SOTA at Mt Kaputar VK2/NW-001

Having stayed overnight at Coonabarabran I drove up to Narrabri then headed east along the Kaputar road.  It is about 40 km from Narrabri to the Kaputar summit parking area.  On the way you pass numerous large boulders and impressive mountain ranges, including a section or road where there are rocks on the road, obviously having fallen from the steep slopes immediately above the road. It would be worth avoiding this trip immediately after a heavy rain which is likely to dislodge rocks by erosion.

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Arriving at the parking area, the first inclination is to rush up the wooden staircase and look at the view.  I put my backpack on and climbed at a pace slower than a rush, as there is some distance to climb, possibly more than the 25m of elevation that defines the activation zone.  I have a watch with a barometer on it and altitude indicator, but at the time I did not think of using that to measure how far down from the summit I could operate.

The view at the top was great.  It is the highest summit in the area of course, so has a great view to the north and south.  To the west some of the view was blocked by the range I had just driven past.

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The wind on the viewing platform next to the trig was huge and given the small space available at the top I knew operating up there was not practical.  So I set up my gear and the antenna on the steps about half way down from the viewing platform.

40m provided good signals and I got the activation qualified fairly quickly.  10m was the question, what would conditions be like there?  From the sound of the band it was going to be difficult.  The time was mid morning and I had hoped for some dx propagation but the band was very quiet.  On the offchance of a contact I sent an SMS text message to Paul Vk5PAS asking him to listen for me on ssb.  No luck, he reported nil heard.

Then I called cq for about 15 minutes on CW before striking gold with a contact with Ian VK5IS, who I had worked on 40m and had probably heard me saying I would be going to 10m.  Signal was not strong but quite clear, fluctuating quickly as the propagation changed.  I suspected sporadic E was providing this contact rather than F layer reflection.   Sporadic E is often very selective in that the reflective area is small and the “footprint” of where your refelected signal arrives can be relatively small.  This was consistent with Paul not hearing me only a few minutes earlier.   Whether that’s right, I cannot know, but it’s always interesting to try to figure out what is happening.

With conditions so patchy on 10m I thought there would be little chance of contacts on 6m so did not spend any time trying that band.  I packed up and returned to Narrabri, having added another summit to my uniques list and qualfiied it on cw and ssb.  One more for the 6m/10m challenge tally.

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