TL;DR – don’t activate during a geomagnetic storm, or if you do, take VHF.
With school holidays and planned time off from work, I decided to reserve a day to myself to go activate something new. The original plan was to activate Federation Range vk3/vn-029, having never been to Lake Mountain before and wanting to investigate how children friendly the road up there was 🙂
This however coincided with a visit to vk3 by Andrew VK1AD who was planning to activate in the morning as well. The lure of S2S points and helping a Sota challenge participant along was too great, and federation range was just too far.
Having previously been to Donna Buang on with the family, a spur of the moment thing, and unable to activate due to lack of spotting, I was also keen to tick this one off.
Dropping the children off, I was underway slightly ahead of schedule though by the time I got through the suburbs I’d lost all the margin. Parked the car at 10:46 am, and on air at 10:53 on 6m with the FT817 and infamous flowerpot antenna, enabling pre and post rollover points with Andrew VK1AD/3 on Little Joe VK3/VC-027, basically underneath me on the other side of Warburton. Clear LOS except for the trees.
Followed up with an easy contact with Glenn VK3YY from a carpark and a CW contact with Tony VK3CAT/M. Then turned to 144.150 SSB with just a half wave whip netting contact with John VK3JSN which I believe was his first 2m SSB QSO. Calls on lower HF bands were fruitless, and finished up with another QSO with 1AD on 10m.
First 6m and 10m QSOs for myself I believe. Certainly 6m, and I can’t recall ever using 10 before.
Conditions were wet, windy and cold, and having just got my required contacts I was pleased to depart. Strangely I was the only car there except for the cleaners.
There was some doubt about the state of Acheron way as we’d had a strong wind and bushfires to the north over the weekend. After a short distance I met a bloke coming the other way who was clearing the road, though he said it was basically all clear. There was more debris between Warburton and the Donna Buang turnoff, in fact there was a new tree down when I came back.
No problems on the drive along Archeron way, though I did stop to clear one small tree on Carters Gap Road. Turning too early resulted in a little wasted time but I arrived at the summit only half an hour after my alerted time. Track 8 up to the summit has had some ballast on it, and was dry despite all the recent rain. No problems with the RAV4. The ballast is quite coarse and quite a few larger rocks to be wary about. The pair of hairpin bends are good fun.
Starting on 6m half an hour later than my alert, worked Tony VK3CAT with reasonable reports. Glenn VK3YY put in an admirable effort to try and work me, but even with Tony’s help, we couldn’t complete a QSO. Shame as I could hear him, though he was only maybe 41 at best.
I put up the tri-band EFHW and found it slightly alarming that there was no increase in band noise. Interestingly the noise level later steadily rose to s7 before fading away. I attribute this to a C9 solar flare which finished what the CME arrival and previous M2.8 flared had started. I called on 7.085 with no takers, though I got a blind call from VK3MEG asking me to try 52.2. This shows the benefit of the triband antenna and dual antenna sockets on the 817 as I had a selection of 4 bands with a button press. Very nice.
QSYing resulted in a easy contact with Steve and then at his suggestion I put out a cq on 50.110 which netted an additional contact with VK3FM.
Back to HF and the only contacts completed were on CW with Andrew VK2MWP on 40m (weak) and Gerard VK2IO on 20m (very nice signals). I could hear other stations calling on 40 but they must not have been able to hear me.
Peter VK3PF suggested 2m so I assembled the 4el yagi and put it about 2.5m up the squidpole. As the antenna was newly built it required a SWR check and as I was doing so, Steve VK3MEG gave me a 57 report, which became 59 when I turned the amp on, and then 59 plus 20 when I pointed the beam at him! That was just on 100km with 9el and 100w on his end.
Working Peter was a little more challenging, having a colinear vertical on his end. There wasn’t a huge improvement between vertical and horizontal orientation on my beam, suspect the ground gain from the horizontal polarization was counteracting the cross polarization, or the path was doing horrible things to it. Anyway we got the contact made, again about 100km but I suspect a much harder path.
Noticing Brian VK3MCD’s spot on 7.085 I again utilized the awesome fast band switching to add a second S2S for the day and give him his second QSO.
After that I gave another call on 144.150 beaming north, and was taken back when vk1kw replied. It turns out Steve VK3MEG was also calling at the same time and neither of us could hear each other. Anyway Steve got a 41 report in supposedly ordinary conditions. Given i’m 10dB down on Steve, that’s somewhat promising. It’s also a good indication that our beams side patterns are quite clean.
Summary, 14 activator points, two new uniques, two more completes, 8 chaser points and the first use of 6m for me. The 14 points also helped push me over 100 activator points, finally! I also tried a few new things and made some improvements to the 2m station, further proving it’s effectiveness for local contacts in lieu of 40m. Perhaps weekdays are not the best time though.
I didn’t make it across the road to Strickland due to time, but I’ve already activated that one before.