SOTA – 2017 New Year QRP Activation

Sunday 1 January 2017.  I made my way to Mt Stromlo’s north-hump for the VK SOTA New Year S2S ‘bonanza’, an opportunity to add a hundred or so points to my SOTA Summit to Summit Log.

On the Australian (VK) eastern seaboard we are fortunate to have UTC day change occur at 11 am local time (summer daylight savings).  The timing of the UTC day change provides SOTA activators with the opportunity to earn double activation points for the same peak, that’s separate points for 2016 and 2017 assuming the peak wasn’t previously activated during the 2016 calendar year.  In my case I have activated Mt Stromlo many times during 2016, therefore I will receive one activator point only.  Elsewhere in Australia and New Zealand radio amateurs have selected SOTA peaks not activated during 2016.

Mt Stromlo is a ‘drive-on’ summit to with 200 metres of the Trig Station, that’s 200 metres north of the main car park.  Unfortunately for radio amateurs Murphy’s Law is a play here where the Trig Station, an ideal support for a 7 metre telescopic pole, is within 5 metres of a high-voltage transformer plus a range of commercial communication infrastructure which combined emits a S8 noise (QRM) on 40m and 20m.  To escape the QRM one needs to move away from the source and set up 300 metres north on the northern most knoll.  This preferred location is known to local activators as the ‘north-hump’ which is within the 25 metre AZ. A second and untested option is 300 metres south-west of the Trig Station close to the main car park, which in 3 years of activating this summit I haven’t tried.  Feel free to try the second option yourself.   😉

Oz Topo contour map - Mt Stromlo VK1/AC-043

Oz Topo contour map – Mt Stromlo VK1/AC-043

Today, I am implementing my personal SOTA 2017 QRP challenge where I plan to activate and qualify each SOTA peak with no more than 2.5 watts output using SSB, FM or AM modes.  This ambitious plan may or may not play out well given the decline in sunspot activity.  The sun’s so-called 11-year activity cycle is heading towards a solar minimum in 2020, as a result we will continue to see low sunspot activity over the next 3 to 4 years.  It’s very low now, how much lower will sunspot activity go?

To the activation, how did I go?   Today NVIS propagation on 40m (7 MHz) was excellent I had no problems qualifying Mt Stromlo with the FT-817ND set to 2.5 watts, in fact I made a number of 40m long haul QSOs with the radio’s output power set to 1 watt.  One could argue I qualified the summit on 40m at 1 watt.  🙂    See my log extract for details.

Summary of QSOs and power settings on 40, 20 and 2m bands:

  • 31 Dec 16 (pre UTC change) – 40 QSOs:
    • four QSOs at 1 watt, VK5WG, VK7CW, VK4HA and VK2YW;
    • one QSO at 5 watts, VK1VIC/2 on 2m FM
    • 28 QSOs at 2.5 watts; and
    • seven QSOs at 10 watts or higher on the 20m band (14 MHz)
  • 1 Jan 17 (post UTC change) – 27 QSOs:
    • 23 QSOs at 2.5 watts;
    • one QSO at 5 watts, VK2IO/P; and
    • three QSOs at 10 watts or higher on the 20m band (14 MHz).

As you can see from the details above activating and qualifying a SOTA peak at QRP levels is more than achievable at 2.5 watts but also at 1 watt.  Come on be brave give QRP a go, try QRP 2.5 watts during 2017!  The challenge is for you to complete four QSOs at 2.5 watts, if you like you can move to QRO after completing the four QRP QSOs.  On the other hand if enjoy the challenge of QRP then stay with 2.5 watts but also try 1 watt or even 500 milliwatts (mW).

Photos: © Copyright 2017 Andrew VK1AD

What are each of the FT-817ND power output setting icons displayed on the front panel?

FT-817ND display showing the output power is set to 1 watt. I bar = 500 milliwatts, 2 bars = 1 watt.

FT-817ND front panel display icon (LII) showing the power output set to 1 watt.

