Categories
Amateur Radio field and portable SOTA

SOTA Activations October 2020 to December 2020

During this quarter I activated as follows:

Black Mountain VK1/AC-042 (again) on 3rd October

9 contacts on HF, 9 on 2m and 3 on 23cm.

VK2/ST-008 (Baldy Range) 10/10

Wade vk1mic and I went first to Baldy Range, activated on HF and 2m and 23cm.

Part of the road to Baldy Range

Wade in traffic directing mode I think

The two radios used for 2m ssb and 23cm ssb (via a SGLAB transverter)

VK1DA seen in his natural setting

VK1/AC-008 (Mt Ginini) 11/10

Arrived at Mt Ginini to find the gate locked at the bottom of the hill. We walked up with 2m and 23cm gear only. About 500-600m uphill.

The locked gate on the Mt GInini access road.
our setup just to the east of the compound

VK2/IL-003 (Mount Wanganderry) 14/10

This summit is actually off the road but is only a metre or two above the road level. Looks like I didn’t take any photos. After this I went to Mt Alexandra.

VK2/IL-005 (Mount Alexandra) 14/10

I walked very carefully up and down the access track. Some years ago I slipped when coming down the track and fractured a bone in my right wrist. No photos…

VK2/IL-001 (Mount Gibraltar) 14/10

The next morning I drove up to Mt Gibraltar and activated it before 0000 UTC, so this one is dated 14/10.

VK2/IL-002 (Wingecarribee) 15/10

This was a new summit for me. It is a bit uncertain where to find a good operating position, the summit is spread out over a large area. the actual Trig point is within metres of a house that was under construction when I visited. I worked out a reasonable position on the roadside to activate from. After finishing here I went to Knight’s Hill and tried to find a place to activate from, but found it was all inside a gate labelled Private Property, No unauthorised access etc.

VK1/AC-040 (Mt Ainslie) 15/10

On my way home from the failed Knight’s Hill activation I called in at Mt Ainslie where Andrew VK1AD was completing an activation and working Mike 2E0YYY in the UK on 40m ssb. I don’t think I had many contacts but it was an activation.

VK1/AC-037 (Mt Taylor) 18/10

9 contacts on HF and 2 on 2m fm.

VK1/AC-035 (One Tree Hill) 20/10

10 contacts on HF and 2 on 2m FM

VK2/ST-036 (Spring Hill) 14/11

18 on HF and 2 on 2m FM

VK1/AC-008 (Mt Ginini) 21/11

Returning to Ginini to make the cw contacts not made on the previous activation. 15 contacts on HF and 2 on 2m FM.

VK2/IL-007 (Knights Hill) 2/12

The access problem was solved by Compton VK2HRX and I joined him and Phil VK2JDL to activate this summit. 12 contacts on HF and 1 on 2m FM.

VK2/ST-039 (Mt Marulan) 02/12

After Knight’s Hill activation Compton and I went to Mt Marulan to activate it. 10 HF contacts and 1 on 2m FM.

VK2/SW-028 Mt Tomorrama and VK2/SW-034 Billapoola State Forest

While writing up this blog I found that although I had photos from this trip with Wade VK1MIC, I had not submitted my logs for these activations.

The blackberry infestation on Yankee Ned hill, making it very difficult to access the summit. This used to be a fire trail.
We decided to go to Mt Tumorrama as Yankee Ned was impossible. Wade is here in the comfort of the palace/shade tent.

VK2/ST-010 (Mt Foxlow) on 31/12 and 1/1/2021

I chose Mt Foxlow for my New Year’s Day activation, as it is worth 8 points so I got 16 points for this trip, getting 7 contacts on 2m FM on 31/12 and lots more on 1/1 on HF and 2m.

Palatial operating conditions on Mt Foxlow
Looking into the palace
rectangular loop antenna used on 2m ssb

and that ties the ribbons on 2020.

