Won Wron Flora Reserve

Saturday 19 January 2019

After a week of hot weather, I decided to head out to activate a Park about an hour’s drive away. But first I had some domestic tasks to complete. I was finally on the road a little before UTC rollover on Saturday morning, after having posted an Alert on ParksnPeaks.

I arrived on site a little before 0100Z and found a spot to set up inside the Park boundary.

Won Wron Flora Reserve VKFF-2488 Not previously activated

vkff-2488_view

Looking east of south from the operating site

I was located only about 10 m inside the Park boundary, having driven a short distance down a rough track and parked the vehicle. I tossed a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole and set up with the radio on the tailgate of the vehicle. I was in partial shade for the first 40 minutes or so.

Once set up, I checked the Spots and listened around for a couple of stations without success. I made a number of calls trying to work John VK3CU/p and Vicki VK3LT/p in Alpine National Park. I spotted myself and started calling. Several minutes later, I had a call from Paul VK5PAS on 40 m SSB. After a short chat with Paul, I started to log Gerard VK2IO, but I did something wrong and had to wait while Port-a-log restarted….. Operator error! The next 10 minutes saw another 8 contacts in the log, all on 40 m SSB, then nothing. I continued calling, but gave up and moved to 40 m CW. The next 20 minutes saw 7 more contacts – slow going. I returned to 40 m SSB to work another six stations over the next ten minutes. With no further responses, I decided to try 20 m for a while. But before I started calling, I erected a sun shade structure at the rear of the vehicle, as it was getting to be quire hot in the sun.

Ten minutes of calling yielded only three callsigns in the log before I tried 20 m CW, yielding another three callsign – actually the same three calls, but now on CW after the SSB contacts!

I moved down to 80 m, after running out the extensions of the antenna. I worked Geoff VK3SQ and heard Compton VK2HRX. Compton could not hear my responses, so I returned to 40 m SSB to make the contact. After several minutes of calling with a few responses, I tried 30 m, using the antenna in an offset feed arrangement. The tuner seemed to cope and I worked three stations over about 20 minutes of calling. I returned to 40 m SSB with a very low response rate until Ken VK3UH called me, about 3 hours and 20 minutes after I started calling at the start of the activation. After a chat on 40 m SSB, we tried several different bands. It took us a few minutes on some band changes, but I soon had Ken in the log on a total of five different bands. The total was now up to 45 contacts – Park finally qualified!

I started to pack up and then headed back out to the main road and made my back to the main road and then on to home. It had been a long day!

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Four Parks west of Bairnsdale

6 January 2019

The weather forecast for the day looked reasonable, expected to reach into the mid-20s but fine. There was a large bushfire southeast of Rosedale which was reported as affecting 11,000 hectares of land, including a significant portion of the Holey Plains State Park VKFF-0758. There was a “Watch and Act” warning extending to Longford in the east and south to Gormandale, Willung and Stradbroke.

I had unfinished VKFF business to the west of Bairnsdale, with VKFF-2045 Bengworden Nature Conservation Reserve activated last year late one afternoon with poor band conditions and thunderstorms nearby. On that activation, I only made 10 contacts, so needed another 34 contacts to bring the Park up to WWFF qualification.

I travelled from home to Rosedale for a quick stop at the Bakery to grab a salad roll for lunch, then eastwards to Fulham and then on to Perry Bridge, Meerlieu and Bengworden before turning west on Boundary Road to get to the Park boundary.

Bengworden Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2045

There is a locked gate near the eastern end of the boundary fence. I parked near the gate and unloaded the gear required from the car: folding chair, KX2, antenna, coax, battery and a line & weight to toss over a tree branch. After climbing over the fence, I walked in around 100 m to a suitable spot and began setting up.

bengwordenncr

The Bengworden NCR from the operating position

I was ready to be on air by around 0040 and saw a spot on 40 m SSB for Peter VK3ZPF on a SOTA summit in a Park. I soon had Peter in the log for a Park to Park contact. I then spotted myself on 7.135 MHz and started calling. By 0110Z I had another 22 contacts in the log, including another Park to Park with Adam VK2YK/p.

I then reconfigured the antenna for 20 m and soon had Rob VK4AAC/p in a Park in the log. I also worked a VK7 and three more VK4 stations on 20 m SSB.

I noticed a SOTA spot on 40 m, so swapped back down to work VK/9V1RT on Mount Perisher. I returned to 7.135 MHz and spotted again, working another six stations in the next 10 minutes. Then I had no more callers…. I checked the Port-a-log Summary – 35 contacts in the log, so I decided to close the station and move on to the next Park.

Once loaded up into the car, I headed east back along Boundary Road to Bengworden Road, then north to Leathams Road and into the next Park.

