SOTA first activation of Udoyama JA/SO-120 – 14 Feb 2016

As part of my 2016 Japan trip I travelled to Shizuoka, 180km and about 3 hours drive south of Tokyo. I activated Udoyama JA/SO-120 for the first time with help from my friends Yoshi JG1VOZ and Hiro JA2LXT. This summlt is more accessible to Shizuoka city than Takanesan JA/SO-099 previously considered. Near JA/SO-120 there is a peak and lookout with a TV tower called Nihondaira Prefectural Natural Park and we went there first only to find ourselves 300m away from the real peak. I dare say it would not have been in the Activation Zone either. One must continue on the Shimizu Nihondaira Parkway to (34.9749, 138.4695) and then drive up a rough track 300m and then walk up a steep muddy track 200m to the summit with some bush bashing. The summit is marked with a tag saying 307m and is at (34.973099, 138.4697), locator PM94FX.

160214UdoyamaShack

Shack on Udoyama JA/SO-120

The summit is overgrown with lots of trees. I used a linked ground plane and threw the end of the antenna over a tree. On 20m I made four VK/ZL SSB contacts and three VK on CW using the callsign JR2YFM/2. On 40m CW I made four local contacts. Ended up with more contacts than at Shiroyama JA/KN-022 in less time. I was able to stay on 3 Watts throughout the one hour activation. One contact was a S2S with Takeshi JS1UEH at JA/IB-006 on 40m – my first for JA. This was also a first activation of Udoyama JA/SO-120.

160214UdoyamaRig

Rig and log book on Udoyama JA/SO-120

Thank you for all the contacts and for those that chased. One discovery via SOTAwatch was that 7032 is used for RTTY in Japan. When 40m is open to JA from VK it may be better to stay below 7032.

There is a short video from this activation here.

SOTA activation of Mt Vial and Mt Brune in France 06/09/2014

Mont Vial F/AM-461 360° panorama

Mont Vial F/AM-461 360° panorama

Tourist map showing Mt Vial and Mt Brune relative to Nice

Tourist map showing Mt Vial and Mt Brune relative to Nice

Mont Vial F/AM-461 Gorges de la Vésubie et du Var FFF-146 1550m 4pts

A day proclaimed for celebrating the first anniversary of SOTA in VK2 made for a good reason to do a summit activation while in France. Staying near Nice there are plenty of high mountains at the bottom end of the Alps so I chose one of the nearest 4 point summits just to the north. At only 30km away it didn’t seem far, but the topography is such that it is 60km by road. The hire car has a navigation system, but unfortunately does not have the road to the summit so I set it for the nearest town Toudon. On the tourist map for Nice, Mont Vial F/AM-461 is clearly marked so I expected it to be well signposted. This turned out not be the case so I ended up using google maps to find the access road after retracing my steps from Toudon. The mountains here are steep so access was via a series of switchbacks on a narrow, well-maintained road which takes you up from the 950m elevation of the main road. It is possible to drive almost right to the top at 1520m elevation so I parked down from the top to be outside the activation zone. There are a series of communication towers along the ridge just down from the peak. The furthest where the road ends is 300m away and the closest is 100m away. I did not expect much QRM from these.

The panorama image above was constructed from 11 separate images stitched together. It shows the operating point in the centre of the picture and the towers on the right. The left of the picture shows the Var river valley that leads towards Nice, more or less running north-south. The views there were breathtaking. No wonder it is marked on the tourist map!

Trig point, pole and 40m antenna on Mt Vial

Trig point, pole and 40m antenna on Mt Vial

Once at the peak I posted out a spot using RRT for 20m CW and started setting up the radio and 20m ground plane antenna. The trig point metalwork was used as an attachment point for my 5.4m squid pole with the radiator hanging off it. On RRT I could see some spots for VK stations. The first I tuned to was Andrew VK1NAM who was on Mt McDonald VK1/AC-048. It was pretty surprising to hear Andrew’s voice coming through with some QSB. I gave him a call and he actually heard me just using 5 Watts! There were some clicking noises on the frequency which I put down to the local communications transmitters, and luckily the noise blanker did a pretty good job of dispatching them. My first VK contact from EU – and on SSB too!

I listened on the other frequencies that VKs had spotted but no-one else was heard. It should have been possible to hear VK1MA and VK1MBE but I was probably a bit late getting started – too close to the VK1 sunset.

It was time to get active on my spotted frequency. Once I got started there were plenty of calls and I realised I was out of practice when it comes to handling pileups on CW. After a few EU stations, Andrew VK1DA called in from Mt Gillamatong VK2/ST-034 for my first CW S2S contact with VK. I also worked Tony VK3CAT on CW and when the contacts dried up I shifted to 20m SSB. I was able to work 4 more home stations and a summit-to-summit with Bob VK5FO on Mt Gawler VK5/SW-013. At 0752z it was getting late in the long path window and Bob’s signal was starting to fade. When I next had a chance to tune back his signal was gone completely.

