Activating Orroral Hill, VK1/AC-012

Now I understand why this ‘hill’ has only been activated once before! There were times I seriously doubted my ability to make it to the top, it was that challenging.

But let me start at the beginning.

I made contact with Andrew, VK1NAM, who planned to reactivate this summit. I say reactivate because he was the bloke who activated it for the first time back in 2013. I asked if I could accompany him and he said there was room in his car for the trip, so I was delighted. Coming along also would be Adan, VK1FJAW.

Orroral Hill is an interesting place, being situated some 49km from Canberra City in the Namadgi National Park. It is famous for another reason; it was there that a space tracking station operated 24/7 between 1965 to 1984 as part of NASA’s world wide tracking and data network.

This is the footprint of the huge dish that has since been taken away.

This is the footprint of the huge dish that has since been taken away.

We parked the car here, put our back packs on and headed for the hills. The first leg of our hike would take us to the remains of the Orroral Geodetic Observatory, some 4.1 km away.

Adan (left) and Andrew signing the visitors log. This is a good safety measure that I would come to understand as he progressed. It's so easy to get lost up there.

Adan (left) and Andrew signing the visitors log. This is a good safety measure that I would come to understand as we progressed. It’s so easy to get lost up there.

This leg was on a formed path that got progressively steeper as we made our way ever deeper into the bush. The average grade was 9% and it took us an hour and twenty minutes to reach the telescope for a rest.

The ten ton telescope and laser originated in Arizona (USA). Laser pulses were fired to the moon and bounced back via retroreflector mirrors placed on the moon's surface by Apollo astronauts.

The ten ton telescope and laser originated in Arizona (USA). Laser pulses were fired to the moon and bounced back via retroreflector mirrors placed on the moon’s surface by Apollo astronauts.

From the telescope to the summit is only 1.6 km away but this is where the going gets tough. You see, there are no tracks so it’s a matter of scrub-bashing through the thick wattle undergrowth. The scrub is so thick that frequently you can’t see where you are going and need to trust your GPS to keep you on course. The wearing of gloves paid off as you have to part the thick scrub by hand to get through.

Adan (left) and I take another frequent stop to suck in air and let our legs regain some strength so we can push on.

Adan (left) and I take another frequent stop to suck in air and let our legs regain some strength so we can push on.

This leg took us 1 hour 40 minutes, more than the first leg, due to the almost impassable scrub. The gradient here was a very steep 16%.

Andrew making slow progress through the heavy scrub.

Andrew making slow progress through the heavy scrub.

At times the going was so tough that it took us 30 minutes to cover a mere 10m. But we made it to the top and were rewarded with a most magnificent view.

I erected my Buddistick antenna on this huge slab of granite. There was no soil at all, just granite.

I erected my Buddistick antenna on this huge slab of granite. There was no soil at all, just granite.

Height above sea level at our operating position was 1594 meters. I was using my Elecraft KX1 with 6 internal AA Alkaline batteries, so I was only able to put out 1 Watt. Nevertheless, I was more than happy with the four contacts I made (in addition to two on FM simplex). One of them was with VK5CZ, who was also on a summit, VK5/SE-003 in South Australia.

Admiring the view with Andrew (left).

Admiring the view with Andrew (left).

After two hours operating, we decided it was time for a group photograph before packing up and beginning the long decent.

Orroral Peak 11

Ascent Data:
Leg 1. 406 metres
Leg 2. 268 metres
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6 thoughts on “Activating Orroral Hill, VK1/AC-012

  1. It was very interesting to read your perspective of the trip as a recent SOTA recruit! You all did well to get up to that peak, it is a tough one indeed. I have also enjoyed reading through your other posts about your elecraft and various paddles.
    73
    Andrew vk1da/vk2uh

    • This has turned out to be an addictive aspect of amateur radio, Andrew. And what an introduction – one of the toughest climbs for all sorts of reasons. I think my ‘thing’ will be working CW SOTA as much as possible as this is especially challenging: trying to keep the brain working sufficiently to copy CW when short of oxygen and wondering what on earth it is doing up there in such remote and extreme environments! And throw in trying to take in breathtaking views, you’ll understand my interest.

  2. It sure looks like SOTA has got into your blood. I wonder if you would have made any more contacts should you have taken a Li Ion battery along instead? In other words, were you hearing stations but they were not hearing you?
    Well done to all three of you
    Ian ZL12AIM

    • Hi Ian, Four contacts on CW is all I need for the activation to be official. And considering I was only using cheap AA cells bought from Target, they lasted up well in that they allowed my a good hour and a half at 1.3 Watts output. My next ‘upgrade’ will be to try better batteries, but I do shudder at trying AA Lithiums as they will set me back around $40 for 6 here, which is more than they are worth. And they’ll still only give me around 1.5 W output. When I get back to Brisbane I’ll invest in a LiPo battery that will give the rig a solid 12V (instead of the 9V from AAs). This should produce a good 3 W output. But so far I am more than pleased with the contacts I have been making.

  3. Pingback: Proposed SOTA Activation – Prairie Dog Hill VK1/AC-045 | Get out of the Radio Shack and Live Life

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