Moormurng Flora and Flora Reserve VKFF-2391 Not previously activated

moornurngffr

The Moormurng FFR sign

I entered the Park and carefully drove along the track – muddy sections, deep ruts and potholes in places required some care. I drove across towards the western boundary and found a spot to set up. I again tossed a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole centre. This time I set up at the rear of the Ranger, using the tailgate as an operating table and choosing the IC-7300 connected to the auxiliary battery.

With the Sunday morning amateur radio news broadcasts now over, I started on 7.144 MHz, less than an hour after the last contact in the previous Park. Gerard VK2IO was first in the log. Next was Compton VK2HRX followed by Neil VK4HNS/p in VKFF-2552. In just over 30 minutes, I had 30 contacts in the log. I moved up to 20 m SSB and worked eight contacts in the next 15 minutes. 20 m CW brought four more contacts. I moved down to 40 m CW and worked another 6 contacts. The Summary showed 48 contacts – Park qualified. I packed up and made my way out to Redcourt Lane and north to the Princes Highway, then west to Lindenow-Glenaladale Road. I travelled north to Lindenow South and then west and southwest along Fernbank-Lindenow South Road. At the rail crossing, you head straight ahead onto Cowells Lane for a short distance to reach the next Park.

Saplings Morass Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2434 Not previously activated

This small Park requires a little care to ensure that you are inside the official Park boundary. The setup here was basically the same as in the previous Park.

saplingsmorassfr

Saplings Morass Flora Reserve

I was on air and calling in just under an hour after closing at the last Park. Robert VK3DN was the first to respond to my calls on 7.144 SSB. In 25 minutes I had 30 stations in the log, all on 40 m SSB. The day was moving on and I decided to call it quits and move to the fourth target for the day without trying any other bands or modes. Access to this Park is relatively simple, so I can return on another trip to East Gippsland.

I returned to Fernbank-Lindenow South Road and headed to Fernbank and then south to the Princes Highway. I crossed the Highway onto Sargoods Road and then turned east onto the access track which runs parallel to the Highway. The track was very soft and sandy – it looks as if it has been ploughed to help form a fire break. I engaged 4WD and took it gently. About 700 m along the track I found an open old rusty gate into the Reserve. I carefully backed into the gate opening so that the rear half of the vehicle was inside the boundary. I set up in a similar manner as the previous two Parks – a line over a branch and the IC-7300 on the tailgate.

The Billabong Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2449 Not previously activated

The areas of the Reserve close to the boundary are quite thickly covered in bracken for most of the area, then thick saplings/brush closer to the lagoon area. Those without a 4WD might park closer to the Billabong Roadhouse and walk in along the boundary track to find a spot to set up inside the boundary fence.

thebillabongffr

The Billabong FFR from standing on the tailgate

I spotted myself and soon had Geoff VK3SQ in the log, less than 40 minutes after the last contact at Saplings Morass. In 25 minutes, I had 28 calls in the log. A pleasant surprise was being called by Matilda operating VI25AJ, the Australian Jamboree station at Tailem Bend. I moved to 40 m CW and worked seven stations, inkling Andrew VK2PEZ, who made his first on air CW contact.

I moved to 20 m to make another ten contacts, four of them on CW. Among the last of the contacts was Chris VK1CT in VKFF-0842.

I ended up with 47 contacts in the log. I packed up and headed for home, noting the wide spread of smoke plumes rising from the Rosedale bushfire.

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VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1325

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had applied for the VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1325 certificate.

I know that VKFF coordinator Paul VK5PAS has been busy, including some very long days at his workplace. SO I was happy to wait for Paul to find the time and energy to create the next level certificate.

Once again, Paul has used another terrific photo taken in an Australia Park for the certificate.

As always, big thanks to the following:

  • VKFF Coordinator Paul VK5PAS.
  • All the Activators getting out there in great outdoors to activate Parks.
  • All the State Coordinators, who process all the logs.

It can sometimes be a challenge to catch the Activators. Local noise masking signals, timing of activations, and challenging propagation conditions (often the lack of propagation!) all introduce challenges. Trying multiple bands – even 80 m in the middle of the day – can help some Hunters. Posting an Alert on ParksnPeaks prior to heading out also helps Hunters to expect your activation. Posting a Spot on ParksnPeaks once you are on air gives the Hunter a clear signal that you are there. Other “spotting” on other sites may help the Activator to the spread the news of their activity (e.g. one of the FaceBook groups), but remember that such sites are NOT the primary tool: ParksnPeak in VK/ZL for WWFF and SOTAwatch for SOTA. If you have poor or no phone coverage, then ask the Hunters to Spot you – you will eventually get one who can help you out. Posting an Alert and Spotting not only helps the Hunter, it also helps you as the Activator.

