A new summit near Licola

Mount Eliza VK3/VT-088 599 m 2 points NYA
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

Sunday 2 August 2020

National Tree Day 2020

This summit was added to the VK3 Association list of summits on 1 November 2019. It had not yet been activated.

The summit is close to Licola and the actual summit proper is located on privately owned land – part of the Glenfalloch Station. The actual SOTA summit is not the point identified on the official Victorian mapping as Mt Eliza (589 m), being one of two knolls to the NE at 599 m. Exploration of the official mapping shows that the Alpine National Park boundary crosses the summit activation zone to the NE of the SOTA summit.

Approximate access route to the summit & operating site. Map courtesy Mapshare Vic.

Access was gained via an old vehicle track off Tamboritha Road, about 3.4 km north of the start of Tamboritha Road, immediately before Licola Road crosses the Macalister River. The track enters an area which was previously the local Council Garbage Tip but was handed to the State Government in 2009. The former Tip was added to the Alpine National Park. I parked at a convenient spot off the track and started the walk. The GPS batteries were dead, so I have no track and I had no mobile coverage. The basic plan was to cross the shallow gully to the east of the parking site and then work my way south up the spur running north from the summit. This involved a climb of about 360 m vertical over about 1340 m horizontally. The first 400 m was relatively flat before starting to climb onto and then up the spur. It was steep in places, with some rocky areas. I picked my way up the spur through the scrub and rocks.

The day was warm after the past few weeks of cool to cold weather. The climb took me about 2 hours. I found a spot close to where the Park boundary should be, but I found no fence. After another drink of water, I quickly set up the antenna and station. I had very marginal mobile phone coverage (Telstra).

My first contact was Brian VK3BCM on Mount Sam VK3/VG-049 for a Summit to Summit (S2S) contact on 80 m SSB. Next up was Gerard VK2IO/p on Mt Marulan VK2/ST-039 on 80 m CW. I switched to 40 m SSB and worked Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0873. Back on 80 m SSB, I worked a couple of local stations and then had no further callers. I returned to 40 m and tried CW, working four stations. I then went to SSB and worked several stations, including some Park activators. A session on 20 m CW yielded two ZL contacts before I returned to 40 m SSB for two more Park activators.

I had been on the summit for over an hour and had 21 contacts in the log – more than enough to qualify the summit and the Park for VKFF.

View from near the summit to the junction of the Macalister River (to the left) and the Wellington River (centre). Mt Ligar (The Chrinoline) visible on the ridge between the rivers.

I packed up and started the climb back down to the vehicle. The descent took around 50 minutes.

I loaded the gear into the car and headed to the shop in Licola for a cold soft drink before I started the trip home.

Thanks to all the chasers, especially to those Park activators that I managed to catch on air. I know that I missed several, but such is life when you have poor data connectivity to the web and you are out climbing a steep hill.

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Start of bonus season 2020

Monday 15 June 2020

About two weeks earlier, I received a notice to owner/occupier that the home mains power supply would be interrupted during the day of Monday 15 June 2020 due to planned essential network maintenance. That date is also the first day of the seasonal bonus period for SOTA in the VK3 Association. So a basic plan was hatched early – a day of SOTA activations including some of the relatively local summits to which the seasonal bonus would apply. The only issue to consider was would the weather cooperate?

Late in the week prior, the weather forecast was looking reasonable, so I posted Alerts on SOTAwatch for the four summits planned. I received a phone call on Saturday from a close friend who expressed interest in joining me for the day. It was possible that another amateur may also join us, but a message on Sunday indicated that a work job had materialised, so it would be just the two of us.

Rik VK3EQ arrived at my home a little later than planned, but only by about 15 – 20 minutes, and we were soon on the road. The trip out through Traralgon was a little slower due to traffic levels and School Zone speed restrictions. We headed out to Licola and up the Jameson – Licola Road.

The trip up was relatively uneventful until we reached a tree of about 35 cm diameter down across the full width of the road. The tree had been dead for quite some time. Clearing the tree was required before we could progress further. We were just a few kilometres short of the junction with South Road. Just as well that I had charged the batteries on Sunday and put the battery chainsaw in the vehicle! Rik acted as supervisor, offering the occasional hint as I started the cutting. The first cuts resulted in the log sagging as expected and almost jamming the cut ends together. Another pair of cuts was made about 3.5 m further along the tree. We then pulled out an as yet unused drag chain. Rik started setting up the drag chain as I turned the vehicle around. We soon had the cut segment pulled to the side of the road about 10 metres from the main log. After disconnecting the chain, I again turned around and negotiated the gap created before parking just beyond the tree and then packed up the gear and loading it back into the Ranger.

We travelled up to the start of N7 Track and swung onto the small track a short distance along to the left. This track has some moderate pot holes and can be slippery, so I engaged 4WD. We climbed up the track and onto the plateau to park the vehicle.

Connors Plain VK3/VT-022 1305 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I noticed that the official mapping for Victoria has the summit name spelt differently to the SOTA database. I shall bring this to the attention of the Association Manager.

The 1280 metre contour is crossed just before the climb onto the plateau is completed. This summit has a large activation zone – once you have reached the plateau on the track, you are in the activation zone (AZ). I posted a spot to SOTAwatch that I was setting up, thus giving chasers a “heads up”. We set up with a line thrown over a tree branch to haul up the ZS6BKW doublet. The wind was noticeable and we had some occasional drizzle.

When I posted the spot, I noticed that David VK2NU was on summit VK2/MN-114, currently operating on 15 m CW. Once set up, I started calling on 40 m CW and soon had Andrew VK2UH in the log, followed by David VK2NU/p for a S2S contact. In quick succession, I worked VK2IO, ZL1BYZ, VK4TJ, VK3ARH and VK5IS. Summit qualified in only 11 minutes. I let Rik use the radio and he start calling on 80 m SSB. I grabbed a hand held and walked out of the AZ to work Rik for the chase. I returned to the station just as Rik moved to 40 m SSB. He soon had the summit qualified and closed down. As I started packing up, Rik wandered down the track before working me on 2 m FM. We soon had all the gear packed and headed back down to the main road.

The route to the next summit was uneventful: southeast towards Licola until we reached South Road, then roughly south until Mt Selma Road and then roughly west until west of the summit and up the access track and into the AZ. Travel was simply a case of steady progress, dodging pot holes and driving to the occasionally muddy conditions.

