2017 SOTA Mount Hotham gathering

Brian VK3MCD organised a second gathering of SOTA enthusiasts based at the Peninsula Ski Club at Mount Hotham, held over the last weekend in February. This date clashed once again with the Wyong “Field Day” hamfest, so a few possible attendees from VK1 and VK2 decided against the trip to Hotham. This year it was a self-catering effort, with plans for a group meal out on Saturday evening.

I headed off on Friday, about mid-morning. The drive was uneventful apart from a few sections of roadwork. I stopped for fuel in Bairnsdale, and later a little south of Ensay to eat lunch and to work Paul VK3HN/p on Mt Nelse VK3/VE-004 on SSB. I saw a SSB spot for Tony VK3CAT/p, but could not hear him at the time. Just before I started the drive to Omeo, I sent a SMS to Tony suggesting that we try CW. I received a reply a few minutes later, so pulled over to the side of the road and shut down everything in the car – I have terrible RFI from the car and the GPS and its DC converter. I worked Tony on 7 MHz CW, so VK3/VE-019 was in the log. Thanks Tony!

North to Omeo, and then on toward Benambra and Corryong until I reached Tablelands Road. Left into Tablelands Road and along to Porphyry Hill Track.

VK3/VG-063 Gresson Knob 1044 m 6 points Not previously activated

Porphyry Hill Track has a gate at its Tablelands Road junction – not locked. I was considering aborting, but saw a sign a few metres beyond the gate indicating a firewood collection area. This confirmed my earlier investigations that this was public access. The drive up was steep in places with careful pointing required in a few places, but the little Impreza managed OK, although I did engage low range at the first really steep section. I made it all the way to the summit, making for a short walk from the car to set up using a eucalypt sapling to support the squid pole.

I posted a spot and Adrian VK5FANA was first in the log, followed by Ian VK5CZ, Mick VK3GGG and Nev VK5WG. Several calls yielded no replies, so I changed to 20 m to gain a further 4 contacts: ZL1SKL, ZL1BYZ, VK4QO and VK6NU. With no replies to further calls, I shut down and packed up for the trip back to Omeo and up to Mount Hotham.

porphyryhilltrackonexit

Looking north while leaving the summit

After arriving, the social discussions started, even while assisting Brian to erect an OCFD for HF and a 2 m vertical on the lodge balcony. Late afternoon yielded contacts with Paul VK3HN/p on Mt McKay VK3/VE-007, Tony VK3CAT/p on Mt Loch VK3/VE-005 CW with a broken iambic paddle operated as a straight key and Allen VK3ARH/p on Ulrich Peak on 2 m FM, but only after I drove up to the Loch car park – there was too much blockage at the lodge.

Friday evening was quite social, especially after everyone had eaten dinner. Various options were discussed, with groupings unsure when everyone retired. Further discussions occurred in the morning over breakfast. Glenn VK3YY was planning to have a look at The Twins Track, hoping to get to The Twins and VK3/VE-023. Brian VK3MCD was looking at trying to get to Mt Bindi to the southeast of Omeo. Ron VK3AFW was planning to head to Mt Phipps and Mt Birregun.

Saturday 25 February

I decided to join Brian, along with Paul VK3HN. We headed off to Omeo and on toward Mt Nugong. On the approach to the summit we stopped to look at “The Washington Winch”, a steam driven winch used to haul logs up out of the valley below using steel cables and pulleys which was imported into Victoria in the 1920s and used into the 1960s. The Washington Winch is of historical and scientific significance.

Mt Nugong VK3/VG-018 1482 m 8 points

Mt Nugong is a drive-up summit, with a solar powered communications site on the summit. We set up on the summit using one leg of the sign to support the squidpole and Brian’s OCFD antenna. First in my log was VK3YY/p on Mt Blue Rag VK3/VE-021 – a great start, a S2S contact! Within 10 minutes the summit was qualified, including the time spent in passing the microphone around to ensure that everyone made enough contacts to qualify. 40 m propagation was poor, with poor NVIS.

We packed up and headed around to Nunniong Road, then north to Sawpit Road. We then followed an old logging track (I think it may have been Granite Flat Link Track) to Escarpment Track, then north to Mount Bindi Track.

Mount Bindi VK3/VG-017 1484 m 8 points Not previously activated

I had looked at this summit previously and had discussed an earlier attempt to access the summit with another amateur. I had thought that a real 4WD vehicle would be needed and had not attempted to find a way to the summit before my Forester died. Therefore, it was a clear choice when Brian suggested trying to get to this one the night before! In the end, access was OK, and an easier route to the summit is likely to be possible, but not yet confirmed.

Nunniong Road and Escarpment Track are two of many in the area subject to seasonal road closure, so the most likely time to be able to access is during summer and autumn. Nunniong Road is reasonably good, okay for a 2WD vehicle with care. The southern end of Escarpment Track looks very rough and narrow. When we reached it further north, it was a better track. Sawpit Road was also OK for the section that we travelled, and looked okay at the northern end. Therefore, a possible approach route may be Nunniong Road to Sawpit Road, north to Sawpit Link Track, south on Escarpment Track to Mt Bindi Track and in to the summit. Mt Bindi Track was a little rough – 4WD recommended. Retrace your approach route back to Nunniong Road to exit.

We set up on the edge of the track, less than 80 m from the nominal summit location and clearly inside the activation zone. Brian, as driver, had the privilege of starting the activation. My first contact was with Alan VK3FABT back at the lodge on 40 m SSB. I had the required qualifying contacts with other stations via 2 m FM, including Tony VK3CAT/p and Allen VK3ARH/p, both on Mount Feathertop VK3/VE-002. Tony and Allen had walked out in about 3 hours – a good effort.

We packed up, with Brian having had a telephone call about an incident concerning Ron VK3AFW: his car had overheated and he was stranded in Omeo. We advised Ron that we would pick him up after doing our next activation, given that we were so far east of Omeo. Brian wanted to bag Mt Nunniong.

We headed back to Escarpment Track, then north to Nunniong Plains Track. We passed the end of Sawpit Road and continued on. We followed this across rough country to reach Nunniong Road. It may have been quicker to go back along Sawpit Road – a greater distance but perhaps faster?

Mount Nunniong VK3/VG-011 1617 m 10 points

I had activated this summit previously and we approached using the same route: Nunniong Road north to Jam Tin Flat Track, Diggers Hole Road to the junction with Blue Shirt Track. According to the GPS, the track junction is just inside the AZ. To be sure, travel down Blue Shirt Track to the first high point – clearly inside the 1600 m contour.

Two contacts on 7 MHz and two on 2 m FM had the summit qualified. Given the time required to exit the area to pick up Ron in Omeo, we called it quits given the poor HF propagation.

We followed the GPS directions back to Omeo: retrace back to the start of Jam Tin Flat Track, then north along Nunniong Road to Limestone Road – including travelling through the AZ of Brumby Hill VK3/VG-012. Then travel west back to Benambra and Omeo. We picked up Ron and headed off to the next summit.

Mount Birregun VK3/VT-020 1363 m 8 points

The approach is straight forward: head towards Hotham on the Great Alpine Road, then south toward Cassilis. Then follow the signs for Dargo: Upper Livingston Road, then Birregun Road.

We again set up with Brian’s OCFD plus 2 m. I qualified the summit on 2 m FM, mainly with contacts back to the group at Hotham. Ron had his first completed activation for the day…

We loaded up and headed back to Mt Phipps.

Mount Phipps VK3/VG-015 1536 m 10 points

We approached from Birregun Road via Mount Phipps Track. We activated the summit via 2 m FM, given how poor HF had been all day. I suspect that Ron was more than happy to have an activated summit in the log so quickly.

We retraced our route back to Birregun Road, then south to Dinner Plain Track. This was initially in very good condition, but deteriorated to 4WD later on. We followed it all the way through to Dinner Plain, then back to Hotham on the Great Alpine Road.

