One SOTA activation and two non-activations

Today was a public holiday for the Melbourne Cup. A horse race and we get a day off. I got up early and headed north planning to activate SOTA summits Mt Ritchie VK3/VC-003, Mt Vinegar VK3/VC-005 and Mt Gordon VK3/VN-027. Activating these three summits would boost my points tally by 18 and would be a good re-start after winter.

I arrived at the base of VK3/VC-003 Mt Ritchie at about 7:45 and was heading up the track about 10 minutes later. I’ve been to Mt Ritchie before with Allen VK3HRA in 2014 and I knew what the access was like. It’s mostly a gentle climb with two or three steep sections. From the gate to the summit is about 6.5 km.

I arrived at the summit about 9:35 and started to set up. I took the antenna bag from my back pack, then my coat, my reading glasses, then a tarp I had purchased on the way. I then took out the logging tablet, an external keyboard, headphones and battery. I laid all this out under a tree limb I had chosen for the antenna.

As I was tying the throw weigh to the rope I noticed something was missing. Something critical to the whole activation. I had no radio!

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All the equipment – except one item!

With no radio I was unable to activate the summit so I packed all my gear back into the pack and, somewhat disappointed, headed back down the hill to the car.

Back at the car I decided I didn’t have another 13 km of walking in me so I head for Mt Vinegar VK3/VC-005. I had activated Mt Vinegar in 2013 and the access is easy. Take Acheron Way to the north, turn left at Carters Gap Rd, pass Mt Vinegar Track and turn sharp left at Road Eight. Then follow Road Eight to a sharp right turn then a sharp left corner and stop at the gate, about 200 m from the summit.

Unfortunately just after the sharp left corner there was a tree down across the path. From here to the summit was about 2.5 km and, to be honest, I just didn’t feel that enthused after my first walk for no points. So I turned around and head to Mt Gordon VK3/VN-027.

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Blocked access to Mt Vinegar

I arrived at Mt Gordon at about 12:30 just as it started to rain. After a short walk I was ready to set up the antenna and noticed some wildlife nearby. An Echidna was feasting on an ant colony and was happy to pose for photos. This was my third visit to Mt Gordon with previous activation being in snow in 2013 and heat in 2014. The rain had stopped just after I got the antenna in the air.

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An Echidna at Mt Gordon

I was on air, finally, just after 1:00 pm. As this was the last summit for the day I used my FT450D and ran it at 100 Watts. I laid out the tarp ready to cover the radio if the rain returned. I made 21 QSOs on 40m and one QSO on 20m and also got to test my VK port-a-log app with an external keyboard. I qualified the summit and added 4 points to my SOTA Activation score.

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Operating position at Mt Gordon

At least the day wasn’t a total failure!

73

Posted in Amateur Radio, FT450D, Radio awards, SOTA | 1 Comment

VHF SOTA activation of VK3/VC-006 Mt St Leonard

Today was a Public Holiday  and I went hiking with Tom and Kath, whom I have know for about 15 years, and two friends of theirs. The hike was from Donnellys Weir up to Mt St Leonard and back to Donnellys Weir. http://www.trailhiking.com.au/donnelly-weir-mt-st-leonard  All up the journey was 23.6 km with total climb of nearly 1300 metres. This was a tough walk in the park! I’ve activated VK3/VC-006 Mt St Leonard before in 2013.

We left the weir about 7:15 am and made it to the Mt St Leonard summit at 12:30 pm. Whilst the others in the hike party were enjoying the view and having lunch I was able to  get 4 quick contacts on 2m. One contact with Glenn VK3YY was a summit to summit with Glenn being over at Andrew Hill VK3/VN-020. Mt St Leonard is also within the Yarra Rages National Park, VKFF-0556.

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Working 2m handheld from the top of the observation platform

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Very cold group shot at the top

After lunch we walked back down to the weir arriving at about 4:30 pm. this is, without doubt, the toughest SOTA activation I have done so far.

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The up and back route of nearly 24 km

73

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Mt Beenak VK3/VC-016 and Hyde Hill VK3/VC-008

It has been quite some time since I had activated a SOTA summit so last night I planned a drive east to activate Mt Toorongo Range. I had to be up early to collect my son from his night shift at the nearby supermarket so the alarm was set for 5 am. After getting back home I decided that Mt Toorongo Range was to far too drive for just one 8 point summit so a quick plan was made to activate Mt Beenak and Hyde Hill, for a total of 10 points.

Leaving home at just after 7:00, and following these directions, I was at the base of Mt Beenak ready to hike at 8:30. The hike up was easy going as the track is well used by the vehicles for the many services on top. I didn’t have my FT817 radio available so I had grabbed my FT450D instead along with a couple of 8400 mAh LiFePo4 batteries. After setting my linked dipole in the most suitable tree near the summit I set the RF power for 50 Watts, posted a spot on SOTAwatch and called CQ. The first QSO was with Ian VK5IS then Brian VK5FIMD and Nev VK5WG. Hearing a vehicle approaching I needed to leave the radio and drop one leg of my antenna that was hanging over the access track to allow a cherry picker truck to pass by.

