The VK1 SOTA QSO Party is in its fourth year. Mountain Goat Andrew VK1AD ex 1NAM does a fine job of promoting it and rallying VK1s onto hilltops. On Friday 5th August he posted that there were 19 planned activations recorded at SOTAWatch involving activations across VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5, VK7 and ZL1. It worked out that if I left early for a nearby summit and kept moving I could join the party on Mt St Leonard VK3/VC-006. Mt St Leonard is not much more than an hour’s drive from the eastern suburns of Melbourne. I left at 0710 and arrived at the car park just over an hour later. On the Yarra Glen-Healesville Road I passed the morning balloon departure. I was on the summit by 0830, plenty of time.
Mt St Leonard hosts a lot of comms gear. Others activators have moved around the summit looking for acceptable positions. Last time I was here, I dropped down the side about 10 meters to the west and had no problems. With time on my hands, I decided to set up on the observation tower and see how degraded the receiver sounded. Here’s a panorama taken from the observation tower…
As expected, the receiver background noise was higher than usual, manifesting as a general hash across the entire band at about S3-4. There were some big spurious noises at 4 or 5 spots on the band. But I could hear stations between 7093 and 7110, so I spotted, completing 6 QSOs quickly, including Tony VK3CAT on nearby Mt Mitchell VK3/VN-012. But I had trouble working Paul VK5PAS on Black Bullock Hill VK5/SE-016, he gave me 59 and I could only give him 4×1. Time to move out of the microwave fog to try to catch a few of the other S2S stations, and hopefully a VK1 or two.
I partially packed up and walked back down the access road, past the hairpin corner on the east of the summit, and down the mountain a bit, checking altitude, then cut in to set up next to a sapling for squid pole support. Here, the receiver was dead quiet again, back to the usual RF summit conditions. Peter VK3PF was on Spion Kopje VK3/VT-040, Ron VK3AFW and Ken VK3KIM were on nearby Mt Gordon VK3/VC-027. A couple more QSOs, then finished off when Paul VK5PAS called in after rollover, this time 5x7s both ways.
Unfortunately the path to VK1 was not good on 40. VK3’s AFW and PF agreed. Some of the VK1s had used 80 meters first up, then migrated to various other bands. On the SOTA_Australia group the next Day, Bernard VK2IB posted ‘I made most of my contacts on 80m as the F2 critical frequency was way below 7MHz, hence no NVIS on there and a skip distance out to 400km or so‘. I was about 500-600km away and experienced the same conditions.
Apart from not working a VK1 during the VK1 SOTA QSO Party, this was a fun session with good local and interstate activity. I really should get an 80 meters transceive capability and antenna. Thanks to Andrew VK1AD and the VK1 and 2 SOTA group for making this happen again.
While on the observation tower I took some photos of parts of the comms facility. I like comms facilities. If we are the amateur radio guys, this is the handiwork of the professional radio guys. How about this for coax/heliax handiwork…