Shack on Mt Vial with KX3 and enhanced RHM8B antenna

Shack on Mt Vial with KX3 and enhanced RHM8B antenna

I started to look around for other summit-to-summit opportunities but there was nothing more on 20m. With spots for 30m and 40m it was time to modify the antenna for those bands. I connected the Diamond RHM8B to the rig and attached the radiator for the ground plane to the top of the telescopic whip with a jumper lead. This gave me a radiator about 7m long – almost a quarter wave for 30m. To accommodate the extra length I had to lift up the squid pole onto the trig point metalwork to give it some extra height. The photo shows the final arrangement. After tuning the loading coil for 30m I was able to work Wolf DL4MHA on DM/BW-131.

After a time a spot appeared for Ed DD5LP on 40m. He had been on 20m working VK and too near for a contact on that band. On 40m he had a fine signal and was an easy contact. I had not worked him since he moved to EU so it was good to have a chat. At the end he wanted to close down to vacate the peak and get home so left me with the frequency. I stayed around on Mt Vial for some more S2S contacts on 40m and 30m.

All in all a successful activation with 3 VK S2S, 5 VK home stations and 5 EU S2S contacts as well as a bunch of EU home stations. All these were worked using 5 Watts from the internal batteries of the KX3.

Mt Vial log

Date:06/Sep/2014 Summit:F/AM-461 (Mont Vial) Call Used:F/VK2IO/P Points: 4 Bonus: 0

Time Call Band Mode Notes
07:11z VK1NAM/P 14MHz SSB R51 S47 14290 Andrew VK1/AC-048
07:22z YO2BP 14MHz CW R559 S559 14062 Alex
07:23z MW0BBU 14MHz CW R339 S559 14062 Steve
07:24z G0VOF 14MHz CW R559 S559 14062 Mark
07:26z VK1DA/P 14MHz CW R539 S519 14062 Andrew VK2/ST-034
07:27z SP9AMH 14MHz CW R449 S319 14062 Marius
07:31z VK3CAT 14MHz CW R339 S539 14062 Tony
07:32z EA2DT 14MHz CW R559 S599 14062 Manuel
07:33z OM5DP 14MHz CW R559 S559 14062 Martin
07:41z VK2YK 14MHz SSB R31 S43 14345 Adam
07:44z VK8GM 14MHz SSB R52 S55 14345 Greg
07:45z G0RQL 14MHz SSB R56 S56 14345 Don
07:46z VK3EK 14MHz SSB R54 S56 14345 Robbie
07:47z VK3WE 14MHz SSB R51 S55 14345 Rhett
07:52z VK5FO/P 14MHz SSB R54 S33 14303 Bob VK5/SE-013
08:00z DL4MHA/P 10MHz CW R559 S579 10124 Wolfgang DM/BW-131
08:30z DD5LP/P 7MHz SSB R55 S56 7185 Ed DL/AM-001
08:38z F/DC4XH/P 7MHz SSB R56 S58 7185 Peter
08:56z OK2SAM/P 10MHz CW R539 S559 10117
09:01z OE5EEP/P 7MHz CW R559 S559 7033.5 Heinz OE/OO-033
09:13z OE9HRV/P 7MHz SSB R44 S58 7100 Herbert OE/OO-096

Mont Brune F/AM-472 1518m 4pts

View from Mt Brune F/AM-472

View from Mt Brune F/AM-472

The next mountain was Mt Brune F/AM-472 about 15 km from Mt Vial. I used google maps to find the turnoff to this one. It meant driving back to the main road and then carrying on through some small towns and then turning off the D27 road at elevation 1080m to again negotiate some switchbacks. The narrow path up the mountainside was not as well maintained as the one for Mt Vial, but still easily negotiated with a 2-wheel drive. Once near the top at elevation 1380m there is a carpark and then a steep climb on foot to the summit with no really obvious main track. It took about 15 mins of hard climbing to get up to the top at 1518m. There are no towers on top – access would not be possible!

Shack on Mt Brune with KX3 and 20m ground plane

Shack on Mt Brune with KX3 and 20m ground plane

I had limited time so decided just to operate on 20m. Setting up the ground plane is very quick as there are no adjustments so I was on air in no time. All contacts were on SSB except the last which was a S2S contact with Roger F5LKW on Montagne de la Canaille F/CR-254. It was too late for any VK contacts and I didn’t have time to chase too many summit-to-summits.

I had 14 minutes of operating time and made 13 contacts so well and truly qualified the summit. The climb down was much more enjoyable than the climb up and I was soon back in the car on my way to do a collection at Nice airport. My activating for the day was over.

