Mt Royal NP for Field Day and SOTA 19-20 Mar 2016

A triple-header for the weekend with the John Moyle Memorial Field Day contest, WWFF at Mt Royal National Park VKFF-0362 and SOTA from two summits within the park.

VK2/HU-024 810m 4pts QF57PS in Mt Royal NP VKFF-0362

Headed first to the VK2/HU-024 summit which is just outside the southern edge of the park by a matter of metres. The activation zone to the NE is well within the park and happens to lie along Mt Royal Rd and conveniently there is a cleared space to the side of the road suitable for camping and operating from. Note that not all maps show the correct location of the park boundary or of Mt Royal Rd near the summit. SIX maps and the OzTopo GPS map V7 are OK. I activated from (-32.24473,151.28366) marked on the map with a red “X”. The park boundary and the location of the summit are also shown. There would be an elevation difference of a few metres at most between the summit and the activated location.160319VK2HU-024map

The John Moyle is a 24 hour contest starting at 0100z (noon). I arrived at about 12:45pm and walked around the area with my GPS to find the summit and check for the exact park boundary. Once confirmed I started setting up. Weather was warm with clear blue skies and no wind so a perfect day to be out and activating. A 3m metal pole at the side of the road provided a perfect mount for lashing my squid pole. I was able to raise up the base of my squid pole by 1.5m to increase the effective height of the antenna. First contact in the log was at 1:12pm, a S2S with Tony VK1VIC at Mt Ginini. Normally I use a paper log but for contests I just about always use a computer, and so it was for this contest. Well over an hour was spent working through the stations on 40m SSB and then there was a spell on CW. 40 minutes there netted 9 contacts so the pace was leisurely. I used my KX3 and had it wound up to the full 15W output. Antenna was the usual ZS6BKW inverted-Vee with the apex at nearly 10m off the ground and oriented NW-SE. To obtain this orientation, the antenna crossed the road, but with the lowest point being at about 8m it wasn’t going to be a traffic hazard!

A new three hour block had started so I could rework stations again so back to 40m SSB starting out with 3 S2S contacts. Then hunting and pecking through all the stations calling CQ for half an hour then started calling on my own frequency. The band was pretty crowded but there were still slots available. This kept me busy for another half an hour before it was time to give 20m a go. It was pretty quiet on there with only 2 stations calling from VK6. Maybe I had missed all the action. So back to 40m with the odd listen on 80m. A car full of locals stopped for a chat and find out what I was up to. The road does not go through anywhere so there was less than one car per hour going past. I mentioned my intention to scale Mt Royal and was warned about the presence of tiger snakes.

Nearing 7pm I decided to have a break from contesting and set up the tent. This was pitched next to the metal pole as the amount of free antenna feedline was limited. My operating chair was moved inside the tent and used as an operating table. After a 40 minute break I was making contacts again – still on 40m SSB. After less than 15 minutes I switched to 80m SSB where there was a lot more action. I was able to work stations in VK1, VK2, VK3 and VK4 mainly by calling CQ.

160319VK2HU-024ant

Antenna at VK2/HU-024

Operating from inside the tent was very nice as it kept off the cool breeze, and it really did cool down quite a lot after sunset. The evening was spent operating on 80m and 40m. There was a dearth of stations on CW, just weak rapid fire stations operating in another contest. I was surprised at the lack of activity. I was keen to make a 6m contact as there had been no response to earlier calls. I made a contact with the Blue Mountains radio club station VK2HZ on 80m and asked them to try 6m. They said their 6m operators were in bed – it was only 10:15pm. Still, they were happy to try for a contact on their wire antenna. Unfortunately it was a no-go as they were only just audible to me and I had a fraction of their transmitter power. it would have to be left until morning.

160319VK2HU-024night

Night time shack at VK2/HU-024

There were still plenty of stations about on 80m and a few on 40m so I kept going. Conscious of my plans for Sunday I decided to turn in at 12:45am when things became a bit quiet on the bands. It was now just CQ callers that I had worked before so a good time to cut it short. I would need all my strength and alertness for Mt Royal!

