10 November 2015

21. SOTA Activation: Mount Morgan VK2/SM-011

On the same weekend that Andrew VK1NAM cracked the 1000 point barrier to become a SOTA Goat and Andrew VK1DA passed 500 points to become half a Goat, I creeped past 100 points. My glacial pace mostly due to my choice of activating local 1 and 2 point summits before I thought to look further for high value summits. Interestingly, due to the way that SOTA summits have their points allocated, the ACT has many 1 pointers very close to Canberra, that if they were located in NSW, would have been at least worth 4 points. Take for example Mount Majura at 888 meters or Rob Roy at 1099 meters, respectively 1 and 2 pointers in the ACT, but also both higher than Spring Hill, a 4-pointer located just across the ACT border in NSW.

One night I opened my computer and had a look at OzTopo maps, looking for clusters of higher scoring summits, similar to the trio of Webs Ridge, Baldy Range and Dingi Dingi that pushed me over the 100 point line. I identified three peaks in the Tinderies to the west of Canberra and two peaks south of Namadgi near Yaouk. I decided to go for the southern peaks first because they looked more accessible than the Tinderies. After a bit of planning, a mate - Francois - and I headed down Boboyan road on our way to Mount Morgan VK2/SM-011 and Half Moon Peak VK2/SM-016. The plan was to take the road to Yaouk, then Kennedy’s trail and finally Lone Pine fire trail all the way to the top of the ridge next to Mount Morgan from where we would scrub bash our way to the top.

We made good time and arrived at the Lone Pine Trail head around 08:30. I had come this way a few weeks before on a recce mission and could not get up the trail for lack of grip on my 2WD ute. As part of the recce, I walked a few hundred meters up the trail and because I saw no gates, assumed it was all good to the top. Things did not go according to plan. About 500 meters further up the trail than where I had come to earlier, we came to a locked pipe across the road. We would have to heel it from there. This added an extra 4 Km to our return journey and killed the idea of going for both Mount Morgan and Half Moon Peak on the same day.

We started climbing and made good time, covering the 2 Km of fire trail in about 45 minutes. Along the trail we came across (what we took to be) a fancy earthworm: black on top, and light blue below, we were very impressed by our “discovery”. We wondered aloud if locked fire trail gates was in the rural fire service’s best interests: when roads are unused they fall in disrepair, are overgrown etc. Surely, we thought, there had to be a better way to control access than just to lock down every fire trail. We toyed with a few ideas and in no time we turned into the bush and started descending to the saddle at the foot of Mount Morgan’s north-eastern slope. The scrub was not too bad and we could easily weave through the obstacle course.

Halfway up Lone Pine Trail

At the saddle we heard the burbling sound of running water but could see nothing. There were a few dead trees and shrubs that had fallen or grown over a small stream. The water sounded substantial and we made our way across the stream by walking on the sturdiest of dead tree trunks, holding on to dead branches and scrub. We crossed at about S35.73060 E148.79587 (have a look at the GPS track below). After the brook it was up all the way from 1500 meters to the summit at 1874 meters.

A river runs through it - this is where we crossed by walking over tree trunks.

Immediately after the stream the scrub was pretty thick and we had to push through a few small gaps in the growth. The scrub thinned out somewhat and about halfway up we took a short break on a convenient tea break rock. After encountering the first big rocks it wasn’t far before we came upon a large clearing - a nice meadow with tussock grass, short flowery shrubs and a few beautiful old Snow Gums.

Nice meadow with Snow Gums not too far from the summit.

We pushed on and could see the summit to our right, towards the north of our track. We walked up to the ridge and followed along it to the summit. On our way there we walked past big granite tors and one that reminded me of Obelix, Goscinny and Uderzo’s menhir delivering Gaul.

The menhir a la Asterix and Obelix.

