January 11, 2017 had hardly got going when my son Garrett, his partner Vicky and I set out to activate Mt Warning, an ancient volcano that is said to be over 20 million years old. For this expedition, we hired accommodation in Byron Bay as this would cut down travelling time to the mountain. You see, we wanted to watch the sun rise from the summit.
We packed the car and headed for the base of the mountain at 2.45 am, arriving there at 4.11 am. I was a little surprised to see that we weren’t the only ones with that idea; there were around ten cars parked in the car park already!
An information board advised us that the hike would take between 4 and 6 hours to cover the 9 km track.
We also noticed that right from the start the going was uphill. I could feel this was going to be a most challenging activation. What was beginning to concern me was that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. I mean, Garrett is a professional sportsman and Vicky is an ultra-marathon and Iron Man competitor while I am a newly retired ‘senior’. Was I in the right company or what? At least there were four helicopter landing platforms, which gave some sort of comfort.
Sunrise was around 6 am, but we weren’t at the summit to view it. However, we were close enough and boy, was it spectacular!
We arrived at the hardest part of the climb; this involves a very challenging rock climb that was billed as a grade 5 climb – the hardest in the book. A heavy chain provides essential support all the way up; this part took us a good 20 minutes to complete.
After resting for a few minutes and taking in the view, I erected my squidpole and long wire antenna.
Then I began calling CQ. After my first contact (with ZL1BZY) the ants appeared. They seemed as fascinated with what was going on as the other mountain climbers.
I also found out that their bites were painful!
After making six contacts, it was time to pack up and head back down. The weather forecast was for heavy rain and we didn’t fancy the prospect of tackling the chains in the wet.
We arrived back at the base of the mountain at 10.24 am and headed for a wonderful cafe in the heart of the Wollumbin National Park for breakfast.
This was the hardest activation I have done so far. I still wonder how an old fella who passed us on the way up did so bare foot. He said he could feel the rocks better that way!
This activation bought home to me the absolute necessity of minimizing weight as much as possible. My back pack weighed in at a hefty 8 kg, and that was without our water bottles. The biggest culprit here was my gel cell, which is far too heavy. I think next time I will use six internal AA cells and sacrifice 3 Watts of power. Either that or I will invest in a LiPo battery pack. I also took up items that I never used, like binoculars.
Having done most of my climbing in the ACT so far, I was inappropriately dressed. All other climbers were in shorts and singlets while I wore long pants and a long sleeve shirt; far too hot.
So there are always lessons to be learned, aren’t there?