A late push for Bonus summits despite COVID – Day 1

In recent weeks, Regional Victoria has had some freedom of movement in Step 3 of the Victorian COVID restrictions. Regional Victoria moved to Stage 3 on 14 September. The problem was the lack of a good weather window. There was the odd good day with no commitments in the calendar. At the times when I had two to three days free of commitments, the weather was terrible, especially at altitude. A complex front, trough and low pressure system hit much of SE Australia on the Wednesday evening and Thursday, with the effects still impacting eastern Victoria on Friday. The forecast was for the conditions to improve on Saturday, so I took a chance and headed off from home on Friday morning.

Friday 9 October 2020

I headed east from home, to Bairnsdale and then north to Swifts Creek. I then headed west and south to the first target summit, after having posted an Alert before leaving Swifts Creek.

Mount Baldhead VK3/VG-027 1375 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I drove up Mt Baldhead Track from its northern end. The track was in reasonable condition, but with a couple of sections where high clearance would make it easier. I drove to the trig and set up nearby.

First in the log was Ian VK1DI/2 in VKFF-1781 on 40 m SSB. I moved to 80 m SSB and worked Rik VK3EQ. I called for several minutes without any responses, so moved to 80 m CW, working Paul VK3HN and Nick VK3ANL. Back on SSB, I worked VK3SQ and VK3HN. 40 m CW yielded two chasers. I then moved to 40 m SSB and worked four chasers.  The last slot was 20 m CW, where I worked two ZL stations. With 14 contacts in the log, I closed down.

I packed up and retraced my access route back to Grassy Ridge Road and then headed west to Mt Delusion Track to the high point to park. Before leaving, I posted an Alert for Mt Delusion.

Mount Delusion VK3/VG-026 1375 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I found a spot off the track yet well inside the Activation Zone to set up the gear.

First in the log was Mitch VK7XDM on 40 m SSB. I moved to 80 m SSB and quickly worked three more chasers, qualifying the summit. 80 m CW yielded only one chaser. 40 m CW yielded two chasers. 40 m SSB produced three contacts. I finally tried 20 m CW and worked two ZL stations. I received an SMS and returned to 80 m CW to work VK1DA and then closed down.

I posted an Alert for Mt Birregun. I again packed up and headed to the end of Mt Delusion Track and then headed to Groves Gap Road. It was a little wet in places. I got about 95% of the way around the road when I found a large tree across the road, with no way around it. I decided not to attempting to clear the tree by myself. Not knowing the other tracks in the area, I retraced my way back to Mt Delusion Road and then headed north. This took me to the next summit, which I had originally decided to leave out today.

VK3/VG-157 1136 m 6 points

This summit was added on 1 November 2019 and had not yet been activated.

I found a spot to park and walked across to the summit to set up.

I started on 80 m CW, working VK1DA and VK3ANL. 80 m SSB yielded VK3EQ and VK1DI/2 in VKFF-1979. I moved to 40 m and quickly worked VK7XDM on SSB before going to CW to work six stations. 40 m SSB yielded another four stations, after which I decided to close.

After closing and packing up, I considered my options. I decided to take Parslow Track and Parslow Road to the west. This was a little rough in places. There was one gate to open and shut behind me. This took me to Upper Livingstone Creek Road. I turned north and then west into Birregun Road. I followed this around to Zig Zag Track, which I took to climb up to the northern end of Mt Phipps Track.

Mount Phipps VK3/VG-015 1536 m 10 points plus seasonal bonus

I found a spot to park just beyond the Mt Phipps sign and set up with a line over a tree branch.

40 m propagation was already long. I could hear Mitch in Hobart, but Mitch could not hear me. We tried 80 m next, where I completed contacts with Rik and Mitch. 80 m CW yield several stations. I next went to 40 m CW, without much joy. I heard a couple of weak stations calling: KK? And F?. They were both weak and sending a bit too quick for my brain after a long day of concentrating on the road. I gave up and closed down, hoping that there might still be time to consider Mt Birregun.

I drove to the southern end of Mt Phipps Track. I stopped and estimated travel times. I decided against Birregun, given the showers during the afternoon and the time – after 1800 local. Birregun Road south to the summit has some wet areas and sections with clay surface, which would likely to be slow and slippery. Plus the kitchen at the hotel closed at 8:00 pm, so I needed to be in and have ordered dinner well before that time. I simply headed to Omeo for the night.

Overall a good day: a long transit from home to the area, with two 8-point summits, one 10-point summit and a new summit activated, for a total of 41 Activator points for the day once the Seasonal Bonus points were included.

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Another VKFF Hunter Award step – 1700 parks worked

2020 has been a poor year for the VKFF Hunter. Combine the very ordinary propagation due to slowly coming out of the Solar Minimum (recently confirmed as having occurred in December 2019) together with heavy restrictions due to the COVID19 pandemic, the pickings have been slim. We have seen restrictions on travel plus many parks have been closed. Those living in states where the restrictions have permitted some travel have been largely limited to day trips until recently. Most activations have been from Parks which I have previously worked.

I have been attempting to work any Activator who has been out, but local noise together with highly variable propagation have made it difficult to work new Parks.

