SOTA – VK1AD portable 70cm update #14 – Mount McDonald

Sunday 17 April 2016, planned SOTA activation of Mount McDonald VK1/AC-048, 789 metres ASL Maidenhead Grid Locator QF44LQ

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government represented by Parks ACT has a program of controlled burns (fuel reduction burns) running this month.  The prescribed burns are within the Namadgi National Park and some ACT Nature Reserves, which for me means no access to the higher VK1 peaks, instead I am limited to local peaks worth 1 activator point. 😦

Today’s plan is to activate Mount McDonald on 2m and 70cm SSB.  Mount McDonald at 789 metres ASL is close to the eastern flank of the Brindabella Ranges peaking at 1700 meters ASL.  From Mount McDonald looking south-west towards Melbourne the Brindabella Ranges are a radio signal ‘road block’, attenuating most if not all of my 144 MHz SSB signal.  For this activation my best option is to rotate the 3el yagi starting from the west and working through north to the east and south-east for Canberra southern suburbs.  The outlook to the north and east is free of vertical obstructions, aircraft enhancement is likely for 2m propagation into Sydney and further north to Newcastle and Port Macquarie.

Mount McDonald SOTA 70cm activation
Radio: Yaesu FT-857D, UHF 70cm frequencies 432.200 and 432.160 USB
Power Level: 15 watts
Antenna: 7el Yagi
Distance to Canberra GPO (VK1):  18 km (11 miles) at 81 degrees
SOTA Alert: Yes
Date posted alert: 15 April 2016
Notice Period:  2 days
Outcome:  Qualified Mount McDonald on 70cm  🙂
Duration to qualify on 70cm: 21 minutes  😉
My 2016 70cm challenge: qualified 14 from 16 summits activated

Photos: © Copyright 2016 Andrew VK1AD

Weather on the summit: 20 degrees C, overcast day & light winds  🙂  Water consumption 1 litre

For directions to this summit see my post SOTA Mount McDonald 18 February 2014  The ascent to the summit is 205 metres (672 feet) over 2.8 km (1.7 miles) taking 45 minutes.

At the summit

Mount McDonald Stone Trig

Mount McDonald Stone Trig. Since my last visit the cross constructed from tree branches is new.  The smoke haze is a product of the prescribed burns.

VK1AD SOTA shack at Mount McDonald

VK1AD SOTA shack at Mount McDonald

Arrow dual band VHF/UHF Yagi directing the radio signal to Canberra

view east towards Canberra (18 km) through the dual band Arrow VHF/UHF Yagi directing radio signals to the geographic center of Canberra.  Black Mountain Tower normally visible on the horizon is today consumed by smoke haze.

a Silva Compass is placed directly underneath the Yagi to help set the antenna bearing

a Silva Compass set to north directly underneath the Yagi.  On days with low visibility, I use the compass to help set the antenna bearing for target locations.

HF linked dipole dwarfing a dual band VHF/UHF Yagi

HF linked dipole dwarfing a dual band VHF/UHF Yagi at Mount McDonald VK1/AC-048

For this activation I don’t have prearranged chasers in Melbourne (480 km south-west) listening on 144.200 MHz.  I started the activation at 2155 UTC on 144.200 MHz by posting spots to SOTAWatch plus VKLOGGER (144 MHz and above).   To qualify the summit on 70cm I need 4 unique chaser contacts.  Without too much fuss I qualified the summit on 432 MHz in 21 minutes, 70cm contacts included Graeme VK2FPQ, Dave VK1DJA, Rob VK1KW, Ian VK1DI, Wedge VK1GP, Al VK1RX and Andrew VK1MBE.

Of interest to the readers, and myself are the types of  2m and 70cm antennas used by chasers.  Al VK1RX and Andrew VK2UH have kindly sent in photos of their respective temporary ‘backyard’ 2m and 70 cm horizontal polarised antennas.  Al’s ‘backyard’ portable antenna comprises of a 2m copper wire 1/2 wave dipole and a 70cm ground plane mounted in the horizontal plane, neither of these antennas are a permanent feature in Al’s backyard.   On 70cm Al and I experimented with QRP power levels down to 2 watts, thanks Al.

Andrew’s antenna is described as a ‘precision’ 2m 1/2 wave dipole which features a natural parabolic curve to vary the reactance along the driven elements. It is unclear what if any advantage the drooping elements may make to the performance of the antenna and the radiated signal.  Andrew describes this antenna as a temporary arrangement for 2m SOTA chasing which doubles as a deployable antenna for 2m and 70cm SOTA activations.  I think Andrew has stumbled on an inovative design which may prove to be the secret to 5-9 signal reports 😉

See pictures below.   If you would like to share a photo of your 2m or 70cm portable ‘backyard’ antenna I am happy to include the photo in this blog?

