QRP Hours contest

Sunday 22nd October was a good day for QRP in VK-Land. And even thougth HF conditions haven’t been good at all (especially according to some), I had success and a lot of fun by taking part in this short contest run by the CW Operators’ QRP Club Inc.

This year the contest was restricted to the 40m band and consisted of two sections: the first hour CW and the second Phone. I took part in the CW section only.

The rig I used was my trust Elecraft KX1, this time with 12v gel cell power as I didn’t have to worry about weight: I was to operate from the back deck of my home. The antenna was the Buddistick that I attached to the hand railing of the deck by means of my new Buddistick G-clamp. My key was the Pico Paddle. Power output was 3W.

My set up for the contest. All ready to go.

Tuning up the antenna on 40m was not easy. I couldn’t get a match at all with my Hendricks BLT Tuner, so I hauled out my LDG auto tuner, which gave me a 1.9:1 reading, which was the best I got. QRP is all about compromise, so I went with that.

The Buddistick mounted to the railing with my new G-Clamp.

I do think that the proximity of metal guttering didn’t help, but I had to make do with the situation I found myself in. At least there was some good height, facing south – which would be good for VK1 and VK2 contacts.

Nice height even though I needed to angle the whip.

Noise levels were high on the band but nevertheless, I was able to work VK2IG, VJ2GAZ, VK2FGBR, VK1DA, VK2JDR and VK2IO.

Next time I’ll try a long wire antenna.

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Activating Mt Coree, VK1/AC-023

One of the things I like most about the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) is that it is bounded by no less than 48 summits that are all within easy reach. Note I said easy reach, meaning that they are not too far away from the city and not that they are easy to climb or to reach the summit.

Sunday morning 1 November was the day Tony VK1VIC and I decided to activate Mt Coree, a 4-pointer summit that straddles the ACT/NSW border.

This plaque let us know the significance of these summits.

This plaque let us know the significance of these summits.

Two things I found attractive about this summit; one was the fact that it is worth 4 points, the other is that it is accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicle all the way to the top.

Tony picked me up at 0840 and I packed my gear into his Holden Colorado 4×4. Because I wasn’t going to be doing a great deal of walking, weight wasn’t going to be a major factor on this activation. This meant I could take my Yaesu FT-817 (for voice work) as well as my Elecraft KX1 (for CW). My antenna was, as usual, my trusty Buddistick vertical.

The weather forecast was for showers and a possible thunderstorm, so we were hoping for the best as we headed out of the city towards the mountains. It is this unpredictability that I find so attractive with SOTA: you never quite know what you are going to get.

Once we left the bitumen the going got rapidly more interesting. The first few kilometers were on excellent gravel roads that had obviously been well cared for. Then as we got closer to Mt Coree, the going got decidedly rougher. I could see the necessity for a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Hitting the dirt.

Hitting the dirt.

This was going to be interesting, I could tell.  Signs tell a lot.

Cliffs and mist ...

Cliffs and mist …

 The weather closed in even before we reached the summit.

Looking mystical ...

Looking mystical …

Dense cloud cover engulfed us, making it all but impossible to locate a good spot to erect my antenna. Then the wind picked up, reaching near gale-force strength I’m sure. I like to set up my station near some rocks that I can use for sitting on; I located something suitable very close to the trig beacon and lookout tower. I erected the Buddistick, ran the counterpoise and connected up the KX1. It tuned up beautifully, the readout telling me I had an SWR of 1:1.

Time for my fist call. For this, I chose 2m FM with my Yaesu FT-250 hand held as Andrew, VK1NAM, I knew, was waiting up Mt Stromlo ready for a summit-to-summit contact.  That done, it was time to concentrate on 40m. Keen to achieve activation at the very least, I decided to switch to the FT-817 and SSB. Contacts with VK7CW and VK1DI quickly followed. Then it was time to switch to the KX1 and CW. Even though I only had 1 watt at my disposal (power was being supplied by six AA cells) I made contact with VK2UH, VK7CW (again) and VK2IO.

