VK2JI – SOTA in VK2 – 20th. November evening activation of VK2/HU-093 (Mt. Elliot)

Preparation:

Following requests from several European and US amateurs for VK activations outside of our normal daytime schedules, several activators have been activating in the evening to give the DX chasers a chance and to take advantage of better propagation.

Unfortunately for me, the only summit that is in reasonable traveling distance from where I live is Mount Elliot which I have activated more than once before, so there would be no points in the activation for me or for Rod VK2LAX who agreed to take part in the activation as well, unless by chance we got a summit to summit contact. So this activation was for the chasers and to have some fun. I also used the activation to try out a new antenna I had bought a couple of days earlier, a Diamond RHM8B which appeared to work a lot better than expected.

As it turned out we got no S2S contacts but I worked both into the Cook Islands (thanks Perrin) and into England (thanks Don).

As well as many of the normal chasers / activators across Australia, Rod also bagged his first ZL SOTA contact and worked into Germany, Switzerland and the UK. So it was an enjoyable evening.

Despite this summit being close to a city, it still has Aussie wildlife and we were warned to watch out for leeches while walking down a trail that goes down the escarpment that we take to be able to exit and re-enter the activation zone because the car park is within the activation zone.Leeches were not a problem but “dive-bombing” Christmas Beetles were when it got dark and we were the only light source for kilometers!

Pictures:

Diamond RHM8B antenna on FT817ND

Diamond RHM8B antenna on FT817ND

Operating position at dusk

Operating position at dusk

Night time operating in the dark 1 of 2

Night time operating in the dark 1 of 2

Night time operating in the dark 2 of 2

Night time operating in the dark 2 of 2

Video:

Rod VK2LAX operating as it got darker, and, darker ……

Stations worked by Rod VK2LAX:

(40m) Peter VK3FPSR

(40m) John VK2YW

(40m) Marc VK3OHM

(40m) Paul VK2KTT

(40m) Marcel VK2HAQ

(40m) John VK3FMPB

(40m) Ian VK1DI

(40m) Al VK1RX

(40m) Lamont ZL2ALK

(40m) Peter VK3PF

(40m) Mark VK3YN

(20m) Bert DF5WA

(20m) Don G0RQL

(20m) Matt VK2DAG

(40m) Paul VK5PAS

(40m) Matt VK1MA

(40m) Andrew VK1NAM

(20m) Hans HB9BHW

(20m) Damian M0BKV

Stations worked by Ed VK2JI:

(20m) Ernie VK3DET in Ballarat

(20m) Perrin VK3XPT operating as E51XPT on vacation in the South Cook Islands

(20m) Don G0RQL in Devon, England.

(12m) Matt VK2DAG on the Central Coast – this was my first contact on 12 metres from a SOTA summit.

VK2JI – SOTA in VK2 – 14th. November VK2/CT-043 (Mt. Tomah) and VK2/CT-012 (Glowworm Tunnel Road)

Preparation

As I had a couple of days vacation planned, I hoped for a break in the wet weather (which was very welcome to dampen down the bush fire grounds) and Thursday 14th. November was indeed such a day with temperatures up to 29 degrees on the coast and about 5-7 degrees less in land.

I had been searching for suitable summits to activate for a while and as there are relatively few on the Central Coast, a drive of 2-3 hours is needed to get to some suitable options. As you’ll see from my previous blog entries NNW takes me up into the Hunter Valley area for SOTA summits but this time I headed WSW to the Blue Mountains which is in the SOTA Central Tablelands area. Many of these summits have been unreachable for the last few weeks because of the major bush fires in the area and I had been keeping in touch with the tourist office and the rangers as my vacation dates approached and as luck would have it, with the rains coming through, the access roads that I needed to use were re-opened just in time for my activations.

The effect of the bush fires would make my second activation of the day a very different one as the pictures later will show.

On approach to the Blue Mountains region along the “Bells line of road” you could see where the fire had come right up to both sides of the road. In the main however it appears that it was only the undergrowth that had been burnt, with many of the trees having scorched barks but still carrying green leaves. VK2/CT-012 was different as you’ll see later. My first location however was lucky not to have been affected by the fires;

VK2/CT-043 – Mount Tomah (1010m – 6 points).

