Rosebud Hamfest 2016

Sunday 20 November 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mornington Peninsula National Park VKFF-0333

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall, a good day out.

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KRMNPA Weekend 2016

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

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

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

Friday 11 November

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

Saturday 12 November

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

Baw Baw National Park VKFF-0020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 13 November

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

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

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

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



GPS track of the scrub bash to the summit

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

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

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

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

Mount Taylor VK3/VG-142 474 m 1 point

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



Some of the towers at Mt Taylor

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

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

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

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

Monday 14 November

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


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

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

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

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Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-0556

Friday 14 October 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mount Ritchie summit area

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

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


Mount Ritchie summit area


Mount Ritchie summit area

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

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An October 2016 long weekend in the Snowy Mountains – 4

Monday 3 October 2016

I packed up my gear, loaded up the car and thanked Judy and Rod for their hospitality. I headed south to Bombala and stopped at the Bakery for a mid-morning snack. I also asked about the drinks that we had forgotten the day before. The person who served us on Sunday recalled our purchase and allowed me to take the same drinks at no charge, given that we had paid for them on Sunday. I headed along the Monaro Highway and turned east onto the Imlay Road, then headed north on Letts Mountain Road.

Letts Mountain VK2/SC-010 950 m 6 points

Letts Mountain Road passes through the AZ. I continued on a few hundred metres and found the access track to the comms. facilities on the summit. This track was rougher, but I managed to drive the Impreza to the top, but used low range for a bit more control. I set up using a stump to support the squid pole.

I set up on 40 m SSB, working 8 stations in only 11 minutes, an excellent rate after the past couple of days. I switched to 20 m and managed to post a spot, being rewarded with John ZL1BYZ. Further calls were not rewarded.

I tried to work Warren VK3BYD/2 on 40 m CW, but signals were weak between us. After trying a couple of different frequencies on 40 m, we agreed via the ‘phone to try 80 m, which meant that I needed to run out the 80 m antenna extensions. Warren quickly had a dogpile of callers on 80 m, having been picked up by the RBN, I think. I eventually worked him after all the others, gaining a S2S. Shortly after, I QSYed up the band to work Compton on the same summit on 80 m SSB. So another new Unique and another Complete.


The comms sites on Letts Mountain

After packing up, I headed back down to the Monaro Highway and to Cann River. After buying lunch at the Bakery, it was off to the east for a Park Activation.

Alfred National Park VKFF-0618

I had already qualified this Park for both VKFF and WWFF. I checked the ParksNPeaks KRMNPA wanted list before headed off for this weekend and saw that Alfred NP was needed. Given that the Park is one of several that are infrequently activated, I posted an alert noting a possible activation on Monday afternoon or perhaps Tuesday morning.

I found a spot to set up and started calling on 20 m – 14.310 as previously arranged with one of those wanting the Park. I had checked the HAP charts whilst in Cann River, and 20 m looked the best choice for a possible contact into VK6. After about 15 minutes of calling, I gave up. Nothing was heard at either end. I then swapped to 40 m – 7.090. Several minutes of calling finally yielded Scott VK7NWT. But then nothing….. After more than 50 minutes of calling, I gave up. I packed up and started the long drive home.

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An October 2016 long weekend in the Snowy Mountains – 3

Sunday 2 October

Sunday morning was a little slow to start, given the change to Daylight Savings Time plus Rod organised the loan of a spare tyre, given the previous day’s puncture. We travelled south to Bombala to buy lunch at the bakery. We had a wait whilst the sandwiches were made and we forgot to pick up the drinks that we had purchased from the counter. We did not remember until much later in the day.

We travelled down to Delegate and then to Mt Delegate.

Mt Delegate VK3/VG-034 1308 8 points plus bonus

I set up on 40 m, with propagation again poor. After spotting myself and calling several times, I managed a S2S with Compton VK2HRX/p on VK2/SM-033, with 41 reports both ways. Then conditions deteriorated further. I set up the 2 m Yagi for SSB and worked Rob VK1KW, Ian VK1BG and then Matt VK1MA with the Yagi vertically polarised to match Matt’s vertical antenna. We packed up and headed down to Bendoc.

