SOTA – Tidbinbilla Mountain

Monday 28 December 2015.  Tidbinbilla Mountain VK1/AC-013 1615 metres ASL, Namadgi National Park

A new summit as the benchmark for assessing the difficulty of a SOTA peak ascent.  Until today, Mt Tennent 32 km south of Canberra GPO was my personal benchmark with an ascent of 780 vertical metres over 7 km taking 2 hours and 15 minutes. Tidbinbilla Mountain (IMHO) is the new benchmark with an ascent of 724 vertical metres over 3.9 km taking 4.5 hours, it’s tough!  Be ready to spend a full day scrub bashing your way to the summit and return, thank goodness for daylight savings.  🙂

Today Adan VK1FJAW and I will tackle Tidbinbilla Mountain for two reasons. The first to operate amateur radio gear from the summit that’s the easy part and the second and more challenging to find Adan’s lost Dx-Wire squid pole, hence a different route for the ascent.

Previous activation:  Only one amateur radio SOTA activation since February 2013, on Saturday 10 October 2015 Adan VK1FJAW activated the peak on 2m simplex 146.500 FM working 6 VK1 chasers.   With the exception of chasers in Canberra, Tidbinbilla Mountain has the potential to be a new unique peak for enthusiastic SOTA chasers in VK and overseas.

Access to Tidbinbilla Mountain:  Adan and I met at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve park entrance off Tidbinbilla Road 25 km south-west of Canberra GPO.  The main gate opens at 7:30 am and closes at 8 pm.  In winter the gate closes at 6 pm.  From the main entrance gate take the Nature Reserve Road to Mountain Creek car park, speed limit is 40 km/h (see Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve map reference).  From Mountain Creek car park the ascent starts with the Lyrebird trail.  The earliest time you can start the ascent is about 7:45 am.

Activation plan.  My focus will be 6m 52.2 and 50.150 MHz plus 10m 28.480 MHz while Adan VK1FJAW will focus on working chasers on 28 MHz for the SOTA 10m Challenge.   Safety communications are through Mt Ginini 2m Repeater, 146.950 MHz FM tone 91.5.  Tony VK1VIC and Peter VK2FPMC offered their time to monitor our progress during the ascent and descent.  Thanks Tony and Peter.  🙂

Radio Equipment: Yaesu FT-60R Dual Band HT, Yaesu FT-817ND (QRP), 6m ‘Flowerpot’ antenna, HF antenna link dipole 6/10/20/30/40m, batteries two 3S 12 volt LiPo, 10m DX-Wire squid pole.  Garmin 64S, Compass and 25k Topo Map, First Aid Kit plus food and 4 litres of water.  I have the bulk of the radio gear while Adan is carrying a spare battery plus our food and water for the day.

Plan to tackle the mountain:  Reading John Evans account of this challenging hike, John suggests following the Lyrebird trail for 800 metres to UTM Easting 670939 Northing 6074643.  Depart the Lyrebird trail heading south-west for a short 150 metre scrub bash to intersect the spur footpad trail at UTM E 670825 N 6074544 975m ASL.  The Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve Lyrebird Trail and the lesser known spur footpad trail are not connect. Once at the base of the footpad trail there are two goals; a bench seat at UTM  E 670250 N 6074919 1200m ASL then Snowy Corner Cairn at 1435m ASL for a well-earned break.  Reviewing John’s GPS track log, I estimate this section of the ascent will take 2 hours to cover 2.5 km where the average gradient is 20% (1 metre ascent for every 5 metres walked) peaking at 35% (1 metre ascent for every 3 metres walked), that’s steep!

After Snowy Corner the track levels out heading in a north-east direction to a clearing marked as Cairn 7 shown my map.   Overlaying John’s track on Google Earth reveals two open clearings the first at Cairn 7 UTM E 669858 N 6075454 and the second at UTM E 669766, N 6075805 (see photo).  From Cairn 7 the trail swings around to the north-west through to a second clearing.  From clearing #2 continue north-west for 430 metres to the summit intersecting Cairn 8.  The grade for this leg is 25% or 1:4, a 100 metre ascent over 430 metres, again fairly steep.

One small trap to watch out for.  At the base of the ridge (Bottom of spur footpad) we had walked about 200 metres to find a clearly defined Y junction in the trail, I didn’t pay any attention to the elevation and followed the trail to the left for approximately 150 metres until I realised we were heading downhill and away to the south-west, departing the ridge line for adventures elsewhere.  Oops, we back tracked 150 metres to pick up a footpad trail following the spur line.  Watch out for the split in the track, keep to the right and follow the natural line of the spur.  I am happy to share my Garmin 64S track log with anyone, I haven’t found a convenient way to embed the GPX file in this post.