Despite all of these issues, I have managed to work operators in 42 new (for me) Parks in the last 3 months. Nick VK3ANL and Tony VK3TNL / VK3YV managed to fit trips of several days duration in June, before the “second wave” developed in Victoria and tighter restrictions were put in place. Tony was still in NSW when the VIC-NSW border was closed, but was permitted to continue his travels and then return home.

In states other than Victoria, travel restrictions began to be eased, allowing Activators to get out into Parks to play radio. Notable contributors to my list of new Parks were Sue VK5AYL, Scott VK4CZ, Gerard VK2IO, Rob VK4AAC, Tony VK7LTD and Fred VK4FE. Others have also contributed to the list of new Parks worked.

It is always great to make contact with anyone activating in the field, so thanks for the efforts of all who have managed to do so. It has helped with one’s mental health during the lock down, even though restrictions in regional Victoria have not been as tight as in greater Melbourne.

Thanks again to all the Activators and to the VKFF and WWFF administration teams.

The VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll 1700 certificate
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A spring day of summits and mountain driving

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Activations have been very restricted in Victoria due to the COVID19 restrictions in place. Regional Victoria had been able for a couple of weeks to leave home “for exercise or outdoor recreation”, provided one obeyed the other restrictions. The weather had been cold and windy, including snow to low levels. I decided late on the Tuesday evening to head out, subject to weather looking okay in the morning. On Wednesday morning, after checking the weather forecast, I decided to go ahead. I posted Alerts on SOTAwatch, loaded the gear into the car and headed off.

I travelled west to Trafalgar, then north to Willow Grove, then NW through Hill End to Icy Creek, towards Tanjil Bren and then took the Toorongo – Tanjil Link Road to Mundic Road, then Mt Toorongo Track. The road becomes very sinuous after Hill End, turning to unsealed once you reach the Link Road. I parked just below the locked gate on Mt Toorongo Track and loaded up the gear.

Mount Toorongo Range VK3/VT-026 1257 m 8 points plus Winter Bonus

Looking up at Mount Toorongo (with the mast) and the SOTA summit, to the right, from Icy Creek

The access track is subject to Season Road Closure from mid-June to early November and thus the large locked gate. It is an easy walk of about 1.15 km up the track, climbing about 100 vertical until you reach a high point just below the actual summit. One then needs to climb steeply up to the summit, picking your way through the knee high grasses, other shrubs and around some rocks. One climbs about 30 m vertical in about 150 m.

I strung the ZS6BKW antenna up with a line over a tree branch, only about 3-4 m off the ground. I set up the station, hit the Tune button on the KX2 and it showed a 1:1 match. But I had no audio…. I turned up the volume, all the way to maximum, but still nothing. I had no idea of what was wrong and have not yet investigated the issue.

I pulled out the ID51A handheld and started calling on the Mount Tassie 2 m repeater, with no replies. I made a couple of phone calls to locals and managed to make some simplex contacts. One of the locals was of no assistance, as he was at Ocean Grove – a little too far away. I also spotted on SOTAwatch and soon had another three contacts in the log. The best contact was probably Mark VK3PI at about 93 km. Summit qualified, I packed up and retraced my route to car.

At the car I connected up the APRS system and thought that I had turned it all on. I drove back to the Toorongo – Tanjil Link Road, then headed north to Toorongo Road, then east and north to reach Nine Mile Road. Then north to reach Warburton – Woods Point Road and followed that around to Corn Hill Road and up to the next summit.

Mount Matlock VK3/VC-001 1372 m 8 points plus Winter Bonus

I parked below the summit and started to set up the station. A line over tree branch at about 8 m provided the support for the centre of the antenna. I again tried the KX2, but still had no audio out. I reached for the new toy – an IC-705. It had no antenna tuner, but I had an Elecraft T1 Tuner and connected that in line. But no joy – I could not get it to activate….. I should have tried the combination at home! I ended up trying without the tuner, with the IC-705 putting out 5 W only. Several calls yielded Paul VK3HN on SSB, followed by VK3ANL and VK1DA on CW. Back on SSB I worked Rik VK3EQ.

I moved to 40 m CW and soon had four contacts in the log. I moved up to 40 m SSB and called several times, working only John VK5HAA for a second contact. I moved to 20 m CW and worked ZL1BYZ and ZL3GA. With no more takers, I closed down and packed up.

I quickly ate lunch and started down the hill towards Matlock, rapidly losing mobile coverage. I checked the APRS system and it now seemed to be working. I then drove onto Walhalla Road and headed south. The road surface was definitely rougher. I enjoyed the brief views through the trees when possible, with my attention firmly on the road for 99.9% of the time.

On reaching the outskirts of Aberfeldy, I took Cemetery Road to the cemetery car park.

Mount Lookout VK3/VT-030 1115 m 6 points

Just as I stopped the car, the phone beeped. It was a message from Brian VK3BCM that he was on a summit, but it was sent 50 minutes ago. I again tossed a line over a tree branch and set up the gear. I messaged Brian that I was set up, which is when I saw the time he had sent the earlier message. Brian replied that he was climbing to his next summit, so I spotted and started calling on 80 m SSB. I soon had Geoff VK3SQ and Allen VK3ARH in the log. Then I heard some CW, so changed to CW mode and after several calls worked Andrew VK1DA. I changed back to SSB but had no further callers. I moved to 40 m CW and soon had ZL1BYZ, ZL3GA and VK4TJ in the log. An SMS arrived, so I moved back to 80 m SSB to work Brian VK3BCM on VK3/VE-082.

