The very first visit...1974
Several years before the above photograph was taken, Mt.Saddleback was visited in 1974 by myself, Will VK6UU, my wife Terryl, Russ VK6CV and one other amateur who I have forgotten in the mists of time. The other amateur may have been Brad VK6ZGD (from memory).
We did not have a 4WD between us and could only drive to within several hundred metres of the top and camped overnight just off the steep gravel track. The track to Mt.Saddleback in those days (pre colour television) was easy to access, you just drove off the main road and straight up the mountain. No mining in the area made access simple.
Around the campfire that night, we discussed the possibility of a repeater at Mt.Saddleback. Being one of the few mountains over the magic 2000 feet, it was a desirable site for a repeater. I also remember we discussed colour television and what it would be like. The reason was that being 1974, the very next year in March 1975, was the switch on day for colour television in Australia. I had been doing colour TV courses at work (The ABC) and was able to share a little about the amazing complexity of producing a colour television picture in the same bandwidth as the black and white signal, and for it to be backwards compatible as a black and white picture.
We all hit the blow up mattresses, eager to climb to the top the next morning to see what we would find and if an amateur repeater could be installed atop Mt.Saddleback.
Climb to the top
Next morning we walked to the top. The track ends about 100m from the very top in a small gravel area about 30m across. I can not remember if there was any radio equipment at the top, or even a tower. There most likely was, I just can't recall. I also can't remember if we had a radio or not. Hand helds were not common if at all back then.
I have no photographs of the occasion but at least we had surveyed the site for possible future use as a repeater site. It took almost another 10 years before a repeater was installed at Mt.Saddleback.
In times past WARG members often looked at maps and hunted out the highest hills that could be found and Mt.Saddleback 100km SE of Perth was an obvious hill to explore. At 2,000' it is the highest mountain close to Perth. Only the Stirling ranges near Albany have higher peaks.
Mt.William VK6RMW had long been established. Mt.Saddleback is about 40km East of Mt.William and offered more height and a better service area to the East.
WARG used a pump up mast as shown above to test the site coverage from Mt.Saddleback. This site test took place 24th April 1982, many years after the first visits to Mt.Saddleback. The tower that was at the site is just to the right of the photograph.
VK6REE, WARG's portable 2 metre, as shown above was used at the Mt.Saddleback test. Note the six cavity duplexer mounted below the repeater.
It is often a long time between finding a site, gaining access and then building a repeater ready to be installed at a remote location, and this was the situation at Mt.Saddleback.
It was decided to use an FM828 as the basis for the 2M repeater, so a mobile FM828 was pulled apart and placed inside a custom made rack mounting box. This was before WARG obtained 10 or so FM880s and VK6RMS became in effect the prototype for the FM880 design, with modifications such as direct FM modulation for the transmitter and audio AGC to smooth out the various audio levels from users.