2020 Christmas trip to Wodonga – Days 11 and 12

Day 10 was a quiet day from the radio perspective – Christmas Day. Family commitments prevented me from playing radio. I did listen briefly for Andrew VK3JBL on Mount Kosciuszko VK2/SM-001. I heard Nick VK3ANL working Andrew on 40 m CW, but heard nothing of Andrew. I believe that I was too close for 40 m to work.

Saturday 26 December 2020

To maintain my effort for the Activity Marathon, I needed to make at least four contacts before UTC midnight. I decided to head to Mount Porepunkah as the first summit of a multi-summit day.

I drove to Bright and visited the Bakery. I then headed to Mount Porepunkah Road and drove up to the summit.

Mount Porepunkah VK3/VE-098 1185 points 6 points

I parked near the trig and set up using a squid pole strapped to one leg of the trig.

I started on 40 m CW and worked three stations over nine minutes. I move d to 20 m CW and worked four stations in about eight minutes.  I tried 20 m SSB, but worked only a single station. With only 10 minutes left before UTC midnight, I moved to 40 m SSB and worked five stations in three minutes. I heard a spot for a Parks station, so moved to the spotted frequency and worked John VK5BJE in VKFF-0912.

I moved back to my original frequency on 40 m SSB, but was suffering some interference from strong stations in a net up the band. I moved down a little in frequency and called briefly, working two stations before I decided to close.

I packed up and drove back down to the road junction in the saddle. I took Smart Creek Tawonga Gap Track to the next summit.

VK3/VE-097 1185 points 6 points

I parked on the summit, off the track. I soon had a line over a tree branch and the doublet was soon in the air. I positioned my camp chair away from the car and connected up the gear.

My first contact is only 43 minutes after the last contact on the previous summit. I worked Paul VK5PAS in VKFF-2896 on 40 m SSB. I then moved to 20 m SSB to again work John VK5BJE in VKFF-0912. As I was completing the contact, another Spot came through. I moved to 40 m SSB and soon worked Andrew VK2ARR on Mt Donna Buang VK3/VC-002.

I moved to 20 m CW and spotted, working four stations. After a few minutes of further calling, I moved back to 40 m SSB and worked Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0049 and Peter VK3TKK. With no further callers, I closed down.

I again packed up and continued along Smart Creek Tawonga Gap Track to the next summit.

VK3/VE-104 1157 m 6 points

I again tossed a line over a tree branch to haul up the doublet. I again set up the gear on the camp chair away from the car.

Paul VK5PAS in VKFF-2896 was on 20 m SSB, so I first chased Paul. Paul was about to change band and said that I could remain on the current frequency if I wished. After thanking Paul, I spotted myself and worked another three statins. I moved to 20 m CW and worked four stations. With the summit qualified, I decided to close the station.

I packed up and continued east until I reached the junction with Running Creek Kiewa Divide Track. My initial thoughts were to run out to the far summit to activate it and then return to the closer summit and then exit via Tawonga Gap. I recalled seeing a No Through Road sign on my first visit to the area with VK3ASC, but could not recall the location of the sign.

I drove north along the track and passed the summit of VK3/VE-113. I found the No Through Road sign – at the junction with Running Creek Track. The branch to the north was the No Through Road, and a short distance along I spotted an old sign indicating Private Property ahead and Management Vehicles Only was barely visible. I drove to the summit and parked nearby.

VK3/VE-092 1203 m 8 points

I once again tossed a line over a branch to haul up the doublet.

The day was well advanced. I set up on 20 m CW and soon had the summit qualified with four stations in the log. I decided to close down and head back to VK3/VE-113.

Before returning to VK3/VE-113, I checked the maps and saw that Running Creek Track looked like to be a viable exit. I drove back to VK3/VE-113 to park at the high point.

VK3/VE-113 1121 m 6 points

I again tossed a line over a branch and soon had the station set up a short distance from the car.

Paul VK5PAS was now in VKFF-2895 and was my first contact, on 20 m SSB. I moved to 20 m CW and worked three stations. I moved to 40 m CW and worked two stations. The summit was qualified, so I closed down.

I packed up again and returned to Running Creek Track and descended down into the valley, skirting around the pine plantation lower down. I was soon on Kancoona South Road and heading north. I made my way out to the Kiewa Valley Highway and returned to Wodonga.

Day 12

Sunday 27 December 2020

The forecast was for hot weather in the northeast, so I decided to head to the hills, with Mount Benambra my first target.

I headed to Tallangatta with a stop at the Bakery. I then drove to Tallangatta Creek Road and headed south to Bucheen Creek. I then took Greenhams Road, which required the opening and closing of three gates, plus dodging some cattle. The road through the property was reasonably rough. You join Callaghans Creek Road, which was in excellent condition once out of the farm property. At the top of the climb, I swung left onto Mt Benambra Road, also in excellent condition – both tracks looked to have been recently graded. The surface was very loose in places.

I made my way up the Fire Watcher Hut and parked.

Mount Benambra VK3/VE-041 1472 m 8 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

The day was bright and sunny. Previous experience had shown that the solar array on the telecomms tower with the Fire Watch Hut generated lots of RF noise. I decided to set up about half way up the 200 m track to the summit to avoid the noise, at around 1460 m and well inside the Activation Zone.

I tossed a line over a tree branch and set up on the edge of the track. I started on 40 m CW and worked only two stations. After several minutes of calling, I decided to change bands. I was about to spot myself when the fire watcher and two others came down the hill from the summit proper. I explained what I was doing, briefly outlining both SOTA and WWFF schemes. I then spotted myself and called on 20 m CW, where I worked two ZL stations. I moved to 20 m SSB, but made only a single contact. After calling for at least 10 minutes, I moved to 40 m SSB. Here I worked six stations plus a CW contact with Allen VK3ARH. I had 12 contacts, qualifying the activation for VKFF. I closed down.

I packed up and returned to the car and retraced my route back along Mt Benambra Road to Benambra Spur Road and descended into the Tallangatta Creek valley and then climbed up to the saddle between Mount Cravensville and the SOTA summit to park.

Mount Cravensville Range VK3/VE-058 1390 m 8 points

I loaded up and made my way south towards the summit through moderately thick regrowth. I found a spot about 10 m below the summit to set up the station.

I set up the station and started on 40 m CW, working four stations. I moved to 20 m CW and worked three ZL stations. I decided against working SSB and closed down.

I packed up and returned to the car and continued along Benambra Spur Road, making my way to Gibb Range Road. I then headed southeast, making my way to Glamour Hill Track, which I followed to the area just below the summit.

VK3/VE-079 (unnamed) 1262 m 8 points

The western side of the summit has been logged and undergone a regeneration burn. All the tracks to the summit have obstructions. Glamour Hill Track continues past the logged area, climbing slightly over a spur south of the summit and passes through the Activation Zone. The only issue is that mobile phone coverage is minimal!

I again tossed a line over a tree branch and set up the station. I worked three stations on 20 m CW. I moved to 40 m CW and worked six stations, including Warren VK3BYD/p in VKFF-0619. I decided to again not come up on SSB and closed the station.

I packed up and retraced my route back to Gibb Range Road and back to Benambra Spur Road, then on along Gibb Range Road to west of the summit to park.

Gibb Range VK3/VE-069 1289 m 8 points

I followed the old logging track through the regrowth and then swung towards the summit and walked up the track along the edge of the logging coupe. I set up at the summit.