How did the ascent play out?  Well I am glad we budgeted for 4 hours, it’s one of the toughest ascents I have completed in 3 years of SOTA. Other than tripping on a rock and landing on my right knee, 270 metres after Snowy Corner, the ascent went as planned. If you are keen to tackle Tidbinbilla Mountain, I recommend attempting the peak with another person, someone who is an experienced bush walker, don’t do this hike on your own.  I plan to repeat the ascent in 2016, I don’t plan to open my right knee on a carefully positioned sharp-edged rock!

Once at the summit the panoramic views are spectacular, just watch out for a swarm of tiny inquisitive black ants, they don’t bite but they will swarm over the radio, knobs, coax, mobile phone pretty much anything that you place on the ground or on a rock, thinking the ants wont climb the rock, little critters were everywhere!  I found offering the tiny creatures the corner of my ham and cheese sandwich (yep a small sacrifice to pay) was in most part enough to distract the main swarm.  I placed the piece of bread on the ground about 1.5 metres away from where Adan and I were sitting, interesting how the ants detected a source of food so quickly.  Happy black ants, happy SOTA activation!

Ascent 724 metres over 3.9 km taking 4.5 hours.

Tidbinbilla Mountain ascent GPS track log

Tidbinbilla Mountain ascent GPS track log (blue)

Tidbinbilla Mountain round trip

Tidbinbilla Mountain round trip taking 10 hours with 2 hrs on the summit.  Walking time 8 hours.

Ascent profile (blue track)

Tidbinbilla Mountain ascent track profile

Tidbinbilla Mountain ascent track profile

Tidbinbilla Mountain ascent data

Tidbinbilla Mountain ascent data

View of the ascent route overlay on Google Earth

VK1AD GPS track log overlay on Google Earth

VK1AD GPS track log overlay on Google Earth

Descent profile (red track) taking 3 hours and 20 minutes

descent profile

descent profile

descent data

descent data

Photos: © Copyright 2015 Andrew VK1AD

Tidbinbilla Mountain Range

view of Tidbinbilla Mountain from Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve entry gate

view of Tidbinbilla Mountain from Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve entry gate

me, Andrew VK1AD at the start of the Lyrebird Trail.

me, Andrew VK1AD. An easy section of the walk known as the Lyrebird Trail.

Footpad spur trail

Intersecting the footpad spur trail after leaving Lyrebird track.

Intersecting the footpad spur trail after leaving Lyrebird track.

trail is marked by small stone cairs

footpad trail marked by small stone cairns

interesting granite tors

Unlike the Orroral Valley where there are hundreds of granite tors, on this ascent we observed one tor.

leading up to Snowy Corner - steep section comprising of losse rocks see map

leading up to Snowy Corner – narrow steep section consisting of scree and the familiar wattle regrowth found elsewhere in Namadgi NP – see map

Having climbed 310 vertical meters over 2.1 km, it was a terrific moment and with some relief to find a portable bench seat.

an enthusiastic climber has donated a portable bench seat. The rock platform provides great views out to the south-east

an enthusiastic climber has donated a portable bench seat!  The rock platform provides great views out to the south-east

Snowy Corner Cairn

Snowy Corner rock cairn

1st leg 2.7 km completed in 2 hours and 37 minutes, Snowy Corner rock cairn see map

regrowth obstacles after Snowy Corner

time for leather gloves, a section of regrowth to squeeze through.  Long sleeve shirt, trousers and gaiters will prevent shredding of skin from your hands, arms and legs.  😉

Still 1 hour and 40 minutes away from the summit with a remaining ascent of 180 metres over 1.1 km  🙂

After 3 hours the summit surrounds are now in view

After hiking 3.5 km over 3 hours and 40 minutes the summit surrounds are now in view

last clearing before the final scrub bash to the summit

second and last clearing (E 669766  N 6075805) before the final scrub bash to the summit. 440 metres to go with a final ascent of 110 metres  🙂

Yes we made it, at the summit taking 4 hours and 30 minutes

Tidbinbilla Mountain rock cairn

Tidbinbilla Mountain stone cairn

VK1AD and VK1FJAW SOTA Shack on Tidbinbilla Mountain VK1/AC-013

VK1AD and VK1FJAW SOTA Shack on Tidbinbilla Mountain VK1/AC-013 1605 metres ASL

Having spent 4 hours climbing the beast I was conscious of our planned time of 1 hour at the summit before heading north to find Adan’s long lost DX-Wire telescopic pole, a needle in a haystack.  Our time at the summit turned into 2 hours.   Now for the fun stuff, 30 minutes setting up squid poles, antennas and radios taking care not to damage or disturb the sensitive ecosystem.  Temperature at the summit is a pleasant 20 degrees C, however we are exposed to the extremes of the sun’s UV rays, a fresh lathering of SPF 30+ sunscreen is required.

