CW Open contest September 5th

I was listening on 14 MHz CW section on a Sunday morning around daybreak, trying to hear US SOTA activators who had been spotted on SOTAWATCH.ORG.  Hearing nothing I tuned down the band to see whether there were any signals from anywhere.  Propagation had been drastically affected by solar flares and magnetic storms, so the usual conditions had not been enjoyed for some weeks.

Finding some good strong signals from US callsigns handing out contest numbers I wondered what contest they were in.  The CQ call was CQ CWO.  The exchange appeared to be a sequence number and the operator’s name.   I didn’t say “OK google” and ask a complicated question – must try that some time – but I did open up the contest calendar and look for a matching contest.  Sure enough the CW Operators Club was running one of their events, the CW Open.  Interesting format, three x four-hour time sessions.  So I tried answering some CQs, got heard and logged a few contacts.  My contacts were brief and most of the calls I made were heard. 

After making a dozen contacts in the event, the rising sun was clearly closing down propagation at my end and signals from several of the east coast US operators had dropped from s8-9 earlier down to s3-4.  So that was the end of the actual operating.

To submit my log for this event, I needed a log in the now standard Cabrillo format, which resembles a text file in a standardised format.  As an aside, I am puzzled by the use of this format for contest log entires.  An XML format would be much more flexible and would be simpler to produce from the logging software, given that most logging software also outputs an ADIF format for import into your station log.  (Could also ask why ADIF is such an odd thing when XML would also have done the job much better…)

So back to the CWO website where they list a dozen or so potential software packages that will produce the necessary Cabrillo format output and also an ADIF file for my station log.   I downloaded several programs and used one, GenLog, written by W3KM, to type my log using the “after contest” mode.  Although the software provided for options to select date formats to match the preferences in the computer the output format seemed to get totally confused by my DD/MM/YY format and the Cabrillo file contained dates in the format YYYY/DD/MM instead of YYYY/MM/DD.  My first upload attempt failed with the upload robot producing error messages about date formats.  I stopped trying to tame the contest logger and simply edited the file useing Notepad++, making the dates all the right format and taking care not to leave gaps in the data lines.   The next upload attempt was all OK, the robot was happy, so now I wait until the logs are processed and find out whether any other vk2 ops submitted logs.  

The nice thing about those contests is the by far the majority of the operators are very competent, know how to handle QRM and mulitple callers, and are glad to have another entry in their log.  The CW contesters are a good bunch of people.   This was a bit of fun, taking advantage of a surprise bit of propagation to the East Coast and Central US on 14 MHz.  

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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