I spotted on 40 m CW and worked six stations, including Warren VK3BYD/p in VKFF-0619.  I then moved to 40 m SSB and worked seven stations. I then moved to 20 m CW and worked two ZL stations before I had no further replies to calls and decided to close down.

I packed up and returned to the car. I then drove out along Gibb Range Road and Cravensville Road to reach the Murray Valley Highway and then headed back to Wodonga.

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2020 Christmas trip to Wodonga – Days 8 and 9

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Day 7 was a right off. It was wet in the morning and I needed to act once again as a chauffeur. The trip included Albury, so we lost over an hour in the queue to pass through the border checkpoint. With occasional showers in the late afternoon, I decided against heading out. That meant that I needed to be out early to ensure that I had at least four contacts before UTC midnight (1100 local) to maintain the Activity Marathon engagement.

I was away from Wodonga earlier than expected and was set up on the first summit early.

Mount Stanley VK3/VE-126 1052 m 6 points

I approached the summit via Beechworth and Stanley, with the final approach via Mt Stanley Road. I set up near the picnic area just below the summit, well inside the Activation Zone. I used a wattle tree to support the squid pole to hold up the ZS6BKW doublet.

I spotted for 40 m CW. I soon had John VK5HAA and John VK2YW in the log, with Helmut VK3DHA worked a few minutes later. I called for several minutes with no responses before moving to 40 m SSB. I worked seven contacts in seven minutes. I then moved to 20 m CW and worked five stations in 11 minutes, but missed Wynne ZL2ATH – I had no response to my report, despite responding several times. I then moved to 20 m SSB and worked three stations before closing down.

I packed up and exited back along Mt Stanley Road and decided to try Escarpment Road. It was okay, but my recollection is that Hillsborough Road was in better condition and more trafficked. I worked my way to Bruarong Lane and descended the hill to Bruarong and then made my way to Dederang Road and Mt Big Ben Road. As I was approaching Mt Big Ben Road, I heard Andrew VK3ARR calling on 7.090 MHz SSB from Mt Macedon VK3/VC-007. I stopped on Mt Big Ben Road, switched off the car (the car is an excellent generator of RF noise!) and managed to work Andrew at 2345Z. I then drove up to the summit of Mt Big Ben to park just off the summit.

Mount Big Ben VK3/VE-105 1154 m 6 points

I quickly threw a line over a tree branch. Just as I was arranging the antenna to haul it up, a Forest Fire Management vehicle approached. I quickly explained what I was doing and they continued on. I soon had the antenna up and the station set up on a small table behind the vehicle. I called and soon had Andrew VK3ARR in the log for a Summit to Summit at 0007Z.

I moved to 40 m CW and started calling after posting a Spot. First in the log was Ian VK5CZ/m. I worked another six stations before I returned to 40 m SSB, which yielded another four stations. I moved to 20 m CW for two more contacts. I then moved to 20 m SSB to hunt Marty VK4KC/p in a Park. I then moved up the band and worked another three stations. I was considering closing when I heard a Spot come through and soon worked Marty VK4KC/p again, this time on 40 m SSB – weak, but the contact was made.

I was aware that Andrew VK3ARR was due to activate a second summit. I posted that I was QRT, but left the gear set up. I sat back and enjoyed a quiet lunch and went for a short walk. I also finally changed the driver’s seat cover, having purchased a new seat cover a few months ago. I was about to give up when another Spot came through. I soon had Andrew in the log for a second Summit to Summit, this time from Mount Gisborne. I then packed up and headed back to Wodonga.

Day 9

Thursday 24 December 2020

I had received a message from Gerard VK2IO on Wednesday evening if I was going to be out before UTC midnight today, as he was still in need of some contacts for the Activity Marathon. I replied “Yes”, noting that I had not decided where I would operate. I decided in the morning whilst eating breakfast.

I departed Wodonga at around 0845 and drove SW to Wangaratta and made my way to the first target for the day, parking close to the main access gate.

Wangaratta Common Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2223

I loaded up the pack and grabbed the camp chair before walking a couple of hundred metres into the Reserve along a walking track. I moved off the track and set up under large gum tree. I soon had a line over a tree branch at about 8 m and the ZS6BKW was soon in the air. I set up the station at the chair, placing the battery in a “cooler” store in the chair arm and resting the radio on the arm.

The station in VKFF-2223

As I was setting up, vk port-a-log announced a Parks spot. I soon worked Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1908 on 40 m CW. I moved up to 40 m SSB and spotted. Brett VK2VW was next in the log, answering my first call. I worked another eight callsigns before moving to 40 m CW. I had only a single response on 40 m CW, Lawrie VK5LJ. I moved up to 30 m CW to work Gerard VK2IO/p once again. I then moved to 30 m SSB with no responses to my CQ calls for over 10 minutes, when Gerard called me for yet another Park to Park contact. I then moved to 20 m SSB, spotted and started calling. Marty VK4KC was the first to call, followed by Gerard VK2IO/p and another three Hunters. I moved briefly to 40 m SSB to work a friend in Gippsland just prior to UTC midnight.

I moved to 20 m CW and worked John ZL1BYZ and Gerard VK2IO/p. I moved to 80 m SSB to work my friend in Gippsland before catching Ron VK3AFW on 80 m CW in his usual Activity Marathon slot. I then moved to 40 m CW and worked five stations, including Gerard VK2IO/p once again.

I then moved to 40 m SSB. The first caller in this slot was Gerard VK2IO/p. I worked 13 stations over a period of 25 minutes, including Park to Park contacts with Ian VK1DI in VKFF-1954 and Liz VK2XSE in VKFF-1786.

I then moved to 20 m SSB to hunt Gerard VK2IO/p again before moving down the band for two more contacts.

The tally was 47 contacts in just under two hours.

I packed up and walked back to the car. I then drove into the Wangaratta shopping area to buy some lunch before heading north towards Yarrawonga. North of Peechelba, I turned east on to Peechelba Road to cross the Ovens River, turned left and entered the Warby – Ovens National Park. I drove about a kilometre into the Park, but found that I had no mobile phone coverage. I moved closer to the main road and found a spot about 100 m inside the Park boundary where I had minimal coverage, so I parked the car in some shade.

Warby – Ovens National Park VKFF-0742

The Park sign just off the main road.

I decided on attempting a quick activation. I turned on the IC-706MKIIG and checked that the mobile whip was tapped for 40 m. After hitting the Tune button to activate the auto tuner, I sent a Spot and started calling. First in the log was Peter VK3YE using VK5WAT/3 in The Pines NCR VKFF-2421. I worked another 11 contacts in under 20 minutes before I closed.

I drove back to Peechelba Road and continued east. I then headed north briefly before zig-zagging to reach Keoghs Road, which I followed east until I reached Boorhaman East Road. I crossed the main road and drove down a dirt track, through a small area which looked damp and then spotted an open gate with a small Parks Victoria sign on the gatepost. I drove into the Reserve and parked in a shady spot.

Black Swamp Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2048

I soon had a line over a tree branch at around 11 m. I set up the ZS6BKW and set up the station on the tailgate.

