Billy Range VK1/AC-028 1332 metres ASL, Namadgi National Park VKFF-377
Sunday 21 June 2015. Today my plan is to activate Billy Range and attempt 6 and 10m (52 and 28 MHz) summit to summit (S2S) contacts with Al VK1RX on Mt Cowangerong (Capt Flat Wx Radar) VK2/ST-001 and Gerard VK2IO on Mount Macquarie VK2/CT-011. Bernard VK2IB is planning an activation of ‘Munderoo’ VK2/R1-005 on 40m only. From my planned position on Billy Range Al will be 45 km east, Gerard 226 km north and Bernard 160 km south-west. Thanks fellas for posting alerts well in advance of your planned activation. Advance notice allows other SOTA activators to plan for S2S contacts. 🙂
Equipment. The backpack is heavy, I’m carrying the FT-857D (more grunt), DX-Wire 10 metre squid pole, coax, link dipole, LiPO batteries (2), iPad, 4 litres of water, food, jacket and other bits and pieces. I also carry a Yeasu FT-60R dual band HT, as a safety measure, monitoring Mt Ginini 2m repeater.
Navigation: Garmin 62S, compass and Topo Map Rendezvous Creek 1:25,000
I last activated Billy Range in August 2013 following Ian VK1DI’s activation in June 2013, it was a
demanding climb then and remains so today. This is not some fancy-pancy drive up summit, no this is the real deal bringing together navigation skills, endurance, sheer will & determination and fun with radios to the test. The beast is a 5.6 km walk each way 2.5 km on a well maintained fire trail then a 3.1 km scrub bash around granite Tors, through wattle, spiky bushes and eucalypt regrowth ascending 480 metres wearing leather gloves to prevent shredding of the skin. What’s even worse (IMHO) Billy Range is a 2 point summit while in VK3 and VK2 the same HASL is a stunning 8 points! Grr…lucky VK1 has the winter bonus scheme for summits 1200 and above, otherwise the effort is not worth 2 points. 😉
Why would anyone visit such a place in sub-zero temperatures, well it’s a mountain and it’s there to be climbed. I do love a challenge!
Getting there. Head south out of the Canberra suburbs, the last of which is Banks on to Tharwa. At Tharwa continue south along Boboyan Road to Glendale Road Works depot, drive time is 45 minutes. Glendale depot is marked on the map as Brandy Flat Road, a well maintained gravel road but easy to miss. Oh if you are planning to drive along Boboyan Road around sunrise watch out for the Kangaroos and slow down.
Parked the car 300 metres down Brandy Flat Road where the outside temperature was minus 4.5 degrees, yes minus. Started the walk at 7:30 am for a 2 hour 480 metre ascent over 5.6 km!
Map Oz Topo with the GPS track log overlay
Departing Brandy Flat road for the scrub bash.
On the summit. The summit is dominated by large granite boulders, the main feature is a huge curved granite plateau surrounded by dense regrowth after the Canberra 2003 fire storm, there are no spectacular or grand views. Conveniently, mother nature has donated a grey log to the SOTA cause, perfectly positioned as a squid pole support. Puddles of water have frozen overnight to form thin sheets of ice.
Telstra 3G reception: 2 bars on the iPad, terrific! 🙂
Started the activation just after 00:00 UTC (10 am local) on 6m 52.2 MHz working three VK1 locals, Ian VK1DI, Mark VK1EM and Neil VK1ANK. Grant VK4JAZ/1 called me via Mt Ginini repeater requesting a 2m simplex contact on 146.500 FM, nothing received too many hill tops so Grant headed up Mt Ainslie for elevation gain. 15 minutes later SOTA Goat (iPhone App) was bleating on the news Bernard has been spotted on VK2/RI-005. We all know the routine that follows, down with squid pole to reconnect the 6 and 10m links for operation on 40m, up with the pole all the time hoping I haven’t missed Bernard. The changing links routine takes less than a minute 🙂
Fortunately as Bernard had been spotted on SOTAWatch, Gerard VK2IO/P was also after the same S2S points. On changing to 7.090 MHz I found Bernard and Gerard for two easy S2S exchanges. Next, back to the pole and antenna for operating on 10m 28.490 MHz.
After lowering the pole Grant VK4GAZ/1 called on 2m simplex 146.500 from a position halfway up Mt Ainslie, we exchanged 5-3 reports each, not bad for 5 watts from each HT. Thanks Grant!
After changing to 10m I checked 480 and found Al calling CQ ‘North America’. Al had just started calling ‘blind’, he didn’t have mobile phone reception. After making the S2S contact I offered to post a spot for him, Al was grateful. I moved to 490 and posted spots on SOTAWatch and the DX cluster. Chasers were: Mark VK1EM, Andrew VK2MWP, Ian VK1DI, Neil VK1ANK and to my total surprise Gerard VK2IO/P for a S2S on back scatter. For the 6 & 10m challenge that’s 3 chasers on 6m and 6 on 10m, plus 2 chaser multipliers. The unique chaser is Neil VK1ANK. Continued calling on 10m looking for regular North American chasers Dan AE9F, Richard N4EX and Kim N6KZ, sorry guys on this occasion 10m propagation is limited to VK only.
Having exhausted chasers on 10m, I moved to 40m 7.095 to work 22 chasers in VK2, VK3, VK5 and VK7. At 01:15 UTC I called CQ on 20m 14.310 MHz to work Peter VK6RZ.
While on 40m had a good chat with Garry VK2GAZ on the subject of recent blog posts. Unknown to Garry, his post on activating a Scheyville National Park on ANZAC Day prompted me to purchase a 100 Ah AGM battery for VKFF park activations. Thanks Garry I found your blog posts interesting, I suspect others may do too.
After being on the summit for 90 minutes and the temperature not passing 3 degrees it was time to pack up. However, I decide for another opportunity to call CQ on 52.2 MHz. I sent an SMS to Gerard suggesting 52.2 MHz. I called for a minute or two and to my surprise Gerard responded with audio above the ‘very low’ background noise. The 857 signal meter is showing a S2 readable 5 signal. Amazing, 226 km on 6m in early winter, awesome! Yes I get excited when making such contacts, even more so when the contact involves a fellow activator for S2S.
Summary: 2 new summits chased on 6 and 10m plus 3 S2S contacts for 28 points. My S2S total is now 4360 points, 640 points to go for the 5000 point Platinum Award. 😉