South Black Range VK2/ST-006 – 22 September 2013

South Black Range VK2/ST-006 1263 metres ASL, Tallaganda National Park

On Thursday I noticed a post on the SOTAWatch discussion page requesting VKs try contacts into the US.  I answered the call and suggested an activation on 20m 14.342 at 2300 UTC Saturday 21 Sep 13.  Mike G6TUH and Mike VA6FUN responded positively suggesting they would be listening.  Mike G6TUH and I exchanged a number of emails on Saturday discussing timing and band conditions in the UK.  I also checked in with Ian VK1DI on mobile phone reception on the summit.  Ian confirmed the Telstra 3G service was good 3 weeks earlier.  For this occasion the FT857D and two 5Ah LiPo batteries would fit the bill.

Left home at 7 am for a 55 km drive over the ACT/NSW border to the summit area deep in the Tallaganda NP.  Before leaving home I checked the temperature at the nearest automatic weather station at Braidwood which was minus 0.5 Celsius.  The summit temperature would have been cooler most likely minus 1.

The drive to the summit is via Queanbeyan to Captains Flat Road.  Head east along Captains Flat Road to the intersection of Briars Sharrow Road known as the Eleven Mile Turn Off.  After turning left on to Briars Sharrow Road immediately on your right is the Molonglo River which was high due to heavy rain during the week.

Molonglo river recently flooded

Looking back at the Molonglo river recently flooded

After 1.2 km turn right at Plains Road to Hoskingtown.  At Hoskingtown turn right at Hoskingtown Road for a short drive to Forbes Creek Road.

Forbes Creek

Forbes Creek

Forbes Creek Road is a dirt road suitable for 2wd vehicles however due to heavy rains (some 75 mm) during the week, some sections of the road were washed out due to flooding.  Forbes Road will take you into the Tallaganda NP and the intersection of North Black Range Fire Trail.  (see pictures)  Turn left on to North Black Range Fire Trail and follow your nose to the summit track.  North Black Range Fire Trail is steep in parts I recommend using a 4wd vehicle.

Tallaganda NP info board

Tallaganda NP info board

North Black Range

North Black Range Trail

Today is the first occasion I have deliberately parked the SOTA Yeti mobile inside the summit activation zone, wow what a pleasure!  A refreshing change from the ACT Namadgi National Park where you can expect to walk many km to reach a summit.  Check my SOTA Activations page for the walking distance to each summit.

Forbes Creek Road leading into the Tallaganda National Park and on to North Black Range Fire Trail

Forbes Creek Road

Forbes Creek Road

The SOTA Yeti is parked in the activation zone at 1250 metres.  A 220 metre walk out of the zone to descend 40 metres below the summit, then climb 40 vertical metres up to the summit at 1263 metres.  Total distance just over 500 metres.

VK2/ST-002 GPS track to clear the zone

VK2/ST-002 GPS track to clear the zone

Profile of the descent and climb.  Used the same route on the way out.

Clearing the activation zone profile

Clearing the activation zone profile

Arrived on the summit at 2235 UTC, 0835 am local and amazed by the summit cairn perched very high on what would be described as the summit Tor. (see pictures)  The granite Tor is about the size of a double car garage.

Summit Tor with rock cairn

Summit Tor with rock cairn

Summit trig

Summit trig 4 metres above the ground level

Deployed the 20m 1/2 wave dipole supported by a 7 metre squid pole.  The aim was to punch a signal north-north-west in the hope the main lobe would be heading into Europe and a minor lobe into the US.  To spot I used an iPad with a Telstra WiFi sim.  My mobile phone was useless, once again Optus signals don’t make the grade.

Started operations at 2250 UTC with the FT857D set at 30 watts.  Called cq SOTA for a few minutes and nothing. Cranked the 857 up to 50 watts called cq and David VK4MDX in Townsville 2100 km to my north returned a 4*5 report, Mark was 5*6 to me.  Great at least I had a signal heading north.  Watching the iPad I saw Glenn VK4FSCC post a spot receiving me on the QLD Gold Coast 4*3.  Okay the signal is still heading north.  Continued to call cq for another 5 minutes still no DX however Ian VK1DI responded with a 5*1 contact. What was really strange was Mark VK1MDC called me with a 5*1 signal but couldn’t hear me at all.    Pressed the power setting button on the microphone and cranked the power up to 70 watts, not knowing if the 5Ah 4s LiPo and regulator could sustain the load I monitored the Watts Up meter for load current and remaining AH capacity.  The battery was fine.  Continued to call for a further 10 minutes still nothing.  While calling I could see Mike G6TUH had posted a spot indicating some fractured reception nowhere near good enough for a RX contact.