First in the log was again Peter VK3YE using VK5WAT/3 in The Pines NCR VKFF-2421 on 40 m SSB. I worked 20 stations before I moved to 40 m CW, where I worked two stations. I called for several minutes before I moved up to 20 m CW, where the only caller was Gerard VK2IO/m. I then moved to 20 m SSB where I worked three stations including Adam VK2YK/f in VKFF-1711 plus Scott VK4CZ on CW. I tried 10 m SSB and worked only a single station. I returned to 20 m CW and worked one more station. I then tried 15 m SSB, working three stations. I returned to 40 m SSB and again worked Adam VK2YK/5. I moved down the band and worked nine stations, including Peter VK2KNV and Liz VK2XSE, both in VKFF-1782. With no further callers, I again tried 20 m CW, working two stations only. I then tried 40 m CW one further time, working two more stations. With 46 contacts in the log, I decided to close down and pack up.

I made my way back to the bitumen and then made my way back to Wodonga.

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2020 Christmas trip to Wodonga – Days 4, 5 and 6

Day 4

Saturday 19 December 2020

On Friday evening I decided to tackle a summit in a Park in NSW and posted an Alert on SOTAwatch accordingly.

I was underway at a good time, having listened to one of the morning TV news casts whilst having breakfast. I heard no mention of a closure of the Victorian border, other than the Red, Orange and Green Zones and the requirements for NSW residents to have a permit to enter Victoria, with Red Zone residents or visitors NOT permitted to enter Victoria. The only mention with regard to Victorian Residents was the recommendation to not visit Sydney and to not to return to Victoria if you had been in the Red Zone. There was no mention of Victorian Residents needing a permit. I heard nothing on the radio as I was travelling in the morning….. The lack of good information on the TV news items is perhaps not surprising in some respects, as the morning TV “magazine” style shows are broadcast from Sydney and focus heavily on Sydney and NSW perspectives.

I drove to Woomargama and headed south on Tunnel Road. I then took Tin Mines Trail around to Mount Jergyle. The early part of the track was in good condition, but not that forestry operations were evident towards the middle part of the trail before it re-entered the National Park. Beyond the pine forest, the track became rougher, with large spoon drains. Once in the National Park, there were more spoon drains and many rocky sections requiring good vehicle clearances.

Mount Jergyle VK2/RI-004 892 m 4 points
Woomargama National Park VKFF-0547

The scrub near the summit looked reasonably thick, so I parked at Norths Lookout. The road at the car park is above 870 m, so the site was well inside the Activation Zone. I selected a tree branch to the west of the car park to toss a line over and soon had the antenna up and the station set up in the shade off the side of the track.

Station set up in the shade at Norths Lookout

I was set up well before my posted Alert time and checked SOTAwatch for active stations. It seems that I had missed a couple of stations by only minutes. I could hear K6ARK on on 20 m SSB. Adam was running 100 W and my 10 W was not enough to be heard or to break through the US callers.

I spotted on 14.310 SSB and started calling. First in the log was Rick ZL3RIK, followed soon after by the first Summit to Summit (S2S) contact: David ZL3WL on ZL3/CB-822 had earlier posted that he was QRT, but called me. Geoff ZL3GA was next, followed by two VK5 stations. I called a few times with no responses before a spot came through and I switched to 17 m CW to see if I could hear the JA station. I soon had another S2S in the log: JG1BOK/1 on JA/YN-049. Another spot came through on SOTAwatch and I waited for the station to come up on air. I missed the start of the call or exchange, but got through after a full CQ, bagging Chris ZL4RA/P on ZL3/OT383 on 20 m CW. I moved down to 14.061 and soon had two more ZL stations in the log, but no further callers.

I moved to 40 m CW and worked two stations but had no further callers. I moved up to 40 m SSB and worked five stations. With five minutes left to UTC midnight, moved to 80 m SSB and had two callers on top of each other. I worked both but missed a chance at a CW contact before UTC midnight. I completed two CW contacts on 80 m and then three on SSB.

I moved up to 20 m CW and worked John ZL1BYZ in his usual Activity Marathon time slot. I saw a spot for JG1BOK/1 on 17 m CW, so moved to his frequency and completed another S2S contact.

I moved down to 80 m CW to try to work the normal Activity Marathon regulars. I called Ron VK3AFW but had no reply to my call. Allen VK3ARH called, so I sent “Up 1” and moved to 3533 kHz and started calling. Allen did find me and I soon had another two calls in the log.

I then moved to 40 m CW and worked six stations. I then moved to 40 m SSB and worked 13 stations over the next 16 minutes. I next moved to 20 m SSB and worked ten stations over ten minutes. I then moved to 40 m SSB for two more contacts before seeing that Chris ZL4RA has now on 20 m CW – I could just hear him on 40 m CW, but he was very weak. I soon had another S2S in the log. I was considering closing and packing up. I heard a spot for a Park and soon had a Park to Park contact on 40 m SSB with Peter VK3TKK/p.

Panorama at Norths Lookout

I packed up and moved the gear into the car and then retraced my route back to Tunnel Road. I then headed south and then west around to the Wymah Ferry to cross Lake Hume and then headed back to Wodonga.

A good day of radio, with 62 contacts made including five S2S and one Park to Park.

Thank you to all who worked me, especially those who made the effort to work me on multiple bands and both SSB and CW.

Late in the afternoon, I applied for a travel permit to enter NSW and return to Victoria and received the permit via email in about 10 minutes.

Day 5

Sunday 20 December 2020

Sunday morning was spent with family duties. After lunch, I to travelled east to Bonegilla, around to Hume Weir and then onto Murray River Road until I reached Granya Road. I headed south to Granya and took Webb Lane to Cottonwood Creek campsite. I then took Bridge Road to Wises Creek Track and wound may way north and west to reach Sugarloaf Track. I took Sugarloaf Track to climb up to the summit, with the final climb being quite steep. I parked just off the high point and set up the station away from the car.

Hore Hill VK3/VE-192 763 m 4 points
Mount Granya State Park VKFF-0767

I started out on 40 m CW and worked five stations, including Chris VK1CT in VKFF-0833. I then moved to 40 m SSB and worked ten stations. Ten minutes on 30 m CW yielded two stations only. Ten minutes calling on 20 m CW yielded only two stations, followed by one station on 20 m CW. I heard a spot for SOTA and moved to 17 m CW, working JP3DGT/3 on JA/KT-118. I moved slightly up the band and managed a contact with ZL. I returned to 20 m SSB and worked another ZL.

I moved back to 40 m SSB for another two contacts in 15 minutes. I then heard a spot for 80 m and changed bands to work Tony VK3YV in VKFF-2034. I moved a few kilohertz up the band and worked two more stations. I heard a call form Nick VK3ANL but we could not complete the contact. I called Nick on the same frequency on CW and soon had him in the log. I took a break and was considering closing when I heard another spot come through. I moved to 40 m SSB and soon had Adam VK2YK/5 in VKFF-0912 in the log. I decided to call it a day and closed down.

View to Hore Hill from NW of the summit

I packed up and retraced my access route back to Granya and then returned to Wodonga.

Day 6

Monday 21 December 2020

I decided to head back to Mount Lawson State Park with the goal of taking the Park QSO tally to 44 contacts, thus qualifying the reference for the global level in this calendar year. I posted Alerts for Mount Lawson early in the UTC day and for another Park in the afternoon.

I again headed east to Tallangatta, with a visit to the Bakery. I then drove to Koetong and took Burrowye Road, Hempenstall Road, Wallaces Road and finally Mt Lawson Road toward the summit car park. Less than 100 m from the car park, I found a huge eucalypt bough across the road. I considered my options and decided to try to move the bough. I pulled out my drag chain and secured it around the end of the bough closest to the tree. I turned the vehicle around and reversed close to the bough. I engaged 4WD Low Range and gently took up the slack in the chain. One good pull and I had moved the bough. I backed up and moved a little further to the right. The second pull had moved the bough enough to drive past it. I backed up and removed the chain and was soon past the bough and in the car park.