Extract from VK1AD SOTA Activator Log – Mount McDonald on 70cm, 2m and 6m bands

Time Call Band Mode Notes
21:58z VK2NSS 144MHz SSB Steve S59 R59 38 km north
22:02z VK2FPQ 144MHz SSB Graeme S55 R52 QF55DG 137 km near Wollongong
22:05z VK2FPQ 433MHz SSB Graeme S51 R51 QF55DG 137 km
22:08z VK1DJA 144MHz SSB Dave S59 R59 QF44
22:10z VK1DJA 433MHz SSB Dave S59 R58 QF44
22:14z VK1KW 144MHz SSB Rob S59 R59 QF44MT
22:15z VK1KW 433MHz SSB Rob S59 R57 QF44MT
22:16z VK1DI 433MHz SSB Ian QRP S58 R58 QF44
22:21z VK1GP 144MHz SSB Wedge S58 R59 QF44
22:24z VK1GP 433MHz SSB Wedge S59 R59 QF44
22:28z VK1RX/P 144MHz SSB Al S59 R59 QF44 portable
22:29z VK1RX/P 433MHz SSB Al S59 R59 QF44 portable
22:32z VK1RX/P 433MHz SSB both QRP 2 watts S58 R58
22:36z VK2BHO 144MHz SSB John S51 R31 QF55KK 193 km
22:38z VK2BXT 144MHz SSB Kerry S55 R52  217 km north-east
22:41z VK3EJ 144MHz SSB Gordon S55 R54 QF24TB 309 km
22:44z VK1BG 144MHz SSB Ian S59 R59 QF44
22:46z VK1AI 144MHz SSB Greg S59 R59 QF44
23:17z VK1MA 50MHz SSB Matt S59 R59 QF44
23:40z VK2UH 144MHz SSB Andrew S51 R52 QF45LD 52 km 359 deg
00:42z VK1MBE 433MHz SSB Andrew S59 R59 QF44 13 km
00:17z VK1ATP 144MHz SSB Paul S58 R58 QF44
00:17z VK1MA 144MHz SSB Matt S59 R59 QF44

SOTA Chasers – Examples of backyard 2m and 70cm antennas

VK1RX portable backyard VHF/UHF antenna arrangement connected to an Icom IC-706

VK1RX back yard 2m dipole and a 70cm ground plane mounted for horizontal polarisation

21 km from Mount McDonald, VK1RX temporary backyard 2m dipole and a 70cm ground plane mounted for horizontal polarisation, 6 metres above the surrounding ground. The black box in the center of the antennas is a VHF/UHF duplexer.   Photo supplied by Al VK1RX and published with his permission.

Andrew VK2UH portable backyard precision 2m dipole connected to a Yaesu FT-817 power output 5 watts

VK2UH backyard precision 2m dipole

VK2UH backyard precision 2m dipole 2 meters above the ground.  This dipole works well at the 3rd harmonic 432 MHz.  Andrew’s backyard antenna is 52 km north of Mount McDonald.  Photo supplied by Andrew VK2UH and published with his permission.

Chasers on the HF Bands

On 40m 7.095 MHz, 21 chasers including my first contact with Chris VK4FR mobile traveling across the Hay Plain, NSW.  Chris is a regular contributor to this blog.   A 2nd first-time contact was with Maria VK5FMAZ operating portable in a conservation park with hubby Paul VK5PAS.  One Summit to Summit (S2S) contact made later in the session with Andrew VK1DA/2 at Mt Mundoonen VK2/ST-053.

SOTA to VKFF Park contacts included Peter VK3ZPF operating from VKFF-0055 Brisbane Ranges NP, Gerard VK2IO in VKFF-0595 Hunter Wetlands NP and Maria and Paul both in VKFF-0823 Cooltong Conservation Park.

On 30m 10.130 MHz, one chaser Steve VK7CW and I did hear Mike VK6MB with a 5-2 signal report.

On 20m 14.310 MHz one local chaser Peter VK1XP.

On 15m 21.350 MHz and 10m 28.480 MHz one local chaser Andrew VK2MWP.

After 3 hours and 40 minutes of non stop radio chat, I packed up and headed back to the car for lunch.

My SOTA VHF and UHF distance records
No 2m or 70cm distance records set today, the furthest 2m SSB contact was with Gordon VK3EJ near Cobram over 309 km while on 70cm I made a weak SSB signal contact with Graeme VK2FPQ near Wollongong 137 km north-east.  🙂


2 thoughts on “SOTA – VK1AD portable 70cm update #14 – Mount McDonald

  1. Pingback: SOTA – VK1AD portable 70cm update #15 – Mt Coree | Get out of the Radio Shack and Live Life

  2. Another good write up and it’s great to be in the log! About to commence work on a folding hex beam so your 30M contact(s) were of interest as I would like to try this band for data (PSK, JT65/9) into EU from the parks.


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