VK2JI – SOTA in VK2 – 9th. March 2014 VK2 /CT-043 (Mt.Tomah), CT-012 (Glowworm Tunnel Road) & CT-007 (Mt. Lambie).

Last SOTA actvation in VK for VK2JI.

Preparation:

As I was to leave Australia permanently on March 14th. I managed to convince Rod VK2LAX to do a 3 summit activation before I left (I had already sold the Peugeot 308, and the fact that Rod has a 4WD makes the activations more likely to be successful in any case).

Originally this exercise had been planned for the preceding weekend however abysmal weather meant that we postponed. During the week up to the 9th. the weather forecast changed daily however on the day, the weather was perfect, dry, mid twenties and a slight breeze.

Two of the planned summits I had already activated in 2013, so I knew what to expect. The first (Mount Tomah) suffers badly from RF noise from the radio relay towers,so I was eager to try a different location within the activation zone. I am glad to report, this worked out well. The second summit (CT-012), I also wanted to try a different spot as the summit location indicated in the ARM and so in SOTA Maps is in fact below where the actual summit is and we managed to locate ourselves this time at the actual summit.

The third summit, Mt. Lambie, I had not activated before and was somewhat worried that we might find we could not access the site, having driven to about 20 kilometres  from Bathhurst (i.e. a long way from Sydney and even further from the NSW Central Coast). Access turned out to be easy with a reasonable, publicly accessible track with just two gates to open and close to keep the cows in. This has to be one of the most accessible 8 point SOTA summits anywhere!

VK2/CT-043 Mount Tomah.

DSCN1591As stated above, Mt Tomah at the summit has a radio tower that emits a high level of noise on the HF bands. So the intention this trip was to find a location as far away from the radio towers as possible while still being within the activation zone. Mapping the 25m vertical drop area, showed that the AZ goes right up to the main “Bells Line of Road” road and indeed a little way on the other side. This puts the “Mt Tomah rest area” nicely within the AZ and it provides some concrete shelters and tables to set up at. As this location is on the edge of the AZ, a few steps down into the bushes (the land drops off quite steeply) takes you out of the AZ.

I am glad to report this new location does not suffer any RF noise from the radio tower and only minimal electrical noise from passing traffic.

In this location we set up Rods FT857D and his new 10m squiddy with my SOTABeams linked dipole so that we could operate 40m and 30m.

VK2/CT-012 Glowwurm Tunnel Road (Newnes Plateau)

ct-012_contoursAs can be seen from the contour map, the location of CT-012 is not shown as on the actual summit, so we decided to carry on up the road a little until we actually got to the top and then set up a little away from the car and the track, which was lucky as there turned out to be a lot of motorbikes out on the day, racing along glowwurm tunnel road. This time we set up the QRP station, just running 5w from my FT817 and again the SOTABeams linked dipole. With the lower power, we got as expected lower signal reports however we made many good contacts from this location. Given the nature of this plateau, there is no practical way to walk out of the AZ and back in, so in this case we followed the MT guidance of ensuring we were well away from the vehicle, gaining no possible support of any kind from it.

VK2/CT-007 Mount Lambie.

DSC_0072Mount Lambie is about 20km from Bathurst, so not a “local summit” however a really good (and simple) 8 point, summit to activate. Access is from the Great Western Highway up Bonaventure road, two gates to open and close, making sure not to release the cows into the next field. This is public access all the way to the top. The AZ coincides roughly with the last (second) gate.

As this was our last activation of the day and the furthest from home, we were eager to get on air and bag the needed contacts. The mast was first planned to be fastened to the side of the trig point but this turned out not to be practical and instead a small tree was found to serve as support. Being someway away from the trees the ends of the strings on the ends of the SOTABeams linked dipole were held in place by putting one of the many stones in the area on them. Again lots of good contacts. If anyone is staying in this area, this summit would be great for early evening DX SOTA contacts into Europe but as we had a 3.5hr+ trip home it was not possible for us.

