Saturday, 27 September 2014

SOTA Activation Baldy Range VK2/ST-008

With the SOTA winter bonus season ending soon had a look at other close by summits that can claim the points. Baldy Range, VK2/ST-008 is an 8 pointer and is not too far from home, so gave it a go.

You can access it via the Baldy Range fire trail 2 ways, via Two Sticks Road or Doctors Flat Road. Doctors Flat Road looked the best option with only a couple of Km of rough road to the summit.

Drove down Uriarra Road to Urriara Crossing, turned right onto Fairlight Road, then left onto Mountain Creek Road. A short distance along Mountain Creek Road reached Doctors Flat Road on the right.

Note this is a private road that crosses several properties. There was an old sign nearby advising to shut the gates.

Drove through to the next gate, leaving the first property.

Saw a sign further along asking to contact the owner before entering. Rang the number and spoke to the owner, he agreed to let me proceed. The property is called "Little Swamp"

After passing through the property reached Brindabella National Park, then another property gate, "Dingo Dell Valley".

The sign indicated okay to continue as long as the gates left shut. After clearing the property entered Brindabella National Park again. Got to the Baldy Range Trail intersection on the left.

Note the track isn't marked, but Maginot Fire Trail on the right is, so had the correct road. A short distance up the hill reached an old alignment of Doctors Flat Road and a sign for Baldy Range Track.

The road climbs fairly steeply after this around the side of a small hill, with a few mounds and puddles to cross, but nothing that an AWD couldn't handle. My Nissan Xtrail went fine without needing 4WD, just needed a bit of clearance. The road got better once on the top of the range. Around 800 m from the summit parked on the side of the track and walked.

The road passes close to the summit, in fact enters the activation zone. Headed off into the scrub. Unlike the thick scrub of Dingi Dingi Ridge quite open and easy walking.

Near the top of the summit found a nice open grassy area with a log. Used this for squid pole support and set up the 40/20 m linked dipole here.

Set up the radio on my pack and sat on the log.

Got on 40 m. Conditions quite good with strong signals from VK1, VK2 and VK3. Worked S2S with Andrew, VK2MWP on VK2/SC-040, and Mark VK1EM on VK1/AC-027.

Saw a spot for Simon, VK1FAAS on VK1/AC-038 Tuggeranong Hill on 2 m FM. I could hear him okay but he could not hear me. Even Matt, VK1MA whom I was copying S9+ couldn't contact him. Only Andrew VK1NAM could work him. Seems he had HT radio desense problems...

Worked him okay on 40 m. Another S2S with Ian, VK5CZ on VK5/NE-102, quite weak.

Changed the links to 20 m. Got Andrew, VK1NAM locally with a good signal. After finishing with Andrew got blasted by Paul, VK5PAS with a very strong S9+ signal! Went on to work VK8GM, VK5WG, VK6MB, VK5IS, VK1DR and VK1MA.

Another view of the shack.

Had lunch, packed up and went home.

Track log of drive/walk.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

SOTA activation Dingi Dingi Ridge

Dingi Dingi Ridge VK2/ST-004 is a high point within Brindabella National Park, just to the Northwest of Canberra. At over 1300 m it is worth 8 points, with 3 more for winter bonus points, so decided time to activate it before the winter bonus season ends.

To get there, took the Brindabella Road, turned off onto Blue Range Road, headed along this, entering Brindabella National Park.

Continued along Blue Range Road until it joined Two Sticks Road. Two Sticks Road runs around the side of Devils Peak, VK2/ST-003. There was a turn off this on the right onto Baldy Range Trail. Note the sign for Baldy Range Trail has been destroyed...After a short section of Baldy Range Trail took the track on the left, Dingi Ridge Trail.

The roads up until now are probably okay for a 2WD in the dry, however you probably need at least an AWD or 4WD for Dingi Dingi Ridge Trail. My Nissan Xtrail went okay, mainly need clearance as some tricky rocky bits and spoon drains. Followed Dingi Ridge track until the closest point to the summit, parked here off the road.

Entered into the bush on the left. This was probably not the best approach as fairly thick scrub here...

Lots of wattle regrowth. Thankfully did thin out as I got higher. From reviewing VK1NAM Andrew's track log might have been better to follow the road a bit further on before bush bashing up. Once on the top ridge not too bad. View from a minor saddle before the final summit.

