To be honest I don't understand most of the 'newcomers' problem.
Regarding the receiver :
136kHz is CW only (apart from a rare PSK / BPSK signal), so the ability to
copy CW is the first need. I assume that most of the HF CW operators have a
narrow filter (500Hz or better) in their receiver and that all more or less
recent tranceivers start at 100kHz or below. So listening on 136kHz
shouldn't be a problem.
Regarding the antenna :
I have been able to copy the stronger UK, PA and DL stations (eg. G3LDO,
G3YXM, M0MBU, G3AQC, PA0SE, DK8KW etc...) using an untuned 10m long wire.
Signals were weak, but so was QRM/QRN. With a tuned 10m long wire I can
hear alomost as good as with the 'big' TX antenna. All signals are just a
few S-points down, but that doesn't matter as QRM/QRN is also down and the
SNR is almost the same. Maybe on a very quiet day and with very weak signal
the big antenna is a bit better.
Making a tuned antenna is a 1 hour job, provided you have a ferrite rod, a
500pF variable capacitor and a few meter of CuL wire (0.5mm or so). If you
can lay your hands on an old MW radio you can 'recuperate' all the stuff
BTW : if you want to make someone with an SSB filter hear any ham signal on
136kHz you need 1 strong station to transmit. If you have 5 to 10 strong
stations transmitting within 2kHz only experienced CW operators will be
able to copy any signal out of the QRM (and these experienced CW operators
most likely have a decent CW filter).
I like the 'activity periods' (saturday / sunday morning) much more that
the idea to have a contest.