Toorongo Range VK3/VT-026 Again

With freezing temperatures although clear skies, it looked like this would be one of the last times to get to a winter bonus summit for a while (or so I thought).   The ice was removed from the car and I departed for Toorongo Range.  I have been to this summit several times before, it is not really one one of the favourites although access is very straight forward. There is just a short walk up the Toorongo Track from the closed gate and then a bush bash scramble to the summit.

The drive there is through Noojee on the Mt Baw Baw Tourist Rd and before Tanjil Bren, take the Toorongo-Tanjil link road to the left.  Some six km in, take the Mundic Rd. and then the Toorongo Track.  This time of year, there is a gate about 1km short of the highest part of the road where you scramble through steep bush to the summit.

On turning into Mundic Rd, snow appeared on the road which gradually became heavier on the Toorongo Track.  The road is pretty good for a track classification.  The car was parked about 100m short of the gate where there is a bit of space.  The weather was holding out and things looked quite nice with the snow, much more interesting than the previous summer activations.

The bush bash up to the summit was straight forward, without slipping over like last time.  The summit is on a rocky outcrop with a small cairn.  Just behind the summit, there is a sheltered spot with some good tree cover.  I used this spot once before during high winds and ran some coax out to the antenna.

Contacts were made on 40 and 10 metres in great sunny winter conditions.  As expected 40 metres was behaving pretty badly.


Summit Cairn and Elecraft KX2 Station


Sheltered area behind summit


Sheltered area


Behind the summt


The short log!


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Takatoriyama JA/HG-252 SOTA

Following on from the previous post, the other close by summit was Takatoriyama.  This one looked very close on the map.  Occasionally, we had seen hikers going past Meagan’s house so it looked like this was the on a popular hiking route.
The SOTA radio gear was put in the pack and we headed up the road.  At the end of the street, it looked like a dead end.  I was about to turn around, when a really old guy hunched over yelled out and pointed to some steps at the end of the street.  The steps looked like they were on someones property.  He shuffled over and gave directions is Japanese (that I could not understand), but I got the general idea with hand actions.  It must have been my hiking gear that made me look like a lost hiker.   I thanked him and we continued.

Park with Sakura

We went up the stairs and then to a lane and at this point, my mapping application (Maptrek with Open Street Maps) showed a dotted line.  The track continued to a small park with a playground and then to the right there was a hiking trail.

At the start of the trail a sign warned of the dangers of wild boars in the area.  We didn’t come across any but there was evidence of digging along the track, not sure whether the boars were responsible!

Wild Boars!

The walk was reasonably steep with some really great views along the way.  We saw many other hikers on the way and practiced our greetings as they went past.   About a km in, there was a sign to the summit with the altitude in metres.  We turned left up there.  The track went past a small clearing (an ideal SOTA location) and then to a small walled area at the back of the shrine.

The trail to the summit


I went back to the SOTA spot and tied the squid pole to a tree.  For the antenna, only the 15 metre section of the End Fed Half Wave was rolled out due to space constraints.
The noise floor was very low which was encouraging.

SOTA location

After a CQ as JP1PBQ, a few JA stations came back.  Shortly after I worked ZL1BYZ and  then VK7CW which was a nice distance.

I also worked 9M6BOB in Borneo with very strong signals both ways, it must have been the sweet spot for propagation at that time.

Weather was holding out, so the station was shut down and we went over to the first shrine we saw and had a look around.  The guy care taking the shrine gave us lots of information on other hiking trails and the shrine itself.

It was in Japanese, so relied on translations from my daughter.

Shrine before the summit

This guy must get cold

The hike back was uneventful, although just as we got back to the street, the rain came down, so another nicely timed activation!

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Yokooyama JA/HG-255 SOTA

While on holidays in Japan, we spent a week in Kobe staying at my daughter’s house in Myohoji.
After some emails with Toru, JH0CJH, I found that a few close by summits had been added to the SOTA database.  These were Yokooyama JA/HG-255 and Takatoriyama JA/HG-252.

