Along with several other amateur radio operators in the Gippsland area, I occasionally keep track of the weather radiosondes released by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in Melbourne.
The radiosondes are normally released twice daily, at about 1115 UTC and 2315 UTC from the BOM site at Tullamarine Airport. Typically once a week, an ozone package radiosonde is released at about 0130 UTC from the BOM site in Broadmeadows. Other standard radiosondes are also released from the Broadmeadows site.
This morning, an early radiosonde was released from Broadmeadows prior to the Tullamarine radiosonde. These two radiosondes landed north of Jindivick. I did not bother to try to recover these packages, as over an hour of driving would be required to reach the area.
Other tracking stations were reporting an ozone packed from around 1040 UTC. I followed the tracking data with interest, and the interest grew as the predicted path suggested that it might reach the Hazelwood North area. About half way during the descent after balloon burst, the predication moved to the Moe South area. I decided to head out to see if recovery of the package might be possible.
I ended up parked near the Hazelwood Power Station late in the flight. I tracked the package down to 142 m altitude, when I lost the package radio signal due to the Eastern Overburden Dump. I drove around onto Monash Way near the Morwell Terminal Station and obtained an excellent position fix. My estimation was that it was hanging from a tree on the lower northern slopes of the Eastern Overburden Dump within the Hazelwood Works Area, which has very restricted access.
After thinking about the situation, I made a telephone call to a contact at the Hazelwood Rehabilitation Project. I serve on a Committee for the Project. I asked if access to recover the radiosonde might be arranged, explaining that I understood that the answer might be NO.
A few minutes later, I received a return call. Permission granted. I drove to the Security Gate and parked. I entered the gatehouse and soon had my Visitor entry pass. I jumped into a vehicle with a Hazelwood manager and we drove around to the fix position, then up through a gap in the trees. We got to about 30 m or so from the position before our progress was stopped. We jumped out, donned safety helmets and walked towards the position fix. We very quickly spotted the parachute on the ground. We moved over to the parachute and could see the radiosonde package at about 10 m above ground.
After taking some photos, I untied the knot in the line below the parachute and we lower the package. We soon had the package, together with the parachute and balloon remnants in hand and returned to the vehicle after I disconnected the power lead to the ozone analyser pump. We headed back to the gatehouse and loaded the package and other items into the vehicle and thanked my escort!
I found my tools and opened the radiosonde package to remove the batteries. I then jumped back in the car and headed home.
A fun distraction on an otherwise quiet Friday afternoon!
Hunters participating in the WWFF scheme, and in particular the VKFF chapter, have seen a small increase in park activations since the start of 2021, with COVID19 Pandemic restrictions on activities easing in most states of Australia. I have worked 53 new Parks logged on LogSearch since 1 January 2021, as at the middle of March.
The result is qualification for the next level of the VKFF Hunter Honour Roll Award – 1775 References worked.
The Activators responsible for the latest 25 new Parks have been Marty VK4KC/p, Peter VK3TKK, Rob VK4AAC/5, Nick VK3ANL, Bob VK2BYF, Adam VK2YK/5 and Tony VK3YV.
Thanks to all the Activators, to the VKFF administration team, the Awards Managers and the WWFF team for their efforts in making the scheme function.
I was away from Wodonga a little later than desired, but headed south to Porepunkah, then south into the Buckland Valley. I stopped along the way to chase Compton on Mount Big Ben VK3/VE-105. I drove to Selwyn Creek Road, then took Mount Murray Logging Road and headed to Mount Murray. I parked near the locked gate just below the summit.
Mount Murray VK3/VE-025 1640 m 10 points Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
I walked to the summit to enjoy the view. I returned to the car and set up the station close to the gate. I started with 40 m CW, working six stations. I moved to 40 m SSB, where I worked five stations. 20 m CW yielded two ZL regulars. Something was not right with the radio which was not obvious to me. Fortunately the car was close, so I swapped from the KX2 to my KX3, its first usage by me on an activation. I returned to 40 m CW to worked Gerard VK2IO and John VK5HAA on VK3/VG-063 Gresson Knob. For my last activity slot, I went to 20 m SSB, working Scott VK4CZ, Paul VK5PAS, and Gerard and John again. I then packed up the station and enjoyed a late lunch.
I headed back down to Mount Murray Logging Road and swung left onto The Twins Jeep Track and drove to it southern-most point, where I parked just off the track.
VK3/VE-245 (unnamed) 1345 m 8 points Not Yet Activated Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
I loaded up the pack and started in the walk in to the next target from the western edge of the parking area. I picked my way through the initial scrub, after which the undergrowth was almost non-existent due to a cool burn at some stage. I worked my way south along the contours until I reach the saddle south of the first knoll. I then continued roughly south, climbing the spur to the summit and avoiding fallen timber and thicker undergrowth – the ridge here had not been burnt for some time.
Along the way, I spotted an interesting lizard.
I set up on the summit in a small clearing, using a line over a tree branch to haul up the doublet. There was a nice dead tree on the ground that made for a comfortable operating seat and table.
I started on 40 m CW and worked two stations. I then moved to 20 m CW, again working two ZL regulars. I next went to 80 m SSB to work Compton VK2HRX on VK2/ST-053. 80 m CW yielded Gerard and John from the car. I returned to 20 m CW and worked VK4, JA and VK3. 20 m SSB yielded only a single contact – Paul VK5PAS. 40 m SSB yielded four chasers. I then moved to 80 m SSB and worked five stations as I waited for John and Gerard to reach The Knocker VK3/VG-016. Once they were on air and in my log, I closed down and packed up. I followed roughly the same route back, but tried heading over the knoll closest to the road with the main ridge line. That was fine early on, but the scrub became thicker near the top, so I veered off to the west and contoured around to the saddle and the car. I probably dropped a little too far off the ridgeline, as revealed in the GPS track. I saw no evidence of a vehicle track shown on the mapping image.
I drove west along the Twins Jeep Track to Selwyn Creek Road and then headed north to exit to Porepunkah and then back to Wodonga.
Back in Wodonga, I managed to chase Gerard on Sam Hill VK3/VG-049.
Wednesday 9 February 2021
I undertook some family tasks in the morning before heading around to Huon Hill. I parked in the parking area below the summit and walked up the hill. I set up with a line over a branch of a large tree just north of the summit.
