Mt Alexandra VK2/IL-005 on 6 Feb 2016

Although I had operated from this site in June 2015 for the VHF field day (and the 6m contacts counted towards the SOTA 6m/10m challenge) I was hoping to increase my “unique callsigns worked” count by operating from this site.  It has a good lookout towards the Sydney area and on a clear day you could probably see the big smoke, if that makes any sense.

So I took my IC703 for its 10w of power on 10m, and the FT817 with its 5w on 6m.  The antennas were a vertical half wave on each band.  The 6m antenna was in the form of a coaxial dipole with the lower end terminated by a resonant choke in the feedline, sometimes called a flowerpot vertical after the mounting method chosen by one of the people popularising the design.  (VK2ZOI)

The 10m antenna was lent to me by Andrew VK1AD, who had two similar versions.  It is a half wave fed by a tapped quarter wave coaxial line, usually called a J pole.  The tap point is at a position where a good match is found to 50 ohms, and the top end of the quarter wave is a reasonable match to the bottom end of the half wave.  This arrangement works fine for low power.

Matt VK1MA had been onsite during the morning and was just packing up when I arrived. We chatted about conditions and how the bands were working, then Matt headed off to his next summit which was Mt Gibraltar on the other side of Mittagong.

So at about 2:30pm I started operating at the Katoomba lookout point on Mt Alexandra.  With several 6m and 10m contacts made during the afternoon it was productive if a bit slow. One of my strategies for finding new contacts was to call on 52.525 FM which has some following in Sydney. I did make one contact that way, but probably did not have enough signal level for the average mobile in Sydney.  Calls via the 6m repeater seeking simplex contacts got no replies. 

On the ssb end of the band, there were several responses to my CQ calls on 50.150 which is supposed to be the calling frequency within VK.  I did call cq on 50.110 and got one reply, and we moved up the band a bit to leave the calling frequency clear.  

On 10m FM I did hear  a Japanese station but my 10w was not making the grade back to him.  The most fruitful mode was ssb on 10m, where I did work several vk4s as well as some Sydney area stations. 

Operating at the picnic table on Mt Alexandra
Operating at the picnic table on Mt Alexandra
I had arranged with my wife to meet her in the car park at about 6pm.  So at about 5:30 I started to roll up cables and put the gear into the backpack.

Walking down a steep section of the track back to the car, I managed to put both feet onto slippery surfaces at the same time, resulting in a probably very funny sight, with me falling backwards onto my backpack, and in the process flinging my hands out and back, to “break my fall”.  That was not a good move.  It didn’t break my fall but came close to breaking a bone.  My right wrist was in some pain and I sat on the ground for a minute or so before I could get up and resume walking.  

I had fractured the radius bone in my right arm, quite close to the wrist.  I ended up being treated by the emergency ward of the hospital the next day, then discharged with my arm in a cast and 6 weeks of relative inactivity ahead.

I can only think about the many times I have been much further from my car or another driver, yet have climbed up and down rocky paths and gravel roads without any mishap.  But any of those places could have produced a similar result.  A sobering thought.

The result of  a few seconds of inattention
The result of a few seconds of inattention

So that ended my activations in the 6m/10m challenge a week earlier than I had expected.

I am now temporarily writing (and sending morse) with my left hand.  My handwriting is not pretty (and my morse is tentative and slow).  I count myself lucky though – this could have been worse.  But my wrist will mend and I will have the use of it again.  Incidents like this make you appreciate having two arms and hands.

SOTA activations in December 2015 and January 2016

After the diamond quad experiment at Spring hill for the 10m contest and the 6&10 challenge, I planned a series of minor activations that were intended mainly to just add another summit to my activation list on 6&10m.

Goorooyaroo Hill

So an activation of Goorooyaroo, east of Canberra, followed on 15th December.  It was a joint activation with Adan VK1FJAW and we used 10m to obtain one new unique worked station, plus some contacts on 6m. During this activation the coax plug on the feedline for the 6m antenna disintegrated and I had to restore the connection temporarily using a BNC-binding post adaptor, which I had in my parts box, along with pliers, connectors and kitchen sinks.

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The failed connector was replaced by this concoction of adaptors.
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Adan is shown here operating a log

Mt Gingera for New Year’s Day

There was a gap of several weeks until the end of December, when Adan and I made the trek to Mt Gingera, VK1/AC-002.  We parked at the base of Mt Ginini and then rode our bikes 6 km to the final ascent point to Mt Gingera.  The long uphill trudge between the car park and the hill just before Prior’s hut was the main challenge of this trip.  I rode the bike for part of this.

At the summit we decided to operate from a grassy area just to the north of the trig point.  Adan set up his 10m antenna and made a few new uniques on that band, and I attempted to work Chris VK2DO at Batemans Bay on 2m and 6m, without success.  Having no phone coverage meant I had to count on others to spot me.  Chris was looking out for spots on sotawatch and seeing none, assumed we were not yet onsite.

6m gave me a few vk1 contacts but was not open to more distant points so was quite disappointing. A contact on 2m with John VK2YW at Wagga gave me some hopes of working him on 6m, but while I could hear him he could not hear my signal at all.  I had taken the IC706 in the hope that having more power would help with contacts.  After a couple of hours in the hot sun, and it was over 30C that day, I was finding it hard to keep any enthusiasm for doing any more of the same.  Adan felt he had worked all that were available on 10m so was ready to head back to the car.