Mount Selma VK3/VT-013 1464 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

The wind was significantly stronger and gusty on Mt Selma. BOM observations for the closest location show wind speeds around 20 km/hr gusting to 40 km/hr. Air temperature was about 4 C, so the apparent temperature was well below zero. We quickly set up in a similar manner to the previous summit and Rik started calling on 80 m SSB as I posted a spot. I walked out of the AZ to work Rik on 2 m FM before returning to start calling on 80 m CW, working Allen VK3HRA. With no further callers, I moved to 40 m CW. The next 10 minutes yield seven callers in the log. Rik started calling on 40 m SSB. With the cold conditions, we were about to pack up when a spot appeared indicating that David VK2NU had arrived at the next summit. I waited for David to appear on 40 m CW, working Rik down the hill on 2 m FM. David was soon in the log and we quickly packed up to retrace our access route back to South Road.

South Road becomes Springs Road at the junction with Green Hill Track, which might confuse some people…. We headed south with the cloud lifting slightly, but with the wind still quite strong and gusty. The final approach to the next summit is via Mount Useful Tower Track, which was in good condition.

Mount Useful VK3/VT-016 1434 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I parked the vehicle at one of the rear corners of the fire watcher building, hoping for some shelter from the wind, now gusting to around 50 km/hr. We sat in the car to eat lunch; the wind was fierce at times.

I spotted that we were about to commence setting up and started that task. Once the antenna was up, we set up the rest of the station and I was soon calling on 40 m CW. Wynne ZL2ATH was first in the log, followed by VK2IO, VK5CZ and ZL3GA. With the summit qualified, I let Rik start calling on SSB, noting local QRM from the telecoms equipment on the summit. I walked back down the track to exit the AZ and worked Rik on 2 m FM.

I returned to the station and switched to 80 m CW, working only Andrew VK2UH.  I moved back to 40 m CW and posted that I was calling on 7.035, waiting for David VK2NU/p to come up on air on VK2/MN-108 – we had significant QRM on 7.032 MHz. I worked ZL1TM and VK4TJ before quickly checking 7.032 and finding David working a station. I waited until the contact was completed and then called David, making the last contact for this summit. Luckily, David’s signal was well above the QRM.

We quickly packed up and headed back to Springs Road and then headed south.

At “The Springs”, we headed west on Williamsons Spur Track, travelling past the now retired summit VK3/VT-034. We soon arrived at the track to the start of the replacement summit, VK3/VT-083.

VK3/VT-083 (unnamed) 1022 points 6 points

This summit was first activated in early November by Peter VK3ZPF. At the time, I was activating in NE Victoria. I could not hear Peter on 40 m and missed him while in transit between summits when he moved to 80 m. The new summit is 3 m higher than the previous summit VK3/VT-034, which was retired on 31 October 2019.

We parked just below the summit proper, behind some scrub giving a little protection from the wind. I soon had a line over a tree branch at around 11-12 m up – got the line over on the first attempt. Rik was impressed when he emerged from the Ranger.

We had just missed David VK2NU, who had posted that he was QRT. We also missed Nick VK3ANL in a Park – we could not hear him on 80 m, probably just missing him. Propagation was too long for the path on 40 m.

We soon had the station up and running and I spotted Rik on 80 m SSB. A few minutes later, I took over and spotted for 80 m CW, working Tony VK7LTD and Allen VK3ARH. I moved to 40 m CW and worked seven more stations.

Rik came up on 40 m SSB to work some stations to qualify the summit and we then closed down – even though the wind speed had dropped somewhat, it was cold.

We quickly packed up and headed back to Springs Road and then headed south towards Seaton. At the junction with Binns Road, we encountered some road works signs, so progress slowed. We negotiated some road work machinery with care as we reached them. I stopped just prior to the start of the bitumen surface and disengaged 4WD.

The rest of the drive home was uneventful. Rik transferred his gear back to his vehicle and departed for Melbourne as I grabbed a torch to go and check the Mains breaker in the fuse box – power was off. As suspected, the main breaker was off, so flicking it on solved that issue.

Thanks to all who chased us during the day. We both qualified each summit, plus we also worked each other as chasers from off each summit, thus we each earned 39 Activator points and 30 Chaser points for the day. We both gained one new summit activated, chased and Complete. We travelled approximately 300 km for the trip.

It was great to have company and the time to chat with Rik during the drive.

I was slack and forgot to take any photos during the day, so no images…..

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Hazelwood Power Station Chimney demolition

25 May 2020

This entry has little to do with radio but concerns a significant local event.

My usual morning routine over the past few weeks has been to participate in an Activity Marathon, chasing contacts with other Australian and New Zealand radio amateurs as a diverse from the “stay at home” orders. Along the lines of qualifying a SOTA summit, the idea is to make at least four contacts each UTC day. So from 0000 UTC, I spend about 30 minutes finding stations calling and making contacts. But today, this was followed by a short local trip….

The Hazelwood Power Station was built in the early 1960s and provided base load power to Victoria by burning brown coal from the adjacent Morwell open cut mine.

The Power Station closed at the end of March 2017. Since that time, work has occurred to safely decommission the power station and mining plant, followed by the planning and works associated with rehabilitation of the site.

Early on the afternoon of Monday 25 May 2020, the eight 137 m high chimneys were bought down by controlled demolition charges. You will find excellent videos on other sites, including the Hazelwood Rehabilitation site: http://www.hazelwoodrehabilitation.com.au/

I have served for several years as a community member of the Environmental Review Committee (ERC) for the Station and Mine. Members of the ERC were expecting to be invited to view the demolition of the chimneys from within the property boundary, but the COVID19 pandemic and resulting restrictions caused those plans to be cancelled.

I could have watched one of the live stream sites from the comfort of home, but decided to head out and watch from the southern end of the Hazelwood Cooling Pondage.

The Google Earth image shows the Power Station near the top of the image and my viewing site near the bottom of the image, about 3.5 km from the Station. Part of the town of Churchill is visible in the lower right.

Google Earth image of the Hazelwood Power Station and Cooling Pondage. Thanks to Google Earth.

Many people were observed parked at locations with a view of the Power Station as I drove to my chosen site. I was on site well before the announced possible start time of 1100. There were many cars parked in the area, but most individuals maintained good physical distancing.

