2 October 2022
My day started a bit late, partly due to the switch to Daylight Savings Time overnight. I had not set an alarm and the clocks jumped forward an hour, so I woke “later” than usual. I was slow at getting organised before I finally decided that I would head to the hills, placing some Alerts on SOTAwatch before departure.
I drove to the local Bakery to grab something for lunch and then headed off to Willow Grove, Hill End, Icy Creek and towards Tanjil Bren, then up the Tooronga Tanjil Link Road, then into towards Mount Tooronga. I drove to the locked gate and parked.
Mt Tooronga Range VK3/VT-026 1257 m 8 points + Winter bonus
I walked up the access road to the high point below the summit, then climbed up into the AZ through the thickening scrub. The slope had much more scrub than my last visit in 2020. I climbed until well inside the AZ and set up on the sloping ground. The antenna was not very high off the ground. I started on 40 m CW, working Ian VK5IS before someone started dropping a carrier on the frequency. I moved up 2 kHz and respotted, but the QRMer followed. I gave up and moved to 20 m CW. I soon had three more contacts in the log. I then moved to 40 m SSB, where I worked six stations. A total of 10 contacts over about 30 minutes. I packed up and climbed down to the road. Shortly after starting the descent down the road, I almost stepped on the tail of a 1.2 m snake whilst walking down the road. I had been looking off at the horizon and sensed some movement in the periphery of my visual field. I glanced down to see the snake, which caused me to jump sideways! The snake reared up and attempted to strike, which I fended off with my walking pole, then rapidly moved further down the road whilst watching the snake. I stopped about five metres away and watched the snake start to wriggle back towards the edge of the road. The rest of the descent to the vehicle was uneventful, but the incident reminded me that there were many reasons to regularly walk with my head stooped slightly forward for micro-navigation: ensuring a smooth footfall, including not stepping on the local wildlife!
I drove back to the Link Road and then headed north to Tooronga Road and onto Nine Mile Road. I couple of times I was glad that I was taking it easy and keeping to the left, with some 4WD drivers using 90% of the road width! I was fortunate to have sufficient time and space to pull left into the gutter and slow further, whilst the other driver rapidly corrected to his left. This occurred several times. I safely reached “The Triangle” and swung NE towards Matlock on the Warburton – Woods Point Road. The road was excellent until the end of the sealed section. The rest of the journey around to Corn Hill Road was slower, with lots of fields of potholes. The potholes were difficult to spot once the road dropped onto the southern side of the ridgeline, with the shadows of the embankment and the tall timber reducing visibility due to highly contrasting light and dark bands across the road. I then headed up Corn Hill Road to park near the trig marker at the summit.
Mount Matlock VK3/VC-001 1372 m 8 points + Winter bonus
I set up near the trig and explained what I was doing to a family who drove up. I had a line over a tree branch and was stinging out the doublet when they approached. Talking with them slowed down the set up, but I soon made first contact, working John VK4MUD in a Park. The family members headed back to their vehicle near the comms facility, leaving me to concentrate on the radio. Next was another Park station – Deryck VK4FDJL. I then moved to CW, with only a single station worked on 40 m plus three more on 20 m. I then went to 40 m SSB, where I worked another five stations. A couple of stations reported some distortion on voice peaks, leading me to consider why during the afternoon. I was using a 4 Ah LiFePO4 battery, which had been charged the day before. The battery usually permits many contacts to be made, often lasting several short summit activations. I worked a total of 12 stations in just over 30 minutes before I packed up.
I drove down to the main road via the direct route, a little rougher than Corn Hill Road. I then had a slow trip once past Matlock, with Walhalla Road having many large potholes and several very wet & muddy sections. Surprisingly, the road surface was much better once south of the Mt Selma Road junction.
Mount Lookout VK3/VT-030 1115 m 6 points
I drove up to the Aberfeldy Cemetery car park. I was late compared to my Alert time. I hauled the ZS6BKW doublet centre up to about 8 m with a line over a tree branch, and strung out the doublet. I soon had the IC-7300 set up on a folding table and connected to a 100 Ah LiFePO4 battery.
There were several Spots posted for stations in Europe. I started on 20 m CW and was happy to be able to hear Wal VK2WP. We soon completed a rather marginal S2S contact, largely due to the relatively short distance between us. Next was Martin M7BIA/P on SSB for another S2S. I then returned to CW and tried listening for and calling a couple of EU SOTA stations without success. I spotted on CW and soon had an unruly dog-pile calling. Stations were calling over the top of each other, with some calling back when I had called for a partial callsign to repeat, when the partial call was totally unrelated to their callsign. Such stations were ignored! The other thing which did not help was stations calling at a much higher speed than my 14 wpm. After I had made seven contacts, I gave up and tried 20 m SSB, making three contacts in around 15 minutes. Next I moved to 40 m SSB for S2S contacts with Ian VK5CZ and Andrew VK1AD. Spotted myself to work some local VKs, including a S2S with VK2IO. A pleasant surprise was G0VWP on 40 SSB. The wind had picked up and the windchill made it cold. I was about to pack up when I was interrupted by another Spot. I swapped to 20 m CW and soon had another contact in the log. The net result was another 30 minutes of chasing with five more S2S: G4TGJ, M1EYP, F5LKW, IK2LEY and JA5QJX. I then packed up and started the drive home. I had spent some time listening for other S2S contacts without any success. The sun was getting quite low, so I switched off and packed up. I then headed south to Rawson, Moe and back home.
I made a total of 57 contacts from the three summits, for 28 Activator points plus 47 S2S points and 32 Chaser points for the day. In addition to VK and ZL contacts, I also worked W, G, F, HB, OK, DL, IK and JA.
A good day out, despite the sometimes poor road conditions. About 275 km driven. Thanks for all the contacts.
The day leaves me with a new task – investigate the SOTA 4 Ah LiFePO4 battery. Is it the cause of the audio distortion on SSB voice peaks due to diminished battery capacity, or is there a problem with the KX2?