SOTA Activation 2 summits at Mittagong NSW – 1 November 2013

Mt Gibraltar VK2/IL-001 864 metres ASL, Mount Gibraltar Park

Today I am in the company of my dad and we are taking a 2 hour drive from Canberra to Mittagong to activate Mt Gibraltar and Mt Alexandra.  Previous SOTA activator of both peaks is Ian VK1DI from Canberra.

The approach to Mt Gibraltar is along Oxley Drive which forms a circular road around the summit then heads south towards Bowral passing the Bowral Lookout.

The summit is uninspiring and exposed to the midday sun with very few shade options that don’t involve lying in the scrub.  The bush flies or March flies are very aggressive looking for exposed skin around the ankles for a juicy bite.   The most impressive feature is the odd-looking Trig station.  The Bowral lookout is far more interesting and quite pleasant with a lush green lawn.  Unfortunately my camera batteries went flat when taking the photos of the summit area, I don’t have pictures of the lookout area.  I also left the Garmin GPS in the car so I don’t have the track details.  Refer to Ian VK1DI’s blog for the track options from the Bowral Lookout along Oxley Drive.

Concrete pad from a former tower installation. Operating the FT-857D with a 4S LiFePO4 battery. The antenna is a home-brew link dipole for 40 and 20m.  Worked well and takes less than a minute to lower and change the links.

Mt Gibraltar radio shack

Mt Gibraltar radio shack

Started the activation on 2m SSB called for 5 minutes and nothing, loads of QRM and pagers breaking through on 146.5 MHz FM. Moved to 40m at 11:20 local (00:20 UTC) with a self spot using the Rucksack Radio Tool phone app.  First contact was Ed VK2JI with a booming signal 5-9.  Ed’s strong signal was a misleading sign and didn’t reveal the underlying poor band conditions.  Signal reports into Melbourne were mixed with 3-3 reports yet my reception of VK3s was excellent, clear and readable 5-8 reports.  20m 14.342 was open with chaser contacts in Ballarat, Adelaide and W.A. Today is the first time I have worked more than 2 chasers of 20m.  Previous best attempt at 20m was from Mt Domain where I worked Ian VK1DI/5 and Matt VK1MA/8

30 minutes passed slowly to 12:00 pm making 11 chaser contacts and 2 bites on the ankles.  Peter VK3PF and Rod VK2TWR were due on Mt Kosciuszko SM-001 at 11:30 local, I wasn’t sure if the band conditions were contributing to the silence from Mt Kosciuszko or they were behind schedule.  I stayed on the summit for a further 15 minutes making one new chaser contact.  We left the summit at 12:20 hoping to work Peter and Rod from Mt Alexandra VK2/IL-005.

Chasers on 7.090 MHz:  Ed VK2JI, Peter VK3FPSR, Rob VK2FROB, Brian VK3MCD, Matt VK2DAG, Ernie VK3DET, Marc VK3OHM, Bernard VK3AMB and Brenton VK3CM.

Chasers on 20m 14.342 MHz: Ernie VK3DET, Mike VK6MB and Paul VK5PAS.  Paul’s signal was a perfect 5-9+, Paul’s report to me was also 5-9, I had the FT-857D set at 10 watts very happy with all contacts on 20m.

VK3 remains the dominant chaser association, for some reason I was expecting more VK2 contacts today.  The break up by association is: VK1 nil, VK2 3, VK3 6, VK5 1 and VK6 1.

summit Trig station

summit Trig station

Click on any picture to zoom in.


Trig.  In the background is a vertical antenna mounted above a spoke-wheel ground plane.

Mt Gibraltar is worth a quick visit with 3 lookouts, 2 on the north side along Oxley Drive and the Bowral Lookout picnic area on the south side of Oxley Drive.

Mt Alexandra VK2/IL-005 803 metres ASL, Mount Alexandra Reserve

After leaving Mt Gibraltar we headed back to Mittagong for batteries and coffee.  From the town center the route to the summit is via The Old Hume Hwy heading north to Victoria Street.  Turn left into Victoria Street and drive to the far end which transitions into Lee’s Fire Trail.  Drive up Lee’s Fire Trail suitable for 2WD vehicles to a dirt car park.

Lee's Fire Trail

Lee’s Fire Trail sign

Parked the car in the dirt car park near the Reserve gate.