Categories
Amateur Radio field and portable SOTA

SOTA activations July -September 2020

During this period I activated the following SOTA summits:

  • vk1/ac-023 Mt Coree on 11th July
  • vk2/st-053 Mt Mundoonen on 26 Aug, 4th time this year
  • VK1/AC-042 Black Mt on 27 Aug
  • vk1/ac-044 Boboyan Range on 11th September
  • vk1/ac-021 Pheasant Hill on 12th September
  • vk2/st-005 Webb’s Ridge on 17th September
  • vk1/ac-023 Mt Coree on 18th September
  • vk1/ac-040 Mt Ainslie on 18th September
  • vk1/ac-042 Black Mt on 22nd September, 5th activation this year so far
  • vk2/st-042 Bowning Hill on 27th September

One of my goals this year was to earn activation points for CW mode. I was aiming to qualify for MG on CW. My operation would generally commence on CW then move to SSB once I had made at least 4 contacts on CW. This is fairly easy now as many more chasers are looking for CW contacts. On a few occasions I closed down without getting the 4 CW contacts and that meant a return visit later in the year.

Mt Coree VK1/AC-023 on 11th July 2020

This popular site is easily accessed using a 4WD vehicle and this visit was with Wade VK1MIC. it was foggy and cold, just above freezing. Rain was forecast from about 11 AM so we packed up before that time. As we put everything back into the car, the cloud lifted and we could see that there was no rain anywhere near us. A pity as we could have stayed making contacts for a while yet. On this occasion we were trying to make contacts on 6m. 20 contacts were made there and some on 2m and 23cm. No CW contacts at all as we packed up expecting wet weather to arrive. A return visit was planned. No photos taken.

Mt Mundoonen VK2/ST-053 26th August 2020

As this is the nearest summit to where I live, I tend to activate it several times a year. 80m – 1 contact, 40m – 12 contacts, 20m – 1 contact, 2m fm – 3 contacts. No new photos.

Black Mt VK1/AC-042 27th August 2020

Contacts made on 23cm fm and 80m ssb with vk2 and vk3. None on 40m. No new photos.

VK1/AC-044 Boboyan Range and VK1/AC-021 Pheasant on 12th September

Contacts were made on 80m, 40m, 20m and 2m, with a mix of CW and SSB. The first contacts on Boboyan range were made just before 0000 UTC so the activation date in the sota database is 11th Sept.

Parked on Boboyan Rd
Scene on Boboyan Rd following the bushfires earlier in 2020
Part of the Namadgi NP with fire damage
Namadgi NP viewed from Boboyan Rd
Setup on Boboyan Range – 7m pole for HF ant, shorter (yellow) pole with 2m loop
Road visible through foliage free trees near Boboyan Rd
Back at the car park, near Brayshaw’s hut
Track leading up to Pheasant Hill
climbing Pheasant Hill
Forest trail leading to Pheasant Hill

VK2/ST-005 Webb’s Ridge on 17th September

This was a joint activation with Andrew VK1AD. He operated on 144 and 1296 and I operated on HF ssb and cw. As the first contacts were made before 0000 UTC the local date for these contacts was 18th Sept. After finishing here with light rain starting to fall, we drove to Mt Coree, the next activation.

VK1AD operating my HF gear on Webb’s ridge.
Antenna support pole, guyed 3 ways at the 1.2m point

VK1/AC-023 Mt Coree on 18th September

This activation was made directly after the Webb’s ridge activation earlier in the day. No new photos taken. I completed the 4 contacts needed to get this summit into my activation log for CW. Also made some contacts on 144 and 1296 using Andrew’s gear.

VK1/AC-040 Mt Ainslie on 18th September

15 contacts made on HF ssb/cw and 2m FM.

VK1/AC-042 Black Mt on 22nd September, 5th activation this year so far

11 contacts made on HF and 2m fm. Activated from a site fairly close to the comms tower.

Kx3 and logging tablet with Black Mountain tower in the background

VK2/ST-042 Bowning Hill on 27th September

This activation was the second I’d made this year. It was the occasion of a charity walk up the hill, where the owners of the property made it available for people to climb the hill and enjoy the view, while making a donation to a local charity which supports people requiring long term health care due to illness other than cancers. I thought this was a good cause and it allowed me to activate it again and hand out the summit points.