I moved back to 40 m CW and worked VK2XF. With no further calls, I switched to SSB and moved up to work Gerald VK2HBG/p in VKFF-2572. I then returned briefly to 40 m CW to work VK2IO and then back to SSB and worked VK4KC. I moved to 20 m CW but had only a single response – ZL3RIK. I called back several times, but did not make the contact. I moved up to 20 m SSB and spotted. I then completed a contact with Rick ZL3RIK. Further calls yielded no responses. A spot came through for a JA activator, so I moved down the band to CW, where I heard several ZL stations calling the JA, but could not here the JA.

Checking the time, I decided to stay put. I caught up with some emails until Brian sent an SMS. I quickly moved to 80 m SSB and worked Brian on Mt Emu VK3/VE-061 for another S2S.

I then packed up and started the drive home – south towards Walhalla until Thomson Dam Access Road and some sealed road at last. Down and across the dam wall and climb up the other side to reach Thomson Valley Road and then south to Rawson, Erica and on to Moe, then home.

Overall, almost 300 km of driving, with around 60% being unsealed and very sinuous. A total of 29 contacts were made.

Thanks to all who chased.

Now that I have these notes drafted, I must investigate the issues which made the day more stressful!


Hooked the KX2 up to a different LiFePO4 battery today at home. Audio was fine! Go figure! The only possible issue might have been the 4S LiFePO4 battery used on the Wednesday morning. When I first attempted to measure voltage at home this morning, there was no indication. I placed the battery on the desk and again measured the voltage and it showed 13.2 V, so should have been OK. It is currently on charge. On the second and third summits I used a larger 18 Ah LiFePO4 battery that was in the car.

The T1 Tuner seems to be okay, but its 9 V battery showed only 7.2 V, so that is now in the recycle pile! I have checked the operation of the T1 with the IC-705 with the mode set to FM to easy tuner operation and all is okay to a 50 ohm load.

Lessons: it is worth double checking the gear before you head out. Do not assume that because it worked last time, all will be okay. Also, check out the operation of a new item of kit at home first!

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A new summit near Licola

Mount Eliza VK3/VT-088 599 m 2 points NYA
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

Sunday 2 August 2020

National Tree Day 2020

This summit was added to the VK3 Association list of summits on 1 November 2019. It had not yet been activated.

The summit is close to Licola and the actual summit proper is located on privately owned land – part of the Glenfalloch Station. The actual SOTA summit is not the point identified on the official Victorian mapping as Mt Eliza (589 m), being one of two knolls to the NE at 599 m. Exploration of the official mapping shows that the Alpine National Park boundary crosses the summit activation zone to the NE of the SOTA summit.

Approximate access route to the summit & operating site. Map courtesy Mapshare Vic.

Access was gained via an old vehicle track off Tamboritha Road, about 3.4 km north of the start of Tamboritha Road, immediately before Licola Road crosses the Macalister River. The track enters an area which was previously the local Council Garbage Tip but was handed to the State Government in 2009. The former Tip was added to the Alpine National Park. I parked at a convenient spot off the track and started the walk. The GPS batteries were dead, so I have no track and I had no mobile coverage. The basic plan was to cross the shallow gully to the east of the parking site and then work my way south up the spur running north from the summit. This involved a climb of about 360 m vertical over about 1340 m horizontally. The first 400 m was relatively flat before starting to climb onto and then up the spur. It was steep in places, with some rocky areas. I picked my way up the spur through the scrub and rocks.

The day was warm after the past few weeks of cool to cold weather. The climb took me about 2 hours. I found a spot close to where the Park boundary should be, but I found no fence. After another drink of water, I quickly set up the antenna and station. I had very marginal mobile phone coverage (Telstra).

My first contact was Brian VK3BCM on Mount Sam VK3/VG-049 for a Summit to Summit (S2S) contact on 80 m SSB. Next up was Gerard VK2IO/p on Mt Marulan VK2/ST-039 on 80 m CW. I switched to 40 m SSB and worked Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0873. Back on 80 m SSB, I worked a couple of local stations and then had no further callers. I returned to 40 m and tried CW, working four stations. I then went to SSB and worked several stations, including some Park activators. A session on 20 m CW yielded two ZL contacts before I returned to 40 m SSB for two more Park activators.

I had been on the summit for over an hour and had 21 contacts in the log – more than enough to qualify the summit and the Park for VKFF.

View from near the summit to the junction of the Macalister River (to the left) and the Wellington River (centre). Mt Ligar (The Chrinoline) visible on the ridge between the rivers.

I packed up and started the climb back down to the vehicle. The descent took around 50 minutes.

I loaded the gear into the car and headed to the shop in Licola for a cold soft drink before I started the trip home.

Thanks to all the chasers, especially to those Park activators that I managed to catch on air. I know that I missed several, but such is life when you have poor data connectivity to the web and you are out climbing a steep hill.

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Start of bonus season 2020

Monday 15 June 2020

About two weeks earlier, I received a notice to owner/occupier that the home mains power supply would be interrupted during the day of Monday 15 June 2020 due to planned essential network maintenance. That date is also the first day of the seasonal bonus period for SOTA in the VK3 Association. So a basic plan was hatched early – a day of SOTA activations including some of the relatively local summits to which the seasonal bonus would apply. The only issue to consider was would the weather cooperate?