Started the SOTA activation on 10m 28.490 MHz at 0145 UTC.  To kick of the activation Adan and I took turns to work four chasers qualifying the peak in 10 minutes.  Summit to Summit contacts included Tony VK1VIC and Peter VK2FPMC both at Mt Mundoonen VK2/ST-053 70 km north then for a big surprise short Es with Peter VK3PF/P at Mt Granya VK3/VE-165 163 km south-west.

10m band 8 chasers: Roald VK1MTS, Tony VK1VIC/2, Pete VK2FPMC/P, Peter VK3PF/P,  Andrew VK2UH, Roger VK2FMEL and Masa JA6GMC Nagasaki Japan.

6m band 6 chasers: Rod VK2TWR, Mark VK1EM, Rob VK1KW, Andrew VK2UH, Roald VK1MTS, and Chris VK2DO.

Adan continued the activation on 40m and for a second stint on 10m.

VK1AD SOTA Log extract:

Time UTC Band Mode Callsign Summit (S2S)
1:45 28MHz SSB VK1MTS Roald S59 R59  28.490
1:51 28MHz SSB VK1VIC/2 VK2/ST-053 Tony S2S VK2/ST-053 S54 R53 28.490
1:52 28MHz SSB VK2FMPC/P VK2/ST-053 Peter S2S VK2/ST-053 S54 R43 28.490
1:54 28MHz SSB VK3PF/P VK3/VE-165 Peter S2S VK3/VE-165 S51 R51 28.490
1:55 28MHz SSB VK2UH Andrew S57 R55  28.490
1:59 28MHz SSB VK2FMEL Roger S57 R58  28.490
2:02 28MHz SSB JA6GMC Masa S55 R55 28.490 Nagasaki Japan
2:11 50MHz SSB VK2TWR Rod S57 R55  50.140
2:16 28MHz SSB VK2UH/P Andrew S58 R55  28.490
2:19 50MHz SSB VK1EM Mark S59 R59  50.140
2:21 50MHz SSB VK1KW Rob S59 R59  50.140
2:22 50MHz SSB VK2UH Andrew S58 R58  50.140
2:29 50MHz SSB VK1MTS Roald S59 R59  52.200
2:55 50MHz SSB VK2DO Chris S54 R52 50.160 QF54CH 125 km
view east looking over Canberra and Woden Valley

view north-east looking out over Canberra and Woden Valley

formation on the western side of Tidbinbilla Range known as The Pimple

formation on the western side of Tidbinbilla Range known as The Pimple

during the descent looking back at Tidbinbilla Mountain summit from Tidbinbilla Peak

during the descent (red track) looking back at Tidbinbilla Mountain summit 1.8 km from Tidbinbilla Peak

We eventually made our way back to Mountain Creek car park arriving at 5:45 pm.  I am always delighted to see my car knowing it contains food and hot water for a great cup of tea.  The beer, well that’s at home in the fridge ready for consumption.  🙂

Thanks Adan for your company, I think we agree 28 Dec 15 was a tough day out.  Will I revisit the summit in 2016, you bet in cooler weather most likely March or April.  🙂     Your DX-Wire squid pole remains in the firm grasp of the mountain, I am confident we can find the pole if we walk your original GPS track log in reverse.   🙂

Reference / Links

Tidbinbilla Mountain 13 June 2015 in Johny Boy’s Walkabout blog from

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve (n.d) in

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve Map July 2015 in

Published:  14 January 2016


8 thoughts on “SOTA – Tidbinbilla Mountain

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    • Chris thanks for the feedback. Wish I new someone in VK1 with rotary wings. Would be cool to ‘drop’ in on one of the harder VK1 peaks in Namadgi NP 😉

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  4. Hi Andrew, another great post and what an adventure! I didn’t go that far into the Tidbinbilla Reserve on my visit but I did see the Peak from a few locations outside the Park. Oh to be young or youngish and fit!

    John D

    • Hi John, for the best part of 15 years I have wondered how challenging this climb would be? Post Canberra 2003 fires I did try approaching the mountain peak from Camels Hump but found the track to St John’s peak overgrown and had to abort. I’m glad I did abort the descent route taken by Adan and I from Tidbinbilla Monutain to Tidbinbilla Peak is a challenge on it’s own without the addition of Tidbinbilla Peak > St John’s Peak and Camels Hump. Next time, I will follow the ascent route back to the car park. Next time on this summit I hope to speak to you on air. Cheers Andrew VK1AD

      • getting out of the shack big time this week mate hope to work you on some of them.
        73 Rod

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