One Tree Hill VK1/AC-035 876 metres ASL and the new Canberra Centenary Trail
One Tree Hill is located on the ACT north border with NSW. When first listed as a qualifying SOTA summit, access to the summit was via a vehicle track running through private property on the western side of the ridge. The peak has been activated on two previous occasions, after the activators had worked through lengthy negotiations with the property owner to gain access via the private road.
On 26 October 2013 the ACT government opened the Canberra 100 Centenary Trail running from the township of Hall to the summit of One Tree Hill. The Centenary trail is aligned to the eastern side of the ridge running through an access corridor, please review the map at Fig 1. The switch-back at the end of the main trail is a 80 metre ascent over 200 meters, very steep see Fig 2. The overall ascent is 215 metres over 4.2 km with a recommended walk time between 1 and 1.5 hours. Go to the ACT TAMS Centenary Trail website for instructions on riding a bike.
With the news around Canberra the Centenary Trail was open it was time to activate One Tree Hill. The weather forecast for Friday through to Sunday is rain, rain and more rain. The SOTA bug has agitated since the Mittagong two summit activations only one week ago. With little prospect of a weekend activation the next best option was Thursday after work. Daylight savings provides the opportunity to activate up to 08:00 UTC and a chance to work DX into the EU along the grey line.
I left work at 16:30 local for a 30 minute drive to Hall. I knew from earlier walks I could make the summit by 18:10 local, leaving 20 minutes to set up for a 18:30 local activation (07:30 UTC).
SOTA operating equipment: FT-857D, 4S 4.2 Ah LiFePO4 battery, 7m squid pole, 2m VHF Slim Jim and a 40/20m link dipole.
click on any picture to zoom in
I didn’t apply personal repellant before starting the walk. Why is that important? The farm land is cattle country with plenty of cow pats, a breeding ground for flies. While walking I spent most of the time swishing flies away. What’s funny is the walk back to the car in the dark with a head lamp on attracted the migratory Bogong Moth (Agrotis infusa). There are millions of Bogong Moths descending on Canberra’s bright lights and public buildings on the migration path from Queensland to the Snowy Mountains. Bombarded by gazillions of flies and later moths?!
The trail corridor has one gate to enter the corridor. The gate, designed to climb through has an opening with enough space neatly squeeze your body with backpack and squid pole. Hmm need to lose a couple of kg. The picture of the gate taken after dark is the entry gate.
The trail corridor and track recently opened. The corridor is annexed from the adjacent private property by two fence lines. Along the trail there are two cattle crossings to let the land owner move stock between paddocks. Sections of the trail are elevated at natural water courses, using a similar style as the board walk up to Mt Kosciuszko.
Details of the activation. I arrived at the lookout at 07:00 UTC took a few minutes to rest, drink water and eat a muesli bar. The lookout platform is an excellent location to operate from. Set up the squid pole on one of the large posts to support the VHF and HF antennas. The rustic bench seats are neatly aligned to place the radio on one bench while sitting on the other. Perfect!
My SOTA alert was for 07:30 UTC on 20m 14.340 MHz. I started at 07:20 UTC on 2m for 10 minutes working local VK1 chasers Ian VK1DI, Matt VK1MAT, Darren VK1HFC, Andrew VK1MBE and Al VK1RX. Later and just before packing up Mark VK1MDC checked in for a 2m contact.
At 07:35 I used RRT to post a self spot for 20m 14.310. The top end of the 20m band was crowded with German stations/operators. Set the FT-857D to 50 watts and after 5 minutes of calling CQ SOTA the silence was broken by Mike VK6MB with an excellent 5-5 contact. I worked 5 more chasers on 20m Matt VK2DAG, Ian VK1DI, Ed VK2JI and a surprise John VK6NU with a 5-5 peaking 5-7 contact. For readers outside of Australia, VK6 is 3100 km west of VK1. Whilst it doesn’t qualify for DX the point to point distance is indeed long-haul. Later in the activation I worked Ernie VK3DET in Ballarat on 14.340 5-5 both ways.
At 08:00 UTC I switched to 40m, reduced the power output to 5 watts and checked the band for a clear 5 KHz. The usual calling frequency 7.090 was busy with Italian stations 5-9+, most likely running a KW. Scanned up the band and found 7.115 clear. Posted a new spot using RRT and worked in order Gerard VK2JNG/P, Ed VK2JI, Brian VK3MCD, Matt VK2DAG, Tony VK3CAT, Peter VK3FPSR, Andrew VK2ONZ, Andrew VK3ARR, Ron VK2TWR, Peter VK3PF and Phil VK3BHR.
Low power (QRP) chasers were Peter VK3FPSR, Andrew VK2ONZ, Andrew VK3ARR, Ron VK2TWR and Peter VK3PF.
One Tree Hill is an excellent operating location with a very low noise base. The Centenary Trail is a wonderful initiative providing easy access to the peak. I will return to this summit early in 2014 for more 20m action. Might have to make it a night activation.
Departed the summit at 08:40 UTC after sunset and approaching last light. I deployed the head lamp to illuminate the track although the moon light was sufficient for the first 2km.