Huon Hill VK3/VE-237 425 m 1 point Wodonga Regional Park VKFF-0980
I quickly set up, as John and Gerard were on a summit. They were the first contacts in the log, S2S contacts with VK3/VG-003 Mount Wills on 40 m CW.
I moved to 40 m SSB and worked Garry VK3KYF in Mildura, plus Gerard and John on Mt Wills. I heard John VK2YW call me but he did not hear my responses. I dropped down to 80 m SSB and spotted, and soon had John in the log. I moved to 80 m CW and worked two stations. I then listened for Gerard on Mount Wills on 20 m SSB and made the contact. With Mount Wills now on 20 m SSB, I moved to 40 m CW and worked five stations. I then moved to 20 m CW for 3 contacts before returning to 20 m SSB and working five stations. With 22 contacts in the log, I closed down, packed up and returned to the car.
I drove back to my Wodonga base and packed up. After saying farewell, I headed down the Hume Highway towards Melbourne. During the drive I stopped a couple of times, managing to chase Gerard VK2IO and JohnVK5HAA on two summits. The stops and a small detour meant that I reached Melbourne’s outskirts after the worst of the evening peak and I had an easy drive around Melbourne before hitting the Princes Highway to head to home.
In late 2015, Brian VK3MCD suggested that interested SOTA enthusiasts gather for a weekend based at Hotham Heights. This idea grew into an annual event – a weekend of social interaction amongst SOTA activations in the area around Mount Hotham Alpine Resort.
The first gathering occurred in February 2016. We gathered at a ski lodge in the Davenport area which Brian was Manager for the coming ski season.
The group would gather on Friday afternoon and evening at a ski lodge at Hotham. Evenings would be spent discussing plans for activations, forming groups, planning routes, interesting discussions on diverse topics and the sampling of various beverages. Groups would head out each day to activate several summits, attempting to be on summits at times coinciding with other groups being on summits. As a result, it was usually possible for everyone in a group to qualify each summit by making Summit to Summit (S2S) contacts with those in other groups.
Most would gather on the summit of Mount Hotham on Saturday evening for nibbles and drinks, with most activating the summit for SOTA. Most would then retire to The General Store for dinner before returning to the lodge to plan the following day.
Sunday would see more summits activated. Some might depart at some stage to head home. Some would return to Hotham for Sunday night and head for home on Monday, usually activating summits as part of their exit route.
The 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires caused the postponement of the 2020 event, planned to be held in early February. Any idea of holding the event later in the year was destroyed by the COVID19 pandemic.
During the latter part of 2020, Brian VK3MCD discussed several ideas with me and proposed that the event occur again in February 2021, if Health Regulations allowed the gathering to occur. Brian set a tentative date and commenced organising the event. In October, we had a discussion about the event, with Brian advertising the event late in the month. Initial interest indicated possibly 25 people may attend.
The COVID pandemic caused all sorts of restrictions in different states of Australia and around the world. We saw lockdowns, restrictions on movements, border closures and drastic reductions in travel, especially in air travel and ocean cruising. In late December 2020, Victoria closed its border with NSW, with Entry Permits required to cross into Victoria. The situation was volatile.
By mid-January the situation had stabilised. The event planning proceeded. 15 participants committed to the event.
Thursday saw some of the interstate participants travelling towards Victoria, activating summits along their travel route. I managed to work several of the activations
Friday 5 February 2021
As I was packing the gear into the car, I managed to make one contact from home before departure.
I left home and headed to Stratford and made my way to Dargo, then north on the Dargo High Plains Road. As I proceeded north, the weather became gloomier and then the rain started. I decided to simply head to Hotham and settle into the ski lodge. Along the way, I managed further contacts. I did stop at a lookout west of Hotham to eat lunch rather late. The clouds made for impressive views.
I settled into the lodge and made a couple more chaser contacts. I ended up with six summits and one VKFF in the log.
Others started to arrive. Brian was setting up antennas. A 2 m vertical was already up. I assisted with the assembly of a DX Commander HF vertical. Brian placed that on the NW side of the lodge. He later ran an end fed half wave out on the SE side of the building.
A few of us travelled down to The General to have dinner. We returned to the lodge and discussions occurred around possible “wet weather” loops. We decided to wait until the morning to see if the wet weather had passed before making decisions.
Saturday 6 February 2021
The rain had largely gone by time people were up and about. I was still keen to try to get to a new summit, so suggested that I would head out along Twins Track to Mount Murray and then around to the new summit. Rik VK3EQ and Gerard VK2IO decided to join me.
We headed off to the northern end of the Dargo High Plains Road and took the Twins Road. We wound around past the saddle between The Twins and VK3/VE-023 and on towards Mount Murray.
I stopped briefly so that both Gerard and I could work Bob VK2BYF and Andrew VK2PEZ in VKFF-2547.
We were probably 75% of the way to Mount Murray when we reached a large tree across the track – about 65 cm in diameter. The uphill side of the track was a wall about 2 m high. We all jumped out to assess the tree. Neither Rik nor I were confident in tackling the downed tree, so we aborted our planned route. I backed up to a wider spot on the track and executed a multi-point U turn.
We headed back towards The Twins. Just past the high point of the track, I stopped and suggested that Rik and Gerard might like to take the gentler approach. They agreed. We organised the gear and Rik took my pack. They clambered up the side of the track and then up to the spur to then follow the Alpine Walking Track (AWT) to the summit.
VK3/VE-023 (unnamed) 1646 m 10 points Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
I drove on to the saddle below The Twins and then climbed up the steep NE spur to the summit. When I reached the summit, Rik and Gerard were busy working activators on other summits on 2 m simplex. I managed to work two summits on 2 m FM.
We then set up the HF station. I soon worked four stations on CW, including three Summit to Summit (S2S) contacts. I passed the key to Gerard, who quickly picked up the feel of the VK3IL Pressure Sensor paddle. Gerard soon had the summit qualified on CW, so we packed up and set about each chasing the summit, using 70 cm FM. One would remain on the summit whilst the other two exited the Activation Zone and made the chase of the summit. The person on the summit would exit the AZ and the others would climb back into the AZ and make the contact. The process was repeated as necessary until all three had had chased the summit. We all decided to exit by walking back to the west along the AWT and then dropping down to the Twins Track. We reached the car and decided that it was time for lunch.