Late in the week prior, the weather forecast was looking reasonable, so I posted Alerts on SOTAwatch for the four summits planned. I received a phone call on Saturday from a close friend who expressed interest in joining me for the day. It was possible that another amateur may also join us, but a message on Sunday indicated that a work job had materialised, so it would be just the two of us.

Rik VK3EQ arrived at my home a little later than planned, but only by about 15 – 20 minutes, and we were soon on the road. The trip out through Traralgon was a little slower due to traffic levels and School Zone speed restrictions. We headed out to Licola and up the Jameson – Licola Road.

The trip up was relatively uneventful until we reached a tree of about 35 cm diameter down across the full width of the road. The tree had been dead for quite some time. Clearing the tree was required before we could progress further. We were just a few kilometres short of the junction with South Road. Just as well that I had charged the batteries on Sunday and put the battery chainsaw in the vehicle! Rik acted as supervisor, offering the occasional hint as I started the cutting. The first cuts resulted in the log sagging as expected and almost jamming the cut ends together. Another pair of cuts was made about 3.5 m further along the tree. We then pulled out an as yet unused drag chain. Rik started setting up the drag chain as I turned the vehicle around. We soon had the cut segment pulled to the side of the road about 10 metres from the main log. After disconnecting the chain, I again turned around and negotiated the gap created before parking just beyond the tree and then packed up the gear and loading it back into the Ranger.

We travelled up to the start of N7 Track and swung onto the small track a short distance along to the left. This track has some moderate pot holes and can be slippery, so I engaged 4WD. We climbed up the track and onto the plateau to park the vehicle.

Connors Plain VK3/VT-022 1305 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I noticed that the official mapping for Victoria has the summit name spelt differently to the SOTA database. I shall bring this to the attention of the Association Manager.

The 1280 metre contour is crossed just before the climb onto the plateau is completed. This summit has a large activation zone – once you have reached the plateau on the track, you are in the activation zone (AZ). I posted a spot to SOTAwatch that I was setting up, thus giving chasers a “heads up”. We set up with a line thrown over a tree branch to haul up the ZS6BKW doublet. The wind was noticeable and we had some occasional drizzle.

When I posted the spot, I noticed that David VK2NU was on summit VK2/MN-114, currently operating on 15 m CW. Once set up, I started calling on 40 m CW and soon had Andrew VK2UH in the log, followed by David VK2NU/p for a S2S contact. In quick succession, I worked VK2IO, ZL1BYZ, VK4TJ, VK3ARH and VK5IS. Summit qualified in only 11 minutes. I let Rik use the radio and he start calling on 80 m SSB. I grabbed a hand held and walked out of the AZ to work Rik for the chase. I returned to the station just as Rik moved to 40 m SSB. He soon had the summit qualified and closed down. As I started packing up, Rik wandered down the track before working me on 2 m FM. We soon had all the gear packed and headed back down to the main road.

The route to the next summit was uneventful: southeast towards Licola until we reached South Road, then roughly south until Mt Selma Road and then roughly west until west of the summit and up the access track and into the AZ. Travel was simply a case of steady progress, dodging pot holes and driving to the occasionally muddy conditions.

Mount Selma VK3/VT-013 1464 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

The wind was significantly stronger and gusty on Mt Selma. BOM observations for the closest location show wind speeds around 20 km/hr gusting to 40 km/hr. Air temperature was about 4 C, so the apparent temperature was well below zero. We quickly set up in a similar manner to the previous summit and Rik started calling on 80 m SSB as I posted a spot. I walked out of the AZ to work Rik on 2 m FM before returning to start calling on 80 m CW, working Allen VK3HRA. With no further callers, I moved to 40 m CW. The next 10 minutes yield seven callers in the log. Rik started calling on 40 m SSB. With the cold conditions, we were about to pack up when a spot appeared indicating that David VK2NU had arrived at the next summit. I waited for David to appear on 40 m CW, working Rik down the hill on 2 m FM. David was soon in the log and we quickly packed up to retrace our access route back to South Road.

South Road becomes Springs Road at the junction with Green Hill Track, which might confuse some people…. We headed south with the cloud lifting slightly, but with the wind still quite strong and gusty. The final approach to the next summit is via Mount Useful Tower Track, which was in good condition.

Mount Useful VK3/VT-016 1434 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I parked the vehicle at one of the rear corners of the fire watcher building, hoping for some shelter from the wind, now gusting to around 50 km/hr. We sat in the car to eat lunch; the wind was fierce at times.

I spotted that we were about to commence setting up and started that task. Once the antenna was up, we set up the rest of the station and I was soon calling on 40 m CW. Wynne ZL2ATH was first in the log, followed by VK2IO, VK5CZ and ZL3GA. With the summit qualified, I let Rik start calling on SSB, noting local QRM from the telecoms equipment on the summit. I walked back down the track to exit the AZ and worked Rik on 2 m FM.

