Not having many opportunities to activate, I recently gained a weekend away which I was originally going to use to head to Mt Howitt vk3/vt-001 and activate a few other 10 pointers, however an inflamed disc in my neck and signs of a cold/flu caused the postponement. The next chance was this weekend which coincided with the s2s activities, but the weather forecast was terrible so decided on tackling Mt Beenak as the closest summit with more than 2 points.
Leaving home on schedule for a change, it took 1:05 to get to Gembrook, then a further 35 minutes to get to the bottom of the tower track at Mt Beenak.
Right into Mt Beenak road, 10km from Gembrook on Launching place rd after the vineyards and the straight long drive into and out of the gully. After 7.2km left into Blacksands road. The previous km has some potholes and rocks but okay for 2wd. 3.2km on Blacksands turn hard left and it’s only another 800m to the tower track. Blacksands has been known to have some boggy sections around the logged area and the climb up to the final turnoff washes out, but this has recently been graded and it’s like driving on a freeway now 🙂 The walk to the top took about 25-30 minutes.
From my previous trip I was thinking I’d setup on the northern side away from the towers, but the regrowth was too thick, so ended up finding a tiny patch to setup the 3 person tent, or rather just the groundsheet and rain fly, and not properly pegged out or even using the cross pole.
I’d built a ground plane for 20m with 3 radials but still needed to tune it, so the netbook and homebrew antenna analyser was in the pack and predictably found it was a little low. Taking about 5cm off the radiator and radials brought the lowest SWR up towards 14mhz, but it was still not in the band. I was concerned about detuning from the nearby wet foliage and the ft817 was happy enough so left as is.
Having a listen around, I found a high level of noise on SSB, S5-8, some clearly man made. I struggled to hear the SSB activators so switched to CW as I’d originally planned. Although I considered the use of the ax prefix and practiced sending it, I decided to avoid it to simplify things for me and not to confuse any dx chasers.
A self spot and a quick call resulted in my first SOTA dx, first CW dx and a summit 2 summit at that, with gw0nmd on gw/nw-053. Stunning signals both ways, amazing, especially considering I just discovered I was only using 2.5 watts.
Then cw contacts with s58al, ok1zc, ea2if, ok1kt, hb9bin/p on hb/be-087, ea2bd/p on ea2/nv-119, vk5is, ka1r, oh9xx, vk5cz, hb9cat and a sole SSB qso with vi6anzac on vk6/sw-039.
After s58al the pileup was amazing, struggled to pull anything out of it.
Normally I’m a bit off in sending initially and warm up after the first qso, however things seemed to just get worse and at some point I realised I was shivering from the cold. I was so focused on the cw I’d forgotten to put my fleece on after the climb and setup. Tried using light gloves for one qso but didn’t like it, what did work aside from the fleece was a nice cup of tea. I also dropped the sending speed to 14 which helped marginally.
I also struggle a bit with s, h and 5 and today was no exception hehe. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to work Ian vk5is 🙂 To say I was out of my depth would be an understatement, but I did end up with a bunch of dx chasers logged and 3 hard worked dx s2s. Very satisfying, I believe my last dx was on AO-13 if you exclude vk3wam’s sota activation in vk9.
I pulled down the vertical and put up the 20/40 EFHW to have quick wrap up on 40. Brain was definitely set on QRP (was exhausted from 20m and distracted by the then heavy rain) as I appeared on USB initially before wondering where everyone was after a couple of calls :-). Further s2s with ax2ib/3 on vk3/ve-165, vk3hra/p on vk3/vc-024, ax2io/p on vk2/ct-012, and chasers ax3afw, vk3fqso, ax3pf, vk5wg, vk3led, vk3fb/p, vk3cat (or ax3cat just scribbled the suffix down – doh) and vk3dog. High level of band noise with frequent static crashes meant 4×9 reports were common. I had the volume on max for the SSB contacts to overcome the noise of the rain. I used headphones for most of the cw.
A quick and wet pack up and a walk back down in the dark, mist, rain and mud. Using a torch was useless due to the conditions, and the drive out required fog lights. Even once the sealed road I was limited to 50km/h due to the visibility and amount of rain.
This was also the first outing with LiPo’s, taking several 2200mh 3s packs just in case, but as it turned out I only used 2/3rds of one for 2 hours of operating. Most impressed. Now I’ve tested the dual band EFHW, I can seriously drop the weight and size of my radio gear I take.
Only thing I’d change would be to remember to take my wet pants. While I was dry under the tent I was soaked while walking down. Gaiters kept my feet/boots clean and dry at least.
I also need more on air CW practice, but with work related exams looming, that won’t happen anytime soon.
A good day out, thanks to those who organised it and those who I worked, but I’m not doing it again in weather like that! 🙂