View of the Power Station late in the morning

At around 1125, word spread of a delay until 1155. At 1214 some water sprays started. The task of the sprays was to help suppress any dust. We thought that the action might commence soon….

The real action finally started at 1227, when we could see some dust from chimney number 1 – the southernmost. We started to hear the explosions shortly afterwards. There were a series of explosions and the chimneys started to fall….

By 1235, it was all over apart from the dust cloud settling. I started walking back to my car and headed off to the post office to check my mail and collect two parcels.

The eight chimneys have been an iconic landmark in the Latrobe Valley for 55 years. I am sure that they will be missed by many. Work on demolition will continue over coming months, further changing the local landscape.

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Some new SOTA awards earned

For quite some time, the SOTA awards scheme has been operating on a very restricted basis. A few weeks ago, resumption of the issuing of Awards certificates was announced. Each certificate still has a cost, but now one can apply for a certificate and save on postage costs by selecting to receive the document as a pdf file.

I did some checking and applied for some certificates earned over the last couple of years, some of which were qualified quite some time ago. April 2017 seems to feature!

Mountain Hunter Platinum

Awarded for having worked at least 2 summits in each of 20 or more SOTA Associations.


Mountain Hunter Platinum Award

Activator 2500 points earned

In recognition of having activated summits worth a total of 2500 points.


Activator 2500 points

SOTA Complete 250

In recognition of having “Completed” (both chased and activated) 250 different summits.


SOTA Complete 250 unique summits

Chaser 1000 uniques

For having chased at least 1000 different SOTA summits.


Chaser 1000 Unique Summits

Chaser 30,000 points earned

For having earned over 30,000 SOTA Chaser points.


Chaser 30000 points

Mountain Goat CW only

For having activated using CW and earning 1000 Activator points. This award requires that at least four (4) different callsigns are worked on each summit using CW (Morse code), with the points totalling at least 1000 points.


Mountain Goat Award certificate – All CW

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A long day to Jamieson Lookout Track

Sunday 15 March 2020

Ross VK3NRB was keen for another day out playing radio. We discussed options and decided to head to another of the “new” summits added on 1 November 2019, even though it required a long drive – estimated at 3 hours plus each way.

We headed off at around 0800 with stops at the local Bakery to grab some food and a fuel stop in Traralgon before heading to Licola and then up the Jamieson – Licola Road. The scenery during the drive was excellent, with clear skies and some clouds in the valleys. The drive was uneventful apart from a few partial road blockages with trees down to dodge and then several cows on the summit of Mount Skene. We continued on towards Jamieson and I considered which of three final approach routes to take.

I opted for the middle approach, on an unnamed track starting at 37.31734 S 146.22964 E. The track headed off at an acute left hand junction, so I drove beyond the junction to turn around and start the climb with a gentle turn. Before I started, I engaged 4WD. The track was straightforward, with several spoon drains to negotiate and a tight section around a fallen tree. We joined Jamieson Lookout Track south of the track junction we needed and swung north to climb up to the top of the knoll and the junction. I then swung west onto the track tot eh summit, also called Jamieson Lookout Track. After about 2.5 km of driving on a narrow track with more spoon drains and some fallen trees to dodge, we reached the summit.

VK3/VE-257 (unnamed) 910 m 6 points Not previously activated

We drove over the top of the summit and executed a U turn at a spoon drain, crossed back over the summit and parked at a wider spot just east of and only a few metres below the summit.

I posted a Spot to SOTAwatch indicating that I was on site and setting up. I tossed a line over a tree branch and hauled up the ZS6BKW. We set up a table and chairs about 6 metres behind the vehicle.

On switching on, I found Ian VK5CZ/p on VK5/NE-055 calling on 7.032 MHz. After working Ian, I moved up to 7.034 MHz, spotted and started calling. There I worked John ZL1BYZ, John VK5HAA and Gerard VK2IO. With no further responses to calls, I moved down to 80 m CW, spotted and started calling. I had some strange occurrence with the KX2 – it went into Tx and would not switch back. I powered the radio down and restarted it, but the issue persisted. Another power down, with a longer pause before powering up resolved the issue. I worked Tony VK3CAT, Andrew VK2UH, Warren VK3BYD and John VK2YW.

I moved up to 80 m SSB to work Geoff VK3SQ and Warren VK3KS. Ross also worked both Geoff and Warren. Ross then headed down the hill to chase me on 2 m FM. We then swapped places so that I could chase Ross on the summit.

Back on the summit, I moved to 40 m SSB and soon worked Ray VK4NH and John VK4TJ. Rob VK4AAC/3 was spotted for 80 m but I could not raise him. I called Rob on the phone and found that his antenna was not cooperating on 80 m. I suggested that we try 40 m, and Rob soon called. Contact made. Rob was in Goomalibee Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2097, just NW of Benalla. We both worked Rob and then closed down.


VK3PF operating on VK3/VE-257

After packing up, I retraced my route back to the knoll with the track junction and decided to exit to the north along Jamieson Lookout Track. The track was reasonable – wider than the trip out to the summit, with some spoon drains and more fallen trees to dodge. The final sharp turn was accompanied by a steeper drop off than anticipated, with a steep section down to the Jamieson – Licola Road. We then headed east and south back to Mount Skene.

Mount Skene VK3/VE-031 1565 m 10 points

The cows had moved from the summit. We found a group sitting by the sign at the high point of the road having lunch. We had a brief chat before I grabbed the 10 m squid pole and commenced strapping it to one of the two steel poles near the broken sign, which simply says 200 m walk, having lost the board indicating that the summit trig was nearby. I chatted with one of the other group, who indicated that he been introduced to electronic via a school science teacher. He had acquired a surplus radio (I forget the model) which was modified to a useful receiver. He went on to become an electronics engineer. He was interested in the antenna – we again used the ZS6BKW. He asked about working skip, and I indicated that it was not that easy at present with the state of the sunspot cycle. We continued setting up and chatting, until he said his goodbyes and the group left.