Once back at the lodge, it was a quick pick up of some items, then up to the summit. Brian had arranged access direct to the top, where we set up for some late afternoon nibbles and drinks. Some chose to set up stations to activate Hotham. I decided to not activate at this time, planning to visit the summit during the bonus season.

lateafternoonhotham

Late afternoon on Mt Hotham, looking SW

After the summit, we headed back down to The General for dinner. Only one issue – they lost my order and my meal did not arrive until about 2130, after Alan had raised the issue with staff and they followed up….. It was back to the lodge for some discussions and then off to bed.

Sunday 26 February

Sunday was more varied. Some were planning to activate summits on their way home, whilst we had two groups planning to activate summits and return to Hotham. I joined Ken VK3KIM and Ron VK3AFW for a trip to the south west.

Blue Rag Range VK3/VE-015 1717 m 10 points

The route out to this summit is an iconic 4WD track, so it was not surprising that we found about 8 4WD vehicles lined up on the summit when we arrived: they had driven up to enjoy the views in the early morning following sunrise: the sun rising above cloud-filled valleys. By time we arrived, the low clouds had mostly evaporated.

blueragrangetrack

Looking back Blue Rag Range Track

We set up just north of the trig, with a 40/20 inverted V and a 2 m vertical on separate masts. My first contact was Tony VK3XV/p on Huon Hill VK3/VE-237 in Wodonga Regional Park. A string of contacts followed: S2S with Allen VK3ARH/p on Albion Point VK3/VE-080; Tony VK3CAT/p, Paul VK3HN/p and Brain on Mt Tabletop VK3/VE-028; Glenn VK3YY/p on The Horn VK3/VE-014, and several others. Amongst the contacts were S2S by me and Ron with Brian on Tabletop on 23 cm FM – a first SOTA 23 cm contact for Ron and Brian.

We packed up and headed back down the track to Basalt North Track, then south.

Basalt Knob VK3/VE-039 1512 m 10 points

We drove up and parked at the edge of the helipad, then set up just inside the AZ. This time we used my gear. On switch on, we heard Allen VK3ARH/p calling CQ on 40 m CW – where the rig had last been used. I quickly completed a S2S with Allen, followed by Ron working Allen. A few minutes later, I worked Glenn VK3YY/p on The Hump VK3/VE-019 for another S2S. Shortly after, I worked Brian VK3MCD/p as his group were walking out from Mt Tabletop. The contact with Brian qualified the summit for me. The others made further contacts before we had lunch prior to moving on.

White Timber VK3/VE-060 1375 m 8 points

This summit was the main reason to join Ken and Ron the day. The approach from Basalt Knob was relatively easy: Ritchie Road was in good shape and open on this occasion. We reached White Timber Spur South Track and negotiated the deep gutter with a couple of scrapes. The track was serious 4WD and we gave up after a few hundred metres when we reached a deeply rutted and steep section. We parked off track and loaded up my rucksack of gear to climb up to the AZ. The whole area is regrowth, quite thick off the track.

First in the log was Allen VK3ARH/p on VK3/VE-030 for a S2S. 40 m propagation had improved and we worked several more chasers on 40 m SSB. Once we had all qualified and had no further callers to CQs, we shut down and headed back to the car.

kenwhitetimbers

Ken on White Timber

Once back on Ritchie Road, we followed it out to the Dargo High Plains Road: excellent condition most of the way, but care needed with two creek crossings. At this time of the year, many 2WD vehicles could use this approach, retracing their route to exit. We then headed north, back to Blue Rag Range Track.

Mt Blue Rag VK3/VE-021 1679 m 10 points

The final approach is a little rough, with deep ruts to negotiate, then a mess in the saddle. Once through the saddle, follow the track up until it flattens out to ensure you are in the AZ. We set up on 40 m and quickly had four VK5 stations in the log plus a couple of “locals” on 2 m FM from near the lodge on Hotham.

We then packed up and returned to the lodge for some nibbles before Brian, Ken and myself headed down to Dinner Plain for dinner.

Monday 27 February 2017

Those remaining at Hotham were planning to head off the mountain and eventually to home. Ron and Ken planned a couple of summits close to Omeo and then in to confer with the RACV mechanic and hear his assessment of the Outback. I decided to head for Mansfield, via Myrtleford and then across country. I stopped at a bakery in Mansfield for lunch, then south to Jamieson and then toward Licola. En-route I stopped to listen for Ron and Ken on VK3/VG-064 but could only hear chasers.

Mount Skene VK3/VE-031 1565 m 10 points

The high point in the road across the top is clearly inside the AZ. I set up on the edge of the road, using a sign post to support the squid pole. I managed to post a spot for 40 m SSB and was soon rewarded with a call from Gerard VK2IO/m. Several of the regular callers followed, with 10 completed contacts in 20 minutes. I heard Geoff VK3SQ call me, but he was unable to hear my responses, even after I added the 40 W amplifier. Sorry Geoff.

I packed up and continued toward Licola.

Mount Shillinglaw VK3/VE-068 1301 m 8 points

A Shire of Mansfield tractor with a scrub “mower” attachment was parked at the junction with the Alpine Walking Track. I parked behind it and loaded up with the pack for the approach walk of about 1.8 km with about 130 m climb. The afternoon was quite warm, slowing progress a little. The track is becoming encroached with regrowth from the edges, but quite easy to follow. Watch for diversions around large fallen logs.

During the climb I some plants with lovely purple berries – I guess that I should do some research to identify the plant species. There were other plants with bright red berries.

shillinglawapproach

On the approach

I found a spot without close-by ant nests – there are many about! Tony VK7LTD answered my CQ calls on 40 m SSB and kindly spotted me. By time Col VK3LED called me, the Kandos groups had started up on 7093, so we moved down to 7085. Col then re-spotted me. Over the next 20 minutes, I had 13 contacts in the log. I was about the pack most of the gear in the rucksack when the phone beeped – coverage was very marginal, so I was somewhat surprised. It was a SMS from Rik VK3EQ that he was on a summit. I quickly reassembled the station – luckily I had not yet dropped the antenna. I then joined the dogpile to work Rik on VK7/SW-171 for a S2S. I listened briefly after completing the contact, then packed up and headed back to the car.

I then resumed the trip toward Licola. I checked the watch as I crossed the Mansfield/Wellington Shire boundary and decided on one last summit for the weekend.

Conners Plain VK3/VT-022 1305 m 8 points

After parking the vehicle, I climbed up onto the plateau and set up using a stump for a support. I managed to post a spot and called on 7085. Andrew VK2UH was first in the log, followed by Gerard VK2IO/m, Nev VK5WG, Paul VK5PAS and John VK4TJ. With no further responses to CQs on 40, I switched to 20 m and posted a spot. I was rewarded with calls from Oliver DK7TX and Ogi 9A7W. Excellent contacts, as I was only running 5 W. Further calls gained no responses, so I shut down and headed back to the car and resumed the trip home.

I arrived back at home at about 2025 local, with the fuel warning light showing for the last 30 km or so. Lots of kilometres covered, with some terrific scenery and 3 summits activated.

Summary

It was a productive weekend, with terrific camaraderie. It was also highly productive for the SOTA scores.

13 summits activated for 114 Activator points
27 summits chased for 238 Chaser points
148 S2S points
3 new Activator Unique summits taking my total to 250 Uniques activated
2 new Chaser Uniques
2 new Complete summits.

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A summer weekend of SOTA fun

Friday 20 January 2017

I had a need to catch up with a friend located in Sunbury and desired to pick up and pay for a second-hand Spiderbeam 18 metre telescopic pole, which I had organised to buy the previous weekend.

