Monday, 30 September 2013

SOTA Activation Mt Alexandra VK2/IL-005

After activating Mt Gibraltar and having lunch in Mittagong headed up to Mt Alexandra. From the main street in Mittagong head up Victoria St. The road leaves the town and climbs steeply, ending at a dirt car park. Measured the altitude at 710m, so a good 80m below the summit at 790m.

Started walking up the hill. There is a sign to Katoomba Lookout, 500m

Pleasant walk up, not too steep. On the way saw some waratahs out in flower.

Found the "trig" at the highest point, an unimpressive pile of rocks. Measured the height at 791m with the GPS.

Followed the tracks to Katoomba Lookout. This was a lookout West over the Hume Freeway and mountains, good views.

There were a couple of picnic tables here. Measured the height at 785m, so 6m below the summit and inside the 25m activation zone. The table looked ideal to operate from.

As the table edge didn't line up with the bottom, I found a suitable rock to allow the squid pole to lash vertically to the end of the table. Worked well.

Strung out the 40m dipole legs to a couple of nearby trees, and had my SOTA shack table ready to go.

Got on 40m. Unfortunatley the band wasn't real good at this time of day, most signals weak. Picked up later, worked S2S with Glen VK3YY and Andrew VK1NAM/3 on Pyramid Hill, VK3/VN-005 with 58 signals.

All up worked 15 chasers. Packed up at 2:30pm, walked back to the car and drove home.

Track log of walk.

SOTA Activation Mt Gibraltar VK2/IL-001

Had a day off work, "Family and Community Day" holiday in Canberra, so thought I'd take a break from the local peaks and travel a bit further. Mt Gibraltar and Mt Alexandra are close by each other and close to major towns, Bowral and Mittagong, so easy to access.

Drove up the Hume Highway, stopping at Marulan briefly for a coffee, turning off into Bowral. Drove along the main street, then up Oxley Drive to Mt Gibraltar. Needed to walk the last 25m into the activation zone, as per SOTA rules, so turned off Oxley drive mid way up down a road to Bowral Lookout picnic area.

Parked the car in the picnic area car park.

Measured the altitude here with the GPS at 820m. The summit is at 865m so 45m down, and outside the activation zone. Walked up the road to the summit, a cluster of TV/Radio masts. There was a trig point here, a very odd one on a brick structure with a ladder on the side...

Tempted to try operating from the top, would have been a bit cramped though...too many trees too.

Nearby was a concrete slab from the ruins of a past radio shack, and remnants of a tower. Attached the squid pole to a tree stump and used the slab for the radio bench.

Set up the dipole across the clearing where the building used to be, using trees for support.

Got on 40m. Fairly quiet, being a week day probably not many active. Worked some of the usual chasers. Found Glen VK3YY and Andrew VK1NAM/3 were running late for their activation, so tuned around on other bands. 2m was full of weird noises from the nearby radio/TV services, almost unusable. Managed a couple of contacts with local stations through a repeater. Had one station in Mittagong, not far away, but unable to hear my direct signal. Glen and Andrew came up from VK3/VN-001 for a S2S. Total 15 contacts. Packed up and returned to the car, drove down to Mittagong for lunch.

Track log of walk.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

SOTA Activation Mt Gillamatong VK2/ST-034

After activating Mt Budawang drove back to Braidwood and stopped at a Cafe for a coffee. Decided to check out a nearby summit, Mt Gillamatong, only a couple of Km out of town. Drove up Gillamatong Lane, this took me directly towards the summit.

At the end of Gillamatong Lane found a parking area with an open gate. This took me into a lane between fences, at the back of a property.

Headed to the left, then up another path to another open access gate. Beyond this scrub.

After this just scrub bashing. Not too thick, but quite steep and rocky in places. The hill was steeper and bigger than it looked... After several minutes reached the top. The poor trig point had been beheaded :( vanes on the ground nearby.

Set up the radio at the base of the trig, and strapped the squid pole to the trig.

Ran the 40m dipole legs out to nearby rocks and trees. Some nearby masts, but no interference.

