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.
Ascent profile (blue track)
View of the ascent route overlay on Google Earth
Descent profile (red track) taking 3 hours and 20 minutes
Photos: © Copyright 2015 Andrew VK1AD
Tidbinbilla Mountain Range
Footpad spur trail
Having climbed 310 vertical meters over 2.1 km, it was a terrific moment and with some relief to find a portable bench seat.
Snowy Corner Cairn
Still 1 hour and 40 minutes away from the summit with a remaining ascent of 180 metres over 1.1 km 🙂
Yes we made it, at the summit taking 4 hours and 30 minutes
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|
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 http://www.johnevans.id.au/wp/
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve (n.d) in http://www.tidbinbilla.act.gov.au/
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve Map July 2015 in http://www.tidbinbilla.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/572288/Tidbinbilla-Map-and-Guide.pdf
Published: 14 January 2016