Radio Shack on South Black Range

Radio Shack on South Black Range

Finished on 20m at 2315 UTC and deployed the 40m dipole.

40m dipole

40m dipole

What followed on 40m can only be described a one huge pile up.  Most of the chasers in VK remarked they watched with frustration the 20m self spots and no reception at their end.  I worked 29 chasers before UTC and 35 post UTC, I think the total of 64 chasers on one summit is a record for me. It’s a good sign of the popularity of SOTA in VK as it continues to grow.   I have to say after 7 months of SOTA activations it remains hard work concentrating on the S meter, speaking and writing in the log book all at the same time.  The time between confirming contacts with one chaser and starting the next is less than 5 seconds.  It’s after the radio’s speaker is silent that you get to take a break, eat and drink.

Just before UTC change I switched to 2m for some quiet time and worked Andrew VK2FAJG, Ian VK1DI, Andrew VK1MBE and Matt VK1MA. Hoisted the 2m Slim Jim over a tree branch, that antenna continues to out perform my expectations.

Summit to Summit contacts were Mitch VK3FMDV on VK3/VC-030, Andrew VK2ONZ on VK2/CT-003 and Bruce VK2EM on VK2/MN-081.  I stayed on the summit for a further hour waiting for Kevin VK3KAB to activate VK3/VN-003.  Watching the weather radar I could see a heavy rain band and a line of thunder storms approaching the Great Dividing Range.  I couldn’t stick around any longer and had to leave without contacting Kevin.

Some months ago I pledged to publish details of QRP chasers on this blog and continue to do so.  16 QRP chasers were Marshall VK3MRG, James VK1DR/P, Paul VK5PAS/P on Bulyong Island in the Murray River National Park, Andrew VK3ARR check out Andrew’s blog, Larry VK5LY/P, Brendan VK4FADI, Ivan VK5HS/P, Andrew VK2FAJG, Peter VK3PF, Peter VK3FPSR, Tony VK3CAT, Mike VK3XL, Greg VK2FGJW, Bruce VK2EM/P, Raffy VK2RF Centennial Park in Sydney and Col VK5HCF.  The QRP chasers represents 50% of the chaser group, good on you guys well done!

The big guns running 100 to 300 watts don’t forget there is still room on the blog and a chance for you to “turn down the power”.  If Brendan can work me on 10 watts from QLD then there is still some hope for the VK1, VK2, VK3 and VK7 big guns.  Good to see the VK5 chasers have embraced QRP operations on 40m.

So for 20m DX contacts, I think I will wait for daylight savings and make another attempt around 0600 – 0700 UTC, next time from Mt Taylor.

Ladder to climb the summit rock

Ladder to climb the summit rock!  No thanks..


5 thoughts on “South Black Range VK2/ST-006 – 22 September 2013

    • Hi David,

      Apologies, not sure how I got that wrong. I have corrected the post.

      Agree, always good fun to work long haul to Townsville and beyond. Thanks for chasing, great to have you in the log. Good luck with your activations tomorrow. 🙂
      Andrew, VK1NAM

      • No problem Andrew. You were my first SOTA contact and the copy was good. Unfortunately, weather, illness and equipment failing to arrive means I have had to reschedule everything a couple of times. Planning on a 6 pointer next weekend.

  1. Hi Ian, thanks yes I will be very pleased to head back to the summit next year or earlier to show family and friends the unique summit Tor and Trig. One day I will crack the 20m DX, I have a 1/2 vertical and a 10m squid pole that needs to be dusted off.
    73 Andrew

  2. Nice writreup Andrew. One of my favorite summits 🙂 Looks like you had fun, despite the lack of signals on 20m. I tried 20m there too with no luck.

    73 ian VK1DI

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