I saw a spot for John VK5HAA/p in Kenneth Stirling Conservation Park VKFF-0781 for 40 m CW. I soon had John in the log. I then moved down to 80 m CW  and worked Warren VK3BYD and Geoff VK3SQ. We then moved up to 40 m SSB to chase Rob VK4AAC/3, still in VKFF-2097. I returned to 80 m SSB and was called again by Geoff VK3SQ. Next we moved to 40 m SSB to attempt to chase Linda VK7QP/3 in William Hunter Flora Reserve VKFF-2486 near Marlo. With some assistance from Al VK7AN, Linda listened for me, but I was not decipherable. I asked Ross the grab the IC-7300 from the car and we soon had it connected up and set the power to 40 W. I was finally able to complete a contact with Linda for a new Park – I had activated the Park last year and Linda was only the second activation.

I moved to 40 m CW and worked John VK4TJ and Gerard VK2IO. I tried 20 m CW and worked Andrei ZL1TM but had no other callers. We packed up the gear and moved down to the lookout SE of the summit to take some photos. I left Ross behind so that I could chase the summit, after which Ross joined me at the lookout. We then headed back towards Licola.


View from North around to SE. Mt Buller near the left around to Gable End.


View from S around to W. Baw Baw Plateau on the left horizon.

We parked at the junction with the Australian Alps Walking Track, loaded up and started the climb to the next summit.

Mount Shillinglaw VK3/VE-068 1301 m 8 points

We climbed up the track to the high point, only about a metre or so below the actual summit. I tossed a line over a tree branch and hauled up the ink dipole. I did not bother with the 80 m extensions. Ross was trailing behind, so I worked him on 2 m FM whilst he he still outside the activation zone. Next was Paul VK5PAS/p in Totness Recreation Park VKFF-1754 on 40 m SSB. I moved down the band, spotted and started calling. Andrei ZL1TM was the first to respond, followed John VK4TJ and Adam VK2YK/5 in Cobbler Creek Recreation Park VKFF-1699. I moved down to 40 m CW and spotted. I worked Gerard VK2IO, John ZL1BYZ and David VK2JDR. With no further callers, I moved up to 20 m CW and worked Wynne ZL2ATH, but had no further calls. We packed up the station and I headed down the hill ahead of Ross, working him on 2 m FM once I was outside the activation zone.

The descent was easier than the climb and we were soon back at the car. We loaded the gear and headed back to Licola. I stopped at a view point on the climb to Burgoyne Gap, taking in the view and grabbing some photos looking up the Macalister River valley towards Licola. We then resumed the drive home, reaching our destination about 12 hours after we had departed.


Looking NW up the Macalister River valley, over Glenfalloch Station

Thanks to all who worked us during the day.

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A Sunday saunter north of Briagalong

Well, almost…. But a pleasant drive was had to reach another new summit and to visit two other summits.

Sunday 8 March 2020

I headed off from home for Maffra to pick up Ross VK3NRB and then we headed north to Boisdale, across to Briagalong and then towards Stockdale. Near Stockdale, we turned north on Insolvent Track and soon were travelling behind a 4WD with a trailer – we guessed heading out to collect firewood. At the top of the climb where the pine plantation ends, the other vehicle pulled over to let us pass. I quickly checked the map and resumed the route. The only trick is to watch for the junction where Insolvent Track swings right. We were soon at the prominent bend to the ENE of our target summit, a short distance beyond the junction with Stoney No 1 Road. There was plenty of space to park off the track on the eastern side.

VK3/VT-089 (unnamed) 488 m 1 point Not previously activated

This summit had been our potential fourth target last weekend.

The summit is about 200 m to the SW of the parking spot, with a climb of just under 50 m vertical. The country was relatively open and it was easy to dodge any fallen timber and scrub patches. We found a nice spot to set up and I tossed a line over a tree branch at about 8 m. I strung out a new 80-10 m end fed half wave antenna to use for the first time in the field. I tied the line roughly in the middle of its length and hauled it up. Ross tied off the far end as I found a length of line to hold the radio end to a fallen tree branch.

As I was setting up, Ross headed back down the hill to chase me on 2 m FM and therefore was the first contact with this summit.

I soon had the KX2 set up on 80 m and had an excellent match on the antenna. I spotted myself and started calling on 80 m CW. The first (and only) response came after seven minutes of calling and I soon had Ron VK3AFW in the log. Several further CQ calls went unanswered. I moved up to 80 m SSB and again spotted. Again I had no replies for several minutes before Ron called using his second callsign. I called for a further 5 minutes before moving up to 40 m CW and soon worked John VK4TJ, Gerard VK2IO and David VK2JDR.

I was about to move to 40 m SSB when I saw a spot on ParksnPeaks for Malcolm VK3OAK in VKFF-2141 on 80 m, so I quickly changed down to 80 m. Ross and I both worked Malcolm. I moved back to my previous 80 m frequency and worked Allen VK3ARH and Geoff VK3SQ. I then went to 40 m SSB and only worked Gerard VK2IO. It was now well after UTC rollover and we had both qualified the summit. For the last 20 minutes or so, we could hear chainsaws to our south, confirming our earlier guess about the 4WD vehicle and its occupants… We had been calling for about 50 minutes, so I decided against trying 20 m.

We packed up and started heading down the hill, with Ross lagging behind. Once I was almost back at the road, I worked Ross and thus had the SOTA Complete.

We loaded the gear into the vehicle and continued north along Insolvent Track and then swung west on Winkie Creek Track. This took us to Freestone Creek Road, which we crossed to reach Lloyd Knob Track. I engaged 4WD prior to dropping down the bank to ford Freestone Creek – the entire drive to this point had been in 2WD, with only pot holes and some shallow erosion gutters to negotiate.

I crossed the creek and started the climb up to the next summit. We encountered several steep spoon drains, some rocky patches, a couple of small trees across the track and some steep sections. I travelled over the summit by about 100 m to a spot which allowed for an easy U-turn and returned to the high point to park.

Lloyd Knob VK3/VT-063 553 m 2 points

I first activated this summit back in late June 2018. This would be the summit’s second activation.

