Friday, 21 October 2016

WWFF Woodstock Nature Reserve VKFF-0988

With a nice mild evening decided to do a WWFF park activation after work, headed out to a nearby park Woodstock Nature Reserve, VKFF-0988. I had activated this park once before but didn't get enough contacts for the 44 required, so time for a repeat visit.

As per last activation drove along Stockdill Drive and parked at the car park for the Shepherds Lookout walk.

There is a plaque on the rock wall showing a map of the park.

As I had my heavy TS-480 radio and a table and chair didn't walk to the lookout this time, and looked for a spot close by to operate from. Entered the park via a ranger access gate on the right of the car park.

After a short walk along the road found a grassy open area on the right to set up the dipole. As nothing suitable to strap the squid pole to I used my camping table for support. Worked quite well. Station set up in the grass, quite long after all the recent rain...

Unfortunately the recent rain also meant mosquitoes were out :( Had most skin covered so wasn't too bad. Close up of the station.

Started on 20m as there was a spot on the ParksnPeaks website for Fred VK4FE/p in VKFF-1650 Speewah Conservation Park, up near Cairns North Queensland.

Fred was a good 57 signal. Tried spotting and calling myself, only one contact, F1BLL Gerard. After calling for a while went to 40m to work the locals.

Found the band very noisy with static crashes. Found out later this was from a storm approaching from the North that reached Canberra later in the evening. Close by NVIS contacts also seemed to be missing. A weak copy with Adrian VK5FANA, then Bill  VK4FW with a strong signal. Went on to work Mick VK3PMG/VK3GGG, Steve VK3FSPG, Andrew VK7DW, Fred VK4FE/p again on 40 m, and Peter VK7FPRN.

Got sick of the static and returned to 20m. Found Hans VK6XN/p in VKFF-1431 Leschenaultia Conservation Park. He had a good signal, this was his first park activation and sounded like he was having fun. Tried another spot, got called by JA8RJE, Kio in Hokkaido, a good 57 signal.

Saw another spot for another activation, Phil VK6ADF/p in VKFF-1446 Jurian Bay Coastal Park. Had a bit of a chat about the joys of portable operating, and what the public think you are doing... Signal built up as the sun was setting.

After a final call ended up working Danny, ON4VT, a very active park activator and hunter in Belgium. Weak but workable. His eQSL card

Packed up and headed home for dinner. A total of 13 contacts, need to return again to this park for another 13 contacts to reach the 44 needed for WWFF.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Bullen Range Nature Reserve and SOTA Bullen Range VK1/AC-033

With a sunny, although windy day decided to do another WWFF park activation, along with a SOTA summit. I had activated Bullen Range, SOTA peak VK1/AC-033 before but had not done so since the surrounding Nature Reserve was added as a WWFF park, VKFF-0984. so set out to activate both.

As per other times accessed via a track off the Tidbinbilla Road. Note this is not the edge of the Bullen Range Nature Reseve, this is reached by crossing the Paddys River Travelling Stock Reserve.

A map of the park off the Protected Planet website. Its a fairly large reserve at around 40 sq Km, surprisingly close to Canberra. You could access it from the East via Kambah Pool Road, you could access from the Cotter Reserve to the North or from near Tidbinbilla Tracking station to the West. Otherwise a long walk to enter from the Southern end.

After 3 gates crossed along the road started walking along the edge of the park, ACT Pine forest on the left and the park in the hills on the right.

Another gate on the right, through this up the hill and onto the ridge within the park

While walking along the fence line on top of the ridge came across an Echidna. He spotted me and curled up into a ball for protection.

Continued along the ridge. Yet another gate. The summit in the distance. It was quite windy on the ridge.

Getting closer to the summit. Black Mountain with the tower on the right.

Yet another gate after here. Once in the forest got a bit of a break from the strong wind, climbed up the road to the summit. Marked by a rocky cairn. Thankfully a bit sheltered here from the wind.

Near the cairn used to be 3 log off cuts that made handy seats and tables for SOTA operators. Seems someone claimed a couple for firewood, as only one left :(

Set up the squid pole on a small gum tree sapling and strung out the 40m dipole to a couple of trees nearby.

Used the one remaining log off cut as a seat and set the radio up on the log.

Got on 40m. The VKFF "Team Challenge" was on today, so teams of operators out in parks. Started with VK5ZEO Steve and VK5PET Peter in VKFF-0916 Mount Magnificant CP. Then the usual chasers.

Worked another team in VKFF-1757 Upper Spencer Gulf Marine National Park, VK5KLV Les and VK5KPR Peter. Worked VK2IO Gerard in VKFF-1383 Tuggerah State Conservation Area. And a SOTA station VK1MBE Andrew on VK2/IL-006.

Worked another team Paul VK5PAS and Marija VK5FMAZ in VKFF-0828 Monatro CP, and Tony VK3XV Mick VK3PMG in Ararat Hills Regional Park. Also Joe VK3SRC in Churchill NP VKFF-0621, also doing a Jamboree On the Air JOTA activation.

Briefly tried 20m, but no answers to my calls even after spotting myself. Returned to 40m, finished working another team, VK7JON John and VK7FOLK Helen in VKFF-0005 Narawntapu National Park.