In the morning I awoke to find it already quite light. My beanie had slipped over my eyes and kept things dark and the lack of light had allowed me to sleep more than expected. It was after 7am and weather was still nice, though overcast and a little crisp. I was back on the radio at 7:45am for a short stint until 8:30am. I was able to find VK2HZ again on 80m and arrange for a 6m contact with their VHF team. This time it was successful over a distance of 183km as they were using a beam rather than a wire antenna. I also was able to just hear a station in Bathurst, but they weren’t able to hear me. The other contacts I made in the morning were on 40m and I found 80m full of ragchewers and nets.

Mt Royal VK2/HU-007 1174m 6pts QF57PT in Mt Royal NP VKFF-0362

Packing up the camp site, shack and antenna occupied an hour and then it was off to the next summit. Driving up Mt Royal road one passes through the Youngville campground area after 5km at (-32.1995,151.3094). It would make a good base if one wanted to stay a few days and operate from the park. Continuing on 3km one reaches a Y intersection with a picnic area directly ahead at (-32.1823,151.3156). At 850m elevation this is the starting point for the walk to Mt Royal VK2/HU-007. A single sheltered picnic table and a park sign marks this location.

The walk starts immediately behind the picnic table and follows the ridge line all the way to the top. There is not just one clearly defined track but a series of parallel tracks that weave in and out from each other. The gradient is steep most of the way, around 2 in 5 so it is not for the faint hearted or infirm. The elevation is 320m over 2km so its a good idea to take breaks along the way. I did not need to climb very far before entering low cloud though the visibility was still fine for following the trail. There are various rock piles along the way providing reassurance that you’re on the right track. Just after half way up there is a rocky outcrop and while it would appear attractive to skirt around it, the best way is to scramble up over it. Further up after an open area one comes to a wall of foliage with seemingly no way to get through. There is a track on the right side to duck and weave around the trees which seemed to be the best approach. I only discovered this on the way back!

The rest of the way up has quite a dense wooden canopy with some sections having very little headroom. Near the top there is a faux summit that one can skirt around to the left. One must keep going past here another few hundred metres to reach the destination. The summit holds a trig station with Royal stamped in the vane and is covered with tall spindly trees. The tracks around the trig point are quite well trodden probably due to the presence of a geocache nearby. On the trig point cairn there is a log book with a large rock sitting on it providing little in the way of disguise.

160320VK2HU-007station

Station at Mt Royal VK2/HU-007

The tree cover near the trig point is quite low so rather than set up on the trig point itself, I set up my squid pole attached to a tree nearby. The antenna wire was woven around some trees and branches and with the dropoff the ends of the antenna were only about 2m off the ground. The usual ZS6BKW was used on the 8m squid pole with the antenna apex at about 7m off the deck. It had taken 1.5 hours to reach the summit and set up so there was still half an hour left until the close of the John Moyle contest at 12 noon. Again I concentrated on 40m SSB and in the time available I was able to snag 8 more contacts. At that point the computer log was closed off and I reverted to the paper log.

At contest end I was able to start spotting on SOTAwatch and the first was for 40m CW. Conditions were certainly poor as there were only 2 contacts. After 3 summit-to-summits on SSB I went to 30m CW and made 2 more contacts, one of those being a S2S with Ron VK3AFW. Then I went through 20m CW with no contacts then chased JL1NIE unsuccessfully on 15m CW. On 20m SSB I did make four contacts. There was a successful S2S with JF1NDT/1 on 12m CW then on 15m SSB one contact with a JA and nothing on 30m SSB. Finally I ended up on 40m SSB for a bunch of contacts including two CW contacts on 7090, one a S2S with Tony VK3CAT.

160320VK2HU-007shack

Shack at Mt Royal with PC for contest logging

Once the callers ran out I stayed around for a bit on the summit before packing up and departing about 3pm. Mobile coverage on the summit was pretty good on the Telstra network though there were dropouts. For example, I missed a spot from VK2QR by 15 mins and so did not get the S2S. The signal was up to 3 bars on the phone if positioned in a certain spot, but at other times there was no data. Sitting it just off the ground the signal was coming and going.

160320VK2HU-007viewW

View looking west just down from the Mt Royal summit

The return journey was a lot quicker than the climb as the better tracks to take were more obvious and there was a lot less huffing and puffing. I did not need to descend very far before the cloud cleared allowing some visibility of the valleys below. It would certainly be a spectacular spot on a clear day.