A few days later I received a message on the SOTA reflector from Gerald F6HBI asking why I did not activate Cime des Colettes F/AM-478. This summit sits in between Mt Vial and Mt Brune and is also a 4 point summit. I did look into when planning the day, but access to the summit seemed to require a long hike so I would not have time to get there. It was quicker to drive to Mont Brune for the second summit. It would have been great if I’d had time to do the three summits in the one day.

Mt Brune log

Date:06/Sep/2014 Summit:F/AM-472 (Mont Brune) Call Used:F/VK2IO/P Points: 4 Bonus: 0

Time Call Band Mode Notes
10:36z EB2JU 14MHz SSB R59 S57 14345
10:37z G0RJL 14MHz SSB R57 S55 14345 Don
10:37z G6WRW 14MHz SSB R55 S55 14345 Caroline
10:38z EA2DT 14MHz SSB R31 S53 14345 Manuel
10:39z G0VWP 14MHz SSB R55 S57 14345
10:40z OK1SDE 14MHz SSB R55 S57 14345
10:40z M0ONI 14MHz SSB R44 S55 14345
10:41z DL8UVG 14MHz SSB R55 S55 14345
10:41z G3XQE 14MHz SSB R53 S55 14345 Ken
10:42z EB1JFK 14MHz SSB R41 S53 14345
10:44z DL3HXX 14MHz SSB R44 S55 14345
10:45z DM7MRE/P 14MHz SSB R55 S54 14345
10:50z F5LKW/P 14MHz CW R559 S519 14061 Roger F/CR-254

Thanks to all chasers and activators.
I had a great day out in France celebrating the VK2 SOTA anniversary!

Mt Elliot VK2/HU-093 activation 07/07/2014

SOTA activations for me have involved lugging a 40L backpack crammed with gear plus carrying a 10m squid pole. Recently I have become interested in trying to reduce the size and weight of equipment taken to a summit as well as reducing the time between arrival and getting on air. I had built a new 20m ground plane antenna and obtained a 5.4m squid pole and was itching to try these out on a summit. In the SOTAwatch alerts list there were some simultaneous activations coming up around lunchtime so it was time to throw my hat into the ring.

Mt Elliot

I was staying nearby to Mt Elliot which is a short distance northeast of Gosford on the NSW Central Coast. At the end of 2013 I had activated this summit, a one pointer, and scored loads of summit-to-summit contacts. When I left for the summit, one of the activators I hoped to work, Russ VK2BJP was already on the air. Being familiar with Mt Elliot made for a quick setup time. Still, I had to pack, drive to the summit, do the walk out and back into the activation zone along the Graves Walk and get set up. There was no time to waste!

Gear

Antennas: 20m ground plane and Diamond RHM8B base & whip

Antennas: 20m ground plane and Diamond RHM8B base & whip

For this activation, I took the small backpack with just the radio, antennas and notebook. I wanted to try the Elecraft KX3’s internal NiMH batteries to see how they would hold up in a typical activation. The 2.2kg SLA battery was being left behind. The antennas I took along were:

  • Quarter wave ground plane for 20m – 5.1m radiator and 4×5.1m radials
  • Diamond RHM8B loaded vertical with telescopic whip

Operation would mainly be on 20m and 40m. For 20m I had the ground plane. For 40m I could use the loaded vertical as a compromise antenna, or extend it by using the radiator from the 20m ground plane.

On Air

It was a race against time to catch Russ on VK3/VE-149 so I quickly set up the loaded vertical. His spot had gone out at 0207z and I made my first contact with him at 0241z. It would have been faster if I’d had the SOTA bag already packed! I was rewarded with a 5×6 signal report – not too shabby over a 500km path on 40m using a 1.78m long ‘Cute’ antenna!

"Small backpack" SOTA station on Mt Elliot

“Small backpack” SOTA station on Mt Elliot

I had time to set up a better radiator before the next potential summit-to-summit contact. The 5.1m radiator for 20m was launched up the 5.4m squid pole. It was a bit long as the radio was sitting on a bench about 1.2m off the ground. I let the extra wire just droop down and lie on the bench. Pretty soon after I got it tuned up, Phil VK2JDL came up on Knights Hill VK2/IL-007 150km away and gave me S4. He was received at an S point weaker than Russ which I put down to the lower angle of radiation characteristic of verticals.

Matt VK2DAG came up and spotted me and then I was off with some contacts into VK3 on 40m. There were no pileups – it was a weekday, but the gear seemed to be going the distance. Only 5W output instead of the 10W or 12W that I’m used to when using an external battery. To conserve the internal batteries I had switched off the LCD backlight and the RF preamp when not actually giving signal reports. This reduces current consumption from 205mA to 171mA when receiving. On transmit I ran it at the maximum power for the supply voltage (5W) and even had a small amount of speech compression for that extra punch – as per usual.