Despite predictions of rain for the day, I headed off early from Myohoji on foot for Yokooyama.  The best route wasn’t too clear from the maps I had, but it did seem the approach was from the west side.
For navigation, I used Maptrek for Android which was loaded with JA/HG summits as waypoints using Openstreetmaps.
After a few km of roads, I came across a steep section of steps that looked like the right way to go.

The weather held out on the walk and soon I was in fog with limited visibility.  There were a few options of tracks, but Maptrek was showing that I was going in the right direction and after a few km, I arrived at the summit.
I had the summit to myself, which was great, so I put up the squidpole and bungied it to a tree.  The 20/15/12/10 metre End Fed Half Wave was reeled out.  When the rig was connected, there was a constant S5 noise level on 15 metres which was going to make things difficult.

After a couple of calls as JP3PBQ, I worked ZL1BYZ which wasn’t too bad despite the noise levels. After John, I worked a few JA stations and qualified the summit.  The fog still hadn’t lifted which was a shame as there would have been great views.
On the return trip as the elevation dropped, the fog began to clear and reveal some nice scenery.
The walk back was uneventful although I did leave my walking pole behind at a shelter at the bottom of the steps and had to retrace my steps to recover it.  The predicted rain started to fall, lightly at first and then became quite heavy.  By this time I was near a Lawson Konbini, so I sheltered there with something to eat for a while.

On the return trip, I recorded the walk with Maptrek and later overlaid the GPX over Google Earth.  The plot shows the walk ending at Myohoji railway station.

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Mt Halla (Hallasan) HL/JJ-001 SOTA

While on Jeju Island, South Korea, a hike and SOTA activation of Hallasan, HL-JJ-001 was too good to pass up.  Hallasan is the highest summit in South Korea at 1950 m high.
Sarah and I made an early start, leaving the hotel about 5am in Seogwipo, allowing an hour to get to the car park.  The driving travel distance was not too far, but it takes longer than you think to get around in Jeju Island due to speed limits, traffic and indirect routes caused by a volcano in the middle of the island.
We chose the Seongpanak trail to the summit, noting that you have to be at the last checkpoint before 12:30pm to be permitted to continue to the summit.

We arrived at the Hallasan car park just before 6am and the sun had not yet risen.  The car park was emptier than I had imagined, I guess it was a weekday (Thursday).  Our little Kia Ray rental only cost 1000 won to park (about a dollar), a normal size car would cost more.

The hike is 9.6km each way and starting at an elevation of about 750 metres and rising to the summit at 1950 metres.  I was hoping to arrive at the summit around 0100 UTC as this seemed to be the best time for radio propagation to the VK and ZL.

As we began the walk at 6am, the sun was just rising.

The hike is pretty straight forward, although there are many sections of large rocks and it got quite hard on the ankles.  Sturdy hiking boots are a must.
Some sections are board walks which is nice and others are stepped sections, either of rock or timber.  There are two main shelters on the way with toilets and indoor space to rest.  The weather was perfect, no wind and some sunshine.  The temperature must have been below zero on the ascent as there were ice needles rising from the ground and sections of solid ice in places.  There were also some drifts of snow along the way.

We arrived on the summit at 10:10am, which was very good time and on air by 0115 UTC.  I chose 15 metres for HF as this seemed the best band for South Pacific DX.

 Luckily there weren’t many on the summit at this time, so I set up without worry of being in peoples way.  The squid pole was bungied to a rail post and the End Fed Half Wave tied off to a hand rail further along.

I only had the FT-817 barefoot with 5 Watts, so it was going to be challenging for longer distance contacts.
After a couple of calls as HL1ZIB, John ZL1BYZ came back which was a relief.  John’s signals were good and clear above the low noise floor, he gave me a 3×1, but signals were rising.  Peter, VK3PF came back next, again with marginal signals at his end, but a contact made.  VK7CW came up with a nice signal and then I went to 2 metres for a local contact with HL4MC.  Returning to 15 metres, ZL2IFB was quite strong, and gave me a 5×5 and it seemed signals were still improving.
At this point the summit was qualified and there were a lot of hikers starting to arrive, so thought it best to pack up and get out of their way.  A couple of hikers were asking in broken English what the radio gear was for.  I explained best I could, one of the guys knew about amateur radio.

