07 October 2015

17. SOTA Activation: Webs Ridge, Dingi Dingi Range and Baldy Ridge (VK2/ST-005, VK2/ST-004 and VK2/ST-008)

Webs Ridge VK2/ST-005

Andrew 1NAM was about to make 1000 SOTA Points and become a SOTA Goat, when at the same time, Andrew 1DA was about to pass 500 SOTA points. For the occasion, the Andrews arranged to have the 4th contact from two SOTA summits with each other, thereby passing the 500 and 1000 point mark with their QSO. On the 26th of September 2015 Andrew 1NAM went up to his favourite SOTA summit, Mt. Gingera and was accompanied by Al VK1RX. I joined Andrew 1DA on Webs Ridge located in the Brindabella National Park (VKFF-005).

We made our way to Webs Ridge via Brindabella road, where we turned onto Two Sticks road at Piccadilly Circus. From Two sticks road, we turned onto the Dingi Dingi Ridge fire trail, driving west, past Dingi Dingi Range to Webs Ridge. The road was pretty rocky and steep at places - the low range in Andrew’s Land Cruiser sure came in handy. (I’d recommend having the summits as waypoints on a GPS when trying to find the correct roads/fire trails - there aren’t many signposts.)

When we were near the summit, we parked on the side of the fire trail and found a clear spot to set-up. While we were operating, two cars passed us on the fire trail.

Andrew VK1DA on Webs Ridge

My first contacts were with Andrew VK1NAM, Al VK1RX and Matt VK1MA on 2 meters. Andrew 1DA made his 4th contact with Andrew 1NAM and there were whoops of joy over the radio as Andrew 1NAM made 1000 SOTA points. For the occasion Andrew 1DA found a funny sound clip of a bleating goat and played it a few times over the air, drawing chuckles all round.
There were a lot of people congratulating Andrew 1NAM on making SOTA Goat, and Andrew 1DA and I enjoyed listening to the backslapping for a few minutes on HF.

We started calling CQ on 40 meters using Andrew 1DA’s Icom 703, and in quick tag-team succession worked 20 stations in 30 minutes, passing the mic back and forth. The propagation that had been depressed for a few weeks, improved quite a bit and we got good contacts from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5 and VK7.

My first three HF contacts were summit-to-summits, with Russ VK2BJP on Black Mountain VK3/VE-093, Gerard VK2IO on Canoelands VK2/SY-001, followed by Peter 3PF on Mount Toorongo Range VK3/VT-026. Next we had a bunch of chasers working from their shacks, including: Ray VK3YAR, Peter VK3ZPF, Glen VK3YY, John VK2WG, Fred VK3DAC, Amanda VK3FQSO, Lee VK2LEE, Rod VK2LAX, Cliff VK2NP, Bernard VK2AV, Ken VK3UH, Paul VK2HV, Coll VK3LED, Compton VK2HRX, Matt VK1MA, Tony VK7LTD and Tom VK5EE. I jumped back on the 2 meter rig (FT817 with Tape Measure Yagi) and worked Andrew VK1NAM/P and Al VK1RX/P again after the UTC switchover. I also had a summit to summit contact with Rod VK2TWR who was on Byadbo Range VK2/SM-066 and closed with Ian VK1DI and Mark VK1EM.

This was a great start to a great day. We spent about an hour on the summit and I had 28 contacts to show for it. We packed up and headed back down the Dingi Dingi Fire trail towards Dingi Dingi Ridge for our second activation of the day.

Dingi Dingi Ridge VK2/ST-004

Dingi Dingi Ridge summit is about 750 meters from Dingi Dingi fire trail. We parked on the side of the fire trail and headed uphill, "enjoying" some scrub bashing as we made our way by using Andrew 1NAM’s GPX file from an earlier activation. The bush was pretty thick at times, so much so that I lost the lower half of my hiking pole. When the scrub got really thick, I collapsed it but forgot to lock the lower half. The collapsed hiking pole dangled around my wrist as we pushed upward and the basket must have snagged in the brush, pulling out and dropping to the ground. I only realised this once we stopped at the summit in a clearing. (When we returned I tried to retrace my steps but the brush was just too thick to see the lost hiking pole. (If anybody finds two green hiking pole segments on Dingi Dingi Range, please send it my way for a reward!)

We found a pretty nice clearing near the summit and set-up our stations. I set up a squid pole with tape measure VHF beam connected to my FT817 and Andrew rolled out his HF link dipole connected to his Icom 703.