We sat out of the wind, which was blowing hard. We decided against the exposed climb up to the summit of The Twins. We headed back to the Great Alpine Road and east towards Omeo and took the track up to the next summit for the day.
VK3/VG-030(unnamed) 1321 m 8 points
I parked and soon had a line over a tree branch to haul up the doublet. First in the log was John VK5HAA/3 on Sam Hill VK3/VG-049 on 80 m CW. I moved to 40 m CW and had only a single caller. I moved up to 20 m and worked two ZL regular Chasers. I then returned to 40 m CW to work Allen VK3ARH/p and Tony VK3CAT/p, both on Blue Rag Range VK3/VE-015. I moved from the operating chair so that Gerard could operate. I walked down the hill until outside the AZ and chased Rik on 70 cm FM. I returned to the car and worked Ken VK3KIM on VK3/VG-157 on 2 m FM. Soon after, we packed up and returned to the Great Alpine Road.
I drove into the edge of Omeo and worked my way around to Bald Hills Creek Road. I missed one critical corner, but stopped about 100 m beyond to check the map and we were soon back on track. I then swung onto Mt Gingee Munjie Track and drove around to the summit.
VK3/VG-064 (unnamed) 1038 m 6 points
I parked and quickly tossed a throw line over a branch and we were soon setting up HF.
I worked Phil VK3BHR and John VK5HAA, both on VK3/VG-157. I was soon operating on 20 m CW, working two ZL regulars followed by Tony VK3CAT, Allen VK3ARH and Glenn VK3YY, all on Basalt Knob VK3/VE-039.
The next stations worked were Ken VK3KIM, Leigh VK3SG and Brian VK3BCM, all on Mt Baldhead VK3/VG-027.
Once we had all qualified the summit as desired, we packed up and headed back to Omeo.
We heard a Spot for Andrew VK3JBL on Mount Skene VK3/VE-031. I drove to the Kosciusko Lookout to park. I then changed the HF whip wander lead but could not hear Andrew on 40 m. We returned to the road and continued towards Hotham. As we were approaching Cobungra Station, we heard a new Spot from Andrew. I pulled off onto a side road and found a spot where we could stop. After turning off the car, we soon had Andrew in the log on 80 m.
We returned to the main road and returned to Hotham, parking outside The General and joined the group for dinner.
We returned to the lodge for more discussion and some “Show and Tell”.
Sunday 7 February 2021
Both Rik and Gerard decided to again travel with me. We decided on the Nunniong Loop, with the possibility of trying the very long extended version. We got away from Hotham at a reasonable time and made a brief stop in Omeo to fill the fuel tank. I then drove to Benambra and out to Limestone Road and up to Mt Pendergast. Discussion along the way meant that we changed our route options choice.
Mount Pendergast VK3/VG-022 1450 m 8 points
We drove up to the summit and parked. I soon had a line over a tree branch to haul up the doublet. Rik and Gerard had started working other groups on 2 m FM. I soon had the doublet in the air with assistance from Gerard. I then set about setting up 23 cm, using a homebrew Yagi and my IC-9700. Unfortunately, I found that I had made an error in mounting a boom to tripod adapter to the Yagi boom, so the tripod thread would not engage. I simply set the carry case onto the small table and used it to hold the Yagi.
I soon worked Compton on Mt Blue Rag on 23 cm FM. I then finished setting up the HF gear and worked Bob VK2BYF in VKFF-2734. Then Andrew VK1DA on Mt Hotham called and I suggested that we make the contact on CW, changed mode and soon had the contact in the log. My next contact was Chris VK1CT /p on VK1/AC-042 on 80 m CW. Next we used Rik’s 3-element lightweight Yagi to work Andrew VK1AD/p at Mount Ginini VK1/AC-008 on 2 m SSB.
I returned to making CW contacts on HF now that we were in the new UTC day, working two ZL stations and a VK5. I then worked the two Andrews again on 2 m SSB in the new day – VK1DA on Hotham and VK1AD on Ginini. Next it was 80 SSB for two stations on VK3/VT-018, before I managed to find and work Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-2153. We were soon packing up to head to the next summit.
En route we managed to chase Peter VK3ZPF on VK3/VC-006 on 80 m SSB.
We exited back to Misery Train, where we turned left and headed around to Misery Road, then up Dapple Creek Track and climbed up to the next target.
VG3/VG-009 (unnamed) 1628 m 10 points Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
At the top of the climb of the road to the ridge line and a sharp left turn to run along the ridge to the north, one is inside the AZ of the summit.
I parked and soon had a line over a tree branch. Gerard assisted in erecting the doublet. I was soon working stations on 80 m CW. After about 10 m minutes of calling, I moved to 20 m CW and worked two ZL stations. Next I moved to 40 m CW and worked three stations, including a S2S with Allen VK3ARH on Mt Loch.
Next I tried for some S2S contacts on 2 m FM. I worked Alan VK3AGS at the ski lodge, Andrew VK1DA on VK3/VE-024 and Compton VK2HRX on Mt Birregen. The final contact before we packed up was with Peter VK3TKK in VKFF-2297.
We packed up and headed west along Misery Trail, around to the area closest to the next summit. I was not happy with the available parking spots, so travelled back about 150 m to a wide area and parked. We loaded up the gear in my pack and headed back to near our turn around point and then headed in an easterly direction through the alpine terrain – snow gums, snow grasses and some low scrub. I roughly followed brumby tracks, with some fallen trees requiring minor detours. At one stage, Rik and Gerard asked if we were travelling in the correct direction – I was going by map memory, not using map, compass nor GPS. We soon arrived at the target saddle between the main ridge line to the west and our target summit. We continued climbing until well up the hill. We were not at the summit but on a nice open rocky area well inside the AZ.
Misery Range VK3/VG-008 1647 m 10 points
The selected spot had an excellent take off back towards Omeo and Hotham. I tossed a line over a branch, but Rik and Gerard were already calling on 2 m FM. I grabbed my handheld and soon had the summit qualified, including three S2S contacts. We discussed options and decided against setting up HF as time was rolling on.