Highlights

  • 2 SOTA summits and 1 park qualified
  • 242 contacts including 20 CW contacts
  • 21 park-to-park contacts
  • 15 summit-to-summit contacts
  • no tiger snakes!

 

Field Day and SOTA on Mt Lambie 21/3/2015

Mt Lambie QF46xm86 VK2/CT-007 1290m 8pts

Camping at Mt Lambie trig point

Camping at Mt Lambie trig point

The John Moyle Memorial Field Day contest presents a golden opportunity to operate portable and this year I returned to Mt Lambie for a simultaneous SOTA activation. Last year’s attempt had been scuppered by lightning storms. Driving the 2 hours west from Sydney to the summit with it raining all the way didn’t bode well, but there was no plan B.

Upon arrival, it was windy but there was only a light drizzle, and it stopped shortly afterwards. Thinking this might be the only dry window, I quickly installed my tent next to the trig point and then set up my HF antenna using the trig point marker to support the squid pole. The antenna is a ZS6BKW and was oriented NW-SE but there was nothing convenient to attach the antenna ends to so I just plonked the wire winders on the ground with a rock on top. There were certainly plenty of rocks on the top and underneath the ground and these had made it hard to drive in the tent pegs earlier. With the strong wind there was some concern that the tent would blow away so all the paraphernalia for the activation was placed in the tent early on.

Setup

The strong wind inspired use of my DX-wire travel mast that had not thus far been used since obtained last year from SOTAbeams at the UK National Hamfest. You could say I was saving it for a rainy day! The mast extends to 10m and collapses down to only 67cm so will fit inside luggage. It seemed as though it would be sturdier than my regular mast plus it does not have sections broken off at the top so the antenna can be raised higher.

Having set off late and driven slowly in the rain, stopped on the way for a SOTA contact with VK7PAK and spent extra time securing the station on the summit, my kick-off time was much later than alerted on SOTAwatch. It was nearer 5pm than 3pm so the contest was well underway (it starts at 12pm). There are 6 hour and 24 hour sections and my plan was to do a 6 hour stint. The contest is also divided into 3 hour slots. You can rework each station on the same band and mode in each of the 3 hour slots. With 1 hour to the end of a slot, I was keen to get on and make some contacts. There was no time to set up my 2m beam and the strong wind would make it difficult anyway.

VOX

Dry shack on the summit - luxury!

Dry shack on the summit – luxury!

One of the last things I tossed into the kit bag was a headset with microphone. It had never been tried with my rig before, an Elecraft KX3. Gingerly plugging it in I found the headphone worked fine. Then the microphone and it also seemed to work. It was on a stalk so had to be positioned carefully. I adjusted the VOX gain and found a spot where breathing wouldn’t trigger the VOX, then adjusted the VOX hold time. There was no need for anti-VOX so that was set to zero. It worked very well, but at the start was a little unnerving. I’m used to pressing a button to transmit and didn’t know what to do with my spare hand. This soon passed once I started to use the computer to do the logging. Two hands was a definite bonus and I used VOX for the rest of the contest. Its the little things that make a big difference sometimes.

Contesting

I started on 40m SSB and did a half hour of hunt and peck style – there were plenty of contest stations active and I wanted them in the log. There was still half an hour before the end of the block so I switched to CW and started calling on 7032. Fairly shortly afterwards my call was picked up by the RBNgate run by Andrew VK3JBL. This attracted a stream of regular SOTA chasers and then some contesters followed. It was 0700z and the start of a new 3 hour block so back to SSB.

0700z block

Another session of hunt and peck on 40m SSB and after half an hour onto 20m SSB. There did not seem to be much activity on 20 with only 3 logged. Back to 40m SSB again. Then a spot came up for Andrew VK1DA on 20m CW at Mt Ginini. He was a good signal despite being in the skip zone. We had earlier missed a contact opportunity on 40m SSB being unable to find a clear frequency. Afterwards returned to 40m SSB and continued to hunt and peck. I found that some stations were having difficulty copying but I was only using 10W.