I was away from home a little later than anticipated and headed west on the Princes Highway to Pakenham, then basically north through Cockatoo, Seville, Yarra Glen and on to Yea to garb some lunch. Having just finished lunch, I heard an alert for a VK3 SOTA activation. I found a quiet spot at the Yea River wetlands just east of town and managed to work Ken VK3KIM/p on Mount Kerang VK3/VU-010 on the mobile whip. Signals were not great, nor was propagation, but we made the contact.

I then headed west through Trawool and on to the property to purchase the Spiderbeam pole.

After a chat, I headed off to the west to Tallarook and then south a short distance, heading east and south on Ennis Road and into the Tallarook State Forest.

Mount Hickey VK3/VN-015 805 m 4 points

Ennis Road becomes Main Road. There was lots of small debris on the road, with a strong cold front having passed through the state overnight. Follow Main Road until you reach Mt Hickey Road and wind up to the summit, where you will find a fire watch Tower and lots of RF generators, including an AirServices Australia site. I choose to set up in the shallow saddle to the east of the summit, less than 10 m lower than the summit.

I strapped a squid pole to a stump and was quickly on air. I posted a Spot. Within 15 minutes I had 5 contacts in the log and received no responses to further CQ calls, so I packed up and headed back down to the Hume Highway.

South for 10 km and headed off on the Broadford turnoff, through Broadford and south to Jeffreys Lane. Turn into Jeffreys Lane and then turn into Mount Piper Lane. This is a little rough, but can be safely negotiated by a 2WD vehicle. The Lane ends in a car park, with a large locked gate to the rest of the reserve, plus a pedestrian gate.

Mount Piper VK3/VN-028 440 m 1 point

The summit lies inside the Mount Piper Nature Conservation Reserve. Just beyond the gate is an interpretive sign giving some basic information on the Reserve. There is no substantive information showing on the ParkWeb site.

Mount Piper is solitary steep peak rising some 210 m from the surrounding terrain. The Mount Piper Nature Conservation Reserve (94 ha) was established in 1980. Antimony was mined in the reserve from 1939 to 1945 but proved unprofitable. Shafts were sunk exploring for gold. During the 1940s, timber was sourced to fire the boilers at the Broadford paper mill.

The Reserve has one of the largest populations of the Golden Sun Moth, now restricted to a small number of locations. The Ant Blue Butterfly is another threatened species found with the reserve.

I loaded up my pack and headed up the walking track to the summit. After about 200 m, I reached Mount Piper Lane and decided to take the direct approach, climbing up Mount Piper Lane. A little way up I spotted an echidna exploring the base of a tree. When I spotted me, he (she?) curled up into a protective spiky ball. I waited patiently with the phone in camera made and managed to catch a photo of this lovely monotreme.

piperechidna2

Echidna spotted during the climb

I continued to the end of the vehicle track, and then scrambled the last few metres up to the summit trig.

I set up on the trig, which had a convenient swivelling mount through which I ran the squid pole – no need to strap the squiddie to the trig.

pipersummitview

The gear at the Mt Piper trig, with the view east over Broadford.

I spotted myself and started calling. It took several minutes before I gained a response, then I had a further four contacts inside 10 minutes. With no responses to further CQ calls, I packed up and headed back down to the car via the walking track.

mtpiperdescenttrack

Mt Piper descent track

I loaded up the car and started the trip south to Kilmore, then west across to Lancefield, across to Riddells Creek, and finally south to Sunbury. Just a little north of Sunbury, I heard Paul VK5PAS/p out in Warren Conservation Park. I stopped the car in a drive way and switched off everything to eliminate the noise. I had a solid contact with Paul, and then travelled on to my destination in Sunbury.

A new Unique and a new Complete.

Saturday 21 January 2017

The key event for Saturday was supposed to be a social one: a Family Day for members of the Macedon Ranges Amateur Radio Club, to which I was invited.

After adding fuel to the car, I headed up to Mount Macedon, to the summit area.

Mount Macedon VK3/VC-007 1005 m 6 points
Macedon Regional Park VKFF-0972

I have previously activated Mount Macedon as a SOTA summit, but had not visited since the Park was added to the WWFF system. The summit area is well known for the high level of RF interference, due to the numerous RF sites around the summit. I parked the car about 100 m down Francis Road, about 10-15 m vertically below the posted summit height. I set up running the dipole parallel to the edge of the unsealed road.

I posted a Spot indicating a short activation shortly after 2300 UTC (20/01/2017). The first contact was a couple of minutes later and I had 12 in the log inside as many minutes. Further calls yielded no responses, so I packed up and head off to the picnic venue.

Macedon Regional Park VKFF-0972

I was a short drive around to Days Park in another area of the Regional Park. After catching with some of those already present, I excused myself and set up the squid pole and 40/20 link dipole and started working stations to build up numbers toward the WWFF quantum of 44. Most stations were worked on 40 m. I worked 5 stations on 20 m, but none on 15 m. I also worked several on 2 m FM, most at quite short distance… I ended up with a total of 63 contacts in the log, including some SOTA contacts.

We decided to pack up a little after 1500 local, and headed back to Sunbury for the night.

Sunday 22 January 2017

After seeing the weather forecast for the next few days, I revised my notional plan. I headed north west, driving up the Calder Highway and then across to Maldon and up Mount Tarrengower. I had hopes of activating several summits during the day, so the plan was for short activations, hopefully only requiring the use of 40 m.

Mount Tarrengower VK3/VN-023 565 m 2 points

Mount Tarrengower dominates the skyline above the historic gold mining town of Maldon. A large poppet head sits on the summit, together with several RF sites. I set up in the shade of some trees just west of the poppet head.

First in the log was Rob VK4AAC/2 in Goonoo National Park VKFF-0590. I moved away from Rob to find a clear frequency – not easy on Sunday morning with all the News Broadcasts. Over about 25 minutes I gained 10 contacts. I heard Geoff VK3SQ very weakly, but he could not hear my QRP signal – sorry Geoff.

With no responses to further CQ calls, I packed up and headed back to the car and headed north west.

I drove into Loddon Shire and then east toward Eddington, stopping for a 10 minute VK3PF/m activation of the Shire for four stations in the log. Then it was further west then north to Moliagul.

Mount Moliagul VK3/VN-024 525 m 2 points

Mount Moliagul Road starts near the junction of B240 and C278 – just east of the intersection. It is signposted “Mt Moliagul lookout” or similar (I did not record the details). The Road is unsealed but suitable for 2WD vehicles. There were some rough sections with ruts, but they were easily navigated.

There are some comms sites on the summit. I parked and again set up under a nearby tree to gain the shade.

I spotted a short activation on 40 m and gained 10 stations in about 15 minutes. Once again, with no responses to further CQ calls, I packed up and headed back to the car and headed back to Moliagul and then south and in towards Mt Bealiba.

A new Unique and a new Complete.

Mt Bealiba VK3/VN-026 “481 m” 1 point

I believe that this summit needs to move location – there is a higher point about 500 m to the north. Both high points fall within a common activation zone. Having established that from the maps, I decided to activate the high point to the north.

I approached off the St Arnaud – Dunolly Road via Log Bridge Track, Martins Road and Bealiba Range Track. I reached a steep and rocky section and parked the Impreza to walk the rest of the approach, despite the hot temperature.

The climb was about 750 m horizontal with a climb of just over 80 m vertical, taking me about 17 minutes. After looking at the notional summit and confirming that it looked lower and that the GPS mapping confirmed that the saddle was less than 25 m lower than the summit, I set up on the edge of the track.

bealibatrack

Mt Bealiba track

After spotting myself, I worked 8 stations in about 10 minutes, after several initial calls after spotting.

It was hot on the summit, so again I closed when I received no responses to further CQ calls.

A new Unique and a new Complete.

