RD contest 2015

The exchange in the RD contest is a signal report in standard RS(T) format, followed by a 3 digit number indicating the number of years the operator has been licenced.  This year it was 50 for me so I thought that was a good excuse to operate in the RD.

I decided to use CW only and use the IC703 at 5 watts output.  This put me into the QRP/CW category.

The bands were ok for east coast contacts on 40m and 80m.  I didn’t hear any VK6 on CW which was unusual.  I did hear one on 20m but conditions were poor there and I was unable to make any contacts.

Total contact count was 100 on the RD logger screen but 99 in the summary – perhaps I confused it at some point when I backed out a contact that didn’t get completed.

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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.

VK1 SOTA party 2nd August 2015

The SOTA party on 2nd August was almost washed out, with all night rainfall and rain continuing in the morning.  By about 8am though, there was some sign of the rain easing for a while.  Some of us decided it was too risky as we are generally not prepared to operate in the rain, but others decided to activate though not on the original sites.

I changed from my planned activation of Castle Hill to Mt Stromlo.  A retreat could be made from Mt Stromlo within 15 minutes whereas at Castle hill it would take more like 30 minutes or more to reach the car, including packing time.

I originally set up on 6m and was about to set up the 10m antenna when two things happened. First I heard Dimitri VK1SV/VK2COW operating at his new home location near Gundaroo on 6m so I had to log contacts with him.  Then Mark VK1EM arrived on site, so we organised for him to make the 6m contacts that were available.

The linked dipole went up then, giving us 10m coverage.  ALthough not all originally planned activations were on the air, enough were on to keep us busy, with Mt Ainslie (AC040) operators including Marcus VK3TST and Paul VK1ATP, Adan VK1FJAW was at Black Mt (AC042) using 2m fm only (and having trouble with overload in his Baofeng), Roald VK1MTS and John VK1JP were at One Tree Hill (AC035).  Then Grant VK4JAZ arrived on Mt Ainslie and it must have been bedlam on that site.

After struggling to make his contacts on Black Mt, Adan decided to join us on Stromlo and was soon there, making his contacts on 2m and 10m.

In among this a few spots turned up on 40m so the antenna was changed over to 40m to work Tony VK3CAT, then a spot turned up on 10m showing Gerard VK2IO, so the antenna was changed back to 10m, but although I even rotated the dipole to favour that direction better, I could hear nothing of Gerard.  Should have tried CW.

Finally as lunch time approached, so did the dark clouds so we packed up quickly and were being lightly rained upon by the time we reached our cars.

In something of a compensating operation for the cancelled activation on 2nd August, VK1NAM has alerted for a 3 summit day on 9th August.  I am planning a 3 summit day too, activating two of the same summits and another different one.  Aiming for 10m/6m contacts on each, so hoping for fine enough weather to let it happen.

In addition, there will be a combined VK1/VK2 focussed SOTA QSO party on Sunday 30th August.  Already, interested VK1/2/3 activators are making plans.  Why not join in?  VK4/5/6/7/8 activators would be welcomed with many potential contacts…

Goorooyaroo Nature Reserve, VK1/AC-036

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.

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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…

 

SOTA activation at Boboyan Range VK1/AC-044 1st August 2015

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.

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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.

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The weather stayed fine though the wind remained gusty.

Some pics of the forest on the way back to the car…

IMGP1660s IMGP1666s IMGP1665s IMGP1664s IMGP1662s IMGP1661sComing 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.

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Another successful activation. Thanks to Andrew Moseley VK1NAM for driving and providing the equipment for the activation.