The FT817ND power output setting options differ for internal and external batteries.   I have checked my rig’s power output on HF, VHF and UHF bands using a RF power meter terminated with a 50 ohm dummy load.  The results match the product specifications.  Front panel display icons and power output values are shown in the following two tables:

FT-817ND Power Setting Display – Internal Battery (default setting is 2.5 watts)
Display Icon Power Output
LI 500 milliwatts
LII 1 watt
LIII 2.5 watts
“LIII” blinking 5 watts

When using an external battery at 5 watts output check the power setting icon is blank, that’s right blank.  I have to admit, I have been known not to check the display icon only to find after completing an activation the power output setting icon was displaying LIII (2.5 watts), all the time thinking I was transmitting at 5 watts, ha ha.   🙂

FT-817ND Power Setting Display – External Battery
Display Icon Power Output
LI 500 milliwatts
LII 1 watt
LIII 2.5 watts
Blank 5 watts

Photos: © Copyright 2017 Andrew VK1AD

At the so-called ‘north hump’ I found a comfortable place among rocks in the shade of a 5 metre pine tree.  I have two transceivers and three antennas.  The FT-817 is connected to a 40m 1/2 wave inverted V dipole while the FT-857D is connected to a 20m 1/2 wave inverted V dipole and a 2m SlimJim for VHF and UHF frequencies.  The FT-817ND is powered by a 2.2 Ah 3S LiPo and the FT-857D is powered by a 8.4 Ah 3S LiFePO4.  I could have saved a little weight and powered both radios using the 8.4 Ah 3S LiFePO4.  😉

FT-817ND dedicated to 40m while the FT-857D is dedicated to 20m. 2nd operator is Harry.

FT-817ND dedicated to 40m while the FT-857D is dedicated to 20m. 2nd operator is Harry.

Antenna arrangement. Two linked HF inverted Vs at 90 degrees to each other and a 2m SlimJim

Antenna arrangement. Two linked HF inverted V dipoles at 90 degrees to each other and a 2m SlimJim

VK1AD SOTA Shack at Mt Stromlo north hump

VK1AD SOTA Shack at Mt Stromlo north-hump 31 Dec 16 / 01 Jan 17

Extract from VK1AD SOTA Activator Log:  31 December 2016 / 1 January 2017 – Mt Stromlo VK1/AC-043

Time Call Band Mode Notes
21:57z VK3GGG 7MHz SSB Mick S58 R55 2.5 watts
21:58z VK1VIC/2 7MHz SSB Tony S2S VK2/ST-001 S58 R43 2.5 watts
22:00z VK5BJE/1 7MHz SSB John S55 R51 VKFF-0989 2.5 watts
22:03z VK2FENG 7MHz SSB Helen S57 R55 2.5 watts
22:04z VK5IS 7MHz SSB Ian S59 R57 2.5 watts
22:04z VK1MA/P 7MHz SSB Matt S2S VK1/AC-008 S59 R51 2.5 watts
22:07z VK5WG 7MHz SSB Nev S58 R54 1 watt over 1000 km
22:16z VK1VIC/2 14MHz SSB Tony S2S VK2/ST-001 S59 R59 10 watts
22:21z VK1VIC/2 144MHz FM Tony S2S VK2/ST-001 S55 R59 5 watts
22:27z VK2YK/M 7MHz SSB Adam S57 R52 2.5 watts
22:30z ZL1BYZ/P 14MHz SSB John S2S ZL1/WK-063 S55 R55 20 watts
22:44z VK7CW 7MHz SSB Steve S59 R57 2.5 watts
22:45z VK7CW 7MHz SSB Steve S59 R53 1 watt to VK7 over 700 km
22:49z VK4RF 7MHz SSB Rick S59 R55 2.5 watts
22:49z VK4HA 7MHz SSB Rick S59 R53 1 watt to VK4 over 1000 km
22:53z VK5ZAT 7MHz SSB Nick S59 R55 2.5 watts
22:55z VK3ANL/P 7MHz SSB Nick S2S VK3/VC-031 S58 R55 2.5 watts
22:56z VK3FPSR 7MHz SSB Peter S59 R55 2.5 watts
23:04z VK2YW 7MHz SSB John in Wagga Wagga S59 R57 1 watt
23:10z VK2IO/P 7MHz SSB Gerard S2S VK2/HU-093 S58 R59 2.5 watts
23:12z VK3YY 7MHz SSB Glenn S59 R55 2.5 watts
23:17z VK3CAT/P 7MHz SSB Tony S2S VK3/VC-037 S58 R58 2.5 watts
23:18z VK3AV 7MHz SSB Bernard S59 R45 2.5 watts
23:19z VK7XDM/P 7MHz SSB Mitch S2S VK7/WC-003 S55 R41 2.5 watts
23:20z VK7ZMS 7MHz SSB S58 R52 2.5 watts
23:21z VK5PAS/P 7MHz SSB Paul S2S VK5/SE-001 S59 R58 2.5 watts
23:23z VK5FMAZ 7MHz SSB Maria S2S VK5/SE-001 S59 R58 2.5 watts
23:24z VK4RF 14MHz SSB Rick S59 R59 10 watts
23:24z VK4HA 14MHz SSB Rick S59 R59 10 watts
23:25z VK1DI/2 7MHz SSB Ian S2S VK2/SM-014 S58 R58 2.5 watts
23:27z VK3PF/P 7MHz SSB Peter S2S VK3/VG-001 S58 R58 2.5 watts
23:30z VK3ARR/P 7MHz SSB Andrew S2S VK3/VE-008 S58 R59 2.5 watts
23:36z VK3JBL/6 14MHz SSB Andrew S2S VK6/SW-004 S55 R51 10 watts
23:38z VK6NU/P 14MHz SSB John S2S VK6/SW-039 S52 R52 10 watts
23:39z VK2EMI 14MHz SSB Mark S59 R59 10 watts
23:48z VK3ZPF/P 7MHz SSB Peter S2S VK3/VC-005 S58 R58 2.5 watts
23:50z VK3EQ/P 7MHz SSB Rik S2S VK3/VN-030 S56 R55 2.5 watts
23:55z VK3AGD/P 7MHz SSB Adam S2S VK3/VC-002 S58 R57 2.5 watts
23:56z VK3SG/P 7MHz SSB Lee S2S VK3/VE-007 S58 R58 2.5 watts
23:59z VK3HN/P 7MHz SSB Paul S2S VK3/VC-014 S59 R59 2.5 watts