I walked back to the car and retraced my route back to the bitumen and then headed to Dunolly to get some lunch. Just as well I was not any later, as the Bakery was packing up, just on 1500 local. I then headed south to Maryborough, Talbot and on to the Mount Beckworth Scenic Reserve

Mount Beckworth VK3/VC-024 635 m 2 points

There is good information about the Mount Beckworth Scenic Reserve on the Parks Victoria website http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/mount-beckworth-s.r.

Having read Allen VK3ARH’s blog, I found the small car park a few hundred metres before the Manna Gums Picnic Area. After entering the Reserve via Mountain Creek Road, turn left at the first junction. When the trees thin out, keep an eye out for an old sign on the right which indicates “Management Vehicles and Walkers Only” in a clear patch of grass before some trees. I parked in the shade and loaded up for the climb. I followed the vehicle track to its end, then the walking track, which rapidly heads north – the opposite direction to the summit! But it gradually climbs and the extra distance is sure to be better than climbing through long grass, bracken, scrub and around boulders, let alone thinking about what might be slithering around unseen. After about 600 m, you reach a track junction and turn left, climbing up to the ridge line. It is then a matter of climbing up the Management Vehicles Only track to the summit. It is a little rough in places, with loose granitic sand and granite boulders and slabs.

At the summit there are some signs, the trig on top plus a very large pine, the “Lollipop Tree”, planted in 1918. At the time I reached the summit, it provided excellent shade!

bechworthtrack

Mt Beckworth track

I set up, spotted and started calling. I soon had responses, firstly Gerard VK2IO in Sydney, then Rick VK4RF/VK4HA. Last was Justin VK7TW about 12 minutes later, with a dozen in the log. With no further responses, it was again time to close and return down the hill.

I drove back out to Kierces Road, then south to Coghills Creek Road to turn right. NW to Coutts Road, and then south on Evansford Road to Mt Bolton Road. I followed the latter almost to the final crest, and then followed the track on the right to the fence and gates.

Mount Bolton VK3/VC-023 645 m 2 points

After passing through the pedestrian gate, I headed west to the foot of the climb to the summit. I climbed up to about the first large band of granite boulders/slabs, well within the AZ.

I set up quickly, spotted myself and started calling on 40 m. Adam VK2YK was first in the log. I ended up with five calls in the log in about 10 minutes after the first reply. Once again, there were no responses to CQ calls, so I closed and returned to the car and headed to Waubra, then toward Ballarat.

Whilst travelling on the Ballarat bypass, I noted that the fuel gauge was getting low. I decided against stopping yet and headed to Mount Warrenheip.

Mount Warrenheip VK3/VC-019 714 m 4 points

The summit is not far off the Western Highway. Head south at the Kryal Castle turn off and then around the castle, turning left into Mount Warrenheip Road and on up to the summit.

I set up at the last corner before the summit, as there was a guy having a snooze in his car at the top. Given that it was late in the day and that 40 m propagation had been ordinary all day, I set up on 80 m.

I spotted myself and quickly had Allen VK3ARH at nearby Lal Lal nearly blasting me off the hill. We had a chat for a few minutes, then I resumed calling. I soon had five callsigns in the log and packed up the SOTA station. I had a rig running in the car and worked a couple of stations on 40 m for the local Shire: MZ3. It was then time to head back down to the highway.

As I was driving down, the fuel warning light came on. So I headed back to Woodmans Hill on the outskirts of Ballarat for fuel and a cold drink. I then headed back toward Melbourne. I grabbed some takeaway for a late meal at about 2120… It was then a case of navigating my way across Melbourne, with road works on the West Gate Bridge, on the link across to the Tunnels and again on the freeway near Warragul Road. I finally reached home at midnight.

It had been a long day, but a success with six summits activated (four new Uniques/Completes) and six local government areas activated.

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Some Parks and Summits on the trip home

I made my way back to the Latrobe Valley on Tuesday 3 January, after having activated Huon Hill VK3/VE-237 on Monday morning for a S2S with Mitch VK7XDM/p, plus adding more Parks contacts for Wodonga Regional Park VKFF-0980.

I was underway a little after 0900 local, still considering route options. I made up my mind on the first target stop not long after leaving Wodonga, taking the B400 exit to Yarrawonga and then working my way to Peechelba East and then to the Ovens River. I parked at the gate and set up just inside the park of the Warby-Ovens National Park VKFF-0742.

Warby-Ovens National Park VKFF-0742

warbyovens1s

Warby-Ovens NP near Peechelba East

I worked about a dozen contacts prior to UTC rollover – enough for an initial qualification of the Park for VKFF. When no one answered my CQ calls, I packed up and headed west to C374, then south to Killawarra and onto Boweya Road to Tower Road, then left into the Warby section of the Park. About a kilometre in I found a small picnic area with a view to the west to Mt Killawarra. I set up here for about an hour of operating. Conditions on 40 m were poor and I had no replies to calls on 15 m or 20 m. I gave up at about 0040 UTC with a total of 20 calls in the log, being 14 unique callsigns. It is interesting that Logsearch does not show the stations worked again on a new UTC day in the tally for the Park. Given the massive amount of work done recently on the WWFF web presence and the recently adopted revised Rules, I am sure that the updates will occur in due course.

After packing up, I headed back to Boweya Road, then headed west and south to Benalla for a short stop to buy some food. I then headed out to Reef Hills State Park VKFF-0773.

Reef Hills State Park VKFF-0773

I set up in a shady spot in a parking area a few hundred metres in from the gate. I was not particularly hopeful of large numbers of contacts, given the conditions experienced earlier in the morning.

I again started on 40 m SSB. It took several minutes of calling after posting a spot on ParksnPeaks before the first reply. It took another 41 minutes to gain an additional 6 stations in the log. I started to pack up…. I managed to work Geoff VK3SQ on 2 m FM simplex from the car for contact number 8. That bought the total for the Park to 20 contacts with 18 unique callsigns, following an hour long activation of the Park on 23 December.

Decision time again: where to next? I decided to head down the Hume Highway M31 to Euroa, then towards Strathbogie and up to Mount Wombat.

Mount Wombat VK3/VU-002 802 m 4 points

I have activated this summit previously. But the summit is easily reached, provided that you take care after turning on to the unsealed Mount Wombat Road. There were a couple of vehicles near the gate at the top, with two people positioned in the fire watch tower. I set up at the southern end of the communications compounds, stating well away form others.

I spotted myself and it was again several minutes before the first reply. Within 10 minutes I had 5 callsigns in the log and further calls went unanswered, so I again packed up.

I headed back down to Strathbogie and followed the very winding route to Merton, a small hamlet on B300. I then headed south west through Yarck, then south to Alexandra (B340) and on to Buxton on B360. After crossing the Steavenson River, I headed west on Dyes Lane.

Mount Wilson VK3/VN-012 935 m 6 points

Dyes Lane crosses the Acheron River and becomes Mill Creek Road. Climb this and then follow Ure Road to Black Range Road and then head north to the junction with Jackson Break. The road junction is well inside the Activation Zone of the summit. The areas off the roads are covered in thick eucalyptus regrowth. So I simply set up using the road sign to support the squidpole.

mtmitchell_s

The track junction marker with thick regrowth behind.

First in the log was Rik VK3EQ using his remote station. 5 minutes later Paul VK5PAS called in, followed by John ZL1BYZ. Within 15 minutes I had 5 contacts, all on 40 m. I tried to call John VK5BJE/2 in Murrumbidgee Valley NP in VK2, but he was very weak and could not hear me. I gave up calling and packed up to head home – all 5 contacts on 40 m SSB.

The activation was a new Unique for me and made the summit Complete.

After packing up, I retraced my route to B360 and headed south to Healesville, then wound my way across the hills back to the Princes Highway and back to the Latrobe Valley.

