SOTA – Bobbara Mountain and VHF DX

VK2/ST-044 Bobbara Mountain 753 metres ASL near Binalong NSW, Grid QF45hi

On Saturday 20 September 2014 I drove past Bobbara Mountain en route to Temora for the Temora Aviation Museum flying day.  With friends in the car I didn’t have an opportunity to play SOTA, so I decided I would return some weeks later.

The summit was last activated by Andrew VK2UH three weeks ago for a DX session to Europe, Andrew reported low levels of noise (QRM) and suggested the south-east side of the activation zone provided a good outlook to the south-west through to the north.  Perfect position for VHF DX aircraft enhancement on 2m SSB 144.200 MHz working Canberra, Sydney and south-west towards Melbourne and regional Victoria.  From Canberra the peak is 90 km bearing 333 degrees.

My plan was to be on the summit for a Sunday morning to take part in the VHF DX net starting at 2100 UTC through to 2200 UTC.  Equipment: FT-857D, dual band 2m/70cm yagi, 7 metre squid pole, HF dipole antenna and two 4.2 Ah LiFePO4 batteries.

Sunday 2 November 2014.  Left home at 05:45 am for a 1 hour 20 minute drive via the Barton Hwy, Hume Hwy, Burley Griffin Way to the township of Binalong.  From Binalong stay on the Burley Griffin Way for 3 km then turn right into Bobbara Road.  Bobbara Road is a gravel road suitable for 2WD sedan.  Access to the summit is through private property, a sign fixed to the gate warns walkers that entry is at own risk.  Warning the cows are cranky!  🙂

The ascent to the activation zone is 158 metres over 1.1 km taking 22 minutes.  I took a short cut following animal tracks to the peak.  Note to self – don’t take short cuts when the grass is tall, I had prickly grass seeds all over my pants and in my boots.  😦

Bobbara Mountain GPS track log

Bobbara Mountain GPS track log

Track profile

Bobbara Mountain track profile

Bobbara Mountain track profile

Bobbara Mountain

Bobbara Mountain from 2km away

steep approach either side of the mountain

steep approach either side of the mountain

sealed road access for maintenance teams

sealed road access for maintenance crews

On the summit at 07:35 am

Aviation Radar

Airservices air navigation site – En route Radar

Set up the yagi followed by the squid pole and a homebrew HF link dipole

VK1NAM SOTA shack on Bobbara Mountain.  Squid pole is supported by a fence post

VK1NAM SOTA shack on Bobbara Mountain. Squid pole supported by a fence post

The wind was gusting 40 to 50 km/h making operating conditions very difficult. The yagi took a tumble in the wind landing on the 70 cm reflector bending the element slightly. Oh well it’s fixable.   Notable contacts on 2m SSB were Ian VK1DI operating at 10 watts, Paul VK1ATP with a beam at 5 watts, Andrew VK2MWP using a J Pole and Al VK1RX using an Eggbeater antenna designed for making satellite contacts. Andrew VK2UH in Yass had line-of-sight through the shack window.  Below is an extract from the log.

VK1NAM VHF/UHF activator Log, transmission mode USB on 144.180, 144.200 and 432.200 MHz from Grid QF45HI

Time UTC Band Mode Callsign Details
21:02 144MHz SSB VK2MWP Andrew S58 R57   144.200 MHz USB
21:07 144MHz SSB VK1DI Ian S55 R55
21:10 144MHz SSB VK1ATP Paul S52 R58
21:12 144MHz SSB VK2YW John S55 R53
21:16 144MHz SSB VK1AI Greg S59 R59
21:20 144MHz SSB VK2DO Chris S55 R55 QF54ch 187 km
21:28 144MHz SSB VK1RX Al S52 R56
21:34 144MHz SSB VK3II Jim S55 R54 QF21rn 507 km 213 deg
21:35 144MHz SSB VK3XQ Robert S51 R56 QF22ot 417 km
21:43 144MHz SSB VK3EJ Gordon S59 R59 QF24ht 369 km
21:59 144MHz SSB VK3BJM Barry S51 R51 QF22es 478 km
22:07 144MHz SSB VK2UH Andrew S59 R59
22:14 433MHz SSB VK2UH Andrew S59 R59 432.200 MHz USB
22:27 433MHz SSB VK2DO Chris S41 R41 QF54ch 187 km
3el Yagi aimed at Canberra bearing 153 degrees plus/minus the wind moving the antenna

3el Yagi aimed at Canberra bearing 153 degrees plus/minus the wind rotating the antenna

Having exhausted contacts on 2m and 70cm, I called it quits at 22:30 UTC having spent 90 minutes on VHF/UHF and moved to HF 7.090 MHz LSB.  Andrew VK2UH was my first contact followed by Ernie VK3DET, Amanda VK3FQSO, and Gerard VK2IO.  The regular weekend SOTA chasers were active chasing myself, Bernard VK2IB on VK3/VE-104 and Peter VK3PF on VK3/VG-044.  26 chasers on 40m and Mike VK6MB on 20m 14.310 MHz.

QRP chasers: Amanda VK3FQSO, David VK3IL operating portable from Philip Island, Ron VK3HAK operating at 4 watts from Bairnsdale, Nick VK3ANL portable from Lower Glenelg National Park VKFF-296 and Julie VK3FOWL.

Prior to UTC change I parked the rig on 7.090 MHz, as it turned out both Bernard and Peter had the same idea. First two contacts were summit to summit (S2S) with Peter and Bernard.  Peter mentioned Rod VK2TWR was due to activate ‘The Cascades’ VK2/SM-014 a well known peak in the Snowy Mountains, I waited on the summit for sometime but didn’t hear from Rod.  Having cleared with Peter and Bernard and I moved to 7.085 MHz to work the usual chaser group.

24 chasers on 40m, Ron VK3AFW, Mark VK1EM, Matt VK1MA/M near Braidwood, Gary VK2GAZ, Cliff VK3CCJ, Glenn VK3YY, Rob VK3EK, Amanda VK3FQSO, Andrew VK2UH, Gerard VK2IO, Ian VK2FIAN, Lee VK2LEE, Julie VK3FOWL, Nev VK5WG, Rhett VK3WE, Peter VK3FPSR/M not far from me and close to Temora, Nick VK3ANL in VKFF-296, Tony VK3CAT taking a break from painting windows, David VK3IL enjoying a break at Philip Island, Phil VK3BHR, Ron VK2NZL and finally Mike VK3XL testing a Buddipole antenna somewhere in Gippsland, Mike I was surprised too, the FT-857D signal meter indicated 5-5 a good result.  🙂

Despite the windy conditions I had a terrific time on Bobbara Mountain, strongly recommend the peak for all VHF and SOTA enthusiasts alike, with no noticeable interference (QRM) issues.   Had a couple of visitors on the peak, both were surprised to see a 7 metre fishing pole on their walk to the summit.  Wildlife, Kangaroos and a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles soaring on the wind, good news no snakes today!  Livestock, cranky cows and timid sheep along with a gazillion annoying flies.  Note to self – next time take insect repellant.  😉

Strong winds bending the squid pole

strong winds bending the heavy-duty fiberglass squid pole lowered to 5 metres

View south-east to Bowning Hill VK2/ST-042 28km 126 degrees

view south-east to Bowning Hill VK2/ST-042 28km bearing 126 degrees

view north-east down to Bobbara Road.  Car parked near the gate.

view north-east down to Bobbara Road. Car parked near the gate

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