At the summit there are fantastic views and a lake in the crater of the volcano.  There was a bit of snow in the crater as well.
We had an early lunch and decided to leave as the traffic up the mountain was increasing.  The trip down was made difficult by the number of hikers coming up the mountain and trying to make space to pass.  Some of the icy sections had become very slippery and I went for a slide on one of them.

Arriving at the car park, we went straight to the shop and had a big drink.  I had used 3 bottles of water on the trip.  The temperature was quite pleasant at the car park, probably around 16 degrees or so.

It is a great hike and glad the activation worked out OK, sorry Sarah about the longish walk!

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Quick Trapped 15/20m Dipole

This dipole was a last minute idea.  I am taking a multi-band EFHW and 10/20/15/12/10m switched dipole away to Japan, although the switched dipole takes up a lot of space.  A smaller dedicated 15/20m dipole would be a good idea.

In the junk box I had some T50-6 cores.  The only high voltage capacitors I could find were 100pF ATC SMD parts.   To make a 15m trap, 11 turns are needed according to the formula on

The toroids were mounted on some single sided PCB.  Two holes at each end of the PCB strain relief the wire connection to the traps.  As time was short, the PCB foil was dremel’d away to suit the connections.

The traps were tested using a coupling loop to the homebrew antenna sweeper and with a little squeezing, they tuned to 21.1 MHz, a sort of compromise.

The toroids were then soldered properly on the PCB.  For a starting point, a 3.4 metre length was used for the inner wire and a 1.7 metre length used for the outer wire (away from the feed end).

The lengths were based on about 5% less than half wave.  The lengths needed a bit of trimming, first resonating the inner length for 15m and then trimming the outer length for 20m.

Before covering in heatshrink

The homebrew antenna sweeper was used for tuning the antenna.   The 15 metre bandwidth is quite narrow, below 2:1 between 21 and 21.25 MHz.  About 1.5:1 mid way.  This is a bit narrower than I wanted.  The 20 metre bandwidth is fine with a good match between 14 and 14.3 MHz.




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FT817 Battery Upgrade

With an overseas trip coming up, thought it was a good idea to upgrade the battery in the FT-817.  I have been using a very tidy solution for nearly 5 years now consisting of a Hobbyking 3 cell 2500 mAh pack.  This is still working well, although I like to use 18650 batteries if the gear is transported in an aircraft.   The end solution isn’t as tidy as the Lipo one, but works fine.

For this trip, I obtained some 3400 mAh protected Panasonic cells from Ebay.   These cells have an inbuilt circuit that limits the discharge current to 5 amp or so and also controls over discharge, a condition that can ruin the cells.  The cells worked out at about $10 each delivered.  The first thing I did was check the rated capacity.  On a 1 A discharge, the measured capacity was 3000 mAh, not bad, maybe a 0.5 A it would have come close to 3400 mAh.

Then the battery was fitted or should I say attempted to be fitted to the 3 cell carrier that I use in the FT-817.  The battery would not fit, it was too long by about 2mm (70mm long compared to 68mm).  This was sort of expected, as the protected cells have a small PCB at one end that is encapsulated with the battery.  Jaycar electronics have two 18650 cell holders, a single cell and a dual cell holder.  The single cell holder takes the longer battery, but not the dual cell unit.

The dual cell holder was dremel’d out (is there such a word?) around the positive end to remove some plastic that was jamming on the collar of the battery.  It fitted after this modification, so the single and dual holders were glued together with Polyurethane glue.  This resulted in a strong three cell carrier.

