VK3ARR's SOTA Blog

Ego loqui ad viros super montes

Month: June, 2014

Ainslie and an Abundance of Andrews

Once more I found myself in a new VK SOTA association courtesy of work, and so I figured I’d take the opportunity between work finishing, and my flight out, to activate the closest summit to both, Mt Ainslie. I grabbed my 2m HT, a cheapy-Chinese Baofeng that is hardly used, deciding that carting the 857 up to Canberra for a day was abusing both the carry-on luggage limits and my tolerance for what I could carry around with me all day visiting customers. I emailed Andrew VK1NAM and Andrew VK1DA to see if there was a chance to catch up, and that quickly evolved into a VK1 SOTA dinner, with yours truly as some kind of guest of honour.

The day started early, with me catching the second flight to Canberra. The first flight of the morning was delayed due to fog, but the second, mine, took off on time, in the hope it would clear by the time we arrived. We were put into a holding pattern to the south of Canberra, giving me good views over the Snowy Mountains as we went round and around. After an hour or so of holding, the pilots were given permission to fly an approach, but with a diversion back to Melbourne if it wasn’t possible to land. We reached decision height and weren’t even in the fog by that stage (Canberra has a lower quality instrument landing system), so the pilots went missed approach, and we flew off back to Melbourne. As we turned, I had a clear view of Mt Ainslie, out of the fog, a thousand feet or so below me.

On our way back, the pilots told us the fog was forecast to remain for about 2 hours, which was perfect for a flight back to Melbourne, refuelling and a flight back. I got in about 3 and a half hours late, having flown to Canberra twice that day, and having already passed over the activation zone of the mountain I was due to activate!

Sunset on Mt Ainslie

Sunset on Mt Ainslie

Sunset on Mt Ainslie

Sunset on Mt Ainslie

Mt Ainslie panorama, from the top lookout

Mt Ainslie panorama, from the top lookout

My meetings were done and dusted and so I got a work colleague to drop me off down Mt Ainslie a bit, and I walked back into the activation zone. I took a few photos just before the sun went down, and helped a group of tourists with their photo, then called CQ on the handheld. I got VK1WJ, Andrew VK1NAM and Matt VK1MA in the log quickly, then called for ages with nothing. It would seem that with the stock antenna, the Baofeng is fairly deaf. With a 2m Slim Jim, I worked Andrew 160km away on Mt Disappointment using the same radio. Apparently people were calling, but I couldn’t hear them, squelch wide open. Andrew was at the base of Mt Ainslie to chase, and came up and lent me his handheld to get the last contact needed to qualify. I also worked summit to summits with Ian VK1DI and Andrew VK1MBE, before the weather became offensive and we adjourned to Olims for dinner.

Dinner was a glorious $12 rump steak, only let down by the lack of a steak knife, and present at the dinner were no less than 5 SOTA Andrews. We had Andrew VK1NAM, Andrew VK1DA, Andrew VK1MBE, Andrew VK2FAJG, and of course myself, Andrew VK3ARR. I don’t know the collective word for a group of SOTA Andrews; an abundance? an activation? an alliteration? In any case, much fun was had and good hospitality shared, so thanks to the VK1 SOTA crowd for welcoming a visitor warmly and for ferrying me around from summit to dinner to the airport.

An abundance of Andrews - 1NAM, 1MBE, 2FAJG, 3ARR and 1DA.

An abundance of Andrews – 1NAM, 1MBE, 2FAJG, 3ARR and 1DA.

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VK4 Summits

Work took me back to Brisbane (herein referred to as Brisbekistan) for a few days so I decided it was time to crack that final association to make the Bronze level for Mountain Explorer. I spent some time researching summits both near and far from Brisbane and narrowed it down to three candidate areas. The first, in Lamington NP, housed a 10 point summit and a 6 hour walk or so. The second was a group of two summits, but which probably needed council permission to off-track it to the summit, and the final area was a group of three to the north of Brisbekistan, in the D’Aguilar NP, being VK4/SE-043 (Mt Byron, but not actually Mt Byron), VK4/SE-045 (Mt Sim Jue, but not actually Mt Sim Jue) and VK4/SE-039 (Unnamed, but located at Kluvers Lookout)

My only concern was one of time, and so that ruled out the first two, and left me with the D’Aguilar three. They were ‘drive up’ access summits too, although the Queensland Parks service called the tracks 4WD tracks. Given I’d have to hire a car, I thought long and hard and tried to decide if I subscribed to the Clarkson principle in relation to hire cars (“Hire cars are the fastest cars because you don’t care about them”) or the more sane “I don’t want to get a 3 door hire car stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flight to catch” principle. A quick chat with a 4WD enthusiast at work made me think it would be wiser to hire a 4WD, and be safe.