Yes, I know that I sometimes forget to post an Alert….. None of us are perfect!

Cheers,

Peter VK3PF

VK3PF - VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1325

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Great Yambla Ridge

New Year’s Day 2019

Local New Year’s Day in Australia is a day for the SOTA operator to consider options carefully…. The SOTA Rules for Activating and Chasing are based on the UTC and UTC year. Given that UTC midnight occurs at 1100 local time in VK1, VK2 and VK3, an Activator can plan to be out on a summit earlier in the morning. As long as you make contact with at least four different callsigns before 1100 AEDT, and then four callsigns after 1100 AEDT, then you can gain the points for the chosen summit twice with only one activation – once for the year just gone, and for the New Year. Many SOTA Activators plan to use this provision in the rules. I heard on-air that around 40 Activators in VK and ZL had posted Alerts to operate on a SOTA summit across the critical time on 1 January 2019.

I had considered my options. An obvious choice would be to head to a summit with high points value that you were unlikely to Activate during the Seasonal Bonus period (Winter in VK3). I had been looking at some as yet unactivated summits in the North East of Victoria and southern New South Wales. In the end, I decided on a new summit and posted an Alert on Monday afternoon.

Great Yambla Ridge VK2/RI-018 656 m 2 points Not previously activated
Benambra National Park VKFF-0029

This summit had been on my RADAR for some time. Although it earns only 2 points, the activation zone extends into the Benambra National Park. The summit location is on private property, so permission is needed to activate the summit. The National Park is surrounded by private property, so members of the public need landowner permission to cross the private land to access the National Park. I believe that the Park had only been activated twice prior to my activation.

I had been examining the mapping to seek information over several months. Earlier in the year, I took a short detour up towards the area of the summit to see if I could find additional information that might be useful. I drove to the gate of a property that looked likely to provide access and noted the details on the sign. Back at home, I conducted a web search and found an email address. In the week prior to heading to Wodonga for this visit, I sent an email to the address explaining a little about myself and SOTA, with a request that I might be allowed to cross the property to access the summit. A day or two later, I received a phone call advising that access would probably be granted. I would need to make contact before I left Wodonga and all should be okay.

I rang the number in the morning as I was about to leave Wodonga and left a message when I got to the message bank – it was relatively early on New Years Day. Under an hour later and I was on site but could find nobody around the sheds as agreed. I moved up to the houses, took a punt and walked up to the obvious open door. Again, no signs of movement, perhaps not surprising on New Year’s day morning a little before 0900 local…. I called out “knock, knock” and waited. A few minutes later and I was chatting with a person in a dressing gown. I apologised for waking them. Soon all was sorted – I had discussed my preferences and proposed route was confirmed. I thanked to farmer and headed off to drive up the farm tracks to the summit.

There were a couple of gates to open and close, plus a couple which were open. The track was in reasonable state for most of the climb, with a few rougher areas. I reached the area of the summit – only about 50 m from the “high” point of a flat hilltop. I then moved back down the track to the boundary fence with the National Park and assessed my options for an operating site.

opsitegreatyamblaridge

Operating site: Blue is the Park area, red is area below the Activation Zone

I set up using a squid pole lashed to a corner post on the fence, the folding table and chair, all inside the Park boundary as required by the WWFF Rules. I was also well inside the SOTA Activation Zone – I estimate only 5 or 6 metres below the actual summit.

station at vk2_ri-018

The station set up beside the fence post, inside the National Park

As expected, things rapidly became a little hectic. With so many Activators on air, it becomes difficult to try to catch the other Activators.

I was on air by approximately 2245Z. When I turned on the radio, I could hear a contact in progress. I waited to call the Activator. My first calls were drowned out by louder stations, but I soon got through and had my first Summit to Summit (S2S) for the day in the log – Leigh VK3SG/p.

With the help of the SOTAwatch website, I tried listening for various Activators, bagging two more before 2300Z. I then Spotted on 7.144 MHz and soon had 10 more in the log. I now had both the summit qualified for SOTA and the Park qualified for VKFF.

When I had no more callers, I started chasing other Activators. I tried a listening for some of the ZL stations on 20 m without success. I did work John VK6NU/p on VK6/SW-039. I dropped back to 40 m to work Mitch Vk7XDM/p and Rik Vk3EQ/7, both on VK7/WC-013 in VKFF-0347. I continued chasing others, bagging Geoff ZL3GA on ZL3/OT-478 on 20 m SSB and Justin VK7TW/p on VK7/CH-057 on 40 m.

After 0000Z, I tried calling for a while with few responses. Back in chaser mode with some band changes, I managed a few more S2S contacts. I also had several unsuccessful calls to Activators on voice – the rig was only outputting 5 W due to the temperature.