I returned to the station and switched to 80 m CW, working only Andrew VK2UH.  I moved back to 40 m CW and posted that I was calling on 7.035, waiting for David VK2NU/p to come up on air on VK2/MN-108 – we had significant QRM on 7.032 MHz. I worked ZL1TM and VK4TJ before quickly checking 7.032 and finding David working a station. I waited until the contact was completed and then called David, making the last contact for this summit. Luckily, David’s signal was well above the QRM.

We quickly packed up and headed back to Springs Road and then headed south.

At “The Springs”, we headed west on Williamsons Spur Track, travelling past the now retired summit VK3/VT-034. We soon arrived at the track to the start of the replacement summit, VK3/VT-083.

VK3/VT-083 (unnamed) 1022 points 6 points

This summit was first activated in early November by Peter VK3ZPF. At the time, I was activating in NE Victoria. I could not hear Peter on 40 m and missed him while in transit between summits when he moved to 80 m. The new summit is 3 m higher than the previous summit VK3/VT-034, which was retired on 31 October 2019.

We parked just below the summit proper, behind some scrub giving a little protection from the wind. I soon had a line over a tree branch at around 11-12 m up – got the line over on the first attempt. Rik was impressed when he emerged from the Ranger.

We had just missed David VK2NU, who had posted that he was QRT. We also missed Nick VK3ANL in a Park – we could not hear him on 80 m, probably just missing him. Propagation was too long for the path on 40 m.

We soon had the station up and running and I spotted Rik on 80 m SSB. A few minutes later, I took over and spotted for 80 m CW, working Tony VK7LTD and Allen VK3ARH. I moved to 40 m CW and worked seven more stations.

Rik came up on 40 m SSB to work some stations to qualify the summit and we then closed down – even though the wind speed had dropped somewhat, it was cold.

We quickly packed up and headed back to Springs Road and then headed south towards Seaton. At the junction with Binns Road, we encountered some road works signs, so progress slowed. We negotiated some road work machinery with care as we reached them. I stopped just prior to the start of the bitumen surface and disengaged 4WD.

The rest of the drive home was uneventful. Rik transferred his gear back to his vehicle and departed for Melbourne as I grabbed a torch to go and check the Mains breaker in the fuse box – power was off. As suspected, the main breaker was off, so flicking it on solved that issue.

Thanks to all who chased us during the day. We both qualified each summit, plus we also worked each other as chasers from off each summit, thus we each earned 39 Activator points and 30 Chaser points for the day. We both gained one new summit activated, chased and Complete. We travelled approximately 300 km for the trip.

It was great to have company and the time to chat with Rik during the drive.

I was slack and forgot to take any photos during the day, so no images…..

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Hazelwood Power Station Chimney demolition

25 May 2020

This entry has little to do with radio but concerns a significant local event.

My usual morning routine over the past few weeks has been to participate in an Activity Marathon, chasing contacts with other Australian and New Zealand radio amateurs as a diverse from the “stay at home” orders. Along the lines of qualifying a SOTA summit, the idea is to make at least four contacts each UTC day. So from 0000 UTC, I spend about 30 minutes finding stations calling and making contacts. But today, this was followed by a short local trip….

The Hazelwood Power Station was built in the early 1960s and provided base load power to Victoria by burning brown coal from the adjacent Morwell open cut mine.

The Power Station closed at the end of March 2017. Since that time, work has occurred to safely decommission the power station and mining plant, followed by the planning and works associated with rehabilitation of the site.

Early on the afternoon of Monday 25 May 2020, the eight 137 m high chimneys were bought down by controlled demolition charges. You will find excellent videos on other sites, including the Hazelwood Rehabilitation site: http://www.hazelwoodrehabilitation.com.au/

I have served for several years as a community member of the Environmental Review Committee (ERC) for the Station and Mine. Members of the ERC were expecting to be invited to view the demolition of the chimneys from within the property boundary, but the COVID19 pandemic and resulting restrictions caused those plans to be cancelled.

I could have watched one of the live stream sites from the comfort of home, but decided to head out and watch from the southern end of the Hazelwood Cooling Pondage.

The Google Earth image shows the Power Station near the top of the image and my viewing site near the bottom of the image, about 3.5 km from the Station. Part of the town of Churchill is visible in the lower right.

Google Earth image of the Hazelwood Power Station and Cooling Pondage. Thanks to Google Earth.

Many people were observed parked at locations with a view of the Power Station as I drove to my chosen site. I was on site well before the announced possible start time of 1100. There were many cars parked in the area, but most individuals maintained good physical distancing.

View of the Power Station late in the morning

At around 1125, word spread of a delay until 1155. At 1214 some water sprays started. The task of the sprays was to help suppress any dust. We thought that the action might commence soon….

The real action finally started at 1227, when we could see some dust from chimney number 1 – the southernmost. We started to hear the explosions shortly afterwards. There were a series of explosions and the chimneys started to fall….

By 1235, it was all over apart from the dust cloud settling. I started walking back to my car and headed off to the post office to check my mail and collect two parcels.

The eight chimneys have been an iconic landmark in the Latrobe Valley for 55 years. I am sure that they will be missed by many. Work on demolition will continue over coming months, further changing the local landscape.

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Some new SOTA awards earned

For quite some time, the SOTA awards scheme has been operating on a very restricted basis. A few weeks ago, resumption of the issuing of Awards certificates was announced. Each certificate still has a cost, but now one can apply for a certificate and save on postage costs by selecting to receive the document as a pdf file.

