Mt Ginini 1760 metres ASL, Bimberi Wilderness, Namadgi National Park
Andrew VK1DA and I (Andrew VK1NAM) activated Mt Ginini on Sunday morning at 08:20 (local) the 8th highest summit on the border of the ACT and NSW. During the week I met up with Andrew at the Canberra Regional Amatuer Radio Club where we discussed plans for the Mt Ginini dual activation. We set out three objectives the first objective was to work the VHF DX net between VK2, VK3 and VK1 which operates from approx 0800 to 0930 and where possible takes advantage of aircraft enhancement. The second objective was to undertake the usual style of SOTA activation on 40m and 2m simplex and the third to check the height of the saddle between Mt Ginini and Mt Franklin. Mt Franklin is not an authorised SOTA summit and misses out by about 13 metres.
What equipment is required for the VHF DX net and aircraft enhancement? You wouldn’t be forgiven if you thought we were going to take a monster 2 metre yagi and a 100 watt linear amplifier along with a case of batteries and perhaps a transceiver with a very narrow front end. I thought that myself.
So what actually happened? Yes we had a six pack SLA batteries, 6 by 9Ah SLAs connected in parallel, while the rest of the gear was pretty much what you may have at home. A homebrew 4 element yagi (DL6WU design) optimised for 144.200, a 3.5 metre telescopic painter’s pole with locking pin action, ($25.00 from ‘Bunnings’) the FT857D and of course Mt Ginini a great take off position for working VK3 and VK2. We were not sure how the 857D front-end would handle the aviation RF, given the proximity to the infrastructure only 50 metres to our north and the 2m repeater VK1RGI on 146.950.
Andrew and I met at a local cafe for coffee and a hearty breakfast, transferred Andrew’s gear to my car and departed around 6:35 for a 75 minute drive to the summit. We arrived at the summit of Mt Ginini at 7:50 with two hand-held GPS and the GPS software on each of our iPhones turned on. You can’t have too many position and height readings? After establishing the height we headed back down the road to a point 40 metres below the summit. Strange as it might be the two hand-held GPS agreed and the iPhones were within a couple of metres. Confident we were well outside the activation zone the next task was to unload the equipment from the car. Andrew an experienced VHF/UHF field operator had a portable table and a fold down trolley. First on the trolley was the slab of batteries, Andrew’s radio gear and his squid poles. A very heavy load when pulling a trolley up hill and on a rocky dirt road? My gear was in my back-pack and I carried two 9 metre squid poles, the painter’s pole and the 4 element yagi, oh and just in case we had a portable Arrow yagi for 2m and 70cm. Did we need 4 squid poles and a spare yagi, no! Looking like pack horses we walked slowly up the hill aided by the strong wind on our backs coming from the east.
Once on top of the summit Andrew pointed out the ideal operating position for the yagi, which had a clear view of the horizon towards Melbourne and Sydney. The yagi, slab of batteries and the FT857D were ready to go at approx 8:20. At this point the summit was covered in cloud with drizzle, temperature around 10 degrees (most likely 5 degrees with the wind chill) and 30 to 40 km/h winds. Andrew fired up the 857D set the power at 25 watts tuned the VFO to 144.200 while I held the painter’s pole to prevent the yagi from acting as a wind vain. He immediately made contact with Kerry VK2BXT in Camden who reported the signal down a little, so up went the power to 40 watts. For the next 30 minutes and in addition to VK2BXT we worked an additional six VHF-SSB contacts, VK3BJM Barry, VK2KOL Col, VK3II Jim, VK3EJ Gordon, VK3AJN Bob and VK3ES Andy. With the wind speed still quite high Andrew and I played tag team between the microphone and the painter’s pole. For me this was the high point of the day having not previously worked VHF into VK3 and VK2 from VK1. Thank you to the VHF DX net guys for participation in your net.
With the VHF-SSB fun now over it was time to set up the HF antennas, remember the wind speed is still very high. After 25 minutes of messing around with squid poles, elastic straps, and wire dipoles flying in the wind we were on HF with Andrew’s dipole on 40 and 20, an end fed for 20 and the ‘Slim Jim’ for VHF simplex. Andrew was operating his ICOM 703 on 40m exchanging S2S with Peter VK3ZPF, Marshall VK3MRG, Al VK1RX and Glenn VK3YY while I stayed on VHF simplex for eight local VK1 chasers and Peter VK1IRC on MT Ainslie. At one point there was a severe gust of wind which whip-lashed the squid pole and the Slim Jim pulling on the coax and the FT857 off the table. The rig bounced on the ground and thankfully continued working. After 20 minutes on VHF I changed to HF and exchanged the same S2S contacts while being chased by Ernie VK3DET, Bernard VK3FABA andPeter VK3PF. Thank you Ernie for the spot, mobile reception of Mt Ginini is unreliable. The usual number of SOTA chasers was down on previous activations. At one point in the proceedings there were SOTA activators on 7.075, 7.080, 7.085, 7.090 and 7.095.
At 10:50 Andrew and I started packing up the HF and VHF antennas leaving one HF antenna for the UTC change over. On UTC change we worked S2S with VK3YY, Allen VK3HRA who had joined the group, VK3ZPF and VK1RX while being chased by Ernie VK3DET and Peter VK3PF. Peter is getting close to achieving the 1000 points, Shack Sloth status. I should note that Peter is a well-known and experienced SOTA activator.
30 minutes later we were back at the car enjoying hot cups of tea and ham sandwiches. Lessons learnt for a double activation, you don’t need four squid poles and don’t bother with 20 metres. Less batteries, four instead of six for 50 watts on VHF and a further hour or so on HF QRP. Andrew’s trolley and portable table are a must. I did hear Al VK1RX telling us he once used a wheelbarrow for a field deployment.
Having satisfied two of the three objectives it was time to check out the saddle between Mt Ginini and Mt Franklin which is a few minutes drive on the return trip. Arriving at the saddle and with two GPS and two iPhones ready for action we established the saddle height as the official published height. Okay well that doesn’t help given the Mt Franklin summit is reported at 137 metres above the saddle. There was some discussion Mt Franklin may have grown a metre or two during a local earthquake early last year. Did we want to climb Mt Franklin to the summit, not today? Might do that next weekend when I activate Mt Gingera VK1/AC-002.
A fun activity I will not forget in a hurry, thanks Andrew VK1DA for your guidance in operating VHF DX you made my day. Thanks also to the activators and chasers in VK1 and VK3 a big effort by all.