Thursday, 8 February 2018

Activating with VK2IO in New South Wales - Day 2

For my second day activating with Gerard VK2IO it was determined that the best place to head for were the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, which lie around 40 miles south of Sydney. The summits of Knights Hill (VK2/IL-007) and Mount Kembla (VK2/IK-015) were our priority as these would be SOTA Complete for me. In addition Gerard factored in three more summits in the day. Neither of us lived "en-route" to the area of interest so to speak, so we arranged to meet at 7.15am on the southern outskirts of Sydney where Gerard parked his Subaru Forester up for the day. I had to take a few photos of Gerard's mobile installation as it was of great interest. Their was a Codan (motorised tuned) HF antenna on the rear bumper, with a vertical whip for the 10 MHz HF APRS transmissions mounted on the front bumper. A Codan transceiver in the boot provides the automatic data transmissions for APRS location on 10.140 MHz:

 
VK2IO's HF Codan APRS radio - the HF transceiver is a Yaesu FT-100 with remote head near the driver
VK2/IL-015 Mount Kembla


The trail to Mount Kembla which tops out the Illawarra Escarpment was well marked. It takes around 30 minutes to reach the lookout where I set up my station. Thanks to Simon G4TJC, who came here in December and provided this track for the SOTA Mapping Project:


Setting up on the rock at the lookout I just had room to accommodate my 40m length link dipole. We agreed I would start on 20m - I had drawn the short straw - nil propagation! This was unlike my visit to Mount Elliot the previous week when I worked DX - Larry K0RS in Colorado on 20m CW.  
An idyllic operating position for VK2/G4OBK/P on Mount Kembla VK/IL-015 - now SOTA Complete
After wasting time and power calling CQ on 20 metres I moved down to 30m for my six QSOs in SSB/CW and then topped it off on 40m with one CW QSO with Ian VK5CZ. Gerard was operating in a clearing about 200m from me and we kept in touch as usual on 2m with our handhelds. 

VK2/IL-007 Knights Hill

A 40 minute drive from Mount Kembla brought us to Knights Hill - a TV and commercial comms site with three very tall masts on it. The public area is well with the 25m drop activation zone. I operated on a patch of grass in full sun with a view of the masts. The radio got pretty hot:


Once again after trying CQ calls and spots I found within 10 minutes that the 20m band was closed. It took me another 30 minutes to complete 8 contacts on 30m and 40m, a different experience to what I find operating in Europe when in that space of time I would have expected to make many more contacts than that with the 50 watts I was running from the FT-857. 
My operating position - I had no groundsheet - on leaving the summit Gerard remarked he had previously seen snakes here...
VK2IO operating in his short legged camping chair - drive on summit


Once again this was "SOTA Complete" for me and we moved off to our next three summits which were clustered more closely together. 

VK2/IL-002 Wingecarribee



90 minutes after packing up on Knights Hill we were driving up Trig Station Lane to VK2/IL-002. It took longer to reach the drive on summit than expected as we were hungry - we had stopped off at the Robertson Pie Shop, renowned for the many certificates and diplomas won in pie making competitions throughout Australia. A fabulous place this was, standing on its own near a road junction:


Gerard chose Steak & Kidney, I chose Potato - which turned out to be Cottage Pie. Suitably fortified we made for Wingecarribee.

The summit is on private land, however a public road, a cul-de-sac, goes to several smallholdings which lie within the activation zone. There was room to park the Toyota and using the benefit of Gerard's knowledge we both set up on the right hand side of the road near the smallholdings about 150m apart. I setup my station on some neatly manicured grass behind a broken wire fence on private land, but not in view of the smallholders house. A few passing farmer types gave a jovial wave as they passed in their vehicles during my 30 minute operating session on 30m and 40m SSB from 0345z onward. Again I drew a blank on 20m due to the propagation and I was unable to solicit CW contacts on any band despite spots on SOTAWatch and calls. 
Gerard VK2IO/P busy packing up at his position on Trig Station Lane within the AZ on IL-002
Thanks to the 11 Australian Chasers who made it into my log on SSB. 

VK2/IL-001 Mount Gibraltar
This was the least enjoyable activation for me, in full sun on a concrete pad of a former radio mast near to the trig point. 

However, at last there were signs of limited propagation on 20m where I worked VK3CAT and ZL1BYZ. 

(To be continued)

Monday, 5 February 2018

VK2/G4OBK/P Mount Elliot VK2/HU-093

A week or so after activating with Gerard VK2IO I drove north from the Balgowlah Sydney suburb with my XYL, to activate Mount Elliot. We made a day out of the trip. It took 90 minutes to reach the summit area which is 6 miles east north east of Gosford in the Central Coast Region of New South Wales.  The summit is the most southerly of the SOTA VK2/HU (Hunter Valley Group) and is activated on a regular basis but the locals. I imagine that is probably why I have worked the summit 4 times from back home in England....

The summit area is a "drive on" one point hill within a nature reserve. It has a picnic area with BBQs provided, lookout, large car park and clean toilets. 

I arrived too late to catch the 0000z rollover time, where it would be possible to work the same chaser station either side of midday and provide double points. By the time I got set up it was after midday:

My friend Gerard VK2IO in Castle Hill, North Sydney was well featured in my log with 4 QSOs. The best DX QSO was into Colorado - Larry K0RS. 

A comfortable operating position on Mount Elliot at the picnic site within the 25m activation zone
After almost an hour on 20m, 30m and 40m I packed up. I tried a few CQ calls on 2m FM with my handheld and long whip from the lookout platform - there were no takers. 



All done we motored down to the coast at Terrigal. This was a very nice resort. We had brunch, a bit of a wander along the coast and then up to the highest point... VK2/HU-093 was another SOTA Complete for me. Onwards and upwards.....