Reached the activation zone. Looking for a suitable clearing for antennas found a nice grassy clearing on the Southern side, looking towards Mt Coree, VK1/AC-023

Set up the squid pole on a small sapling, able to lay out the 40 m dipole okay. Operated on a tarp on the grass. The sun came out at last.

Looking across the clearing

Some views of parts of Canberra through the trees.

Got on 40 m, started with a S2S with Russ, VK2BJP on VK2/RI-035, One Tree Hill near Albury. Then got the usual pileup of chasers...

Had a very weak copy on Rod, VK2TWR/p on VK2/ST-032, only a R4 S1, seems he had antenna problems, others had problems copying him.

Switched to 2 m FM on the Jpole and tried a spot. Got Matt, VK1MA, 59+, always gets out well on 2 m. Also a good copy with Andrew VK1NAM, and a weak copy on Andrew VK2MJP near Queanbeyan. Andrew was on a hand held outside standing on his water tank for height!

Tried 30 m, worked 4 chasers, VK2YK, VK3XPT/p, VK1MA  and VK3AFW. 30 m is a great band for around VK, just not that many using it.

Returned to 40 m after Matt VK1MA alerted me to a S2S. Worked VK2XDM/VK3EQ on VK3/VN-005. Later worked S2S with VK3YY on VK3/VT-010, and a group of activators on VK3/VC-002 Mt Donna Buang, having a SOTA BBQ lunch. VK3KIS, VK3OHM, VK3BQ and VK3PZ.

As I was packing up heard Rod, VK2TWR come up on another summit, VK2/ST-021, with a good signal, he had fixed his antenna problem.

While packing up found a small piece of tape on the ground, seems I wasn't the first to operate here :)

Headed back down. Went a bit more North, avoided a lot of thick scrub, but still very thick just near the car...You can see the squiggles in the track log as I attempted to navigate through it.

Friday, 19 September 2014

WWFF mapping

For the World Wide Fauna and Flora Award there was a list of qualifying parks for Australia, VKFF parks. See Paul VK5PAS's website

Originally this list was missing the co-ordinates for many parks, I filled in the missing co-ordinates, using Google maps searches, to produce kml files for mapping in Google Earth, eg for VK2 NSW VKFF references. Handy if you have Google Earth.

Paul recently contacted me for assistance to Mario, DL4MFM, who runs, Adventure Radio, which contains a world map of all WWFF references at  The database had quite out of date and just plain wrong coordinates for the VK WWFF parks. For example, Namadgi NP just South of me VKFF-377 appeared well West near Gundagai...

I emailed Mario my park co-ordinates list which he used to update the database used for mapping. Here is the result for VK

Zooming in on SE NSW. Hover the mouse over a dot and the park reference and name is displayed, eg VKFF-377 Namadgi NP

Click on a dot and there are displays of co-ordinates in different formats, handy.

Trust this mapping is of use to those planning activations of WWFF parks in VK.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

SOTA Activation Spring Hill

Spring Hill, VK2/ST-036 is located just North of Canberra, is a hang gliding/paragliding site and has been activated several times before by local SOTA activators. Figured it was my turn.

The hill is on private property, so needed to call the landholder, Phil Robinson first. He allows access for hang gliding and paragliding and is one himself, his mobile number is on the HGFA website

After giving Phil a call the day before was good to go. Drove out of Canberra on the Barton Highway heading towards Yass, turned off onto Nanima Road and drove to the property gate.  Parked in a private car park. Spring Hill towers visible on the ridge.

There is a sign here warning that this is a private road and approval is required to enter.

Phil has asked me to SMS him when I arrived. I did so, then he came running down the road.. As it turned out not to see me but to catch up with some stray cows! I said hello and left him to it, proceeded up the road, passing a farm and a small dam.

The road bends up to the left and climbs steeply up to the ridge with the summit.

Got quite steep on the final climb onto the ridge, and the road was rough, definitely 4WD only. Got passed by a few vehicles heading up to paraglide. I could see why, once on top of the ridge the wind, which was a gentle breeze below, was blowing hard!

Finally reached the top. Usual NSW style trig on top, white post with a black lollypop on top.

