May 7 to 10, 2015
I have not been to the last couple of WIA AGM and Conference events: the timing of the event together with longer travel distances made attendance a low return for travel cost situation. Work commitments were such that I would at most only have one or 2 days apart from the conference available for other activities before needing to back at work. As a result, I did not attend. Canberra is closer to home, requiring essentially one day of travel each way, regardless of travel mode. If flying, it takes approximately 3 hours plus to get to Melbourne Airport, plus waiting for the flight, then the flight time – let’s say 6 hours. In that time I can normally drive and be getting close to one hour away from Canberra, plus I would have transport once I had arrived. Yes, one will need to find places to park the car once there, but that is OK.
A meeting of the WIA Technical Advisory Committee was called for Friday afternoon, so that clinched the deal – I would attend the AGM weekend.
Thursday 7 May
I finally left home only a little later than planned and headed east. I stopped at the Bruthen Bakery to buy some lunch and arrived at my first destination a little later than the planned 0130Z.
Lake Tyers State Park VKFF-761
Lake Tyers State Park was added to the WWFF scheme in late March. As far as I am aware, the new Reference had not yet been activated. My normal travel route to Canberra is east to Bairnsdale, turn left and up to Bruthen on C620 and along to Nowa Nowa to rejoin the Princes Highway A1. This route avoids Lakes Entrance and several small township between Lakes Entrance and Bairnsdale, all with traffic and slower speeds. For almost three of the last four kilometres into Nowa Nowa, the road runs beside the northern section of the State Park. Having checked the mapping details via Forest Explorer, I decided to park inside the Park near Smarts Break, requiring a minimal diversion off route.
I set up the 40 / 20 m link dipole held up by the squid pole and posted an Alert on ParksnPeaks for 7.144 MHz just after 0200Z. After 35 minutes of operating, I tried 15 m for about 10 minutes without any callers. I returned to 40 m, but called on 7.090 to bag a few more chasers. It was a slow day however, with a total of only 12 contacts for an hour of operating. I gave up, packed up and headed back to the bitumen. I made a brief stop at Nowa Nowa to take a photo of the Boggy Creek gorge.
The trip to Orbost was uneventful but a little slow, with several sections of roadwork with 40 km/hr speed limits. I exited the highway at Orbost and travelled along C107 to Marlo and Cape Conran, parking in a relatively sheltered parking bay just before the main carpark at West Cape to again set up the 40 / 20 m link dipole.
Cape Conran Coastal Park VKFF-744
This Park is another of the new WWFF References, and I believe also not previously activated. I checked out the boat launching area and the view to the west along the coast – spectacular with the very strong winds and surf. I was set up and calling on 7.090 MHz by 0425Z to work VK2IR/m, my last contact in VKFF-761. I worked another two stations before Andrew VK1NAM called and kindly spotted me on ParksnPeaks – I had no phone signal at all. After about 50 minutes operating, I had only 18 contacts in the log from 40 m, so I switched to 20 m.
20 m was busy: SC80SM was a very strong station on 14.245 making 14.244 unusable. I listened slightly lower, and could hear Ron VK3AFW operating the VK100ANZAC callsign on 14.2425. There were lots of other stations in the 14.200-14.300 segment, so I looked higher for a clear frequency. SOTA stations often operate about 14.300, plus one needed to consider that 14.300-14.310 had been in use by stations assisting with relief operations in Nepal after the earthquake.
I finally settled on 14.320 and spent 6 or 7 minutes before my first caller – RA3PCI. Less than two minutes later I had a large pile up of mainly European stations calling – Sergey must have spotted me on the Cluster. The fun really began! I worked 55 stations in just under an hour. My last contact was at 0616Z, after which I decided that it was time to pack up and resume my trip.
I travelled up the Cabbage Tree Conran Road back to the Princes Highway, then east to Cann River and then north through Bombala to Nimmitabel to spend the night. Thanks to Rod and Judy for their hospitality.