We packed up and started the walk back, with Gerard carrying the pack this time. We soon popped back out onto Misery Trail close to where we had departed the track and had a short walk back to the car.
We laoded up and headed south back towards Limestone Road. Checking the time when we arrived at the junction of Limestone Road and Beloka Road, we decided that it was best to head back to Hotham to join the cocktail party on the summit.
As we were approaching Hotham, we worked some of those on the summit on 2 m FM, helping them to qualify the summit.
We arrived at the summit and were soon comparing notes from the day and enjoying a drink and some nibbles. I did not bother to activate the summit as I plan to activate it during the Bonus season. We then travelled to The General for dinner and returned to the lodge.
Monday 8 February 2021
The remaining participants had a variety of plans. Some would simply return home, with or without any detours. Four of us settled on a two vehicle plan of attack on the Blue Rag Range Track. Andrew VK1DA and John V K5HAA would travel out to the Blue Rag Trig and then to Basalt Knob. Gerard VK2IO and I would travel to Mount Blue Rag, out to the Blue Rag Trig and then around to Basalt Knob.
Gerard and I were underway a few minutes ahead of the VK1DA team. We drove to the Dargo High Plains Road and south to Blue Rag Range Track. We drove up to the high point north of Mount Blue Rag and parked off both the main track and the access track towards the summit.
Mount Blue Rag VK3/VE-021 1679 m 10 points Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
Careful examination of the maps shows that the saddle between the high point to the north and the summit proper is less than 25 m vertical below the summit, so the high point beside the main track is inside the AZ.
I soon tossed a line over a tree, but something caught and the throw bag ended up wrapped around a branch…. Pulling on the line was not successful, only breaking the line. I tried prodding with a squid pole, but no joy. I used a second throw line to get a line across the branch. By pulling on both ends of the line, I was able to break a couple of branches off and the two throw bags went flying. A couple of minutes of searching resulted in us finding both throw bags. Another toss and I had a usable line over a branch.
We had the station set up by time Andrew and John drove past.
We had the summit comfortably qualified by time Andrew and John arrived on Blue Rag Range / Trig. We made contacts with them and also S2S contacts with VK3/VE-017 The Twins, VK3/VE-005 Mt Loch and VK3/VE-081 Ebenezer Range.
We packed up and headed towards their location. We arrived as they were starting to pack up.
Blue Rag Range VK3/VE-015 1717 m 10 points Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
We set up the gear after we had some lunch. I started calling on 80 m SSB and had only one caller. I next moved to 40 m CW and worked four stations. Next was a 40 m SSB S2S with Compton VK2HRX on VK3/VE-256. I allowed Gerard to jump into the operator’s chair and took some photos. I also worked Tony VK3CAT on The Knocker VK3/VG-016 on 20 m CW. We started packing up and the last contacts we made were on 70 cm FM with John and Andrew, now on Basalt Knob VK3/VE-039. We headed back east along the access track. Part way along we stopped to work Phil VK3BHR on The Horn VK3/VE-014. I drove south to Basalt Knob and parked at the edge of the helipad.
Basalt Knob VK3/VE-039 1512 m 10 points Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
We climbed up to where Andrew had set up, just below the summit. The area had been burnt and there was plenty of long grass which required one to pay attention to where you placed your feet.
Andrew was having trouble raising a fourth C W contact. Once he was qualified, Gerard and I quickly made contacts on 2 m FM to qualify the summit. We returned to the car. Whilst getting organised, a spot came through for Tony VK3CAT, now on Mount Wills. All four of us worked Tony from the car on 20 m CW. Next came a spot from Phil VK3BHR, now on The Hump. We grabbed handhelds and quickly walked up the hill until just inside the AZ to make S2S contacts with Phil. We then returned to our cars and started the return journey to Hotham, with Gerard jumping in with Andrew and John joining me.
There was plenty of discussion on the way back. We stopped at the Great Alpine Road junction. John joined Gerard and Andrew, with Gerard making sure that he had all his gear. I said farewell and I started the drive to Wodonga.
After I arrived in Wodonga, I managed to work Andrew, Gerard and John on Mount Loch on 80 m CW.
It had been a very busy weekend.
Thanks to all involved in the weekend, regardless of your role: organiser, attendee, Activator, Chaser. It was a terrific gathering with lots of interchange of ideas.
I had not been out in the field playing radio for a few weeks, so thought about accessing a previously un-activated Park in South Gippsland. I spent some time exploring options to drive closer to the Park but the searching produced no positive outcome. It would need to be a walk in to the boundary.
Exploring the detailed mapping information on MapshareVic, I found that government road reserves offered an access route. Further research revealed that a public walking track passed quite close to the Park, with access via the road reserves providing the final route. Have a look at the information on the Hoddle Mountain Trail.
About a week earlier than the planned trip, I caught up with my friend Sergio VK3SO. Sergio used to hold the callsign VK3SFG and had not been on-air sincing changing location about 18 months ago. Sergio was interested in joining me and we set the tentative date, hoping for a mild day with regards to weather, without the heat or very wet weather which had been features over the last couple of weeks. The week before the planned activation was very wet! Fortunately, the weather cleared and we had a forecast for mild weather with a maximum in the mid-20s. We confirmed the plan on the Friday afternoon, with the goal of being set up on site late in the UTC Saturday.
I left home and picked up Sergio en-route. We then headed to Fish Creek and made our way around to the car park for Mount Nicoll Lookout. Here we loaded up and climbed the short but steep climb to the lookout, where we paused to regain our breath and to take in the excellent views.
We then followed the Loader Track south and then west over undulating terrain. We reached the saddle where the Track crosses a boundary fence. Here we simply continued straight ahead, following a road reserve steeply up the hill to the top. We then headed south along the road reserve and entered into the Park.
Hoddle Range Flora Reserve VKFF-2332
We continued on along the road reserve to near the top of the knoll and set up the station just west of the road reserve, using an old fence post to support the squid pole for the doublet. It was almost UTC midnight, so we moved the station slightly into some shade and waited until UTC midnight to spot. A quick check with the GPS confirmed that we were just inside the Park boundary.