VK2/CT-043 activation zone

VK2/CT-043 activation zone

Although not listed with this name in the SOTA database at present VK2/CT-043 is in fact Mt Tomah. Public access is easy by taking Rainbow Ravine and then Charleys Road from the main “Bells line of road”. Access is not possible any other way as the grounds around the summit are private. Car parking is at the actual summit. So a walk away from and back to the summit was executed. This serves a dual purpose. As well as being “in-the-spirit” of SOTA, it also gives the opportunity to see if there was a better location to set-up the station and look for a Trig point (there is none). Near to the summit there is a large high power microwave relay station, which I suspect accounted for my S3-4 noise level. Having checked out other roadside locations, which were too close to private homes, I returned to the summit and headed down away from where the car was parked into some open grassland and used one of the pairs of locked gates to fasten my squid pole to for the linked dipole antenna. I found an interesting sight on one of the trees nearby – it looked like some creatures had simply exploded from their skins and left the skins, legs and all on the bark of a tree.

Although VHF coverage from here was very good (HT access back into the VK2RAG repeater at Somersby on the Central Coast), 40m contacts proved hard to make. Partly due to the high noise level and partly due to the bad propagation we have been having recently on 40m. I had set up skeds with several local amateurs from the Central Coast via the VK2RAG repeater on my drive over but although I could hear some of them on 40m, they could not hear me. Luckily other chasers were around. Cell Phone coverage was also marginal in this location, making self spotting a hit and miss affair. Strangely I managed a spot via the internet on a couple of occasions but never via SMS. Luckily Gerard VK2IO kindly spotted me on SOTAWatch after he worked me and a few more contacts came. I also tried 30m with some success.

Stations worked on 40m:

Gerard VK2IO

Rob VK2MZ

Ernie VK3DET

Rod VK2TWR

Gerard VK2IO (Post UTC change over)

Stations worked on 30m:

Peter VK3PF

Ernie VK3DET (Post UTC change over)

Peter VK3PF (Post UTC change over)

Gerard VK2IO (Post UTC change over)

After just over an hour of operation (straddling UTC 00:00), it was time to pack up and head to my second summit for the day;

VK2/CT-012 (1190m – 6 points).

VK2/CT-012 Activation Zone

VK2/CT-012 Activation Zone

This location is on Newnes Plateau north of the town of Lithgow but the summit has no name (and no trig point) – it is simply the highest spot and is a few hundred metres off a dirt road called Glowworm Tunnel Road which goes to a local tourist attraction where a disused railway tunnel has become the home to hundreds on glow worms. Visiting that attraction was not on the trip list and as it took me somewhat longer than Google maps had predicted to get to this location, I was running short of time to find the location. As the actual highest spot is in the forest, I parked off the side of the road where I thought was close, loaded up my ruck sacks and set off on foot with my smart phone with a new application (Alpine Quest) that should act as a GPS display. In the bright sun reading the display was difficult but eventually I worked out which direction to walk until I got to the GPS coordinates listed in the SOTA database. This was somewhat further than I had first thought and while I had also found a better and safer spot to park the car, I walked back to the car, drove it to a better off-the-road spot and once again walked back to what was going to be my activation spot. I found the charred remains of a tree stump and decided to use that as the operating table. I then had to search nearby to find a tree that might be still strong enough to support the squid-pole, as you’ll see from the photos, all trees here had been totally burnt. This had definitely been in the middle of the fire storm. A rather eerie feeling operating from a point where everything had been killed. No wild life not even bugs – no wait, here they come – flies – as I was the only thing in the area, I had tens of flies with me for this activation and they really became annoying, being the reason that I eventually packed up and left.

I actually managed one contact with one of the amateurs back on the Central Coast on 40m from this location but as I could not get him to give me an actual numerical report, only statements like very weak and hard to hear with QSB, I could not count this contact towards the four I needed for the activation. Thankfully Gerard VK2IO heard me again, we had our contact, he spotted me and other contacts followed. I again operated on both 40m and 30m and again contacts were easier on 30m.

Since the mornings activation, Rod VK2TWR had decided to go and activate some SOTA peaks so I managed a Summit-to-Summit contact on this activation as well (thanks Rod).

The flies finally got too annoying for me, so I packed up the equipment, noting that I will need to wash the antenna and cable spools before their next usage due to the amount of soot on them and headed back for the drive home which with the rush hour traffic and a major road accident happening directly in front of me, which I stayed to help with, meant the trip ended up being a near 3 hour return journey.

Stations worked on 40m.

Gerard VK2IO

Carl VK2GKA

Rod VK2TWR/P on VK2/SM-064 (S2S)

Ernie VK3DET

Stations worked on 30m.

Ernie VK3DET

Dieter VK3FFB

Peter VK3PF

Pictures

Being on my own on this activation, I was only able to take a limited number of pictures, but these are shown below.

