05 May 2015

10 SOTA Activation: Orroral Hill VK1/AC-012 (05 May 2015)


Orroral Hill VK1/AC-012 (05 May 2015)

Andrew VK1NAM extended an invitation to the VK1_SOTA Group to join him in activating Orroral Hill. Grant VK4JAZ (who is visiting from Queensland) and I decided to take up the invitation and met up with Andrew at his QTH. According to the BOM we could expect "...thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening..." but when we arrived at the Orroral Hill Tracking Station car park in the Namadgi reserve, we only had a few spots of fog. It was going to be a perfect day.

Site of the Orroral Hill Tracking Station


How to Get There

Access to the summit starts at the Orroral Tracking Station parking lot. The Granite Tors walking track takes you two thirds of the way and terminates after 4 Km at the old geodetic ranging station.

This leg took the three of us 1 hour and 20 minutes of steady climbing up through the forest on a cleared footpath. We heard a few Lyrebird calls close to the little stream, 3 Km along the track. At the end of the track, we stopped at the geodetic station lookout for a breather and enjoyed the views down into the valley.

Geodetic Station's Dome

View from the Geodetic Station's Lookout

 After stopping at the lookout, the real trek began. We had 1.6 Km to go but there were no footpaths and we had a lot of scrub bashing ahead. This kind of walking reminded me more of wading through deep water because one could not see where you placed your feet and had to use your arms to part the brush ahead so that you could push your way through. We took frequent breaks and had to adjust our SOTAWATCH alert twice because of the slow going. Thankfully Andrew VK1NAM had done this before and we were forewarned: trousers, long sleeves and gloves is a must if you don't want to remain as one long read smear on the face of the hill as each shrub takes a nibble. I often had to grab handfuls of brush to steady myself as my feet slipped on invisible rocks or stumps. One could easily get into trouble here - it wouldn't be wise to do this kind of bush walking on your own.

Oftentimes the brush was so thick that I lost sight of Andrew and Grant ahead and I could only follow their sound. Without a GPS we had no way of telling up from down, let alone whether we were on track to reach the summit.
We waded through this scrub for 1.6 Km at an average gradient of 16% (16m up for every 100m forward)
Picture Courtesy of Andrew VK1NAM

We eventually reached the top after 1 hour and 40 minutes. Yep, the 1.6 Km took us longer than the first 4 Km had! The struggle to the top proved to be worth the effort. The giant granite tors were ready to welcome us as we pushed through the last obstacles, with only clear blue skies in sight. This was the first time ever I had been on a hill like this without even a whisper of a breeze. It was perfectly still, perfectly clear. It was just perfect.

Orroral Hill Summit, 1605m AMSL.

Special Permissions or Arrangements

No special permission required to access the hill.
Remember to sign the register at the trail head of the Granite Tor Walking track.
Pick your dress carefully: ...if you don't want to succumb to a thousand cuts and scrapes, wear trousers, sturdy boots, gaiters, long sleeved shirt and gloves.

Summit Information

Orroral Hill's summit is 1605 meters above mean sea level and it is worth 6 SOTA activation points. Its Maidenhead locator is QF44li. If you need shelter, you could move between the two rocks that lean against each other, forming a gateway to the other side of the summit. If you had to spend the night, this is where I would do it. If you run out of water on your way up, refill at the stream 3 Km from the Car park, just to the right of the foot path, before you get to the geodetic station.

Gateway to the Western Side of Orroral Hill

I set up my squid pole against a bush on the western side of the summit, after passing through the gateway. There was no soil to be seen, only bare naked rock ringed by small gum trees. Andrew VK1NAM set up on the Eastern side, using a smallish tree as support for his Squid Pole whereas Grant VK4JAZ set up right on the eastern edge, overlooking the Orroral valley.

Contacts Made

After the morning's march, this day was never only going to be about the number of contacts made. Orroral Hill's solid rock floor made it very hard to find a proper match for the SOTA Beams Band Springer Antenna and Adventure Tuner that I was trying out.

Before I set up though, Andrew VK1NAM was talking on his HT to Andrew VK1DA/P, who were on Mount Majura. When he was done, I co-opted the hand held and subsequently made 4 quick Simplex contacts, first with Andrew VK1DA/P (Summit to Summit from Orroral Hill to Mount Majura), then with Ian VK1DI (Summit to Summit from Orroral Hill to Booroomba Rocks), Roald VK1FIVE in Gungahlin and an unknown caller, VK1FCBX who were operating portable on a hill in Canberra.

In the picture below you can see the positions of Andrew VK1DA, Ian VK1DI and Roald VK1FIVE, relative to Orroral Hill.

Distances: VK1FIVE 54Km, VK1DA/P 50 Km, VK1DI 10.6Km

After the first quick contacts, I set-up the Squid Pole, band Springer with Adventure Tuner. I tried all the settings but could not get a good match on 40m. Andrew VK1NAM posted a spot for me on Sotawatch (7.160SSB) and I started calling. I was lucky to get Jeff VK1FANG, Peter VK3FPSR and Pete VK2FPMC because apparently my signal was not getting out. I got a 5/5 from Vk1FANG and a 2/2 and 3/3 from VK3FPSR and VK2FPMC respectively.

After calling for about 15 minutes without  response on 7160 MHz, I changed to 7100 where I could clearly hear Mick VK3PMG having a whale of a time in one of the parks in Victoria. Mick made 8 contacts in the 10 minutes I was trying to call him, but at no time could he hear me, nor could any of his callers, including Gerard VK2IO in Sydney.

The rocks were badly affecting the end-fed antenna/match combination.

My take-away lesson for the day was that the Band Springer / Adventure Tuner might be a good antenna / match combination when you have access to a decent ground, but out on a granite summit like this one, you wanted the solid reliability of a dipole. If you want to prep for the zombie apocalypse, pack a dipole, not an end-fed. ;-)

Thank you Ian and Andrew for the two Summit to Summit contacts and thank you to every Chaser who came up for a contact!

Useful Links

SOTAWATCH Summit Information: Summit VK1/AC-012

TAMS Website with information about Namadgi National Park: Namadgi 
TAMS Granite Tors Pamphlet: Granite Tors Walking Track
John Evans' Bush Walking Blog: Orroral Hill
GPS GPX Track Log: Download Link 


Unknown said...

Hello to vk1fjaw. I am vk1fcbx, Ross, and it was great to eventually confirm the contact with the AC-012 group, despite very marginal signal and readability on my 2 watt Baofeng UV-3R with quarter wave whip. My location was the trig point on 600m (approx) Oxley Hill. In fact, this is on the same bearing as was vk1da on Mount Majura. vk1da was upwards of 50km worth of simplexing, and I was close to 30km (and making hard work of it with inferior equipment!). Cheers to everyone who likes to stand on hills with big antennas.

AdanVK1 said...

G'Day Ross, thanks for your post - I'll update the log to add your name.
Thanks for the contact!

If you haven't already, please join the VK1 Area SOTA Yahoo Group.

We have a dinner at least once a month where we have a bit of a show and tell and discuss all things radio.