I spotted on 40 m SSB, a little down the band from the usual focus frequency due to the Sunday morning WIA News broadcasts. Callers soon responded and we then startedpassing the microphone between operators to ensure that we both qualified the Park for VKFF. I worked 11 stations over about 25 minutes, but QSB prevented Sergio from working a couple of callsigns. We moved to 80 m SSB and called for several minutes before we had our first response. We then had Peter VK3ZPF call in response to another CQ call from VK3/VN-012. Further calls yielded another two stations. We then moved to 20 m SSB, working three stations over about 10 minutes, including Gerard VK2IO. I then moved to 20 m CW and I worked five stations, including John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga, probably via sporadic E. Next was 40 m CW, yielding two contacts only. We both had the Park qualified for VKFF, so decided to close. The next task was for us to chase each other on 2 m FM. One of us simply walked across the old road reserve to exit the Park and the contact was made. We then swapped places. So we both had the Park qualified as Activator and Hunter. We will need to revisit to get another 20+ contacts to reach WWFF quota of 44.
Slightly away from the operating position and on the road reserve, there was a small view of the beach at Sandy Point and some of the offshore islands.
We packed up and retraced our access route, stopping briefly on the northern knoll to take in the view and take some photos. Below is a view from the knoll north of the Park boundary of Hoddle Range Flora Reserve VKFF-2332. The view looks in a southerly direction, across the Yanakie Isthmus to Wilsons Promontory, with Shallow Inlet visible. Our operating position was over the crest of the next knoll near the right side of the photo, on the eastern side of the visible road reserve.
We then climbed to the east to the telecoms facility and then headed roughly north along Loader Track to reach the summit of Mount Hoddle VK3/VT-076, also known as Mount Nicoll. Along the way, we had a couple of text exchanges with Peter VK3ZPF, who was activating Archers Lookout. We did not hear an audio alert from the ‘phone that Peter was on air. Peter decided that we would take too long to reach the summit of Mt Hoddle and closed about 20 minutes before we arrived.
Mount Hoddle VK3/VT-076 305 m 1 point
On arrival, the first order of business was to finally eat lunch. We sat on a seat at the summit in the shade and enjoyed lunch looking across Corner Inlet, from Mount Fatigue on our left around through east and the Toora Wind Farm, across Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park and around to the SSE to Wilsons Promontory. The view was delightful!
Photo shows part of the view from Mt Hoddle looking across Corner Inlet to the NE part of Wilsons Promontory.
We set up the station ensuring that the doublet was clear of the several tracks, with the antenna well above head height where it crossed a track.
I started off using 40 m CW, working two stations. I then moved to 20 m CW and worked three ZL stations. The summit was qualified. Sergio had walked down the hill to exit the AZ and worked me on 2 m FM. I walked down the hill, passing Sergio on his way back up to the summit. Once I was well below the edge of the AZ, I worked Sergio and then walked back to the top. I changed the radio to 20 m SSB and spotted Sergio. Sergio worked three ZL stations before moving to 40 m SSB, where he worked seven stations. With no more response to CQ calls, we closed down and packed up.
We had a short but steep climb back down to the car before we started the drive home.
In early April 2020, Geoff ZL3GA announced an activity marathon as a means of engaging amateurs as New Zealand went into a four-week lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. An outline can be found at: http://zl3x.com/marathon/
To quote Geoff from an email sent in late December 2020:
“It’s hard to believe that we started this event in April, trying to keep ourselves busy during the Level 4 lockdown (in ZL) and here we are just a few days before the end of a year we’ll never forget.
Lee ZL2AL was a mentor to many of us and I know that he’d be very happy that an event bearing his name has again stirred up activity on the HF bands over a prolonged period.
A big thanks to Mark ZL3AB for coming up with the concept, running the original event back in 2016 and encouraging/supporting me with this year’s event.
Some have asked if it will run again in 2021. The answer is no. I feel a 4 year cycle is about right as it gives the organisers a rest (there is a lot of work involved each month) and ensures that the event doesn’t become stale. And there are plenty of other “challenge” events to participate in each year if that is your wish.
For those who have been submitting monthly logs – you can continue to do that for this last month and I’ll aggregate all your logs to produce the final total of qualifying days and number of DXCCs worked.”
The Activity Marathon ran from 0000Z 4 April 2020 to 2359Z 31 December 2020.
Several amateurs had been submitting logs at the end of each month.
It is anticipated that a summary will be published in the NZART journal Break In in early 2021.
Despite a few challenges, I did manage to participate and managed at least four contacts on each UTC day for the duration of the Marathon – 272 days. Although chasing DX was not a particular aim, I worked 86 DXCC entities during the Marathon. I received the certificate from Geoff ZL3GA a few days ago.
Thanks to Geoff for running the Marathon. Many thanks to all who participated, but especially to those “Regulars” who were on air just after 000Z each day on CW. I am sure that many will have received certificates.
Day 19 was relatively quiet on the radio front. I undertook several family tasks and managed to chase several Park activators from the car after a short drive to the car park at the local athletics track.
Monday 4 January 2021
I packed the car and headed down the Hume Highway towards Melbourne. I had no firm plans other than I wished to make a small detour to a retail outlet in Bayswater – no folks, NOT the store commonly referred to as “The Toy Shop” by many amateurs in Melbourne; that outlet was closed until 18 January, so I avoided spending money on amateur radio gear. But I definitely wanted to reach Bayswater well before 1630 local time to pick up a couple of small items which would cost an extra $20 in P&P charges if I ordered them online or over the ‘phone.
After passing Glenrowan and thinking about the numerous options, I finally decided to head to Mount Wombat. I exited the Highway before Euroa and cut the corner via Balmattum to head onto Euro-Strathbogie Road and then to drive up to the summit of Mount Wombat.
Mount Wombat VK3/VU-002 802 m 4 points Mount Wombat Garden Range Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2403
I stopped to enjoy the view at the summit before I drove a short distance down the access road and pulled over into a space on the side of the road about 15 m vertical below the summit. The photo shows that the summit has plenty of RF gear, with several towers present. I tossed a line over a tree branch to haul up the doublet and was soon set up with the camp chair and a folding table for a comfortable operating position.
