SOTA – VK1AD portable 70cm update #7 – Gibraltar Hill

Sunday 13 March 2016, planned SOTA activation of Gibraltar Hill VK2/ST-016, 1128 metres ASL Maidenhead Grid Locator QF44OK
Access to the summit is through private property.

Radio: Yaesu FT-817ND, UHF 70cm frequencies 432.2 USB and 439.00 FM
Power Level: 5 watts
Antenna: 7el Yagi
Distance from Canberra GPO (VK1): 33 km due south
SOTA Alert: Yes
Date posted alert: 12 March 2016
Notice Period: 1 day
Outcome:  Qualified Gibraltar Hill  🙂
Duration to qualify on 70cm: 14 minutes for 4 unique chasers
My 2016 70cm challenge: qualified 6 from 7 summits

Photos: © Copyright 2016 Andrew VK1AD

Weather forecast: Light winds and a Hot 31 degrees C.  Water consumption 3 litres for this summit and a further 500 mils when I returned to the car.

Previous activations: First SOTA activation by Al VK1RX on 20 September 2013.  My first activation of this summit was 24 March 2014 working chasers in the US to qualify the peak on 10m.

Gibraltar Hill and the summit surrounds are on private property. The summit hosts aviation navigation infrastructure a VOR/DME and a NDB ‘WLE’ on 237 kHz.  Al VK1RX had gained permission from the land owner for us to gain access to to the summit on Sunday afternoon starting from a farm gate off Williamsdale Road.

The ascent to the summit is 295 metres over 2.3 km taking 1 hour, 10 minutes.  Average gradient over 2.3 km is 13%, steeper sections of the walk were 22% 1 in 4.5 metres.  Average walking speed was 1.9 km/h.

Gibraltar Hill GPS track log overlay on Oz topo

Gibraltar Hill GPS track log overlay on Oz Topo

Gibraltar Hill track profile

Gibraltar Hill track profile

At the summit we looked for a shaded area out of the direct heat of the sun and found relief under a large eucalyptus tree. This position offered a 180 degree outlook from east through north to west. We repeated the station set up as for Mount Campbell, Al started on HF 7.090 MHz and I called CQ SOTA on 432.200 MHz USB and 439.00 MHz FM, both frequencies are within the VK 70cm band.

Al VK1RX working 40m with an ICOM IC-706

Al VK1RX working chasers on 40m 7.090 MHz with an ICOM IC-706 feeding a linked HF 1/2 wave dipole

VK1AD SOTA shack on Gibraltar Hill VK2/ST-016

VK1AD SOTA shack on Gibraltar Hill VK2/ST-016

Started the activation at 03:45 UTC (14:45 local) posting a spot for 432.200 MHz USB.  First and only chaser on 432.2 USB was Mark VK1EM. I changed to 439.00 MHz FM where Rob VK1KW called in followed by Gil VK1GN.  My fourth chaser contact to qualify the summit on 70cm was Ian VK1DI on the north side of Canberra.

Extract from VK1AD SOTA Activator Log – Gibraltar Hill 70cm contacts

Time Call Band Mode Notes
03:48z VK1EM 433MHz SSB Mark S51 R31
03:54z VK1KW 433MHz FM Rob S58 R59
03:57z VK1GH 433MHz FM Gil S59 R59
04:02z VK1DI 433MHz FM Ian S57 R53

Al and I swapped positions on the HF and VHF stations.  I worked 6 chasers on HF including summit to summits (S2S) contacts with Tony VK3CAT and Ken VK3KIM both at Mt Toolebewong VK3/VC-033 near Healesville.