Mount Lawson VK3/VE-129 1041 m 6 points
Mount Lawson State Park VKFF-0768

I packed the gear in the backpack and walked up the walking track to the summit. I then found a spot to set up the gear and was soon calling CQ on 20 m CW. I had two ZL stations in the log within two minutes and then a VK5 about five minutes later. After further calls without responses, I moved to 20 m SSB and worked four stations.

I next moved to 40 m CW and worked five stations in just under ten minutes. With no further responses to calls, I moved to 40 m SSB. I worked 10 stations in the next 20 minutes, including Peter VK3YE operating as VK5WAT/3 in Churchill National Park VKFF-0621. I moved to 30 m CW and worked only one station. As a final slot, I moved to 17 m CW. I worked one ZL and further calls went unanswered. I signed QRT SK and a station sent “?”. I sent “de VK3PF/p” and tried to decode the call. I was feeling a little tired and could not decode, despite several repeats. My apologies to that station, I think JH1MZV. It was only after I had had packed up that the call became apparent to me.

During the activation, I thought that I heard some motor bikes on the tracks below. I thought nothing of it. I walked back to the car, loaded the gear and started to drive out. The “motor bikes” must have been chainsaws, as the tree bough was cut up into smaller segments and had been cleared from the road. I expect that some staff from Parks Victoria were responsible.

I retraced my access route to Koetong, then drove to Shelley and onto Shelley Road. I stopped a little short of my destination to post a Spot advising that I would be on air in about 30 minutes. My Alert had asked for help with Spots, as the Park has no mobile coverage.

I drove along Old Walwa Road to near the dam wall. I parked off the road under a large eucalypt, inside the Park boundary.

Pheasant Creek Flora Reserve VKFF-2422

I tossed a line over a tree branch and set up the station at the rear of the vehicle.

I started on 40 m CW and soon had VK5HAA in the log. Ten minutes of calling produced no further responses, so I moved to 40 m SSB. Marc VK3OHM was first to respond to my calls and assisted by posting a Spot. Fifteen minutes yielded eight stations on SSB and a CW contact (thanks Gerard). A move to 20 m CW yielded only a single contact. I moved to 20 m SSB and worked seven stations in about 15 minutes.

I returned to 40 m SSB and worked 11 contacts in 25 minutes, including another Park to Park with VK5WAT/3.

With no further replies to calls, I closed down and packed up. I drove back to Shelley and headed towards Wodonga. The phone beeped, so I pulled over to check the message – a spot from Adam VK2YK/5 in a Park. I drove to a quiet spot and parked. Checking ParksnPeaks, Adam was now on 80 m. I went for a short walk to look at the historic trestle bridge over Koetong Creek. I returned to the car, hearing another Spot arrive as I returned. I quickly changed the mobile whip link to 30 m and soon had Adam in the log.

I started the car and returned to the main road and resumed the trip back to Wodonga.

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2020 Christmas trip to Wodonga – Days 2 and 3

Thursday 17 December 2020

I acted as chauffeur for Mum in the morning before heading out. I drove to Tallangatta for a stop at the Bakery and then drove to Old Tallangatta and around to Plateau Road and climbed up to the summit.

Jarvis Creek Plateau VK3/VE-265 701 m 4 points
Jarvis Creek Plateau Regional Park VKFF-0969

Park sign near the start of Plateau Road

The actual summit is only about 15-20 m off Plateau Road and only about one metre higher than the road. I set up beside the road, a few metres away from the car.

My station on the Jarvis Creek Plateau summit

I started on 40 m CW and had six contacts in the log in only 10 minutes. I moved to 40 m SSB and worked five contacts. 80 m SSB yielded a single contact. 30 m CW produced another two contacts. 20 m CW produced another six contacts, followed by 20 m SSB yielding another seven contacts.

With a total of 27 contacts, I decided to close the station and pack up.

I retraced my access route to Old Tallangatta and then headed east to Bullioh and headed north on Granya Road. I turned left onto Mount Granya Road and drove to the car park at the summit.

Mount Granya VK3/VE-165 863 m 4 points
Mount Granya Regional Park VKFF-0767

Sign at the Park boundary

The car park was empty. I set up the station on the picnic table, again using a line over a tree branch to haul up the centre of the ZS6BKW.

Station on the picnic table at Mt Granya

I started calling on 20 m CW and worked four stations – three ZLs and a VK2 – in around five minutes. After a few more calls, I moved to 40 m CW and worked eight stations in less than 15 minutes. 40 m SSB yielded another eight calls in the log. 30 m CW produced two contacts. I then moved to 20 m SSB and worked five stations. Five minutes of calling on 17 m CW produced two contacts into ZL. A total of 29 contacts were made in an hour and 10 minutes.

I packed up and drove back to Granya Road, then south to the Murray Valley Highway and then back to Wodonga.

A good day out: two summits in two VKFF References activated. Thanks to all who worked me.

Day 3

Friday 18 December 2020

It was another morning with a delayed start due to family tasks to undertake. I again travelled out to the east via Tallangatta with a stop at the Bakery to buy something for lunch. I then headed towards Koetong and turned left into Firebrace Track and almost immediately came to a stop. Road works with a large trench dug all the way across the road. I backed out and consulted the map. I took Braggs Road into the pines with the idea of cutting back across to my target track. About a kilometre in I met up with a HPV vehicle and I explained my plan and that I have a valid permit to access the plantation. The driver suggested that the best option was to head back and drive carefully the short distance long the rail trail to reach Firebrace Track. I followed the suggested route and then drove along Firebrace Track to reach the car park for Conic Range walking track.

Park sign near the car park for the Conic Range walk

I parked and loaded up the gear to start the climb of about 90 m vertical over about 750 m.

VK3/VE-255 950 m 6 points
Mount Lawson State Park VKFF-0768

I was soon at the top of the climb at the view point. I moved a little higher, but my interpretation of the maps is that the viewing point is inside the Activation Zone. I was soon set up with a line over a tree branch to haul up the ZS6BKW.

I started calling on 20 m CW and soon had ZL1BYZ in the log. It took about 6 minutes for my second contact – Allen VK3ARH. After a couple of minutes calling without replies, I moved to 20 m SSB and worked five stations in five minutes, but then no further responses to calls.

I moved to 40 m CW and spotted. I worked eight stations in fifteen minutes. I then moved to 40 m SSB. The first few calls came quickly, but the rate then dropped significantly. I worked eight contacts in 27 minutes. I moved to 80 SSB and worked three stations. I then worked two more contacts on 40 m SSB. I closed down and packed up, with 28 contacts in the log.

I walked back to the car and retraced my route until I reached Mt Lawson Road and travelled north until I reached Wallaces Road, where I turned right and headed east into the pine plantation. I worked my way onto the northern end of Hempenstall Track and climbed towards the next summit, turning right at the water point sign, travelling past the large concrete tank and up to the high point only metres from the actual summit.

VK3/VE-262 800 m 4 points

Road sign close to the actual summit location

The actual summit is in thick pines. I decided to set up just west of the track junction, well inside the Activation Zone. I used a 10 m squid pole to support the antenna. I posted a spot and started calling on 40 m CW. I worked three stations before I moved to 40 m SSB, where I worked four stations. 20 m CW yielded two stations, followed by 20 m SSB bringing six stations. I returned to 40 m CW for a few minutes and managed one more contact. 33 contacts in 42 minutes.

