Arguably the biggest day on the SOTA calendar. A day when many take advantage of the New Year roll-over at 1100 AEDT or midnight UTC ( Greenwich Mean Time, or Zulu time ) where the summit points count for, in this case, calendar years 2021 and 2022……. making the one 10k round trip hike to the summit worth the effort!
Bullen Range lies to the west of Tuggeranong/Kambah. Access via a fire trail hike from Tidbinbilla Road. The distance from my home to the parking spot at Tidbinbilla Road is about 20k … then, of course one needs to add the inclusion of the nearest drive-through McDonalds coffee.
Some pundits suggest that this hike should take about 90 minutes… they probably don’t factor in a warm day (it was 35 degrees for the return hike), add to that, about a 20kg load of radios, first-aid kit, and a couple of litres of water, oh, and did I mention six ( 6) gates to get through/over/around? Only one gate was not locked.
It is a challenging hike. I was somewhat envious of many other activators telling about their 4WD journey – but then having to make several trips to unload all their kit – table, chair, sunshade, esky…. I wish……sigh! 🙂 I have activated this summit four times previously and this year I am 10kgs lighter and considerably fitter than in October 2020, being my previous visit to Bullen Range….. it is still a good slog workout! One previous visitor suggested using a pushbike would be a good idea…… SIX GATES!! It’s very steep in sections, I will let someone else give that mode of transport a try!
I arrived at the summit at 1020 local time… about 20 minutes later than planned – but things were only just warming up! There were many local VK1 SOTA activators out on summits – some were already driving to their second summit – others, like me, just had one summit planned.. I chose to restrict the time prior to “roll-over” to the GMT New Year to just 2m (VHF) FM operation – it was fast and furious! In less than 30 minutes I made 15 contacts of which 12 were ‘summit to summit’ (S2S). I probably could, and should have made more contacts, but it was very congested with so many people attempting the same thing. I also gave up trying to log each call using an app on my phone (alternatively on a 7″ tablet), however it was quicker and easier to simply log with pencil and paper – the way I did it for years in a previous radio life!!
At the stroke of midnight and Happy New Year ( GMT ) the chaos continued – everyone doing it all again to grab as many S2S contacts and chaser contacts as possible before slowing the pace and moving to HF. I logged 22 contacts post roll-over including 18 S2S – so that is 30 S2S contacts for the day.
Most contacts were local VK1, however once I chopped to HF, I logged good contacts into VK2 VK3 VK4 VK5 and ZL ( New Zealand) and an unsuccessful attempt to grab an S2S with a CW operator in Japan on 20m. I could hear his call quite well – but, not to be… I wont list his callsign publicly, but he was using a programmed keyer call of CQ and it was set to repeat – he would only stop if he heard a reply…. I doubt he was paying much attention or allowing more than 2 to 3 seconds between successive calls.. very frustrating! Put some headphones on and work your radio!
My radio for the day was my Yaesu FT-857D which is HF and 6m (52 MHz) plus VHF and UHF capable, and considerably more powerful than my FT-817 and KX-2 that are my SOTA regulars.
The treck back to the car was every bit as demanding as the climb… By now it was hovering around 35 degrees C. The steep downhill sections were quite treacherous with loose gravel ( again I stress the importance of using hiking poles!) and there were a few unwelcome climbs along the way….. and those six damned gates!
I was too tired to think about a photo of the car and where it was parked. I was glad to get back into it, get the airconditioning going flat out and head for the nearest shop to buy a large bottle of Solo lemon drink!! Did I carry enough water? Yes, I kept hydratred and only finished what I carried at the final gate heading back to the car.
Happy New Year everyone — This was a fantastic way to welcome in 2022!