Mt Domain VK1/AC-020 1506 metres ASL, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
Forecast: Sunny, overnight low 1 and a top of 14 degrees
Navigation: Compass, Map Tidbinbilla 1:25000 topo, GPS Garmin 62s and John Evans Walkabout blog
Antennas: 2m Slim Jim, 40m and 20m 1/2 wave dipoles
Antenna support: Squid pole 7m
Power: 5 Ah 4S LiPo
Walking distance: 13.6 km return. In my planning I split the walk into 3 legs.
1. Car Park to Fishing Gap saddle
2. Fishing Gap to the 1370 contour on the ridge
3. 1370 ridge to Mt Domain over 1402 spot height
Ascent: 700 vertical metres.
Actual times: 07:30 start, back at the car 14:55 – 6 hours 25 minutes.
Update 29 April 2017 – for an update to the walking trail see my post Saturday 24 September 2016
Mount Domain is located in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve 26 km south-west of Canberra. The drive is via Point Hut Crossing and Tidbinbilla Road to the nature reserve. If you are driving from the north side take Cotter Road. The park is maintained by Parks and Conservation Branch TAMS ACT. The park opens at 07:30 am and you pay a vehicle entry fee for park maintenance and assists with the rebuilding of the park facilities following the 2003 Canberra firestorm.
Departed home at 06:45 and arrived at the park at 07:10 a little earlier than planned. The boom gate was opened by a staff member who let me through, ahead of the official opening time. Parked at the Fishing Gap car park 30 minutes ahead of schedule and set off at 7:35 for the 3.9 km walk to Fishing Gap saddle. The track is easy for 2 km then rises quickly with a nice kick at the end. You will feel warm at the saddle having gained 300 vertical metres. Duration of the first leg was one hour.
From Fishing Gap saddle you leave the comfort of the management track and head into heavy scrub for a 275 metre vertical climb over 1.4 km to the shoulder at the 1370 contour. The duration of the second leg is 1 hour for a running total of 2 hours.
The vegetation is semi-rain forest with a thick covering of tree ferns. It reminded me of Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges but without the giant Mountain Ash.
John Evans mentions in his blog he had tied pink tape to trees to act as guide markers. Found a few bits of pink tape on the ground and some still tied to trees acting as markers along the way.
If you follows John’s KML route you will arrive at a rock face at Grid 670058 6071739. Head left to find the foot pads up the rock ledge. From the rock ledge the vegetation changes from wet to dry and features heavy regrowth of wattle, tee-tree and eucalypt which combined will stall you as you navigate around or struggle to break through it. This is typical of the regrowth in the Namadgi National Park and the going is very tough.
From the shoulder at 1370 I headed north-west over the 1402 spot height for 800 metres which took 26 minutes. Yes, 26 minutes to walk 800 metres. Again I encountered heavy regrowth. The vegetation varies from 1 metre to 3 metres in height the same as Orroral Hill. Well at least I know what I may find next weekend, for the activation of VK1/AC-018 near Corin Dam.
Based on the activations I have completed since February, I estimate the regrowth is prevalent from 1200 to 1600 metres.
At 10:10 I found a small clearing and for the first time had a clear view to the summit 480 metres away. From the clearing the climb is along a narrow rocky ridge line and yes I had to deal with more regrowth. Now that’s new, a skinny rocky ridge with regrowth. A real challenge to test your balance and coordination skills. The rocky ridge continues to the summit apex.
Arrived at the summit 30 minutes ahead of schedule at 10:30. The summit is a rocky ridge line with a small rock cairn and a 1 metre wide path down the center running north/south. The vegetation is thick each side of the track with little room to put up the antenna. I surveyed the area north of the summit and found a clearing approx 20 metres long and 5 metres wide 1 or 2 metres below the summit spot height.
There is a single small eucalypt tree in the middle of the clearing suitable to support the squid pole and antenna.
Set up the SOTA rig and was on air at 11:00 local starting on 2m simplex. Called CQ SOTA and immediately worked Mark VK1MDC and Stan VK1FSTJ. Called CQ SOTA for a few minutes, nothing heard and changed to 40m 7.085 Mhz. First contact was Andrew VK2UH running QRP in response to the Chaser QRP Challenge, my report to Andrew was 5-9. Next was Glenn VK3YY also running QRP for a 5-8 report. Thanks Andrew and Glenn for the spots. With the summit qualified I worked 27 stations before changing to 20m 14.285 MHz. In the middle of the 40m action BrendanVK1FBIT informed me VK1MBE Andrew was active on Black Mountain VK1/AC-042. Took as short break from 7.085 and worked Andrew S2S and James VK1DR on 2m simplex. Switched back to 7.085 and worked 7 more chasers.
Mobile phone reception (Optus) on the summit was inconsistent (crap!) so I sought the help of Mark VK1MDC to post a spot for further action on 20m 14.285 MHz. After calling CQ for a minute or two Mark VK1MDC responded with a 5-9 report then Ian VK1DI/5 on summit VK5/NE-080 reported a 5-2 contact. After completing the contact with Ian, Matt VK8GMT/VK1MA responded to a CQ SOTA call with a 5-2 report. That’s my first S2S on 20m, just happens to be a fellow VK1, plus a first for a chaser from VK8. Although not a new-comer to SOTA chasing, Matt VK1MA/VK8GMT was pretty excited to make the claim. From my perspective making VK8 on 5 watts with a simple dipole was pretty dam good. Thanks Mark, Ian and Matt for the chase on 20m.
In the lead up to the activation I posted a challenge to the VK chasers to operate at QRP power levels on the weekend 15 and 16 June 2013. I must say it was pleasing to see the chaser group rise to the challenge. The following chasers (19) advised me they were running QRP power levels:
VK1MDC Mark, VK1FSTJ Stan, VH2UH Andrew, VK3YY Glenn, VK3BYD Warren, VK2JI Ed, VK3XJM Josh, VK2FAAA Rob, VK3ZPF Peter, VK3CAT Tony, VK3KAN/m Rik, VK4AAS/p Alan, VK1FBIT Brendan, VK1MBE/p Andrew, VK3ANL Nick, VK3MEG Steve, VK1DI/p Ian, VK3NAD Mark, and VK8GMT Matt in Darwin.
After being on the summit for 90 minutes the wind picked up and the temperature dropped quickly. I started to shiver so packed up the gear, had a bite to eat and turned on the GPS. Set the back-track option ‘on’ for the route down. Found more of John Evans pink marker tapes, some on trees and others on the ground. I tied the tapes that had enough length.
This summit was a serious challenge, 3 hours of walking/climbing up hill, over rocks and boulders and through thick scrub over 6.8 km. Will I come back next year? Yes you bet I will. A note of caution, if you are not confident navigating in heavy scrub please consider undertaking a multi-activation with someone who is.