I had been looking at the maps of summits within easy reach of Wodonga for some time. I always wonder why the two summits north along the ridge complex with Mount Big Ben had not yet been activated. On a previous trip late last year, I checked a couple of possible direct access routes from the Yackandandah (west) side of the ridge without success. The likely roads reached closed gates with “Private Property” and “Fire Vehicles Only” signs. There was one road not yet checked: Turvey Lane off Allans Flat Road.
Saturday 2 June 2018
I headed off mid-morning towards Keiwa and onto Allans Flat Road and then into Turvey Lane. Just over one kilometre along, I reached the anticipated gate, again with “Private Property” and “Fire Vehicles Only” signs. I turned around and headed back to the bitumen, then turned south through Osbornes Flat and onto C527, then C528 and into Mount Big Ben Road.
The logical approach was to now try an approach from the south. As I drove up towards Big Ben, I decided to activate it first and then attempt to get to the next summit north. If I was lucky and Condons Track was open all the way, I might be able to drive out to the north somewhere…..
Mount Big Ben VK3VE-105 1154 m 6 Points
I set up just off the summit proper, within a metre or so in height. I started on 80 m CW – just for challenge. I soon had Gerard VK2IO in the log, but no other callers. I swapped to SSB and worked Geoff VK3SQ and Cliff VK2NP. Further calls went unanswered, so I changed to 40 m CW to work 5 stations and then to SSB for another 14 stations. I then moved back to 80 m SSB to work 4 more stations in VK3. It just shows that using 80 m even in the middle of the day can be productive at this stage of the solar cycle.
After packing up, I retraced my route back to Condons Track and started the journey north, basically zig zagging either side of the high voltage power lines. At roughly the point where Condons Track crosses the upper reaches of Swampy Creek, I found another gate: you guessed it: “Private Property” and “Fire Vehicles Only” signs.
VK3/VE-168 (unnamed) 845 m 4 points Not Yet Activated
I had anticipated this outcome, having looked at the various maps. However, the private property extended only a little east of the track and the land on the east side appears to be Crown Land, so I loaded up and started the climb, following an old track briefly and then following the N-S fence line. This involved a little scrub bashing low down, but the scrub dissipated after about 300 m. I continued to climb up to the summit and set up once on top.
I spotted myself on 40 m CW and first in the log was Gerard VK2IO. Within 10 minutes I had the summit qualified with six CW contacts. As I was about to swap modes, I saw a spot for Rob VK4AAC/3 in a Park on 80 m SSB, so I sent Rob an SMS advising that I would be on 80 in a couple of minutes – I needed to run out the rest of the antenna for 80. Rob replied that he was now on 40 m, so I stopped the antenna work and swapped to SSB and moved up the band. Rob was a weak 31 and could not hear my calls, so I moved down in frequency and started working callers. Six stations worked in about eight minutes. I then strung out the rest of the antenna for 80 m and went to CW, working six stations. Moving up to the voice section of the band yielded another three contacts. I then quickly change to 40 m SSB to work Paul VK5PAS in VKFF-0789. I tried to liaise with Rob using the ‘phone, but the signal dropped several times. I gave up on chasing Rob and packed up.
As I started the descent, I noticed the remnants of a very old track, with lots of grass and fallen timber across it. It provided a quick descent until it disappeared when the scrub started up as the terrain flattened a little. Back into the scrub, following the fence at times and animal tracks at others. I still gained a few splinters!
I was back at the car in about 30 minutes and retraced my tracks back to C528.
I considered my options as I was heading back down: give up and return to Wodonga, or have a look on the east side of the range. I decided on the later, so turned left when I reached C528. I descended down the valley and then turned north onto the Kiewa Valley Highway and travelled on to Kergunyah. Just near the 80 kph sign, I turned west into Simpson Road and followed it up the hill, expecting the same outcome as I had earlier in the day….
I did reach a gate, but this time with a simple sign “Please close the gate”! So I continued up to the top of the ridge and through another similar gate, but with “Private Property” and “Please close the gate” signs. I must double check Mapshare when I return home, but this appears to be a publically accessible route.
VK3/VE-163 (unnamed) 872 m 4 points Not Yet Activated
I then turned north on Gap Flat Track for a short distance and then onto Mount Murramurranbong Track, which had lots of large spoon drains. The final climb up to the top was steeper and rougher, with several obstacles to dodge. The track ran over the top of the summit. I parked off the track and set up – it was getting late, so I opted for 80 m SSB and hopefully a quick activation.
First contact was at 0715 UTC: Gerard VK2IO, followed by Warren VK3BYD. Next was Paul VK5PAS/p, still in VKFF-0789. I ended up with nine contacts in nine minutes. With no responses to QRZ and CQ calls, I shut down and packed up. The sun was already below the horizon, it was getting dark and cold quite quickly.
I carefully retraced my route back to Simpson Road, down to Kergunyah and then headed north back to Wodonga.
The last summit was a quick activation, but at least we have a known access route. A good day: two summits qualified on CW and two new summit Uniques for the chasers.
PS: After returning home I checked the official mapping for both approach routes used.
VK3/VE-168: The start of the route that I used is Crown Land. The summit sits in Crown Land – Part of the Big Ben State Forest. There is a section of land which is Private Property but which is NOT fenced. As I did not see any fence, I assumed that access was okay. The Public Land mapping shows that there is a Government Road reserve passing over the summit. Anyone wishing to access the summit in the future is advised to prepare a GPS Track following the Government Road alignment. I followed that alignment for most of my descent.
Public Land view of route to VK3/VE-168 (MapShare Vic)
VK3/VE-163: Simpsons Road is a Government Road for its entire length and the summit sits on Crown Land.
Public Land view of route to VK3/VE-163 (MapShare Vic)