Mt Stromlo in fog

It’s a foggy morning in Canberra outside temp is 2 degrees at 8 am.  Checked SOTAWatch for VK Alerts and found Ian VK1DI, Allen VK3HRA and David VK3IL would be activating summits between 01:00 and 02:00 UTC.  I figured I would have a better chance at chasing from a local summit with a low noise floor.  Mt Stromlo 782 metres ASL is 6 km due west from my QTH, the north ‘hump’ is an excellent site for portable HF operations. I posted an Alert on SOTAWatch for 01:00 UTC.

Left home at 00:10 UTC (10:10 am local) with my four-legged buddy in thick fog for a 15 minute drive through Canberra’s western suburbs.  Most of Canberra is immersed in thick fog including Mt Stromlo.  News reports this morning have Sydney and Canberra airports closed to aircraft landing.

Equipment for the activation:  Yaesu FT60 HT, Yaesu FT817, homebrew QRP Z Match, 40/20m vertical, 2m SlimJim, 2.2 Ah 3S LiPo batteries, 5 metre squid poles (2)

Mt Stromlo immersed in fog

Mt Stromlo immersed in fog

my companion

my four leg SOTA companion, he’s not happy sitting in the cold breeze

Started the activation with a 2m simplex S2S contact with Ian on Booroomba Rocks VK1/AC-026.  Ordinarily the contact would be line of sight.  Staying on 2m FM I worked Matt VK1MA and Paul VK1ATP  before moving to 144.200 USB.  Matt VK1MA was my only contact on 2m SSB.  The Canberra group of amateur radio operators is a very hard nut to crack, three contacts on 2m over 10 minutes  😦

low level cloud

panoramic view of low level cloud in a 10 km/h breeze, it’s COLD!

With nothing much happening on 2m and Ian VK1DI now on 40m, I followed Ian down for a S2s on 7.095 MHz LSB.  I listened on 7.090 MHz for activity before checking if the frequency is in use.  Peter VK3PF was the first chaser followed by Ernie VK3DET, Amanda VK3FQSO and Tony VK3CAT.  Tony and I discussed his recent success in chasing EU SOTA activators on CW where the EU activators were operating at 1 watt and 2.5 watts, great result Tony  😉

Marshall VK3MRG/P was next in the log, like me Marshall was operating from a favourite park in Kew to beat the local noise (QRM).  Following a short chat with Marshall, Mark VK1EM, Peter VK3FPSR and Gerard VK2IO had strong signals all in the clear 5-7 to 5-9.   Gerard and I discussed options for a 2m SSB contact, we agreed to attempt a contact after the main chaser group.  Next I heard a very faint voice which sounded like Nick VK3ANL immediately followed by Andrew VK3ARR. I asked Andrew to standby while I grabbed the headphones to listen to Nick.  Assuming the call was Nick I asked Nick to call again, sure enough it was, the headphones made the difference, Nick was 5-1 to me while my signal was 4-3.

With Nick in the log it was time for the ‘Andrews’.  Andrew VK3ARR near Geelong was a solid 5-7 followed by Andrew VK2FAJG operating low power 2 watts from his home QTH.   The VK1 region is well-known for the high ratio of Andrews involved in SOTA (4).  If you can’t remember a VK1 SOTA activators name, just use Andrew.

The long distance chasers continued to call in on 7.090 MHz, Tom VK5EE, Warren VK3BYD, Ron VK3AFW mobile, Geoff VK3SQ, Julie VK3FOWL and Ian VK5CZ.  A surprise summit to summit contact was Ian VK3TCX on VK3/VG-074, thanks Ian.

antennas on the north hump

antennas on the north hump – fog is burning off

40m went quiet, I checked SOTAWatch for activations.  Nothing new so I changed the FT-817’s VFO to 2m 144.200 USB and posted an alert using RRT.  Called for 5 minutes all quiet, sent a SMS message to Gerard while calling CQ SOTA.  After 10 minutes of calling, no response from local VK1s, I received a SMS message from Gerard ‘All quiet in Sydney’, well at least we gave 2m SSB a go.

It was time to change to 20m to work Mike and John in VK6.  The center loaded antenna will operate on 14 MHz as a 1/4 wave vertical by shorting out the loading coil. On 14 MHz the SWR isn’t ideal due to the length of the ground plane elements.   The vertical element is the correct electrical length, I use a homebrew QRP Z Match to present the radio with a 50 ohm load.   Does the antenna radiate a signal on 20m?  You BET is does, I found Ian VK1DI on 14.285 MHz working Greg VK8GM in Alice Springs 2500 km north-west. I checked in with Ian for a S2S, after the contact with Ian Greg called me, yes that’s correct Greg called me!  Greg’s signal was 5-9, my signal was 5-5  not bad for 5 watts into a dodgy ground plane, it works!  I left Ian on 14.285 to find a clear frequency above 14.300 MHz.  I landed on my favourite frequency 14.310 MHz, after calling CQ for a minute to two Matt VK1MA called for an All-Bands chase then Mike VK6MB 3600 km west in W.A. checked in for 1 point, Mike’s signal was readable Q5 strength 1. A good result for 5 watts.   Called on 20m for 10 minutes hoping to work John VK6NU, I did see John’s spot (a hint from John to show he is listening) and continued to call.  Sorry John conditions did not favour the long haul contact.

Having worked two S2S contacts I waited for Allen VK3HRA and David VK3IL.  At 02:55 UTC, RRT alerts sounded for Allen and Glenn VK3YY both on VK3/VE-122, 5 minutes later David VK3IL posted an alert for Mt Stirling VK3/VE-011.  I worked Allen, Glenn and David from Stromlo ‘north hump’ to complete four S2S contacts for the day.

By now the fog had burnt off and the sun was warming my buddy and I, it was time to head home for a warm brew and a late lunch 🙂

VK1NAM SOTA shack on Mt Stromlo

VK1NAM SOTA shack ‘north hump’ Mt Stromlo.  FT-817ND, Z Match ATU and 2 LiPo batteries

center loaded vertical

center loaded vertical 5 metres high

If you are interested in the vertical antenna click here for the post.


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