Sorry I’m a little behind with this post… Sunday 9 November 2014. The weather forecast for Canberra is a warm to hot day max temp 32 degrees while at the NSW South Coast the forecast max for the day is 21 degrees. The geographic feature which often defines the difference in weather between Canberra and the South Coast is a mountain range running north-south, 27 km from the coast. The range is known as The Clyde and features some of the best rainforest in Australia. For SOTA purposes the top of the range defines the boundary between VK2/ST Southern Tablelands and VK2/SC South Coast regions. The area is a veritable gold mine of SOTA peaks.
Today I plan to activate two peaks, Cabbage Tree Fire Trail VK2/SC-035 700 metres ASL in the Monga National Park (easy) and Mt Budawang VK2/ST-015 1137 metres ASL (a tough 5 km ascent) in the Budawang National Park. I hope to work chasers on 2m 144.200 USB then 7.090 MHz LSB and 14.310 MHz USB. I think a 2m contact from on Cabbage Tree will be wishful thinking on my behalf. By and large SOTA is yet to be discovered by amateur radio operators along the NSW South Coast.
Before leaving home I checked SOTAWatch for potential S2S contacts. Simon VK1FAAS had posted an alert for Mt Ginini VK1/AC-008 and plans to activate the summit around 22:30 UTC.
Cabbage Tree Fire Trail previous SOTA activators: Al VK1RX and Ian VK1DI
The first peak doesn’t have a gazetted name so for SOTA purposes the survey team named the summit based on the proximity to the Cabbage Tree Fire Trail. I decide to follow in the foot steps of fellow activators Al and Ian. Al and I often share GPS track logs of our adventures, on this occasion Al provided a log covering Misty Mountain Road to the peak. Thanks Al.
At the intersection of Kings Hwy and Misty Mountain Road, take Misty Mountain Road for 7.7 km to Cabbage Tree Fire Trail taking 15 minutes.
Entered the scrub from Misty Mountain Road, on my left the scrub was quite thick while to my right around to the north the vegetation was open. Recommend approaching for the north-east (see map), I followed a depression in the ground running in a straight line to the summit, it seems to be a natural water course formed after heavy rain.
On the summit and ready to at 2200 UTC (09:00 local), I had this wacky idea to try 2m SSB 144.200, knowing too well of proximity of mountainous range to my west potentially blocking any chance of a contact with chasers in Canberra. On the other hand a 2m contact say to Sydney, Wollongong or Nowra or down the south coast was a reasonable expectation, I think. Set the FT-857D at 40 watts output and raised the 2m dipole to 5 metres above the ground. For a pleasant change I had mobile phone coverage and posted an alert for 144.200 USB, called CQ for 20 minutes or so. 20 minutes on this peak with only Lyrebirds calling is just beautiful. The radio was silent, I should have given up at 10 minutes…
Moved to 7MHz at 22:25, confident in qualifying the summit on 40m I checked 7.090 MHz if the frequency was clear. The enthusiasm of chasers is only exceeded by the size of a pileup on calling CQ SOTA. From the second my 2m spot hit SOTAWatch the chaser group would be waiting patiently for a 40m spot all while enjoying coffee, tea, toast or croissants.
Rob VK3EQ started the chase followed by Rhett VK3WE, next in the pile up was Tony VK3CAT and Amanda VK3FQSO to qualify the summit. Worked a total of 26 chasers on 40m including a S2S contact with Simon on Mt Ginini VK1/AC-008. 🙂
Went back to 2m 144.200 MHz for a second attempt at contact Gerard VK2IO at his home QTH. After a further 10 minutes of calling I gave up. Packed up the gear for a short walk back to the car. Next summit Mt Budawang, details below.
A note for new SOTA activators. The best way to deal with a pileup is to make a list, jot down 4 or 5 callsigns at a time. Avoid going back to the chaser group with a new ‘QRZ’ after only one contact, remember the chaser group has established a self-regulated calling order. Calling QRZ after only one contact breaks the established order enabling chasers with the strongest signal (100 and 200 watts) to take advantage of the new QRZ. As is often the case chasers don’t realise the summit, in most cases has a low noise floor meaning 10 watts output from the chaser’s radio is likely to result in a 5-8 report or thereabouts.
In time, say 2 or 3 months of regular activations you will start to recognise callsigns and voice characteristics. Making a chaser pileup list will become second nature, don’t forget as the activator you are in control!
I often comment through this blog for chasers to opetate at the same power levels as the activator. So take up the challenge and try chasing at QRP power levels, start with 20 watts and work your way down to 10 watts. Be brave and go one step further and try 5 watts. 😉
Oz Topo map showing the GPS track log – 45 metre ascent over 328 metres
Mt Budawang VK2/ST-015 1137 metres ASL, Budawang National Park – VKFF-061
Drove back to Braidwood along the Kings Hwy. At Braidwood turn right into Mongarlowe Road and drive to the township of Mongarlowe. At Mongarlowe follow the signs to Mt Budawang Road. Mt Budawang Road is a public access road passing through private property. If you leave the road, that’s before you get to the National Park, you are deemed to be trespassing. Along Mt Budawang road are three gates to open and close as you pass through them, there are cattle on the road, so take your time.
The Mt Budawang trail rises 400 meters over 4.3 km taking 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete. Looking at the track profile the walk is a constant grind with a couple of switch backs early in the ascent to cut the angle and severity of the climb. 500 meters before the summit the track follows a knoll south-east then kicks up for the last 50 metre ascent.
Mt Budawang, view from Mt Budawang Road
Trail through the rain forest
The summit offers no shade, it was hot in the sun so I kept the activation short. I set up on the compound corner fence post, after setting up the antenna and turning the radio on I discovered I had set up close to an ants nest, bugger! 😦
Opened the activation on 2m 144.200 MHz USB working Andrew VK2MWP 61 km and Matt VK1MA in Canberra 90 km both west of my position. Having been on the summit for 15 minutes the heat from the direct sunlight plus ants bites were starting to bother me.
On 40m I worked 27 chasers in 30 minutes. Packed up for a 1 hour descent back to the car. Later at Braidwood I dropped in to the Braidwood Bakery for a veggie pastie and a super cold drink. 🙂