20m ground plane

It was time to try out the 20m ground plane for the first time. The Diamond loaded vertical was unscrewed from the radio and the 5.1m radiator plugged in directly. With the KX3’s internal ATU bypassed, the antenna matched at the top end of the 20m band. The droopy wire had been wrapped around the squid pole. A good contact was made with Nev VK5WG and then a spot for David VK3IL on Mt Hotham came up. It was for 40m so I tried to match the 20m ground plane using the KX3’s internal matcher, but there was no match. The contact was made after putting the loaded vertical back inline and I received an S3 report over the 550km path on 40m.

Back to 20m again and after spotting on a different frequency there were 3 more contacts including Mike VK6MB and John VK6NU. On SOTAwatch I had read that Mike wasn’t able to reach Phil VK2JDL. Maybe my ground plane was the secret weapon!

30m

All possible contacts had been made on 20m so I decided to try 30m. The setup was changed over to the same as for 40m but with less loading. I used 41mm of the RHM8B loading coil instead of 92mm and got a good match. When setting up on a new frequency I bypass the KX3’s matcher and normally achieve less than 2:1 VSWR just by adjusting the length of the coil. After re-enabling the matcher a 1:1 VSWR is usually achieved. This applies on both 40m and 30m.

Operating on 30m with RHM8B and 5.1m wire

Operating on 30m with RHM8B and 5.1m wire

On 30m I made contact with Ron VK3AFW in Melbourne with good reports. Not many chasers but I was happy that the vertical was working well on this band too.

Another S2S – “just”

Phil VK2JDL had put up an alert for a second activation so I decided to wait it out. I had run out of chasers but my batteries were still going. I listened around the bands mainly on 40m. I experimented with loading up the antenna on 80m but the radio promptly shut down due to low voltage. I knew there wasn’t too much juice left. Reducing the power to 1W I was able to try again but could not achieve a match, probably due to insufficient inductance. It would probably work with a quarter wave radiator for 40m.

At 45 mins past Phil’s alerted time and with low batteries I decided to start packing up. I didn’t get very far before Phil’s call came through on 7090 kHz from Mt Kembla 130km away. What a relief – Phil had made it and I still had enough battery to make contact. My power was down to 1W and the radio shut down twice during the contact due to low voltage. Still managed a 5×4 report though and bagged a couple more summit-to-summit points making 22 for the day. Happy!

Lessons learnt

  • KX3 can operate for over 3 hours using internal NiMH batteries
  • Diamond RHM8B gives respectable performance on 40m using a ground plane
  • 20m ground plane antenna is a great performer for working VK6
  • Elevating the 20m ground plane radials shifts the min VSWR freq up to 15.5 MHz (why?)
  • KX3 ATU wont match a 20m ground plane on 40m
  • “Light” activations can be very successful!

Log

Date:07/Jul/2014 Summit:VK2/HU-093 (Mt Elliot) Call Used:VK2IO/P Points: 1 Bonus: 0

Time Call Band Mode Notes
02:41z VK2BJP/3 7MHz SSB R56 S55 7090 Russ VK3/VE-149
02:57z VK2JDL/P 7MHz SSB R54 S54 7095 Phil VK2/IL-007 Knights Hill
02:58z VK2DAG 7MHz SSB R59+30 S59+5 7100 Matt
03:02z VK3EK 7MHz SSB R56 S59 7100 Robbie
03:05z VK3FQSO 7MHz SSB R51 S53 7100 Amanda
03:30z VK5WG 14MHz SSB R56 S58 14290 Nev
03:38z VK3IL/P 7MHz SSB R53 S56 7095 David VK3/VE-006 Mt Hotham
04:01z VK6MB 14MHz SSB R31 S53 14289 Mike
04:02z VK2GE 14MHz SSB R59+10 S59+5 14289 Harry in Wyoming
04:15z VK6NU 14MHz SSB R55 S55 14289 John
04:43z VK3AFW 10MHz SSB R55 S56 10125 Ron
05:45z VK2JDL/P 7MHz SSB R54 S55 7090 Phil VK2/IL-015 (1W – low battery)

Thanks to all the activators and chasers!

Postscript

During the activation, Harry VK2GE popped up for a contact. He is a local not used to hearing such strong signals on 20m. I dropped down to 1W and was still over S9. It turns out that he resides very close to where I was staying and he invited me over. After finishing the activation I popped in for an eyeball contact. He showed me his setup with a 20m inverted Vee on an 8m squid pole. I gave him some information about SOTA – I’m sure it was his first SOTA contact. Where he lives is about 100m from the “quiet RF spot” I often drive to in order to work those weaker SOTA stations – what a coincidence! Anyway, watch out for Harry on 20m – a new potential chaser.