We arrived at the summit at 11:45, after about 3 hours of walking. The summit was large and flat, about the size of 3 or 4 football fields. It was covered in tussocky grass, flowering shrubs, Snow Gums and Granite tors. The view was brilliant - 360 degrees unimpeded by any trees or other summits. In the valley to the south we could see what we later identified as lake Eucumbene, 27 Km away. At the highest point Francois found a geocache, placed there by year 12 students from Narrabundah College. It contained a book with the names and comments of other people who had been on the summit. Some of the messages had us in stitches.

View to the South with Lake Eucumbene in the distance.

It was just before 12:00 so I went back down from the highest granite tor to the grassy field below to set-up. As I was unpacking, a familiar feature of the last 3 summits showed its face: hundreds of little black ants. They were everywhere and were really keen to walk on everything.

Francois helped me set-up and after about 10 minutes I was ready to go.

The shack on Mount Morgan.

I operated for about 45 minutes, making 10 contacts. After calling for about 5 minutes on 40 meters with no more responses, I packed up, took a few pictures and built a small SOTA cairn - add a rock next time when you are there. Just before we left I got a text message from Andrew VK1NAM who suggested we try to make a contact on 144 SSB - it was quick to get the rig and little yagi out and we had a great contact, very easy to copy regardless of being cross polarized at first.

SOTA Cairn
It was a great day with excellent weather and company - thank you Francois for coming along!

Contacts Made

Conditions were pretty ordinary on 40 meters. (That's an Aussie English euphemism for "conditions really sucked".) I did not have my link dipole antenna with me - it had broken the day before - and the quick and nasty 40m dipole I had made up couldn’t be adjusted for other bands. I had also forgotten the coax for the 2 meter yagi, which meant it couldn’t be mounted on the squid pole but I had to hold it up whenever I wanted to use it with the short coax pigtail.

I made a total of 11 contacts, three on 146.5 Simplex FM, seven on 7.09 SSB and one contact on 142.2 SSB. I managed four S2S contacts. A great big thank you to Tony VK1VIC who went to Mount Rob Roy and to Andrew VK1DA who was on Mount Mundoonen, both whom had gone out to summits to chase me on Mount Morgan. I managed a further S2S with Tony VK1VIC on 40 meters and also with Tony VK3CAT who was on Mount Little Joe in Victoria.

In summary, I made the following contacts:

Thank you for each contact!

Apology for missing everyone on 144.150 SSB

Unbeknownst to me, Andrew VK1DA sent an email to the VK1 Reflector to rustle up some 2 meter contacts because he knew that the propagation on 40 meters would be pretty ordinary - and that I would need every single contact on 2 meters to qualify the summit. Unfortunately he sent this email around 07:00 on Sunday morning and I did not know about it, having left home at 06:00. If I had, I would have called on 144.150 SSB as he had suggested in his email. Many thanks to Andrew who tried to help and sent that email, and also sorry to everyone who was on 144.150 SSB waiting for me to call there.

Special Permissions or Arrangements

No special arrangements are necessary. All access is via public roads. From Canberra, drive south on Boboyan road. Take the Yaouk road and turn off to Kennedy’s road. Go past the old Yaouk homestead and after the next gate, turn left onto Lone Pine trail. There are a number of gates on Kennedy’s road and although the 2nd last one before Lone Pine Trail has a notice about locked gates and private property beyond that point, John Evans has assured me that the road itself is for public access. Mount Morgan is in Kosciusko National Park, VKFF-0269.

Summit Information

Mount Morgan’s summit is 1874 meters above mean sea level and it is worth 10 SOTA activation points, plus a 3 point winter bonus. Its Maidenhead locator is QF44jg.
The huge summit consists of tussock grass, shrubs, rock slabs, granite tors and a few Snow Gums.
Mount Morgan is within easy reach of the Mt. Ginini repeater and I had Telstra mobile phone coverage.

Equipment Used

Yaesu FT817, Link dipole held up by a DX Wire squid pole and my improved Tape Measure Yagi for 2 meters.

Useful Links

GPS GPX Track Log and pictures: Dropbox Link.

Half Moon Peak - next time...

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