It had been a long day with much calling for few replies. But 2 Parks and 2 Summits activated, including a Unique (& Complete). I was rather slack on taking photos on this trip – I must endeavour to do better in the future.

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Seeing in the New Year: 2017

Sunday 1 January 2017

I was up early and on the road before 0800 local, heading for Mount Beauty, then Falls Creek and out on the Bogong High Plains Road. The climb from Mount Beauty to Falls Creek had a bit of traffic, including plenty of cyclists.

I parked at the Mount Cope car park and started the 1.7 km walk to the summit.

Mount Cope VK3/VG-001 1837 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

The walk is on an obvious walking track, climbing about 140 metres. The sky was grey and a stiff breeze was blowing, prompting me to wear a wind jacket.

I set up on the southeast sector of the Activation Zone, about six metres vertical below the summit. This placed me in the lee of the ridge and inside the East Gippsland Shire. Why was this location desired, apart from the weather? Simple: Amateur Radio Victoria has a Local Government Challenge for Victorian council in 2017. Operating here gave me one Shire. Once back at the car (or north of the summit), I could operate in Alpine Shire for a second Local Government Area (LGA)….

I was set up by around 2325 UTC (31 January) and promptly worked Mitch VK7XDm/p on VK7/WC-003 in VKFF-0347 on 40 m SSB. It was then mainly a case of trying to find others out on summits. I worked a total of 11 S2S contacts by 2346, then tried 20 m until just prior to UTC rollover, without making any contacts. Band conditions were mediocre, with no NVIS, so many in VK3 were either very weak and unworkable or inaudible.

After rollover, I returned to 40 m. I worked 15 further S2S contacts, with only one on 20 m. I gave up shortly after 0100 UTC and packed up. Despite the propagation conditions, I earned 173 S2S points.

Just after I arrived back at the car, a car pulled in with the driver pointing to me. It was Leigh VK3SG, who had been operating on Mt McKay VK3/VE-007. We had a long chat before I set off to hopefully find an operating location with mobile reception. Not easy up on the High Plains. I worked several stations as I headed back towards Falls Creek – enough to have activated the Alpine Shire.

One catch that Activators should watch in Victoria: several areas are not in any Local Government area! The Alpine Resorts (Hotham, Falls Creek, Buller/Stirling, Baw Baw) and French Island are all “Unincorporated”, so these areas do not count as being inside the surrounding shire.

I stopped at Mount Beauty to grab some lunch, then headed north. My route choice was thwarted by a road block east of Kergunyah, due to a grass fire near Tangambalanga blocking Gundowring Road. I headed across to Kergunyah, then up to Tangambalanga to find the road open and the fire under control – the land teams and helicopters were suppressing hot spots. This allowed me to head for Sandy Creek and then up to Lockhart Gap.

From Lockhart Gap, I headed up Eskdale Spur Road to McGrath Track and then carefully up the track towards my next target.

VK3/VE-241 926 m 6 points

I had no mobile phone coverage here, so simply set up and called on 7.090 after checking that it was clear. Several minutes were spent calling before I had my first call – thanks Nev! I worked another 3 stations (a VK7 and two VK5). After no further responses to CQ calls, I packed up and headed back to Lockhart Gap. This summit is in Indigo Shire, so LGA number 3 activated.

VK3/VE-159 892 m 4 points

From Lockhart Gap I headed northeast, then north along Lockharts Gap Road to the summit. The LGA boundary here runs along the road, so once at the summit, I set up on the eastern side of the road, in Towong Shire. I had patchy mobile coverage but managed to post a Spot. This yielded two contacts on 40 m. I then changed to 20 m and re-spotted, yielding two ZL stations. Summit and Shire qualified! After no further responses to CQ calls, I packed up and headed back to Wodonga.

 

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Mt Buffalo Plateau 2016

The Horn VK3/VE-014 1723 m 10 points
VKFF-0339 Mount Buffalo National Park

31 December 2016

The forecast was for another nice day, so I headed off towards the Mount Buffalo plateau. Travel was easy to Myrtleford for a short stop to buy some lunch. Then down to Porepunkah with a little more traffic, then up towards the plateau, with several slow drivers and many groups of cyclists also taking the challenging climb making for slow progress up the twisting climb, as expected.

I parked in the carpark at the end of the road and climbed up the walking track toward the summit. There were plenty of others climbing up for the views, so I set up a little below the summit using the hand rail to support the squid pole, running the dipole parallel to the railing. As a result, there were lots of interruptions as I explained what I was doing to the curious walkers.

First in the log was Mitch VK7XDM/p on Mt Field East VK7/WC-013 in the Mount Field National Park VKFF-0347 – a S2S and P2P contact on 40 m. In the next 11 minutes, I worked 11 stations before I swapped to 20 m after CQ calls went unanswered. 20 m yielded contacts into VK2 and VK5 before traffic dropped off.

So back to 40 m SSB at 0010 UTC, for another 14 contacts. With no further responses, I decided to close down. 28 contacts in the log including some repeats after UTC rollover. Two S2S contacts: Mitch was described above, and Ian VK1DI/2 on VK2/SM-093.

Back down to the car and drive around to the saddle below The Cathedral and The Hump.

The Hump VK3/VE-019 1695 m 10 points
VKFF-0339 Mount Buffalo National Park

I pushed myself on the climb up to the activation zone and set up quickly. First in the log was Paul VK5PAS/p on Brown Hill Range VK5/SE-004 for a S2S on 40 m SSB. I moved down in frequency and the calls started coming in. Nine additional contacts were worked in the next 11 minutes. I took a break for lunch and a drink and then worked Leigh VK3SG/p in VKFF-0619. I then packed up and headed back down to the car and headed to Bright.

fallsmtbuffalo

Waterfall from Mt Buffalo access road

Mount Porepunkah VK3/VE-098 1185 m 6 points

From Bright, the approach is simple: from The Great Alpine Road, head northish on Star Road, turn right onto Toorak Road, then left onto Mount Porepunkah Road. You can then drive right to the base of the fire watch tower on the summit, provided you navigate correctly.

buffalofromporepunkah

Looking to the Buffalo Plateau from Mt Porepunkah

I set up using the trig to support the squid pole and for a change, spotted myself on 15 m. I was quickly called by Ian VK5CZ, Adrian VK5FANA and Gerard VK2IO. Down to 40 m for another 5 contacts. With no further calls, I closed and quickly packed up. I wanted to get to another target, hopefully in time for a S2S with Mitch. I retraced my route to Bright and then down to Myrtleford for some petrol for the car. Mitch messaged that he was setting up and I responded that I was at least 30 minutes from the summit. I took the Yackandandah Road to Barwidgee, then took Myrtleford-Stanley Road to Stanley and then out to Mount Stanley.

Mount Stanley VK3/VE-126 1052 m 6 points

I set up at the picnic table just south of the summit communications complex. First in the log was Mitch VK7XDM/p on VK7/WC-054 for S2S on 40 m SSB. Thanks for waiting for me Mitch! I then worked 9 stations in the next seven minutes. I heard Col VK3LED call me, but could not raise a further response from him. One more call on 40 m, then I tried 15 m, yielding only a single contact from Geoff VK3SQ in Beechworth – just down the road. I then tried 20 m, yielding three ZL SOTA enthusiasts. I then decided to pack up.

I drove to Beechworth and met up with Geoff VK3SQ for a chat over a cold beverage or two over the next 30 minutes or so, then headed back to Wodonga.

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Barandudah – summit and Park

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

29 December 2016

The weather in Wodonga had been hot and humid for several days, followed by some very wet and windy weather including thunderstorms. The forecast for Thursday was for a dry day with temperatures in the mid-20s.

Early in the afternoon I decided to head out to Mt Barandudah, primarily because I had not been there since the Park was added to the WWFF system. A bonus was the added attraction for SOTA Chasers in addition to the WWFF Hunters.

