SOTA Activation at Mt Rob Roy, 1105m ASL, 22 Feb 2013

I was advised by Andrew VK1NAM that this hill was fairly difficult due to not only the climb needed (I measured about 420m, from car park 685m to summit 1105m) but the number of steep sections in the path.  He was certainly right.  I didn’t give up but I was close to it when I got to what seemed to be the high point of the road, then it started to fall and did not seem likely to resume a climb.  At that point I called Andrew on the phone and asked for advice.  Turns out that the summit is in bushland, quite rocky and treed, and I was within a few metres of the point where he had left the path to negotiate the final 100m of climbing through the bush.

I got to the summit at about 18:48 local time after leaving the car at about 17:10.  Quite a long trip but understandable for 420m of climbing.  Set up the 40m dipole, called cq and immediately had a contact with Andrew VK1NAM who was in Melbourne on a family trip.  Another 10 or so contacts followed on 40m and 2 on 2m FM including contacts on both bands with Matt VK1MA who was having problems at Black Mtn on 2m due to the TV and other transmitters at that site.  Although my signal was strong enough, spurious signals produced in the front end of his receiver were making it difficult copy at his end.

One contact on 40m was with Luke VK3HJ and we had a cw contact as well as ssb.  My first activator CW contact.

Packed up at 19:45 local just before sundown.  Left the summit just before 20:00 and got back to the car 1 hour later with a bit of moonlight helping me find the path and avoid rocks.  Nice lights from the city.  If I took my camera I would have better shots to show here.

IMG_1149h IMG_1148h Lower sections of the path   IMG_1150h IMG_1152h IMG_1153h    IMG_1157hc

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

SOTA activation at Mt Majura ACT VK1/AC034

Walking tracks around the adjacent hills of Mt Ainslie and Mt Majura and to the top of each provide SOTA activators with ready made trails, with some steps where needed.  The ascent from street level to mountain top for Majura is about 200m.  The walk is in bushland, mainly eucalyptus trees and some bushes.  The first 70% of the track to the summit is an easy grade with some steps and two switchbacks.  There are paths leading along the western side of the mountain and to the top, with a rough roadway and a locked gate at the top where the new sealed road arrives at the summit.  The last 400m of the walk up this fire trail is the most demanding part of the walk.  I stopped several times to drink some water and let my HR drop back.  The total time to the top was about 50 minutes.  I notified a changed start time via SOTAWATCH.ORG.UK on one of these stops, due to a delay in getting started.

Location of the car park Lower section of pathway majura path lizard

In some areas local conservation groups are undertaking rehabilitation of the bushland, planting new trees to restore the variety of trees on the hillsides.  One sign about this activity mentioned that it had been used for sheep grazing.  Sheep are particularly destructive to native trees and grasses due to their teeth which can reduce grasses to almost zero height so they cannot recover.  Native Australian animals cannot do this as their teeth are set further back in their mouths so in drought, their numbers drop off and the grass survives.

replanting trees

At the summit there is a steel trig structure that is readily used for supporting a light fibreglass rod for the 7 mhz antenna.

IMG_1121 antenna on squid pole Lower section of pathwayContacts made were:

  • on 2m FM, VK1NAM/p on Mt Rob Roy, VK1BGT Ingmar in Kambah (south Canberra), VK1MDC Mark in north west Canberra, VK1DI in north west Canberra
  • on 7.090 Mhz SSB, VK1BGT, VK1MDC, VK3PF, VK3FABA, VK3GHZ, VK2NA, VK3AFW mobile in Melbourne, VK2VKB, VK5PAS, VK1DI

SIgnal levels were good with some reports being s9 so this basic setup with 5 watts and a low dipole is quite effective for “local” contacts, ie. within a single high angle F layer reflection.  The truly local contacts within line of sight do not require ionospheric reflection but sometimes can be affected by reflections causing cancellation or at least interference depending on the density of ionisation.

I did CQ on the lower end of the band using CW but got no replies. Some Europeans and Americans were heard but working dx on this band requires lower angles of radiation and a low antenna is not good enough.  For that a vertical will be necessary unless a 15m high support point is available.

SOTA goes live in VK1 – a day of firsts

The documentation was cleared during January 2013 by the SOTA management team after some amendments and updates. VK1 was then given a start date of 1st February.