I did some checking and applied for some certificates earned over the last couple of years, some of which were qualified quite some time ago. April 2017 seems to feature!

Mountain Hunter Platinum

Awarded for having worked at least 2 summits in each of 20 or more SOTA Associations.


Mountain Hunter Platinum Award

Activator 2500 points earned

In recognition of having activated summits worth a total of 2500 points.


Activator 2500 points

SOTA Complete 250

In recognition of having “Completed” (both chased and activated) 250 different summits.


SOTA Complete 250 unique summits

Chaser 1000 uniques

For having chased at least 1000 different SOTA summits.


Chaser 1000 Unique Summits

Chaser 30,000 points earned

For having earned over 30,000 SOTA Chaser points.


Chaser 30000 points

Mountain Goat CW only

For having activated using CW and earning 1000 Activator points. This award requires that at least four (4) different callsigns are worked on each summit using CW (Morse code), with the points totalling at least 1000 points.


Mountain Goat Award certificate – All CW

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A long day to Jamieson Lookout Track

Sunday 15 March 2020

Ross VK3NRB was keen for another day out playing radio. We discussed options and decided to head to another of the “new” summits added on 1 November 2019, even though it required a long drive – estimated at 3 hours plus each way.

We headed off at around 0800 with stops at the local Bakery to grab some food and a fuel stop in Traralgon before heading to Licola and then up the Jamieson – Licola Road. The scenery during the drive was excellent, with clear skies and some clouds in the valleys. The drive was uneventful apart from a few partial road blockages with trees down to dodge and then several cows on the summit of Mount Skene. We continued on towards Jamieson and I considered which of three final approach routes to take.

I opted for the middle approach, on an unnamed track starting at 37.31734 S 146.22964 E. The track headed off at an acute left hand junction, so I drove beyond the junction to turn around and start the climb with a gentle turn. Before I started, I engaged 4WD. The track was straightforward, with several spoon drains to negotiate and a tight section around a fallen tree. We joined Jamieson Lookout Track south of the track junction we needed and swung north to climb up to the top of the knoll and the junction. I then swung west onto the track tot eh summit, also called Jamieson Lookout Track. After about 2.5 km of driving on a narrow track with more spoon drains and some fallen trees to dodge, we reached the summit.

VK3/VE-257 (unnamed) 910 m 6 points Not previously activated

We drove over the top of the summit and executed a U turn at a spoon drain, crossed back over the summit and parked at a wider spot just east of and only a few metres below the summit.

I posted a Spot to SOTAwatch indicating that I was on site and setting up. I tossed a line over a tree branch and hauled up the ZS6BKW. We set up a table and chairs about 6 metres behind the vehicle.

On switching on, I found Ian VK5CZ/p on VK5/NE-055 calling on 7.032 MHz. After working Ian, I moved up to 7.034 MHz, spotted and started calling. There I worked John ZL1BYZ, John VK5HAA and Gerard VK2IO. With no further responses to calls, I moved down to 80 m CW, spotted and started calling. I had some strange occurrence with the KX2 – it went into Tx and would not switch back. I powered the radio down and restarted it, but the issue persisted. Another power down, with a longer pause before powering up resolved the issue. I worked Tony VK3CAT, Andrew VK2UH, Warren VK3BYD and John VK2YW.

I moved up to 80 m SSB to work Geoff VK3SQ and Warren VK3KS. Ross also worked both Geoff and Warren. Ross then headed down the hill to chase me on 2 m FM. We then swapped places so that I could chase Ross on the summit.

Back on the summit, I moved to 40 m SSB and soon worked Ray VK4NH and John VK4TJ. Rob VK4AAC/3 was spotted for 80 m but I could not raise him. I called Rob on the phone and found that his antenna was not cooperating on 80 m. I suggested that we try 40 m, and Rob soon called. Contact made. Rob was in Goomalibee Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2097, just NW of Benalla. We both worked Rob and then closed down.


VK3PF operating on VK3/VE-257

After packing up, I retraced my route back to the knoll with the track junction and decided to exit to the north along Jamieson Lookout Track. The track was reasonable – wider than the trip out to the summit, with some spoon drains and more fallen trees to dodge. The final sharp turn was accompanied by a steeper drop off than anticipated, with a steep section down to the Jamieson – Licola Road. We then headed east and south back to Mount Skene.

Mount Skene VK3/VE-031 1565 m 10 points

The cows had moved from the summit. We found a group sitting by the sign at the high point of the road having lunch. We had a brief chat before I grabbed the 10 m squid pole and commenced strapping it to one of the two steel poles near the broken sign, which simply says 200 m walk, having lost the board indicating that the summit trig was nearby. I chatted with one of the other group, who indicated that he been introduced to electronic via a school science teacher. He had acquired a surplus radio (I forget the model) which was modified to a useful receiver. He went on to become an electronics engineer. He was interested in the antenna – we again used the ZS6BKW. He asked about working skip, and I indicated that it was not that easy at present with the state of the sunspot cycle. We continued setting up and chatting, until he said his goodbyes and the group left.