1 January 2017 post UTC day change

Time Call Band Mode Notes
00:00z VK3HN/P 7MHz SSB Paul S2S VK3/VC-014 S59 R59 2.5 watts
00:01z VK1ATP/P 7MHz SSB Paul S2S VK1/AC-039 S59 R59 2.5 watts
00:01z VK1MBE/2 7MHz SSB Andrew S2S VK2/ST-001 S58 R56 2.5 watts
00:02z VK3FPSR 7MHz SSB Peter S59 R59 2.5 watts
00:02z VK1MA/P 7MHz SSB Matt S2S VK1/AC-008 S59 R53 2.5 watts
00:04z VK3ARR/P 7MHz SSB Andrew S2S VK3/VE-008 S58 R59 2.5 watts
00:05z VK3SG 7MHz SSB Lee S2S VK3/VE-007 S56 R57 2.5 watts
00:06z VK3LED/P 7MHz SSB Col S58 R58 2.5 watts
00:08z ZL1BYZ/P 14MHz SSB John S2S ZL1/WK-063 S55 R56 20 watts
00:10z VK3AGD/P 7MHz SSB Adam S2S VK3/VC-002 S59 R55 2.5 watts
00:12z VK3ARH/P 7MHz SSB Allen S2S VK3/VS-027 S58 R51 2.5 watts
00:15z VK5CZ/P 7MHz SSB Ian S2S VK3/NE-035 S55 R53 2.5 watts
00:19z VK3ANL/P 7MHz SSB Nick S2S VK3/VC-031 S58 R59 2.5 watts
00:19z VK7CW 7MHz SSB Steve S59 R53 2.5 watts
00:20z VK3GGG 7MHz SSB Mick S58 R42 2.5 watts
00:21z VK3BSE 7MHz SSB John S58 R58 2.5 watts
00:27z VK6QS/P 14MHz SSB Matt S2S VK6/SW-009 S56 R56 20 watts
00:31z VK3PF/P 7MHz SSB Peter S2S VK3/VG-001 S58 R58 2.5 watts
00:34z VK3CAT/P 7MHz SSB Tony S2S VK3/VC-037 S58 R58 2.5 watts
00:35z VK2IO/P 7MHz SSB Gerard S2S VK2/HU-093 S58 R59 5 watts
00:38z VK1VIC/P 7MHz SSB Tony S2S VK2/SM-049 S58 R59 2.5 watts
00:39z VK3AV 7MHz SSB Bernard S59 R44 2.5 watts
00:42z VK3DAC 7MHz SSB Fred S58 R55 2.5 watts
00:44z VK3JBL/6 14MHz SSB Andrew S2S VK6/SW-004 S58 R55 10 watts
00:46z VK3TST/P 7MHz SSB Marcus S2S VK3/VE-034 S57 R57 2.5 watts
00:48z VK5PAS/P 7MHz SSB Paul S2S VK5/SE-001 S59 R58 2.5 watts
00:49z VK5FMAZ/P 7MHz SSB Maria S2S VK5/SE-001 S59 R58 2.5 watts

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