As I was setting up, a Parks spot came through. I soon had Adam VK2YK/5 in VKFF-1707 in the log on 40 m SSB. I moved down to 40 m CW and spotted myself. I worked six stations in about 10 minutes. I moved to the SOTA focus frequency for 40 m SSB and worked 10 stations in 11 minutes. I then moved to 20 m CW and worked a ZL regular. I was considering packing up after several minutes of calling without responses when another Parks Spot arrived. After checking the Spot, I decided to wait for the station to set up and come on air. I worked Peter VK3TKK/p in VKFF-2097 on 80 m SSB and again about 120 minutes later on 40 m SSB. I then packed up and headed back towards Euroa.
Once down the hill I headed south and onto the Euroa – Mansfield Road to Merton and then towards Yea, then south to Yarra Glen and then in towards the suburbs and to the outlet in Bayswater. Along the way I managed to work Peter VK3TKK again, this time in VKFF-2039. Just as I arrived at destination, the rain started. I quickly made my purchase and then managed to work Allen VK3ARH on VK3/VS-008.
I then worked my way south and then east to head back home.
The weather forecast was for possible severe thunderstorms across much of Victoria, mainly in the west and southwest on the morning, but developing in other regions later in the day. The forecast for the Albury-Wodonga area suggested that conditions should be okay in the morning, so I decided to head out for another activation.
Jarvis Creek Plateau VK3/VE-265 701 m 4 points Jarvis Creek Plateau Regional Park VKFF-0969
I had activated this summit on 17 December, but decided to visit the summit again. I drove out to Old Tallangatta and up Plateau Road. I parked in the same spot as my previous visit and set up in essentially the same spot and in the same manner: a line over a tree branch to support the doublet, the folding table and camp chair for operating, with the gear on the table.
I was set up and operational just after 2300 UTC. I spotted for 40 m CW and worked eight stations in around 20 minutes. I moved to 40 m SSB and worked seven stations. I moved to 20 m CW and worked five stations before UTC midnight.
I moved to 40 m CW to work Andrew VK1DA on VK2/SM-093 before returning to 20 m CW. I listened for a few minutes before finding a clear frequency and spotting myself. I worked three stations, including Melbourne – very short skip for 20 m. I moved to 20 m SSB and again spotted, working five stations before callers dried up.
I moved to 40 m SSB, where 15 minutes of calling yielded only four contacts. I moved to 40 m CW, where another r15 minutes yielded only two contacts.
At 0100 UTC, I moved up to the VKFF focus frequency for 40 m SSB and worked 10 stations. I next tried 30 m SSB, working one station only. A spot appeared, so I jumped back to 40 m SSB to work Ron VK3AFW/p on VK3/VT-022. I returned to 30 m SSB and worked another regular – Ian VK5CZ.
For something different, I listened on 10 m SSB, where I found a couple of weaker stations working. I found a clear frequency and spotted. I worked 16 stations over the next 30 minutes, including one JA, a ZL, VK7 and several in VK4, plus Ian VK5CZ once again. I decided to eat lunch, with the radio running on the same frequency. A station near Tokyo Bay came up and started calling and I soon had him in the log.
After finishing lunch, I returned to 40 m SSB to chase Stuart VK3UAO in VKFF-2103. I then decided to have a listen around the band and heard Joe operating VK3SRC, so I called in to say hello. I soon had another two calls in the log.
I was aware that Ron VK3AFW was heading to another summit. I decided to not move to another summit myself and to remain at my current location. I pulled out my laptop and the IC-7300. I soon had the IC-7300 set up and operational for WSJT modes, with the power set to 20 W. I managed to a JA station on 17 m FT8. I tried calling CQ for several minutes with no responses. I listened on 28 MHz, 24 MHz and 21 MHz FT8 frequencies, seeing few signals. I moved to 20 m FT8 and soon worked a ZL station. The a spot appeared, so I jumped to 40 m SSB and worked Ron VK3AFW on Mt Skene VK3/VE-031. I returned to 20 m FT8 and managed to work VK6IR and Gerard VK2IO. The sky was looking more threatening, so I closed down and packed up. I had 73 stations in the log.
I retraced my route back to Wodonga.
Thanks to all who worked me during the activation.
I still needed at least two more contacts to make the minimum four contacts for the Activity Marathon.
I headed out from Wodonga relatively early and headed to Rutherglen and then out to the first target Park for the day.
Moodemere Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2145
I drove to the locked gate on McDonald Road and found a spot to park. I double checked my location with the Park boundary file and confirmed that my chosen location was inside the Park. I set up once again with a line over tree branch to haul up the centre of the doublet.
I spotted and started calling on 40 m SSB. I soon worked Bob VK2BYF and Andrew VK2PEZ, both in VKFF-1903. I then worked another 11 contacts over the next 20 minutes. I then moved to 40 m CW, where I worked 10 stations over the next 20 minutes.
I moved to 20 m CW and worked only two stations. I then moved to 20 m SSB and worked one station before UTC rollover. I then worked 15 stations in the first 10 minutes of the new day. I moved to 20 m CW to work one station in a usual Activity Marathon slot.
I moved to 40 m CW to work six stations before moving to SSB, where I worked eight stations before I decided to close.
I had 55 contacts in the log for the Park.
I packed up and travelled back to Rutherglen and then to Chiltern to stop to grab something for lunch.
I headed out into the nearby Park to find a spot to operate.
Chiltern – Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620
I checked a couple of possible sites, but found only marginal mobile phone coverage. I settled on a parking area at the old State Battery, off Battery Hill Road. I was not far from Chiltern-Barnawartha Road, with the main rail line just beyond and then the Hume Highway.
I again tossed a line over a tree branch to haul up the centre of the doublet.
I spotted for 40 m SSB and was soon responding to Hunters. I managed to work 10 stations in twenty minutes. I moved to 40 m CW and worked four Hunters. A move to 20 m CW produced only two Hunters. 20 m SSB resulted in five contacts.
30 m CW resulted in two Hunters, plus one on SSB. I then jumped around a bit, working four more stations between 40 m SSB and 20 m SSB.
Just for fun, I pulled out my laptop and the rarely used IC-705, plus an Elecraft T1 ATU. I assembled the station and started listening on 17 m FT8. I soon had the system working in receive and then managed to get the station working in transmit – my first attempt at using the combination. Yes, I really should have tried the system out at home before the trip to check that it was all working okay. I managed to work J79WTA on Dominica Island NA-101. I listened around some of the bands on FT8, but did not manage any further contacts. I packed up the system and returned to using the KX2.
