An autumn day of radio in the field

Sunday 20 March 2022

The day looked to be a good opportunity to attempt to make some Summit to Summit (S2S) contacts: two groups of amateurs were planning activity days – amateurs in the Pacific North West USA and Canada, plus a JA SOTA Day organised by the active SOTA operators in Japan. The West Coast USA / Canada was less likely, given that the main operating period was a little early in the morning here in Australia, but some might still be on air by time I was planning to operate.

I did not set an alarm and awoke a little later than anticipated. I quickly loaded the gear in the car and headed off. I headed to Loy Yang, then south through Traralgon South and up Red Hill Road, then south to Balook. The area around Balook had been the base for a marathon running event the previous day and had several areas with 40 km/hr speed restrictions. From Balook, I headed west on the Grand Ridge Road before turning south on Whitelaws Track, finding that the fallen tree that blocked my approach last year had been cleared. I then turned onto Gossipers Track and finally Transmission Track and up onto a knoll in the southern part of the summit activation zone.

VK3/VT-091 (unnamed) 686 m 2 points

This summit was added to SOTA on 1 September 2021, when all of Victoria was in a COVID lockdown. I activated the new summit on 10 September, my first opportunity after the lockdown was lifted in regional Victoria. Brian VK3BCM activated the summit in late October 2021 and I was able to chase Brian, so the summit is a Complete for me. But few SOTA Chasers will have the summit in their log. The other attraction of the summit is that it is a quiet location, well away from any sources of electrical noise. There is a track up toward the true summit, but it currently has a lot of tall weed regrowth across the track, so I chose the southern knoll as the operating site.

Google Earth view of the activation zone for VK3/VT-091. The blue X marks my activation site. Thanks to Google Earth.

I soon had the station set up on a table a few metres from the vehicle. I had the ZS6BKW doublet up in inverted V configuration, with the apex at about 10 m in the air. I used the KX2 transceiver set at 10 W.

I checked the SOTAwatch spots and started listening around on 17 m CW. My first contact was a S2S with JR8MHA/7 on JA/MG-098 Asahiyama. A few minutes later I worked Toru JA1CTV/1 on JA/KN-022 Shiroyama on 17 m CW. I listened for some of the other activators before swapping 15 m CW where I worked Katsu JP3DGT/3 on JA/KT-014 Miyama.

Signals at my location were generally weak – I could hear some of the other Activators but could not break through the pile up of callers to make contact.

I next dropped back to 17 m CW to work Satoru JG1BOK on JA/NN-142 Monomiyama. I listened around several of the other spotted frequencies and tried to break the pile ups without success.

One of the local VK Activators finally spotted on 40 m SSB after several spots on higher bands and no propagation. I soon had Andrew VK1AD/2 on VK2/ST-026 South Black Range in VKFF-0474 Tallaganda National Park in the log. Gerard VK2IO called Andrew after we completed the contact, so I waited and called Gerad to QSY up. We soon made the contact and Andrew VK1DA on VK2/ST-036 Spring Hill called in for another S2S. After a quick chat, I asked if any others wanted a contact, with no reply heard. A Spot came through, so I changed to 15 m SSB to hunt Deryck VK4FDJL in VKFF-0229 Hasties Swamp National Park.

After working Deryck, I dropped down to 15 m CW to work Gen JS1IFK/1 on JA/KN-021 Amagoiyama for another S2S. A few minutes later I worked Minoru JL1NIE/1 on JA/ST-017 Minoyama on 17 m CW. I continued listening around the various Spots but made no contacts until just before UTC midnight, when I worked Takeshi JG1GPY/1 on JA/YN-060 Momokurasan on 15 m CW.

I spent a couple of minutes listening around before working Andrew VK1AD/2 again on the new day. My next contact was a Parks Hunt to work Colin VK2VAR in VKFF-0447 Seven Mile Beach National Park on 40 m SSB. Next was another contact with Deryck VK4FDJL in VKFF-0229 Hasties Swamp National Park on 15 m SSB.

I then found a clear frequency on 20 m CW and finally spotted myself. I had been simply chasing Spots up until when I spotted. I called for several minutes before I worked several stations: VK4SYD, ZL1BQD, ZL1TM, VK4JJ/p and VK6PZT. I then moved back to 40 m SSB to again chase Andrew VK1DA/p on VK2/ST-036. I then moved to 40 m CW and spotted myself. Several minutes of calling yielded no chasers, so I closed down and packed up the station.

Looking back to the summit from the lookout just below Mount Tassie, across the upper catchment of Traralgon Creek. Summit below the arrow.

I retraced my access route to Balook and then headed east towards Blackwarry.

Tarra-Bulga National Park VKFF-0480

I parked in an old picnic area which has been partially rehabilitated. The site is a short distance east of the junction of Grand Ridge Road and Cooks Road, on the south side of the road. The entrance is immediately east of a National Park sign which is partial obscured by vegetation.

I parked and soon had a line over a tree branch at about 16 m above ground, so the ZS6BKW was soon in the air with the feedline just reaching the antenna connector of the radio. I set up on the tailgate of the vehicle and used my IC-7300 with an LDG ATU in line to give broader matching.

I started by hunting Deryck VK4FDJL on 15 m SSB, now in VKFF-1556 Herberton Range Conservation Park VKFF-0229. I moved to 40 m SSB and spotted myself. The next 20 minutes yielded 15 contacts.

After several minutes of calling, I listened around for some of the DX SOTA spots on higher bands but could not make any contacts.

I moved to 20 m SSB and posted a Spot. I worked four stations before I decided to move to 20 m CW, where I worked five stations. I moved to 40 m CW ans worked five stations. I returned to 40 m SSB and worked five stations. I spent some time listening around without making any contacts before working John VK5HAA/p in VKFF-0790 Talisker Conservation Park on SSB and CW.

I then spent a few minutes working some locals on various frequencies. I then moved to 20 m and tried some Data mode contacts using FT8. I worked three stations only, but the contacts added to the tally.

I returned to 40 m SSB and worked VK80LAN, a special callsign celebrating the 80 year anniversary of one of the few remaining Avro Lancaster bombers. The call was being used by Mark VK3PI. His call confused me – I already had his personal callsign in the log as I recognised the voice! I soon had the log entry corrected and the contact logged, together with one from Mark VK3PI. While we were chatting, we determined that Mark was actually in Kinglake National Park VKFF-0264. I quickly looked up the Park reference and passed that information to Mark.

I noted that I had missed another Park Activator, now on 20 m and not audible. He soon spotted on 80 m, so I moved down to 80 m SSB and managed to make the contact with Dean VK3DL in VKFF-2228 Whipstick Nature Conservation Reserve.

With 50 contacts in the log, I decided to close down and pack up. I headed back towards home, with a detour via Traralgon for a quick shopping stop. I managed to again work Dean VK3DL, now in VKFF-0623 Greater Bendigo National Park, from the vehicle whilst in a car park in Traralgon. I then headed for home after a good day out.

Overall, I had 71 contacts in the log for the day.

Thanks for all the contacts. Special thanks to all the operators for the S2S contacts.

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