Equipment

(CT-043 & CT-007) Yaesu FT857ND transceiver (running at 100W output)

(CT-012) Yaesu FT817ND transceiver (5W output)

(all three locations) SOTABeams linked dipole in Inverted-V format on a 10m squid pole

Stations worked from Mt. Tomah (VK2/CT-043):

VK2LAX

40m

VK2IB/3
VK2FMIA/P
VK2GAZ

Post UTC Rollover

VK2YK

VK2IO
VK2DDS
VK1MDC
VK2IB/3
VK2YK
VK1MA
VK3PF
VK2UH
VK2DAG
VK3CAT
VK2AFW
VK3ERW/P
VK3FD
VK5WG
VK2KTT
VK2IO

VK2JI

30m

VK2KTT Paul
VK3BQ Andrew
VK3AFW Ron
VK3DET Ernie
VK3JM Fred
VK3WRL Ben
VK5AV Tim
VK4OZY Dave.

40m

VK2IB/P3 Bernard S2S on VK3/VE-169 Once before and once after UTC rollover.

Stations worked from Glowwurm Tunnel Road (VK2/CT-012):

VK2LAX

40m

VK2FGJW/P
VK2IB/3
VK1MA
VK2YK
VK1DA/P
VK1NAM

VK2JI

40m

VK2FGJW/P Greg S2S on VK2/CT-056

VK2IB/P3 Bernard S2S on VK3/VE-192

VK3BHR Phil
VK1DA/P Andrew S2S on VK1/AC-035
VK2ZRD Rod
VK2KTT Paul
VK2DAG Matt

30m

VK3AFW Ron
VK3CAT Tony
VK3PF Peter

Stations worked from Mt. Lambie (VK2/CT-007):

VK2LAX:

40m

VK1MA
VK3FQSO
VK2DDS
VK1DI
VK2YK
VK3PF
VK3BHR
VK2FMIA/P
VK2DAG
VK1NAM
VK2NNN
VK3CAT
VK3AFW
VK2PEP
VK2KTT
VK2AET
VK2CCT

20m

VK5NIG/P
VK5STU
VK8GM

VK2JI

40m

VK4SD/P2 Danny
VK2AET Scott
VK2PEP Bob
VK2NNN Darren
VK3BHR Phil
VK3CAT Tony
VK2ZRD Rod

20m

VK3AFW Ron
VK5WG Nev
VK3AMB Bernard
VK4OZY Dave
VK5NIG & VK5STU Nigel & Stewart both S2S on VK5/SE-005
VK8GM Greg

VK2JI – SOTA in VK2 – 2nd. February 2014 Activation of VK2/HU-080 (Summit Point) and VK2/HU-054 (Broken Back Ridge).

Preparation:

I have already activated Summit Point in December (see report on this site – which also contains directions on how to get to Summit Point) however Rod VK2LAX, who was activating again with me this time, had not and also as we are now in a new calendar year, I can claim another activator point be re-activating the summit.

VK2/HU-080 Summit Point.

S-Point-800

Sculpture rock at base of Summit Point.

This summit is a relatively close location only about 1 hours drive from home and access roads while a little rough are reasonable. So an easy summit to get to? Well not completely – the climb up the very steep and slippery due to many years of leaves and other undergrowth, hill with heavy gear packs on made it quite a climb for both of us. OK, I admit it – I’m not fit, and CRIKEY do I know it when trying a climb like this. Anyway we both arrived safely on the top of Summit point and after about 5

minutes and some good long drinks of water, we were ready to set-up.

Rod had brought along his new 10m Squid Pole, which when collapsed was not much longer than my (short) 6m version. This is a new item available from SOTABeams or DXWire and well worth a look. Although I had all of my equipment with me, we used Rod’s FT857D, 10m Squiddy and SOTABeams linked dipole on both activations. This enabled us to run 30w output rather than the usual 5w from my FT-817.

We were all set up are ready to go well before UTC roll-over and work many stations on 40 and 20 metres (see list at end of this article).

After completing this activation and working all stations who called, we had and even more difficult job getting back down the hillside back to the car, but it was managed with only minor scrapes.

Broken Back Ridge – VK2/HU-054

Microwave relay towers on Broken Back Ridge.

Microwave towers on Broken Back Ridge.

I had previously tried to get to Broken Back Ridge but thought better of it when I was about 25% of the way up the access track in my low ground clearance 2WD car and it was getting dark. I now know that was the right decision as in Rod’s 4WD, the rest of the track from where I turned around last time got worse to drive. Of course in a 4WD it took about the same time to drive the complete track as it had taken me to get a quarter of the way up it.

Once we arrived at the summit we were in the company of 5 microwave relay station towers of varying height and some great views, as you will see from the video.