I again tossed a line over a tree and this time hauled up the ZS6BKW. We set up the station using a folding table and sat only a few metres from the vehicle. I was about to spot myself when I saw a spot for Glenn VK3YY on Mount Beenak VK3/VC-016. I quickly dialled up the correct frequency, not really expecting to hear Glenn as he would probably be in the skip zone. I could hear him weakly and tried calling a couple of times on voice, without any response from Glenn. At the end of his next CQ call, I sent my callsign in CW and Glenn responded on CW. We soon had a CW contact in the log – thanks Glenn. I moved down to 40 m CW and spotted and soon worked Gerard VK2IO, Ian VK5CZ and John VK5HAA. I then moved down to 80 m CW and worked Ron VK3AFW but had no further callers. I then tried 80 SSB and worked Ron VK3ZLP.  A move to 40 m SSB yielded Mark VK7ME, Ian VK5IS and John VK4TJ. I called for several more minutes without any responses. I tried catching Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-2145 but could not hear him. I called Rob on the ‘phone and he explained that he was having lunch but also had antenna issues on 80 m. We agreed to try later after he had finished lunch. Rob could not solve the antenna issue, so no contact was made.

VK portalog announced a new SOTA spot and I quickly moved to 40 m CW and waited for a chance to call Tony VK3CAT/p on Federation Range VK3/VN-029 in VKFF-0556. Tony’s spot indicated that it was raining. I heard Tony work Glenn, with Glenn very weak to me. I called Tony and we soon had the contact in the log.

I then moved up to 20 m CW and worked John ZL1BYZ and Andrei ZL1TM. I then closed and started packing up. I started to drive down the hill, leaving Ross behind to walk. Once I was outside the AZ, I stopped and worked Ross for the chase and a new Complete. Ross joined me in a few minutes and we retraced our access route back to Freestone Creek Road, where we swung south. We travelled about 6.4 km to turn off onto Link Road. The drive down the Freestone Creek valley is narrow and sinuous but is quite spectacular with the rocky steep slopes of the valley.

We climbed up Link Road for about 3.7 km, driving past the summit on the road before a hard left turn to climb the rougher track up the firebreak to the summit.

VK3/VT-065 (unnamed) 513 m 2 points

I had first activated this summit back in August 2013, approaching from the west. There have been no activations since that activation. I guess that other activators have dismissed these low points value summits when there are higher value summits in the region.

I again tossed a line over a tree branch and hauled up the ZS6BKW. The folding camp table was again set up a metre or so from the vehicle. As I was setting up the station, Ross headed down the hill to make a contact on 2 m FM.

We could see rain approaching, so decided to start on 40 m SSB, hoping for a quick activation. The first caller was Roly ZL4AU in Invercargill. QSB meant that Ross failed to make a contact with Roly. Next was John VK4TJ, followed by Gerard VK2IO/m. Just as we finished with Gerard, the rain arrived. We quickly packed up the radio, pulled down the antenna and packed up. I drove down the hill to work Ross as he walked down, thus gaining the Complete.

We retraced our access route to Freestone Creek Road and again headed south. We encountered a few vehicles along the way, but soon reached the bitumen and then headed to Briagalong and back to Maffra.

It was an excellent day out. One new summit activated and chased plus two new summits chased and Complete.

Thanks Ross for the company and contacts. Thanks to all the chasers.


The driving route for the day. Image thanks to Google Maps.

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Latest VKFF certificate – HR 1675

With all the hot weather and a very long fire season in the eastern half of Australia, the number of Parks activations has been low. That has slowed progress in building new Parks Hunted….

A few days ago, I checked Logsearch and saw that I had reached the next step of the VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll – 1675 references hunted.

As always, many thanks to all Activators who have and continue to get out into the field to activate Parks references.

The last 25 new references came from several of the usual suspects plus a couple of amateurs that invited to come into the field with me and I managed to work them from outside the Park boundary for the Hunt. It took from 30 November 2019 to 1 March 2020 to work the latest 25 references. Thanks particularly go to Liz VK2XSE, Warren VK3BYD, Brett VK3FLCS, Ross VK3NRB, Sergio VK3SFG, Peter VK3TKK, Peter VK3ZPF, Rob VK4AAC, Marija VK5FMAZ, Paul VK5PAS, Andrew VK7DW and Angela VK7FAMP (in callsign alphabetic order).

VK3PF - VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1675

The VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll 1675 certificate

Thanks Paul for the location details: King George Sound in the Gull Rock National Park in Western Australia.

Thanks also to the entire VKFF admin team.

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SOTA trip to Motor Bike Hill

1 March 2020

One of the summits added to the VK3 SOTA Association on 1 November 2019 was Motor Bike Hill, located near Wrathung, on the north-eastern boundary of the upper Avon River catchment. The summit had not yet been activated for SOTA, so a plan was hatched to visit the site.

The new summit is about 6.5 km (as a bird flies) to the south of Lamb Hill VK3/VT-025. An option for the approach might have included Lamb Hill as a destination, approaching either via Tamboritha Saddle to reach the Moroka Road, or up Marathon Road and around Moroka Road to reach Moroka Range Track and then to the junction with Old Moroka Road. Climb and activate Lamb Hill, descend back to the vehicle and then south along Old Moroka Road to reach the new summit.

I opted for a different option, as I was aware that the lower part of my route was likely to be passable. There are likely other route options, but I simply opted for a route where at least part of the 4WD travel was known.

I arranged company for the trip. I departed home just after 0800 local and headed to Maffra to pick up Ross VK3NRB. We then headed north through Boisdale towards Valencia Creek and around to the low level bridge across the Avon River on Wombat Road. We then drove up Mount Angus Track to the unnamed summit VK3/VT-047, the end of my previous travels in this area. We then continued north to join Old Moroka Road and on to the junction with Pleydells Spur Track. The slopes on the western side of the track were steep. We turned into Pleydells Spur Track and climbed to the top of the spur to park at the sharp right turn in the track. We were within 40 metres horizontally of the summit and less than one metre in height of the summit. The trip to the summit was around 136 km from my home and took three hours travel time. There are plenty of views along the route.