A number of local service organisations were present, including the Rural Fire Service. There was a coffee vendor offering espresso coffee, which I was happy to find! I think there would have been hundreds of climbers supporting the event during the day.

the road up Bowning Hill
going up the hill
Nearing the towers
Other walkers
Probable source of some interfering noise on this hill, insulators on this pole
Rocky outcrops on Bowning Hill
Heading downhill
Portable toilets and a bench were installed for the event
Categories
SOTA

Activations in Spain continued

Thanks to the efforts of Guru EA2IF and Ignacio EA2BD I was able to activate more summits in Spain together with Juan EA1AER. Juan met me on the 21st of September, a Saturday in Léon, a very beautiful, historic city. Then he came back on 23rd Sept to take me for a trip out into some beautiful country north east of Leon.

The summits we went to were EA1/LE-197 and EA1/LE-165. These are north east of Leon requiring about two hours drive to reach the first.

The first required a good climb to reach the summit. From where the car was parked I actually doubted that it was possible to reach the activation zone. It looked steep and narrow. However I thought Juan had activated this in the past and assumed this was a well known summit. The climb started out as a mild stroll up a forest path then up some steps formed with wooden risers. I climbed up the lower sections quite easily, having just walked for almost 500 km in the previous 3 weeks.

Then it became a steep climb up earth and rock steps with a chain on the left for assistance. This was slower!

At the top the view was breathtaking. I could see the road but not the car as it was obscured by trees. It all looked a long way down. My photos probably don’t show it well enough.

The first few photos are mine. Then I have added some of Juan’s photos.

Some photos from Juan’s website are copied here too.

After erecting the end fed 20m wire it was tuned for best output power on the 817 and I called CQ on 20m Cw. Contacts flowed quickly. Then Juan made more contacts.

Finally we packed up and ate some lunch. Just as we were preparing to start the descent I received a message from Ignacio EA2BD asking if we were still on the air. I had to say no, as everything had been packed away. Disappointing as I would have liked to give him a new summit unique.

Juan remarked that I would be the first activator of the summit. I then realised that my earlier assumption was incorrect. It had not been activated before and it was the first time Juan had been there.

Juan then showed me some more of the sights in the valleys of this area.

We then went to another summit but the contacts made from this one didn’t qualify for SOTA.

This activation is also described on Juan’s blog at: https://ea1aer.blogspot.com/2019/09/con-vk1da-en-pica-de-ten.html which is written in Spanish (use Chrome browser for an approximate translation).

Here is a photo of most of the group of Leon hams who met us on the second summit, partly to meet me and partly to visit the club’s repeater site.

Categories
SOTA

Three activations in Tasmania, November 2018

Having negotiated some SOTA time on our trip to Tasmania I thought I would be very happy to add one VK7 summit to my activation list, adding a new association in SOTA parlance to my list of associations activated.

The ideal summit in Hobart is the ever-present Mt Wellington which towers over the city and spends much of its time bathed in cloud or rain. At 1270m and only a few km from the city which is at sea level, it is a commanding presence to anyone noticing mountains as they scan the horizon, ie. any SOTA activator. In Hobart there are a number of SOTA qualified summits nearby.

On Wednesday 14th the weather forecast was for afternoon rain, but mid afternoon it seemed to be fine and I thought that could be my opportunity. So I ventured out with some cautious enthusiasm.

Arriving at the top of the mountain I could not see any details of the broadcasting towers and indeed had to look carefully to identify the trig point. There were very few people wandering around due to the threatening weather, which suited me very well.

I set up the gear and antenna using some large rocks as a protection from westerly wind and rain. The tarp I normally use to provide a clean surface to sit on was used instead to cover the radio to protect it from rain. I used an umbrella to keep most of the rain off my clothing, though I had donned the raincoat and pants. Radio conditions were not good, but I managed to make contacts on 40m and 20m using cw and ssb.

Rain on the legs and shoes
Here I am cowering under the umbrella while operating at Mt Wellington

The next day I had an opportunity to activate another summit in the Hobart area. I didn’t know how ambitious to be with only a few hours available. So I opted for a local summit Mt Rumney which is between Hobart city and the airport. There is comms gear on the summit, which was producing some spurious signals on 40 and 20m.