I saw a spot for John VK5HAA/p in Kenneth Stirling Conservation Park VKFF-0781 for 40 m CW. I soon had John in the log. I then moved down to 80 m CW  and worked Warren VK3BYD and Geoff VK3SQ. We then moved up to 40 m SSB to chase Rob VK4AAC/3, still in VKFF-2097. I returned to 80 m SSB and was called again by Geoff VK3SQ. Next we moved to 40 m SSB to attempt to chase Linda VK7QP/3 in William Hunter Flora Reserve VKFF-2486 near Marlo. With some assistance from Al VK7AN, Linda listened for me, but I was not decipherable. I asked Ross the grab the IC-7300 from the car and we soon had it connected up and set the power to 40 W. I was finally able to complete a contact with Linda for a new Park – I had activated the Park last year and Linda was only the second activation.

I moved to 40 m CW and worked John VK4TJ and Gerard VK2IO. I tried 20 m CW and worked Andrei ZL1TM but had no other callers. We packed up the gear and moved down to the lookout SE of the summit to take some photos. I left Ross behind so that I could chase the summit, after which Ross joined me at the lookout. We then headed back towards Licola.


View from North around to SE. Mt Buller near the left around to Gable End.


View from S around to W. Baw Baw Plateau on the left horizon.

We parked at the junction with the Australian Alps Walking Track, loaded up and started the climb to the next summit.

Mount Shillinglaw VK3/VE-068 1301 m 8 points

We climbed up the track to the high point, only about a metre or so below the actual summit. I tossed a line over a tree branch and hauled up the ink dipole. I did not bother with the 80 m extensions. Ross was trailing behind, so I worked him on 2 m FM whilst he he still outside the activation zone. Next was Paul VK5PAS/p in Totness Recreation Park VKFF-1754 on 40 m SSB. I moved down the band, spotted and started calling. Andrei ZL1TM was the first to respond, followed John VK4TJ and Adam VK2YK/5 in Cobbler Creek Recreation Park VKFF-1699. I moved down to 40 m CW and spotted. I worked Gerard VK2IO, John ZL1BYZ and David VK2JDR. With no further callers, I moved up to 20 m CW and worked Wynne ZL2ATH, but had no further calls. We packed up the station and I headed down the hill ahead of Ross, working him on 2 m FM once I was outside the activation zone.

The descent was easier than the climb and we were soon back at the car. We loaded the gear and headed back to Licola. I stopped at a view point on the climb to Burgoyne Gap, taking in the view and grabbing some photos looking up the Macalister River valley towards Licola. We then resumed the drive home, reaching our destination about 12 hours after we had departed.


Looking NW up the Macalister River valley, over Glenfalloch Station

Thanks to all who worked us during the day.

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A Sunday saunter north of Briagalong

Well, almost…. But a pleasant drive was had to reach another new summit and to visit two other summits.

Sunday 8 March 2020

I headed off from home for Maffra to pick up Ross VK3NRB and then we headed north to Boisdale, across to Briagalong and then towards Stockdale. Near Stockdale, we turned north on Insolvent Track and soon were travelling behind a 4WD with a trailer – we guessed heading out to collect firewood. At the top of the climb where the pine plantation ends, the other vehicle pulled over to let us pass. I quickly checked the map and resumed the route. The only trick is to watch for the junction where Insolvent Track swings right. We were soon at the prominent bend to the ENE of our target summit, a short distance beyond the junction with Stoney No 1 Road. There was plenty of space to park off the track on the eastern side.

VK3/VT-089 (unnamed) 488 m 1 point Not previously activated

This summit had been our potential fourth target last weekend.

The summit is about 200 m to the SW of the parking spot, with a climb of just under 50 m vertical. The country was relatively open and it was easy to dodge any fallen timber and scrub patches. We found a nice spot to set up and I tossed a line over a tree branch at about 8 m. I strung out a new 80-10 m end fed half wave antenna to use for the first time in the field. I tied the line roughly in the middle of its length and hauled it up. Ross tied off the far end as I found a length of line to hold the radio end to a fallen tree branch.

As I was setting up, Ross headed back down the hill to chase me on 2 m FM and therefore was the first contact with this summit.

I soon had the KX2 set up on 80 m and had an excellent match on the antenna. I spotted myself and started calling on 80 m CW. The first (and only) response came after seven minutes of calling and I soon had Ron VK3AFW in the log. Several further CQ calls went unanswered. I moved up to 80 m SSB and again spotted. Again I had no replies for several minutes before Ron called using his second callsign. I called for a further 5 minutes before moving up to 40 m CW and soon worked John VK4TJ, Gerard VK2IO and David VK2JDR.

I was about to move to 40 m SSB when I saw a spot on ParksnPeaks for Malcolm VK3OAK in VKFF-2141 on 80 m, so I quickly changed down to 80 m. Ross and I both worked Malcolm. I moved back to my previous 80 m frequency and worked Allen VK3ARH and Geoff VK3SQ. I then went to 40 m SSB and only worked Gerard VK2IO. It was now well after UTC rollover and we had both qualified the summit. For the last 20 minutes or so, we could hear chainsaws to our south, confirming our earlier guess about the 4WD vehicle and its occupants… We had been calling for about 50 minutes, so I decided against trying 20 m.

We packed up and started heading down the hill, with Ross lagging behind. Once I was almost back at the road, I worked Ross and thus had the SOTA Complete.