Friday 8 May
I was up early and underway before 0730 am. I travelled to Cooma for fuel for myself and the vehicle, and then travelled north to Shannons Flat and onto the Boboyan Road. I actually slightly overshot my intended parking spot before retracing my route for about 2 km to find the intended parking space – a spot identified by Andrew VK1NAM and used by Ian VK1DI. The parking spot is only 1.1 km in a direct line from my target operating site.
Boboyan Range VK1/AC-044 1489 m 4 points VKFF-377 Namadgi National Park
The approach included a climb of around 90 m vertical over the 1.1 km, with some thicker scrub during the initial couple of hundred metres climbing steeply to the main ridge line. The climb took about 30 minutes, with some zig-zags to avoid the thickest scrub. Navigation was easier once on the ridge line – simply head south along the flattish ridge until you reach the summit knoll with its small cairn started by VK1NAM. One could activate much closer to the car as the summit has a quite large Activation Zone. The day was brisk but clear, so I headed all the way to the cairn.
First in the log was Amanda VK3FQSO at 2354Z on 7.090. I worked 17 stations before moving to 20 m at about 0020Z. I worked one station only on SSB but did catch Warren VK3BYD/4 for a S2S at 0035Z on 20 m CW. I tried 10 m without success, before going back to 40 m to catch a S2S contact with Andrew VK1NAM/2 on Livingstone Hill VK2/SM-093 at 0041Z. Soon after there were a string of 2 m FM S2S contacts with Mt Ginini, Mt Gingera and Livingston Hill, interspersed with some 40 m contacts. I waited until the team arrived at Mt Coree for three S2S contacts – VK1DA/p, VK5BJE/1 and VK5PAS/1. I then needed to pack up and head back to the car, with 35 contacts (34 unique calls) in the log. Not quite enough for WWFF qualification, but I needed to be in Canberra in time for a 2 pm meeting.
During some of the quieter times during the activation, I added a few rocks to the cairn.
On the walk back, I deliberately veered slightly right, dropping down to the road about 300 m short of the car. Once back at the car, it was a case of heading north to get to the southern parts of Canberra, then heading for the City and finding a car park. Do be sure to stop at the lookout near Hospital Hill – you get a terrific view across the upper Gudgenby River valley to the peaks to the west – many of then SOTA summits.
I arrived at the meeting venue only about 10 minutes late to join the Technical Advisory Committee discussions regarding band plans for 2 m and 70 cm bands. The meeting finally finished at around 5 pm. After that, it was time for the informal gathering and meal that marked the start of the WIA AGM and Conference activities, so it was time for a large glass of cider.
The rest of the evening was spent chatting with many amateurs, punctuated with a nice meal. Later than intended, I headed off with my host to the car and then headed to his home to chat some more before hitting the pillow.
Saturday was taken up with the WIA AGM, Open Forum and Conference talks. The Conference focussed on the introduction of the Foundation licence 10 years earlier and the development of the Assessment and licence application processes that are now in place. Assessors present at the meeting who had been undertaking that role from the beginning were all presented with certificates of recognition and a 10-year service badge. There were also talks about SOTA and Parks operating – Simon VK1FAAS and Andrew VK1NAM did a 2-person presentation on SOTA, and Paul VK5PAS on Parks activations and some of the Award schemes. All did very good jobs.
After the end of the formal session, I invited Paul VK5PAS to join me on a quick trip to Mount Ainslie.
Mount Ainslie VK1/AC-040 843 m 1 point
After a few minutes walking to the car, it was a matter of navigating to Mount Ainslie. We reached the top with incident and grabbed the pack to head to an operating site. I pulled out the handheld and called. Within a few minutes we had both qualified the summit. The wind was strong and cold, so we packed up and headed back to the meeting venue for a drink prior to dinner.