Motor Bike Hill VK3/VT-084 979 m 6 points Not previously activated

We set up by tossing a line over a nearby tree branch to haul up the centre of the ZS6BKW antenna and then set up the station on a folding table. As I was setting up the KX2, Ross walked down the track to exit the activation zone. Ross was the first in the log on 2 m FM. I spotted myself on SOTAwatch for 40 m CW and started calling. It took many calls before I received any replies. Andrei ZL1TM was first on CW, followed by Allen VK3ARH several minutes later. I called for another 5 minutes with no further responses. I moved to 20 m CW, spotted and started calling.  Andrei called again, much stronger this time. Next was John VK4TJ, but again there were no further responses to my CQ calls. I received an SMS from Gerard VK2IO saying that he had missed me on 40 m, implying that he could not hear me on 20 m. With no further responses, I replied to Gerard and returned to 40 m CW to log him. I then moved to 80 m CW and worked four stations in about 15 minutes. Whilst working the CW contacts, I could hear some crashing noises in the scrub behind me. I asked Ross what was making the noise. He replied “A blue tongued lizard”. A couple of minutes later, he said I should look over my shoulder. I saw a large Lace Monitor Varanus varius – around 1.4 m long –  walking across the track (best guess at identity). I missed catching an image of the monitor, as I was in the middle of a contact and the monitor crossed the track quickly and disappeared into the scrub.

I gave up and moved to 80 m SSB. The aim now was to call and for stations to work both Ross and myself. First in the log on voice was Ron VK3ZLP, followed by Mark VK3PI operating special event callsign VI50AWS, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Western & Northern Suburbs Amateur Radio Club. Mark was activating Mount Macedon VK3/VC-007 and the Macedon Regional Park VKFF-0972. Mark also worked us both with his own call. Next in the log was Geoff VK3SQ, after we moved down in frequency away from a noise source at Geoff’s location.

We then packed up and started the descent, with Ross walking down with a handheld so that I could call him from lower down the track to chase the summit.

Once Ross arrived back at the car, we retraced our access route to return to VK3/VT-047. As we drove south, the views across the upper reaches of the Turton and Avon River valleys were excellent.

VK3/VT-047 (unnamed) 732 m 4 points
Avon Wilderness Park VKFF-0942

There is a helipad at the junction of Mount Angus Track and Avon Track, providing a nice cleared area with great views across the Avon River valley to the north and west. The Park boundary is along the track edges, placing the entire helipad inside the Park boundary. I tossed a line over a tree branch and again set up the ZS6BKW. We positioned the table in the shade at the northern edge of the helipad.

I was about to spot myself and saw a spot on ParksnPeaks for Linda VK7QP/3 in Screw Creek Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2188, near Inverloch. I quickly moved the radio to 80 m SSB and dialled up the correct frequency. Linda was working Mark VK3PI. We waited until the contact was completed and then called. Linda was an excellent signal, with 59 reports both ways. So we had a Park to Park contact as our first log entry. After Ross had worked Linda, we tuned down the band to find Mark VK3PI/VI50AWS for another Park to Park and also Summit to Summit contact. A good start to the activation!

Ross was hungry, so I moved to 80 m CW while he had lunch. I soon had Ron VK3AFW, Paul VK3HN, Allen VK3ARH and Warren VK3BYD in the log. Ross had walked down the hill and we worked on 2 m FM. VK Port-a-Log announced another Parks Spot, so we moved to 40 m SSB to work Malcolm VK3OAK/p in Dereel Lagoon Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2306. We then dropped down to 80 m SSB and worked Geoff VK3SQ before returning to 40 m SSB, working four more stations.


Ross on VK3/VT-047 with the Avon and Turton River valleys behind.

We packed up and I started driving down the hill, with Ross having headed off on foot a minute earlier. I caught him and descended out of the AZ before calling him on 2 m FM for the chaser contact. We then returned back down to Valencia Creek. As we dropped into the valley floor, the increase in temperature was obvious – it was around 31 C compared to around 20 C higher up. We then headed across towards Briagalong and headed up Freestone Creek Road and worked our way around the tracks to reach our next target.

SOTA_Mapping project_20200301

SOTA Mapping Project map of the area visited.

Mount Moornapa VK3/VT-080 485 m 1 point
Mount Moornapa Flora Reserve VKFF-2401

On reaching the summit we could see two vehicles parked at the trig. We parked a short distance east of the trig off the edge of the track and in some shade. I again tossed a line over a branch to lift the ZS6BKW. We set up the station on the table a short distance from the vehicle.

Ross walked down the road whilst I finished the station set and we worked on 2 m FM. I spotted for 80 m CW and called many times before Warren VK3BYD called. I called a few more times before Warren called again, this time using his VK3KS callsign. Further CQ calls on 80 m CW went unanswered. I moved up to 40 m CW to work VK2IO, ZL1BYZ and ZL2ATH. I was about to move to SSB when another station called – John VK5HAA (ex-VK5FLEA). Once I had worked John, I moved to 40 m SSB and was called by Malcolm VK3OAK/p, now in Illabarook Grassland Flora Reserve VKFF-2335. With no further responses to CQ calls, I moved to 80 m SSB and worked four stations. I went for a walk and worked Ross from outside the AZ.

I returned to the car and we packed up the station. We headed east and headed along Tower Link Road. We had almost reached the next track junction when we were stopped by a large tree across the track. I decided not to attempt clearing the tree due to its size and the way it was laying. I then had to reverse around a kilometre up the road before I found a spot wide enough to undertake a U-turn. On reaching the next track junction, we stopped and discussed our options – turn left and travel down a rough track and work our way around to a possible fourth target summit, or abort that one and head for home. Given that it was almost 1730 local, we decided to head for home. Part of the thinking was that we needed to walk up through the bush once we reached a parking spot, and the warm humid day discouraged an uphill scrub bash…. It can wait for another day, probably on a cooler morning.

We travelled back out to Freestone Creek Road and turned south to travel back to Maffra via Briagalong and Boisdale.

I dropped Ross at his home and then drove home.

It was a profitable day – one new summit activated, plus two new SOTA summits chased and now Complete, and two new Parks chased.

Thanks to Ross for the company and his contacts with me, and also thanks to all who called us during the day.

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Repair of a microphone

Those that have read the blog entry of my New Years Eve trip to The  Horn on Mount Buffalo may recall that the SOTA component was interrupted by static electricity, a relocation to below the peak and then a failed microphone.  At the time, I was not concerned about the microphone fault, rather I was more interested in packing up and descending the hill due to the increasing loudness and frequency of thunder claps! Clearly storm cells were approaching.

Whilst I was away, I used other radios for Park activations. The weather was hot and very dry, with  most days having a Severe or higher rating. In addition, much of northeast Victoria was shrouded in smoke and this made activating very unattractive. The smoke was coming from several sources: there were uncontrolled bushfires across the eastern ranges of NSW and Victoria, including most of the region around Walwa and Corryong and the ranges to the south, in the areas south of Bright, threatening Mount Hotham and Omeo east towards Whitfield including the Abbeyard and Mount Buffalo fires, a fire near The Bluff, and extensive fires in East Gippsland.