Once back on air I found the radio was dropping out on transmit due to low voltage. I backed the power off to 20 Watts and made contact with John VK5YW. A couple more CQ calls and the LiFePo4 battery had dropped below the voltage limit of the radio and the radio turned off and wouldn’t turn back on. This activation was now over as the battery I had carried up was nowhere near charged and the second battery was back on the car. Four QSOs is all I needed to qualify the summit for the 4 points but I really would have liked to start a bit longer and work the rest of the chasers. I walked back to the car and headed off to the next summit Hyde Hill.

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Linked dipole in tree at Mt Beenak

I had worked Hyde Hill about 3 years ago and remember it as being recently felled and cleared with access to the summit along the western edge of the logging coupe. After 3 years of regrowth the scene was quite different. VK3XDM has activated this hill in May 2016 by going up the southern edge but I couldn’t see where so I went with what I knew and took the western edge again. The accent is hard going and will get harder as the trees grow. As I climbed I followed the blue marker tapes on the trees which mark the edge of the coupe. I stopped 3 times to check my position on Androzic as I didn’t want to hike any further than absolutely necessary to get in the activation zone. It took about 45 minutes to get to the activation zone. When I was in the zone I set up on a stump with the antenna on a nearby tree. The antenna was not very high but the taller trees are further up the hill and was not heading any close to the top.

Having a better battery I cranked the output up to 100 Watts, sent a spot and then worked the pile. Contacts came fast and I finished the activation with 31 calls in the log. One of the last calls was Mike VK3FCMC who was portable in the Kurth Kiln Regional Park, about 10 km south of me. I packed up at about midday and headed back down the hill. The descent was far easier than the way up and I was back after car in about 20 minutes. The Kurth Kiln Regional Park is on my way home so I stopped in and said hello to Mike and his son Luke. We chatted for about an hour and it was interesting to see how he was set up and to share a couple of tips with him.

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Operating position at Hyde Hill

 

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New VK port-a-log version

Yesterday I released the latest version of my android logging app VK port-a-log.

The new version is V20160430_03 and contains some changes and some new features;

  • SOTAwatch spots are no longer cached at vk3zpf.com = faster delivery of new spots
  • ParksnPeaks spots are no longer cached at vk3zpf.com = faster delivery of new spots
  • Option to choose white on black or black on white colours for most screens
  • Option to use different call sign on air
  • RF power is now an optional mandatory field in log entry
  • New buttons for adding / /P and /M to call sign
  • Long press first call sign hot key (VK1) to change keys to numbers
  • Option to allow non-numeric RST values e.g. 59 +20
  • Options to include SOTA and WWFF references in ADIF QTH field
  • Option to include activation QTH in ADIF comments field
  • Option to copy operator’s name directly to SOTAwatch and ParksnPeaks POST info
  • QSO summary for current activation
  • Auto completion of contacted station’s name via a names.csv file

VK port-a-log can be downloaded from the  files section of the vk3zpf_logger Yahoo group.
Joining the vk3zpf_logger Yahoo group allows you to email bug reports and suggestion direct to the developer (me) and share your ideas with other users.

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AX3ZPF and Mt Worth State Park activation

Today is ANZAC day, a day on which Australia and New Zealand commemorate their war veterans from all wars. The date is significant as it was on this day in 1915, during World War I, that soldiers from both countries stormed the beaches of Gallipoli in Turkey.

To mark this significant day the ACMA allow hams to substitute their VK prefix with the AX prefix.

I don’t normally do this as it can create issues with electronic logging and QSL cards. However today I decided to activate a WWFF park with AX3ZPF and test a recent change to my VK port-a-log app allowing different on-air call signs to the operator’s call sign.

I had a look at WWFF Logsearch for VK3 parks that has not been activated. This showed only 3 parks. Two were too far away and the third is a Marine National Park that needs either a couple of days hiking or a boat to access.

I then settled on VKFF-0771 Mt Worth State Park, the nearest easy access park to home that I had not previously qualified with 44 contacts.

Arriving at the Moonlight Creek Picnic Area around midday I set my linked dipole in a tree with the apex about 5 metres above ground.

I tuned around 40 m and found Brett AX3FLCS activating the Macedon Regional Park, my first Park to Park QSO for the day. After working Brett I settled on 7.085 and called CQ. A steady flow of chasers followed including park to park with AX3VTH and AX5PAS. I made 46 contacts on 40 m and three contacts on 20 m.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a camera so there are no pictures.

73

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