I saw Ian VK5CZ/p spotted, so moved to 40 m CW to work Ian, followed by Andrew VK1DA/2. I then moved up a small way and spotted and soon had the summit qualified on CW. I continued with a mix of chasing others and spotting and calling.

My last contact was logged at 0213Z, by which time it was getting very warm – into the low 30s.

I had 51 contacts in the log, with 34 S2S contacts and 19 Park to Park contacts.

I packed up and headed back down the track. I took a short detour to the local trig point to have a look – the trig is in poor condition, located on a knoll lower than the summit.

I made my way back down to the road and drove back to Wodonga.

A new SOTA Activator Unique and a new VKFF reference qualified to WWFF level.

The farmer gave me permission to pass on contact details for any others wishing to activate the summit. Contact me direct for the details.

Summary of results for the day:

34 S2S contacts for 160 S2S points
156 Chaser points
4 Activator points

19 Park to Park contacts

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Four summits along Buffalo Range

Sunday 30 December 2018

Saturday was a quiet day, although I did venture out to a local recreation reserve in the afternoon to work Compton VK2HRX/3 on Mt Tabletop. I could not hear Compton on 40 m SSB on the mobile whip and started to set up the portable antenna. I sent a text message asking if 80 m was possible. I almost had the antenna up when Compton signified that he was calling. I could hear him, but it was difficult with band noise. I messaged back indicating the antenna was almost up and finished the installation, changed the antenna connections to the radio and then worked Compton comfortably. It was hot in Wodonga – the high 30s.

Sunday morning I decided to head to the hills, given that high 30s were again forecast. I posted an Alert without checking my notes, posting the reference for the second target summit, not the first…. I left Wodonga at around 0900 local and headed south to Porepunkah and then down the Buckland Valley Road. After crossing the narrow road bridge, I started the climb up Goldie Spur Track to Buffalo Gap, enjoying the views across to the South Face of the Mount Buffalo Plateau when I had the chance. Goldie Track was easy to negotiate. At Buffalo Gap I turned south onto Yarrabuck Track, which became a little rougher and steeper in places, with large spoon drains.

VK3/VE-078 (unnamed) 1262 m 8 points

Yarrabuck Track crosses the summit at about 4.6 km from Buffalo Gap.

There is a large cleared area on the summit with some impressive trees and great views to the east. I noticed the Alert error and deleted the incorrect Alert and posted a new one. I set up by tossing a line over a branch and hauling up the link dipole and set up the folding table and chair. I spotted myself for 40 m CW and had four in the log within 20 minutes – a little slow, but the summit was now qualified. I moved up the band for SSB and searched around for a clear frequency – between groups and amateur News broadcast stations, 40 m is often busy on Sunday mornings. I spotted myself and had four in the log inside five minutes, then no responses to calls, so I dropped down to 80 m SSB for only one caller. I moved up to 20 m SSB and soon worked John ZL1BYZ and heard Warren ZL2AJ/m call me. I called Warren several times but he did not respond. Next in the log was John VK4TJ. After several minutes of calling, I saw a Spot from Andrew VK3ARR/p on VK3/VC-032 on 40 m, so dropped back down to 40 m and made the S2S contact. I then worked Mark VK4SMA/p in Springbrook Conservation Park before I packed up and resumed the journey south.

A new Activator Unique and a Complete for me.

The rest of the track heading south was a little rougher in places: in addition to the usual spoon drains, there were some rough rocky and rutted sections.

The next summit was just under 9 km further along Yarraback Track.

VK3/VE-099 (unnamed) 1183 m 6 points

view north to buffalo

Looking north towards the Mt Buffalo Plateau

 

The summit has a little space beside the track. I set up in a similar fashion to the previous summit and looked at SOTAwatch before I spotted myself. I saw that Dan ZL4DVG was on a summit on 40 m CW. I tuned to his frequency and could hear him 539 and called him a couple of times without any response. I moved up a little in frequency and spotted myself for 40 m CW. In about 12 minutes I had 5 contacts in the log – summit qualified. I moved up the band and spotted for SSB. I worked six stations in less than 10 minutes. It was now after 1300 local time, so I packed up and moved on.

A new Activator Unique for me.

I continued south and on to Buffalo Range Track. About 5 km south of the last summit, I could see the old track up to the next summit. A new track contours around the summit on the eastern side. The old track looked quite rough and steep, so I decided to check the southern side. About one kilometre on I reached the southern end of the old track, which looked somewhat over grown and some fallen timber. I parked the car and loaded up the rucksack.