To make the day memorable we encouraged VK1 activations via email lists and a presentation at the local club a week earlier. We asked chasers to tune in and help us get our required contacts. Activations at 0000 UTC were by Andrew VK1NAM at Booroomba Rocks, Matt VK1MA at Mt Stromlo, Russell VK1JRM at Tuggeranong Hill and by me at Mt Taylor. I logged 20 contacts on a combination of 7 MHz SSB and 146.5 MHz FM. Later in the day Ian VK1DI walked up Mt Majura and activated successfully with VK3 and VK5 contacts.

There are a few possible approaches to climbing Mt Taylor. The route I chose was from Sulwood Drive, Kambah. This route may be a little longer than the Pearce or Chifley approaches. Parking on Sulwood drive near the intersection with Manheim St, the walking path is easy to find and leads up a steady rocky path, which eventually becomes a bitumen sealed path, gives way to compressed gravel, some concrete in places and some wooden framed steps in other parts of the trip.

Looking back down the path on Mt Taylor

Concrete section of path

On arrival at the summit, the squid pole was extended and the central feedpoint of the 40m dipole was attached to it using cord. The ends of the dipole insulated by several metres of cord are attached to tent pegs hammered into the ground. A stone could be used as a hammer but I took a rubber mallet for this purpose.

IMGP0073s

IMGP0078s

The FT817 was powered by a 2.1 AH SLA Battery. Note the miniature morse paddle, purchased as a kit at Dayton Hamvention in 2010. This paddle is nice but too light so it needs to be held with one hand while you send with the other. Attaching it to a lump of heavy metal (not a Metallica album) would solve the problem but also add to the weight in the backpack (see below).

IMGP0069s

Signals on 40m were very good. Easy contacts were made around VK1 and with VK3 stations, including some SOTA activators on summits in VK3.

After liaising with Bruce VK1HBB on 2m we also made contact on 7090 where we had our first SOTA contact for VK1. After that the fun began and at times three frequencies were in use on 40m, while on 146.5 FM the Icom radio chattered away with a continuous series of contacts between VK1HBB, VK1FPIT and VK1FTAY who were portable at Mt Ainslie, VK1NAM at Booroomba Rocks, VK1MA at Mt Stromlo, VK1JRM at Mt Tuggeranong, VK1DR, VK1SV and VK1DI.

On HF I did call cq on CW at one stage but activity on CW during week days is rather low. This must be why my signal was discovered by an automatic skimmer run by Lyle VK1LW, whose station logged my CQ call and that ended up on SOTAWATCH as a spot.

Everyone involved seems to have enjoyed the day. A field day with a difference. Several operators took leave from work to activate on this day and we appreciated also the efforts of VK3 and VK5 activators and chasers who turned up on time to give us contacts and get these new SOTA summits into their chaser logs. No doubt from this point on we will gain new activators and chasers as familiarity with the award increases.

I would like to use more bands for these events. Some activators are routinely making CW contacts into Europe and the USA, some are making some ssb contacts, using 20m and 15m bands.

I underestimated the amount of equipment I would be trying to stuff into my ordinary backpack, and how much it weighed when I did! And that was a single band wire antenna, and a 2m handheld with its own flexible antenna. Carrying a real 2m antenna would add more complexity and weight. The SOTABEAMS enterprise in the UK offers readily assembled beams for various bands. For HF, some operators like horizontal antennas, both centre fed and end fed. Some like verticals. Your mileage does vary depending on what you are trying to do. The verticals would surely be better for DX contacts.

Scenery

On the way down Mt Taylor I noticed a panoramic map installed by our friendly local government, showing the features of the Tuggeranong Valley and naming the mountains in the distance and on the horizon. Some of these will be familiar to readers, and some will be more familiar in a year’s time as many of the names seen here are SOTA summits.

Panoramic map on Mt Taylor
Panoramic map on Mt Taylor
Pano map on Mt Taylor
Panoramic map on Mt Taylor

The prominent mountain behind the town centre is Mt Tennent, named after a bushranger.  The fable is that he buried treasure of some kind up there before being captured.

Mt Tennent
Mt Tennent

Picture taken two days earlier without the mist was a lot clearer.

 

Mt Tennent
Mt Tennent