As a followup to the VK/NA S2S event on 13th January UTC, Kevin AC2KL proposed a simultaneous activation event for Japan and North American SOTA stations. The timing was set for Sunday morning 23rd April in Japan and Saturday night in NA. With almost two months notice operators had plenty of time to plan their activations.
Australia is in a very similar time zone to Japan so the prospect of joining in with the event and making some summit-to-summit contacts was more than enticing. It would mean an early start so I organised a stay nearby to an easy drive-up summit allowing maximum operating time.
Mt Elliot, VK2/HU-093 is the summit I activate every year for New Year and the most convenient for the event. Arriving at the summit just after dawn it was a cool, clear and sunny day. Rather than operating at the usual spot I scouted around for a better location further away from the roadside power lines. RF noise on the summit is generally pretty low, but it would be critical to minimise QRM in order to work the weaker DX stations. The actual activation zone is huge. Upon checking out the lookout platform there did not seem enough room to string the antenna, a 28m long ZS6BKW horizontal inverted-Vee. Another location was found further back where there was a table and a fence post for attaching the squid pole. This was about 20m further away from the power lines than the usual table.
As well as the ZS6BKW I wanted to use my 20m quarter wave ground plane because of its lower angle of radiation. Using a single 9m squid pole allows both antennas to be supported. An egg insulator near the top of the squid pole with a rope through it is used to raise and lower the ground plane. The squid pole was lashed to a fence post about 4m from the table. The ground plane was set up with four elevated radials but was not exactly vertical as I only had a 2m run of coax to go from the base to the table. The ZS6BKW was set up to be broadside to NA.
The station consisted of a KX3 transceiver, KL-405 linear amplifier and a two-way antennas switch. The KX3 has an in-built antenna matcher so can be used on any band. The linear would only be useable on 40m, 20m and 17m where there is a good impedance match with the antennas. Only 1-2 Watts input is needed to drive the linear to full output of 50-60 Watts. It also has a receive pre-amp that can be useful for very weak signals.
To make this activation more interesting, I decided to do my logging electronically rather than on a paper log. This would be done using VK Port-a-log on the mobile phone, an application that I use religiously for spotting but have thus far ignored the logging side. This would be the trial run for the rest of my week long activating trip.
Once the station was set up the spots on SOTAwatch were checked through looking especially for NA SOTA stations. There were no audible ones so the JA stations were investigated. First summit-to-summit contact was with Hayashi JA4RQO on 15m and reports of 519 sent and 319 received. With the antenna favouring NA there was no expectation of big signals from Japan. Next S2S was on 17m with Takeshi JS1UEH and reports of 419 sent and 339 received.
Moved up the 17m band and put out a spot and started calling CQ. Rather elated when I heard Peter WA7JTM call back from Summit Mountain W7A/CS-026 in Arizona with a 449 report and I gave him 319. The power output was only 12 Watts at this stage. That surprise call was followed up with two more NA calls – both home stations: Tom NQ7R in Arizona and Larry K0RS in Colorado. These stations were also S1 so I was amazed they could hear me.
At that point the calls dried up so I started scooting around the bands checking for other SOTA activators. I worked Toru JH0CJH on 15m with 319 sent and then Jun JI1IHV on 17m with 419 sent. Signals were certainly pretty consistent. Received reports were between S1 and S3. Then I put out a spot on 20m and started calling but there were no responses at all. I noticed that the noise level was slightly elevated on 20m compared to the higher bands so there was a chance someone heard me and called but was lost in the noise.
It was time to give 15m a try so I spotted there and started calling. First in the log (again) was Peter WA7JTM for another S2S on a different band. Thanks Peter! Signal reports on both bands were pretty similar. That was followed by two more S2S calls from Japan: Minoru JL1NIE and Gen JS1IFK. When the calls dried up again I started chasing.
John ZL1BYZ was easy to work for the first ZL S2S on 17m and then Katsu JP3DGT and JG1GPY. Then the first of the VK activators came on. It was Andrew VK1AD at Bobbara Mtn VK2/ST-044 about 300km away and I worked him on 40m SSB. He had actually been on the higher bands for nearly an hour but I only had a very, very weak copy on him on 17m SSB so it was not QSO quality.
It was 2330z or 9:30am local and I had 11 S2S in the log so put up a posting on the facebook SOTA group in the hope of attracting some more chasers. Before UTC rollover I chased Peter VK3PF on 40m at VK4/SE-045. At that point I remembered I had brought the linear so plugged it in to work Charlie NJ7V at Humboldt Mountain W7A/AW-040 for another Arizona S2S on 17m. Signals were hanging in there at S1. In the final minute of UTC Saturday worked Wade VK1FWBD at Mt Gibraltar VK2/IL-001 on 40m SSB.
Just after UTC rollover I worked Andrew VK1AD, Wade VK1FWBD and Peter VK3PF for second S2S contacts plus some chasers on 40m SSB. Then spotted back on 17m and worked some chasers as well as Yukio JF1NDT, then chased Steve JS6TMW on 15m for his first JA-VK S2S. Some more VK activators were on air so worked Tony VK3CAT an Allen VK3ARH at Big Hill VK3/VE-059. They were on a two day hiking tour through a few summits.
Spotted again on 15m and yielded two chasers: VK6NU and JA1VRY. The DX had dried up so it was time to get to 40m and work the locals. Spotting for CW yielded 5 chasers and a S2S from Ian VK5CZ at Tothill Range VK5/SE-010. Strangely there was an SSB station calling me on the CW frequency which turned out to be an S2S from Nick VK3ANL on Mt Torbreck VK3/VN-001. Sometimes we call using CW within the SSB passband so this was quite unusual.
CW contacts had dried up so I spotted on 40m SSB and worked 12 chasers. It was packup time and just as I started there was a spot from Warren ZL2AJ at Hikurangi ZL1/MW-105 on 20m SSB. His signal was weak so I used the linear and he was the last contact and S2S for the day.
It was certainly a very successful activation with more DX S2S than I could have dreamed of. There were 25 S2S contacts including 3 NA, 9 JA, 2 ZL and 11 VK. The best band for DX was 17m with 15m coming second. 20m was pretty useless. I did compare the 20m ground plane with the ZS6BKW and found that in some cases the ground plane yielded stronger received signals. A more useful test would have been if I had one for the 17m band so it could be worth adding links into the ground plane to make it multi-band. The logging went pretty smoothly once I became familiar with a few idiocyncracies. I found I could click on a spot and have the information appear in the logging window which saved having to type in callsigns and summit references. All 55 contacts were successfully recorded and only minor editing was needed after the event. This would bode well for the rest of the trip. Time on summit was just under 5 hours.
Thank you to all the other activators, the chasers and Kevin AC2KL for initiating the event. I hope to participate in another one just like it!