VK3/VE-086 (unnamed) 1220 m 8 points

The climb to the summit was around 500 m horizontally and about 100 m vertical climb, taking just over 30 minutes. I set up and worked Mark VK4SMA/p, now in Nerang National Park. I moved down the band and spotted for 40 m CW. I had a steady stream of callers, working 8 stations in around 20 minutes, including Andrew VK3ARR/p on VK3/VC-007 for another S2S. I moved up the band and spotted on SSB, working nine stations in around 15 minutes.

I believe that this was the first activation of the summit on voice – from memory, the first activation was CW only.

A new Activator Unique and Complete for me.

I packed up and quickly descended to the car – only about 15 minutes for the downhill trip.

I loaded up the car and continued along Buffalo Range Track. The next summit was just over 7 km south and east.

VK3/VE-062 (unnamed) 1345 m 8 points

I again set up like the first two summits. I spotted for 80 m SSB and soon had Tony VK3CAT in the log. Eight minutes later, there were five in the log and no further callers. I moved up to 40 m CW and spotted. The next fifteen minutes or so saw another 10 contacts in the log. I also heard Geoff VK3SQ call me, but he did not respond to my calls.

I gave up calling at around 1630 local – the summit was well qualified on both CW and SSB and I had a long drive back to Wodonga in front of me.

A new Activator Unique and Complete for me.

I packed up and continued south. I took a chance and turned into Twin Creeks Road to descend to Mount Selwyn Road and on to Buckland River Road and eventually back to Porepunkah and then back to Wodonga.

Thanks to all who chased today. It was a busy day for me, gaining me four new Activator Uniques, three Completes and 30 Activator points.

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Mount Barandudah

28 December 2018

The heat wave was forecast to continue, with temperatures expected to reach around 40. I had a slow start to the day and checked the SOTA Alerts. I noted that Sid and Adele were due to be out in SE Queensland but what really caught my attention was that Sam VK2GPL was going to activate Mt Perseverance VK4/SE-024. I had activated this summit in April 2017 and I do not believe that anyone else had been there as yet, so this was a chance to bag a Complete.

I headed off just after 1100 local and headed around to Boyes Road and Burgess Lane. The two gates were open, saving short efforts in the heat to open and close the gates. I drove up Darmodys Track and Cobs Track to reach Baranduda Range Track. I stopped and quickly posted an Alert, but posted the wrong summit code – sorry folks! I then headed generally west. The tracks were more rutted than on my last visit with more exposed rocks and some quite rough sections. I made it through to track junction just before the Park boundary and parked close to the track junction.

Mount Baranduda VK3/VE-189 775 m 4 points
Baranduda Regional Park VKFF-0959

I set up with a line over a tree and the folding table and camp chair, with the KX2 to a LiFePO4 battery. I was about to spot myself when I saw that Sid and Adele were on air, as was Ian VK1DI/2. I opted to work Ian first and soon had a Park to Park in the log – Ian was in VKFF-0312. I had to look up the Park and Summit references whilst chatting with Ian. Ian offered the frequency to me, as he was about to close. I thanked Ian but declined, noting that I may come back after hopefully making contact with Adele VK4/ZS5APT & Sid VK4/ZS5AYC. I then moved down to 7.090 and waited my chance to join the pile up chasing Sid & Adele. I eventually made the contacts: 54 sent and 42 received from them both on VK4/SE-011. I am not sure if they were inside the Park or not…..

I then moved down to 40 m CW and spotted myself. Eleven minutes saw six contacts in the log. I saw a spot from Sam Vk2GPL/4, so moved up to his frequency and worked him on SSB on Mt Perseverance VK4/SE-024– a new Chaser Unique and Complete. I moved up the band to find Tony VK5FBIC in Anstey Hill recreation Park VKFF-1683. It was hard work, but we made the contact. I moved down to 7.135, spotted myself on SSB and started calling. 30 minutes of calling saw the tally grow to 30 stations. With that total and a Park to Park in the log, I decided to keep calling. The temperature was around 30, but the breeze was cooling and the sun was behind cloud most of the time. A short move to 20 m SSB bagged five contacts before a final push on 40 m SSB saw the total rise to 47 contacts. I packed up and headed back the way I had come and back to Wodonga. The pack up was a little warmer, as the sun broke through the clouds.

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Two summits near Bright

Thursday 27 December 2018

The weather forecast for the coming days was looking nasty: temperatures rising into the 40s. Glenn VK3YY and Kevin VK3KAB had posted an Alert for Mt McLeod VK3/VE-034 for 0900 local time. I decided to head towards Bright to bag a couple of six point summits.

Whilst heading south from Wodonga, I heard Glenn calling CQ SOTA. I worked him whilst mobile. About 15 minutes later, I worked Kevin. I continued to Bright and then up Mt Porepunkah Road.

