3rd April 2016
On a work deployment to Wollongong for 3 weeks, and with home some 500km distant, what to do on the weekends? Well, activate a SOTA Summit or two, obviously!
The weather forecast wasn’t too promising and from Wollongong we could see a band of low cloud lurking just above the escarpment, but we could also see that the Summit of Mt Kembla was in the clear. So we took our time over a leisurely breakfast down on the seafront, while keeping an eye on the weather in case those clouds decided to drop a little lower. They didn’t, so we set off up the mountain.
The walking trail to the Summit of Mt Kembla is about 750 metres from start to finish, or about 1.5km return. There is an excellent parking spot just underneath the power lines on Cordeaux Rd and the Summit trail starts from here. We spent a bit of time wandering around looking at the views from the parking area before we started the walk, and were shocked and appalled by the amount of garbage that people had mindlessly dumped around the area. There were piles of domestic rubbish, burned out cars, old tyres, you name it. A beautiful rainforest area completely trashed by a few thoughtless, selfish individuals.
The trail of garbage continued onto the Summit track, with plastic snack wrappers, cardboard coffee cups and dog ends scattered in profusion along the path. The track enters the forest at one end of the parking area and about 50 metres in there is a sign board with a map of the area and some descriptions of its history, which is fascinating. The trail of garbage ended here, much to our relief.
The sign describes the trail as “difficult” which I suppose is accurate if one is not an experienced bushwalker. For those of us used to bush-bashing to Summits in the middle of nowhere it’s certainly not in the “difficult” category. It’s well marked, with long stretches of smooth, gently sloping terrain leading up the narrow ridge line through dense rainforest. The vegetation changes noticeably along the length of the trail and there are vary many birds in evidence, including lyre birds who lurk in the undergrowth mimicing all sorts of different sounds. There are a few steep places involving steps and scrambles over rocky outcrops, and in one place a steel ladder has been installed to make it easy to get over a very large rock outcrop.
The surface of the trail would be slippery and unstable in the wet; fortunately the weather had been dry for several days when we walked up and we had no difficulty reaching the Summit. There are several viewing points at the Summit looking out from the edge of the escarpment over Wollongong below. On a clear day the views are spectacular, so my advice is to take your camera. We did, but when we got there the clouds had begun to come down and a sea mist was rolling in, so everything below was lost in the haze.
A hundred metres or so back from the viewing areas we found a clearing in the forest where it appeared someone has lit a camp fire in the recent past. There were some handy fallen tree trunks to sit on and some nice overhanging branches to support the antenna, so we decided to set up there. A few spots of light rain began to fall while we were setting up, so I decided not to start on CW as planned but just to do a very quick SSB activation and then get out of there before any serious rain came down.
SOTA Goat once again refused to post a spot – I must delete that app, it’s become a waste of time in its latest incarnation – so I came up on 7MHz SSB to see who might be around. As expected, there were a few stations on the air so I found a clear frequency and put out a quick CQ. In short order I worked 10 stations including Compton VK2HRX who suggested we try an AM contact. So when the string of callers on SSB came to an end, Compton and I switched over to AM and made a quick S2S contact on that mode – my first ever HF contact on AM.
Stations worked on 7MHz SSB:
VK3LED, VK7CW, VK2IO/P (S2S VK2/HU-079), VK1DI, VK2HRX/P (S2S VK2/MN-081), VK2XGJ, VK1AD, VK3FOWL/P, VK3FQSO, VK3ARH,
Stations worked on 7MHz AM:
VK2HRX/P (S2S VK2/MN-081),
With that completed and the activation duly qualified, we decided to beat a hasty retreat before we got a soaking. Also, there was a hungry-looking leech lurking around our operating position and it very nearly got its lunch off my lady. We reckoned that if there was one, there would probably be more. We’re not keen on sharing our space with these critters!
The walk down from the Summit was uneventful and we arrived back in the car park to discover that, once we came out of the trees, a light rain was falling. It became much heavier on the drive down into Wollongong; the clocks have gone back, autumn has arrived, and the weather has duly gone to pot right on schedule!