In keeping with the trend for activity days that match the band with the day of the month, a 23 cm activity day in and near vk1 on the 23rd of March was organised for SOTA operators by Andrew VK1AD.
I operated from Mt Mundoonen, which is near Yass.
The antenna for 23cm was a 4 element yagi mounted on a camera tripod as seen in the featured photo above.
The weather conditions were misty at 8am, but it cleared up later.
The operating position for this activation was from inside a sun shelter, a small 3 sided tent structure that I find helps a lot to reduce sun and wind exposure and is also useful in rain.
I was impressed by the signals received on the 2m dipole. The beacon from Sydney VK2RSY was good copy and I heard the VK3RGL beacon from near Geelong at a low level. Surprising to hear it on such a low gain antenna. Zero db above a dipole…
[edited following comment about reception on the 2m dipole] A note on the dipole: Testing the 2m dipole antenna for SWR while mounted at about 4m elevation, offset about 2m from my metal clad shed at home, I noted a significant change in impedance depending on whether the dipole was end on to the shed, or aligned broadside to the shed. Clearly a 2m offset from the shed is insufficient for there to be no interaction, so you wonder what is the effect on each antenna when you see antennas mounted on cars, with spacing of several inches only between antennas for various bands.
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.
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.
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.
This activation capped the SOTA part of the trip to Tasmania in a spectacular way.
Leaving Canberra at 7am and heading out via Hoskinstown to the South Black Range summit, I was ready by 8:30 am to make contact with a group of SOTA enthusiasts back in Canberra. The plan was to first use 146.5 fm to make local contacts with whoever was there. Then go to 1296 MHz ssb to make a few contacts there, and then go to the HF bands.
Right on time, Andrew Vk1AD spotted himself on sotawatch.org showing he was set up and ready for the morning’s contacts with a group of SOTA trainees at Mt Stromlo.
Also Matt VK1MA, Al VK1RX and Ian VK1DI were on other summits. These four operators were on air on the first day of SOTA in VK1, 1st Feb 2013 and we were all on air when each of us have qualified for the 1000 point Mountain Goat award.
We made our contacts and after the 4th contact, several goat bleats were heard on my radio.
I then moved to 1296 and made contacts with Andrew VK1AD and Bill VK1MCW. The contact with Bill was made on CW as a first for 1296 SOTA in vk1.
After that it was 80m and 40m. Conditions were favouring longer distances on 40m and it was necessary to use 80m to make contacts into Sydney or into the Melbourne area or any points closer in.
After spending several hours on the summit and getting colder all the time, it being only just above freezing point, I was suddenly surprised by hearing a voice. There was Matt VK1MA walking towards me grinning and offering me a Mountain Goat ale. We are lucky in Australia to have a boutique brewery that has produced this very aptly named ale.
After completing the activation and packing away, Matt helped me carry all the equipment back to the car down the hill a bit, then I headed off to Mt Cowangerong to make it a double activation for the day.
the operating position at South Black Range. tripod for 1296 antenna at rear.
Gippstech is a technical conference convened by the Eastern Zone radio club in Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. While the trip from the Canberra area is about 650-700 km it is worth it because the content of the presentations is uniquely valuable. Some presenters are very skilled both in the technical work they do and in presenting it. Some are even entertaining!
As the trip from Canberra takes me past a number of SOTA summits and WWFF parks and nature reserves, it seems only sensible to call into those locations and run up the activator score a bit.
So I activated
The Peak VK2/SM-068 (8+3)
Mt Delegate VK3/VG-034 (8+3)
Goonmirk Rocks (8+3)
the first two on the trip to the conference and the third on the way back. I originally intended to activate the three summits on the southbound journey but I was running behind on time and had to skip the third one on the first day.
While at the conference I stayed with a long term friend Peter VK3PF and we naturally started to discuss what summits were available to be activated on the day after the conference. One thing led to another and that led to us heading up into the hills north of Morwell on the Monday. The summits activated that day were:
Conners Plain (8+3)
Mt Selma (8+3)
Mt Useful (8+3)
here I am kneeling on the tarp at Mt Selma – it actually worked and my knee stayed dry
On the following day I activated Goonmirk Rocks on my way north. I only have a few photos of the forest, more interesting than radios and antennas actually…
Once you are in this forest you are in Erinnundra National Park. My silly GPS referred to it as Errindundra. But then, every animal warning sign is displayed on the GPS as “animal crossing” which is rather silly.
This weekend’s haul provided 72 points at a time when I was nearing the 1k mark and was very welcome. Only 16 points to reach the Mountain Goat level after this weekend.
Thanks to Peter for doing all the driving and advising on routes etc.
Having an opportunity to activate a few summits I decided to head west of Canberra, travelling out towards Tumut on the Brindabella Road past Picadilly Circus on the saddle between Bulls Head and Mt Coree. I realised as I drove down this road that I had never driven on this section before. It is narrow in places and not unlike the Mt Franklin Rd as it passes Mt Franklin, narrow and with a few hundred metres drop on one side of the road. However it is wider and reasonably well surfaced the lower you go down to the Goodradigbee river.
After climbing back up to about the 1100m level heading west I drove past a few traces of snow from the past week.
One part of the road had a bit more snow and I stopped again to take a snap.
At Mt Tumorrama there was no snow but still plenty of blackberry thorns. I did find a short piece of RG58 Coax with a BNC plug on one end. The other end looked like it had been broken off – possibly by a mountain goat? I didn’t take a pic of that.
