For Canterbury Anniversary weekend (Show Weekend) we headed to Reefton, a small Westland town that we always enjoy visiting. If the weather held it would also be a chance to do the first SOTA activation in the West Coast region.
I had a couple of summits in mind, both in amongst gold-mining country. In the morning we explored access to the first one, ZL3/WC-623 in the Merrijigs area. I hoped that the Soldiers-Big River Road would be good enough to get us pretty close, but sadly the condition of the road after Alborn’s Coal Mine carpark was not good enough for our vehicle. A more rugged 4WD would have no trouble. We walked in as far as Slab Hut Creek and back again to check it out – this will be one for another trip.
After lunch back in Reefton we set off for the other summit, WC-638 near the Ajax / Golden Fleece mines.
The track climbs up a ridge and then winds through old gold mine territory, passing the Ajax mine shaft and battery. Eventually we reached the Horse Whims location, which my map suggested might just be in the activation zone for WC-638.
Just to be sure we were in the AZ, we left the track and bush-bashed a short distance towards higher ground to the north east and set up amongst the trees and moss.
Fortunately the 70cm National System was accessible from here via Greymouth, so I was able to let Geoff ZL3QR know when I was ready. A good run of ZL QSOs was had on 80 and 40, then switching to 20 gave a few difficult contacts with VK. Not great propagation conditions on the day.
It was a nice walk in an interesting area historically, but I have to say I prefer a summit with a view.
Height: 720m ASL
Directions: At Blacks Point, 2 km southeast of Reefton, park at the Murray Creek Goldfield track entrance. A 5-hour loop track passes close to or perhaps through the activation zone, the most direct route is the steeper climb on the left (clockwise).
Time to summit: 2 hours walk in from Blacks Point (500m height gain), 1.5 hrs back down the same way
Summit marker: None
Land access permission: Not required, Victoria Forest Park
Repeater access: Good into Greymouth repeaters (Sewell Peak)
Cellphone access: No Vodafone/2degrees from the summit
Map: NZ Topo Map
More information: sota.org.uk