Views were fantastic! Looking South towards Canberra. One Tree Hill, VK1/AC-35 on the right.

Close up of the trig nameplate, "Spring"

Nearby a communication tower with lots of antennas. These didn't worry me on any bands. This is where the hang gliders/paragliders park and set up to launch.

Set up the squid pole on the trig and laid out the linked 20/40 m dipole, Jpole ribbon for 2 m attached to the top of the pole.

One dipole leg tied to a rock. A paraglider can be seen on the left, just above the horizon.

The other leg tied to a pole used for a wind sock. Wind bent things over a bit but held up.

Set up the SOTA shack just behind the trig, trying to get out of the constant wind...Sat on the tarp and mouse mat.

Got on 40 m at 23:50 z, so able to work a few before UTC rollover. Started with a S2S with Scott VK2SWD on VK2/SM-007 Mt Perisher with good signals. Worked Matt VK1MA who advised me Andrew VK1NAM was on 146.5 FM after a S2S, switched to 2 m and worked him on VK2/ST-010, Mt Foxlow with a good signal. Also worked Matt VK1MA and Andrew VK2MWP with good signals.

After UTC returned to 40 m to work the usual chasers, all with strong signals. More S2Ss with Nigel on VK5/SE-013 Mt Barker, Peter VK3PF on VK3/VT-016 Mt Useful.

After 40 m died off switched to 20 m. Found Andrew VK1NAM calling, but not many replying. I stayed on his frequency and worked VK6BMM/2 near Tweed Heads, VK5WG and VK5FO.

Returned to 40 m to grab 2 more S2Ss with Mark VK2WU on VK3/VE-126 Mt Stanley and Ian VK5CZ on VK5/SE-015 Bumgunga Hill. A brief return to 2 m to work Paul VK1ATP, testing out an antenna.

Packed up around noon and headed back down, headed home for lunch.

Track log of walk

Track profile. 2.4 Km walk with about a 200 m climb.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

SOTA Activation Mt Budawang

As part of the VK2 SOTA anniversary weekend thought I would reactivate a couple of peaks close to Braidwood, Mt Budawang VK2/ST-015 and Oakey Creek Firetrail VK2/ST-023.

Drove to the start of the walk for Mt Budawang the same route as my last activation, going through 3 gates on an access road through private properties. The drive was tricky in places, the area has had a lot of rain recently and several muddy patches to negotiate. Eventually reached the Budawang National Park sign and parked.

A short walk and crossed the locked gate. No giant dogs allowed...

The first Km or so of the walk passes through nice rain forest, lots of ferns.

The track then climbs steeply, after 4 Km and over an hour of walking reached the top fire tower and communications masts.

For a change decided to set up on the NW corner of the compound rather than the SE like last time. This is where Andrew VK1NAM set up.

One leg of the dipole attached to a tree on the edge of the cleared area, the other end to a tree root. A great view looking NE to Currockbilly Mountain, Mt Owen, The Castle and Pigeon House Mountain.

Set up the SOTA shack on the tarp on the ground at the base of the fence.

Connected up the dipole, not receiving anything, not even static...After wriggling the coax worked out I had a broken coax inner core connection in the PL259 plug on the back of the rig. Twisted it about until I had it working and left it alone, need to redo the plug...

Started with chasing a spot for Al, VK1RX/2 for an S2S on nearby Mt Palerang VK2/ST-009 on 20 m. As expected he was very strong. Switching to 40 m links worked Mark, VK1EM/p doing a first time activation of Booths Hill, VK1/AC-016. Well done Mark, I had thought of doing this one but the 800+ m climb had put me off!

Went on to work the usual chasers. As per my last activation here conditions were not that great, lots of fading, mainly working close by VK1, VK2, and VK3, nothing from VK5. Later on switched back to 20 m and worked Nev VK5WG with a good signal, he couldn't work me on 40 m due to poor conditions. Also worked Peter ZL2MS with a good signal, although I was in a prime position for working ZL here.

Tried a 2 m SSB contact with Andrew, VK1NAM. I could hear him faintly but readable but I was very weak to him.

After lunch Mark VK3ASC/p popped up on 40 m from VK3/VE-138 for another S2S. Total of 19 contacts. Headed back down.

Track log of walk

Track profile of walk, 4 Km each way with a 400 m climb