16 September 2015

15. SOTA Activation: Prairie Dog Hill VK1/AC-039 (17 May 2015)

Andrew VK1NAM proposed to activate VK1/AC045 Prairie Dog Hill to the VK1_SOTA Mailing Group. I signed up and joined him on the 13th of September.

We drove out to the Ororral Tracking Station parking lot in the Ororral Valley and headed out towards Prairie Dog Hill around 07:30.

Prairie Dog Hill from Ororral Valley

It was a beautiful crisp morning and there was no wind. We reached the turnoff into the bush after about 90 minutes, having averaged about 3.4 Km/h over the 5.15 Km of vehicle tracks.

Initially there was very little Wattle scrubs to bash through so the going was fairly easy for the first 750 meters, over short grass, fern and gum trees. Gradually the slope increased and the scrub appeared.

Then our speed dropped way down to about 15 minutes per 100m. Not only was there wattle to wade through, similar to that of Ororral Hill, but we also had to make our way over or round huge granite tors.

We spent 90 minutes on the first 5.2 Km and then another 86 minutes on the last 1.7 Km, so about 3 hours from the Ororral car park to the top, 6.9 Km in total. By comparison, on our return trip, we did the scrub bashing bit in 78 minutes and the bit on the road in 79 minutes, for a total return trip time of 2 hours 38 minutes.

We were on the summit slightly after our advertised alert but we got going and called CQ at 10:35, about 30 minutes later than what we intended.

Cotter Hut Road

Turn off from Cotter Hut Road into the bush

I am disappearing in the Wattle scrub

Special Permissions or Arrangements

No special arrangements are necessary. All access is via public roads and Prairie Dog Hill is on Commonwealth land.

Summit Information

Prairie Dog Hill summit is 1330 meters above mean sea level and it is worth 2 SOTA activation points, plus a 3 point winter bonus. Its Maidenhead locator is QF44kj.

The summit consists of one big flat granite plate, with a convenient granite table perfect for packing out your gear. There is no straightforward spot to erect a squid pole antenna mast, but there is a smallish gum tree that could be used to hoist up a wire antenna as high as maybe 4-5 meters. The north-western side of the summit is fairly open to the horizon, except for a big granite tor that keeps watch.

The Mt. Ginini Repeater is within easy range of a HT and rubber ducky antenna.

Andrew VK1NAM operating from the table on the summit of Prairie Dog Hill.
The big granite Tor anchored one part of the dipole

Contacts Made

Andrew VK1NAM and I took turns in a tag-team activation arrangement. Initially I had the Squid Pole set-up with the tape measure Yagi and we were hoping to make a few quick contacts with my FT817.

Right between us and Canberra, was a few summits as high or higher than our 1330 meters and these interfered somewhat with our attempts. We switched to Andrew’s FT857 and retried with 10 Watts which was more successful.

We also found that using the tape measure Yagi in the horizontal plane was more effective. Despite having the tape measure Yagi, VHF conditions were still a bit of a challenge if one only had 5 Watts: for example one QSO with Grant VK4JAZ/1 couldn’t be completed and when we retried about 5 minutes later, suddenly we were exchanging 5/9 and 5/8 signal reports. In the end I managed 8 VHF contacts on 2 meters in a combination of FM and SSB.

Apart from local VK1 chasers, I also made contact with Steve VK7CW in Tassie, Robert VK2XXM in Grafton, Mike VK3XL in Victoria, Robin VK5TN in Mt. Gambier, Peter VK3YE on Chelsea Beach with a 2 Watt transceiver, Scott VK2IF in NSW, Ron VK3VBI in Victoria and Rick VK4RF in Queensland.

Thank you very much for every contact!

Summary of contacts:

Useful Links

GPS GPX Track Log: Dropbox Link.
VK1NAM Blog: https://vk1nam.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/sota-prairie-dog-hill-orroral-valley/

There were a few of these rock stairs to get up

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