It’s been three and 1/2 weeks since my last SOTA activation, so it’s time to get out there. Can’t let all the others have the fun.
In the lead up to these activations, I had been keeping a close eye on the weather, and could not but help notice that there had been snow to lower levels. It would seem like my first true on snow activations were on their way. I had also done some work on the antenna setup as described in other posts on this blog.
Mt Matlock VK3/VC-001
First up was Mt Matlock. There is 4WD access to this summit, but I only have a 2WD, so I parked it on the Warburton Woods Point Rd. On the way up from Reefton, I wondered when I’d start to see the snow. There was significant snow from about 1000m. I had parked the car at 1200m altitude, about 1.5km from the summit.
It took about 30 or so minutes to climb up to the summit. The summit has a fire tower with a few comms on it, but no mobile phone services. The trig point is nearby, as can be seen in this pic:
I setup the station to the left of the picture shown above. I was about 100m from the comms tower. I was interested to see if there were any issues with noise from the tower and as it turned out, there were none detected.
The 8 segment vertical was setup as shown below:
This was my first opportunity to try the new Ugly Balun and connecting the ATU directly to the feedpoint. In times past, I have used two baluns and about 4m of twin line between the ATU and the feedpoint. I had the twin lead and baluns on hand, just in case. After ensuring that the connections were nice and tight, I used the antenna on 40 and 20. It seemed to work well, including getting some contacts from VK3AFW and VK3PF who were inside 200km. Contacts further out were easy QSOs on 40m. Unfortunatly, there was no DX for me into the US. I wondered about this, but found out after I got home that none of my SMS spots made it on to sotawatch. I could hear plenty of CW at the bottom of 20m, but there was nothing around 14.061 and 2. It seems that most are content to wait for a spot on sotawatch and will not go hunting.
This is a look at the ATU, which is a Z11Pro 2, and the Ugly Balun at the feedpoint:
Mt Toorongo Range VK3/VT-026
It was time to head off to my second activation. I was able to get the car to about 2km from the summit, which is much better than the 6km that I was expecting. After a walk of about 40 minutes, including about 150m off track, I arrived at the summit. Clearly someone else had been here as there was a rock cairn at the top. It is interesting that this place does not have a proper summit name, even though it is higher by about 10 metres than Mt Toorongo, about 800m to the south west.
There about 5cm of snow coverage here, a little less than Mt Matlock. The weather had also improved, and as can be seen in my two antenna pics, continued to improve as the day went on. It was still only about 1 degree C, but without any wind, it was actually quite pleasant. Before I started, I noticed marks in the snow, which I suspect a wallaby had made:
The vegetation made running all eight radials a little tricky, so I started out with 4, and that is how it stayed. The RD contest had started and this meant that 40m was very crowded. This is where it gets challenging to operate QRP. People either cannot hear you, or do not care that there is a weak station around. They come on frequency and start calling CQ CONTEST. I did not spend a huge amount of time on 40 today. I also found out later that again, I had no spots on sotawatch.
2m was more fruitful. Most contacts here were contest contacts, but it is always interesting to be operating on a mountain in the middle of nowhere and get contacts upwards of 200km away with either a HT 1/4 wave, or my twin lead jim slim for 2m.
As the day wore on, I began to think that it was time for some DX. I put another spot for 20m CW, which did not work, and started calling. I got a contact with KG7E, and he spotted me. Welcome to the pile up! I almost forgot what a SOTA CW pileup can be like. It was good to again put DJ5AV and G4SSH in the log, among others.
The day was drawing late now, and I did not desire to walk back the whole way in the dark, so I packed up around 5pm. A most enjoyable day. If you are reading this and do not know CW, it is not easy to learn, but it is worth it. These SOTA CW pileups are a great deal of fun.
Conditions on 20m HF were quite good today, but I still feel that I am about 2 to 3db ahead on 20m using the ATU and the Ugly Balun than the two 4:1 current baluns and the twin lead. Both setups do not have any evidence of common mode currents and RF at the radio.
I’ll leave you with the two antenna pics showing the improving weather from VK3/VT-026. Regards, Wayne VK3WAM