VK2/CT-043 Mount Tomah

VK2/CT-043 Access Road and walk

VK2/CT-043 Local Microwave repeater and RF Noise maker.

VK2/CT-043 Local Microwave repeater and RF Noise maker.

VK2/CT-043 Interesting "critters" shells

VK2/CT-043 Interesting “critters” shells

VK2/CT-043 Operating position.

VK2/CT-043 Operating position.

VK2/CT-012 off Glowworm Tunnel Road

VK2/CT-012 Start of dirt track to summit

VK2/CT-012 Start of dirt track to summit

VK2/CT-012 Wider view - look at how the trees have been burnt

VK2/CT-012 Wider view – look at how the trees and undergrowth have been burnt

VK2/CT-012 Approaching site

VK2/CT-012 Approaching site

VK2/CT-012 Total fire destruction

VK2/CT-012 Total fire destruction

VK2/CT-012 Operating position.

VK2/CT-012 Operating position on burnt out tree stump.

VK2JI – SOTA in VK2 – 3rd. November 2013 VK2 HU-088 (Mt Douglas) and HU-090 (Mt. Breckin)

VK2/HU-088 Mount Douglas

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    Summit approaches

Pictures – Mt Douglas with radio tower from a distance, access from Dungog road. The track is shown as Gardiners road on maps but not at the entrance. there was an environmental sign but no other restrictions shown at start of track.

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Closed gate

The track up to Mt. Douglas is blocked by a gate about 3/4 way up. While not locked as you can see it carries “trespassers will be prosecuted” signs. I will seek the name of the land owner and will try contacting them for permission to access, but I am not too hopeful.

VK2/HU-090 Mount Breckin

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Summit approaches.

Access to Mount Breckin is from  Gresford Road. Strangely farm after farm had for sale signs out by their entrances. You need to follow a detailed plan of the track up to Mt Breckin to make sure you don’t take a wrong turn. There are several gates that need to be opened and closed on the way up to keep the cows in. Remember the rule – if it’s open when you get to it, leave it open, if it’s closed make sure you close it again immediately that after you drive through. Mount Breckin, was not an easy drive up with the gates and some sizable ruts to make it interesting in my little Peugeot, but we made it.

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On-site on Mt. Breckin.

I called just before UTC change-over on 146.5 hoping to make a contact before UTC change-over before putting up the HF antenna but no reply and no way to self spot as there is no cell phone coverage (Optus or Telstra) in this area it seems. Also no reply on the local repeater (VK2RTZ) that is easily accessible from this summit.

Thanks to the other activators who apparently waited for me before moving on and thanks to those who spotted me.

I also tried 30m but again with no way to self spot, all I heard was open space on 10.135.

I decided to pack things up when the hot winds started. There were no fires in the area however there were a lot of new ones started today – they have increased from 2 in the Hunter/Central Coast region at 8am to about 20 by 3pm this afternoon.

Stations worked

(all on 40m)

Peter VK3PF/P2 (S2S)

Mark VK1MDC

Matt VK2DAG

Al VK1RX

Angus VK2IY

Gerard VK2JNG/P

Marshall VK3MRG/P (S2S)

Allen VK2HRA/P (S2S)

Matt VK1MA

Peter VK3FPSR

Andrew VK1NAM

VK2JI – SOTA in VK2 – 27th. October 2013 – VK2/HU-076 (Mt. George) First Activation

The preparation.

Having had to cancel some activations the previous two weekends because of the Bush Fire situation in the area I was eager to get out and had originally planned to activate Summit Point, but looking around I found a summit (VK2/HU-076), not too far away that had not yet been activated and looked like access should be reasonably easy. Having being “pipped to the post” on HU-054 that I had planned to activate two weeks earlier, I decided to go for Mt. George. Looking on Google street view, I could see there was a barrier across the road onto the property where Mt George summit and trig point is located, so I knew there was a chance that when I got there, after a two and a half hour drive, I would not be able to get access, but I decided to try anyway.

The VK2JI/P operation.

When I did arrive (after nearly three hours having taken some wrong turns) I found the access barrier was no longer there.

Mt George trig point is located within land owned by the Eaglereach Wilderness and other Resorts near Vacy in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales.

The roads on the summit are private roads. The barrier gate shown in Google street view to be at the start of Cooee Trail has been removed as there are now additional resorts and private residences on the mountain so it would be possible to simply drive to the car park below the summit and walk up to the trig point. To avoid any possible trouble however you should call in at the reception to get permission, which I did and it was granted without problems. I told them I’d only be there for “about an hour”.

