This was an activation of a new summit for me. At the same time, I wanted to try to operate the digital PSK31 mode from the summit and use my new QRP amplifier to lift the FT817’s maximum 5w output to about 18w.
The access to Summit point is along Mount Sugerloaf Road from just outside of Seahampton. This is a normal small tarmac road and easy to drive right up to the Sugarloaf Mountain transmitter towers. Just before reaching the towers I needed to take a left turn onto Sugarloaf Range Road. This is a mud track but is fairly well maintained and easy to drive with a normal 2WD car as long you watch out for the occasional pot holes. 3.9 km down this road we come to the road up to the actual summit. This is less well maintained, very rutted and pot holes are the smallest concern as some sharp high rocks in the middle of the road means that a lot of care is needed to travel this road and not destroy your car. A high clearance 2WD or 4WD vehicle would be more suited to this track however this is not nearly as bad as the Broken Back Road that I tried to navigate a couple of weeks earlier up to HU-068 (Broken Back Range) and had to turn back. For one thing this road to Summit Point was only a couple of kilometres long. Simply follow this road until it stops rising and look to the left where there is an area to park and the rock with carvings – as shown in the video below.
From here it is a steep climb on foot, on a slippery surface as there are lots of twigs and dead undergrowth meaning it is difficult the get a good foot hold while climbing and even more “tricky” on the way back down. Once I reached the top, there is a fairly wide flattish level with many trees suitable for attaching antenna to. I had arrived here about 30 minutes ahead of schedule however once I had everything set up I had lost 15 minutes of that advantage. I was on-air on 7.090 at 23:30 UTC (UTC day 20/12/2013 still) and managed to work 10 stations both before and 10 after UTC rollover (list below), all but two of these were on 40m SSB, the last two being on 30m SSB. Band conditions were not good with very deep QSB at times.
As I said above, one of the purposes for this activation was to test out my solid state linear to give a little more output for more distant contacts. Initially I thought it was actually causing me to lose signal strength on receive but this turned out to be two things – the delay in the RF sensing relay from switching back over and the conditions. Once I could make some “with and without” tests with the linear, it appears that on average I gain 2 S-points with the linear in circuit over not having it in circuit. So worth having and I need to look at fixing the relay delay. The other thing I wanted to try (and was unsuccessful with) was using a digital mode (PSK31) from the summit. Normally to do this you need a PC an interface and the rig, which is impractical to carry up a summit. I have the DROIDPSK software (from Wolphi plc) installed on my Android phone and his very small WolphiLink interface box to connect to the FT-817. The main problem I hit was that I could not clearly see the phone’s screen in the sunlight to be able to adjust it to receive signals. I believe I was transmitting PSK correctly but when I received signals back they appeared to be off frequency in the audio pass band and I could not see the screen to tune them in. I also need to practice more using PSK from home, so that I know more of the ins and outs of how it is supposed to work. Perhaps next time I try this on a summit, I will take my 7 inch Android tablet so that the program screen is more readable however the suggestion from Ron to take along a cardboard box to shield the screen (be it on a phone or a tablet) seems like a good idea also.
All in all not a bad mornings activation and with all such outings I have learned more things that I need to look into before I get that illusive “perfect” set-up.
Yaesu FT817ND transceiver (5W) Ramsey Electronics QAMP40 (18W) WolphiLink, DROIDPSK and Android 4 smart phone.
SOTABeams linked dipole in Inverted-V format on a 6m squid pole
Stations worked on 40m pre UTC Rollover:
Stations worked on 40m post UTC Rollover:
Stations worked on 30m: