Bimberi Peak VK1/AC-001 1913 metres ASL, Bimberi Wilderness area, Namadgi National Park
Would you drive 3 hours, walk 12 km carrying a large pack weighing 24 kg (including 6 litres of water), climb 170 metres, descend 120 metres then climb 645 meters, consume 5 litres of water in 5 hours when the temperature in the valley is close to 30 degrees, sun is directly overhead and being constantly buzzed by gigantic March flies? Would you stay overnight on a peak just to work the VHF DX net and aircraft enhancement the next morning at 8 am? Well yes we did, Al VK1RX and I climbed to the summit of Bimberi Peak and yes it was bloody hard. Why would you do that you ask? All in the name of the Summits on the Air program (SOTA) an Amateur Radio awards scheme combining Amateur Radio operating techniques with bush walking or mountain climbing to activate SOTA qualifying summits. Besides Bimberi Peak is a 10 point summit so why not… 😉
Bimberi Peak is well-known as the highest peak in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) situated on the ACT western boundary bordering NSW. The border is marked by other mountain peaks such as Mt Murray, Mt Ginger Ale, Mt Gingera, Mt Ginini, Mt Franklin and Mt Coree. Bimberi Peak is the highest at 1913 metres, 60 meters higher than the second highest peak Mt Gingera. Bimberi Peak is registered as a SOTA qualifying summit, in the VK1 region as VK1/AC-001 (001 signifying the highest peak) and scored at 10 points. Camping in the Bimberi Wilderness area is by permit only issued by the Namadgi National Park Visitor Centre. The staff at the Visitor Center are always helpful.
How do you get to Pocket Saddle Road gate? From Canberra drive to Cooma then join the Snowy Mountains Hwy to Adaminiby for the Big Trout and a coffee. Continue along the Snowy Mountains Hwy and turn right at Tantangara Road, drive to the dam wall, take a few pictures then turn left at Pocket Saddle Road, continue along Pocket Saddle Road to the gate. The drive will take 3 to 3.5 hours depending on stops for coffee or tea.
From the gate on Pocket Saddle Rd at 1280 metres ASL, Murrays Gap fire trail is 1.4 km and a 13 metre ascent, hardly noticeable. Once on Murrays Gap fire trail the track is steep for 1.4 km to 1453 metres ASL, next you descend 97 metres over .7 km to Oldfields Hut at 1366 metres ASL. With an ambient temperature of 30 degrees Al and I were thankful for the simple pleasure of sitting in the shade of the veranda at Oldfields Hut. Fig 4 represents the track profile.
From Oldfields Hut you descend to the Goodradigbee River (Water 1) here you can resupply water as required. Al and I use sterilization tables to be safe. One tablet per litre for a minimum of 30 minutes before drinking the water. From the river the climb starts again with a 245 metre ascent to Murrays Gap at 1525 metres ASL over 4.7 km, passing over 3 more flowing creeks. The creeks are marked as waypoints on the map at Fig 1. From Murrays Gap we didn’t find water on the climb to Bimberi Peak. Ensure you have enough water for the climb and return.
Took a break at Murrays Gap before starting the ascent to Bimberi Peak. The ascent to the peak is a further 400 metres over 3.6 km, steep and rocky in parts. The foot-pad track shown as a GPS track at Fig 3 to the peak is well-worn and marked with large and small rock cairns some obvious and other less obvious among the trees and shrubs. Once on the plateau head north-west towards the trig. The trig will be visible above granite tors and stunted snow-gums. The temperature on the summit was in the mid 20s very comfortable. As far as water consumption went I had used 5 litres of water from the car to the summit. I had 3 litres for the overnight stay, including food rehydration, and the decent to waypoint ‘Water 4’.
To the SOTA activation. After setting up tents and having a short break, we moved to the trig to set up the antennas, 20/40 link dipole and a 2m horizontal dipole at 5 metres above the trig or at 1918 metres ASL. The wind forecast is for light winds 9 km/h overnight, the squid pole and antennas were left in the elevated position. The rigs are a FT-817ND powered by a 4.2 Ah LiFePO4 battery and a Yaesu HT dual band FT-60.
What did we expect to accomplish at Bimberi Peak? Aside from the usual 40m SOTA chaser group, our plan was to work VK5 and VK6 on 20m and SOTA DX for one or two summit to summit contacts in the EU and UK. The next morning at 8 am join the VK VHF DX net for aircraft enhancement contacts into VK2 and VK3. Could we make DX contacts into the EU with 5 watts and likewise VHF DX contacts into VK2 and VK3 using 5 watts into a simple 2m dipole? Read on..