The SOTA mobile

The SOTA mobile

I awoke early to get out before the Brisbekistani traffic got too bad. I headed out via Enoggera Road through Samford and Dayboro, before taking the Mt Mee Road and Sellin Road entrance to D’Aguilar NP. The trip was nice, with hardly any traffic once I cleared the suburbs. There was fog in the valleys around Mt Mee and Mt Samson, which was nice and pretty, and some wallabies on the road that moved before I could get a decent photo.

Clouds in the valley to the south of Sellin Road

Clouds in the valley to the south of Sellin Road

Clouds in the valley to the north of Sellin Rd.

Clouds in the valley to the north of Sellin Rd.

I followed the path to The Gantry, using the trail map the Parks provided, and then followed the signs to the Western Escarpment drive. This drive is a circular route, heading anti-clockwise around and might be attempted in a 2WD vehicle that you don’t care about, but to be honest, I wouldn’t try. The 4WD option was a good move. The actual summit is to the north of Somerset Lookout and Wivenhoe Outlook. Somerset Lookout is probably within the activation zone; I parked there, took a few photos, then walked south out of the activation zone and then back in. I set up at Wivenhoe Outlook as it’s a clear area, and strung out the dipole for 17m.

Somerset Lookout panorama

Somerset Lookout panorama

Somerset lookout panorama

Somerset lookout panorama

Jack W7CNL had asked on the SOTAWatch reflector for more VK 17m activations, and I was happy to oblige, although as I sat there calling CQ with no response I was starting to wonder if this band was all it was cracked up to be! Eventually Ian VK5CZ came back, and we swapped signal reports. Another five minutes of calling and I gave it up and moved to 20m, where I qualified the summit and earned the Bronze Explorer. After working a few stations there, including VK6, I gave 40m a go since I felt a little ahead of schedule, and worked VK2, VK3 and VK4. All up, 14 contacts. I will have to check the boundaries of the D’Aguilar NP. I think I set up outside the boundaries of it, which makes the summit invalid for VKFF purposes.

After packing up, I jumped back in the car and headed down and back to the entrance of the park. The path down is very rough and had you foolishly thought to take a 2WD along there, you’d now be examining the trail of oil leading back to the destroyed sump now ripped off several hundred metres behind you, contemplating whether you should have taken the extra insurance for the hire car. The time I thought I was ahead, I was now behind, so I headed down Range Road rather than leaving the park and going via Mt Brisbane Road and Lacey’s Creek Road. Along the way, I saw a wallaby head off into the bush.

Can you spot the wallaby?

Can you spot the wallaby?

My next destination was Kluvers Lookout. This road was excellent comparatively speaking, and no worse than say, Camp Road leading to VK3/VC-032. Easy 2WD with just a few section of needing to slow down. The speed limit is 40km/h, but it is easy to go faster than that without being dangerous. Just don’t. Because that would be illegal.

I saw my first human being while I was on Range Road, and didn’t take long to reach Kluvers Lookout, which provided the opposite view back towards Brisbekistan. I set up on a piece of high ground a little away from a comms tower tucked back in the bush that had enough solar panels on it to excite the inner hippie. However, there was a bit more noise up there than the first summit, at about S4 level. It didn’t affect any contacts though.

Brisbane from Kluvers Lookout

Brisbane from Kluvers Lookout

Brisbane from Kluvers Lookout

Brisbane from Kluvers Lookout

I started on 17m again and this time worked Dave VK4DD on ground wave and then the VK6 boys, VK6NU and VK6MB. I qualified the summit on 17m with Rod VK2TWR, who went from being readable but weak, to non-existent in the space of seconds. The QSB on the band was terrible. Mike VK6MB also went from 57 all the way down to 41 at times. I only got the 4 on 17m, so moved to 20m, working 5 stations, including Peter VK3PF from the car park of his work. I switched to 40m and worked 3 VK2s, for a total of 12 contacts.

I got back in the car and headed towards the final summit, although there were rumours of a locked gate and I was running short on time. The road back was good condition until it met with Lacey’s Creek Road. There was indeed a locked gate, and the high point loomed large in front of me, and my first thought was “not with a radio on my back”. I spotted the cancelled activation and headed for the airport.

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The squid pole. I had to attach it to a tree halfway up with the best boy scouts square lashing you’ll ever see.

The shack at Kluvers Lookout

The shack at Kluvers Lookout

The high ground I set up on.

The high ground I set up on.