View across to Mount Burrowa, which looked very black after the January 2020 bush fires.

I packed up the station and returned to Hempenstall Road and headed south to the junction with Burrowye Road. I followed the latter south to Koetong and the Murray Valley Highway, which I followed back to Wodonga.

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The annual Christmas trip to Wodonga 2020

As my mother and one brother both live in Wodonga and my other brother is currently based at Jingellic, it has become a tradition for me to travel to Wodonga for a couple of weeks around Christmas. Once I had several tasks at home completed, I was watching the weather forecasts with interest.

Wednesday 16 December 2020

The forecast was looking a little suspect for the Victorian Alps and eastern Victoria, especially in the afternoon. The forecast for Gippsland for the whole day, with fog and drizzle expected. I decided to depart and hope for the best.

I departed home a little after 0830 and headed to Rosedale for a short stop at the Bakery. I then headed for Stratford and then on to Dargo. As I moved closer to Dargo, the weather became clearer. I then started the climb up the Dargo High Plains Road.

VK3/VT-016 1393 m 8 points

This summit is only a short distance off the Dargo High Plains Road. The road passes through the Activation Zone. The summit itself can be reached with a scrub bash. On this occasion, I decided to simply activate from the side of the road, away from the car. I found a spot to park and soon had a line over a tree branch and the ZS6BKW erected.

I spotted myself on SOTAwatch and started calling on 40 m CW. Things were a little slow, with only three contacts over 12 minutes. I moved to 20 m CW and worked another two stations. Calls on 80 m CW yielded no responses. 80 m SSB yielded another contact. It took about 30 minutes to gain the six contacts.

I packed up and continued north along the Dargo High Plains Road. I decided to attempt a slightly more adventurous combination of summits and turned west onto Ritchie Road. Once I was a little away from the main road, I started traversing an area which was burnt in the January 2020 bushfires. In places one could see the route ahead, with the road winding up and down the various spurs as it crossed the valleys of the upper catchment of Twenty Five Mile Creek, including two fords. Fortunately, several fallen dead trees had been cleared, so the drive was uneventful and I soon reached White Timber Spur South Track. Ritchie Road through to Basalt Knob could be negotiated when dry in a 2WD vehicle with reasonable ground clearance.

White Timber VK3/VE-060 1375 m 8 points

The track south is definitely 4WD. It has some spoon drains and some rutted areas. The grass beside and in the middle of the track was quite high. On my first visit to this summit, we aborted the drive in due to a very rough and wet patch and we walked up the track. On this occasion, I was able to drive to the high point of the track, which was well inside the Activation Zone. I found a spot to park and soon had the station set up a short distance from the vehicle.

The only problem was that mobile phone coverage was poor. If I moved about 25 m away from the station, I had marginal coverage and could sometimes post a spot via the vk port-a-log app.

I started calling on 40 m CW and had my first call in the log about 70 minutes after the last contact at the first summit. Several minutes of calling CQ yielded no further contacts. I managed to post a spot for 20 m CW and soon had two ZL stations in the log. Further calls went unanswered. I moved back to 40 m CW and landed a VK4 after several minutes of calling. I tried 80 m SSB and managed to work one station. Five contacts meant that the summit was qualified. I decided to pack up and to move to the next summit.

I retraced my access route back to Ritchie Road and turned left, driving around to Basalt Knob.

Basalt Knob VK3/VE-039 1512 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

The route traversed more ground which had been burnt. The “hut” at the junction with Basalt North Track was a burnt out shell. The hut was actually an old railway carriage. All that was left is the twisted metal frame. I drove up to the helipad area below the summit and parked in the shade.

I climbed about half way up the slope to ensure that I was inside the Activation Zone. I soon had the station set up. Mobile phone coverage was better here, so I was able to spot.

I decided to start the activation on 20 m CW. The first contact was in the log only 50 minutes after the last contact on White Timber. I soon had two ZLs and a VK5 in the log. Several minutes of further calling went unanswered. I moved to 40 m CW and worked a VK2 and the same VK5. Once again, further calls were fruitless. I moved to 40 m SSB and worked only two stations in 30 minutes – things were slow! The summit was well qualified, but I was hoping to reach 10 contacts for VKFF qualification. 30 m CW produced another contact. I then returned to 40 m CW and soon had three more callsigns in the log, for a total of 11 contacts. I packed up and returned to the car.

I returned to the junction with Basalt North Track and turned north, hoping that the track was in better condition than a year ago. Work has been done of the track and condition was good for a 4WD track. There are many short, steep and tall spoon drains, some of which scraped the underside of my raised vehicle.

As I was nearing the junction with Blue Rag Range Track, I could see that Blue Rag Range Trig was already enveloped in dark cloud. The time was about 1625 and the drive out to the trig and back would take at least an hour, plus time for the activation, in a likely very damp environment. I decided to abort Blue Rag Range summit and headed east on Blue Rag Range Track. Brian VK3BCM had commented that the track was in poor condition when I last travelled out to the trig, so I was a little apprehensive. My concerns were unfounded, as the track was in good condition – still 4WD, but in reasonable condition as I traversed the track. I stopped at the high point about 500 m west of the Dargo High Plains Road.

Mount Blue Rag VK3/VE-021 1679 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

There is a narrow track heading south to a saddle with a helipad and then climbs slightly onto the summit plateau. The saddle is above 1660 m, so the knoll to the north of the saddle beside the main track is comfortably inside the Activation Zone. I parked the car and set up a few metres away.

Mobile coverage was good, presumably from the base stations on Mount Hotham.

I again started on 20 m CW, working two ZL stations. I moved to 40 m CW and worked 10 stations in 20 minutes. I packed up and headed back to the car.

I drove down to the Dargo High Plains Road, finding a nice piped crossing instead of the previous deep gutter at the junction.

I then headed north to the Great Alpine Road, noting that the area around Mount Freezeout had not been burnt and the route to the summit was likely to be through thick snow gum revegetation.

Once at the road junction below Mount Blowhard, I turned left and drove down to Harrietville, on to Bright and then on to Wodonga.

Route as far as Great Alpine Road (Thanks to Google Maps)

Thanks to all the chasers who worked me during the day. I was tired but very happy when I arrived in Wodonga – 36 Activator points earned and a significant milestone reached.

SOTA Activator certificate 5000 points
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More WWFF and VKFF Award certificates

The last few weeks have seen some Parks activations as COVID restrictions have eased. Despite noisy conditions of HF and my simple antenna, I have manged to hunt a few activators and work some Parks which were new for me.

The most prominent Activator for me in achieving the next level of the VKFF Hunter Honour Roll award has been Marty VK4KC, whom I worked in 12 different references. Peter VK3TKK, Hans VK6XN, Nick VK3ANL, Bryan VK3LF, Tony VK3YV, Ian VK5CZ and Brett VK3MCA also contributed by activating new Parks (for me). Many thanks to all the Activators.

The 2020 VKFF Activation Weekend yielded nine (9) new Parks in my tally.

WWFF Hunter 1744 Certificate
VKFF Hunter Award (Honour Roll) 1725 references worked certificate
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Snowy Range and Moroka in late November Day 2

Wednesday 25 November 2020

I was up early. After a brief walk down to the start of the walking track to the Moroka Gorge, I returned to the camp and had breakfast. Rik was soon up. After packing up camp, we decided to head towards Mount Kent. I had been in the area in late 1998, but had not been as far as the Mount Kent Road.