I found a track just off the roadside at the top, which ended with a gate, for service access to the comms compound. The roadside barrier provided a mounting point for my antenna pole.

Operating setup at Mt Rumney

On Friday 16th Nov I drove from Hobart to Devonport, but via the Ben Lomond National Park where there was a very attractive option, Legge’s Tor VK7/NE-001. This is a truly spectacular trip mainly for the passenger in the car, but the driver gets a few glimpses of the trip up the Jacob’s Ladder in the few moments he can afford to look elsewhere but the road. The pics below show some of the scenery en route to the summit in the car, and the walk on foot. On the way back down I stopped several times to grab photos of the scenery, I don’t think these shots do it justice.

On the radio, I made about 20 contacts on 40 and 20m, CW and SSB. After running out of available contacts I noticed a few spots of rain on the logging tablet, so decided to quit while I could walk down and be dry for most of the distance to the car, about 1.5km. As it happened, I had just opened the car and started making a cup of tea when the rain started to get heavy. Just lucky timing.

The small pole in the far distance made me think I had 500m to go, but in fact it was only about 200m and the pole was quite small. Heading up this way was the right way to reach the Activation Zone

At the summit area

The equipment setup at Legge’s Tor. Convenient rocks making a seat and table.
Operating position
View towards the summit cairn

Moss on the rocks on the summit path
Summit path clearly visible
One of many huts on the summit, apparently used as ski lodges
View down into the valley from the summit path

Looking back towards the summit village, on the way down
Some of the rocks on the way down
Looking down on part of the “ladder” and the valley below
Rocks!
Part of the Jacob’s Ladder on the way down

 

Looking out from the road into the valley

 

Part of the road down the Jacob’s Ladder
The road ahead shown on the GPS

 

Finally back on the ordinary road, still with snow markers

 

This activation capped the SOTA part of the trip to Tasmania in a spectacular way.

Categories
equipment

Testing a Mountain Topper Radio (MTR) model 3B

Having seen the Steve Weber designed compact transceivers on the web and having seen an MTR owned by VK1FB, I was delighted to find one for sale on vkclassifieds.net.au recently.  After duly receiving it and waiting for my birthday to pass (due to my wife’s insistence on waiting for the actual day to receive gifts), I wanted to test it from home and learn the menu system, which like the radio itself, is very compact.

Using my home antenna, a fan dipole with elements for 80, 40, 20 and 10m, I connected the radio to power (a 3S Lifepo4), headphones and the antenna and turned it on.  It sent the number 4 in morse, saying it was on 40m.  I tuned it around the CW end of the band for a while and tried a few of the control functions.  Then I returned it to the default 7030 frequency by switching it off and on again (where have I heard that before?)

Then in the headphones I heard “cq sota de vk5cz” which was Ian at summit vk5/ne-095 in the north east of South Australia.  I listened to his contact with VK3PF and then heard him ask QRZ? (“who is calling”, or “is there anyone else there?”) to which I responded with my callsign.  He replied immediately with a good signal report.  I gave him a report and then told him this was my first contact with the MTR3B.  He acknowledged that and wished me good luck.  I returned the greetings and signed off.

Yes the new radio works despite being smaller than my morse paddle. It’s the blue box in this pic. Produces about 3-5 watts on 7, 10 and 14 MHz amateur bands. The Mountain Topper Radio 3B.

Ian/Buhd vk5cz posted to facebook a comment that this contact was the highlight of the activation, which was great to read.  And later he also published a video clip in which the contact can be heard taking place.

A day later I had the MTR connected again, this time on 14060.  I tuned it up to 14062 and there was a familiar callsign, VK5CZ, in contact with someone.  Looking at SOTAWATCH.ORG I saw that Ian had recently called CQ from another SOTA summit.  I waited until the contact was finished, then heard him send QRZ? and again sent my callsign.  Back he came with a 559 with QSB (fading) report, which was pretty good.  I told him it was the MTR again, which he was pleased to hear about.

Now I need a contact on the remaining band provided by the MTR, 10 MHz, for which I need to make some alternative arrangements as my home antenna does not have a suitable impedance on that band.  The MTR is designed for a 50 ohm non-reactive load.  I will route it through an antenna matchbox which can be adjusted to present a 50 ohm impedance to the transmitter.

