Bulgo Hill VK2/IL-017 Royal National Park VKFF-435 293m 1pt
Attending CeBIT followed by a visit to a computer shop in southern Sydney put me within striking range of Bulgo Hill VK2/IL-017. This presented the ideal opportunity for a SOTA activation. Rod VK2TWR and Russ VK2BJP were out and about activating summits, but my schedule for the day would mean they were likely to finish well before I made it to the start. This turned out to be the case. Incidentally, at CeBIT there was an Icom stand; no ham gear but I did meet a young Japanese engineer Hiro, VK3EHG/JM3EHG who also enjoys operating on mountains.
In the days leading up to the activation I had been testing a new Android mobile phone application called KX3 Companion. This app allows the KX3 to operate digital modes PSK31 and RTTY as well as CW. Being mainly interested in PSK31 I had made 2 DX contacts using the app on 20m and familiarised myself with its operation. The app is still at alpha quality and there have been some frustrations with it, but for the most part it does the right thing. There have been some exchanges with Andrea IU4APC, the author and he responds quickly with suggestions. The main issues have been related to switching on after a screen timeout and switching the display between portrait and landscape mode. Also, the odd synchronisation issue with the KX3.
On the app I set up macros for some of the regular information that needs to be sent. One can enter the destination callsign and have that included in prepared text which is very useful. There are 4 fields that can be customised in this way so it can save a lot of typing, which isn’t exactly fast on a mobile phone “keyboard”.
The summit is located 30km south of Sydney in the Royal National Park (VKFF-435). The quicker access from Sydney is via Waterfall on the Princes Hwy, however the scenic drive through the Park is not much longer. The APRS track on the map shows the drive in. There are gates on the entry just off Sir Bertram Stevens Drive. Immediately turning right onto Garawarra Farm Rd a dirt track leads to the Garawarra Farm carpark and then a fire trail provides access to the summit along the Coast Walk. The walking distance is 1.5km with a gentle grade. The summit is on the trail although the SOTA reference seems to be off by about 100m down to the west. The black triangle on the APRS map shows the location of the summit.
APRS map of Bulgo Hill
Start of the access trail – the track on the right towards Lilyvale leads to the summit
The goal for this activation was to work PSK31 and SSB. It took longer than usual to set up on the fire trail because there were no convenient stumps to lash the squid pole to. Away from the fire trail the vegetation was too dense. I ended up deploying the SOTAbeams guying kit that had been reworked to suit a longer squid pole. It was the first time I’d used this in the field and it went together well with the 8m squid pole even though I had only tried it with the 10m pole. The guying ring ended up quite low down on the pole because of its limited adjustment range so the guying points were quite far apart.
Setting up on the summit
I started out on 7.035 MHz in PSK31 at around 1620 local time and had good mobile coverage so spotting was no problem. There were three responses received to my CQ calls over about 10 minutes but they did not decode at all. It seemed as though the other station was using a different mode, perhaps RTTY. Adjusting RIT and receive filter bandwidth did not improve things. After continuing for some time I switched to 14.071 MHz. It was quite busy with DX coming through. Shortly after re-spotting for 20m I had to shift up 100 Hz from my spot because a DX station came on. I continued to call and could not raise any response. After 5 minutes I realised that the remaining light was limited so it was time to switch to SSB rather than re-spot on the PSK31 frequency.
The antenna was set for 20m so I moved up the band and spotted there. The antenna had been set up broadside to Europe but I normally use the 10m pole when chasing DX. It didn’t take long before Mike G6TUH came back. At last – a contact! DX too! Shortly after that along came John VK6NU. The light was fading faster now and I still had not qualified the summit. Switching to 40m SSB there were 7 more contacts in quick succession and by then it was time to close. Ron VK3AFW offered to give PSK31 a try but there was not enough light left by then to be able to continue. I still had to pack up and walk back.
Well the summit was qualified which is always pleasing, and there was one EU contact on SSB. Unfortunately, no PSK31 contacts even though propagation was good. As far as I can tell there was only one PSK31 chaser which can be explained by the mid-week activation during business hours. If there are any chasers active on PSK31 it should be possible to work them on 20m long path as there were certainly stations being decoded. I may have had more luck starting on 20m rather than spending a lot of time on 40m.
Thanks to the following chasers and also those that I didn’t log on PSK31.
Date:07/May/2014 Summit:VK2/IL-017 (Bulgo Hill) Call Used:VK2IO/P Points: 1 Bonus: 0
||R31 S56 14285 Mike
||R51 S56 14285 John
||R59 S57 7090 Andrew
||R59+ S59+20 7090 Adam
||R59 S59+10 7090 John
||R57 S59+10 7090 Erwin
||R55 S59 7090 Peter
||R57 S59+20 7090 Ron
||R56 S58 7090 Tony
KX3 transceiver @ 10W output, linked inverted V dipole 7m high coax fed with common mode choke, Android phone running KX3 Companion, USB host mode adaptor and USB serial cable for the KX3.
- First PSK31 activation
- First use of KX3 Companion on a summit
- First use of guying kit
- First summit not requiring walking out of the activation zone