We arrived around 03:00 UTC, walked down out of the AZ and back in and set up in the shade. Contact from here were more difficult to get, possibly due to the time of day, the interference from the towers or perhaps as we weren’t able to get the antenna as high or as straight as we would have liked. There was a fresh breeze as otherwise this may have been a really uncomfortable activation. Operators in other states were suffering an awful lot more than we were with the heat however. Unlike Summit Point, we managed no Summit-to-Summit contacts from Broken Back Ridge. One VK4 activator we had hoped for that had been spotted several times as we drove up the tracks had unfortunately packed up by the time we got set-up.

All in all however this was a very enjoyable day with Rod’s new 10m Squid pole being very much the star of the show – the higher you can get an antenna the better it seems to work.

Video

Equipment

Yaesu FT857ND transceiver (running at 30W output)

SOTABeams linked dipole in Inverted-V format on a 10m squid pole

Stations worked from Summit Point pre UTC Rollover (all on 40m):

By Rod VK2LAX

VK2JNG/P Gerard
VK2FGJW/P Greg S2S on VK2/CT-042
VK3FPSR Peter
VK2DI Ian
VK3PF Peter
VK1NAM Andrew
VK2CCW/P Mike
VK5TX/P Ben S2S on VK2/NW-006

By Ed VK2JI

VK2FGJW/P Greg S2S on VK2/CT-042
VK3EK Rob
VK2CCW/P Mike
VK5TX/P Ben S2S on VK2/NW-006

Stations worked from Summit Point on 40m and 20m post UTC Rollover:

By Rod VK2LAX

VK5TX/P Ben S2S on VK2/NW-006 (40m)
VK2FGJW/P Greg S2S on VK2/CT-042 (40m)
VK3FPSR Peter (40m)
VK1NAM Andrew (40m)

VK2AXL Jack (40m)

VK2JNG/P Gerard (40m)
VK5NIG/P Nigel S2S on VK5/SE-013 (40m)
VK5WG Nev (20m)
VK6MB Mike (20m)

By Ed VK2JI

VK5TX/P Ben S2S on VK2/NW-006 (40m)
VK2FGJW/P Greg S2S on VK2/CT-042 (40m)
VK5NIG/P Nigel S2S on VK5/SE-013 (40m)
VK1MDC Mark (40m)

Stations worked from Broken Back Ridge on 20m & 40m:

By Rod VK2LAX

VK2DAG Matt (40m)
VK2YK Adam (40m)
VK1NAM Andrew (40m)
VK3BHR Phil (40m)
VK2FGJW/P Greg (40m)
VK2FADV Jim (40m)
VK5CV Ian (20m)
VK3AMB Bernard (20m)
VK4TWS Bill (20m)
VK3AFW Ron (20m)
VK3YAR Raymond (20m)
VK4OZY Dave (20m)
VK5NIG Nigel (20m)

By Ed VK2JI

VK2JNG/P Gerard (40m)
VK2DAG Matt (40m)
VK3FPSR Peter (40m)
VK3SSB Ash (20m)
VK3CAT Tony (20m)
VK5WG Nev (20m)
VK3PF Peter (20m)

VK2JI – SOTA in VK2 – 21st. December – Activation of VK2/HU-080 (Summit Point)

Preparation:

This was an activation of a new summit for me. At the same time, I wanted to try to operate the digital PSK31 mode from the summit and use my new QRP amplifier to lift the FT817’s maximum 5w output to about 18w.

The access to Summit point is along Mount Sugerloaf Road from just outside of Seahampton. This is a normal small tarmac road and easy to drive right up to the Sugarloaf Mountain transmitter towers. Just before reaching the towers I needed to take a left turn onto Sugarloaf Range Road. This is a mud track but is fairly well maintained and easy to drive with a normal 2WD car as long you watch out for the occasional pot holes. 3.9 km down this road we come to the road up to the actual summit. This is less well maintained, very rutted and pot holes are the smallest concern as some sharp high rocks in the middle of the road means that a lot of care is needed to travel this road and not destroy your car. A high clearance 2WD or 4WD vehicle would be more suited to this track however this is not nearly as bad as the Broken Back Road that I tried to navigate a couple of weeks earlier up to HU-068 (Broken Back Range) and had to turn back. For one thing this road to Summit Point was only a couple of kilometres long. Simply follow this road until it stops rising and look to the left where there is an area to park and the rock with carvings – as shown in the video below.