I returned to home on 6 January, simply taking the run down the Hume Highway to Melbourne and then working my way around the road system to head east on the Princes Highway back to Morwell. Smoke haze was a feature of the drive and was dominant for the next couple of weeks.

A couple of weeks later, I decided to investigate the microphone fault……

The microphone is an Elecraft MH3 unit for the KX2 and KX3 transceivers. The KX2 was last used on The Horn as mentioned above, when I started to feel static discharges through the transceiver, which was sitting on my thigh, with me sitting on the ground….. I had quickly switched off the radio after disconnecting the coaxial cable from the antenna connector.

I assembled the radio and connected it to a dummy load. The transmit function was fine on CW. The NH3 microphone keyed the radio into transmit, but speaking into the microphone produced no RF output. Disconnecting the MH3 activates the inbuilt microphone and the radio worked fine on SSB. This confirmed my thoughts – a fault in the microphone itself.

I took out the screws on the microphone and separated the two halves. I examined the circuit board and hunted on the internet for a circuit diagram. Gerard VK2IO sent me a copy of MH3 circuit that was no longer on the Elecraft page – he had downloaded it a while ago when he had an issue with his MH3, described on his blog.

Out with the multimeter. I checked voltages with the MH3 plugged into the radio. The voltage across the electret element was only 0.4 V, when it should have been at least 3 V. I disconnected the connector from the element and the voltage at the pcb side of the connector was fine. My suspicions were confirmed – probably a blown FET in the electret element.

I submitted a query to Elecraft support. A response a couple of days later indicated that they did not repair or service the MH3 microphone and that I could purchase a new microphone for US$69 plus postage.

In the interim, I had started hunting through the various boxes that make up my “Junk Box”. I could not find an elecret microphone element, although I was sure that I had some. I needed some other components and so ordered them plus two elements from RS Australia. Once ordered, the invoice indicated nil stock in Australia and they would take a week to arrive….. I was prepared to wait. I could have tried the electronics parts outlet in Traralgon if I was in a hurry, but they charged a significant premium over items carried by a well known supplier for which they are a “stockist”.

Whilst waiting the delivery, I received an email which meant that I would need to travel to Melbourne. I checked the Rockby website to find a suitable electret element on special for only 20 cents! Even with the minimum purchase quantity of 20 units, I placed an order, indicating that I would pick up the order in a couple of days.

After the trip to Melbourne, I revisited the microphone. I took the element out of its mount. Next was to carefully desolder the SMD capacitor which sat across the element terminals and remove the connecting wires. I took a new element and soldered the capacitor in place and then the connecting wires. I then placed the new element in position and checked voltages when connected to the radio. All looked good, so I tried the microphone as it was – just the pcb in place and no back on the microphone – a little fiddly! RF was produced, so I reassembled the microphone.

I again checked the microphone was working correctly – all OK!

The RS ordered elements arrived several days later.

I now have a working MH3 plus many spare elecret elements, now stored in a labelled drawer of a component storage drawer cabinet. I still need to use the microphone on air, but do not anticipate any significant issues.

Apologies – I neglected to take any photos of the disassembled microphone.

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An interesting day at Mount Buffalo National Park

Tuesday 31 December 2019

The news on Tuesday morning included reports of an RFS truck having been flipped by an intense wind event. The crew had been fighting the fire near Jingellic. Tragically, one fire fighter in the truck was killed and two injured. The Jingellic/Walwa fires had increased in size and were forecast to run as winds in the area intensified during the day. During the previous evening I had decided that venturing to the east of Wodonga would be foolhardy.

The weather forecast for Bright looked acceptable. Thunderstorm warnings for the northeast district had been cancelled. The weather forecast looked good for the morning, with the possibility of thunderstorms developing later in the day. I checked the VicEmergency, VicRoads and Parks Victoria websites before deciding to head out to Mount Buffalo. There were no warnings for the area to which I intended to travel. The Fire Danger for the area was “Very High” after a total Fire Ban the day before. I noted that a fire was located at Ovens, listed as small and under control.

When travelling, I usually listen to ABC Local radio and will thus hear reports of any changes in conditions and new or updated warnings.

I assessed as reasonable the conditions and weather forecast for that area. I had noted warnings to avoid venturing into the more remote heavily forested areas. Some might suggest otherwise, but my assessment was that the risks were only low for my planned activities in the area to which I was heading.

I headed off to Myrtleford and then Ovens. The small fire on the southeast side of Ovens was out and a CFA crew was conducting blacking out operations. The fire was between the main road and the Rail Trail. One suspects that it may have been started by someone throwing a live cigarette butt out of a vehicle window, given the location. I continued on to Porepunkah and around to the entrance to the Mount Buffalo National Park. I checked the sign messages at the Park entrance and continued on. The climb was the usual steady winding climb to the Plateau, watching for traffic and passing cyclists only when it was safe to do so.

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

I parked in the car park at the end of the road and loaded up the pack for the climb to the top. It was a steady climb up the track and I encountered a young family as we climbed. At the summit, I started setting up the station, strapping a small squid pole to the guard rail at 45 degrees. I then attached the centre of my link dipole to the pole, unwound one half of the dipole and lowered that end over the edge of the granite tor. The two young girls were very interested in what I was doing. I explained what was happening at each stage. I unwound the second half of the dipole enough to extend the squid pole, then strung the dipole out back along the guard rail and tied it off on the guard rail in a corner such that the antenna was just out of reach of other visitors to the summit – there is not a lot of room on top. I then pulled out the battery and radio bag and assembled the rest of the station. The two girls were fascinated, asking “What is that?” pointing at my paddle. The elder sister recognised the microphone…. I chatted with them as I assembled the radio and said that they could hopefully hear someone once I was operating.

I spotted for 7.090 MHz SSB and was soon calling. Several calls yielded no responses. At that point, the wind started to become stronger and a darker cloud was approaching from the NW. I was sitting on the “ground” – the flat top of the tor – with the KX2 sitting on my right leg. I felt a gentle zap, followed by several more. I quickly assessed this as being caused by static electricity. I quickly disconnected the antenna, placing the end of the coax adjacent to the steel pole which supports the viewing compass in the middle of the platform area. The frequency of discharges increased, with the coax connector a very small distance (perhaps a millimetre) from the steel post. I quickly disassembled the radio and battery and started to lift the up the dipole wire hanging over the edge. I then went to wind in the other half of the dipole. As I was packing the gear back into the rucksack, I could the guard rail “singing” with static discharge, with the cloud now above us and the wind speed higher. It was obvious that one should retreat from the summit platform. As I was packing up, Allen VK3ARH called on the mobile, explaining that he was about to head to Mount Warrenheip. I explained the situation at my location and that I would set up again lower down.

I climbed back down the access track to a point near the start of the guard rails on the approach. I assessed this location as still being inside the Activation Zone. The grey cloud had moved away to the east and the wind had dropped. There were no more grey clouds to the west, so I reassembled the station.

I again spotted, this time on 40 m CW, and started calling. After a few calls, I heard Gerard VK2IO call. Gerard did not respond to my two replies and he then came back on air calling Allen VK3ARH on Mount Warrenheip VK3/VC-019. I could not hear Allen, so I decided to move to 20 m CW to try to gain some contacts.

I soon had John ZL1BYZ, Gerard VK2IO, John VK4TJ and Andrei ZL1TM in the log. I moved to 40 m SSB and started calling, but noticed that I was not producing any RF according to the metering on the radio. I did not know the cause. I tried altering the Microphone Gain setting without any effect. Was the fault with the microphone or with the radio? A conundrum to be further investigated when I get home. I then saw a spot for Allen on 80 m CW. I sent an SMS to explain that I did not have much room to string out the 80 m extensions on the antenna and then changed the radio to Allen’s frequency. I could hear Allen, so sent another SMS saying that I would try to make contact using the 40 m antenna. I hit the Tune button after moving off Allen’s frequency, retuned to Allen and called when he finished a CQ call. Allen was soon in the log. Over the several previous minutes low thunder off to the south west had started and was getting a little louder. I had five contacts, so the summit was qualified. I decided that the only option was to pack up and return to the car. With the thunderstorm activity having developed earlier than the forecast predicted, I decided against activating The Horn – the risk profile had changed significantly.

Once back at the car, I stowed the pack and moved the car about 100 m further down the car park to park again, but with the car and the whip antenna clear of the vegetation. My plan was to operate using the mobile station, hoping to make at least five more contacts and thus give me at least 10 contacts for the Park activation and thus qualify the Park for VKFF. Just after I posted a Spot, I heard someone yell out about a fire. I jumped out of the car and started walking towards the person. I also started looking in the App folder on my phone for the Emergency+ app to contact 000. The app activates the GPS in the phone, displays your location and will call 000. I had only recently purchased a new phone, all the apps were grouped together and I had not yet rearranged the apps onto separate screens. Of course, I could not see the app as I was walking the 50 m to where the man was standing. At about 10 m away, I simply said to the man to dial 000. I stood next to him as he made contact, helping with his descriptions of the fire location: my guess was around 500 m to the west, whilst he initially told the operator 200 m away. Once the call was complete, I returned to the car and started heading down the road. I had decided to try calling again from further north within the Park on my way out to Porepunkah.


Smoke from the new fire on the southern flank of Mt Buffalo Plateau

I travelled out along Mount Buffalo Tourist Road, stopping at a couple of places to advise people of the new fire to the south. As I approached the entrance to the Dingo Dell Day Visitor Area, a Forest Fire Management (FFM) vehicle came out from the entrance road. I stopped and waved him out. I continued on to the Park Office, but no one was around. I saw another FFM vehicle near the Buffalo Chalet Road entrance and shortly after three CFA vehicles heading south.

I travelled out to the car park at Mackeys Lookout and stopped. I again spotted myself and was soon working stations. I worked six stations on 40 m SSB, followed by Geoff VK3SQ and John VK2YW on 80 m SSB. They had both called me on 40 m, but could not hear me. Just as I spotted on 80 m, a spot came through indicating I was not being heard in VK4. After calling a few more times on 80 m, I returned to 40 m SSB and worked Scott VK4CZ. Each band changed required me to jump out of the car and to change the tap on the multiband mobile whip, so took a couple of minutes. Several more CQ calls were made without any responses. I stopped calling and announced that I was closing before finally sitting back to eat a late lunch.

As I was having lunch, I heard the phone sound the kookaburra sound. I checked ParksnPeaks to see that Ron VK3AFW was activating Big Hill VK3/VE-087 on 80 m CW. I quickly jumped out to reconfigure the antenna for 80 m and a few minutes later had Ron in the log. I finally finished lunch and rearranged things in the cabin before resuming my trip down the mountain. I saw another CFA truck ascending the mountain road.

The trip down was uneventful, with only a small number of cyclists to negotiate. Almost at the gate, I saw a lone car driving up and shortly after could see the entrance gate, with Road Closed signs across the entrance. I believe that the single car I had seen had driven around the signs, ignoring them.

The trip from Porepunkah back to Wodonga was uneventful. CFA vehicles were still on site at the Ovens fire, perhaps undertaking investigations as to the cause of the fire. I stopped off in Beechworth for a chat and a drink with Geoff VK3SQ as a break in the journey back to base.

It was a very interesting day to say the least. Whilst some may have considered undertaking an activation when there were fires raging elsewhere as unwise, my assessment of the risks was validated by a relatively uneventful day. Yes, the weather changed and I responded accordingly. Apart from the brief period when the cold front passed, the wind was mild for most of the day. Thunderstorms developed earlier than predicted. Even the very small fire started about a kilometre away due to lightning did not change the risks significantly, it simply reinforced the decision that I had already made to abandon a possible activation of The Hump.

I arrived back in Wodonga a little before 1800 local time.

During the afternoon, several other small fires were started by dry lightning in the Victorian Alps. By the time I had arrived back in Wodonga, emergency Alerts were advising people to avoid the Victoria Alps and the upper reaches of the valleys of the King, Ovens and Kiewa Rivers. Fires had started near the Bluff and Howitt Plains. By mid-evening, the warnings were to avoid the entire Apline National Park and nearby areas.

My apologies go to all chasers/hunters for the uncertainties created by circumstances on the day which caused me to not be on air shortly after I had spotted on a few occasions.

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