ZS6AA/4 QRP in the Drakensberg Mountains

This week I was fortunate to get away with my family to the Golden Gate Highlands national park in the scenic Drakensberg mountains. Our home for four nights was a log cabin perched on a mountainside at an altitude of 2,200m (7,200 ft) ASL. Of course I took my recently repaired Elecraft K1 four-band QRP rig, as well as a hurridly constructed prototype of a new portable/field wire antenna that I am working on.

The antenna was suspended from a 5m “roach pole” set up on the porch (deck) of the cabin, with the wires anchored with tent pegs on either side. The antenna was fairly low since I did not have space in the car for my 12m spider pole; but I figured that the spectacular drop-off to the east would make up for that, at least on the Asia path.

Drakensberg View with Antenna Wires

The view from the log cabin, with antenna wires in foreground

Since this was a family holiday not a DX-pedition, my operating time was limited to the odd moment when we weren’t doing anything else. My first QSO, made minutes after setting up the antenna, was with Al ZS1AAX, who was one of the examiners for my 12 w.p.m. Morse test in 2001. It is thanks to Al and Bud ZS1B (SK) that I am able to share in the skill and pleasure of CW operating.

Propagation wasn’t great, and I didn’t hear anything on 15m. However I was pleased to work some Japanese stations with about 3 Watts out on 30m. (The K1 struggles to give full output when running off 1.2 V NiMH cells, since the total battery voltage is only 9.6 V with 8 cells in the internal battery holder – you can get 5-6 Watts with a 12-13.8 V supply). I operated as ZS6AA/4 since the park is in the Free State, which has the prefix ZS4. Thanks to those who came back to my QRP CQ!


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