Mount Porepunkah VK3/VE-098 1185 m 6 points

I was on the summit just before 2300Z and found a spot to set up away from the fire watch tower with some shade. I set up and started calling on 40 m CW. I had four contacts in the log within 10 minutes. With no further responses to calls, I moved up the band to call on SSB. The next 15 minutes saw another five in the log. I then moved to 80 m SSB, working two more stations. I then moved up to 20 m SSB and worked eight stations in ten minutes. This included a S2S with Dan ZL4DVG on ZL3/WC-599. I returned to 80 m SSB to work John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga.

With no further callers, I closed the station and packed up. I returned back towards Bright and then headed up Tawonga Gap Track towards the next summit. The road to Mount Porepunkah can be negotiated in a 2WD vehicle with reasonable care. Tawonga Gap Track is much steeper and rougher.

VK3/VE-097 (unnamed) 1185 m 6 points

The summit is unremarkable, with a small cleared area and a small concrete Survey Marker on the edge of the clearing. I set up and started calling on 40 m CW to be quickly called by Allen VK3ARH/m. I posted a spot and soon had more callers – a total of six callers on CW on 40 m. I moved to 40 m SSB and worked four more callers. I saw a spot for Ben VK3WRL/p on SSB, but could hear nothing. I waited a few minutes and a new spot arrived and I soon had Ben in the log on 40 m CW. I returned to SSB but had no callers, so moved up to 20 m SSB and worked Ben VK2GPL/4 for a S2S and then spotted. I worked another three contacts before things went quiet. Next in the log was Brian VK3BCM/p on VK3/VC-016 on 40 m SSB. Shortly after 0200Z, I worked Glenn VK3YY/p, now on The Horn VK3/VE-014. Before I packed up, I called on 80 m SSB and worked Geoff VK3SQ.

The temperature was rapidly rising, especially when I started descending off the summit. I grabbed a late lunch in Bright before returning to Wodonga.

I missed a couple of activations, both SOTA and Parks – I could not hear the stations from the car, with the stations being a bit close to me with the propagation and QRP gear. It was too hot outside (41 C) to bother to stop and set up a full size antenna.

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Black Range and Wabonga Plateau

Wednesday 26 December 2018

I decided to head to the area of the upper King Valley to a couple of summits that had not yet been activated. I headed down the Hume Highway to near Wangaratta before heading south towards Edi. Along the way I had a long chat with John VK2YW with the assistance of the hands free system in the vehicle. John posted an Alert for me – less than an hour before expected activation time, but it gave potential chasers a heads up.

From Edi, I headed to Edi Upper and worked my way around to Lake Buffalo Whitfield Road and turned east. Near Edi, I turned on APRSdroid on the mobile phone.

I turned into Porters Track, which was not signed and had a gate to open. A few hundred metres on was another gate and then it was into the Black Range State Forest. The initial section of the track in the Forest had a good blue metal surface. As you started climbing, the surface turned to predominantly clay and rock, It looked as if it may be tricky when wet, with dried ruts evident in places. There were the usual large spoon drains, plus fallen branches and rocks to dodge. I worked my way up to the junction with Black range Track, well inside the Activation Zone for the summit.

black range

Track junction close to summit

Black Range VK3/VE-094 1195 m 6 points Not previously activated

I arrived at the junction just after UTC midnight. I found a spot to park the car in the shade near a tree with a suitable branch to toss a line over. I also set up the folding table and the camp chair away from the car but still in the shade. Once set up, I started calling on 40 m CW. I soon had Ian VK5CZ in the log. I then spotted myself and soon had more callers. Despite my brain being uncooperative at times, I had nine in the log about 26 minutes after starting calling. With no more callers, I moved to 40 m SSB and announced the move. The next 10 minutes saw nine more in the log.

I reconfigured the antenna for 20 m and spotted myself. 10 minutes later I had ZL2, VK6, VK8 and VK3 in the log. I spotted on 20 m CW and then spent more than 10 minutes calling on CW without any callers. I was about to shut down and saw a spot for Ben VK3WRL/p on Mt Pinnibar, so reconfigured for 40 m and dialled up Ben’s frequency. I soon had a S2S in the log. I then shut down and packed up. I checked track options and decided to retrace my access route and head towards Whitfield.

From Whitfield, I headed south to Cheshunt to grab some lunch at the General Store. I then headed towards Paradise Falls before turning off Paradise Falls Road onto Wabonga Track. Around four kilometres up the track, I turned right into McMillans Track and towards the target summit.

VK3/VE-171 (unnamed) 827 m 4 points Not previously activated
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

I drove up to the high point on McMillans Track and started looking for a spot to pull off the track to park. I went about 500 m beyond the summit location and found a couple of parking areas near a point marked on the Rooftop Map as a lookout. I parked and checked the mapping. The lookout is at about 813 m, well inside the Activation Zone. I had a quick look at the view from the lookout and returned to the vehicle to set up the station.

view south vk3_ve-171

View south from the lookout, with Lake William Hovell visible

Once set up, I turned on the radio on 40 m SSB and opened the SOTAwatch website. I soon had Ben VK3WRL/p in the log. Ben was now on Mt Gibbo. After chatting with Ben for a couple minutes, I moved down the band to the CW end and started calling after announcing the frequency on Discord. I worked Tony VK1VIC almost immediately. I called CQ without response. After spotting myself, I soon had two more in the log. Several more minutes of calling yielded no responses. I moved up to 40 m SSB, spotted and started calling. I soon had three regulars in the log. Things then became very slow…. I had no responses to calls on 20 m SSB nor on 20 m CW. I then worked Ben VK3WRL/p on 40 m CW, so now had a fourth CW contact. I moved back to 40 m SSB for a few minutes of calling, gaining another three contacts. The activation now qualified for VKFF.

ve-171 operating setup

Operating site at VK3/VE-171

I packed up and retraced my route to Cheshunt and then headed north to Wangaratta and on to Wodonga.

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Hollonds Hill

Monday 24 December 2018

The day started with a short drive to the local athletics field to work Mitch VK7XDM/p on another VK7 summit. I then returned to base to get a few things organised prior to heading south to Mount Beauty, where I stopped at the Bakery to buy a salad roll for lunch. I then headed up Simmonds Creek Road to Yong Gap, the base of the climb to the first target for the day.

Hollonds Hill VK3/VE-172 “825” m 4 points

I had looked at this summit earlier in the year and found Road Closed signs together with signs regarding a planned burn. I was hoping that was all done, but found that the Road Closed signs were still in place. I parked the car and loaded up the pack to start the climb.

The OzTopo maps show a spot height of 845 m.

From the saddle, the approach is 830 m horizontally with a vertical climb of almost 210 m. The track goes to beyond the summit and is steep and slippery in places, even when dry. The day was quickly warming up, with only patches of shade during the climb.

I made it to the summit and was set up just after 0200Z. I switched on the KX2, which was still sitting on 7.144 MHz from yesterday’s activation on Mt Pinnibar. There was traffic on the frequency and I called a few times to the CQ calls. I soon had Nik VK3NLK in Lake Eildon National Park VKFF-0625 in the log. I swapped VFOs to go to the CW end of 40 m and heard a CQ call. I soon had a S2S in the log with Ben VK3WRL/p on The Knocker VK3/VG-016 – an unexpected bonus. I spotted Ben and moved up to 7.034 MHz and spotted myself. It took a couple minutes before I had a caller, but then soon had four more in the log. With no more responses, I moved to 7.090 MHz SSB and asked if the frequency was in use. I had an immediate response: Mitch VK7XDM/p on VK7/NE-005 for S2S. Mitch offered to move down the band and left the frequency to me. I heard and responded to Compton VK2HRX. It became clear that Compton had a report from me and sent 32 in reply, but he did not have the callsign correct and I received no confirmation – an incomplete contact. Next was Cliff VK2NP and then no more callers. I strung out the 80 m extensions and moved down to 3.615 to work Rik VK3EQ and then started calling. I had no response and was about to shut down when I heard some weak CW. I soon had Tony VK3CAT in the log, with 319 reports both ways. I returned to SSB and heard Lee VK2LEE call, but he did not respond to my reply. It was now after 0300Z, so I closed down & packed up.

A new Activator Unique summit and a SOTA Complete for me.

The steeper sections of the track required care on the descent. I eventually got back down to the car at around 0345Z. With a family dinner engagement in Wodonga at 1700, I decided to abandon plans for a second summit for the day and deleted my spot indicating QRT and moving to another summit. I also sent my intentions to our WhatsApp group.

I retraced my route back to Mount Beauty and then headed back to Wodonga.

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Three summits south of Corryong

Sunday 23 December 2018

Saturday was a quiet day with some family commitments. Sunday morning I decided to head to the east and to attempt to get to a new summit and hopefully activate a couple of summits to make them Complete.

I headed off along the Murray Valley Highway towards Corryong, with a stop at Tallangatta to buy something for lunch. I turned south at Colac Colac onto the Benambra Corryong Road and then east onto Nariel Gap Road. At Nariel Gap, I headed north along Evans Track to the high point of the track.

VK3/VE-170 (unnamed) 828 m 4 points Not previously activated

At the top of the spur, there was a track heading to the west with a Private Property sign. I checked the mapping again and confirmed that the area where I was located and to beyond the summit was located in State Forest. I decided that the best approach was to ignore the road and to climb up along the peak of the ridge, as I had originally planned. I loaded up the SOTA pack and started the climb.