S-Point-800

From here it is a steep climb on foot, on a slippery surface as there are lots of twigs and dead undergrowth meaning it is difficult the get a good foot hold while climbing and even more “tricky” on the way back down. Once I reached the top, there is a fairly wide flattish level with many trees suitable for attaching antenna to. I had arrived here about 30 minutes ahead of schedule however once I had everything set up I had lost 15 minutes of that advantage. I was on-air on 7.090 at 23:30 UTC (UTC day 20/12/2013 still) and managed to work 10 stations both before and 10 after UTC rollover (list below), all but two of these were on 40m SSB, the last two being on 30m SSB. Band conditions were not good with very deep QSB at times.

As I said above, one of the purposes for this activation was to test out my solid state linear to give a little more output for more distant contacts. Initially I thought it was actually causing me to lose signal strength on receive but this turned out to be two things – the delay in the RF sensing relay from switching back over and the conditions. Once I could make some “with and without” tests with the linear, it appears that on average I gain 2 S-points with the linear in circuit over not having it in circuit. So worth having and I need to look at fixing the relay delay. The other thing I wanted to try (and was unsuccessful with) was using a digital mode (PSK31) from the summit. Normally to do this you need a PC an interface and the rig, which is impractical to carry up a summit. I have the DROIDPSK software (from Wolphi plc) installed on my Android phone and his very small WolphiLink interface box to connect to the FT-817. The main problem I hit was that I could not clearly see the phone’s screen in the sunlight to be able to adjust it to receive signals. I believe I was transmitting PSK correctly but when I received signals back they appeared to be off frequency in the audio pass band and I could not see the screen to tune them in. I also need to practice more using PSK from home, so that I know more of the ins and outs of how it is supposed to work. Perhaps next time I try this on a summit, I will take my 7 inch Android tablet so that the program screen is more readable however the suggestion from Ron to take along a cardboard box to shield the screen (be it on a phone or a tablet) seems like a good idea also.

All in all not a bad mornings activation and with all such outings I have learned more things that I need to look into before I get that illusive “perfect” set-up.

Video

Equipment

Yaesu FT817ND transceiver (5W) Ramsey Electronics QAMP40 (18W) WolphiLink, DROIDPSK and Android 4 smart phone.

SOTABeams linked dipole in Inverted-V format on a 6m squid pole

Stations worked on 40m pre UTC Rollover:

VK2JDS Dave
VK3VBI Ron
VK1MDC Mark
VK2WG John (VK2YW operating the Wagga club station)
VK2IO Gerard
VK3FPSR Peter
VK2PHP/P Phil
VK2UH Andrew
VK5WG
VK3BYD

Stations worked on 40m post UTC Rollover:

VK2DDS Brenton
VK1MDC Mark
VK3FPSR Peter
VK4TSB Stewart
VK1RX Al
VK2FJPR John
VK2UH Andrew
VK1NAM Andrew

Stations worked on 30m:

VK3AFW Ron

VK3CAT Tony

VK2JI – SOTA in VK2 – 4th. December – Evening activation of VK2/HU-093 (Mt. Elliot) for EU chasers & S2S

Preparation:

This activation was in response to a request from Klaus DF2GN for a DM – VK Summit to Summit (S2S) contact.

I arrived on-site a little earlier than planned which allowed me to walk down and back up the trail (to meet the access on foot into the AZ zone ARM guideline) and set up and be operational 15 minutes early at 07:15 UTC. I did not stay as long as originally planned due to a plague of strange looking flies swarming around me despite the liberal use of insect repellant but the evening was a success. I regret not packing up 10 minutes later however as I might have managed a second S2S with GM4COX but I’m happy with my S2S with Klaus DF2GN portable on DM/BW-195, which was the main reason for the trip. I also worked another German chaser and eight VK chasers. I had hoped to have my “qrp” amplifier fully working to boost the FT817’s 5w output but it was not to be and while I had it with me, the unreliability of its operation at present, made me decide to work just with the FT-817 “barefoot”. They also say, don’t make two changes at the same time and I have made another change to my set-up. While looking for some parts last week, I came across a project that I built (or to be more accurate, boxed) some time ago. It is a 150W battery booster. Fed with anything above about 10V it can output anything up to 35V DC using it’s inverter. I had set this to output 13.8V previously and now decided to try using it with my 3S (11V) LiPo battery and what do you know – it works perfectly. I have an alarm on the LiPo to sense if any cell is dropping below a safe level and in the 1.5 hrs of operation all went well. I have found no interference from the inverter in the DC voltage booster. Perhaps this is a solution for others who are looking to use 3S LiPos to supply rigs (or amplifiers) that prefer a 13.8V supply. The booster and 2 x 5000maH LiPo batteries fit easily in a Jaycar SLAB battery bag with room to spare for cables sensors etc.

