Mt Tennent activation 12 Sept 2014

Mt Tennent is a prominent mountain at the southern end of the Tuggeranong valley in the Australian Capital Territory. It is visible from the Barton Highway 40km away. It is very visible from my office building in Tuggeranong but I had never climbed it. Its reputation was for being a tough, long walk and a steep climb in places.

The mountain is 1384m above sea level and about 750-800m above the average level in the Tuggeranong Valley. Access for bushwalkers is from the Namadgi Visitor’s Centre carpack just off the Naas road, several km south of the village of Tharwa. The length of the walk is 6.5-7 km each way.

Andrew VK1NAM had planned this trip several weeks earlier and invited me to join him, knowing that I had not activated this summit or ever climbed this mountain. After several changes due to household plans for spring gardening work, I was able to confirm I would join him and I even did some training – several trips to the gym this week included some sessions on the stepper. Ha! some training that was… should have just gone down to the mountain and got serious about it!

So we met at 7:15 am at the Namadgi Visitors Centre and set off across the road and onto the walking path. After a few mild hills along the path, several creek crossings and even one of the dreadful downhill sections (which I dislike because I know that means I have to climb some distance twice) we came to the rock stairs, which accounted for over 1km and about an hour of the climb. Andrew referred to this as Stepper 101, but afterwards I considered it was 301 or the master’s course. About the first 10 minutes may have been equivalent to what I had done on the stepper at the gym.

Here are some photos of the upward trip.

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After the stair climb and some easy sections we arrived at the fire trail leading to the top of the mountain. This section was endless and steep going in parts. Finally we were at the summit where there are several buildings housing communications equipment for various emergency services.

I set up the 20m vertical on its squid pole and looked at conditions on 20m using the FT817 on 5w output. Andrew VK1NAM set up his linked dipole and wanted to try 10m dx hoping for contacts into the USA. We both found that radio conditions were unusually quiet with few long distance signals audible. On 10m the best contact was to VK6 (Western Australia) with Anthony VK6MAC. On 20m I made 5 contacts, into VK4 (Queensland), VK5 (South Australia) and VK6 (Western Australia).

Having found 10m so quiet Andrew reconnected his 10m link and went straight to 40m where a number of “local” chasers were keen for contacts (mostly in VK2 New South Wales and VK3 Victoria).

The view from the top speaks for itself. Other pics show parts of the descent.

Again thanks to Andrew VK1NAM for his guidance, good humour and being willing to wait while I caught up. My walking/climbing pace is not quite his. Another great day in the bush and on a summit.

Timings: the upward trip took just over 3 hours and downhill took a bit less. The rock stairs can’t be rushed, for safety reasons.

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Three SOTA activations on 6th September 2014

To support the anniversary activity for SOTA in VK2 I activated three VK2 summits on 6th September.

South Black Range, summit code VK2/ST-006 was first as it was the quickest to get to from my home in Yass.  I left home just after 7am and drove to Murrumbateman, then via the Gundaroo road to Bungendore, then to Hoskinstown south of Bungendore. From Hoskinstown I took Forbes Creek road for about 10km until reaching the South Black Range forest trail.  The track up to the summit is at about 1200m ASL and heads approx westerly. It is quite narrow at first but opens out gradually.  I parked my car about half way up to the summit and proceeded on foot.

There is a huge granite boulder at the summit and I guess surveyors considered that to be the real top of the mountain so they placed the trig point and a summit cairn on top of the boulder.

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I set up slightly north of the boulder and soon had my antenna up and the radio buzzing with signals.

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It was shortly before 0000 UTC so I ran through the chaser list very quickly, making sure everyone calling had a chance to put this summit into their log for the 5th Sept UTC.  Then the same process after 0000.  I tried 20m after running out of chasers on 40m.  The only contacts made were with VK1 home stations – noticed a spot stating that I could not be heard in northern NSW.  At that time I had not yet transmitted on 20m but after I had made a few local contacts, there were no other calls, so clearly conditions on 20m were not supporting longer distances at that time.

After completing the radio operation I packed up and then took a few more pictures of the rock and the forest as I walked back to the car.

A very old ladder, possibly a relic of the original survey placement, was rotting on the ground next to the rock.

 

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I placed my squid pole, about 1.2m length against the rock as a contextual measuring stick. maybe I should have extended the squid pole to its 7m length as a better measure.  Something for next time.

Contacts made from this summit: 57

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VK1DA/p operating luxury
VK1DA/p operating luxury
The radio gear dwarfed by the rock
The radio gear dwarfed by the rock
Black squid pole seen at the base of the rock
Black squid pole seen at the base of the rock

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the track returning to the car
the track returning to the car
The cruiser in the forest
The cruiser in the forest

After returning to the “main road”, a gravel forest road, I wanted to use forest roads and trails to Mt Cowangerong, summit code VK2/ST-001.  This took me longer than I had expected, the condition of the forest tracks was wet and slightly muddy in places.  I was taking my time and not trying anything heroic.  Possibly a better map would have made this a quicker trip, however I was enjoying driving a car with better clearance and with 4WD capability.

At Mt Cowangerong I decided to set up on the north side of the weather radar clearing.  I had experienced some interference on 40m when operating near the compound last year, so wanted to see whether keeping further away from the building reduced the interference.  The spot I chose was just after the power pole you pass on the track up to the summit, several hundred metres short of the compound and about 20m off to the north east of the track, in a clearing of sorts there.  I could see the tower through the trees, though my photos only just capture the tower base.  This position was very quiet and I had no noticeable interference.

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Contacts made from this summit: 35.

After this activation I returned to the car where it was parked down the track, headed to Braidwood and had a welcome cup of coffee with a hot pastie and a danish pastry.   There I decided I could still activate Mt Gillamatong, VK2/ST-034 before dark, so I posted an alert on SOTAWATCH for a 20m operation.

My radio friends Andrew VK1NAM and Ian VK1DI had both activated this summit.  From the town it looked quite prominent with steep sides.  The descriptions of their activations mentioned that it was a steeper climb than they had expected.  They are not wrong.

It took me about 30 minutes to get to a point near the top, I estimated about 10m lower than the comms building, so it was within the activation zone.

I set up the 20m vertical and checked SOTAWATCH for activity.  I eventually worked a number of European stations including some activators on SOTA summits, which I was very happy about.  Also worked Gerard VK2IO on a summit in France.  This was done using my IC703 running 10w output.

I heard several other VK activators, working Andrew VK1NAM at the noise level, but was unable to hear VK1MBE who was in the Northern Rivers area of VK2. Others worked included Mike 2E0YYY, always an enthusiastic contact.

Contacts made: 18, including several s2s contacts in Europe and one s2s with VK1NAM.   10 ssb contacts and 8 CW contacts into Europe.

Finally I packed up at about 5:30 local time, 0730 UTC, as it was getting noticeably cooler and I could see that the sunlight was fading as we moved towards sunset.  I was on the eastern side of the hill so sunlight was fading even faster.

I got back to the car just before 6pm and was able to SMS my wife and to Andrew VK1NAM, telling them I was back in the car and about to set off home.

The trip home from Braidwood to Yass was about 1H40.

Some pics from Mt Gillamatong.

Scenery on Mt Gillamatong
Scenery on Mt Gillamatong

Total contacts for the day, 112.

SOTA operation is a unique combination of portable operation based on backpacked equipment and antennas, with all power from battery or solar sources.  It is nearly always a pleasant experience to operate a backpack radio station from a hilltop.

I highly recommend it as an antidote for the suburban interference blues, a condition endured by many amateur radio operators making it problematic or impossible to operate from the typical suburban block.

See the links section of this blog for information about SOTA world wide and SOTA in Australia.

SOTA VK2 1st anniversary September 2014

For the first anniversary of SOTA in VK2 (Australia – New South Wales), a weekend of VK2 SOTA activations is planned for the 6th and 7th September 2014.  The usual Sunday activations that are popular are made complicated for some by the coinciding Father’s Day on the first Sunday of September.  We might have to celebrate VK2 SOTA on the preceding Sunday in future.

In the past year VK2 has seen 728 activations of 228 summits.  Not a bad result for the first year.

About 250 extra summits are under review for addition to the VK2 Summits list.  This will fill in some gaps left by our initial survey in 2013.  Corrections to a few summit locations will also be made as well as summit name changes.   More details when the process is completed.