Mount Kent VK3/VT-008 1561 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

We drove out of the camp site to Moroka Road and travelled around to Shanty Hollow Road, which we followed to the start of Mount Kent Road. We climbed up to the saddle and swung west towards Little Kent, which looked spectacular. We stopped to grab a photo.

Little Kent from the eastern side

Back on the road, we continued onwards towards our target. Once around Little Kent, we enjoyed some spectacular views into the Wonnangatta River valley. The final climb up to the summit of Mount Kent was steep and had very deep wheel ruts in places. I engaged 4WD Low Range and chose my lines carefully. We popped out onto the summit area and more outstanding views. I drove towards the southeast corner of the summit area to park.

The first task was to enjoy some of the views and take some photos. We were looking down onto Mount Dawson VK3/VT-015 and Snowy Bluff VK3/VT-019, plus many more summits.

Mount Kent summit panorama.

We returned to the vehicle and set up the station nearby with a line over a tree branch.

As we started setting up, I spotted for 20 m CW. Whilst I was setting up, Rik walked back down the track to exit the AZ and became my first contact from this summit. I started calling on 20 m CW and was answered by John ZL1BYZ. Next was Wynne ZL2ATH, followed by Jackie ZL1WA. Summit qualified in only 11 minutes, which included some of the HF set up time. I moved to 80 m CW and spotted the change in frequency. I soon had Paul VK3HN and Allen VK3ARH in the log. With no further callers, I handed control of the rig to Rik for SSB operations. I headed off down the track with my 2 m handheld and worked Rik when more than 30 m below the summit.

I returned to the summit and explored the summit cairn and took some more photos.

The cairn on Mount Kent.

We packed up the gear and loaded up the car. We then retraced our inwards route back to Shanty Hollow Road, again stopping for some photos.

Once at Shanty Hollow Road, we turned west to explore the road. It was easy 4WD. At Shanty Hollow we found a large steep earth mound across the road, with the track beyond the mound having many fallen trees across the road. Mount Dawson would require a walk of about 2.7 km horizontally and a climb of over 330 m, with the final 600 m horizontal being a climb from the high point of the track through the scrub to the summit. We decided to save that trip for a later occasion!

We travelled back to Moroka Road and turned left onto Billy Goat Bluff Track and then Pinnacles Track to the car park at the end of the road.

We walked up to the summit of the Pinnacles to enjoy more spectacular views. You can see most of the surrounding country – hopefully the panorama photo gives you an idea.

Panorama from The Pinnacles.

We returned to the car and headed back to the start of Castle Hill Track. We ignored the track which headed to South Pinnacle. Several maps show the track heading to join Castle Hill Track. We soon found that the connection does not go, with the southern end of the track having undergone significant “rehabilitation”, with many large logs across the old route. I drove around the next target summit and parked at a small camping area to the SE of the summit.

Mount Valentia VK3/VT-017 1434 m 8 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

We loaded up the gear and started climbing up the side of the summit until we were well inside the AZ. We had not carried a squid pole, as I was aware that the scrub was not conducive to achieving good antenna elevation. I had forgotten to grab the throw line, so improved with some straps joined together and a stick about 45 cm long. I took a few attempts to get the line over a branch, but the stick came free and came back and hit me before I could move away. I sensed that I was bleeding. I grabbed a clean handkerchief from my pocket to apply pressure. I instructed Rik to retrieve the first aid kit from my pack – the first time that it has been used. Rik applied some tape over the wound and we finally placed a line over a branch, but only at about 3 m about ground. We strung out the antenna and I was finally calling on 40 m CW. First in the log was Gerard VK2IO, followed by Andrew VK1DA/p on Mt Ainslie VK1/AC-040 in VKFF-0870. Ian VK5CZ was next in the log, followed by Ian VK5IS. The cut had started bleeding again, so I quit operating and again applied pressure to the wound. I worked Rik on 2 m FM before he returned from outside the AZ.

Even with spotting, Rik had a difficult time making contacts on HF. Nothing heard on 80 m. We heard Geoff VK3SQ call on 40 m, but he did not respond to Rik’s reply. We tried 20 m SSB for a few minutes, with no responses. HF propagation was odd and poor. We were aware that our low antenna would not be helping. Eventually, Rik worked Gerard on 40 m SSB. We gave up on HF and packed the gear. Rik made some contacts on 2 m FM to get the 4 contacts to qualify the summit.

We carefully descended to the car. I had a look at the laceration and immediately thought that a couple of stitches would be needed. I asked Rik to look and he agreed with my assessment. That assessment meant that the rest of the SOTA activity was over for this trip. Priority was to have me checked out. Rik offered to drive, but I was feeling fine. We had lunch and retraced our access route to Pinnacles Track then headed to Marathon Road to exit the area. We drove to Briagalong, then Stratford and on to Sale and its hospital.

We parked and checked into Emergency. I waited about 30 minutes before was called in for a detailed examination by the doctor. A nurse took BP and later administered a Tetanus shot. The doctor cleaned the wound and made an assessment and called the supervising doctor to confirm. After injecting local anaesthetic, she applied two stitches. I was cleared to leave, with a script for some topical antibiotic, less than an hour after arrival. I found Rik and we drove home and then to the local pharmacy. We fuelled the car and then back home for a meal.

Rik packed his gear into his car and headed back to Melbourne.

Despite the early end, we both had an enjoyable two days in the hills.

Once again, we both thank all who chased us over the trip.

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Snowy Range and Moroka in late November

The COVID lockdown of Melbourne was finally over and my friend Rik VK3EQ made contact to see if I was interested in a short camping trip to the Snowy Plains and Moroka area of the Victorian Alps. I was happy to commit, so a few days later we agreed to a three day trip commencing 24 November. I explored some options and posted three Alerts for Tuesday and one Alert for Wednesday to SOTAwatch.

I spent much of Monday afternoon getting the camping gear organised, as I had not been out on a camping trip for several years. A request from a local friend for assistance caused some interruption, with me losing about an hour and half to help him. Most tasks were completed in the evening.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

I was up early on Tuesday and finished the last couple of tasks. Rik arrived about 15 minutes early. We started getting the gear into my vehicle. We departed home at about 0820. The drive was straightforward. First to Traralgon with a stop for fuel, then out to Cowarr and then north to Licola and then past Tamboritha Saddle to Arbuckle Junction. We then travelled up the Howitt Road past the Snowy Range Airport and the Bryces Gorge car park and then onto the access track to the high point of the Snowy Range.

Bryces Plain VK3/VT-004 1642 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

I could drive right to the high point. We had a quick look, noting the radio installation and associated solar array and the remote weather station. We drove off the summit and parked in a small camping area just east of the summit, only a metre or two below the summit proper.

Summit panorama from VK3/VT-004 Bryces Plain.

I grabbed the throw line and managed to throw the line over a branch of a snow gum at about 15 m above ground. Rik had been getting his gear organised at the car and was very impressed when he saw the line. We soon had the ZS6BKW run out and set up.

I spotted myself for 20 m CW at about 0029 Z and started calling. A couple of minutes later John ZL1BYZ replied and was soon in the log. Shortly afterwards, Jackie ZL1WA was worked. Further calls on 20 m went unanswered. I changed to 40 m CW and again spotted on SOTAwatch. I then worked four more stations. With the summit qualified, I left the rig for Rik to use. Rik called on 40 m SSB and soon had the summit qualified.

