Coolah Tops NP & the John Moyle Field Days
What started out to be a great trip was cut short by some wild weather. With the vehicle packed and ready to go, I headed of at 8 am Friday morning for the trip to Coolah Tops for the John Moyle Memorial Field Days radio contest & to do a National Park activation for the World Wide Flora & Fauna (WWFF) program.
The weather forecast for friday was for temps around 38 degrees celsius, it didn’t take long for the day to warm up, it was in the 30`s by the time I reached Gunnedah around 9 am. After purchasing a few last minute supplies I headed south towards Coolah, using the dirt back roads.
Travelling through the Liverpool Plains with the cotton and sorghum fields opening up over the vast plains, I could see my destination in the distance. The dirt roads were in good condition, so i made pretty good time apart from a few stops for photo`s. I arrived at Tamarang, a rail siding, at around midday to meet with Lindsay, VK2WJD, one of the team members for the contest.
When Lindsay arrived a short time later, we headed off with about an hours drive to the contest site. The drive up over Pandora`s Pass, which was discovered in 1823 by explorer Allan Cunningham with great views south towards Merriwa & Coolah over the grazing country left us with only 10 km to go. After descending into the valley, we had to make the climb back up to the contest site at 1021 meters ASL. The site is a baldy knob just above the access road to the National Park on private property.
The temperature had reached 39 degrees on the plains, it wasn`t any cooler up at the site. We had a look around and decided on were we were going to set up the stations & set about erecting the antennas. I put up a G5RV in between a couple of large trees while Lindsay put the 4 element Quad for 6 meters together. I could hear some voices about half an hour later, so I wandered over to find Lindsay working a station in Japan on 6 meters!. The JA station was coming in very strong, a good sign the new antenna was working well. You can see a short video of his contact on my Youtube Channel.
Most of the station was set up by 5 in the afternoon, so I headed the 2 km or so up the road into Coolah Tops National park to do my WWFF & VKFF activation as planned.
The park was actually closed for a hazard reduction burn which was happening well into the park. A National park ranger was at the entrance and he kindly let me sneak a couple of hundred meters into the park to set up for an hour before they locked the gates.
Finding a suitable tree to hang the 40 meter inverted V from, I had a look around the band & found Andrew, VK1NAM working a SOTA summit portable from Tuggeranong Hill, VK1/AC-036. Andrew is out on a summit somewhere most weekends, check out his blog at VK1NAM.
I decided to put out some calls on 7.130 MHz on the Icom IC-7000, getting a steady stream of callers from Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland & NSW. Ended up with 31 stations in the log for just over on hour calling. I visit this park often, so i will be back to get the remaining 13 stations needed to qualify for the WWFF.
The stations worked from Coolah Tops NP, VKFF-111
On 40 meters SSB were:
VK1NAM/p – Andrew VK4FABB – Brandon VK5FANA – Adrian VK4MDD – Wayne VK5PAS – Paul VK5FAKV – Shaun VK4IAA – John VK3ZZS/4 – Colin VK2AMI – Ross VK4FFAB – Rob VK3PMG – Mick VK3MEG – Steve VK5BJE – John VK7VAO/p – Damian VK3AXF – Ian VK5HSX/qrp – Stef VK3OHM – Mark VK3HRA – Allan VK3FJAE – Doug VK3FTAD – Fred VK2FCJZ – Ray VK3FPSR – Peter VK3ANL – Nick VK3FSPG – Steve VK2WGW – Glen VK3GRK – Graham VK4FKDB – Kerry VK3PF – Peter VK7CC – Paul
On 2 meters FM 146.500 MHz :
VK2BOZ/m – Cris VK2WJD/p – Lindsay
Thanks to all the stations that called in.
As Chris, VK2BOZ/m, had just arrived at the contest site, I headed back to help set up the rest of the station for the Moyle. Once we got the double gazebo up it only took a short while to get the 2 meter, 70 cm, 1.2 & 2.4 Gig antennas on the mast & the tower with rotator was soon up and running. The Icom 718 was connected to its power supply along with the amplifier.
Cris had listen for the 2 & 70 beacons out of Sydney and was able to hear them as well as the 2 meter beacons out of Brisbane & Canberra. this was around 10 pm Friday night. By this time the cool southerly change that was expected had arrived with a stiff breeze blowing from the coast some 250 km away, straight up the Hunter Valley to the Liverpool Range. With everything set for the contest the next day we all retired for the night, or so we thought……..
By midnight the wind had increased, a cool damp wind at that. trying to sleep in the rooftop camper with the thing flapping and rocking about with the gusts was impossible. I could only lay there and listen to the ever increasing wind howl through the trees & hope that the others were ok.
At 5 am the wind gusts had gotten worse, so I got up to asses the damage. I looked towards the other camps & saw the lights on at Cris`s camp with a fair bit of commotion going on. Heading up there I could see Cris & Brenda struggling to hold the gazebo on the ground. Cris had packed the radio gear away earlier, it was only the kitchen gear in there. He had also added a few more guy ropes to the gazebo during the night to no avail. It took the three of us nearly an hour to get it under control & pulled down.
It was light enough to see by then. Lindsay`s Quad antenna had bent at the mast & bits of camp were laying all over the top of the hill. We had to boil the billy in the back of Cris`s truck on the gas stove to make a coffee, then Cris set up the station in the back as he was still keen to do the contest. I wandered back to my camp & called into the Coral Coast net to see how the guys were doing, the wind seemed to be getting even stronger.
Around 8 am I went back to the main camp. Cris was pretty exited, he had just had a contact into Victoria on 2 meter Sideband. the contact was around 880 km for a signal report of 53 both ways.
While I was there a branch from a tree that I had an antenna up in came down, bringing the G5RV with it. There was no chance of getting it back up with the wind blowing so strong & the danger of having to be under the trees to do it. with the weather only getting worse we decided to pack up and head home, the cramped working conditions not ideal & the loss of the HF & 6 meter antennas would make contesting a bit difficult.
From reports received later that day the weather deteriorated, with high winds, hail & rain, so it was a good decision to leave when we did.
The weekend was not a total loss though, Lindsay with his contact on 6 meters into Japan on a new, but now slightly used antenna, Cris making his longest contact so far on 2 meters & my 31 contacts for the VKFF, I would still call it a successful outing. This is what getting out & working portable is all about, having to deal with the situation as best you can & them making improvements to equipment for next time. Sometimes you just have to call quits, safety the primary concern.
73`s & 44`s