We loaded the gear into the vehicle and continued north along Insolvent Track and then swung west on Winkie Creek Track. This took us to Freestone Creek Road, which we crossed to reach Lloyd Knob Track. I engaged 4WD prior to dropping down the bank to ford Freestone Creek – the entire drive to this point had been in 2WD, with only pot holes and some shallow erosion gutters to negotiate.

I crossed the creek and started the climb up to the next summit. We encountered several steep spoon drains, some rocky patches, a couple of small trees across the track and some steep sections. I travelled over the summit by about 100 m to a spot which allowed for an easy U-turn and returned to the high point to park.

Lloyd Knob VK3/VT-063 553 m 2 points

I first activated this summit back in late June 2018. This would be the summit’s second activation.

I again tossed a line over a tree and this time hauled up the ZS6BKW. We set up the station using a folding table and sat only a few metres from the vehicle. I was about to spot myself when I saw a spot for Glenn VK3YY on Mount Beenak VK3/VC-016. I quickly dialled up the correct frequency, not really expecting to hear Glenn as he would probably be in the skip zone. I could hear him weakly and tried calling a couple of times on voice, without any response from Glenn. At the end of his next CQ call, I sent my callsign in CW and Glenn responded on CW. We soon had a CW contact in the log – thanks Glenn. I moved down to 40 m CW and spotted and soon worked Gerard VK2IO, Ian VK5CZ and John VK5HAA. I then moved down to 80 m CW and worked Ron VK3AFW but had no further callers. I then tried 80 SSB and worked Ron VK3ZLP.  A move to 40 m SSB yielded Mark VK7ME, Ian VK5IS and John VK4TJ. I called for several more minutes without any responses. I tried catching Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-2145 but could not hear him. I called Rob on the ‘phone and he explained that he was having lunch but also had antenna issues on 80 m. We agreed to try later after he had finished lunch. Rob could not solve the antenna issue, so no contact was made.

VK portalog announced a new SOTA spot and I quickly moved to 40 m CW and waited for a chance to call Tony VK3CAT/p on Federation Range VK3/VN-029 in VKFF-0556. Tony’s spot indicated that it was raining. I heard Tony work Glenn, with Glenn very weak to me. I called Tony and we soon had the contact in the log.

I then moved up to 20 m CW and worked John ZL1BYZ and Andrei ZL1TM. I then closed and started packing up. I started to drive down the hill, leaving Ross behind to walk. Once I was outside the AZ, I stopped and worked Ross for the chase and a new Complete. Ross joined me in a few minutes and we retraced our access route back to Freestone Creek Road, where we swung south. We travelled about 6.4 km to turn off onto Link Road. The drive down the Freestone Creek valley is narrow and sinuous but is quite spectacular with the rocky steep slopes of the valley.

We climbed up Link Road for about 3.7 km, driving past the summit on the road before a hard left turn to climb the rougher track up the firebreak to the summit.

VK3/VT-065 (unnamed) 513 m 2 points

I had first activated this summit back in August 2013, approaching from the west. There have been no activations since that activation. I guess that other activators have dismissed these low points value summits when there are higher value summits in the region.

I again tossed a line over a tree branch and hauled up the ZS6BKW. The folding camp table was again set up a metre or so from the vehicle. As I was setting up the station, Ross headed down the hill to make a contact on 2 m FM.

We could see rain approaching, so decided to start on 40 m SSB, hoping for a quick activation. The first caller was Roly ZL4AU in Invercargill. QSB meant that Ross failed to make a contact with Roly. Next was John VK4TJ, followed by Gerard VK2IO/m. Just as we finished with Gerard, the rain arrived. We quickly packed up the radio, pulled down the antenna and packed up. I drove down the hill to work Ross as he walked down, thus gaining the Complete.

We retraced our access route to Freestone Creek Road and again headed south. We encountered a few vehicles along the way, but soon reached the bitumen and then headed to Briagalong and back to Maffra.

It was an excellent day out. One new summit activated and chased plus two new summits chased and Complete.

Thanks Ross for the company and contacts. Thanks to all the chasers.


The driving route for the day. Image thanks to Google Maps.

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Latest VKFF certificate – HR 1675

With all the hot weather and a very long fire season in the eastern half of Australia, the number of Parks activations has been low. That has slowed progress in building new Parks Hunted….

A few days ago, I checked Logsearch and saw that I had reached the next step of the VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll – 1675 references hunted.

As always, many thanks to all Activators who have and continue to get out into the field to activate Parks references.

The last 25 new references came from several of the usual suspects plus a couple of amateurs that invited to come into the field with me and I managed to work them from outside the Park boundary for the Hunt. It took from 30 November 2019 to 1 March 2020 to work the latest 25 references. Thanks particularly go to Liz VK2XSE, Warren VK3BYD, Brett VK3FLCS, Ross VK3NRB, Sergio VK3SFG, Peter VK3TKK, Peter VK3ZPF, Rob VK4AAC, Marija VK5FMAZ, Paul VK5PAS, Andrew VK7DW and Angela VK7FAMP (in callsign alphabetic order).

VK3PF - VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1675

The VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll 1675 certificate

Thanks Paul for the location details: King George Sound in the Gull Rock National Park in Western Australia.

Thanks also to the entire VKFF admin team.

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