The Port Macquarie Dozen

Foxhunting at Port Mac and a Dozen SOTA Summits – June 2015

Oxley Region Amateur Radio Club put on a field day each Queen’s Birthday long weekend. For my second visit to this event the weekend was expanded to a week and a dozen summits added to the itinerary. Six of the summits were first activations. It made for an interesting and rewarding trip. Here’s a summary…

Summits activated (reordered chronologically)

Date Summit First
activation
QSOs Points Total
Thu 04/Jun/2015 VK2/MN-132 (Berrico) Y 25 6 437
Fri 05/Jun/2015 VK2/MN-069 (Mount Cairncross) 22 2 445
Fri 05/Jun/2015 VK2/MN-045 (Five Ways Hill) 8 2 443
Fri 05/Jun/2015 VK2/MN-032 (VK2/MN-032) 9 4 441
Sat 06/Jun/2015 VK2/MN-081 (North Brother) 25 1 446
Sun 07/Jun/2015 VK2/MN-066 (Middle Brother) 19 2 448
Mon 08/Jun/2015 VK2/MN-024 (Mount Gibraltar) 26 4 452
Mon 08/Jun/2015 VK2/MN-128 (Oxley Tobin) Y 44 6 458
Tue 09/Jun/2015 VK2/NT-019 (VK2/NT-019) Y 17 8 466
Tue 09/Jun/2015 VK2/NT-021 (VK2/NT-021) Y 22 8 474
Wed 10/Jun/2015 VK2/MN-147 (VK2/MN-147) Y 15 4 484
Wed 10/Jun/2015 VK2/MN-129 (Coneac) Y 19 6 480
APRS track with activated (green) and unactivated (red) summits marked

APRS track with activated (green) and unactivated (red) summits marked

Thu – drive north

Port Mac is a 350km drive north of Sydney. For the drive up I’d pencilled in 3 new summits, but only the first, Berrico VK2/MN-132 was activated. The other two, VK2/MN-136 and VK2/MN-123 The Pinnicle, were not easily car-accessible due to a narrowing of the Mountaineer Track. Berrico is easy to activate being able to drive into the AZ. There is a comms site there but lots of open space to set up away from it. Nice views too. Access is via Spring Creek Rd off Bucketts Way on the road to Gloucester. The APRS track stopped shortly after the turnoff onto this rough road – too much vibration perhaps!

Berrico summit VK2/MN-132

Berrico summit VK2/MN-132

Fri – Port Macquarie Summits

Activated 3 summits to the NW of Port Mac though the APRS tracking is not shown on the map. Finding the access to Mt Cairncross VK2/MN-069 was very difficult with a number of dead ends tried. Once I did get there, QRM was a problem with 5 towers on the site and no easy way to get away from them. Best access is via Scrubby Creek Rd and Jacks Rd.

Five Ways Hill VK2/MN-045 is a nice location with a picnic spot having commanding views and no QRM. It is an easy drive in along Hastings Forest Way though one road section was blocked due to logging activities so a hasty detour was required.

Five Ways Hill summit picnic area VK2/MN-045

Five Ways Hill summit picnic area VK2/MN-045

Further west on Hastings Forest Way one finds VK2/MN-032 which has an overgrown access track and a trig point marker. It is in the Willi Willi NP VKFF-537. It was dark for most of my activation here. Returned to Diamond Head camp site for overnight. This is in the Crowdy Bay NP but there was no time to activate it – d’oh!

Diamond Head

Diamond Head

Sat – Field Day 1

Field Day events didn’t start until after lunch so I visited North Brother VK2/MN-081 on the way and set up at the trig point for a combined SOTA/WWFF activation, being Dooragan NP VKFF-143. Left later than planned as fresh S2S contacts cropped up with Glenn VK3YY and Alan VK7BO. Arrived at the Field Day site at a Port Mac school in time to miss the BBQ lunch, but well before the first foxhunt. There were 3 events in the afternoon and I managed third in all 3. Heavy rain fell for much of the afternoon, but that did not dampen the spirits of the hounds. After the end of the day I set up my tent at the local campground – and it was still raining. Saturday night was spent in pleasant company and surrounds at the local Golf Club for the annual field day dinner.

View from North Brother lookout

View from North Brother lookout

Sun – Field Day 2

Trophy for Sun 80m pedestrian foxhunt win

Trophy for Sun 80m pedestrian foxhunt win

Rain cleared overnight and the second day had 4 foxhunts on the card. My results were mixed – anywhere from first to did not find. Sunday was a busier day at the field day with more traders and equipment on offer. At the closing presentation I picked up a trophy for first in the 80m pedestrian hunt using a standard radio with no mods – I had used a VX8R hand-held and whip antenna. Overall I came third on points – not bad considering I did not have specialised foxhunting gear nor any recent practice. I just used my KX3, a tape-measure 3-el yagi for 2m and a ferrite rod antenna for 80m for most events.

After the end of proceedings headed south for a SOTA activation of Middle Brother VK2/MN-066, setting up at dusk and operating into the night. The site has the main TV transmitter mast for the mid-north coast so is very noisy. Still managed to work some EUs on 20m CW, but nothing on 10m or 6m. Its another beautiful spot for photography, overlooking the coastline and South Brother.

Middle Brother view with South Brother in the foreground

View from Middle Brother with South Brother in the foreground

Mon – Oxley Hwy summits

Travelling west long the Oxley Hwy with three summits planned, the first being Mt Gibraltar VK2/MN-024 on the way to Ellenborough Falls. Turned out to be a bush bash for the last 500m to the summit with no obvious track. Nice views from the top though partly obscured. Trig point used for squid pole support and no QRM so made contacts on 10m and into NA on 15m CW. Also 40m, 30m and 20m.

VK2/MN-024 summit with Donkin trig point

Mt Gibraltar VK2/MN-024 summit with Donkin trig point

Decided there was little time for the 2x19km detour to Ellenborough Falls and drove on to Oxley Tobin VK2/MN-128, but did not arrive much before dark. The last 500m is a walk along an overgrown firetrail and there was no trig point at the end of it, but plenty of cleared area to set up an antenna. Worked all 40m except one 10m CW contact and plenty of interest as this was a first activation. Closed down at 6pm.

The third summit planned was Mt Seaview VK2/MN-003. A number of access routes such as the blocked Tobins Rd were tried for this one before finding Seaview Rd. It too became overgrown and impassable 5km before the summit. Stayed there overnight and waited for daylight before continuing.

Tue – Walcha summits

In the morning it was clear that one would need to bushbash along the “road” to reach the summit, but I didn’t fancy the amount of time and effort involved. One for the more adventurous to claim the prize as first activator. There appears to be no access to the summit from the township of Mt Seaview. Continued west on the Oxley Hwy.

Followed a cross-country route to get to VK2/NT-019, but after passing 8 gates and many cows all I found was a gate with a private property sign so had to retrace my steps. Ended up driving around through Walcha and found a track for the last 1km drive to the summit. Easy though 4WD recommended. There is a solar-powered comms site at the top, but away from the “Moona” trig point so no QRM. Very open, nice views and a great spot. Made one contact into NA on 20m CW.

VK2/NT-019 summit with Moona trig point

VK2/NT-019 summit with Moona trig point

Next goal was VK2/NT-021, a little further west, returning along the road to Walcha then turning north on a side road. One can drive all the way but the summit is on private land and the owner I encountered did not seem too amenable. Luckily, part of the AZ falls on an adjacent rise nearly as high that is on public land. One does not need to walk all that far and the grades are shallow. Worked this summit on 40m and 20m mainly with one EU on 20m CW and one VK6 contact on 10m.

Sunset at VK2/NT-021

Sunset at VK2/NT-021

Closed down at dusk and continued back to Walcha for a nice feed at the pub and set up my tent at the excellent local campsite complete with camp kitchen/TV lounge with wood-fired heater. Luxury!

Walcha camp site

Walcha camp site complete with cows in the next field

Wed – Thunderbolt’s Way summits

Departed Walcha and headed SE along Thunderbolt’s Way on the road to Gloucester. After 100km reached the turnoff labelled “Stoney Spur” to the next summit VK2/MN-147 in the Giro State Forest. Drove 200m along the track before it became impassable and I was already in the AZ. Decided to leg it to GZ to see if there is a trig point but none found. Set up in the bush along the overgrown track about 100m from the car and worked into NA on 10m CW as well as the usual 40m CW and SSB. An easy spot to activate and a first activation at that. No Optus mobile coverage.

Shack at VK2/MN-147

Shack at VK2/MN-147

Continued S towards Gloucester and soon found the Craven Creek Rd turnoff to the Coneac State Forest Rd. Its about 15km along the poorly maintained forest road. I had to clear many fallen trees from the road by hand to get through. The last part is quite overgrown and I should have walked it, but it was getting late and in the end I was able to drive almost to the Coneac VK2/MN-129 trig point. There is a clearing at the top good for setting up antennas. The mist rolled in shortly after I arrived and after I started operating it started drizzling. Continued operating after fetching a blanket from the car. Only 40m was used. Eventually it was getting dark and too wet to continue plus I wanted some daylight for the first part of the drive back so I packed up. Another first activation and the last one of the trip. 4WD or AWD is recommended for this summit – and next time I’ll bring a handsaw. No Optus mobile coverage here.

VK2/MN-129 summit with Coneac trig point at the far right

VK2/MN-129 summit with Coneac trig point at the far left

Thank you!

Thanks to the many stations that made contact during the trip – 251 SOTA contacts plus 29 mobile ones as well. Big thanks to those who spotted me on SOTAwatch, especially when I had no coverage. I was never short of a call.
Thanks to ORARC for organising the Field Day and the fox hunting!

Highlights

  • Winning a foxhunt
  • Catch up at Port Macquarie Field Day
  • 12 new SOTA summits (53 activator pts)
  • 6 first activations
  • 2 National Parks activated
  • 40m CW contact to NA
  • Many 10m contacts: local, VK6 and NA
  • Walcha camp site
  • Sunset/sunrise at Diamond Head
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