VK3/VW-002 (Red Man Bluff) in VKFF-0213 – Grampians National Park
VK3/VS-001 (Mt William) in VKFF-0213 – Grampians National Park
VK3/VW-002 (Red Man Bluff)
Looking back towards Halls Gap over Lake Bellfield from operating position on Red man Bluff.
Access is from Mt William Road. The walk in is a short challenging 2Km. Challenging as the scrub is fierce and thick. The goal is to get onto a ridge line so as to avoid the thick gullies and to get up to the cliff line and follow the line across. Put your gloves on and pack the pack tight to get through the thick growth.
Took 80m antenna and ran 40 odd meters of wire down the rock outcrops with the squid pole in the middle. Worked a treat with 40 and 80m contacts and a single 2M FM
VK3/VS-001 (Mt William)
The walk up Mt William is a 1.5Km on sealed road but steep. Left to end of day as easy and clear.
Mt William has a large flat activation zone with several comms towers. Given the easy access you could bring up elaborate antenna and supports. I go to the left between the towers so as to avoid the traffic. Once on site I pulled out the antenna to discover it had come off the winder and had transferred itself into a rats nest. Spent good 10 minutes unravelling to finally decide to cut the end off and use what I had. The KX3 tuned the 30 odd meters that was left and I secured the summit on 40 and 80m.
Looking towards Ararat from Mt William.
Patches of snow on Mt William. The snow was from the weather earlier in the week but shows how cold the summit was. Also highlights micro climates as these pockets were cold.
Overall a straight forward operation. Home on dark with 12 points for my efforts.
VK3/VC-003 – Mt Ritchie – WWFF ID – VKFF-0556
Took the ATS out to Mt Ritchie.
This is a great summit and one I do each year.
Mt Ritchie is a good winter summit as 8 points with seasonal bonus and can be completed in harsh weather. You can access the summit from the north in summer with a 4WD but I prefer to park off Acheron Way at the gate on Road 15 and follow Road 10 to the summit. Easy clear access but the roads were not open due to several trees down. Not a issue as walking. Ive been off track in this area and its slow and wet. No need and no intent. Didn’t take the GPS. This is not a reckless choice as used hiker app on watch;
Its a 7k walk and all uphill to the summit. The summit is clear and open with enough room for long wire antenna. Several trees to support as well as sign posts to secure squid poles to.
This year it was time to take the ATS out. Keen on the ATS as it supports 80m. Setting up an antenna for 80M has challenges due to the space the wire requires. A shorter length (26.8m 88f) wire and L Match Tuner has been raised to address. Whilst this setup matched 80 to 15m, it was too touchy on 80m so took a trapped 20/30/40m end fed to be sure. Really didn’t want to blow out the transistors on the first activation.
There was light rain and cold, no snow but it was still cold. I addressed this with the proved method of layers on and still had two layers backup in the pack.These small radios do not do rain but to be fair neither does the KX3. The FT817 in its bag is best for such conditions. Ok but 817 requires external tuners and is heavy both itself and on the battery. The KX3 is brilliant with internal batteries and tuner and lighter than 817 but not as rugged. The KD1JV devices (MTR & ATS) are small, light and efficient but requires external tuners and batteries.
Secured the summit on 40M and CW with a P2P with VK5FLEA in Nurragi Conservation Reserve (VKFF-2247) and the usual loyal chasers.
Happy with the performance of the radio and antenna. Called on 30 and 20 with no takers regretted not taking 80. After an hour on the summit packed up and walked back down in the light rain.
The quest for the ideal SOTA radio is ongoing ….
Recently acquired a unbuilt ATS4b kit.
This is a miniature 5 band CW radio. A KD1JV kit. It is small, lightweight, and fairly rugged HF QRP Radio. It uses very little current on receive and is efficient on transmit.
- 80, 40, 30, 20 and 15/17 meter operation
- LCD display with back lighting
- DDS VFO for wide tuning range with crystal stability, 50 Hz tuning steps.
- Single step or auto increment tuning
- Sensitive, 0.2 uV receiver with very low internal noise for exceptional S/N ratio.