It all fits (sort of) in the FT-817.  The battery and holder are a couple of mm too high for the battery flap to go back on.  This is not a big deal as when the leather case is on, the batteries are covered.  I will have to come up with a better long term solution though. Yesterday the battery was used in an activation at Mt. Ritchie, and the volts held up well, with plenty of capacity remaining.


Cells Installed

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Mt Hotham SOTA Weekend

Once again, Brian, VK3MCD hosted a SOTA weekend based at Mt. Hotham.   A ski lodge was our base and we were surrounded by many tempting summits.  Sarah and I left straight after work on Friday night and after a 5 hour drive via Omeo, arrived at the lodge rather tired.

Other SOTA enthusiasts already there were Alan, VK3ARH, Alan VK3FABT (Base Command!), Paul VK3HN, Tony VK3CAT, Ron VK3AFW, Peter VK3PF, Ken VK3KIM and of course Brian VK3MCD.

After a brief planning session, we hit the sack and arose relatively early on Saturday to go to our respective summits.  HF bands have not been good of late, so we all had 2 metre equipment as fallback.  If HF failed, we could work each other summit to summit.

Sarah and I headed for the Twins first (VK3/VE-017).  Despite the dry conditions, the badly rutted road proved too rough for my SUV so we then went to plan B which was Mt Blue Rag (VK3/VE-021).  This summit is just off the Dargo road and no problem with the road.  The fog slowly cleared while setting up the End Fed Half Wave (EFHW) for 40m and as expected there was little Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS).  Stations worked were VK2, 4 and 5 to qualify the summit using the Elecraft KX2.


Ebenezer Range

Next stop was Ebenezer range just out of Harretville (VK3/VE-081), as we hadn’t done this one before.   From Harrietville, the Cemetery road was followed until it T intersected with Wet Gully Track and Albion Track.  Turning right into Wet Gully Track we eventually arrived at Ebenezer Range after some rather steep sections just before the summit.   Alan VK3ARH and Tony VK3CAT were on Feathertop, so we managed a summit to summit just as they were about to leave on 2 metres.  To qualify the summit, the EFHW was set up again and 40m used despite poor conditions.  We heard that Ron VK3AFW had cooked his Subaru attempting a summit near Omeo.  Luckily he was able to get back to Omeo where the car probably still is.


Mt Loch looking towards Feathertop

We could have continued on to Albion Point, but we were running later than expected and a little low on fuel, so we went to Bright to tank up and then back to Hotham were I hiked over to Mt. Loch (VK3/VT-005).  Its a pretty easy walk, about 3.5km each way.  Loch was qualified on 2 metres easily thanks to VK3FABT Alan back at the lodge and Alan VK3ARH and Tony VK3CAT who were still hiking back from Mt. Feathertop.  At one point we could just see each other when they were on the Razorback and the sun was in the right position.  Just a couple of dots on the next range.

After Mt. Loch, we went back to the lodge and cleaned up for a Happy Hour atop Mt. Hotham for the sunset.  It was quite brisk on the summit where Tony set up a 160m station and managed to qualify on 160.  Alan VK3ARH set up a 20 metre station and we worked John, ZL1BYZ.  The night was finished off with a dinner at the General on Mt. Hotham.


Alan and Ron on Hotham


The crew on Hotham on Saturday evening


Brian at Happy Hour on Hotham


Sarah on Hotham


Sun going down along with the temperature

On Sunday, we had a leisurely drive to Mt Buffalo where we activated The Horn (VK3/VE-014) and The Hump (VK3/VE-019).  Both summits are easy walks, The Horn was activated solely on 2 metres thanks to Alan VK3ARH on Albion Point and the crew over on Blue Rag Range (Peter VK3PF, Ken VK3KIM and Ron VK3AFW).  On The Hump, 40 metres was used to qualify the summit in slightly better HF conditions.  After these summits, we made our way home to Melbourne via the Hume Freeway.

Way back from the Hump

Way back from the Hump

Thanks Brian, for hosting another great Hotham weekend!

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