The dinner room was fairly crowded, but we soon found seats and conversations continued through the evening. After main course, Mark Loney of the ACMA gave a talk about some recent work he had undertaken in Mongolia for the ITU before moving on to cover some of the upcoming changes that are likely to occur within the ACMA, the regulatory framework and the manner in which the ACMA works. After the meal was finished, we watch a video and listened to a presentation on a proposal to hold the next AGM and Conference weekend in an exotic location: Norfolk Island. It all sounded interesting: be the DX, operate on an IOTA island, activate a WWFF reference and perhaps activate up to two SOTA summits…..
It was then back to my temporary home for further discussions and some sleep.
Sunday 10 May
I was up before 7.30 and hit the road by 8.15 after some further discussions with Andrew VK1MBE about antennas for SOTA. Many thanks for hosting me Andrew!
I navigated my way across southern Canberra to the Monaro Highway, then south to Michelago and turned right into Mount Livingstone Road. You climb steeply to the top of the spur and then park the car beside the gate to the rough track to the summit. After loading up with the gear, you then walk up the vehicle track through the paddock to the top of the hill. The wind was very strong!
Livingstone Hill VK2/SM-093 932 m 6 points
I set up just on the lee side of the summit ridge, between the two radio masts. This location afforded me some protection from the wind when sitting down behind some rocks. I used only a small squid pole, but the antenna was not very high above the ground as a result of my location.
As I was nearing the summit, RRT alerted for a station in Korea – a target that I hoped to chase. Andrew VK3ARR / HL1ZIH was in Seoul on business and was out for some SOTA fun. I quickly set up the gear with the antenna on 10 m. I heard brief snippets from Andrew, but was unable to make contact. I gave up and switched to 40 m to get the summit qualified.
I worked Andrew VK1DA/p on VK1/AC-042 for a S2S on 40 m, then we tried for a 2 m contact. I pulled out my lightweight end-fed dipole and taped it to the squid pole. We tried for several minutes before I pulled the dipole out to horizontal polarisation and quickly made the contact – reports were S2 only, but the contact was made. Back on 40 m, there were a quick succession of S2S contacts with VK5PAS/1, VK5BJE/1 and Andrew VK1NAM/p, all on Mount Ainslie VK1/AC-040. I made a further 10 contacts before giving up with the cold windy conditions and heading back to the car for the long trip home. Last in the log was VK2CCW/p on VK2/HU-093 for a CW S2S contact.
The wind was getting wilder the further south I drove. I took a short break at Nimmitabel to grab some lunch at the bakery, and another short break near the Victorian border. Approaching Cann River saw the odd shower of rain, with evidence of earlier falls on the road. I decided to not attempt to activate the nearby Parks, rather to head towards home.
Lake Tyers State Park VKFF-761
On Thursday I had made only 12 contacts from this new WWFF reference. The timing was looking good for a possible long path opening to Europe on 20 m when I drove through Nowa Nowa, so I headed up the hill to Smarts Break to set up a little further up the track to set up the station again.
First in the log at 0525Z was Bob VK5FO/p on VK5/SE-013, who was operating on 14.310 MHz (IIRC). I moved a little up the band and worked Mike VK6MB, followed by a long pile-up of European stations. With 54 stations in the log by 0614Z, I switched to 40 m to give some locals the Park, working 18 more stations before packing up in the rain.
It was now only a bit over two hour’s driving time to home, but I made a stop for a quick coffee and chat with Rob VK3EK in Bairnsdale, as you drive past Rob’s home as you drive into Bairnsdale. After the coffee, it was an uneventful drive back to the Latrobe Valley after a very long day.
Overall, it was a great weekend: 2 new WWFF references qualified to the WWFF level as an Activator, and one reference comfortably past the 10 contacts required for VKFF; 3 SOTA summits activated – all new Uniques for me, plus activating them made the summits Complete. Plus there was lots of good interaction with others over the course of the meeting and social events.