VK3/VS-004 & VKFF-0760

Mount Langi Ghrian

I’ve spent very little time out and about this year, so time to start working on doing a bit more. Had thought about activating Mt Beckworth, but there was an alert for that site already, so instead chose to come back here. I really like this site. It’s a decent walk and climb to the top, but it’s manageable. Once on top it’s a great view, and there’s a bit of an open, reasonably flat space to set up and operate from.

Peak in the Distance

Mt Langi Ghiran from the picnic and camp area.

It was cold and windy on the day, but the sun was out, so if you could get out of the wind it wasn’t too bad.

On top I set up the linked dipole, more of an inverted V than usual. It was pretty quiet on the bands and only managed 6 contacts over the space of about 45 minutes.

By then I was staring to get cold, so packed up and made my way back down. At one point I slipped a little, and the base of the squid pole broke and the end cap popped off. ūüė¶

Failed pole base

Broken squid pole base

Fortunately I was able to find all the bits for both ends and have glued the base back together. I think it’ll give me a bit more service yet. I also painted the end cap bright orange, so it should be a bit easier to find when I drop it.

Back near the car I had another go at making a few park contacts, only to find one of the short coax cables was shorted. Thank goodness that happened near the car and not on the peak!

So then I gave up and headed home.

Wasn’t a bad day out. I plan to get out a lot more as the weather improves later in the year.

 

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VK3/VS-008, Mt Cole

If you’re into SOTA you’ll be well aware that the SOTA logs use UTC time. As a chaser, you can get points for contacting a summit once a day, which means that on the east coast of Australia in summertime, when we have daylight savings, you can contact a summit at 10:59am local time, and again at 11:01am, which is the next day when using UTC time, and get points for both contacts.

As an activator, you can only activate a summit once a year, so the date roll over doesn’t help. With the once a year exception of New Years Day, where the UTC roll over is from one year to the next.

This new year I thought I should make the most of the opportunity and head out. After looking at a few peaks, I chose to have a go at Mount Cole. I’d not been up there before and was aware that it wasn’t a drive up. Sadly I only had my little old Astra, where I really needed the 4wd Subaru.

Alt text

Mount Cole from Raglan

Access is best via Mt Cole Rd, then there’s good quality unnamed track that runs up to the intersection of Frees Point Rd and Ditchfield Rd. The sensible thing in a 2wd to do is park here and walk up Frees Point Rd, and then round the mount on the Mount Cole Track. The last 50m or so will be through the bush.

I actually drove the Astra up and had no real issue. I parked where the track seemed to be at it’s peak, and tried to walk up the last 300m through the ferns. But they were quickly over my head, so went back to the track and walked around the mount to a point where the track was about 50m from the peak.

The summit has a lot of fern coverage and some rocky outcrops. I set up the EFHW after a bit of mucking around in the ferns, sat on one of the rocky outcrops, and started to spin the dial. Conditions proved to be kind and LOTS of activators were out and making the most of the good weather and the annual rollover.

I used my Christmas present, a 4200mAh zippy LiFe, which worked really well. After two and half hours of work the voltage had dropped by only 0.2v.

I managed 22 QSO’s, almost all by replying to other stations. Of the 22, 20 were summit to summit contacts. There were so many activators that at one point I heard a station ask for the ‘summit to summit’ call to come back, I reckon there were 15 stations that responded.¬† Spinning the dial seemed to find a station calling about every 5kHz, between 7.080 and 7.160


I tried to get out via Frees Point Rd, but that was a disaster, and a story for another entry.

Battery Upgrade

It’s finally time for a battery upgrade. When I first started with my little FT-817 I made use of a small 4.2 Amp Hour VRLA, what’s more commonly known as a Sealed Lead Acid Battery, or SLAB. The battery, an SH4.5-12, was given to me by my father in-law, who I think got it at a garage sale, before I even had the radio. Looking at the date code stamped in the base it was made in April 2012, so it must have been newer than I thought when I got it.

It finally died, which forced me to upgrade. After some research I chose to go with an LiFe battery. LiFe at full charge is 3.6v / cell, or 14.4v for 4 Series Cells, which is within the voltage range of the FT-817. The alternative was LiPo. But LiPo have a fully charged cell voltage of 4.2v, or 16.8v for 4 Series Cells, which is more than the FT-817 is rated for. I also saw multiple people say that the LiFe is easier to manage, so safer than LiPo. Though care still needs to be taken with charge and discharge. Safer doesn’t mean risk free.

I selected a Zippy 4200 from HobbyKing. It’s about the same power rating as the SLAB, but a full kilo lighter. I paid $59, and today I see they are selling for $10 less. ūüė¶ Note that HobbyKing’s AU prices are all listed ex GST, which can be a trap when you get to the checkout stage.

The new battery is about the same power rating as the older one, but a full kilo lighter. First use was New Years day. I ran the radio for about three hours, admittedly with alot more RX than TX, and only dropped about 0.2V, so lots of run time left still when I packed up.

Zippy 4200

Zippy 4200 LiFe Battery

An updated battery needs a proper charging system. I chose the imax B6AC v2. It has specific LiFe mode and can be powered via AC or DC input. It also seems to do lots of other stuff, which I’m still to work through.

IMAX B6AC v2

IMAX B6AC v2

I also purchased Turnigy Watt and Power meter to help keep an eye on the minimum voltages. There’s much smaller units that only show voltage, or an alarm. I might add one of those into the next order. I think if I was being really weight conscious I’d just use the volt meter in the radio.

Turnigy Watt Meter

Turnigy Watt Meter

The battery came with 5.5mm bullet connectors. The most common connector used on radios seems to the the 30amp Anderson connector. It’s a conversion I still have to make, so for now all the connectors are bullets, as that was cheap and easy.

If I’m in a park and don’t have to carry the gear any distance, I use a 20Ah AGM battery. I originally bought it for a mower. It was a lot bigger than the mower really needed, but I never had any problems getting it started. ūüôā The mower was on its last legs and since died, leaving the battery free for radio. At 5Kg, it’s too heavy for much of a walk. It’s got enough grunt to last at least a day in the field, even with a heavy TX cycle.

NP20-12 AGM

20Ah, 12V, AGM Battery

Now I just need to get out there an use them.

VKFF-1669 – Vernon Conservation Park

Up in Hervey Bay for a couple of weeks leave so I had to activate at least one park or peak. Accessible peaks seemed rather few and far between, but there’s lots of parks. The closest was¬†Vernon Conservation Park, only 18Km from where I was staying. So on Saturday afternoon, 2nd December 2017, I headed out and gave it a go.

I initially tried accessing the park from Torbanlea Pialba Rd. In dry weather there are tracks that a 2wd could easily navigate. But in wet weather with water lying on the ground it looked like a recipe for disaster. After a bit of driving around I found a good track into the park at Newbauers Rd. That took me to a gate with limited access. So left the car and walked in until I found a pleasant spot to set up the dipole.

I started out on 40m and managed two park to parks, first with Mark, VK4SMA, in VKFF-1676 and then with Gerrard, VK2GNJ, VKFF-1168. After 4 contacts the responses dried up. Then a couple of operators started a rag chew on the frequency I was using, so decided to give 20m a go.

20m was working well for me at least. Managed 11 contacts with VK2, 3, 5, 6 and 7. After an hour and a half the skies started going dark and it seemed like a good idea to pack up and head back.

VKFF-1669

Vernon Conservation Park Operating Position

I think this is my first activation outside VK3, and generally went very well.

Thanks very much to Mark, VK4SMA, who assisted greatly with the log uploads.

Penalties for offenders

Keep yourself safe

 

 

Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award – 2017

The aim of the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award is to encourage and recognise portable operation in Victoria’s 45 National Parks, and the logging of contacts with those in the parks. This year it was on the weekend of 10th through the 13th of November and with a bit of nice weather coming up it looked like a good chance to get out and about. I looked at heading up to Wyperfield and the Little Desert, but others had plans to head that way and it seemed a better idea to aim for parks that nobody else was planning on. So with that in mind I headed to the states South West corner.

First up on Saturday morning was Budji Bim, formally Mt Eccles. Found a spot off the side of a 4WD track and set up the EFHW. Could hear a few stations busy calling, and got good reports from the few contacts I made, but was very slow going, so after a grand total of 6 QSO’s over the space of a couple of hours I decided to move onto Mount Richmond.

I passed one car on the track to the top of Mount Richmond, and that was the only one I saw the entire time I was there. Set the squid pole up at one of the picnic tables and tried the dipole. A couple of hours rewarded me with only 5 contacts. I wasn’t helped by not being able to spot myself, an issue which I sorted a few weeks later.

The lack of contacts was particularly frustrating because I could hear some other park activators who seemed to be being kept busy with chasers. Decided to give it away here and find the campsite in the Lower Glenelg NP where I had booked a site for Saturday night.

It took a bit of driving to get there, as the campsite I’d booked into turned out to be on the other side of the river from where I arrived. I’d chosen the site because it didn’t seem to have anyone else booked in, and nobody else turned up the whole time I was there.

Setup camp and then setup the EFHW and managed a contact with VK7JON and VK7FOLK down in VKFF-1153, who coincidentally had been my last contacts at Mount Richmond.

Sunday I decided to set up the dipole again, and had much better luck than Saturday, managing a further 12 contacts.