I approached via Burgess Lane, Cobs Track and Barandudah Range Track – really 4WD, but managed with care and a few scrapes under the car. I set up near the eastern communications site.

I was set up just after 0300 UTC and soon worked Compton VK2HRX/p on VK2/ST-010 on 40 m. Contacts were a little slow in coming – only 11 contacts in the first 30 minutes on 40 m. The last of this group was Brian VK3MCD/2 on VK2/SW-021. I changed to 20 m and managed to work Nick VK3ANL/4 in VKFF-1522, followed by VK4, VK2, ZL1, ZL3 and VK3. I tried 10 m, working Paul VK5PAS and Rick VK4RF/VK4HA. I tried 30m, working one station from each of VK1, VK2 and VK3.

Back to 40 m for another 10 contacts over 54 minutes – the last being a S2S with Warren ZL1AJ on ZL1/WK-138. I again tried 20 m, working Warren again, but with no further calls once I found a clear frequency. So back to 40 m, this time yielding 10 contacts in 10 minutes.

Time was moving on, so a started packing up at 0625 UTC and headed back to Wodonga.

A total of 47 contacts in the log, which should qualify the Park for WWFF thanks to the new Rules which allow a callsign to be counted again on new bands or modes.

Thanks to all who worked me.

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Christmas Day 2016

McDonalds Hill VK3/VE-234 493 m 1 point

McDonalds Hill is to the west of Wodonga, on the range of hills to the south of the Hume Highway between Barnawartha and Wodonga. This summit lies between Mount Lady Franklin VK3/VE-224 and Wodonga.

The summit should be reclassified at some point in the future, as the Geosciences Australia height data and Victorian government mapping show the summit height as 538 m, so it should be a 2 point summit.

The summit had been activated twice before, first by Mark VK3ASC (SSB) and earlier in 2016 by Warren VK3BYD on CW. I had worked both activations, so this summit was a target for a Complete as well as a new Unique.

Christmas Day 25 December 2016

I was in Wodonga to catch up with family over Christmas. Christmas Day was going to be a quiet day at Mum’s place for the day, with just the two of us. I saw that Mitch VK7XDM was heading out for a new summit in Tasmania, so decided to head off to McDonalds Hill after checking that was okay with mum. The decision was made at about 0930 local – a little late given the anticipated climbing time and Mitch’s anticipated 0000 UTC start time.

Warren had sent me his GPS track for his activation, which started from Felltimber Creek Road. I believe that Mark used a similar approach route. I had explored the Land Victoria mapping data in an attempt to determine the status of the land around the summit proper, without success. It was clear that the eastern boundary of the land parcel is adjacent to a council reserve area. The high point on the eastern ridge from the summit at the property boundary is still inside the Activation Zone – this was to become my target operating site, the same used by Warren, and I believe Mark. I decided on a variation for access.

I approached from Coyles Road and on to the northern end of Coyles Road/Track, depending on the map used. The following description is based on the OzTopo V8.0 map data. About 150 m along Coyles Track is a locked gate plus a pedestrian gate, together with council signage indicating pedestrian access is allowed provided that you remain on the formed tracks.

The first section of about 100 m is flat before you start the climb up the track on a shallow spur within a gully system. After about 630 m you crest the main ridge line at a track junction: Coyles Road, Coyles Track to the west and McFarlands Hill Track to the east.

viewsummitfrsaddle

View towards the summit from the saddle/track junction

There are locked gates plus pedestrian access gates on both Coyles Track and McFarlands Hill Track. I headed west up Coyles Track and then veered west up Vearings Track. The tracks showed recent mountain bike usage and another MTB track could be seen in the valley to the south of the ridge I was climbing. The climb was very hot going: when I started, the temperature was in the mid-20s. When I returned to the car, it was 34 degrees. There was little breeze and little cloud. I reached a junction with a MTB track when the ridge flattened out and could see a small shelter ahead – clearly part of the MTB infrastructure, but unfortunately outside of the AZ. I continued along Vearings Track and then followed a very faint old track to a gate on the boundary fence at the high point on the ridge, a location previously confirmed as being just inside the actual AZ, even using the correct summit height and not the height listed on the SOTA database. The gate had a similar yellow diamond shaped sign on it as the other gates passed since leaving Coyles Road. After returning home again, I explored the Land Victoria mapping data further. I looks as if the summit is on private land, so permission will be required to access the actual summit.

The climb had taken me about 1 hour 20 minutes for the 2.4 km distance plus 280 m vertical climb. I set up using the gate post as a support for the squid pole.

First in the log was Mitch VK3XDM/p on Mother Cummings Peak VK7/NC-002 for a S2S. Col VK3LED was next, followed by Rik VK3EQ, Steve VK7CW and Ian VK5IS. A couple of minutes of extra calls yielded Les VK2LEZ and Adam VK2YK/3. Further calls yielded no responses, so it was time to pack up and head back down.

wodongafrbelowsummit

Looking east to Wodonga from below the summit

The descent took about 45 minutes. It was then about 15 minutes to load the gear and drive back to mum’s place.

More information

You can find more information about the McDonalds Hill area on the Parklands Albury- Wodonga website.

A new Unique and a Complete summit – a nice Christmas present was the S2S to a new Chaser Unique.

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Rosebud Hamfest 2016

Sunday 20 November 2016

Saturday morning was consumed by a working bee at the Eastern Zone Amateur Radio Club clubrooms. Around 10 members attended with a significant clean-up of trees occurring, together with trimming of steep banks and cutting the grass. Reports on Sunday indicated that our local landlords were very happy with the results of the work done.

Whilst at the clean-up, I mentioned to one of the members that I was considering attending the Rosebud Hamfest the following day, with a possible side trip for a Park activation in the afternoon. He was interested, so arrangements were set for Sunday morning.

I was awake well before the alarm and ready to hit the road once Ross VK3FREB arrived. We were underway at around 0730 local time. Traffic was reasonably light and good progress was made. We stopped in Lyndhurst for a coffee and then headed down to Eastbourne Primary School in Rosebud and parked the vehicle. We arrived at about 0920, so it had been a reasonable trip. During the trip, I charged the battery on the new “toy” that had arrived on Friday: a Pocket SDR (PSDR) designed and built by Michael Colton and crowd funded via Kickstarter. More on the unit at a later date: there is significant software work and documentation yet to be completed.

We briefly caught up with a couple of people on arrival. We eventually joined the queue to purchase our entry ticket. For me, the morning was much of the same: a quick look at some of the seller tables interrupted by people wanting to chat, some of whom I showed the PSDR. Those interested in SOTA and/or QRP were impressed with the look and feel of the unit.

There was not much of interest to me on the sales tables, so most of the day was spent chatting with others. I did catch the last 15 minutes of the SPARC talk on the Club screwdriver antenna project, which sounded interesting. Hopefully they will eventually make some kits of key mechanical components and perhaps assembled controller boards available for sale, once they have ironed out any issues.

In addition to the sales tables and talks, there were several displays outside the main hall. The local CFA brigade was in attendance and the new CFA firefighting Squirrel helicopter arrived mid-morning and was open for inspection. WICEN had a display, as did CREST.

I did purchase some 6 m squid poles, after making a call to a fellow amateur who had asked about sourcing a pole during the Saturday working bee. More chats with amateurs and people admiring the PSDR until the prize draw occurred. No luck for myself of Ross, but I did resist purchasing any extra tickets. I grabbed a hamburger from the Rotary Club caravan outside and had some more chats before we finally headed off.

Mornington Peninsula traffic can be heavy, especially so on a fine autumn weekend. There was a long queue of cars waiting to turn out of Allambi Avenue into Boneo Road. I needed to turn left to fuel the car and most of the cars in front wanted to turn right to head toward the Mornington Peninsula Freeway, so I did a U turn and made my way to Eastbourne Road via the back streets. Traffic on Point Nepean Road was horrific, so we used the side streets to get to the nearest service station. We then used back roads to head south and then west to get to Boneo Road well south of the Freeway and then headed roughly towards Flinders and our target destination.