By now we were getting really wet as the rain had started in ernest. To make matters worse, the wind was really howling and I had to hold the Buddistick up with one hand, so strong was it blowing. This was making operating my key really difficult, so it was time to call it a day.

Tony was of a similar mind, having achieved the required number of contacts as well, so we packed up and headed for the safety of his truck.

Another successful SOTA activation; one that was challenging to say the least. But that’s what I like about SOTA – every contact really is precious.

Three summit SOTA activation.

Sunday 9 August 2015 was the day I was to add serious numbers to my SOTA scores. This was the day Andrew VK1NAM and I activated three – yes three – summits.

We set off at 0715 for our first peak, Mt McDonald (VK1/AC-048), which is situated some 18km west from my apartment in Canberra City. Although this is only a 1 pointer, it is nevertheless 789m in altitude. From the car park at the base of the mountain, the round trip up on foot would take around two hours.

Andrew VK1NAM leading the way up. He has been there before!

Andrew VK1NAM leading the way up. He has been there before!

I had decided to press my Yaesu FT-817 into operating this time instead of my Elecraft KX1 because one of the aims of the excursion was to participate in the 6 and 10m SOTA challenge. I set up my Buddistick antenna, tuned it up on 10m with my Hendricks BLT tuner and put out a call.

Me listening for contacts.

Me listening for contacts.

After about an hour, it was time to pack up, head back down and make our way to our next summit, Mt Taylor. I was happy with the 9 contacts I made.

If I thought the going was going to get any easier, I was dead wrong. Mt Taylor (VK1/AC-037) is 855m high and took about 45 minutes to climb. Boy, with a full backpack, the going was difficult and required constant stops to suck in air. But the view over the city made it all well worth it, even though this summit also only scores 1 point.

I managed 11 contacts, which I was delighted with. On the way down, we walked passed a bunch of the locals, who have us quizzical looks and a wide berth.

This is kangaroo country!

This is kangaroo country!

At 1430 we made our way to our final summit for the day, Isaacs Ridge (VK1/AC-041). Here too, the going up on foot was difficult and required all of my sapped energy to make it to the top. Boy, we are made to work hard for these one-pointers!

Working the last 7 contacts for the day.

Working the last 7 contacts for the day.

By the time we packed up and headed back down to the car, it was getting quite cold. I was more than pleased with the 27 contacts I had made.

Preparing my Buddistick for the next SOTA activation.

On Sunday 2 August 2015 we are having a SOTA party in the ACT. As many of us as possible will be activating as many summits as possible, especially seeing there is a 10m and 6m challenge on at present.

So to add to the fun, I decided to see what I can do on 10m. This means I won’t be using my trusty Elecraft KX1 but my Yaesu FT817. The Buddistick will still be my antenna of choice.

Seeing I haven’t used the Buddistick on 10m before, I thought I’d better tune it up beforehand so as not to waste too much time on location.

I headed out to my usual spot behind the Australian War Memorial and set up my portable station, using 28.059 as the frequency. All I then had to do was to connect up a spare connector onto the coil for a tap, and sort out the correct length of wire for the counterpoise.

I connected up my lightweight antenna tuning unit to confirm that I had a good 50 ohm match. This ATU is the Hendricks BLT tuner.

I found the best tap to be at turn 2 and a third of a turn to the left on the main coil, with about 8 turns of counterpoise wire let out. That’s about 8 feet. At this setting, the little LED on the tuner went out, so that’s about as good a match as can be had.

The blue cap is the tap for 10m.

The blue cap is the tap for 10m.

Luckily I spent the time sorting out the tuning as I also found the power plug to be broken. The rig was actually working off the internal battery and not my 12V gel cell. So it was back to my apartment to make hasty repairs. Fortunately I had a spare power lead, one that had a cigarette lighter plug on the end, so I was able to cut that off and crimp on spade connectors. This is a temporary fix as my reverse polarity protection that was attached to the original lead now no longer works, so it’ll be a matter of double checking before connecting up the power. Not having a soldering iron here in Canberra is a nuisance, but such is life.