From there I headed to Cobboboonee National Park. This is a fairly new park and quite large. I was conscious of time, so once I hit the edge of the park I found an old logging track and drove 100m off the road. Setup the dipole and started calling, managing 16 contacts over the space of an hour. Then the responses dried up, so called it a day and started the drive home.

Overall I enjoyed the weekend. I’d not been camping for a long time, so it was good to get back out there. I had issues with the EFHW which still need attention. I’m sure that not being able to spot myself was a detractor. With so many activators I wonder if some of the hunters weren’t searching the bands as much as they otherwise might have. I also only worked 40m, I could have tried 20m. Next time I need to be setup for more bands, and it might help to have a little more power than 5w.

It was a fun weekend. I wonder if I could do the four days next year?

If you’re interested in participating in the event then it’s worth signing up to the KRMNPA yahoo group.

VK3/VN-015 & VK3/VU-002

VK3/VU-002 (Mt Wombat)

Sunday 9th July, 2017

Sunday was the last day of my journey from Sydney to home, this time all in VK3 land. Decided to aim for two easier summits, using the activation count as a guide. First stop was Mount Wombat. ¬†With multiple commercial towers atop, this has a good road all the way to the top. The weather was pretty ordinary seeing me sitting in fog the whole time I was there. I’ve read that the view from here is spectacular, but I saw none of it.

 

Set up the end fed half wave with the far end tied up to a new but unused commercial tower. Sat in the lee of the fire tower to get some protection from the breeze. Managed 6 QSO’s over the space of about 30 minutes. Local contacts being much harder than distant ones. I suspect that the ordinary weather had put most others off being out and about.

Needing to actually get home by the end of the day, packed up after contacts thinned out and headed to Mt Hickey.

VK3/VN-015 (Mt Hickey)

Mt Hickey is another summit with towers on top, and therefore a good road. But I had a little bit of time, so decided to park at the bottom of Mountain Track and walk the 1.5Km up to the peak. Once on top I again used the EFHW and managed 7 QSO’s over the next 30 minutes.

Mountain Track

Mountain Track

After 30 minutes the contacts dropped off, and I still needed to complete the drive home, so packed up and made my way back down the track, passing a group of 4WD’s who were surprised to see a walker appear out of the mist.

 

Both summits were bitterly cold and cloaked in mist. Happily I had dressed appropriately, with multiple layers of clothing. The wind and rain held off while I was there too, which made a big difference.

Tallarook State Forest

Tallarook State Forest

VK2/ST-042 – Mount Bowning

Saturday 8th July, 2017

My last summit in VK2 land was VK2/ST-042, Mount Bowning. This summit is on private land, so I put in a call to the owner on¬†0408 637 335 and asked if I could access the peak. After a bit of an awkward conversation I explained that I was an amateur radio operator, to which I had the reply, “say no more”. Entered via 79 Commons Rd, left the gates as I found them, and made my way to the top of the mount.

On top there’s some commercial stuff and a disused fire tower. The fire tower has a small toilet hut, with nothing it, which provided a very sheltered operating location. Setup the dipole and started calling. Managed 21 contacts over the space of about 45 minutes, including two ZL contacts, which I was pretty happy with.

Met the owner on the way back down and again thanked her for allowing me to access the site. She was looking for her sheep, who were trying to keep out of the wind on the far side of the mount.

Mount Bowning Outlook

Mount Bowning Outlook over the Hume Highway

VK2/ST-053 & VK2/ST-039

Saturday 8th July, 2017

Saturday 8th of July saw me traveling back from Sydney via the Hume. I planned to stay at Wodonga overnight, allowing more time for SOTA. After some planning I decided I have a go a VK2/ST-039, Mt Marulan, VK2/ST-053, Mt Mundoonen and lastly VK2/ST-042, Mt Bowning.

I tackled ST-053, Mt Marulan, from the West via Ticyes Lane. This finishes about 1km from the peak, and I had expected to be able to walk to the peak from here. However all the land around this side of the peak is privately owned. There is a fire trail heading off to the South, so I headed down that in the Subaru. That took me to a climb that really is a bit more than a sensible person would go up in a soft-roader. What the heck, I decided to give it a go and after lots of wheel spin and rock being thrown everywhere, made it to the top. A bit further down the track there was more climbing required, and I felt I’d perhaps pushed my luck a fair bit. Down an isolated track on my own, with no recovery gear and weather closing in, decided it was time to stop. I considered walking from that point, about 1.5Km from the peak. If I had more time I certainly would have, but didn’t want to spend all day on one peak so turned around headed back. The drive back down the steep section means I can confirm that the descent control on the Subaru works very well.