Mornington Peninsula National Park VKFF-0333

My target was Highfield, at Bunkhouse Break off Boneo Road (Rosebud-Flinders Road). The Parks Victoria website notes that there is a small car park with a walking track to a spot where one can view grazing kangaroos. I parked between the line of sheoaks and the car park fence.

I used a fence post to support the squid pole and Ross and I set up the 40 m / 20 m inverted V at a slight angle to the fence line and hooked the feedline up to the IC706MkIIG in the car.

I had previously activated this Park at its western end, from the London Bridge car park, but still needed 17 more contacts. Once set up, I checked ParksnPeaks to see if any other Activators were out and about. First in the log was Rob VK4AAC/3 in Mount Eccles National Park. I tried calling Peter VK3ZPF/p in Dandenong Ranges NP, but he could not hear me, so I found a clear frequency and spotted myself. Peter VK3FPSR called, followed by Gerard VK2IO/p in Worimi State Conservation Park and then Geoff VK3SQ. I tried again to work Peter VK3ZPF/p, tail-ending another contact, and finally managed to complete an exchange for another Park to Park. The next 15 minutes were spent calling with no replies. I then caught Bernard VK3AV/p at London Bridge, also in Mornington Peninsula National Park.

Back on my posted frequency, I called for another 10 minutes without any responses. I was then called by Tom VK5EE, out at the SERG Christmas BBQ. The result was a string of calls spaced out over the next 15 minutes, as amateurs could be lured to a radio to call me, with a few others calling me in between the Mt Gambier amateurs. I ended up with 22 contacts in the log for just over an hour of operating. So another Park qualified for WWFF.

We packed up and headed east, then north to Red Hill and west to Arthurs Seat.

Arthurs Seat VK3/VC-031 305 m 1 point
Arthurs Seat State Park VKFF-0750

I have previously activated this summit, but that was before the State Park was added to the VKFF system. Ross was willing to spend some time sitting out on the grass, so we stopped and grabbed the SOTA pack out of the car. We parked just west of the Purves Road junction and headed slightly down the hill to the edge of the mown area. I used a sign post to support he squid pole and set up the antenna along the edge of the mown grass. As we were setting up the gear, I noticed bull ants on the ground, so we moved a couple of metres up slope.

First in the log was Bernard VK3AV/p, now in Point Nepean National Park VKFF-0628, followed by Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1399. I moved to 7.090 and started calling and had a steady stream of callers, working a total of 25 stations in 30 minutes. So the SOTA summit was comfortably qualified and the Park qualified for VKFF. I will need another visit to accumulate the 44 contacts required for WWFF.

I stopped operating as no callers came back to my calls plus the noise level was rapidly rising as a band of thunderstorms moved across northern Victoria and NSW. We packed up and headed back to the car and took the scenic winding descent down the hill, enjoying the views across the Bay. We travelled on the Mornington Peninsula Freeway initially. A little after the Mornington exit, traffic slowed to a crawl. I took the next exit (Bungower Road) when we finally got to it, then headed east to Tyabb-Tooradin Road and then towards Tooradin and on towards home. I used a few back roads to avoid the worst of the Sunday afternoon traffic, but we made reasonable time to be home a little after 1800.

Overall, a good day out.

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KRMNPA Weekend 2016

The extended weekend of Friday 11 to Monday 14 November 2016 was the annual Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA) activity weekend – the fifth occurrence of the event IIRC. The event is coordinated by Tony VK3XV / VK3VTH on behalf of Amateur Radio Victoria and provides opportunities for Chasers to hunt out Park Activators in the 45 Victorian National Parks.

The 2016 event looked as if all 45 National Parks would be activated, if the plans of all Activators came to fruition.

Once again this event fell on a weekend when I had other duties to perform, but I could chase from home when in earshot of the radio and I hoped to get out on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday.

Friday 11 November

HF conditions were not the best for all of the weekend. There was little if any NVIS propagation on 40 m, where most of the action was occurring. Despite the conditions, I did manage to work operators in six of the VK3 National Parks plus an additional six VKFF references across VK2, VK3 and VK4.

Saturday 12 November

On Saturday morning I worked two VK3 National Parks in between completing some essential tasks. I then packed some gear and headed off to buy some lunch and to travel to my selected Park for the afternoon.

Baw Baw National Park VKFF-0020

I had activated this Park on several previous occasions, but no other activators had announced an activation across the weekend. Therefore I had a slightly longer drive rather than opting for one of the two Parks closer to home.

I drove to a little north of Rawson to investigate one possible site picked from looking at the Google Earth imagery. The site would have been suitable, but there was no mobile phone coverage, so I headed to a second site which did have some coverage. This allowed me to spot myself plus to also see other spots, making chasing much easier.

The operating site was near the start of Steel Bridge Track, just inside the southern Park boundary. I set up the 80/40/20/15/10 m link dipole supported by a 7 m squid pole, connected to the IC-706MkIIG powered by the car battery. For most of the afternoon I was operating with 30 W peak power. It seemed appropriate that the first contact shortly after 0100Z was Tony VK3VTH/p in Chiltern Mount Pilot NP.

Most of the first 20 minutes of operating was spent chasing other activators, with 10 VKFF references in the log, seven of them being VK3 National Parks. I found a clear frequency and posted a spot to work a few more before changing to 80 m CW to chase Warren VK3BYD on Mt Nelse VK3/VE-004 in Alpine NP. This activation took Warren to Mountain Goat, all CW. Very well done Warren!

The rest of the afternoon was a mixture of chasing any spotted activators and lots of calling with few replies. During the afternoon, some time was spent on 20 m with few answers to calls. But I did manage to work Andrew ZL3CC on ZL3/WC-638 and John VK6NU/p on VK6/SW-039 in VKFF-1459. I also worked some Latrobe Valley locals on 2 m FM. I finally gave up at around 0630Z, with 44 unique callsigns in the log if my count is correct. 15 VK3 National Parks were worked, plus another 9 VKFF references, for a total of 24 unique VKFF Park to Park contacts.

Late in the evening, from home I worked Gerard VK2IO/p in Seven Mile Beach NP.

Sunday 13 November

I awoke early and hit the road, this time with the SOTA gear on board. I headed east on the Princes Highway toward Bairnsdale and then north through Lindenow South and into the hills, working my way around to Stoney Creek Track, Burnetts Ridge Road and Sandy Creek Road to a road junction with Tabberaberra Road and Calvi Track, a logical place to park.

Calvi Hill VK3/VG-134 527 m 2 points
Mitchell River National Park VKFF-0321

I loaded up with the SOTA gear and climbed up Calvi Track for about 1.5 km to the start of an old track which is now very overgrown. Calvi Track up this section is becoming encroached by regrowth and has some typical Victorian spoon drains. It would be possible to traverse this section in a vehicle with reasonable clearance provided that you were not concerned about scratches on the vehicle paintwork. From this track junction, it was a scrub bash up to the summit of Calvi Hill. As I hit the main ridge very close to the top (slightly to the east of the true summit), I hit a small clearing. The GPS indicated that I was well inside both the Activation Zone and the National Park boundary. This was to be the operating site.

The scrub bash was about 500 m horizontally with a climb of about 65 m. The 1.5 km climb up Calvi Track to the start of the scrub bash involved a climb of about160 m vertical.

 

calvihillscrubbash

GPS track of the scrub bash to the summit

First contact was Paul VK5PAS/3 in Barmah NP, followed by Tony VK3XV/p in Lower Goulburn NP and Rex VK3OF/p in Little Desert NP. Band conditions on 40 m were still poor and contacts were hard to find. I could hear others working stations that were closer to me, but I rarely heard them. I continued calling. I had now phone coverage, so could not spot myself or see any spots – it was a case of occasionally searching around the band and pouncing when a new callsign was heard, or back to 7.140 and calling CQ.