At Yankee Ned Hill, the walk up the southern slope revealed more traces of recent snow.
The temperature on the hill was cool, the temperature in the car indicated 8C but I think it was colder on the hill. My hands were very cold by the time I packed up and walked back downhill.
Conditions were not good, but I managed to qualify both summits, one one both CW and SSB. 80m didn’t work as well as I hoped it would. Too early in the day perhaps for longer distances. I heard a brief burst of a voice after one of my CQ calls – I thought it may have been a VK3 but it was only a second of so – don’t know why that occurred. Meteor scatter? Sporadic E? (not all possible answers are likely to be valid)
I used the IC703 and a ZS6BKW style antenna fed with 300 ohm ribbon on this activation. Its big advantage is band agility. No need to lower the antenna to change links when changing bands. It is lighter than the linked dipole, mainly due to the many links I have in mine (two for each band).
My LiFePO4 battery appears to be behaving like it is on the way out. It is 4 years old but for the first year of its life I was apparently not using the right type of charger. One cell seems to die much quicker than the others and goes down to 3.0v or below, after which I stop using it. I may have to replace it and this time I will use the balanced charging option religiously. I previously misunderstood the battery charge options and thought it was applying a balanced charge to all cells in standard charging mode. Not so.
Other equipment: my cardio fitness seems to be returning. This is not a difficult hill to walk up, and I was pleased to be able to do that without stopping or feeling uncomfortable. I guess I stopped very briefly to take the photos but in general I can report that 3 months after my operation, the engine is running well.
Afterwards I drove to Tumut then Gundagai and returned to Yass via the Hume Highway. I didn’t fancy driving down the bush track to Wee Jasper at dusk, when it is kangaroo feeding time and they are at their most unpredictable and dangerous.
My SOTA friend and collaborator Andrew Moseley VK1AD has proposed a QRP challenge for 2017. He is going to aim to use 2.5w when activating summits during 2017.
I have started to do the same and my activation at Mt Ginini on 27th December was made at 2.5w for SSB and 0.5w on CW. I made about 20 contacts and although some chasers found lower signals a problem, I not only qualified the summit on several bands, I also qualified with CW at 0.5w. One contact was with Steve VK7CW who also used an FT817 at 0.5w, the lowest power setting of the radio.
The radio used was an FT817, powered by an internal LIPO 3S battery (windcamp). I had a spare battery but it was not needed. The 817 will not be as efficient in terms of output power/DC power consumed, as the bias current on the final amplifier stage will remain the same as it would be at 5w.
A fringe benefit from using lower transmitted power is that battery life will be improved. I had previously used the 817 with the internal battery at Mt Mundoonen on 26th December for a short activation. I did not recharge the battery after that activation as it was only used for 5 contacts plus some listening. After the Mt Ginini operation, the battery voltage according to the meter on the 817 was above 11v. It can go down to 10v without any problem for the 817.
Although we were on the downward slope of sunspot activity, making HF communications less certain, there are still sunspots and occasional sporadic E openings on HF bands.
It will be interesting to see how the QRP challenge goes during 2017. Progress reports will be made by both Andrew VK1AD and me.
I was invited to join in an activation of Mt Tantangera by Andrew Moseley VK1AD, and was very pleased to be able to join him in this expedition.
Andrew collected me from my weekday accommodation in south Canberra at 7:30am on a brilliant summer’s day that Saturday morning. We decided to take both our packs to give us the option of working on several bands simultaneously.
The route taken was through Tharwa, south of Canberra, along Boboyan road until it meets the Snowy Mountains Highway between Cooma and Adaminaby, but only a few km short of Adminaby. The trip through the mountains took us past familiar scenery, Mount Tennant just after Tharwa, the Clear Range to our east, the turnoffs for the old Orroral Valley and Honeysuckle Creek tracking stations, including various SOTA summits like Booroomba Rocks, then past Boboyan Range and Pheasant Hill.
After 2 hours we arrived at the Rocky Plains camping ground. We prepared for the walk to Mt Tantangera, adding sunscreen, hats, packs with water and food, antenna poles and navigation details.
Many of the horse riders camp at Rocky plains and some even set up temporary areas for their horses to roam in, with temporary electric fencing. The initial climb up to the saddle is steady and follows a bridle trail. Some hoof marks are apparent in the soil as you climb upwards. The condition of the soil was damp but firm.
On arrival at the summit, a very wide flat area, we found the trig point was ideal for attaching a pole to. Initially we set up our equipment and antennas expecting we would be able to operate the two stations on different bands. However I received wideband noise whenever Andrew’s FT857 was transmitting. I decided to move my equipment about 30m away, assuming it was a proximity problem and a bit of spacing would help.
That did work ok, so it was then time to get onto the bands and hand out some reports. The bands did not appear to be in good condition. I made relatively few contacts considering the exotic nature of the summit and its SOTA value of 10 points for anyone making a contact. I decided to use CW mainly so as to give the CW operators a contact, and I knew we would swap bands later so Andrew would be operating on 40m ssb.
I made one contact on 20m CW, then 6 on 40m CW. One S2S contact was also made with Ian VK1DI at Booroomba Rocks on 2m. One of the photos taken was of a March Fly (aka Horse Fly) of which there were many.
Thanks to Andrew for offering to share this activation. While band conditions were less than ideal, we had a great day out in the snowy mountains region and enjoyed our walking and radio operation.