Monthly Archives: March 2015

Mt Flakeney – VK2/RI-025 SOTA Activation

If one went for points in Summits on the Air then Mt Flakeney would be low on my list as its only worth two. But that’s the beauty of this scheme; its more about the journey rather than the destination.

Mt Flakeney has become very important to my radio club over the years. Way back in the early 1970’s the Wagga Amateur Radio Club was offered accommodation for a VHF repeater in the then Dept of Civil Aviation building located on this site. The mountain (if you can call it that) is located slightly west of south and some 14km as the ‘crow flies’ from Wagga Wagga city airport and where it is still used today as part of Air Services Australia’s network of air communication sites. You can see it from the departure lounge if you know where to look. The club reluctantly moved off the site following the NSW State Government’s grab for cash (read Land Tax) from communication sites located on the Crown land trig points. Anyway, enough of that – I don’t want my blog to become political 🙂

Now, not only has the site housed our VHF repeater, it has also been home to Wagga Amateur Radio Club’s John Moyle Memorial Field Day contest expeditions. This contest aims to encourage portable operation such that it provides training in providing emergency communications over a sustained period of time.

The VHF/UHF arrays installed

The VHF/UHF arrays installed

I don’t think anyone these days looks upon it as training – its just a fun weekend held on or about the 3rd weekend in March but nonetheless it does serve the initial aim, just ask the guys on 7Mhz who, across 14 hours made 332 contacts – about 1 contact every 3 minutes! Our club has been in search of the ‘perfect’ field day site for many years and indeed we have tried lots of other sites including Mt Galore, Mt Tummorrama and Mt Granite but whilst a couple of those are actually higher, Mt Flakeney seems to win each time due to its close proximity to Wagga and the fact that it has quite a lot of room for camping and erecting antennas. We even go to the trouble now of mowing the area to enhance the camping experience.

Our widescreen TV view looking east across the VHF/UHF operating table.

Our widescreen TV view looking east across the VHF/UHF operating table.

The view towards the Hume highway at the Tumbarumba Rd intersection is quite spectacular with the lights of Wagga Wagga clearly visible from western side. The night sky is something else as well and I vividly recall having my best view of Halley’s Comet from here in March 1986.

Fortunately, the hill made it onto the SOTA Database coming in at 1759 ft ASL and this past weekend is now the second time I have activated it. This time I activated it in conjunction with the radio club’s John Moyle Memorial Field Day expedition. We arrived around lunchtime on Friday 20th and set up camp. The VHF/UHF arrays were also erected that afternoon, which left Saturday morning for more leisurely activities including of course a SOTA activation. I dragged out my back pack and along with Matt VK2FAJE who was rather curious as to how this might work set off to walk out of the activation zone and back in again.

What the hell is this SOTA thing he's doing?

What the hell is this SOTA thing he’s doing?

Just to prove it I fired up the E-trex 10 to confirm it and then climbed back up to our campsite and proceeded to set up the squid pole and linked dipole. Since my last activation on Mt Granite, I had repaired the squid pole and was anxious to see how it operated but I hadn’t noticed that I had also strained the mounting arrangement I use for the squid pole which soon let me down. Hurriedly, I set about guying it and despite being early for the alerted activation time my first call was rewarded with chasers and I soon had well more than the required four contacts for the hill’s 2 points. In the process of setting up I discovered that the noise level coming from our field day site’s generator was well in excess of S9 on my poor little FT-817 radio. The antenna was running parallel with the generator so a hasty re-alignment so it was at right angles managed to reduce it down to around S7. My station simply confirmed what I thought was the problem after we set up on the Friday – that is that the generator was generating a large amount of hash covering all bands from 1.8Mhz right up to 50Mhz, something we needed to deal with if we were to have a successful weekend. Switching off the generator brought the noise back to zero (which it should have been and indeed was in 2013 when we last used that generator). That fixed my problem and I was able to then complete the activation. I think Matt’s curiosity was satisfied and a couple of the other members wandered across to watch and get some photos for me.

Not being totally satisfied with just activating on phone (SSB), I decided then to also activate it by Morse code (CW).

My operating position for Morse Code.

My operating position for Morse Code.

This was a first for me. I had chased plenty of other CW activators but had never been quite game to do the same where sending by sitting down on the ground with the key plugged into the little radio and using my little stool for a rest presents it’s own set of challenges. Despite the uncomfortableness of the arrangement I put out a ‘CQ SOTA” and was immediately rewarded with a response. I completed the contact and moments later had more callers, giving me my 4 required contacts. I was elated to say the least and it was a very satisfying experience, so much so, I am sure it will not be my last activation using this very ancient mode of communications.

With the activation out of the road and the gear stowed away for another time, we got down to the serious stuff of contesting. The result? well, we wont know for some weeks but we managed some 531 contacts across 9 bands with a total point score of 3322 points. Just over 1000 more points than our 2013 score! We might try for 10 bands next year. And if you were wondering about the generator, we swapped it out for two small Honda EU units which allowed us to proceed with little or no noise. As a matter of interest, these 2Kva generators are just able to allow the use of a microwave oven and an Aldi coffee machine – just not both at the same time. 🙂 I think the term for this sort of camping is ‘glamping’.

As I sit here writing this I am wondering just where my next activation might be. Pilot Reef Mountain is on the list as I had hoped to do it along with Mt Granite last time but due to wet weather, it was postponed. There is also Womargama National Park beckoning me back with quite a few summits of varying difficulty awaiting my attention. Decisions, Decisions.

Till next time,

John VK2YW.