My Shack on Dingi Dingi Ridge

First we worked Andrew VK1NAM and Al VK1RX on the 2 meter HT, who were on their way down Mount Gingera. We switched to HF and worked some VK1, VK2 and VK3 stations on 40 meters. Our first four HF contacts were summit-to-summits with Compton VK2HRX who was on Mount Banks VK2/CT-032, Peter VK3PF who was on Mount Selma VK3/VT-013, Rod VK2TWR who was on an unnamed hill VK2/SM-071 and Gerard VK2IO who was still on Canoelands VK2/SY-001. We moved on to chasers who were working from their shacks and worked Amanda VK3FQSO, Rex VK3OF, Doug VK3YQS, John VK2YW, Coll VK3LED, VK3FJOS, Matt VK1MA, Steve VK7CW, Fred VK3DAC, Paul VK3DBP, Peter VK3FPSR, Marshall VK3MRG, Ray VK3YAR, Ken VK3UH, Kieran VK2QK, Peter VK3ZPF and Bernard VK3AV.

I moved to the 2 meter rig and worked Phil VK2HPN, Malcolm VK1AAH and Paul VK1ATP on 2 meters.

During the QSO with Paul 1ATP, Andrew asked if I could get Matt VK1MA on the repeater because Peter VK3PF had an emergency and required some assistance. Matt has a good 40 meter home station and Andrew thought this would help coordinate any help that would be required. I got Matt and handed the HT to Andrew, and they spoke for a while about what had happened. Peter VK3PF’s car had suddenly caught fire as he was out on a SOTA activation trip. In the end Peter was assisted by another operator. You can read Peter’s account here: https://vk3pf.wordpress.com/2015/09/26/an-unpleasant-surprise-during-a-day-of-sota/

After listening to the messages passed back and forth to assist Peter 3PF, we packed up and walked back down Dingi Dingi Range. I tried to follow our upwards track in reverse, hoping that I would spot the hiking pole but was unable to do so.

The bush on Dingi Dingi Ridge. Can anyone spot a green hiking pole?

Back at the car we went down Dingi Dingi Range on our way to Baldy Range. We were in quite a rush as we wanted to work Andrew 1NAM and Al 1RX who were on Mount Ginger Ale and would be there only for another 20 minutes.

Baldy Range VK2/ST-008

We turned onto Baldy Range Trail and covered the 6 Km just in time. We parked next to the fire trail and walked around the summit, with the Handy Talkies (HT) calling for Andrew and Al.
Andrew 1DA found a spot where there was just enough signal and managed to work Andrew 1NAM. He handed his Icom HT to me and as I was working Andrew 1NAM the battery died. I switched to my Baofeng HT, attached the tape measure Yagi and started calling. Andrew 1DA was an excellent antenna mount as he held the beam aloft as we walked around trying to find a spot where we could work Al 1RX and Andrew 1NAM. I barely managed to get Al 1RX as he was right in the noise and hard to copy.

Having worked them, we returned to our packs and started to set-up our stations. Again I set up the FT817 with VHF beam and Andrew 1DA set-up his Icom 703 and link dipole. On two meters I worked Mark VK1EM and Ian VK1DI before joining Andrew on the HF rig. Again we tag-teamed it, passing the mic between us and bagged a bunch of VK1, VK2, VK3 and VK5 operators.

The two Shacks on Baldy Range. Andrew VK1DA working 20m DX into Europe. See video below.

I worked Mark VK1EM again on HF and then a number of other callers, most of which who also chased us on the previous two summits: Amanda VK3FQSO, Gerard VK2IO who were still on Canoelands VK2/SY-001, Peter VK3ZPF, Bernard VK3AV, Matt VK1MA, Fred VK3DAC, Ross VK2VVV, Lee VK2LEE, Gary VK2GAZ, Mark VK3XL, Nev VK5WG, Mick VK3PMG, Jim VK1AT, Peter VK3TKK, Paul VK5PAS and Gary VK5FGRY. I made one more contact on 2 meters, with Jim VK1AT.

We made our way back to civilization via Doctors Flat Road, much better than Baldy Range Trail and Two Sticks Road, although it had 5 or 6 cattle gates to open and close.