So far so good.  I am very impressed by the MTR and look forward to many lightweight activations with it.

Categories
Amateur Radio equipment

Restoring memory settings in FT817

After getting my FT817 final stage replaced, and all power settings reset to meet spec, I started to use the radio again and quickly realised that all the memory settings (frequency and mode) had been wiped.

This made it necessary to change bands using the band switch (!) and manually change between SSB and CW mode, or occasionally FM, dialing up and down the band as necessary.  With the frequency settings in memories, I only needed to move between memory channels to go from SSB on 7090 to CW on 7032, for example.  And on higher bands, I had several beacon frequencies stored in some memories, allowing me to quickly move between the various 10m and 6m beacon frequencies to get a quick impression of band conditions.

So today I dug out the details of the FT817 memory manager software, retrieved the file of frequency settings stored on the computer, added a few new ones and saved the lot in the 817.   Then repeated the process for  my second FT817.  So they now have an identical set of frequencies in their memories.  Makes them somewhat interchangeable.

All the second radio is missing is a cw filter.  I have plans to sort that out soon.

The details of the memory manager and how to interface it with the radio from a windows box are all in a previous post to this blog.  I actually read the post to remind myself of how it worked!

The previous post on this topic is here.

The blog documents it all.

 

Categories
field and portable

VHF/UHF Field day/contest Jan 14/15 2017

The VHF/UHF field day in January is one of my favourite events.  I have had some great surprises on these weekends.  I had no idea what to expect this time, though the weather was forecast as damp on Saturday and dry on Sunday.

I arrived on site around 6pm Friday night.  Along the route from Yass via the Mountain Creek Road I had noticed a lot of debris on the road, including some tree branches that had been broken off by high winds.  I didn’t realise a storm had gone through Canberra while I was driving to Mt Ginini, breaking trees and strewing debris all over suburban streets and bringing trees down over some of the arterial roads, leaving damage that would be visible for weeks afterwards.

This is how far I got setting up on Friday night. After this, the wind came up and the rain and sleet started.

The weather at the time was windy and when I tried to set up the tent it was clear that it would not survive that wind.  In the hope that it would clear away in a few hours, I decided to sit it out and stayed in the car.  By 9pm it was dark and I had to decide whether to  re-pack my tent and go back to Canberra for the night or hang on.  I decided to hang on.  It rained quite heavily for a while and the wind kept howling so once it was really dark, I felt there was no other option.

In the early morning it seemed to be better.  The wind was still there but didn’t seem so bad.  The rain had cleared.  But I hadn’t slept much.

I set about the job of assembling the antennas, the tent, the interconnections and generator.  By 12 noon, the contest start time, I was just about ready to roll.

432 MHz preamp cabling

144 MHz antenna

1296 MHz antenna – end mounted

 

The erected antennas looked very much like they have for the last 10 years so I didn’t take any new photos of them. The 2m, ;70cm and 23cm yagis on one mast and the 6m 3el yagi on another, both rotated from the base using KR400 rotators.  Feedlines: RG9B for 2m, CNT400 for 70cm and 23cm, RG213 or similar for 6m.

Here’s a pic of the antennas from a previous operation at Ginini.  A few configuration differences for the 70cm antenna but otherwise very similar this time.

VHF/UHF antennas on Mt Ginini

 

Once I got on the air, I found beacons from VK3 were very low, the Sydney beacons were almost undetectable and few portables outside the VK1 area.  Only VK2IO was heard initially, but one or two others did emerge later in the weekend.  VK1DSH, VK1RX, VK1RW, VK1MT and VK1AI were all out in the field, most of them on 50/144/432 and Dale was on 1296 as well.  We had a small number of home stations operating the bands too.

After working Gerard VK2IO (Mt Bindo near Oberon) I then worked Phil VK5AKK on both 144 and 432.  We tried 1296 too, but although I could hear a signal from his 100w, my 10w was too far down to make it a two way contact.  A digital mode would have worked.  hmm.  More power on my end would have helped too.  Double hmm.

The day progressed without any more surprising dx, and I found it hard to convince myself to stay awake after 9pm, having got very little sleep in the driver’s seat of the car on Friday night.