The climb is about 650 m horizontally, with an altitude gain of 128 m. There are patches of bracken and some fallen timber, with the higher sections becoming rocky.

I set up just below the rocky summit knoll. Mitch VK7XDM was close to his first target summit for the day. I spotted myself for 40 m CW. Signals were good to Melbourne, Sydney and even fair to Toowoomba. I worked six stations in around 12 minutes – summit qualified on CW. I sent “SSB” and moved up to 7.085 as there was traffic on 7.092. Paul VK3HN replied to my first call, so appeared in the log twice as successive contacts as he was the sixth contact on CW. Next was Cliff VK2NP and I then moved up to 7.090 to work Mitch on Stacks Bluff VK3/NE-002 for a S2S. I returned to 7.085 and worked two more before I had no more responses to my calls and I shut down.

viewtowardscudgewa

Looking roughly north towards Cudgewa

One of the callers made comment that previously unactivated summits typically have not been activated for some good reason. I agreed. I suspect that reason that this summit had not been activated is that it a long drive, even for the activators living in the Albury/Wodonga region. There are many other summits nearby with higher points value and they would be more attractive targets given the required travel time.

A new Activator Unique and a new Unique for all the Chasers.

I returned to the car and headed down to Nariel Gap and headed west to Thowgla Road, then south and onto Walkers Road. At the junction with Gentle Anne Track I came across a blocked road: signs plus mounds of earth across the road. I suspect that there is either a bridge issue or a landslide somewhere on Walkers Road. A laminated paper sign on a garden stake at the start of Gentle Annie Track notes that the track is 4WD only. I engaged 4WD and started the climb up the track. The couple of kilometres are moderately steep in places, with the ubiquitous spoon drains…. Higher up the spur, the track flattens out somewhat and was in good condition, have recently seen some dozer work. I parked at the high point of the track, directly north of the target summit.

Gentle Annie VK3/VE-114 “1121” m 6 points

The OzTopo mapping suggests a summit height of about 1130 m, with a spot height just south of the summit of 1121 m.

I loaded up the pack and started climbing up the spur line towards the summit. I climbed up the gentle slope for around 400 m until I was at around 1120 m. I set up and decided on a quick activation – 40 m SSB only – as I hoped to activate one more for the day.

15 minutes of calling yielded the four contacts required to qualify the summit. Apologies to any slow responders that missed me.

A new Activator Unique summit and a SOTA Complete for me.

I quickly packed up and pushed hard back to the car. I continued south and returned to the southern section of Walkers Road. The barrier here was a plastic grid-mesh fence behind the Road Closed sign, with the plastic fence having been pushed over flat. I heads south and stopped to consider my options at the next track junction. Mount Baldy would require another climb up through scrub to the summit, so I decided to continue further south. At the junction with Marginal Road, I veered right. I checked the map again at the start of Mt Boebuck Track. Mt Boebuck would require a more significant scrub bash a significant climb, so this was also ruled out for another trip: perhaps with Mt Baldy as a second target. I continued south, veered left onto Dead Finish Track and on until I reached the signposted start of the climb to the next target.

Mount Pinnibar VK3/VE-009 1772 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

I turned left onto Walkers Road and then onto Mount Pinnibar Track, which started climbing and became rougher. No real issues were found with this seasonally closed track, just the usual spoon drains and some rocky and stony sections. The ascent was a case of slow and steady. I reached the summit and parked beside some snow gums just west of the trig.

The views from the summit were spectacular – you can view all 360 degrees, provided that you moved around the snow gums beside the trig.

pinnabarstation

The station on Mt Pinnibar

I set up with a heavy duty squid pole and the heavier 20/40/80 link dipole. I operated from a folding table and chair under the shade of the snow gums. I spotted on 40 m CW and worked six stations in 15 minutes. I moved up to 7.135 MHz SSB and spotted, working three stations, including Peter VK3TKK/p in Inverleigh Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2336. With no response to further calls, I spent a fruitless fifteen minutes calling on 80 m SSB before I returned to 40 m, spotting on 7.144 MHz. I needed one more to qualify the activation for VKFF. The next 15 minutes yielded 11 callsigns in the log. I received a message from Geoff VK3SQ that he could not hear me, so quickly changed antenna links and worked Geoff on 80 m SSB. With no responses to CQ calls on SSB and CW on 3.615 MHz, I closed down and packed up.

A new Activator Unique summit and a SOTA Complete for me.

I retraced my route to Walkers Road and headed west, working my way around to Dunstans Road which wound its way north and then descended to the west to Benambra Corryong Road. It was then an easy drive north to the Murray Valley Highway and back to Wodonga.

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