Got on 40m. Quite a lot of QRM from some RTTY contest, plus storm static crashes. Started with a S2S with Brian, VK3MCD on VK3/VC-030 Flinders Peak, who had just worked Allen, VK3HRA on VK3/VC-025 Mt Dandenong. Tried to call Allen but he had gone. Moved up to 7.095 and started a pileup, with Peter, VK3PF spotting me. Later Allen VK3HRA called me, he had seen my spot and had set up again to work me, thanks Allen.

Also worked Paul, VK3PAS portable in Mylor Conservation Park.  Total of 24 contacts on 40m. Packed up and headed down before the sun set.

View heading down into town.

Track log of walk

SOTA Activation Mt Budawang VK2/ST-015

From home in Canberra drove out to Bungendore via Macs Reef Rd, then the Kings Highway to Braidwood, then turned off to Mongarlowe on the Mongarlowe Rd. Turned off to the right in Mongarlowe down the Budawang Rd. After a turn to the left off Northangera Rd the road becomes unsealed. Mt Budawang on the right in the distance.

The road crosses several private farm properties with public road access through them. First of 3 gates to stop at, open, drive through and close...

Not long after this gate saw a NSW National Parks sign indicating to turn down a track to the left. This is the Mt Budawang Rd.

The track leads to another access gate...Shut the gate mate!

After driving through farm property another gate. Had a few cows on the other side, they ignored me.

After this gate the road passes through forest rather than farmland. Entered Budawang National Park. There is a locked gate just past the sign so parked here.

The locked gate. Walking only from now on.

The road passes through some cool temperate rain forest, nice tree ferns.

After a bit over an hour reached the top. I was disappointed to see the fire tower was closed off, last time I was here it was open access and I was able to go inside, now it is locked up.

Set up the squid pole and radio at one corner of the fence. Used the pack for a radio desk.

Squid pole and dipole strung out.

Leg of the dipole tied to a small bush. Looking North, left to right bumpy Currockbilly Mountain, Wirritin Ridge, Mt Roberts, Mt Owen, The Castle, Byangee Walls and the distinctive cone of Pigeon House mountain. All new VK2 summits, all unactivated so far...Most of these very hard walks...

For securing the other end I found an old milk crate. Put some rocks in it and tied the dipole leg to it. Wanted to avoid detuning by the fence.

Got on 40m. Started with S2S with Glenn, VK3YY and Peter VK3ZPF on VK3/VT-006. Worked regulars. Some other S2S with Peter VK3PF on VK3/VT-046, Andrew VK1NAM/3 on VK3/VC-009 Marshall VK3MRG on VK3/VT-010 and Andrew VK1DA on VK1/AC-040. 25 contacts on 40m. Tried 2m, no luck on 146.5 Mhz. Got on a repeater, possibly VK2RHR and worked Graeme VK2FPQ in Bundanoon direct. Marginal signal, had to move about to get a path, but made it, impressive distance with just the FT-60R, 5w and whip.

Packed up after lunch and headed down. Track log of walk

Sunday, 15 September 2013

SOTA Activation Mt Cowangerong VK2/ST-001

As the weather today looked better than the forecast decided to go for an activation after lunch, to Mt Cowangerong in the nearby Tallaganda National Park. Drove out to Queanbeyan, then the Kings Highway, Captains Flat Road to Captains Flat. Then took the Braidwood road to the East and stopped when I got to the Cowangerong Firetrail.

As wanted a walk stopped here and walked along the firetrail, about 2.6Km. Fairly easy going. Could have driven if I wanted to.

About 300m from the summit there is a smaller firetrail branching off to the left. Took this up to the summit.

Got to the summit, a large cleared area with the BOM weather radar in the middle.

There was the remains of the Mt Cowangerong trig at the base of the radar complex. The post with the vanes attached on the ground near the rocky cairn.

I had heard Andrew, VK1NAM had problems with interference from the radar when he activated here, so decided to operate on the opposite side of the clearing, just into the bush, to get away from it. Used a stump to support the squid pole. Ran the dipole legs out to some trees. Dipole facing end on to the radar.

