Orroral Hill 1605 metres ASL, Orroral Valley, Namadgi National Park
Don’t be fooled by the term Hill, the ‘Hill’ isn’t a rolling green pasture and not a walk in the park. I tried to find an answer to the question ‘What is the difference between a Hill and a Mountain’ in Australia? There isn’t a clear definition.
I spent a week researching Orroral Hill summit and the approach to it using a 1:25000 topo map, Google Earth and the well-known Canberra bush walker John Evans website. Here is a link to his page Orroral trek 26 May 2012. By all accounts the ascent is going to be difficult.
I left home at 6 am for a 45 minute drive to the former NASA Orroral Tracking Station site on Orroral Road. The drive is via Tharwa, Naas Road and Boboyan Road turning right into Orroral Road (look for the Orroral Campground and Orroral River sign). Unpacked the car and set off for what would turn out to be a long day climbing 600 vertical metres over 6 km, 12 km return!
Day Pack, Map Rendezvous Creek 1:25000, compass, FT857D, FT60 HT, 40m EFHW, 2m Slim Jim, 9 metre Squid Pole, 4S Lipo, first aid kit, Magellan GPS, food and water.
The first part of the journey is a walking track through an open field where I found a mob of Kangaroos. From the field the track heads west up hill, very steep in parts to the former Geodetic Lunar Ranging station approx 3.5 km from the car park. The sign post at the beginning of the track describes the walking track as ‘challenging’ I have to agree.
I arrived at the Geodetic Station at 8 am, one hour to complete the 3.5 km track. Happy with the progress so far.
Is there a formed track from the telescope to the Orroral Hill summit at a distance of 1.5 km, No!. The vegetation is very thick having to scrub bash most of the way. Had difficulty seeing any further than 10 metres in front of me and the ground beneath my feet. With less than 150 metres to a targeted saddle, I took a heavy fall landing on a rock against my right thigh. In total the walk took 1.5 hours to travel 1.4 km from the telescope to the saddle some 90 metres short of the summit spot height. The final 90 metres took a further 30 minutes to complete by which time I was exhausted. In the summit area I managed to roll my left ankle and did a great job of it too!
This mountain has been the most challenging SOTA peak I have climbed, it’s physically draining. My bench mark summit is Mt Tennent, the ascent by which all ascents will be judged. This summit makes Mt Tennent look easy. The vegetation re-growth post 2003 fires is amazing. In some areas the growth is 1 metre high and in others 3 metres where the scrub engulfs you and you and a massive house size Granite Tor 3 metres in front of you.
I made the activation zone by 10 am at 1598 metres but still had to set up the squid pole and antennas. The weather was fine and sunny with a steady breeze 10 to 15 km/h causing further delays in getting the pole up and antenna wires deployed. At 10:15 I was ready to go when the wind picked up and snapped the top 300 mm section of the pole. 2 years ago I started with a 9 metre pole which is now getting closer to 7 metres. Gee what else could go wrong on this peak?
The activation went well and included a S2S with VK1DI/P, Ian on Mt Taylor on 144.200 USB. I had 5 contacts on 2 m and enough on 40m to fill a page in the log book. Like Ian VK1DI, I also had the pleasure of working VK3YE/P Peter who was portable on Chelsea beech, actually standing in the water with his well-known magnetic loop. (Check out YouTube if you don’t know) The conditions on 40m into Melbourne were poor with most reports down at 4-3 however the chasers at the Ballarat Club Field Day were reporting 5-8.
At 12:30 and carrying a corked right thigh and a rolled left ankle it was time to head back down the mountain to the former telescope. The walk down was very painful and half way down I ran out of water., bugger! Fortunately on my way up to the telescope I heard the sound of running water from a nearby creek. Found the creek, stayed there for 10 minutes, drank a litre of water and refilled my water bladder. No problems with the water quality or perhaps I have a cast-iron gut.
Back at the car by 15:30 I promptly left my hand-held Magellan Colour GPS (10 years old) on the roof of the car and drove off, I didn’t realise until I arrived home. I guess it’s road kill now. Good news for VK1 operators, throughout the climb I had full access to the RGI repeater, if I did sustain a major injury the repeater is a reliable link to request assistance.
Two days later I went back to the car park to look for any sign or evidence of the GPS. Nothing found 😦
I will be back next year, this summit is not going to have the upper hand.