SOTA – VK1 SOTA DX Mount McDonald

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  ðŸ˜‰

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

Time Call Band Mode Notes
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
07:53z SA4BLM 14MHz SSB S56 R53
07:55z YO7MPD 14MHz SSB Petre S56 R53
07:56z YU1AB 14MHz SSB S59 R55
07:58z ON3BEN 14MHz SSB Ben S58 R55
07:59z IK2ECC 14MHz SSB S58 R53
08:01z IK4GRO 14MHz SSB S58 R53
08:03z YU1GTU 14MHz SSB S59 R59
08:03z HA5AQ 14MHz SSB Tony S58 R55
08:04z IK2ZJN 14MHz SSB S59 R59
08:05z ON5SWA 14MHz SSB Frans S57 R54
08:06z F4FUE 14MHz SSB S58 R59
08:07z ON4VT 14MHz SSB Danny S59 R57
08:08z IK8FIQ 14MHz SSB S58 R57
08:09z OK2TS 14MHz SSB S57 R55
08:12z VK6NU 14MHz SSB John S59 R55
08:17z OE9HRV 14MHz SSB Herbert S56 R32

Photos: © Copyright 2017 Andrew VK1AD

Mount McDonald summit late in the evening. 10 metre telescopic pole supporting a linked HF inverted V dipole

VK1AD SOTA shack at Mount McDonald VK1/AC-048

Sunset – view west over the Brindabella Ranges

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


3 thoughts on “SOTA – VK1 SOTA DX Mount McDonald

  1. Andrew,

    Thanks for reminding us that our Solar Propagation expertise is an incomplete dataset!

    73, and thanks for the ideas and encouragement!

    Gary, WB5ULK

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