VK1AD SOTA Activator Log – contacts on 40m 7.090 MHz

04:11z VK3CAT/P 7MHz SSB Tony S2S VK3/VC-033 S57 R57
04:11z VK3KIM/P 7MHz SSB Ken S2S VK3/VC-033 S57 R57
04:28z VK3HRX 7MHz SSB Compton S58 R53
04:29z VK3BD 7MHz SSB Brian S59 R58
04:33z VK2YW 7MHz SSB John S59 R59
04:44z VK3MEG 7MHz SSB Steve S59 R57

During a short QSO with John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga, we agreed to attempt a contact on 2m 144.200 MHz USB.  Al VK1RX adjusted the 3el Yagi pointing west then made a few CQ calls using the FT-817 at 5 watts.  Meanwhile a number of commercial aircraft operating between Sydney and Melbourne flew overhead (heading south-west), remember the summit hosts a VOR/DME and a NDB.

A few minutes had passed when John’s voice and callsign ‘VK2YW’ were clearly heard with a signal report of 5-2 from Al.  The received signal suffered the effects of multi-path.  The audio had a characteristic ‘flutter’ as John replied to Al with a 5-1 report.  John was monitoring aircraft movement with FlightRadar24 and noted a number of aircraft were operating in the Melbourne to Sydney corridor (heading north-east)  Al continued to work John for about 5 minutes while I made fine adjustments to the Yagi listening for a peak in the audio. After confirming the QRP 2m VHF contact over 172 km, John returned to 40m for a quick chat.   🙂

If you think it’s a little nerdy to chase VHF radio signals over a challenging path at low power levels, you bet it is and its terrific fun!  Amateur Radio is about experimentation with radio transmitters, receivers and antennas producing radio signals (electromagnetic radiation) traveling close to the speed of light at a little less than 300,000 km per second or 186,000 miles per second.

Dual band 70cm/2m Yagi beaming due west for an Aircraft Enhancement (AE) contact with John VK2WY in Wagga Wagga 172 km at 284 degrees

Dual band 70cm/2m Yagi beaming due west for an multi-path contact with John VK2WY in Wagga Wagga over 172 km at 284 degrees.

Cross-section profile of Gibraltar Hill to Wagga Wagga.   The highest point in the land mass at 1458 metres ASL is on Mt Franklin Road 1.6 km north of Mt Franklin in the Brindabella Ranges.

Gibraltar Hill to Wagga Wagga profile on Google Earth

cross-section profile using Google Earth

View north from our operating position – the summit is a large ‘tabletop’ formation.

Aircraft navigation DME and Williamsdale Non-directional beacon (NDB) 'WLE' on 287 kHz

Aircraft navigation VOR/DME and Williamsdale Non-directional beacon (NDB) ‘WLE’ on 237 kHz

Descent from Gibraltar Hill to Williamsdale Road

VK1AD - descent

VK1AD – descent from Gibraltar Hill, temperature is 31 degrees (photo supplied by Al VK1RX)

Next planned activations:  Saturday 19 March 2016 three summits in the Snowy Mountains region off Tantangara Road, Mt Nungar VK2/SM-027 (first time for me), Blackfellows Hill VK2/SM-033 and VK2/SM-036 unnamed but known fondly to SOTA activators as March Fly Mountain.  Sunday 20 March 2016 Mt Perisher VK2/SM-007.

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2 thoughts on “SOTA – VK1AD portable 70cm update #7 – Gibraltar Hill

  1. Hi Andrew
    I love the final photo. At last on the way down! And following a most successful activation. Congratulations!
    John D
    VK5BJE

    • Hi John, Yes it was good to get back to Al’s car for a cup of ‘hot’ tea! The time out on the hills was longer than we expected. The heat was certainly a factor giving rise to a slower walking pace with plenty of short rest stops. When activating I am cautious of sunburn so I often wear a long sleeve shirt and full length pants. Full length attire certainly adds to the build up of heat. Working chasers in the UHF band when the path extends beyond 15 km, requires a Yagi antenna which adds additional weight for the pack-horse (me) to carry, all good fun and hard work. Anyway Al and I had a great time on both peaks and we really enjoyed working John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga on 2m SSB. I love a challenge! Looking forward to working your new callsign VK5PF soon. 🙂

      Andrew, VK1AD

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