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CCARC Driving High Altitude Radio Comms

CCARC Driving High Altitude Radio Comms

It was indeed a hard week for me. Yes, one of those weeks where a lot of matters coalesce into a large wave of perfect storm issues. Well that was until an email arrived talking about CCARC’s latest venture into the wilderness. All of a sudden, my issues were left behind and the call to radio in the field took hold.

I’ve seen Dick Smith take on wilderness adventures before so I was wary at first. The call to action was from Brad VK2NMZ promoting a field day on a rugged mountain an hour out of Sydney.

My first questions were:

  1. Was the mountain COVID safe?

  2. Were there indeed people living 1 hour out of Sydney?

  3. Were the local people friendly?

  4. Were there feral animals likely to randomly attack at any time?

(note: these were not serious questions)

After careful investigation, my questions all came back as non-issues.

  • All mountains are COVID safe!

  • Indeed, there are people living 1 hour north of Sydney!

  • The locals are top people!

  • The are no feral animals, but I did see a friendly bird sit on my military radio!

Where is Mount Elliot?

Just in case you want to visit, this is a top site for radio, picnics and bush walks. Its location is 66km north of Wahroonga. It’s an easy drive up the M1 north of Sydney and I used the turnoff at Ourimbah and went via Lisarow. There is cheap petrol in Lisarow and its sealed road all the way to the summit. There are toilets and a gas BBQ for public use. The lookout is wonderful and provides a view all the way to the coast and 180 degrees of panoramic views.

Getting Setup

In his usual fashion Bob VK2AOR was working the RAG repeater on 2m while people drove to the site. In fact, some chose to walk up the mountain and had radio backpacks (impressive!). Myself, my gear was just too heavy so a car worked well.

In the last 10km Bob mentioned his lovely wife had made a lemon meringue pie and it was first arriving gets first slice. I was indeed motivated and pushed the accelerator down just that bit faster to make sure there was a slice left when I got there.

When I unpacked, Bob made me welcome by a large slice of pie. Amateur radio operators love good radio and good food, so the day was off to a good start.

Military Radio

For the site, I used a Clansman PC-320. This military radio was imported from the UK and operates 2-30mhz continuous. It was most often known from the Falkland’s War and was designed with no expense spared. The radio has an inbuilt ATU for external antennas and also can be used with a battle whip. In this case, I used an end fed squid pole mounted vertical of 7.5 meters and loaded this with the help of a ground stake that I made and attached the to radio frame.

Also, part of the radio is a military handset with a “pressal” switch in the middle use to transmit.

Radio is about Activity

Firstly, Bob had a go at calling CQ. Here is Bob active on 40 meters using the phone handset.

Then Brad not wanting to miss out of some hot contacts rolling in on 40 meters, made calls and also worked into VK3.

And radio is also about promoting the hobby. There were some YL’s attending as well, so why not invite them to try radio for the first time? It was good that both visitors, Evie and Millie said hello on the radio, both to local and cross border contacts. This is a great way to get new people being introduced to radio. I must also say that Jenna kept Brad on his best behaviour and enjoyed good conversations over a great lunch.

SOTA Generated Activity

One good thing about operating on a maintain is that it often allows to give a SOTA number to activate the site. In this case Mount Elliot is SOTA VK2/HU093 and really was a great draw card for people to contact us. At one stage there was a dog-pile calling in on 7.100mhz just by one CQ. In fact, it was so good at one stage that even a ZL called in 5/9. How good is that.

With all this activity, some 5 operating sites were setup across some 100-200 meters of park grounds. I worked some 10 contacts from VK2, VK3, VK4 and ZL. All the other operators I’m sure worked even more!

Lunch in Style

Let’s face it, amateurs love a good lunch. That often means a BBQ and coffee. Brad demonstrated his master-class skills in coffee making and I blame him entirely on making me have coffee envy. It’s incurable. I now need to go out and buy a portable coffee setup and will send him the bill. Don’t tell him please.

On the lunch front, sausages were the order of the day. But given I had no time to get any sausages I raided the VK2BAI cupboard and only found a can of SPAM. Yes, I BBQ’ed it and used lots of tomato sauce on a bread sandwich. Yes, it was lunch, but next time, trust me, go buy some sausages

Bob Inspires

A great part of attending park activations is looking at home brew gear made to help in the field. Bob VK2AOR had made a portable field strength meter using a diode the size of a pin-head. It worked so well, that on top of coffee envy, I now also have field strength envy. Well it’s not envy, it’s just being inspired to make something similar – what a practical device for use in the field. No batteries, just relative strength of the portable antenna. If you go portable, well this is a great project to build.

Stations Everywhere

Let’s have a look at the stations that were running portable on the mountain:

  • Brad VK2NMZ running a FT857 W/ linked dipole, working mostly on 20m on voice and JS8 call

  • Alan VK2MG with a linked dipole, FT818, mostly 80, 20m and 17m, finished off with 23 Contacts

  • Matt VK2BAI with the Clansman PRC-320 and end fed vertical, 10 contacts

  • Colin VK2JCC with the Clansman PRC-320 and end fed vertical

  • Graham VK2GRA with a FT857, Vertical 40m / 10m with Tape measure radials

  • Ray VK2HJW with KX3 and end fed strung over a tree

  • Max VK2XOR with a KX2, Mostly on JS8 call with end fed wire, Pac-12 vertical antenna

  • Bob VK2AOR had his FT817 and the stepper motor controlled Magloop.

And let’s not forget those who just enjoyed the conversations and trading ideas: Matt VK2FABR, Ryan VK2FRTS, Col VK2ZCO, Jim VK2FJEG, Steve VK2SKC, Myles VK2ASS, Jaye VK2FOMG and maybe I forgot some, apologies if I did.

More gear on the mountain than my shack!

Colin works Europe!

Just to lift the bar, Colin VK2JCC whom was about 10 meters away distance wise, made a great contact into Europe! I’m sure it was just to beat the ZL I had just worked! His portable setup is great – have a look.

Next Steps

Pic: Matt – VK2BAI enjoying some radio time.

What I learned from the field day was:

  1. Meeting clubs out of your area is a hell of a lot of fun

  2. You are really welcomed by clubs and their members

  3. Out of area visits expose you to new ideas which are really valuable

  4. Mountains are everywhere, lets activate them with fellow amateurs (with coffee!).

Thanks to CCARC for a great day in the field.


Matt VK2BAI (30 Aug 2020)

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