For my first solo HF activation I chose a local summit Tuggeranong Hill. It will be a chance to test out all my new Yaesu 817nd and my SOTA Beams linked dipole. To see what this mountain radio stuff was all about my XYL (wife) accompanied me.
After a short drive we reached the access road to the summit near a power substation in Theodore at around 10:00 (00:00UTC). The peak was a short 25 minute walk along the access road to the summit with great views towards the Brindabellas including Mount Tennant.
On the top of the summit is the television broadcast antennas for Tuggeranong as the Tuggeranong valley below cannot see the television broadcast antennas in Belconnen. These would later prove to be troublesome on 2M.
We got set-up under the trig putting down a tarpaulin I had bought that was much to big. I strapped my squid pole to the trig using some occy straps. Then I unwound my new Two Band Dipole from SOTA Beams in the UK. On top of the pole I placed the dipole centre which has a convenient hole for mounting on top of poles.
Next I raised the pole to it’s full height and then pegged out the two ends of the dipole.
Finally I unpacked my new Yaesu 817nd and connected it up. I am using a 4200 mAh LiFePO4 to power my rig it should give me four to five hours of run time which is more than enough.
While I was setting up I talked to VK1NAM on 2M but conditions where poor and I could only make out very little.
By now it was 11:30 (01:30 UTC) I posted a SOTA spot and got things under way on 40M. Over the next 20 minutes I worked twenty contacts. Initially I worked the local crowd in VK1 with good 5/8 and 5/9 reports. Then in quick order I worked a large volume of VK3 stations deep into Victoria and into Melbourne. Propagation into VK3 was good and I received a number of 5/8 and 5/7 reports. I only spoke to a few VK2 stations as propagation into NSW must have been poor with my father unable to hear me in Northern Sydney.
Once the 40M pileup had subsided I tried my luck again on 2M. This time I walked approximately 150m from the trig and managed to talk to VK1MA. Like Mount Majura my HT was being de-sensed by the strong RF from the television broadcast antennas.
We then packed up and had a quick 20 minute walk back to the car.
This activation was a good learning experience for me. I found that the tarp I bought was much to big and I will replace it shortly. Also my 34L pack was not large enough for all my SOTA gear so I have since upgraded to a 60L pack that is much more roomy.
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I decided for my first planned solo SOTA activation I would walk up Mount Majura in the Northern Suburbs of Canberra. This activation would be my last 2M only activation. It was also a chance to test out my pack loaded up with a few books to simulate the weight of my future rig.
I parked at the base of the mountain at around about 07:40 in a dirt carpark at the end of Antill steet in Hackett. There are a number of different points to ascend the mountain from but but this looked to be the shortest and most direct.
I started off walking around 300m on the mountain bike trail before I took the path off to the left. Initially this path heads to the base of the mountain before it turns to the south and ascends up the western side of the mountain. As I walked up the mountain any views soon disappeared as the fog closed in around me. Around half way up there is a little bridge over a steep gully which has a bubbling creek flowing down it. The path itself is in good condition with a lot of work having gone into cutting stone steps. The path comes to an end on the ridge top on south flank of Mount Majura. Here you join a fire trail that leads north up to the top. So far the path had not been to steep but the fire trail had a number of 45 degree inclines which where a struggle.
I arrived at the summit at around 08:30 with plenty of time to spare for my planned activation at 09:00 (23:00 UTC). There was little to see from the top as with the fog visibility was down to around 200m. I took this time to go for an explore and check out the Air Service Australia radar installation. The radar is used to manage air traffic within the ACT.
The mountain top was reasonably quiet with only a few joggers ascending out of the mist and then heading back down again quickly when there was no view to be had. I set-up shop next to the trig.
Once 09:00 (23:00 UTC) rolled around I put out a SOTA Spot and began calling CQ on my Yaesu VX-6. Within quick succession I worked Ian VK1DI and Matt VK1MA. Over the next 20 minutes I talked to Vk1FH, VK1NAM and VK1ATP. To my annoyance I could hear what I presumed to be a number of other chasers trying to reach me but I could not hear anyway intelligible. VK1MA on the VK1 SOTA Mailing List suggested that my radio was most likely been desensitized by the large amount of RF gear up there. At 09:45 (23:45 UTC) I had not heard anyone else and decided to call it a day as it was quite damp and cold. As I left the fog began to open up a little revealing was must be normally a spectacular view.
I made my way back down the mountain returning to my car in a speedy 30 minutes. On the way home I stopped at a cafe in Hackett to warm up with a coffee.