Thoughts on Dual Operation

I have come to like this way of operating - sharing a single station and tag-teaming between callers, sharing the mic - as it is efficient and give chasers two unique call signs on the summit. The added benefit for me is that I learn heaps by seeing how Andrew deal with multiple simultaneous callers and balances first callers against portable stations. It is an art and his 50+ years of experience shows how it should be done. The basic rules I observed seemed to be:

  1. Acknowledge every caller that you can copy in the sequence they have called in and explain the sequence in which you will respond.
  2. Start with the portable / summit to summit stations first because they are not in their shacks and may run out of electricity, light etc.
  3. Move on to the other stations, in the order that they have called in.
  4. If you could only copy a partial call sign, use that when addressing the station and ask them to call again.
  5. Don’t dawdle. Don’t talk about your operation or the weather. Exchange a signal report, a name and other pertinent information before moving on to the next station. Sure a nice QSO could follow later if you wanted to describe your station or the landscape but do so when the pile-up has cleared. The number of chasers you loose from a queue is proportional to the average length of your QSOs.
  6. Listen for other callers before you start speaking. It is easy to miss out on valuable summit to summit contacts if you have a string of unbroken overs.
  7. When you have reached the end of the list, call CQ again and listen.

Thoughts on Activating Clusters of SOTA Summits

Apart from the obvious efficiency of leaving home once and activating multiple summits, it appears that cluster activations tend to guarantee chasers for all the summits, especially if they are alerted on SOTAWatch - or advertised when woking chasers. If a chaser is worked on one summit, and he/she knows about upcoming activations, it is very likely that they would work you again when you get to the new summits. Cluster activations also seem to spark additional activity from fellow activators, almost as if activity begets activity. Your mileage may vary but I am definitely a fan of activating clusters of 2/3/4 summits on a day. Four gets a bit much if there is bush walking involved, three summits seem to be the magic number.

On the day I made 75 contacts with 46 unique stations. Thanks again to Andrew 1DA for his excellent company.

Andrew VK1DA Europe DX on 20 Meters

After we worked everyone on 40 meters, Andrew switched to 20 meters to see what conditions were like. Perhaps he could pull off a few DX contacts with the improved propagation. It was getting close to sunset and the gray line magic jump started the band as it came alive. For about 30 or 40 minutes, Andrew could not move as he was pulling in contacts from the UK, Germany, Finland, Hungary etc. I have not seen a pile-up like that before and I recorded a few minutes of it on my phone. Have a look at what 10 Watts, good propagation and an experienced operator can achieve. Who needs 400 Watts for DX?! ;-)

If for any reason you cannot see the video, please download it here.

Special Permissions or Arrangements

No special arrangements are necessary. All access is via public roads.
Webs Ridge, Dingi Dingi Ridge and Baldy Range are all located in the Brindabella National Park, VKFF-005. Keep a look out for park warnings here: NSW Park Alerts

Summit Information

Webs Ridge summit is 1306 meters above mean sea level and it is worth 8 SOTA activation points, plus a 3 point winter bonus. Its Maidenhead locator is QF44jr.
There are many trees and shrubs around and a few small clearings where you could set-up.
Webs Ridge is within easy reach of the Mt. Ginini repeater.

Ding Dingi Ridge summit is 1311 meters above mean sea level and it is worth 8 SOTA activation points, plus a 3 point winter bonus. Its Maidenhead locator is QF44jr.
A bit of scrub bashing is required to reach the summit,  after parking near the fire trail. The bush is pretty dense but there are a few clearings where you could set-up your station.
Ding Dingi Ridge is within easy reach of the Mt. Ginini repeater.

Baldy Range summit is 1235 meters above mean sea level and it is worth 8 SOTA activation points, plus a 3 point winter bonus. Its Maidenhead locator is QF44js.
The summit has a fire track running across it. There are quite a few trees and shrubs around, the most convenient clearing for set-up would be next to the trail.
Baldy Range is within easy reach of the Mt. Ginini repeater.

Contacts Made

Thank you to the Shack Sloths and the Goats for every contact!

Useful Links

Brindabella National Park: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/brindabella-national-park
GPS GPX Track Log: Dropbox Link.
VK1NAM Blog Webs Ridge: https://vk1nam.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/vk-sota-qso-webbs-ridge/
VK1NAM Blog Dingi Dingi: https://vk1nam.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/sota-activation-dingi-dingi-ridge-9-january-2014/
VK1DI Blog Baldy Range: http://vk1di.blogspot.com.au/2014/09/sota-activation-baldy-range-vk2st-008.html
Video Download Link: Dropbox.

No comments: