My partner Helen (VK7FOLK) and I have been looking for an opportunity to do a SOTA activation in the North West of Tasmania for some time. Since relocating here we’ve done just the two to date. The peaks seem to require quite a lot of effort to reach and most in these parts are only the 1 point. That said, we’re not competitive people so not too bothered about the points but were concerned at being told by some that access to certain summits was closed.
The Dial Range, located south of the town of Penguin is relatively close to us and has a number of summits including Mt Duncan, Mt Montgomery and Mt Gnomon. We’ve already been to Mt Montgomery and I activated it for SOTA (2 metres only) in early 2017. I’ve not decided yet whether I have the courage to return for some HF activity due to the very steep, dangerous section of the walk coming up to the peak. Time will tell!
Mt Gnomon looked fairly straightforward to get to and the only question mark was the state of the access road which I’ve been told has declined considerably in recent years. We do not have a 4WD vehicle so will not risk driving on very rough roads which could damage our car. Today, we decided to have a go at activating Mt Gnomon. It is supposed to be easily accessible from the Mt Gnomon carpark.
We drove east to Penguin and down Ironcliffe Road and on to Hale Road which is a gravel road. We followed the road and considered turning back a couple of times. It is a bit rough for our car but we took it very slowly and found the carpark shortly afterwards. The car park indicates that Mt Gnomon is a one hour return walk and Mt Dial two hours. There is also a path that commences here to Mt Duncan which is a four hour return walk.
Whilst I of course realised that it would have been handy to have 40 metre capability, I decided to take the Buddipole for this activation using the shock cord mast. This was after what I observed of the Mt Montgomery summit which was narrow, lacking the room for a 40m inverted vee on a fishing pole. It turned out to be a fortunate choice! The Buddipole can be easily configured for various bands as a vertical dipole but I knew from experience that 10m would be the easiest. I also made this decision due to our summer time and the often excellent sporadic E conditions that exist on the band.
We got our gear organised and commenced our walk up the summit. Other than the climb it was an easy, safe walk and we were on the summit within about half an hour. It was a bit windy and there were a few drops of rain but fortunately the forecast was right and this didn’t last. We were initially QRV on the Baofeng 70cm/2 metre handhelds shortly after 01:00 UTC and similarly to my experience on Mt Montgomery we both activated the summit quickly on these two bands.
Our first contacts were with Graeme VK7KT and Mike VK7MD who are located in Burnie. I knew they would be a certainty and had forewarned them of our activation. I had also advised Steve VK7CW of our plans and wasn’t sure how we’d go getting him. Steve is some distance away in the North West but he advised it was 33km line of sight mountain to his QTH which is at high altitude and an easy contact. He was of course correct with booming signals both ways. We were then also called by Dick VK7DIK in Ulverstone who was also a booming signal.
The contacts then dried up on 2m and 70cm so we looked for somewhere to set up the Buddipole on 10 metres. This didn’t prove easy because we needed a tree or something similar to attach the shock cord mast to. It was also quite windy but we sorted one out and set up the antenna and managed to get a good SWR with the single counterpoise/radial wire and were up and running at around 02:20 UTC. To begin with we worked the local gang again and I wasn’t sure what 10m would bring. We were operating with just 10 watts with an antenna no more than about one and a half metres from the ground and it was very close to trees etc. I had a quick listen and was hearing some interstate beacons so I knew the band was open to some extent.
Any concerns on our ability to work interstate quickly evaporated when our first non-local caller was Paul VK5PAS who was faint but an easy copy. To my surprise Helen’s next caller was ZL1BYZ and she was also called by ZL3IN during the activation. We also ended up with several callers from VK4 so were very happy with the activation. When the callers dried up around 02:50 UTC, in light of the windy conditions, we didn’t hang around and went QRT. We ended up with 29 contacts between us and enjoyed the activation very much.
One of our last contacts was with Kevin VK7HKN in the Launceston area which is in excess of 100 kilometres from Mt Gnomon so we were very impressed with a ground wave contact this far.