Wednesday 15 March 2017. SOTA activation of Mount McDonald VK1/AC-048 789 metres ASL on 20m
Mount McDonald is 17 km west of Canberra GPO. Access to the summit is via a walking trail (3 km long) off Brindabella Road. For route details see this post.
My plan is to activate Mount McDonald on 20m and 17m for a chance to exchange a summit to summit (S2S) QSO with Mike 2E0YYY/P, activating G/CE-002 Walton Hill (Central England) at 316 metres ASL, plus work SOTA chasers across Australia, Europe, Japan and New Zealand starting at 0700 UTC (18:00 local) through to sunset 0830 UTC (19:30 local).
Solar conditions have settled this week with the K-Index at a big fat zero (0) 😊, however the SPI-Index is a little on the low side at 70. Nevertheless not one to sit around at home and wonder what propagation conditions might be like, I prefer to be on a summit and try DX for myself. With that in mind I headed to Mount McDonald after work.
SOTA gear: Yaesu FT-60R dual band HT, Yaesu FT-857D, 8.4 Ah 4S 13 volt LifePO4 battery, HF linked dipole covering 80/40/30/20/17/10/6 metre bands, 12 metre length of RG58AU, 10 metre telescopic pole and other bit and pieces such a 12 volt power meter, fuse assembly, log book, clock, first aid kit etc. In this case the 10m telescopic pole is required to make sure the 80m elements clear the terrain.
With my backpack weighing in at 10 kg, includes 2 litres of water and protective clothing, I made quick work of the 3 km fire trail to be on the summit by 17:45 local. I set up a HF inverted V linked dipole complete with 80m extensions on the off-chance 17 and 20m HF propagation was ‘flat’. Adding each 80m 1/4 wave element extension adds a further 10 minutes to the set up, finding suitable anchor points for the element ends, while trying to keep the ends raised at least 1 metre above ground level is always lots of fun! Finding 40 metres of clear space on a typical Australian summit below 1600 metres ASL (snow line) can be problematic. In this case Mount McDonald’s summit is defined by a very large flat open space with plenty of room to accommodate an 80m 1/2 wave inverted V or dare I say one could fit a 160m (1.8 MHz) version in the space available. Did I need the 3.5 MHz 80m extensions?
I started the mountain top activation at 07:10 UTC by posting a SOTA spot with ‘Rucksack Radio Tool’ (RRT), a mobile phone SOTA spotting app. Within a minute or two of spotting my first chaser was Sam JA1QVR and in quick time followed by John Zl1BYZ, Wynne ZL2ATH and Mike 2E0YYY/P to qualify the 1 point summit. Awesome to qualify the summit with a S2S QSO between Canberra, Australia and Central England. Mike and I followed up with a second QSO at 0745 UTC lasting 4 to 5 minutes where signal reports had improved, this time to 5-7 and 5-5.
With 20m well and truly open for long path (LP) propagation between Australia and Europe to my surprise Don’s booming voice (G0RQL) jumped right out of the radio’s speaker for an ‘armchair’ copy, seriously Don may well have sat next to me, wow an excellent SSB signal having travelled 24,000 km from the south of England to Mount McDonald. This activation reminded me of the excellent 20m band conditions found in 2014. Here’s a reminder, if you are sitting at home staring at a portable radio gatheting dust and thinking how poor 20m propagation conditions have been of late and don’t the risk to get out, then you will miss wonderful opportunities like I found today. Get out of the Radio Shack and Live Life!
Far too busy enjoying the 20m opening and totally absorbed in making as many 20m DX QSOs as possible, I completely forgot about 17m and working VK chasers on 80m. 90 minutes on the summit passed very quickly, I found myself packing up my SOTA station gear well after the sun had set. The return 3 km trip to the car in the dark was interesting, I was wearing a headlamp to illuminate the trail 😉
13 countries and 26 unique chasers worked on 20m 14.310 MHz SSB: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, England, France, Hungary, Japan, Italy, New Zealand, Romania, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland.
Only one local chaser on 2m 146.5 FM, Wade VK1FWBD.
Extract from VK1AD SOTA Activator Log: 15 March 2017 Mount McDonald
|07:15z||JA1QVR||14MHz||SSB||Sam S59 R59|
|07:16z||ZL1BYZ||14MHz||SSB||John S59 R59|
|07:21z||2E0YYY/P||14MHz||SSB||Mike S2S G/CE-002 S55 R52|
|07:24z||ZL2ATH||14MHz||SSB||Wynne S52 R21|
|07:27z||ZL1WA||14MHz||SSB||Jacky S59 R59|
|07:30z||VK1FWBD||144MHz||FM||Wade S55 R45|
|07:34z||G0RQL||14MHz||SSB||Don S58 R55|
|07:37z||JA1VRY||14MHz||SSB||Tadashi S55 R55|
|07:41z||ZL1SKL||14MHz||SSB||Soren S58 R45|
|07:44z||2E0YYY/P||14MHz||SSB||Mike S2S G/CE-002 S57 R55|
|07:48z||HB9VC||14MHz||SSB||John S59 R55 Zurich|
|07:52z||OK2PDT||14MHz||SSB||Jan S57 R53|
|07:55z||YO7MPD||14MHz||SSB||Petre S56 R53|
|07:58z||ON3BEN||14MHz||SSB||Ben S58 R55|
|08:03z||HA5AQ||14MHz||SSB||Tony S58 R55|
|08:05z||ON5SWA||14MHz||SSB||Frans S57 R54|
|08:07z||ON4VT||14MHz||SSB||Danny S59 R57|
|08:12z||VK6NU||14MHz||SSB||John S59 R55|
|08:17z||OE9HRV||14MHz||SSB||Herbert S56 R32|
Photos: © Copyright 2017 Andrew VK1AD
A big thanks to chasers in Japan, New Zealand, Europe and Australia for taking the time to listen for me, I bet you were as surprised as I was to find excellent 20m long path propagation conditions. 🙂
73, Andrew VK1AD