Reserve Gate at the top of Lee's Fire Trail

Reserve Gate at the top of Lee’s Fire Trail

From the Reserve Gate the ascent to the summit is 65 metres over 600 metres.

Fig 1:

Mt Alexandra GPS track

Fig 1: Mt Alexandra GPS track

Fig 2:

Mt Alexandra track profile

Fig 2: Mt Alexandra track profile

From the car park the Mt Alexandra Fire Trail heads north-west.  Click on any picture to zoom in.

Mt Alexandra Fire Trail

Mt Alexandra Fire Trail

Fire Trail 500 metres easy going

Fire Trail 500 metres easy going

Katoomba Lookout

Katoomba Lookout sign difficult to read

Rock cairn fairly ordinary

Rock cairn fairly ordinary

The summit cairn is a collection of rocks hidden in the bush.  It needs a working bee to spruce it up.

3 way junction to Katoomba Lookout

3 way junction to Katoomba Lookout

At the 3 way intersection look-up (I didn’t) for the ‘Lookout’ sign else you will miss it as I did.  After wandering along a secondary track for 100 meters the ground started to descend. Hmm I’m heading the wrong way, must go back to the intersection.  Oh look a sign to the Katoomba Lookout picnic area.

After establishing the correct track the lookout is a further 100 metres and what a fantastic view, awesome!  Highly recommend this spot for a SOTA station.  Where are the VK2 activators from the Southern Tablelands, here is a perfect activation point for the newbie SOTA activator?

Katoomba lookout picnic area

Katoomba lookout picnic area

The picnic area and table makes an excellent operating position. Secured the squid pole to the leg of the table and tied the dipole support ropes off on nearby tree trunks.

Mt Alexandra radio shack

Mt Alexandra radio shack

Started the activation at 13:17 local, first chaser contact was Rhett VK3GHZ in Gippsland followed by a S2S with Peter VK3PF/2 and Rod VK2TWR/P both on Mt Kosciuszko VK2/SM-001 Australia’s highest mainland peak.  Conditions on 40m had improved a little, signal reports into Melbourne were now 4-1.

At 13:30 Andrew VK3BQ posted a spot also on 7.090 from Mt Cowley VK3/VC-022 overlooking the iconic Great Ocean Road.  I could hear Ben VK3FTRV working Andrew from Arthurs Seat but nothing of Andrew’s signal.  I asked Ben if he would relay a request for Andrew to QSY to 20m?  Ben kindly assisted and we moved to 14.270.  After a couple of minutes calling, Andrew’s voice emerged out of the FT-857’s speaker for our first VK3/VK1 Andrew to Andrew S2S contact!  Signals were weak but readable at 4-1, thankfully there was no QRP on the summit.  Thanks Ben for your assistance.

Chasers on 7.090 were VK3GHZ Rhett, Peter and Rod, Brian VK3MCD, Peter VK3FPSR, Ed VK2JI, Ben VK3FTRV, Matt VK2DAG and Matt VK1MA.

Chasers on 20m including Andrew VK3BQ were Marc VK3OHM and Tom VK5EE again three good contacts on 20m.

I will be back to this summit in 2014 or anytime I happen to be driving up the Hume Hwy past Mittagong.

For now that’s 2 more summits for the SOTA completed list.

What’s next on the SOTA summit activation list?  I am planning an activation of Mt Clear on Sunday 10 November 2013.  Ian VK1DI and Al VK1RX are also interested in joining me.  Mt Clear is in the ACT Namadgi National Park on the southern south-east border with NSW.  The route is 8.5 km one way through open scrub and without a formed walking track.  We will be following in the footsteps of John Evans from his recent expedition to Mt Clear.  Mt Clear is one of seven VK1 SOTA peaks waiting for the first die-hard SOTA activator.

shack set up and lunch

shack set up and lunch with my dad

view north along the Hume Highway

view north along the Hume Highway

One thought on “SOTA Activation 2 summits at Mittagong NSW – 1 November 2013

  1. Hi Andrew,

    Well done on another 2 activations. And also thanks for giving 20m a go. It has been a bit of a struggle of recent times with the further afield activators on 40m. But that QSO we had on 20m just proves that it is a great band for longer distances.
    Best 73 mate & happy SOTA’ing.


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