1000z block

Trig point label

Trig point label

After another hour I went to 40m CW and spotted myself, but only one contact came from it. I kept calling through the start of the 1000z block but there were no more responses. My CQ call was eventually picked up by VK3JBL’s RBNgate so I was spotted again. Looked like all the CW ops had gone to other bands or were asleep.

I returned to 40m SSB briefly and then started calling on 6m SSB then spotting myself. I worked just one contest station nearby on 6m and there were no SOTA chasers after the spot went out despite lots of calling. I was hoping to catch Andrew VK1DA, but he was having a ball working DX on the higher bands.

After about 5 hours the battery in my logging laptop was getting low. The computer’s 12V power adapter was found in the car and hooked up to a 7.2Ah SLA battery using a set of clip leads onto the cigarette lighter plug. This worked very well and supplied plenty of juice to recharge the internal battery.

Weak sigs

It was down to 80m to look for fresh activity, but there were mainly rag chewers. Called CQ on CW there and also on SSB but got no response so went back to 40m SSB. The rate at which contacts were being made was slow. Sometimes I would respond to a call and not be heard, for example when calling a VK6. other times I would have to repeat my report several times. I started to suspect there was a problem.

Looking out at the squid pole it was still sitting up there proud and strong. The visibility was poor amongst the low cloud so I could only see the bottom half of it from the tent. Unplugged the antenna from the rig and put on the antenna analyser. It was giving a VSWR dip not at 7.1 MHz but at 6.55 MHz. There had to be a problem.

Repair

Failed join in the DX-wire

Failed join in the DX-wire

Emerging from the tent with a headtorch I was surprised to find the antenna lying on the ground. I don’t know how long it had been there – probably a couple of hours. Tracing along the radiator I found that near one end there was a break in the wire. The end section anchored to the ground couldn’t be found in the dark. Another string was obtained and tied on to the wire and a new anchor point used. In the morning it was found the wire had broken at a join 40cm from the end. With one side of the antenna loose and the squid pole waving around like mad in the wind, there was enough movement to allow the centre part of the antenna to fly off the pole even though it would have started 2m down the pole or more. The wind had just been too much!

It had taken 40 mins to fix the antenna and there was less than 10 mins left of the 6 hours of contesting. I called CQ and had time to work one more station before QRT. Things were getting quiet as it was nearing 11pm.

SOTAing

With the contest over for me I could focus on SOTA contacts. I spotted on 20m CW and had one call. Then spotted on 80m CW and had no callers. Then 20m SSB but there were no callers there either. In between times I was hunting for any SOTA stations that were spotted, but there was no propagation to EU and after a couple of hours I gave up.

In the morning the weather was pretty similar – windy and cloudy. I’d stayed up pretty late so slept through the EU short path window. At 8am I put up a spot for 80m SSB while there would still be some propagation. I was happy to log 3 chasers, my first SOTA contacts on this band.

Closedown

Camping near the towers

Camping near the towers shrouded by cloud

The weather wasn’t great, but I had planned to do some more summits in the area so it was time to close down. This was carefully orchestrated so I could leave the station available for as long as possible. I knew Julie VK3FOWL was going to do an activation and didn’t want to miss out on S2S points. When the spot did come up I had already put everything in the car except for the antenna. The radio was retrieved and quickly set up for that last contact from the summit on 40m SSB. Thanks, Julie.

Equipment

Elecraft KX3 @ 10W powered by 4200 mAh LiFePO4 battery, ZS6BKW antenna at 8m on 10m travel mast. Laptop for logging using VKCL v3.11.

Results

All up there were 70 contacts (11 CW) all qualifying for SOTA. 3 S2S and 2 National Parks were worked.

For the JMMFD there were 62 contacts for a score of 147 pts. 57 x 40m, 4 x 20m, 1 x 6m so I am entered into the all-band, all-mode category with all contacts QRP. My score slightly improved on last year but no surprise there as I had operated from my car most of the time. i expect my score this time would have been a lot better if my antenna had actually been off the ground!

The computer used for logging was new to me for a SOTA activation. Also having a shelter on a hill was new and it was a lot more comfortable than being out in the open. Essential for night time activations. Use of VOX was also new for me in a contest and very useful. I will consider using it on regular SOTA activations.