I tried 20 m CW once again, yielding three Hunters. 40 m CW yielded eight Hunters. I then managed to chase Ron VK3AFW on VK3/VE-191 on 80 m CW. I returned to 40 m SSB and worked eight stations. I finally moved to 80 m SSB to work John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga for my last contact for the day.
I worked a total of 49 contacts in the Park.
I packed up and returned to Wodonga for the night.
Friday 1 January 2021
Despite plans to the contrary, I ended up seeing in the New Year at my brother’s home. The highlight was probably the fireworks display at the Albury Trotting Club across the river. The display went for over 20 minutes, compared to about seven minutes on the TV for the Sydney fireworks.
I was a little slow off the mark, but had plenty of time to reach my target Park and summit. I had considered other operating sites, but the weather forecast favoured a site at lower altitude and closer to Wodonga.
UTC midnight at the end of each year has become very popular for SOTA Activators and Chasers alike. It is the one time when a single trip to a summit can yield the Activator points twice – once for the old year and again for the New Year. The Activator needs to remember to submit separate logs for the two days, otherwise the SOTA Database will only give you the points once.
Mount Baranduda VK3/VE-189 775 m 4 points Baranduda Regional Park VKFF-0969
I travelled out from Wodonga towards Beechworth to Leneva and took Bantik Track to access the Park. I ignored the ostentatious brick structures at the start of the track – the owners of a very large house built up the hill appear to think that the Track is their private driveway. A Parks Victoria sign just metres away from the structures indicated to me that the access was valid. Climb up the track until the main track appears to swing into the private property and the “driveway” really begins. Here you will find a gate into the Park which is subject to Seasonal Closure during winter.
Once through the gate, Bantik Track soon starts to climb up the side of the hill. It meets Darmodys Track and swings right for the steep climb up to Baranduda Range Track. 4WD is recommended due to the surface, large spoon drains and some large ruts. Swing west onto Baranduda Range Track and continue on to the area of the summit.
I parked near the branching of the track just south of the summit. The track continues ahead to a locked gate and the Park boundary, with the branch to the right travelling the short distance up to one of the communications sites on the summit. My chosen operating spot was at approximately 760 m HASL, well inside the Activation Zone.
I soon had a line over a tree branch at about 12 m, so the doublet centre was at a good height. I set up a small folding table and the camp chair at a convenient spot and soon had the station assembled.
I noted that some stations were already operating. I quickly tuned down and waited for a chance to call Paul VK5PAS on VK5/SE-016. Paul was soon in the log, followed by Marija VK5MAZ. As I was in a Park, I decided to move up to the VKFF focus frequency and spotted myself. Stations started calling me, including a string of other SOTA Activators: Andrew VK1AD/p on VK1/AC-039, Nick VK3ANL/p on VK3/VN-015, Peter VK3ZPF on VK3/VT-026, Brian VK3BCM on VK3/VC-038, and Compton VK2HRX on VK2/CT-002.
I jumped to 20 m CW to work Geoff ZL3GA on ZL3/OT-493. I then moved to 40 m CW to work several callers, including Ian VK5CZ on VK5/SE-013 and Nick VK3ANL/p on VK3/VN-015. A spot came through and I again jumped to 20 m CW to work Chris ZL4RA on ZL1/NL-002. I returned to 40 m CW and worked only one more station before UTC midnight. I had 22 stations in the log at that time.
I had many callers after UTC midnight, including VK5HAA/p on VK5/SE-005, Allen VK3ARH and Andrew VK3ARR, both on VK3/VE-014, Bill VK1MCW/2 on VK2/ST-053, and Paul VK3HN/p on VK3/VC-032.
I jumped to 20 m CW to chase John ZL1BYZ on ZL1/MW-034. I then moved to 20 m SSB to again work Paul VK5PAS/p on VK5/SE-016.
I moved back to 40 m SSB to work 11 stations over 20 minutes, including Ron VK3AFW/p on VK3/VE-033, Compton VK2HRX on VK2/CT-002, Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/HU-093, John VK5HAA on VK5/SE-005, Andrew VK1AD/p on VK1/AC-039 and Nik VK3ZK/p on VK3/VC-031.
I moved to 20 m CW and spotted. I worked two stations, including Wynne ZL2ATH on ZL3/TM-116. I moved to 20 m SSB and worked Matt VK1MA on VK1/AC-008. I then closed down and packed up the station, with a total of 49 stations in the log.
The morning had been hectic. There were many Activators operating and it was difficult to chase them all – sometimes the propagation was not there, or I was busy trying to call and missed the Spots. But it was an enjoyable activation. Thanks go to all who worked me.
I retraced my route back to the start of Bantik Track and then drove to Yackandandah to buy some lunch.
As I was driving back to Wodonga, I pulled over and managed to work Andrew VK3ARR and Allen VK3ARH on VK3/VE-019. I also chased David VK3KR/p on VK3/VC-019, Andrew VK1DA/p on VK2/ST-010 and Pete VK2FPAR/p in VKFF-2781 during the afternoon.
Later in the afternoon I chased Brian VK3BCM on VK3/VN-030, Paul VK3HN/p on VK3/VC-018 and Peter VK3ZPF on VK3/VT-040.
I decided to spend the morning in a Park and headed to Hume Weir and onto the Murray River Road, with the mandatory permit check at Bellbridge. I drove to the target park and drove up to the top of the small hill to park and set up the station.
Wises Creek Flora Reserve VKFF-2487
As soon as I opened the logging app, spots started coming through. I quickly started working stations that had been spotted: VK2IO/p in VKFF-2005 and VK3ANL in VKFF-2103. I moved to a clear frequency and spotted. I worked 10 stations in 11 minutes.
I moved to 40 m CW to chase Gerard VK2IO/p and Nick VK3ANL/p. I returned to 40 m SSB and worked one station before moving to 20 m SSB to again chase Gerard VK2IO/p before and again after UTC midnight.