As a long walk back, almost 5Km, packed up after 37 contacts.

View along the ridge looking towards Tuggeranong town centre.

Looking South along the ridge. Castle Hill in the middle and Mt Tennent in the distance on the right.

Got back to the car after over an hour and a quarter walking.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

SOTA Mt Cowangerong VK2/ST-001

After activating SOTA peak South Black Range VK2/ST-006 drove to Captains Flat for lunch, then proceeded to Mt Cowangerong, VK2/ST-001.

Turned off Captains Flat Road onto the Cowangerong Fire Trail. Sign for Tallanganda National Park here.

Note the sign is on the right side of the road. The park does not extend to the other side of the road which is Tallaganda state forest, and the actual summit is not even in state forest, but its own rectangle of land. So you can't activate the peak and the park at once. Here is a screenshot from the Six Maps website showing park boundaries.

Got to the turnoff to Mt Cowangerong and parked here on the right off the road.

Carried my gear up the short access road, including a heavy TS-480... glad not too far. Reached the Mt Cowangerong radar, this is the Bureau of Meteorology's rain radar for the Canberra area.

I know from experience anywhere near the radar is QRM central... so moved back down the access road until finding a suitable squid pole support, in this case a sign warning of buried high voltage cables. Strung out the 40m dipole along the road. Didn't worry about 80 m this time as not a good time of day for it.

Close up of the sign. Shack on a tarp just off the road.

Shack on the tarp. Set my TS-480 to around 50W output as conditions were still poor.

Got on 20m as figured better at this time of day. Started with a good signal from John ZL1BYZ, then Matt VK1MA a surprising strong S7. Probably on ground wave on 20m.

After Matt surprised to get called by Ron VK3AFW/2 doing a multi-operator activation of Pilot Reef Mountain, VK2/SW-021. He was fairly weak but clear, and probably on ground wave around 110 Km away to my West. The other operators there also grabbed me for S2S contacts, Compton VK2HRX/p, Allen VK3ARH/2. Then worked another ZL, Warren ZL2AJ.

Contacts dried up on 20m so switched the links to 40m. Started by working Karl VK2GKA/p in VKFF-0334 Morton National Park near Goulburn. Worked more of the usual chasers in VK2, VK4, VK5 and VK7. Got a few more of the VK2/SW-021 activators, Phil VK3BHR/2 and Ken VK3KIM/2. Signal similar to 20m, maybe a little stronger. Had a very weak contact with Andrew VK2UH at Yass, still NVIS conditions poor. Brett VK2VW in Northern NSW a good signal.

Packed up, stopped at Captains Flat for afternoon tea, then headed home.

SOTA South Black Range VK2/ST-006

With a nice sunny Sunday decided to do a couple of easy SOTA activations, South Black Range VK2/ST-006 and Mt Cowangerong, VK2/ST-001. Both easy almost drive to summits and worth 11 points, 8 point plus the 3 point winter bonus points. Also, as only short walks, decided could carry my TS-480 radio in and run more power, as the bands have been very poor lately with solar storms.

Drove to South Black Range as before, through Queanbeyan, Hoskinstown, Forbes Creek and turned off onto North Black Range Trail.

I was a bit concerned about the track condition after all the rain we have had lately, however apart from a few small puddles the track was easy going. Used 4WD on the final turnoff up to the summit as it was a little muddy. Parked and headed the final 100 m or so through the rocks up to the top. Carried the TS-480 in a bag, it was heavy...

Reached the top. There is now a ladder resting on the side of the rock for access to the top.

Gave climbing this a miss... Notice how there is a rung missing near the top! :) Didn't look long enough to me...

Set up the squid pole on the usual tree stump I use each activation here. Strung out dipoles for both 40 m and 80 m. There is a heap of room on this summit for large antennas...

My TS-480 on the nearby rock, running off my LifePO4 8400 mAh battery. I started on 40w output, but wound it up later to 60 w as conditions were really bad...

Got on 40 m first, starting with a park to park park contact, VK3ZPF/p Peter in VKFF-0965 Crossover Regional Park. He was only an S3, and had problems hearing me, even running 60 W... Would have been hard going using QRP. After working him called CQ SOTA/Parks and worked a few chasers, then got called by Allen VK3ARH/2 on summit VK2/SM-036, in the Snowy Mountains. A good S7. Suspect via ground wave as we were both high up.

He had several others with him keen for S2S contacts too. Worked Ken VK3KIM/2, Ron VK3AFW/2, Phil VK3BHR/2 and Compton VK2HRX/p on the same summit. Both before and after UTC rollover. Worked a few more chasers, mainly VK5s and VK7 as the NVIS short skip on 40 m was gone, again...

To give some of the closer stations a go went to 80 m. A good signal from John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga, he was unable to hear me on 40 m.  Worked VK2GKA Karl in the Southern Highlands. Local stations Matt VK1MA and Andrew VK1AD. Andrew had problems with QSB so even 80 m suffering with bad propagation.

Returned to 40 m to grab another park to park with Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-0960 Bendigo Regional Park.

Packed up and drove to Captain Flat for lunch, and to Mt Cowangerong after.