- Selective CW filter with 4 crystal IF filter and audio band pass filter
- 7 to 12 volt supply supporting;
- 4.5 to 5 Watt transmitter output on all bands (with 12 volt supply)
- 2.5 watts output typical with 9 volt supply
- 50 ma no signal receive current
- 680 ma maximum transmit current at 12 volts
- Small size, 12.5cm wide, 6.8cm deep, 2.5cm tall
- Light weight, 178G.
This is a SOTA radio.
This kit was released 2011 so lucky to get my hands on one (Thanks Tyler and Bill). You can purchase an assembled similar radio being a LNR MTR4B (80,40,30 & 20) at 400US$ + freight. Given the declining AUD (thanks mining why does the need for foreign owned enities to profit override my desire to play radio ?) it really has not been high on my list to purchase one. I jumped at the kit. This device supports 80m.
Have a mate in the US (Thanks Jason) and he was happy to receive and send on to me so ended up landing here at around $400AUD inc freight.
This is a part of the quest to reduct weight so as to pickup some of the more challenging summits. Whilst are not a long walk they will be a big effort given the terrain and conditions. This device will keep the radio and antenna equipment well under 1Kg and support 5 bands be it CW only.
Reluctant to go out without 80m. For the chasers as much as to ensure enough contacts to qualify. Not having issues getting CW contacts these days.
Had spent the morning soldering copper tubing for fire sprinkler system. This is using the gas torch, liquid flux and 3mm solder. The afternoon was to be different. Once it started to rain (the geese were happy) I decided to come in and get out of the mud and cook up a radio.
This kit contains SMD components. Previous build of SMD based device was a KD1JV MTR v2. This went well with the only real issue being as a result of losing a component and replacing with the wrong type.During the build, you have to choose between 17m or 15m. I will go for 15m.
Having read the manual and check the parts it was time to start assembly. This is not a task to rush into but rather progress in an orderly manner.
First step is to add the IC’s. Decided to hand solder these as a single task as the idea of placing all the semiconductors, capacitors and resistors then melting the solder in one sitting did not sound like a good idea.
At end of day one I had the IC’s on ready to inspect. Completed page 15 of the manual.
Day Two. Testing the rework device.
Was not filled with desire to start heating up the board yesterday. Decided to verify the hot air soldering process before going forward. Using Solder Paste from Jaycar which has the Chemtools ID on it. Found the spec sheet on Chemtools website.
Yes using leaded solder. Have had trouble with using unleaded solder and think by now I have enough lead in my system given the paint used when a kid and the years of soldering not to get too worried about it.
Didn’t trust the 852d+ soldering rework station so checked the temp and tested with an old board from the shed. Yes the display was out so experimented until in the range and able to take caps off the S3 board and solder them back on in a timely manner. All good.
So think I’ve procrastinated enough so time to commit to melting solder, tomorrow caps ….
Day Three. Check and Check again.
Zoomed in on some components with a 2MP USB microscope from eBay checking.
Upgraded the lights above the table but basically my eyes are not what they use to be so need such a tool. Not the absolute answer but these microscopes are worth the $A30.
Mixed results. The microscope stand had to be extended to get a good view. It did expose issues (surprising number of joints that were missed) and they were addressed. Once checked and addressed went back with magnifying glass and checked again. If this was left it would manifest as failure in the field so keen to fix now.
Day Four. Capacitors Bottom Side.
Capacitors went on well. So will check the board again to be sure.
Day Five. Through Hole Components.
Not consecutive process as well work and we went Wuthering Saturday. Checkout the video, thats us in the red to the left !
The SMD parts went well. Very happy with the result. Working through the through hole components now.
Wet and windy weekend to was able to continue work on assembly Sunday. I have been following the instructions carefully as aware may not get such a kit again and that components may not be available should I loose or break some.
Adding the Low Pass filters (Page 20 in the assembly manual), which states that “These all go onto the Bottom Side of the board” whilst the picture on same page shows C73,C74 and C75 mounted from the top. I soldered C74 was per the instructions and whilst checking noted the discrepancy created by the picture. Removed C74 and placed in on the top of the board as per the picture. This caused conflict in my head and went checking out pictures on the web and which show them mounted on the the bottom.
See no reason to tempt fate de-soldering and moving C74 again so leaving as is on the top. Also have enlarged the hole to support a BNC connector for the antenna. Files the hole so it was slightly higher so as avoid the board. As you can from a dry run it will fit without causing grief.
Working through the toroids now, again carefully and without time constrains.
Day Six. Final Assembly.
Well actually 10 days in total but have to go to work and other things….
After winding and installing the toroids its a case of assembling the hardware and connectors.
She did not come up on the first test and this was quickly traced back to a faulty 9V battery connection. Found another in my sons junk box and away it went.
From here it worked as described. The DDS came up on 10Mhz exactly.
Outputting 2w on the 40 – 15M 9V with 80M around half that. I took note of the torrid winding (loose for even and tight for odd) but there is not a lot of room to move for L12 & L14.
Connected to the home antenna and turned the receive to peak noise.
The unit is operating so ready to take out onto a summit.
I see no value in disassembling and trying to refine the windings on 80M. Ok yes did chase this device for 80M but its a fall back frequency. Let’s get out on a summit and see how it works before playing with the number of turns.
10062019 – VK3/VC-030 – VKFF-0982 In – You Yangs Regional Park
Another close walk up the summit activation.1.7K each way for 190M elevation gain. This is the busiest summit I have found. Worse than Mt Hotham in summer.
Here is the summit marker, worn out from the traffic,
Having been here before I was expecting the crowds so took HT to activate on FM. Did post 40M CW alerts but once there, the people and grey sky made the decision to proceed with HT only easy.
An advantage to such tight summits is the car in the carpark caught and resent the APRS from the HT with no issues. Serured the summit with 5 contacts on FM. Did not secure DMR contact as it appears still have not got the correct config for simplex.
‘Device: Yaesu: VX-8G (ht) Last path: VK3ARH-7>SW41R5 via VK3ARH-1,VK3CV-1*,WIDE2-1,qAR,VK3RSA-1 (good)’
02062019 – VK3/VC-024 Mt Beckworth
Mount Beckworth Scenic Reserve not in WWFF ? Why not ? well because its (SCR) Scenic Reserve. Any way its close and has a great SOTA summit so no WWFF for you but a quick run for me.
This is a contuniation of my current plan of finding a good walk and test equipment during winter plan.
Easy access to the summit but ignore the GPS to get to the park. From Coghills Creek road, turn into Fentons Rd then right into Mountain Creek road. Turn right towards Manna Gumms camp ground. I park just before Manna Gumms in a clear open area as the track up to the summit has easy access from here. Follow the track up to the ridge line. Noting where you need to turn off once on the ridge. Its a good short (1.6Km walk for 216m height gain) walk on clear tracks but still has challanges if wet due to the rocks. Once on the summit you are presented with an open flat area with log benches. Perfect for a bit of SOTA. Deployed the double again with excellent results. Maybe having the ends off the ground is worth the effort !
Rolled out and setup cleanly. Watching the antenna carefully as not convinced it will be a rugged as the end-fed but so far the SOTABeams wire is standing up to the demands. Here is a detail view of the feeder and choke.
Received good signal reports Cant be sure if the antenna is as big a factor as propagation but these were on 5w.
The rain was looming so once secured Steve decided it was time to pack up and head home. The KX3 is a ‘shack in a box’ but a shack with leaky roof so need to keep out of rain.
VK3/VS-011 Mt Abrupt in VKFF-0213 In – Grampians National Park
Serra Range to the north. The seasonal burns are in full flight thus making the area smoky. In the valleys so wont be an issue accessing the summits.
Mt Abrupt is on the southern end of Serra range in the Grampians National Park. There is a defined track for access from the front. It not as bad as it looks. 6.6Km return along a busy track. Head out of Dunkeld down Victoria Valley road turning right into Grampians Road. There’s space for cars to park on Grampians Road, roughly 5km from the park sign. The track starts on the left side of road and is marked by a sign and steps. The track starts off easy and after crossing the washouts heads up to the ridge line. Straight forward walk but still raises a sweat.
You can access Signal Peak from this track. There is a marker now where to turn (54HXD1977439156) Whilst there no track to Signal Peak its a case of stay left of the ridge line and there may be tape markers left from the The Serra Terror held on June long weekend to confirm your insanity. Anyway I have been on Signal Peak previously and not interested in it so continued to Mt Abrupt.
There were two goals for this activation, first being the short but solid walk up and second to test a doublet.
Obviously not a new design of mine. First saw a doublet in action with Tony VK3CAT. There was some debate as to the use of coax and a bolt to stabilise the feeder but it proved to be a effective antenna combined with the KX tuner securing contacts from 80 down. From my version I now believe the bolt and coax was acting as a choke stabilising the performance of the antenna.
I decided to stick to the 88f length radiator. Its is proving to be a reasonable compromise on summits tight for space.
So this is a 26.8m (88 foot) radiator with 7m feeders ‘all band’ antenna. Ive had poor signal reports from the 26.8m end fed which has been attributed to coax losses. The end fed has a coax run to get the feed point some height. Reducing the length of the coax lead from 9 to 2m lead to RF issues and poor tuning (lack of counterpoise) so now has a 5m run. The end fed is maintaining contacts on 80 and 40 but according to the licence I have to experiment so hence the doublet. The idea of the doublet is the reduction of feeder losses and the vertical run brings the length of the antenna to ~40m. The run to the KX is heat-shrunk twisted pair with a 1:! current choke. The spreaders are dripper line with zip ties as seen on Warren VK3BYDs version. Simple cheap and worked a treat.
There is conflicting dialog on the web as to the role of the feeder in these antenna. The total length being the single length of feeder plus total length of the radiator (26.8 + 7 = 34.8m) implying the feeder plays a minor role in radiating or length of the entire feeder and radiator (26.8 + 14 = 40.8m). I’ll let those smarter than me to debate this but given int is a non-resonate antenna I like the idea of 40m of wire in a compact deployment following the view of ‘as much wire in the air as you can get’.
This unit tuned up on 80m find using the tuner in the KX and worked a treat.
Rolled out fine with double winders. This summit was selected given the space available the ends ended up draped on the top of the bushes when the tying failed with no noticeable impact to performance. Maybe we are getting a bit precious as to deployment given the height ?
anyway the results are in with three P2P and solid signal reports I’m a fan of such an antenna.
VK3/VW-003 Mt Rosea in Grampians National Park (VKFF-0213)
Mount Rosea, is at the northern end of the Serra Range. It is my favourite summit in the Serra Range not just because if has good defined access but Mt Rosea gives 360 degree views from the lookout at the summit into the Grampians.
Mt Rosea was selected to gain practice for Alpine activations as features rock outcrops, slopes and close to home.
Was looking at another summit (VK3/VE-075) in the Alpine however we received 96mm rain (recorded at my rain gauge) in the previous week (48mm over Easter) so decided to stay closer to home and try to avoid the water.
This was not to be. Whilst drier that around home it was wet in the grampians. Whilst the weather cleared up the further north you headed, there were clouds looming and masking the summits. Drive up was clean and parked at the carpal off Silverband Road. This is accesses from Mt Victory road as one way from Grampians road. No concerns with the weather, dressed accordingly once there and headed off.
Easy walk on the track. It was very wet with water courses running and wet rocks when heading up. Took under 2 hrs to cover the 4.8K to the summit.
It was a challenge to setup the end fed given the wet rocks on the summit. Also very busy with several walkers going to Mt Rosea and a couple walking through to Borough Huts so headed away from the lookout.
40M was alive. Qualified the site in 10 min on CW including a S2S with VK1MCW on VK1/AC-048
Went off and chased the park activators picking up 2 P2P contacts (VK6MB in Heathcote-Graytown National Park (VKFF-0624) and VK4SMA Mount Barney National Park (VKFF-0338)) Spent an hour on the summit for 10 contacts and happy to pack up and the drizzle was starting to annoy me. Carefully packed up as the rocks were very slippery and I didn’t want to slip. Have to stay sharp on the way back as easy to miss a turn and end up coming out in the valley. Not a biggie as you will hit the road eventually but would be very wet in these conditions and hard going so best to stay on track.
Nice clean activation. Mt Rosea is the pick of the summits in the Serra Range. You can add (VK3/VW-009) Near Sundial Peak and (VK3/VW-007) Near Boroka Lookout if you were in the area but I was on a mission as wanted to be home to cook tea.
Will return for (VK3/VS-011) Mt Abrupt soon enough as a great site with a good walk up.