I walked down the track to exit the AZ and worked Rik on 2 m FM for Chaser points. I returned to the station. We were eating lunch when I received an SMS from Andrew VK1DA saying that he had missed us. I replied and indicated that I would come up on 7.032 MHz CW shortly. I soon had Andrew in the log, followed by Ian VK5CZ and Allen VK3ARH.

We packed up, loaded the gear into the car and headed back to Howitt Road and headed back south.

We drove back down to Kelly Lane and parked near the locked gate. Kelly Lane is seasonally closed from the start of May to the end of November.

Mount Reynard VK3/VT-002 1710 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

We walked down Kelly Lane to cross the bridge over Shaw Creek. We did not bother to check the map and turned right on an old track until we found a fence. We climbed up along the fence line and reached some rocky faces higher up before we reached the northern shoulder of a knoll about 2 km ESE of the summit. We walked roughly west for a few hundred metres, looking at the shoulder of Reynard and trying to spot the saddle between our location and Reynard. Once we thought that we needed to head down, we did so, negotiating our way through lots of fallen dead snow gums. Once out into the clear again, we found ourselves west of the saddle. We started traversing towards the saddle and found a faint foot pad close to the saddle. This led up into the saddle where we spotted some pink tape. We then followed the walking track all the way to the true summit and a trig marker – a brass plate concreted into the ground with a small (under a metre) steel pipe nearby – the later perfect to support a squid pole.

Mt Reynard trig marker.

I spotted myself for 40 m CW on SOTAwatch with the comment that I was setting up. I worked Rik as he was approaching the AZ on 2 FM. When I started calling, I had at least two stations calling me and I missed both callsigns. I soon had Bill VK1MCW in the log followed by Gerard VK2IO. Next was Gary ZL2IFB, followed by Andrew VK1DA and Ian VK5IS. I signed QRT and handed the gear over to Rik and then went for a walk out of the AZ so that I could chase Rik.

Rik operating on Mt Reynard

Rik was qualified by time I returned and we packed up. We retraced our inbound route back to the saddle, and then veered to the east following a faint track at times and otherwise walking through the very clumpy snow grass. We descended a short steep drop with care before we crossed Shaw Creek and climbed back up to Howitt Road at a sign that read “No Road”. We then walked south along Howitt Road to just above the parked car and descended the small drop to the car.

We jumped in and headed back to Arbuckle Junction and then headed around towards McFarlane Saddle. We checked a possible approach route for VK3/VT-003, but found the road closed due to fire damage. The walking track south from McFarlane Saddle (Lake Tarli Karng Trail) was also closed due to fire damage, forcing us to abort the attempt to reach VK3/VT-003. When we found a location with mobile coverage, I amended to Alert to indicate the attempt was abandoned.

We continued on to the Moroka River and around to Horseyard Flat camp ground to set up camp for the night.

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A quick trip to Wodonga

Wednesday of the previous trip had some bad news, with a death in the extended family. Mum wanted to attend the funeral, scheduled for Monday. So I had Friday to complete some tasks and then left home to travel back to Wodonga.

Saturday 17 October 2020

Considering the COVID restriction around Melbourne, I headed west to Nilma, north to Neerim Junction, west through Powelltown to Yarra Junction, then on to Healesville, towards Yarra Glen and then north to Yea to stop for a late lunch. I considered my options, and recalled that there were some as yet un-activated WWFF references in the Strathbogies. I looked up my VicRoads Directory and identified a target. I drove to Yarck, then headed north then west to Ruffy, then worked my way to Upton Hill.

Wallaby Gully (Upton Hill) Flora Reserve VKFF-2470
Not previously activated

The only thing awkward about this Park was finding a safe spot to park the car. The closest approach of the road to the Park was on a bend. I found a spot to park and grabbed the rucksack and walked into the Reserve. It was obvious that there had been recent heavy rain, with the ground very wet in places. I moved across to the edge of the trees and found a spot to set up.

Wallaby Gully Flora & Fauna Reserve

I commenced calling on 40 m SSB and worked six stations. 40 m CW yielded two stations. 80 m CW yielded two stations, with 80 m SSB being more productive with four stations worked. I then worked Warren VK3BYD on CW on the SSB frequency – he was battling with noise at his location. I quickly changed bands to work Pete VK2FPAR in VKFF-2782 on 40 m SSB. 30 m CW yielded two contacts followed by one contact on 20 m CW and one contact on 20 m SSB. It was getting late, so I closed and packed up prior to walking back to the car and then headed roughly north to reach the Hume Highway at Old Lockwood. It was then a simple run up the Hume Highway to reach Wodonga for the night.

Sunday 18 October 2020

I packed the car, including Mum’s luggage. We headed down the Hume Highway towards Melbourne. We had a couple of short stops along the way. I decided to take the shortest route: down the Hume, around the Western Ring Road and onto the Princes Highway. This involved negotiating the COVID road block at the Little River turnoff. This went very easily. It was then onwards to the Geelong Bypass and then on to reach the accommodation that I had booked.

We checked in and moved in our luggage. A short trip to a nearby shopping centre to pick up a couple of items and I then dropped Mum back at the accommodation. I then headed south towards Torquay and then towards Breamlea. I then headed to Point Impossible.

Breamlea Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2276

The northern part of the western section of the Reserve had a large locked gate. I drove down to the Point Impossible car park. I spotted a gate and found a place to park. I walked to the gate and found it to have a simple farm gate latch, with two signs:
“Management Vehicles Only” and a smaller “Please shut the gate”.

I stepped through the gate and decided to set up nearby, using the gate post to support the squid pole. I was soon set up and was about to spot myself when I saw a Spot for Tony VK3YV in Mirboo North Regional Park VKFF-1876. I believe that this may have been the first activation of the Park by another amateur. I have activated the Park twice previously. I quickly moved to 80 m and worked Tony for a Park to Park. We then moved to AM and worked again.

I then moved to 40 m SSB to start calling. I worked five stations before moving to 80 m SSB, where I worked two stations. I worked Warren VK3BYD/p in Chiltern Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620 on 80 m CW. I also listened for Andrew VK1DA on VK1/AC-037 VKFF-0854, but heard nothing of Andrew. 40 m CW was my last band slot, yielding another two stations. With 12 contacts logged, the Park was qualified for VKFF.

Part of the western section of Breamlea Flora & Fauna Reserve

I stopped calling at 0550, to pack up and head back to the accommodation so that we could make it the dinner time slot booked at the hotel nearby.

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Monday was very quiet on the radio front. The funeral was at 1100 local time and was followed by a wake at a venue in Fyansford. Once the lunch and all the discussions were over, we finally were on the road. It was a short trip to the Geelong Ring Road and then we headed towards Melbourne, with a short stop to add fuel to the vehicle.

I received an SMS message from Brian VK3BCM and pulled over to the edge of the road. I read the SMS and listened for Brian on 80 m using the 40 m whip on the bullbar. I could hear him. I quickly swapped antennas to the 80 m whip and soon had Brian in the log for a new Complete: Jarvis Creek Plateau VK3/VE-265. Brian was only the second to activate the summit.

I decided to risk the gauntlet of a road block on the Hume Highway at Kalkallo and drove to the Western Ring Road and then up the Hume Highway. We had a slow section near Campbellfield due to a multi-vehicle nose-tail accident on an on-ramp. Once we were near Craigeburn, the traffic slowed to a crawl due to the road block. It was then simply a matter of being patient. Once past the road block, progress up the Hume was good.