At 5:30 in the morning, there were good signals from the vk3 beacons, Sydney was a bit better too.  And I had a very good signal from the Mt Gambier beacon on 144.550 plus a weak signal from Mt Lofty on 144.450.  I hoped this indicated something of the contacts to be made in the following hours.

It did, partly.  VK5DK at Mt Gambier was worked, as was VK5PJ.  But conditions were not good enough to give us contacts on higher frequencies.

My surprise contact on Sunday morning was being called by Mike VK3BDL/7 at Flinders Island.  After working me on 144 and 432, Mike went on to work Chris VK2DO at Batemans Bay on 144, a contact which they were both very happy with.

Eventually the contest ended and I followed it up with a short period of activating Mt Ginini as a SOTA station, using the IC703 running from a LiFePO4 battery.  I had at 6am set up the 20m vertical in the hope of making an S2S with a US station who was looking for VK contacts.  I may have been a bit unlucky with conditions, or jut not spending enough time listening for the US signals.  No luck with S2S but did have a good contact with home station NS7P on CW.

The packing process took about 4 hours and I left the summit at 5pm.  A 2 hour trip back to Yass and a welcome shower and a cold drink when I got there.

The 6m beam seen in the foreground (in the shade, sorry) travels in a partially assembled state. The gamma match stays in place, but the extensions just come out of each element and it then is not much wider than the 2m beam and is narrow enough to be carried quite safely on the roof rack of the car.

Mostly packed up and ready to be loaded into the car and trailer. 2m and 70cm mast still to be disassembled.

 

Contacts made:  183 total.

Band totals:

  • 50 Mhz:  39
  • 144:   70
  • 432:  51
  • 1296: 22

Total points claimed under distance calculation rules: 55916

Points lost due to a wrong grid locator:  about 10.

Points lost due to not enough other portables:  500,000.

haha

 

Categories
SOTA

Pheasant Hill, sota vk1/ac-021, south of Canberra

After activating Boboyan Range successfully the week before, I wanted to grab a few winter bonus points before they ended.  Pheasant Hill is located west of the Boboyan Road, almost at the southern border of the ACT(VK1) with NSW (VK2) in southeastern Australia.  It is in ecalytpus forest country and is 1455m above sea level.

So on this Saturday morning I drove along Boboyan road to the parking area of Brayshaw’s hut (dating back a hundred years or more) and hiked westward through the forest with the sounds of nature around me.
About 20 minutes in you pass this sign

Map and information about the area
Map and information about the area

After turning to the north and heading up the hill the forest is thicker in places.

img_0326
Forest views

 

img_0325
Path faintly visible

Finally I reached the summit area and found a suitable clearing with a handy tree stump for one of my poles.

I used one pole for the linked dipole which can be used on any of the 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12 or 10 metre bands.  The other pole supported the 6m vertical and a 2m dipole offset from the pole on a short length of 19mm PVC conduit.

Vhf antennas
Vhf antennas

Conditions on the bands were not bad. I made 4 contacts into New Zealand (ZL) on 20m, several “local” contacts on 2m FM back into Canberra using the dipole mounted at about 3m above ground.  Only one contact on 6m, with VK1MA.

img_0327
Radio and camera operator

Originally in our sota summit list this one was named Pleasant hill, but that was corrected later.  As Ian VK1DI remarked after first activating this summit, it is indeed a pleasant hill.
I was tempted to stay there longer but the wind was rising and I didn’t want to be caught in rain. So after about 2 hours I packed up and headed home.

Approaching Brayshaw's Hit from the west
Approaching Brayshaw’s Hit from the west

One of the direction markers close up
One of the direction markers close up


Summary:

Contacts:

Band Contacts
50 MHz 1
144 MHz 6
432 MHz 1
7 MHz 17
14 MHz 5
21 MHz 1

Walking distance: it took me about 45 mins to reach the summit from the car park.  The return trip was a bit faster.

Permissions: not required – it’s in the Namadgi National Park and day trips are automatically OK.

Round trip from southern Canberra – about 120 km.

Categories
SOTA

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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Categories
SOTA

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.