Approach to the resort is well signposted after you leave the village of Vacy and turn up Summerhill Road. The turn off into Moonabung Road has a very large sign for the resort on it. This road is very narrow and steep with some tight hairpins in it, so care is needed on this road.

If anyone is thinking of a family holiday with some SOTA work linked to it, this resort could fit the bill of keeping the family happy and getting you out onto a simple SOTA peak. The resort’s website is http://www.eaglereach.com.au/ (they have discounted deals quite often, that are worth looking out for).

This is another EASY summit, literally drive up to the car park and walk up the trail to the summit, set-up and operate from the table and bench seat located next to the trig point.

Despite the delays I was on air 15 minutes before my alerted time and tried 30m first. When I was unable to get a contact there (even after spotting myself), I decided to go back to the “safe and easy” 40m. Today it wasn’t easy to get contacts on 40m and after calling several times (and spotting myself), I got a call from Karl VK2GKA who was set up portable about half way between Canberra and Bowra. Karl had heard my calls and taken pity on me. I think Karl may consider some SOTA activating himself in the future. After Karl, I slowly got the required 3 more contacts from Peter VK3FPSR, Al VK1RX and Andrew VK1NAM (who was set up at a WICEN event awaiting competitors in a bike endurance trial – very similar to what I had done with the Central Coast WICEN group and a horse trial a few weeks earlier). it took a full 20 minutes to get those four contacts and I had started thinking I might not get the required contacts. I added one more contact on 40m with Mark VK3MCD and then went back to 30m as I saw that Larry VK5LY was up at Mount Gawler (see my last blog entry) and calling CQ on 30m. I turned out to be Andy VK5LA on the microphone when I called. They were activating together on the way to the VK5 celebration lunch at Gawler. This in contrast to 40m was an easy contact as was the following one with Tony VK3CAT. 30m is definitely worth giving a try if you are authorised for the band. It seems to always provide better results than 40m for the distances we are using. To finish off the day I also went onto 20m and worked (in between all the CQWW SSB contest stations)  Tom VK5EE in South Australia and Ben VK5TX, who was only about 20Km away and a difficult contact due to being so close to me.

All in all the radio conditions were far from perfect, possibly due to the CME that hit the Earth’s atmosphere around this time but it was a nice day out, with fine weather, not too hot and thankfully no bush fires in the area. I got out in the fresh air and actually did a little walking along with a little working.

Stations worked – on 40m.

Karl VK2GKA/P

Peter VK3FPSR

Al VK1RX

Andrew VK1NAM/P

Mark VK3MCD/P

Stations worked – on 30m.

Andy VK5LA (S2S) on VK5/SE-013

Larry VK5LY (S2S) on VK5/SE-013

Tony VK3CAT

Stations worked – on 20m.

Tom VK5EE

Ben VK5TX

Video.

VK2JI – SOTA in VK2 – 15th. September Mt Elliot VK2/HU-093 – A special day in so many ways

While I had already activated Mt Elliot, activating it again would not gain me any activator points this year but while I had decided to get away from the urban electrical noise, chasing from a SOTA summit rather than you a good portable location, has the advantage of giving other chasers points in the award scheme and I would gain chaser points from any Summit-to-Summit contacts. As I had given a lecture on SOTA to the Central Coast ARC on Saturday, I wanted to be on-air to give any of the lecture attendees who decided to try SOTA chasing, a point and indeed one, Karen VK2AKB was on chasing on Sunday.

The weather forecast was for light showers and for once it was correct, just a few sprinklings of rain en-route to site and a couple of times after I was set up.

But today was to be a very special day as I had quietly crept up on the 1000 chaser points (Shack Sloth) level and being at 993 points by the Friday, I was confident of tipping it over the 1000 through contacts on Saturday. When I saw Glen VK1FB was heading out to Mount Ginini, this was ideal – an 8 pointer that would take me to 1001 points, so I dropped Glen an email and we set up a sked for 9am local when he planned to be on the summit.