I managed to chase nine VK3 National Parks and a further 5 VKFF references interstate.

A highlight occurred just before 0142Z. I was tuning around and could just hear David VK5PL working Rex VK3OF/p in Little Desert NP on 7.135. When the contact was completed, I called on the frequency for David to move up to 7.140. I don’t think that David heard my call, but Rex did and relayed to David. I moved back to 7.140 and shortly after David appeared on frequency. We worked – not great signals but enough for the contact. This was Park number 45 for David, so he finally had all 45 VK3 National Parks. Congratulations David!

The last contact was Scott VK7NWT – contact number 25, comfortably past the 23 needed to move my total number of contacts from this Park to the 44 required for WWFF qualification. I packed up and headed back down the hill to the car, then retraced my route back toward civilisation. From the southern end of Stoney Creek Track, I worked my way across to Melwood, then around to Tower Road and then north to the gate to Mt Taylor.

Mount Taylor VK3/VG-142 474 m 1 point

The top of Mt Taylor has several RF installations and there was a high level of noise. I parked the car at the top and walked down the hill a little and set up, hoping that the noise levels would be lower – they were. I was still well inside the Activation Zone.

 

mttaylor1

Some of the towers at Mt Taylor

Paul VK5PAS/2 was first in the log, in VKFF-1178. Next was Adam VK2YK/p in VKFF-1377 followed by Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0249. These operators were found from looking at ParksnPeaks. I then called on 7.090 to work some more stations as the rain finally arrived – I had seen the rain band moving across the Gippsland Plains as I was driving up Tower Rd. Despite the rain, I worked Bernard VK3AV/p in Yarra Ranges NP and Tim VK3MTB/p in Morwell NP. Last in the log was Geoff VK3SQ before I gave up and packed up.

I then drove back down Tower Road and into Bairnsdale, then headed for home.

It had been a good day out: Mitchell River NP qualified for WWFF and the two summits qualified for SOTA and now new Completes.

Back at home, I worked Gerard VK2IO/p in Jervis Bay NP.

Monday 14 November

Conditions were again poor on the bands, but I managed to work another five stations in Parks on Monday, if you include the whole UTC day – I worked John VK2AWJ/3 on Tuesday morning in Tarra-Bulga NP.

Summary

On Wednesday, I managed to work Mick VK3PMG/p in Mount Buffalo NP. Perhaps not officially part of the KRMNPA weekend, but I will include the contact in my tally!

All up, I activated two National Parks and two SOTA summits that were new one for me, making them Complete. On the Chaser side, I worked 27 of the Victorian National Parks plus another 23 VKFF references. I also worked three SOTA summits over the weekend – all from Baw Baw NP on Saturday afternoon. Many Parks were missed due to poor propagation conditions.

Thanks to all the Chasers and especially the other Activators. Some activator plans did not eventuate, but I understand that 41 of the Victorian National Parks were activated over the weekend – a very good effort!

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Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-0556

Friday 14 October 2016

Victoria had suffered from some wild weather on Sunday 9 October, with extreme wind speeds and heavy rain. I did a trip from Wodonga back to home in the Latrobe Valley on the Monday, with the rain still about, so no SOTA or Parks activations. My route took me through Healesville, where everything was shut as they had no power due to storm damage.

Friday 14 October was looking to be a nice day for weather, so I roughly planned a day of SOTA to take advantage of the last full day of the Winter Bonus period. I was on the road before 0800 local and headed to Nilma, Neerim South, Powelltown and on to Warburton. Progress through Warburton was slow, with 50 km/hr speed limits broken up with road works with traffic controls and 40 km/hr limits. But it was easy once through town and I began to climb towards my first target.

VK3/VC-002 Mount Donna Buang 1259 m 8 points plus bonus

I had seen the plans of Mitch VK7XDM to be on a summit on Friday morning, with a second summit possible later, so this firmed up my plans: Donna Buang with a possible S2S contact with Mitch. I posted an Alert the previous evening and received a message from Warren VK3BYD indicating that he would try to be on a summit in time to work me S2S.

I parked in the top car park and decided to set up at one of the picnic tables near the tower. I initially set up for 40 m operation and was quickly rewarded with Gerard VK2IO in the log. Gerard advised that Warren had just been spotted on 7032 CW, so I tuned down to see if I could hear Warren. He was very weak – there was clearly no NVIS working on 40 m at the range involved. After texting him, I returned to 7.090 to call again, working three stations quickly, thus qualifying the summit. I then noticed a response from Warren, so quickly ran out the 80 m antenna extensions. Once set up, I called Warren on CW and was rewarded with 519 reports both ways for a S2S to VK3/VE-189.

I returned to 7.090 to work some more stations. Tim VK3TJC noted that the K index was up around 6 and expected to go higher – little wonder there was poor close in propagation. I checked the ‘phone to see a spot for Mitch on 7.085 on Legge’s Tor VK7/NE-001, whom I could hear weakly. But he could not hear me. After a few tries at calling, I gave up and returned to the car to grab the IC-706MkIIG. I set it up at the picnic table and called Mitch with 50 W. I got through that time, for 41 reports both ways – Mitch typically runs about 40 W. I gave one final call on 7.090 for another VK7. I decided to then pack up and head down to the Acheron Way.

Overall, 9 contacts on 40 m SSB including a S2S, plus a S2S on 80 m CW.

VK3/VC-003 Mount Ritchie 1255 m 8 points plus bonus

I parked the car at the start of Road 15 and started the climb at about 1140 local. Road 15 initially climbs up beside the Acheron River, gently for the first few hundred metres. It then climbs more steeply up the side of a spur and then traverses upwards into a saddle to a junction of Roads 15, 10 and 11, about 2.3 km from the start. There is then a steep climb of about a kilometre to the northeast along Road 10 before it flattens out and descends over about 900 m. You then have a moderate climb over about 3.4 km to the summit of Mount Ritchie. All up, around 7.8 km according to my GPS, with 625 m climbed and 37 m lost on the way “up”. It took me about 3 hours, which is faster than anticipated: I use a rule of thumb of allowing one hour per 4 km plus 1 hour for each 300 m vertical climbed.

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Mount Ritchie summit area

The summit area is rather flat, so I used a road/track sign to support the squid pole. I was set up and ready at 0400 UTC, but I could weakly hear Mitch on his second summit and others working him. I had marginal ‘phone coverage, but managed to send a text message to Mitch. Several minutes of calling produced no result – Mitch could not hear my 5 W. I waited until all the traffic died down before I started calling on 7.090. It took several minutes to finally pass my report back to Gerard VK2IO – I even tried calling him on CW, but I think that we had a frequency offset issue. Gerard posted a spot for me, and I worked Nev VK5WG and Adrian VK5FANA over the next few minutes. I then decided changed to 80 m, with Gerard posting a spot. I heard Rob VK4AAC/3 call me, but he could not hear me. Geoff VK3SQ was an easy contact, so the hill was finally qualified about 50 minutes after I was first on air. I heard Mick VK3GGG call – about 52 – but he could not hear me. So I gave up and started to pack up. One new Unique for me and another Complete.

The descent took just over two hours, with a couple of short rest breaks along the way. There were great views form some places on the steep descent to the road junction. For most of the route, Road 10 travels through towering eucalypt forest (probably Mountain Ash). For some reason, WordPress wants to rotate my vertical format images to horizontal, so I have left them out!

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Mount Ritchie summit area

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Mount Ritchie summit area

Once back at the car, I loaded up, had a good drink and headed for home, about a 2 hour drive. It was a long day, but satisfying.

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