We then took the Bendoc – Orbost Road to Gunmark Road, which we followed into Errinundra National Park.

Goonmirk Rocks VK3/VG-048 1208 m 8 points plus bonus

Follow Gunmark Road to the junction with Coast Range Road and the seasonally closed gate. We parked, had some lunch and headed up Goonmirk Rocks Road to the track leading the final few vertical metres to the summit. We activated at the track junction.


The start of Goonmirk Rocks Road

We had poor phone coverage at Goonmirk Rocks and 40 m propagation was still poor. Without a spot, I started calling on 7.090 for several minutes with no replies. Rod had wandered further along the road and found some coverage and called Ralph VK3WRE in Traralgon, asking him to listen on 2 m SSB. When Rod got back to me, I set up the 2 m Yagi and quickly heard the VK3RGI 2 m beacon at good strength. Repeated calls yielded no replies. After returning home, Ralph reported that I was audible to him, but we heard nothing of Ralph on the summit – it must have been the conditions and the height difference between Traralgon and the VK3RGI beacon at Carrajung. I eventually worked some stations on 40 m SSB, with a contact with Rod well down the road and outside the AZ on 2 m to qualify the summit.

Ten minutes walking saw us back at the car for the rest of lunch. We drove back out to Bendoc – Orbost Rd, south and then north to Bonang, then north to Delegate River. At East, we turned into Delegate River Road, then south on Mead Road and then into Cottonwood Range Road and then on to Cottonwood Range.

Cottonwood Range VK3/VG-057 1145 m 6 points

The summit of Cottonwood Range is covered in bush, with a road junction only a couple of metres below the actual summit. We used the road sign post to support the squid pole. I set up on 40 m. We had no phone coverage. I started calling on 7.090 with Paul VK5PAS coming straight back – conditions were finally a little better. Several others followed fairly quickly: Steve VK7CW, Warren ZL2AJ, Neil VK4HNS/p and Rick VK4RF/VK4HA. I forget to go to 20 m as I had intended. I ended up with six in the log, for a new Complete and Unique. We packed and head down Cottonwood Rd to the east, arriving at Old Bendoc Bonang Road, turning north to Bendoc. It was simply a case of travelling to Delegate and back to Nimmitabel.

About half way down from the summit, I received a text message from Allen VK3ARH saying can we try 2 m SSB? But we were a couple of kilometres down the track, so I replied advising that we were off the summit, with no coverage on the summit and heading back to Nimmitabel.

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An October 2016 long weekend in the Snowy Mountain – 2

Saturday 1 October

We were up reasonably early and headed towards Cooma, then took The Peak Road. Rod knows the landowners here.

The Peak VK2/SM-068 1230 m 8 points plus winter bonus

The wind was strong at the summit. We set up at the trig point. Rod was first on air, using a handheld 70 cm Yagi around 1.5 m long. I set up my lightweight 2 m Yagi, with the squid pole mast strapped to the trig. My first contact was into to Canberra on 2 m SSB, working Rob VK1KW and Matt VK1MT, followed by Graeme VK2FPQ, and Steve 2ZT near Newcastle. Rod also worked Gordon VK3EJ at Cobram. After checking what was happening with the group based at Adaminiby, we packed up and headed back to Nimmitabel for some coax adapters, and the new UTC day was still approaching. We then drove to Cooma for fuel. As we were leaving the service station, we saw Ken VK3KIM drive past. We headed out on Numerella Rd to Numerella, then north on Peak View Road. Rod’s “map memory” was poor and we missed a key corner. We finally found Anembo Rd and climb up into the real hills. Unfortunately we missed the Tumanang Trail junction. Rod did not have appropriate maps on board and I had left my laptop at Rod’s house. Rod knew something was “off”. We stopped and checked our position and found that we were about halfway between our intended target Tumanang VK2/SM-049 and Bald Mountain VK2/SM-052. With no maps on board, we continued along Slap Up Firetrail, arriving at Bald Mountain.