The consolation for the unproductive 6m was that at least we had qualified the summit both before and after 0000 UTC, which meant qualifying it in both 2015 and 2016.   40m was poor that day, with unreliable propagation due to recent solar events.

Mt Tumorrama, Billapoola State forest

A week later I headed out to the Bondo state forest between Tumut and Brindabella, to activate Mt Tumorrama VK2/SW-027 and a hilltop in the Billapoola state forest, VK2/SW-034.  The second activation was made using the ft817 and with the 10m antenna mast held up in my hand.  Not ideal, but it was raining and all I wanted to do was make 4 contacts and get out. Fortunately it was possible to work into Canberra on 10m.

Mt Mundoonen VK2/ST-053

At Mt Mundoonen on 15th Jan gave me some new uniques on 6m and 10m.  I used the diamond quad on 10m and the half wave vertical on 6m.  I operated from the small sun shelter, and the impression you get in those things is a reduction of about 10 degrees when you are in the shade.  They have a good SPF rating. Makes operating outside in summer more comfortable and a lot safer.

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The SOTA shack on Mt Mundoonen
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The setup at Mundoonen

Webbs Ridge, Dingi Dingi, Baldy Range

A few days later I also activated Webbs Ridge, Dingi Dingi ridge and Baldy Range in company with Adan VK1FJAW, Tony VK1VIC and Grant VK4JAZ.  It’s always a good day in the bush with friends, lots of laughs and plenty of talk about antennas, how much power Matt and Mark run, etc. 🙂

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Tony’s car descending the trail to Baldy Range
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My 6m station at Dingi Dingi Ridge
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Unusual lump on a tree, en route to Dingi Dingi
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Follow the path?
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There is no path
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Descending the trail en route to Baldy Range
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Adan’s operating position at Baldy Range looks quite relaxed

Mt Coree VK1/AC-023

The activation of Mt Coree was with Adan after work one day.  It was a calm clear day, visibility was excellent and the sunset was impressive.  To add to that there was a 6m opening to VK5 and some 10m contacts into VK4 plus one contact into Indonesia.

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Great sunset on Mt Coree
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Adan busily racking up 10m points on Mt Coree

Bald Mt, Big Badja (fail), flat tyre

On 22nd January I drove down to Bald Mountain SM059, intending also to activate Big Badja however en route to the second summit the weather turned and I decided not to travel down the forest trail.  I thought I would go to Mt Cowangerong near Braidwood and decided to head north to do that.  On the way a storm blew through, with tropical level rainfall and hailstones, lasting about 30 minutes and giving way to a steady rainfall.

Postponing the summit until after lunch I called into the bakery at Braidwood for a coffee, a pastie and an apple pie.

Suitably refreshed I drove the car up the main street and found the steering pulling to the left so I knew I had a flat tyre.  Pulling into a parking spot 100m north of the bakery, I set about the job of changing the tyre.  I called off any more forest trips, though no doubt the nail or screw in the tyre was picked up in the street at Braidwood rather than in the forest.  Quite a long day for one activation as I got home at about 6pm.

Yankee Ned and Snow Gum Mt

Four days later on 26th January I returned to Yankee Ned Hill VK2/SW-026, making a few contacts on 10m, 6m and 40m. There was no cooperation from 6 or 10m and the only contacts available were with VK1 “locals”.  Then I drove east along Brindabella Rd, leaving the sealed section for several km, then heading north east along Nottingham Rd to reach the road junction at the base of Snow Gum Mt VK2/SW-028.  This is a short hill climb on foot, taking me about 20 minutes.  Again some 10m and 40m contacts qualified the summit for general activation points as well as adding it to my 6/10m summit list.

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An echidna seen in the Wee Jasper Forest
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Operating shelter on Yankee Ned Hill
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part of the climb up Yankee Ned Hill
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part of the climb up Yankee Ned Hill
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part of the climb up Yankee Ned Hill
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The operating setup at Snow Gum Mt
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Antenna mast strapped to a burnt tree stump

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Mt Cowangerong VK2/ST-001

On 28th January I decided that the weather forecast for late afternoon storms was not going to be right, so headed out to Mt Cowangerong to add that to the 10m log.  My first contact was with Dale VK1DSH, which was quite promising as he was using a general purpose doublet and his FT817.  Four other contacts on 10m were made with Canberra operators, but the band was not providing any interstate contacts.  The rain I drove through at Captains Flat threatened to resume in more serious form so I packed up without trying 40m.  The lightning crashes on 10m were strong enough to be a worry.

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The sun shelter doubled as a rain shelter on Mt Cowangerong

Mt Majura VK1/AC-034

On the second of February I activated Mt Majura VK1/AC-034.  There are two well defined tracks up this one, both departing from its foothills in the suburb of Hackett.    I have used the.more northerly of the two, thinking it looked shorter, however it seems to take longer so perhaps it is steeper and slower.    Contacts made:  a handful of locals on 10m, 12 on 20m CW and 24 on 40m ssb.

Mt Ainslie on 3rd Feb

An after-work activation and was fortunate to make contact into Japan as well as with several local 10m operators, plus several contacts on 20m CW.

 

Shelter on Mt Ainslie
Shelter on Mt Ainslie

The next activation was to be my last for the 6m/10m challenge.  A separate post will be written for that one…