Next I moved down to one of the regular Activity Marathon slots to work John ZL1BYZ. I moved up in frequency, spotted and started calling to work two stations, including Nick VK3ANL/p. I then moved down and again worked Gerard VK2IO/p.
I moved down to 40 m SSB and worked 10 more stations, including Gerard VK2IO/p once again. I jumped up to 20 m SSB and managed to work Nick VK3ANL/p in another band slot. I returned to 40 m SSB and worked five more stations.
I moved to 20 m CW to work Chris ZL4RA on ZL3/OT-247. I then moved to 40 m CW to work four stations, including Gerard VK2IO/p in another band slot. Another spot came through for Nick VK3ANL/p on 40 m SSB, so I moved up to make the contact. I moved to a clear frequency on 40 m SSB and worked eight more stations. I moved to 20 m SSB and worked two stations. I moved to 30 m SSb and worked Nick VK3ANL/p once more. Another spot came up for 40 m SSB and I worked Adam VK2YK/5 in VKFF-1707.
I packed up and headed back down to Murray River Road and headed back to Wodonga.
As I driving back to Wodonga, I noticed that I had snapped the “stinger” section of my Hampark antenna. I stopped at the big green hardware warehouse-style outlet. The stocked welding rods were only short. When I arrived at my base, I browsed online for welding supply houses. It looked as if Total Tools might have something suitable, so I made a dash to Albury. The stock of rods was low, so I was out of luck….. That meant another visit to Albury the following morning. It also meant another passage through a Victorian border check point.
29 December 2020
I drove across to Albury and had success at my first stop, finding a 1 kg pack of 3.2 mm diameter 1000 mm long stainless steel welding rods. I also purchased a hacksaw, which now resides in the vehicle. I crossed back into Victoria via Hume Weir, with no vehicle queue at the check point. I then headed to Sandy Creek and climbed up the road to Lockharts Gap.
I turned left into Lockharts Gap Track and headed out to the first summit.
VK3/VE-159 (unnamed) 892 m 4 points
The track runs over the summit. I found a spot to park and tossed a line over a tree branch and soon had the doublet in the air and the station set up a few metres away from the car.
The Spots showed that Adam VK2YK/5 was in a Park, and Tony VK3CAT was setting up on a summit. I worked Adam in VKFF-2887 on 40 m SSB. I listened for ZL3GA on 40 m CW and SSB, without hearing him. I spotted on 40 m CW after checking that the focus frequency was clear. Garry VK2GAZ was the first to call, followed by Tony VK3CAT on Mt Ritchie VK3/VC-003. Next was Allen VK3ARH, followed by Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0550.
I moved to 20 m CW to chase Geoff ZL3GA on ZL3/CB-574. The began a series of jumps around the bands as several Activator spotted on HF: Andrew VK1DA/p on Mt Ginini VK1/AC-008 on 40 m SSB, Bill VK1MCW/p on Mt Ainsley VK1/AC-040 on 80 m CW, Ian VK1DI/p on Mt Stromlo VK1/AC-043.
I moved to 20 m CW and worked two ZL regulars. I next moved to 40 m SSB and found a clear frequency and spotted. I worked four stations before UTC midnight, including Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0550.
After UTC midnight, I worked three more stations including Adam VK2YK/5 in VKFF-1739. I moved to chase Glenn VK3YY on VK3/VT-026. I was called as Glenn was signing off and I moved down the band. I worked Andrew VK1AD/p on VK1/AC-008. I then moved to 80 m SSB and worked Rik VK3EQ, followed by Tony VK3CAT on Mt Ritchie VK3/VC-003. I spent a few minutes listening around the bands before I worked Bill VK1MCW/p on 40 m CW from VK1/AC-040. I closed down, packed up and retraced my route back towards Lockharts Gap, before swinging left onto Powerline Road. I travelled to the sweeping left hand corner before the road descends off the ridge and found a spot to park.
VK3/VE-242 (unnamed) 842 m 4 points
I loaded up the rucksack and walked through the bush until inside the Activation Zone, only about 230 m horizontally. I again tossed a line over a tree branch and soon had the antenna erected. I set up the station and was soon listening.
I managed to work Andrew VK3ARR on Mt Alexander VK3/VN-016 on 40 m SSB. I moved down in frequency, spotted and soon worked Andrew VK1AD/p on VK1/AC-008, followed by Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0550, followed by six other callers.
I moved to 40 m CW and worked five stations, including Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0550 and Tony VK3CAT/p on Mt Strickland VK3/VN-030.
A spot came up and I spent several minutes 40 m SSB trying to call Glenn VK3YY on Mt Horsfall on VK3/VT-028 before finally making the contact under marginal conditions. I then moved up the band to work Adam VK2YK/5 in VKFF-0889.
I moved to 20 m CW and worked two ZL regulars before I closed down.
I packed up and walked briskly back to the car and headed back to Lockharts Gap, crossing the road and driving up Eskdale Spur Road. I then swung right into McGrath Track and climbed up to the summit, dodging a couple of fallen branches.
VK3/VE-241 (unnamed) 926 m 6 points
I parked at a wide spot just off the summit and soon had the station set up for the third time.
I started calling on 40 m CW after posting a spot. I quickly worked three stations, including Gerard VK2IO/p yet again. I called for a few minutes and moved to 20 m CW, where I again worked two ZL regulars.
I moved to 40 m SSB, where I worked six stations, including Andrew VK3ARR now on Mt Tarrengower VK3/VN-023. I moved to 20 m SSB and worked Nev VK5WG. Several minutes of calling yielded no results, so I took a break. I was aware that Tony VK3CAT was heading to another summit.
During the break, I started to prepare one of the welding rods as a new stinger. I also tried working Allen VK3ARH in Creswick Regional Park VKFF-0964. We eventually managed to work Allen on 40 m CW.
I took another break and fitted the new stinger to the Hampark antenna. Tony VK3CAT/p spotted. I listened on the spotted frequency, but heard nothing. I eventually worked Tony on 15 m CW from Mt Donna Buang VK3/VC-002.
I again packed up and retraced my route back to Lockharts Gap and then headed back to Wodonga.
It had been a hectic day. Thanks to all who worked me.
Wednesday 30 December 2020
The day was almost a write off for radio activity. I did manage to chase two Park activators later in the day from the car.