I left Wodonga a little after 0830 local time on Tuesday and headed down the Hume Highway. I had considered my options, as I only had one contact for Monday for the Activity Marathon. I decided to activate one of the two VKFF references near/in Wangaratta.

Wangaratta Common Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2223

I ended up doing a circuit of the Park whilst checking out possible sites. The road suggested by the in-car navigation system no longer exists. The southern section of the Reserve was grass land and few trees for shade on a warm sunny Spring day. There was a pathway on the western boundary, but with power lines nearby. I ended up parking at the gate on Tone Road, not far from the Ambulance Victoria station.

I loaded up the rucksack, grabbed a folding chair and walked about 250 m along the footpath before heading off track for about 50 m to set up under a large river red gum. I soon had a line over a branch at about 10 m and had the antenna set up. I sat in the chair and sat the KX2 on one armrest.

Despite being close to several buildings, I had little noise at the site chosen. I spotted myself and started calling.

The activation started well, with Tony VK7LTD/p and Angela VK7FAMP/p on VK7/CH-054 on 40 40 m SSB. I moved up to the VKFF focus frequency and worked eight contacts, including Marty VK4KC/p in VKFF-0039. Next was Warren on both SSB and CW. We chatted briefly before I moved to 80 m CW and worked Geoff VK3SQ. I next jumped to 20 m SSB to chase Marty VK4KC/p. I then tried 40 m CW, working only Gerard VK2IO.

After UTC rollover, I quickly again worked Marty VK4KC/p on 20 m SSB before attempting to make contact with some of the Activity Marathon regulars. I managed to find John ZL1BYZ on 20 m CW, followed by VK3AFW and VK3JS on 80 m CW and VK2IO on 40 m CW. Next was Phillip VK2JDL on VK2/CW-003 on 40 m SSB.

Warren VK3BYD arrived. I had seen his vehicle park near the gate and had sent an SMS saying “Down the path a little”. Warren final spotted me. We had a chat – I was about to pack up. I decided to close and Warren assisted with the antenna pack up. Just as we were about to pack the antenna into the pack, a Spot came through for Andrew VK1DA on One Tree Hill VK1/AC-035. We quickly re-erected the antenna and assembled the station. We both made contacts with Andrew on 80 m CW before we once again closed and packed up. We continued to chat as we walked back to the vehicles and then said our good byes.

I headed back to the Hume Highway and further considered my options. I decided on a late lunch at Euroa and then to head to Mount Wombat. I drove into town and purchased some food at one of the Bakeries. I posted a Spot indicating that I would be on air in about 30 minutes. I made my way to Templeton Street, which becomes Euroa-Strathbogie Road. The road climbs up onto the Strathbogie Range and then I turned onto Mount Wombat Road and finally Mount Wombat Lookout Road and up to the summit area to park.

Mount Wombat VK3/VU-002 802 m 4 points
Mount Wombat – Garden Range Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2403

I set up using a line over a tree branch a little below the summit, at around 790 m.

First in the log was Liz VK2XSE/p in Biddon State Conservation Area VKFF-1280 for a Park to Park contact, followed by Peter VK2KNV/p. I moved to 7.090 MHz and started calling after posting a Spot. I worked five stations before moving to 40 m CW, where I worked only two stations. Next I tried 80 m CW, working two stations. 80 m SSB produced another two contacts. I moved to 20 m CW and worked three stations. I closed down and packed up.

I then headed for home: back towards Euroa, then south to Merton, with a short stop to work Angela VK7FAMP/p and Tony VK7LTD/p on VK7CH-053 on 40 m SSB using the mobile whip. I resumed the trip to Yea, then across to Healesville, Yarra Junction, Powelltown, Neerim Junction, Nilma and finally back to Churchill. It ended up being a long day.

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A late push for Bonus summits despite COVID – Day 7

Thursday 15 October 2020

Bonus season finished at 1100 local time, so I was keen to fit in at least one more eligible summit. I decided that the easiest option was to head for two of the nearby 8-point summits.

VK3/VG-030 (unnamed) 1321 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I once again purchased a sandwich from the Bakery before leaving Omeo. I headed up Great Alpine Road (GAR) towards Cobungra prior to turning off to the right about 850 m past Mount Livingstone Road. The track is not named. Swing off the GAR, then hard right onto the track. It is narrow and sections are steep and rocky. Once finally at the top of the climb, swing left onto a track which travels to the actual summit. The area around the summit was burnt, probably by the 2019/2020 summer bush fires. On my last visit to this summit, I walked from the last track junction due to bushes and trees encroaching over the track.

I soon had a line over a tree branch at around 12 m up – a good throw. I set up the antenna and spotted myself.

I again started on 80 m SSB and worked seven stations in only seven minutes. I then moved to 80 m CW and worked four stations. The next slot was 40 m CW, yielding four stations, including Andrew VK1/DA on VK2/IL-001. I received a phone call, advising that the funeral would be on Monday. With the time now after 2200 UTC, I closed down, packed up and walked the short distance to the car and retraced my access route and travelled back to Mount Livingstone Road, which I drove along until I reached the locked gate to park nearby.

Mount Livingstone VK3/VG-045 1227 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I loaded up the rucksack and walked up the road to the flat section above the old VLF NDB site to set up above the 1210 m contour. I again tossed a line over a tree branch.

Once again I started on 80 m SSB to work Rik VK3EQ. I moved to 80 m CW and worked six stations, including Andrew VK1DA, still on VK2/IL-001. I returned to 80 m SSB for four further contacts. 40 m CW yielded only a single contact. I moved to 20 m CW and worked another three stations. I closed just before UTC rollover.

I packed up and walked back down to the car. I then drove up to Mount Hotham to meet up with Brian VK3BCM. We chatted over a coffee at The General Store. Before I left, Brian checked upon the status of the Dargo High Plains Road. The contact person at Alpine Shire confirmed that the road was officially closed and was likely to remain so until mid-December. That ruled out an enticing option – travel home via Dargo and activating Mount Blue Rag VK3/VE-021 and VK3/VT-018. Instead, I travelled back towards Omeo, considering my options.

One choice was Birregun Road, with Mt Birregun and two 6-point summits. The recent rains ruled out this option, as sections of the road are soft and very slippery when wet.

I travelled to Swifts Creek and then south on GAR to Ash Range Road at Double Bridges. I took Ash Range Road to below the next, and last, target.

 Pheasant Hill VK3/VG-180 490 m 1 point Not previously activated

This summit was just inside the area burnt last summer, with the area burnt by the fire which heavily impacted Sarsfield.

I again loaded up the rucksack and walked roughly up the alignment of the old road, which was becoming overgrown and with lots of fallen timber. I again tossed a line over a branch to haul up the antenna centre.

I spotted on 80 m SSB and soon had four contacts in the log. I moved to 40 m CW and worked six stations. I spent the last few minutes on 40 m SSB, working only two stations, including Phillip VK2JDL in VKFF-0222. I closed down, packed up and walked back to the car, then drove back to the GAR, then south to Bruthen, on to Bairnsdale and finally just under 2 hours to home.

This was a quieter day, with only three summits, including one new summit, yielding 23 Activator points.

For the entire trip, my Activator score increased by 314 points, with 313 of the points earned in 6 UTC days from 28 summits activated. 25 of the summits earned bonus points, adding 75 points. Once again, thanks go to all who chased my during the trip.

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