On to ST-039,¬†Mt Mundoonen. This is literally at the side of the Hume. There’s a good track to the top, but a sign at the states Authorized Vehicles only so I decided to walk up. On top are there’s a disused aircraft navigation facility and some other commercial gear. I set the dipole up against the survey mark and straight away heard VK2WU/P on VK2/CT-001, which I noted at the top of the log sheet whilst I got organised, which proved to be the first of two disasters. Then I used the phone to confirm my summit details. This proved to be the second disaster. For some reason the phone did not refresh, and showed the details of Mt Marulan from earlier in the morning which I duly wrote on the log sheet.

Mt Mundoonen

Survey marker and antenna

First contact was Summit to Summit with VK2WU/P, where I gave the details of Mt Marulan. For the next 9 or 10 contacts I gave out summit id CT-001. A couple of people noted this was odd before I realised my error. Updated the spot with a comment that I was actually on Mt Marulan, and made another 10 contacts before realizing that even that reference was wrong. after somebody noted that was an uncommon peak.

Too embarrassed to  declare that I still had the wrong detail, decided to pack up and move on.

Operating Position

Mt Mundoonen – Operating Position

While driving back I pondered how to log the activation. I never made it to¬†Mt Marulan , so can’t log that. I did climb and activate¬†Mt Mundoonen, but didn’t announce that in my calls. Marulan and Mundoonen are the same point value, so figured the chasers are not better or worse off. Those that I gave CT-001 out too most likely also contacted VK2WU, so not benefit in my erroneous log. Decided I’d correctly log the two summit to summit contacts. It means the summit is in the log for me, but doesn’t award me any points.

What a stuff up. Still, I enjoyed the activation and made a bunch of contacts, so one to chalk up to experience I guess.

 

Mount Burngoogee – VK2/RI-016

Early this year I put some effort into studying for, and ultimately passing the Australian Advanced license exam, resulting in new call sign. VK3OAK. A normal person would be quickly up on air to make the most of that effort, but I was sidetracked by a host of other activities for nearly 6 months. In my defence, on a couple of occasions that included inclement weather. That changed the first weekend in July. I had opportunity to travel to Sydney unaccompanied, so chose to drive and play radio up and back. The trip up was again more time restricted than I’d hoped, but I did get the chance to attempt an activation of Mt Burngoogee.

The site was easy enough to access, as are most sites with commercial towers atop. Whilst the road goes to the top, there’s a gate about 1.5K before the peak, and the last section needs to be walked. Which is fine with me.

The fence is down just below the gate and you can see that others have simply driven over it. I parked the car and did the walk. I actually prefer summits that needs at least a little bit of walking.

Locked Gate at Mount Burngoogee

The chain has more locks that chain links.

Lots of kangaroo’s wanted to know what I was up too. Every time I got the camera out they’d hop away before I could get a shot.

On top I set up the dipole with the pole tied to the survey marker. There was zero noise from all the towers, which was a good start. I spotted myself and started calling. After about 30 minutes Steve, VK7CW, came back. I got a 58 report, so was getting out okay. 10 minutes later Brett, VK2VW came back with a 55.

By now I was running out of time, so gave it away. Disappointing that my first go with the new call and first summit outside VK3 didn’t qualify. I guess that’s the risk with a mid week activation.

On the plus side, the weather was perfect really, and the view pretty good. Nice distraction on the drive up the Hume.

Hopefully I’ll do better on the way home!

SOTA VK3/VN-016 & VN-023

VK3/VN-016 & VKFF-0973 Р18th March

18th of March was the John Moyle field day, so seemed like a good idea to be out in the field. My first target was VK3/VN-016, Mt Alexander, which is also VKFF-0973. Access is easy, via a sealed road from either end of the park. There’s multiple commercial towers at the peak but still plenty of room to easily setup.

After walking down and back¬†I setup my linked dipole, spotted myself and started calling. I made one contact and got a very poor report. I could hear others but it was soon apparent that they couldn’t hear me. ūüė¶ Happily this was a drive up, so over to the car and grabbed the EFHW. Straight away I had chasers coming back to me. Some reported that they could just make me out before, but could easily hear me now. I don’t know what happened with the dipole. I checked everything out at home, and followed up with on air testing, and all worked fine. All up I managed 10 QSO’s over the course of about an hour.

VK3/VN-023 (Mt Tarrengower)

Once things quietened down I packed up and headed to Maldon, where summit VN-023 is. Again this is an easy drive up a sealed road. At the summit I grabbed the gear and walked down and back, then climbed the tower and tried 2m contact on the HT, with no success. As it was rather hot and quite a few tourists, I set up a bit away from tower in the shade, and also away from the public. The JM field day was in full swing by now, so had no difficulty getting 21 contacts, though little to no interest in SOTA detail.

I wasn’t paying attention here and didn’t snap any photos. Doh.

Quite a pleasant day out, though next time I think I’d go out and focus on the John Moyle contest.