Thanks to all the chasers and contesters for all the contacts. – it was a great outing!

SOTA Log (contest log is a subset)

Date:21/Mar/2015 Summit:VK2/CT-007 (Mount Lambie) Call Used:VK2IO/P Points: 8 Bonus: 0

Time Call Band Mode Notes
05:59z VK2SF/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7100 Andrew in Nattai NP VKFF-383
06:03z VK2PR 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7125
06:04z VK2GZ/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7135
06:05z VK2BV/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7138
06:09z VK2PWR 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7150
06:10z VK5WIA/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7141
06:12z VK3YSP/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7160 Joe
06:13z VK3ATL/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7170 Jenny
06:19z VK3FMHY 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7155
06:24z VK5PAS/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7147 Paul in Coorong NP VKFF-115
06:27z VK2TG/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7080
06:28z VK5SR/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7075
06:29z VK3CNE/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7087
06:31z VK3ER/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7090
06:39z VK2GAZ 7MHz CW R599 S599 7032 Garry
06:41z VK3PF 7MHz CW R599 S599 7032 Peter
06:44z VK3HRA 7MHz CW R597 S599 7032 Allen
06:47z VK2AOH 7MHz CW R599 S599 7032 Nick
06:50z VK1WJ/2 7MHz CW R579 S599 7032
06:51z VK2BJT/P 7MHz CW R599 S599 7032
06:54z VK5LJ 7MHz CW R599 S599 7032
06:57z VK3CAT/P 7MHz CW R599 S599 7032 Tony
07:09z VK5SR/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7075
07:12z VK2TG/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7080 Dave
07:13z VK2LE/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7086
07:15z VK3CMZ/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7090
07:20z VK2IUW 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7103
07:21z VK2PR 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7110
07:22z VK4QD/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7115.5
07:24z VK2SF/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7120
07:26z VK2PWR 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7150
07:29z VK5WIA/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7142 Nigel
07:29z VK5NIG/P 7MHz SSB R57 S57 7142 Nigel
07:31z VK3IL/P 7MHz SSB R55 S57 7180 David VK3/VE-030
07:35z VK3ATL/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7170 Jenny
07:36z VK2QN 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7155
07:39z VK4LAT/P 14MHz SSB R59 S59 14164
07:49z VK6WI/P 14MHz SSB R59 S59 14170
07:51z VK5RX/P 14MHz SSB R59 S59 14179
07:54z VK3ER/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7060
07:59z VK1AI/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7072 Greg
08:23z VK1DA/P 14MHz CW R549 S599 14062 Andrew VK1/AC-008
08:37z VK3FOWL/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7090 Julie
08:38z VK3PF 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7085 Peter
08:40z VK5PAS/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7110 Paul
08:44z VK3PCW/P 7MHz SSB R51 S59 7100
08:45z VK2FHRK 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7105
08:51z VK3CNE/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7120
08:55z VK2HZ 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7127
08:58z VK2AFY 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7134 Doug
09:06z VK5RN/P 7MHz SSB R58 S59 7155
09:17z VK1MT/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7095 Al
09:19z VK3SIM 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7090
09:29z VK2WG/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7080
09:47z VK2ONZ 7MHz CW R539 S599 7030
10:12z VK4IZ/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7090
10:18z VK2TG/P 50MHz SSB R59 S59 50150 QF46PO
10:38z VK3ANR/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7070
10:46z VK3FOWL/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7095 Julie
10:48z VK5FO/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7100 Bob
10:50z VK2BBQ/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7105 Ken
10:57z VK5WIA/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7143
11:01z VK5KDK/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7135
11:11z VK4QD/P 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7108
11:57z VK3UX 7MHz SSB R59 S59 7090
12:07z K4MF 14MHz CW R559 S559 14062
21:07z VK1DI 3.5MHz SSB R58 S59 3645 Ian
21:11z VK3YSP/P 3.5MHz SSB R57 S59 3645 Joe
21:13z VK3FOWL/P 3.5MHz SSB R59 S59 3645 Julie
22:25z VK3FOWL/P 7MHz SSB R55 S59 7155 Julie VK3/VC-002