booster

In case anyone is interested in the DC-DC convertor – it cost me AU$7.98 including postage – the same item is now available for $5-$6. A whole list of them can be found on eBay here.

My apologies to the stations, both chasers and activators who came on a little after I packed up, but the flies were getting really unbearable!

Pictures:

 000220131204 000320131204
 

Video

The audio pickup of received sound is not so good……

Equipment

Yaesu FT817ND transceiver (5W)

SOTABeams linked dipole in Inverted-V format on a 6m squid pole

Stations worked on 20m:

VK5PAS Paul
DF2GN/P (S2S) Klaus on DM/BW-195
DJ5AV Mike
VK3AMB Bernard
VK3CAT Tony
VK1NAM Andrew
VK2IO Gerard
VK1DI Ian

Stations worked on 40m:

VK2AXL Jack.

VK3PF/QRP Peter.

VK2JI – SOTA in VK2 – 30th. November – Activation of VK2/IL-017 (Bulgo Hill)

Preparation:

This activation was timed to coincide with possible communications to European activators and chasers.

Although planned to be on-air by 18:00 local, heavy road traffic plus a small mis-navigation en-route meant that we (Rod VK2LAX and myself) only arrived at the car park at 18:00 after about 2.5 hours driving. On entry to this part of the Royal National Park where the summit is located (about 30km south of Sydney), we also saw signs warning us that the gates would be closed and locked at 20:30.

The 1.5 – 2 Km walk up Bulgo Hill took around 25 minutes to the actual summit, which is a good 150m past where the Lat/Long coordinates in the SOTA database indicate it as being.

Given the shortage of time we decided just to put together Rod’s 20m station as this is where we expected to have the best chance of DX contacts, hopefully S2S contacts as several European stations had indicated on SOTAWatch, their intention to activate summits around this time.

Rod started and quickly obtained the required 4 contacts to qualify as having activated the summit including Austrian, German and an Italian stations. He also managed a Summit to Summit contact with Dinos SV3IEG/P on SV/AT-033.

Band conditions seems to vary wildly with signals dropping into the noise and then coming back a minute or two later. Copy was also made very difficult by by both VK and DX stations close to the operating frequency splattering across the frequency which we could not filter out even using the DSP on the FT-857.

I was able to make the required four contacts to qualify the summit for me (2 VK, 1 German and 1 UK chaser).

By this time it was already 19:20 and with the time to take down the station, walk back to the car park and then drive back up the track to the park gates, we had to close down if we weren’t to be locked in. We got back to the gates by 20:20 and then had a 2 hour drive home.

My apologies to the stations, both chasers and activators who tried to call us and we simply could not hear due to the QRM.I also tried calling two other summits (YO6PIB & HA3LV) but they did not hear me – most likely QRM at their end. If we had been able to stay longer perhaps we would have managed the contacts but as you can see, time was our enemy on this activation. Note for next time – if activating an unknown location, I will plan an afternoon activation and let it run into the evening, so that all equipment is set up and running prior to the bands opening up.

Pictures:

Bulgo-hill-approaches Bulgo-hill-summit-map
IMG_0599 IMG_0601

Video

Thanks to Rod VK2LAX for this video of my operation (click here).

Equipment

Yaesu FT857 transceiver

SOTABeams linked dipole in Inverted-V format on a 9m squid pole

Stations worked by Rod VK2LAX:

VK5NIG
VK5PAS
SV3IEG (S2S)
OE5FSM
IK1GPG
DL1DVE.

Stations worked by Ed VK2JI:

Nigel VK5NIG Golden Grove, South Australia

Paul VK5PAS Mount Barker, South Australia

Mike DJ5AV Heiligenberg, Near Lake Constance, Germany

Don G0RQL Holsworthy, Devon, England