As I had some time off work in January I planned a SOTA expedition to activate some summits in the Snowy Mountains region, where there are plenty of high value summits to choose from. I planned to activate several summits on the first day and one major trip on the next day.
The first summit activated was the unnamed VK2/SM-053 which is east of the Thredbo road. Others have described it and its location, it is easy enough to find and can be driven up, though the top section of the road has been damaged by roadworks and recent heavy rain. I parked my car on the road near the top and walked to a suitable point where I could see a good location for my radio and a nearby stump that the mast could be attached to. The multiband dipole was soon set up and I was able to qualify the summit within a few minutes of getting on air, on both SSB and CW on 40m. Nothing was heard or worked on 20m and that band sounded quite dead. 20 contacts made on 40m.
VK2/SM-014 The Cascades
Driving towards Thredbo afterwards, a thunderstorm passed overhead with heavy rain and I wondered how the weather would be when I reached the next parking spot. The storm passed and soon even the rain stopped, so by the time I reached the parking area at Dead Horse Gap, about 10km past Thredbo, the sky was clear of rain clouds and I was able to get my bike out of the car and get moving towards the Cascades. This summit is to the south of the Thredbo river, but the path along the north side of the river takes you the first 2km of the trip. Then you cross the river either on the steel bridge or via a road crossing intended for forest maintenance vehicles. I decided against riding through the water, it was about 150 to 200mm deep at that point but flowing quite quickly. After crossing the river, you follow the track up towards the hill. I left my bike near the river and walked the next 2km without it. It would have made the return trip much faster if I had pushed the bike up to a higher point.
Having reached the highest point on the fire trail/maintenance track at about 2km past the river crossing, it was easy to walk upwards towards the summit through the bushland. Taking care to look out for unfriendly wildlife, I passed the first set of (huge) rocks and my GPS was already indicating that I had entered the top 20m contour so I had to be in the activation zone then. I found a suitable rock to set up my gear on, only later noticing that there was a huge dead eucalyptus tree nearby. Fortunately nothing unpleasant happened but I should have chosen a safer place to sit. Those old trees are called “widow-makers” for good reason.
After making the first dozen contacts on 40m ssb, I moved to CW and made more contacts, as part of my aim to qualify each summit I activate on ssb and CW. Signals incoming were ok but the reports I was receiving were well down on the usual level. After moving back to the ssb mode I made more contacts and while talking with Matt VK1MA I told him my antenna seemed to have a fault, and while saying that my gaze went up the pole to where the coaxial cable feedline connected to the antenna wires. I could see one of the antenna wires sticking out into free space and knew I had found the problem. I pulled the mast down, reattached the wire to its binding post and raised the mast again. Matt then reported my signal level had raised from s6 to s9. So I owe all previous contacts my apologies for the low signal, all due to not checking the antenna properly. The same problem was probably affecting signal levels on the previous summit too.
After moving to 20m I made a good contact with Peter VK4JD, who was much stronger on 20m than he had been on 40. Then a contact with John VK6NU and another with John on CW on 14062. I heard a few European stations calling me on CW but none of them responded to my replies, so were apparently calling blind, on the basis of the Sotawatch spot. No contacts occurred from these blind calls. I wonder how often they work.
By then it was just after 7pm local time and I needed to pack up and leave, to avoid making too much of the return trip in darkness. It took about 45mins to walk back to my bike, so perhaps it was more than 2km. From that point it was a fairly quick ride back to the car, passing a few brumbies on the way.
I arrived back at Jindabyne just after 9pm.
VK2/SM-001 Mt Kosciuszko
I arrived at Charlotte Pass at about 9:45 am, somewhat later than planned. With the squid pole attached to the crossbar of my bike, I rode the first 4.5km then pushed the bike up the steeper sections past Seaman’s Hut and up to Rawson’s Gap where there are public toilets and bike racks. Bikes are not permitted past that point.
It took me about 2 hours to cover the 7.6km from CP to Rawson’s Gap. I had to walk about 4km of this, slowly, as parts of it were too steep for my bike. I may have been able to ride more of this section with a lower geared bike. Mine is a general purpose road bike with 21 gears and no spring suspension. The gears and tyres are not really suitable for this kind of “road”.
From Rawson’s Gap to the top of Kosciuszko is about 1.4 km, climbing about 150m vertically over that distance. Rawson’s is a common point where the track from Charlotte Pass and the track from the top of the Thredbo chairlift meet. After a break there to lock my bike, detach the squid pole and get ready to walk, I set off up the final section of the ascent.
My first contact was made at 0218, the last was made at 0351. I used 7mhz for nearly all contacts. The 20m band was sounding almost dead. the only contact made on 20m was with VK4JD. I also made a brief contact with VK2KVP in Murrumbateman via the VK1RGI repeater on Mt Ginini. Other repeaters were heard while the 2m fm radio was scanning around all the memories. John VK2YW was heard chatting to others in the Wagga area, the Albury repeater was heard a few times.
After leaving the summit I noticed the clouds to the north looked particularly dark and I knew there would be some rain on the trip back to Charlotte Pass. I retrieved a jacket from my backpack as part of my preparations for the return trip by bike.
As it was all downhill for about 4km past Seaman’s Hut to the Snowy River bridge, then only a short section with a slight uphill slope, followed by about 4km of a gentle downhill slope, the return journey to CP took only about 30 mins. A shower of rain with wind lasted for about half of that journey. Back at the car, I chatted with a friendly couple who had also just returned from Kosciuszko, one of them riding and the other running. They took less than 3 hours for their entire return journey, but they didn’t have a radio to operate on the mountain!
It occurred to me later that as Thredbo is at about 1400m ASL and Kosciuszko is 2229, the vertical distance is 830m or so. This is not much more than the vertical distance we climb for Mt Tennent in south Canberra, though it is lower altitudes (from about 620 to 1384, or 764m). For someone taking the chairlift at Thredbo, the distance required is reduced by about 600m, making the climb up Mt Tennent more difficult than the trip from Thredbo to Kosciuszko.
VK2/SM-068 The Peak
Over a coffee in Cooma on the morning of 22 Jan, I browsed the summit list and decided to check with Rod VK2TWR how to find this one. He provided the directions and said my car would easily drive up the hill.
Located about half way between Cooma and Nimmitabel, this summit is reached via about 10km of dirt road, the last 300m being fairly rutted and rough, with many large thistles covering the track and adjacent land. The turnoff is marked with a sign marked “The Peak” at 22 km from Cooma just after a sign indicating 90km to Bega. There is a Telstra building and tower on the summit.
I parked near the building compound and climbed the final bit up to the trig point. Attached the pole to the trig and operated on 40m ssb and cw, 20m produced contacts with VK5IS, VK4JD and VK5WG. I didn’t qualify this on cw or on 20m, making contacts with only 3 unique callsigns on cw and only 3 contacts on 20m.