Used a log as a seat and shack table

Got on 40m and got mobbed by the usual crowd of chasers...After the crowd died down tried 2m FM from the hand held  with Andrew VK1NAM in Canberra and Andrew VK2UH in Yass. Managed to just make a contact with VK1NAM, after moving about a bit. I could hear Andrew VK2UH ok with his beam and high power, just couldn't get heard back on my puny 5w hand held and whip...must get a better 2m antenna for activating. Also heard Al, VK1RX but he didn't hear me.

After 40m died off tried getting on 20m. Lots of big signals in a contest, had trouble finding a spot. Tried 14.330Mhz but no reply to my calls, even after spotting myself. Packed up and headed home, 21 contacts made. Track log of walk

Sunday, 8 September 2013

SOTA Activation Mt Lowden VK2/ST-002

After activating VK2 SOTA peak South Black Range last weekend, thought I would try another SOTA peak nearby, Mt Lowden, VK2/ST-002. It is in Tallaganda State Forest so no problems with public access. Looking on the maps and reading some walk descriptions online by John Evans, local bushwalker, decided to tackle it via the Lowden Trig Firetrail.

As per South Black Range activation drove out to Hoskinstown, then instead of turning off for Forbes Creek drove on to the small farming settlement of Rossi. After Rossi the road becomes the Lowden Forest Rd.
Drove along this until coming to the Lowden Trig Firetrail.

Drove a few hundred metres down the track. As unfamiliar just how rough the track gets later decided to park and start walking. The track wasn't too bad, but probably would have had problems in places with rocks and bumps...After 40 minutes walking reached the junction with the Bald Hill Firetrail.

Took the trig road on the right, dropped down into a rainforest gully before climbing up again. After a total of an hour and 10 minutes reached the Mt Lowden communications tower.

A wider shot of the tower

Unfortunately this was not the SOTA summit...The actual summit is 600m further on through the bush. After some scrub bashing saw the actual Mt Lowden summit.

Had to drop down into a saddle and come up again. The vegetation thinned out a bit in the saddle.

Once crossed the saddle the bush got really thick and slow going. Some nasty spiked vine stuff too.

After around 45 minutes of scrub bashing reached the top, stopping at an open area just down from the Trig. First got on 2m, heard Al, VK1RX calling from nearby VK2/ST-006 South Black Range summit, good copy on the hand held. Set up the squid pole on a stump using some occy straps and strung out the 20m and 40m dipole legs to some tree branches.

Set up the FT817ND radio on a nearby rock.

Got going on 40m. First contact was S2S with VK1DA/VK1NAM Andrews on VK1/AC-021, then Ed VK2JI on VK2/SY-001. Worked Peter, VK3YE pedestrian mobile on the beach in Melbourne, good to hear Peter out and about again, enjoy watching his Youtube videos. Usual crowd of chasers from VK1,VK2,VK3 and VK5, most signals quite strong. Got a call from Matt, VK1MA on 2m, we had a fair contact, needed to move the hand held about a bit to find a good spot. He was a good signal on 40m. Later on got a call from Scott, VK2AET on VK2/NR-044, up around Grafton in the far North of NSW. He had a fair signal but VK3s on frequency unable to hear him on 40m, so he went to 20m. I couldn't hear him at all on 20m, but the VK3s could, surpsisingly heard VK3AFW working him, probably on some backscatter. I heard Matt, VK1MA calling him, we had a contact on 20m, one of the only contacts I made on the band.

Other S2S contacts were with Paul, VK5PAS/3 on VK3/VS-018 and Ernie VK3DET/5 on VK5/NE-050.
Total of 23 contacts.

Here is the nearby trig, not suitable for SOTA dipoles, too many nearby trees...

Wandered back down the hill. On the way back down in the thick scrub had a bit of a problem, noticed the squid pole was missing!...Using my GPS track log reversed back, managed to find it, had got knocked off by a branch. Very lucky seeing it in the scrub, and was not too far back. Carried it in my hand as a walking stick instead of the pocket in the pack until clear of the scrub, something should do in future scrub bashing.

Track log of the walk.