it would be near the end of the daylight when I got there and would almost certainly be walking back to the car in the dark and would still have to drive home. So while I wanted to add one more summit to my 6m/10m challenge scorecard, I had to drop the idea. Coffee and food seemed a more attractive option, so that was the next step.
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.
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…
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.
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.
The weather stayed fine though the wind remained gusty.
Some pics of the forest on the way back to the car…
Coming 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.
Another successful activation. Thanks to Andrew Moseley VK1NAM for driving and providing the equipment for the activation.
As in past years I operated in this event at Mt Ginini in two ways. On VHF/UHF bands I used my standard equipment powered by a Honda EU20i generator, with 100w output on 2m/6m, 75w on 70cm and 10w on 23cm. On HF bands I ran 10w from battery power, to be SOTA compliant.
I started the site setup at 5pm Friday night, setting up the tent and the HF antennas. Two squid poles supported these antennas. One was a linked dipole for the HF bands from 40 to 10m. The other antenna was a quarter wave vertical with elevated radials for 20m.
The VHF/UHF antennas were erected on Saturday morning. Matt VK1MA and Glen VK1XX arrived to perform some maintenance work on the tower for the repeaters run by the Canberra Region Amateur Radio Club. When I was ready to lift my antennas they were ready to help and fortunately I only needed to adjust the guy ropes.
On VHF the band conditions seemed ok, with the VK3RGL beacons on 144.530 and 432.530 were both received with reasonable signals. Towards Sydney the beacons on 144.420 and 432.420 were weak but detectable. Propagation in the north east direction (Sydney and up the NSW coastline roughly) remained ordinary for the weekend.
By the late afternoon, I had logged a small number of contacts on 40m and on the VHF/UHF bands. There were a few other field stations, the most prominent on VHF being VK3ER and VK3KQ and I could work both on 6m/2m/70cm without much trouble. The 23cm signals were detectable but only workable on peaks of the fading always present on that band.
In the hour before sunset I was working some 20m CW contacts as a SOTA portable, conditions did not seem too good on 20m towards Europe but I made a handful of contacts with Europeans and some Australians. The planned ssb activations in Europe were basically inaudible, though with some imagination I could hear faint voices and stations calling them. When you cannot really hear the chasers you know it will be hard to work the activators.
Returning to the VHF/UHF bands I had some good contacts into the area west of Melbourne, then heard VK5SR in the Mount Gambier area with a big signal. Contacts with VK5SR were made on 144 and 432, but no signals heard on 1296. Contacts were made at much increased signal levels with VK3KQ and VK3ER on 1296 as well as the three lower bands. VK5RX was worked also on 144, a much more westerly contact in the PF95 grid.
During the recording you will hear a contact with vk3er on 1296 where they were so strong with their dish on my direction that I thought they were a local. Then I could hear vk3er at a distance of 460 odd km on 1296 even while they were beaming to Mt Gambier with their their dish 120 degrees off my direction. Conditions were unusually good! Following the contacts with vk3er on 1296 and 50 mhz there was a contact made on 1296 with vk3kq after several tries using 432 for liaison. There was an unsuccessful attempt, another set of dits used as a beacon, then finally a successful contact on ssb.
By about 10pm the wind had increased in strength and it seemed unlikely there would be any new contacts made. I didn’t plan to operate after midnight to make contacts in the next 3 hour period so I closed down for the night, lowering both antenna masts so as to protect the antennas from the wind. Having seen stakes almost completely ripped out of the rocky ground by gusty winds in past events, I didn’t want to risk damage to the antennas, the tent or the operator!
I woke at about 5am and was very cold, having packed the wrong sleeping bag. It was about 4C that morning which was an improvement over the 2C of Saturday morning, however I warmed up in the car for 20 mins before raising the antennas and getting the station back on the air. A few field stations were ready for contacts prior to 6am but despite trying to work them all before 6 on all bands, a few contacts were missed. Due to the 3 hour time blocks used in this contest it is possible to make contacts in each 3 hour time block, at any time. After the initial flurry of contacts with VK3ER VK3KQ and VK2WG it was time to check the beacons especially looking for VK5 beacons given the good conditions into VK5 the night before. Some of the VK3 beacons were audible, the VK3RGL were good signals on 144 and 432 but the Mt Gambier VK5RSE beacon was not heard. However the VK5VF beacon close to Adelaide was a good signal so I started making CQ calls beaming to Adelaide on 144.150. During the next few hours several VK5 contacts were made on 144 and 432, with a marginal contact made on 1296 with VK5PJ. Jeff VK5GF joined in the fun and his signal remained good for several hours. The VK5 signals were still good after 9AM so we were able to make several contacts for the field day log at these excellent signal levels.
Near Wagga the VK2WG club station was also making contacts into VK5 on 144 and some on 432, though signal levels were markedly lower than those received at Mt Ginini’s altitude of just over 1700m. John VK2YW was operating the VHF station there and he has since commented that he wants to get onto 1296 after hearing of the contacts made there.
I think this event was my most successful field day from a VHF/UHF perspective. The conditions on 144 and 432 were above their usual level but the results on 1296 were my best ever. The vhf and uhf bands are a lot of fun in these great conditions.
I was running late for this activation and had not been up to the mountain for quite a few years. In fact I had not seen the level of destruction by the 2003 bushfires, I might have postponed seeing that because I had heard and read about it.
The mountain has a restaurant on it which is apparently open at night. There are sometimes stargazing events open to the public.
Access to the summit is limited by a security gate which is closed to uphill traffic at 6pm. That gate is a fair way down from the summit so if you can go a bit further uphill it will save a lot of walking. I parked just below the gate and walked from there. It took me about 25 mins to get to the area I operated from, which was on the side of a fenced water reservoir. I only used 7 Mhz ssb and 14 MHz CW for this activation. I had about 10 contacts on 7 Mhz and then about the same number on CW on 20m, including contacts into Germany, Finland, the UK and New Zealand.
Signal reports received on 20m were low and I need to improve my signal strength on this band. I have a few ideas I need to try out. The best simple low antenna for dx contacts is a vertical, but it needs an effective ground radial system to be efficient. I am probably going to try using 3 elevated radials, about 1m above ground. The squid pole is a good support for the vertical radiator and as it only requires 5m of vertical radiator, the radials can be almost 2m above ground, further reducing ground losses.
On this activation I found I was being attacked by mosquitoes especially once it got darker. I had not had trouble with these on earlier activations and my fellow SOTA activator Andrew VK1NAM also had lots of mossies on Black Mountain this evening.
No photos as I got there too late.
Closed down after the contact with ZL1KLP at about 7:45 local time, quite dark by then. Have to make the most of daylight saving while we still have it. DST end date 7 April 13.
I have disabled comments as I was receiving no comments from fellow amateurs but dozens from spammers with automatically generated inane comments and links to irrelevant and usually offensive websites.
Amateur Radio, Computing and other activities of Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH