1st September 2013
With the introduction of VK2 to the SOTA programme imminent, I scanned the Riverina summit list looking for one that was close to home and, hopefully, not too hard to access. Mt Jergyle, in the Woomargama National Park, looked like it would fit the bill, located as it is on the Tin Mines Trail. I’d driven that trail only a couple of months previously and knew that although it was very steep and rough in some places, requiring a serious 4WD vehicle with plenty of ground clearance, my trusty Hilux could get up there quite easily.
On 31st August the official VK2 launch was announced, taking effect the following day, Sunday 1st September 2013. I was ready with the SLABs fully charged and the Barrett 940 packed and ready to go. This time, by way of an experiment, I had made up a dipole for 7MHz and would be using that instead of the Barrett’s 10m wire antenna. Despite the lessons learned on my last expedition I had still not acquired any LiPo batteries and so the SLABs would have to do.
The Tin Mines Trail did not disappoint, and gave the Hilux a workout over rock steps and through bog holes. We arrived at Norths Lookout muddied but undaunted, ready for some SOTA action. Once again my lady had packed a delicious picnic lunch which we ate sitting comfortably in our folding chairs, looking down over Holbrook to the north and enjoying the warm sun on our faces.
I threw a line over a tree branch and hauled the dipole centre up to about 6m above ground, tying the ends out at about head height into some convenient bushes. The 7MHz band was alive with signals, many of them SOTA chasers out looking for their first VK2 contacts. In short order I worked VK2JI/P, VK2MEV/P, VK3PI/P, VK3FPSR, VK3GHZ, VK3BHR, VK3OHM, VK3UBY, VK7OR, VK3AFW/M, VK2FGJW/P, VK3MRG/P, VK3DET, VK3AMB and VK3CAT before the Barrett started whingeing about low battery voltage. I was very pleased with this expedition, activating both a new summit and a new SOTA Association in the same trip.
I tried the Icom IC706 on this Activation as well, and found it very intolerant of the low battery voltage. The two SLABs in parallel were holding steady at about 12.1V but the IC706 seemed to struggle on transmit, even at only 5W output. I’m not sure what’s going on here but perhaps some further investigation is warranted.
Lessons learned on this trip:
- A little local knowledge is very helpful, particularly with regard to the state of bush trails.
- If local knowledge tells you a trail is 4WD only, pay attention!
- An up to date topographic map of the area and a GPS are indispensable for SOTA work.
- It doesn’t matter how much you charge your SLABs, the Barrett 940 still doesn’t like them! Neither, apparently, does the IC706.