Started the 40m activation at 06:20 UTC with a S2S contact with Paul VK5PAS on VK5/SE-013 then Greg VK2FGJW on Black Mountain VK1/AC-042. Al and I took it in turns to work the chaser group for one hour. At the conclusion of the 40m session Al worked John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga on 2m SSB and Matt VK1MAT in Gordon using his 2m HT. Matt’s signal was shadowed by Mt Tennent and Booroomba Rock so a good result.
Having filled the belly with food, it was back to the trig at 08:55 UTC for a session on 20m and the chance to work SOTA DX into the EU. I had posted an alert 48 hours earlier for 0900 UTC requesting S2S and EU/UK chasers. My first contact was John VK6NU in WA followed by a S2S with Paul VK5PAS still on VK5/SE-013. Then in order the contacts were; Rudy HB9MKV, Franz OE7FMH, Tom VK5EE, Viktor HA5LV (Viktor is a regular), Mike VK6MB, Manuel EA2DT, Don G0RQL (Don is also a regular), Michael DJ5AV, Colin G4UXH, Franz ON4TA/P S2S on DM/NW-253 and Massimo IK1GPG. Al worked other EU/UK stations and a S2S with Franz OE7FMJ on OE/TI-363. As we shared the EU pile up, just before last light thousands, more like 100s of thousands of Bogong Months took flight from the rocky crevices. The sky was literally filled with Bogong Moths an amazing sight to witness. In two of the photos taken at last light, you can see the blurred images of the moths passing across the field of view.
Next day woke at first light around 5:20 am, crawled out of the tent to capture images of the sunrise. A beautiful sight, the Canberra basin, Woden and Tuggeranong valleys are covered with a light cloud base which later burnt off. To the north a single cloud was sitting over Corin Dam around 400 metres above the water.
Back to the trig at 07:00 am for a second session on 40m. There was a contest running on 40m, 7.090 and 5 KHz increments were busy with high-powered stations in the EU. 7.090 was occupied by an Italian station 40 db over on Bimberi Peak. Eventually found Andrew VK2UH on 7.100 we moved to 7.070 for clear air. Andrew and I conducted a HT to HT contact with Andrew 90 km to the north at his property in Yass. In addition to working Andrew VK2UH on 40m, I worked Matt VK1MA and Larry VK5LY followed by 20 minutes of silence before working VK1MAT and VK1HW both mobile.
At 0750 am (0850 UTC) we moved to 2m SSB and listened for 2m beacons. The FT-817 combined with the 2m simple dipole at 1918 metres ASL received the Geelong, Sydney and Gippsland 2m beacons. With that in mind we should make a few VHF DX contacts into VK2 and VK3. The VHF DX report is at this link.
At 0930 UTC we left the summit for the 12 km return journey. The decent to Murray’s gap was uneventful in a predictable one hour duration. Rested at Murrays Gap for 15 minutes then to the first creek (Water 4) 1 km down Murrays Gap trail to replenish water for the 7 km walk back to the car via Oldfields Hut for lunch. The temperature climbed quickly to the low 30s. Having replenished 5.5 litres of water I used 500 mils to rehydrate lunch (2 meals) and drank 5 litres along the 7 km walk. Just to note I had an extra 3 litres reserve in the car. Drove back the same way, stopped at Adaminiby for a non-hydrated meat pie and a softdrink. 🙂
Next time and with careful planning, I will carry 4 litres of water instead of 6 and use the creeks for resupply before attempting the ascents of Bimberi Peak or Mt Murray. If you attempt the walk to Murrays Gap and SOTA activation of either peak do so at your own risk. You must undertake your own risk assessment and not rely on any material presented in this blog, have enough food, water, clothing, shelter, maps and compass. My mobile phone (provider Optus) did not receive a signal at any stage of the walk or on the summit. Whilst on the summit the phone did receive a Telstra signal available for emergency calls only.
The B52 bomber March flies are the biggest I have seen on any summit. You will need Armour plating to block the fly’s bite. A liberal coating of Bushmans Repellent, over your entire body, will confuse the fly for 10 minutes or so, but don’t be fooled into thinking the ‘shield’ will keep them away. If you want your ankles to not look like a pin cushion, then use canvass gaiters. Little buggers can bite through clothes but not heavy duty gaiters.
I hope to revisit Murrays Gap in April to attempt an activation of Mt Murray. In the meantime there are easier summits to access in the SM region most with 10 points.
Thanks Al (VK1RX) for your company along the way and on the summit. It was hard, but as always I enjoyed the challenge.
More photos at dropbox https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4lhhr836lr3vw0m/AACvj3xBjgxGwOSBxT348wxwa?dl=0
Last Update: 31 January 2016