With my activation of Mt Elliot on the first day of SOTA in VK2 I had activated in 5 associations (G, DL, OE, VK1 and now VK2), this meant I could apply for the Bronze Mountain Explorer award, which I did a week ago. During last week I was looking through at the various awards, I realised I was also eligible for the 100 point unique summits chased (more wall paper for the shack, so I applied for that as well). To my surprise I also realised I was only one contact away from Mountain Hunter Bronze! Would you believe it on Friday evening I see that Brendan VK4FADI and Glen VK4FSCC will be out at 7:30am(!!) activating Mt Mary Smokes and that would be the one I need to have chased 2 summits in each of 5 associations (VKs1,2,3,4 &5). The only small problem is 7:30 am, when they plan to be on, is about when I would be leaving to go to Mt. Elliot in time for my sked at 9am with Glen. So the night before I packed everything in the car ready to go. At 7:30am I am alert and listening for the VK4 boys. Then exactly on schedule, Brendan VK4FADI/P starts calling CQ at a good 5-3 into my home station. I call and work Brendan and Glen (VK4FSCC/P), that’s the Mountain Hunter in the bag and I quickly close down the home station and dash to the car to get up to Mt. Elliot.

Summit activation –

As it turns out I had a good run taking about 10 minutes less than normal to get to site, I grab my packs and head down the trail to descend 25m out of and back into the activation area and (out of breath) return to my usual activation spot, where a clear track has been beaten through the brush from previous tests and the last activation. The antenna goes up first, followed by the chairs and lastly the rig itself. I have about 10 minutes to spare and tune around 40 to check I can hear OK. This time I hear Glen VK4FSCC calling CQ (now up at 5-5 from the better location) and so decide to give him and Brendan a call. I will not gain any points from these calls as I had already worked them, but this would give them points for a Summit to Summit contact. Most importantly this wont kick the total over the 1000 point mark. I wanted that to be my contact with Glen VK1FB as agreed and indeed about 15 minutes later after chatting to Andrew VK2UH on Glen and my agreed sked frequency, there was Glen with a solid 5-9 signal on his new antenna. That was it – 1005 chaser points achieved!

So now I could relax and enjoy the activation both before and after UTC change-over. Apparently my second contact with Marshall VK3MRG/P (who was portable from the banks of the Yarra) tipped him over the 1000 chaser points as well, that was a nice surprise – this has really turned out to be a special day.

I tried 20m and 30m as well. I was disappointed with 20m with no contacts despite spotting and calling, calling, calling but when I moved to 30m I bagged 5 contacts a couple who reported they could not quite hear me on 40m but 30m was fine. This is a relief as my previous attempt to get onto 30m from Canoelands Ridge the previous Sunday failed with errors being displayed on the FT817. After a reset to factory defaults, all seems fine now. The SOTABeams Band-Hopper linked dipole seems to be working fine. I wonder if I should modify it to add 12m to its current 20,30,40 & 80m capabilities?

As usual an important part of any activation is making a few pictures or videos, this time I have more radio “footage” of contacts I made and listened to – perhaps you are one of the stations I “caught” on video?

I’d like to put out a big thanks to all of the activators and chasers who have made my participation in the SOTA scheme such an enjoyable and pleasant one. I’d like to thank particularly Glen VK1FB/P for tipping my score over the 1000 mark and Brendan VK4FADI and Glen VK4FSCC for getting me my Bronze Mountain Hunter award but of course I would never have got near these scores without the whole community of activators and helpful chasers guiding me to these levels. It’s taken me just over 6 months to get to Shack Sloth. Now that I’ve started activating, I suspect i will most likely need nearer to 6 years to get to Mountain Goat (if I ever do). I know this is a part of the hobby that I am really enjoying and it’s mainly because of the kindness and politeness of all of the rest of you helping each other along. Something that I try to emulate.

List of stations worked –

40 metres.

VK4FSCC/P – Glen (S2S)

VK4FADI/P – Brendan (S2S)

VK2UH – Andrew

VK1FB/P – Glen (S2S)

VK3FPSR – Peter

VK2YW – John

VK2MEV /QRP – Brenton (2W)

VK3PF – Peter

VK4GSF /QRP – George (7W)

VK3MRG/P – Marshall

VK1MA – Matt

VK5LA – Andy

VK2JCC – Colin

VK5PAS – Paul

VK1MDC – Marc

VK2GKA / QRP (5W)

VK1RX – Al

VK2AKB / QRP – Karen (10W?)

VK3YE / Pedestrian Mobile – Peter

VK1MA – Matt

VK3DET – Ernie

30 metres.

VK3DET – Ernie

VK3PF – Peter

VK4BG – Glen

VK3KAN/P QRP – Rik

VK5LA – Andy

Awards

(Thanks Barry GM4TOE for sending these so quickly)

VK2JI-Shack_Sloth-640

VK2JI_100_Unique_Summits

VK2JI_Mountain_Explorer_Bronze-640 VK2JI_Mountain_Hunter_Bronze-640