Hmmm – OK so its a play on words and no, I didn’t find my real (Wheel) fortune but had fun anyway.
The 13th of October was truly a lovely day and certainly too good to be inside so I packed my trusty back pack (well …it was mostly packed the night before) and set off to a hilltop (summit) near Wagga Wagga known to as Wheel Of Fortune (WOF). I have no idea where the name comes from but if you travel from Wagga to Oura you will see Wheel of Fortune Rd running off to the left. Unfortunately, you cant get to the summit along that road but have to go a somewhat longer route to the north and then swing back south once on the ridge. I have no doubt that with permission you probably could go up that road. Anyway, access is via a lane off Pattersons Road that does a steady climb up to the ridge that WOF is on. This ridge extends roughly north from the river for some 20 odd kilometres toward Junee so unless you know where to look its just another line of hills that make up the Murrumbidge river valley. In January it became known in the news as the Valema fire near Oura when a lot of the southern ridge was burnt almost down to Oura village.
The view from here is something else. I could easily pick out Mt Galore, Mt Flakney, probably Mt Burngoogee but it was a bit hazy that way, Mt Bethungra and Mt Ulandra in a nearly 300 degree arc and whilst the distance was a little hazy it was well worth the drive up just for the view. The site is home to a number of radio transmitters including Wagga’s 93 FM which sits atop a 300 foot tower.
I parked the truck near the 93 FM building which also houses our own VK2RWG repeater and which our club also looks after the grounds and was therefore another reason for visiting – to see the state of the grounds. And yes they would require another working bee to clean them up but that would be another day. I loaded my pack onto my back, grabbed the squid pole (portable mast) and hiking /walking pole and set off. I wanted to get as far as I could along the ridge to distance myself from the 10Kwatt Transmitter because even though it was 86Mhz above my operating frequency I just new I would cop some interference and I wasn’t wrong! I even had to relocate my wire part way through the morning to put it end on to the 93 FM tower to minimise the interference. Next time I will set up just below the ridge line but still within the 25 vertical metre SOTA activation zone.
After erecting the squid pole and 1/2 size G5 antenna and homebrew antenna tuner I fired up the little 5W transceiver (FT-817) and put out a call. Instantly I was rewarded with Ian VK3DET about 30km south of Ballarat. He was the first of 19 contacts I made that morning including 6 summit to summit contacts. Contacts were had into Canberra, across NSW and down into Vic as far as Melbourne.
By now I have had the experience of three separate summit activations using the same equipment, namely Yaesu FT-817 transceiver, 1/2 size G5RV antenna on a 9m squid pole with open wire line all the way to my little home made antenna coupler. But the operation of the tuner just didn’t seem quite right. Yes, granted I was making contacts but people were struggling to hear me. I just knew it should be better and was determined to look further into it to see if I could get to the bottom of the nagging feeling I had that everything in the garden was not quite rosy. Note to self for next week to investigate.
Where to next? Well this was an easy summit no doubt about it but it was only worth one point. It was however great to earn the summit to summit points so my haul for today was 1 activator point and 49 summit to summit points so a tidy and worthwhile point score. My next foray will be to Mt Bethungra. Thats the hilltop you pass on the left hand side when you head up the Olympic Way and cross the railway line between Bethungra and Cootamundra. Mt Ulandra, another designated summit is off to the right butis full of TV and radio Transmitters …not sure I will have a go at that one as the interference will be heavy and access might be difficult!
There was one interesting fact on this activation and that was that I actually commenced the activation on Saturday Universal Time Co-ordinated (UTC) and continued through to the Sunday UTC. Now, so what I hear you say? Well for an activator, you can only activate a summit once per UTC calendar year but as a Chaser you can work a summit and get points every UTC day. But to log it on the website that way means you have to log it twice, once for each UTC day. Anyway, I didn’t and was soon receiving emails asking me to re-log because the chasers weren’t able to confirm their contacts with me because they were all logged on the Saturday UTC and they worked me on the Sunday UTC. So back on the website, delete the initial log and re-enter it as two activations ..of which I can only claim one lot of points. Next time I will do it as two logs up front and no hassle. Just a good thing there were only nineteen. UTC by the way is very handy when dealing with international timezones. You dont have to worry about what time it is in outer Botswana as long as everyone works in UTC it’s simple.
Here is my view toward The Rock and below is the more important view of the 1/2 size G5 erected on the 9m Squidpole with 93FM in background.