Bald Mountain VK2/SM-052 1469 m 8 points plus bonus VKFF-0212

On arrival, I saw Phil VK3BHR/2 operating 40 m SSB from the edge of the road with his home brew transceiver. Ron VK3AFW/2 was set up at the locked gate and operating 40 m CW. Ken VK3KIM/2 was working the team on Big Badja on 2m FM, with his daughter Chantelle watching proceedings. After the usual greetings, I had a quick look around and noted that Ron was just completing a S2S contact with Warren VK3BYD/2 on Big Badja on 40 m CW. I asked Ron if I could use his gear to work Warren and was promptly shown his homebrewed paddle. A quick S2S contact with Warren was completed. We then fired up the 23 cm FM radio to work S2S with Compton VK2HRX/p, Allen VK3ARH/2 and VK3HRA/2, which qualified the summit for me without having to set up any gear, simply fill in the log. Another new Unique and another Complete.

Everyone had qualified the summit, so we all packed up and head to the start of Badja Firetrail, where we waited to meet group coming back from Big Badja. We all stopped for a brief chat and some quick group photos and to discuss plans. Rod and I decide to look at the track to Dampier, with the next target to be Mt Cowangerong. The rest of the group from Bald Mountain headed to Big Badja, whilst the Big Badja group travelled to Bald Mountain.

Dampier VK2/ST-007 1244 m 8 points plus bonus VKFF-0138

From Cooma Road, head east on Curranbene Creek Road. At about 600 m in, you reach Curranbene Creek, with a ford to cross. We looked at the apparent depth and decided it was safe to cross. Depth was about 40-50 cm, with some steam coming off the exhaust system as we progressed. We headed along to Minuma Range Firetrail and on to the summit, where several 4WD vehicles were taking a break and enjoying the scenery.

I quickly set up on 40 m using the trig to hold the squid pole. First in the log was Allen VK3ARH/2 on Bald Mountain using the 2 m handheld. I then worked Compton (Bald Mtn), Ken and Ron (both on Big Badja) on 23 cm with Rod holding and pointing my 10-element 23 cm Yagi. The final S2S contacts were Warren on Bald Mtn. 40 m CW and Phil on Big Badja on 2 m FM. After ensuring that everyone had worked the other two summits and had the summit qualified, we all packed up and headed to the next target. Another new Unique and another Complete.


Rod VK2TWR on Dampier

We drove out to Cooma Rd then north to Captains Flat Road, then west to Cowangerong Firetrail and up to Mt Cowangerong.

Mt Cowangerong VK2/ST-001 1364 m 8 points plus bonus

I quickly set up on 40 m with little heard, even on CW. I heard VK7CW work Warren VK3BYD/2, who was very weak at our location. I set up the 2 m Yagi and worked the others on Dampier S2S via 2 m FM. Next in the log was Allen VK3ARH/2 on Middle Mountain followed by Warren VK3BYD/2 on 2 m CW on Dampier.

Again we packed up and headed back to Captains Flat Road. As we were descending the Firetrail, we punctured a tyre. After changing wheels, we realised that were running late, so we headed back to Nimmitabel via Queanbeyan.

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An October 2016 long weekend in the Snowy Mountains – 1

Friday 30 September 2016

AFL Grand Final Eve Public Holiday

I departed the Latrobe Valley around 0930. I opted to take relatively “back roads” to Stratford, thus avoiding the sites of roadworks on the Princes Highway. The drive along the highway to Bairnsdale was uneventful apart from a higher vehicle density. I stopped for fuel and then a brief visit to chat with Rob VK3EK. Most of the drive from Orbost through to Bombala was wet, with wind and rain. I stopped for lunch at the Bakery in Cann River and then drove up the Monaro Highway. The further north I went, the patches of blue sky were getting bigger. I stopped on the outskirts of Bombala to check the BaseCamp mapping software on my laptop for a possible SOTA summit to attempt, as I was aware that there are several to the east of town. Cathcart Trig looked to be the easiest to reach, even if it was a slightly longer drive. The main attraction was most of the approach would be on main roads, whereas the other nearby summits required navigating through forestry roads.

Cathcart Trig VK2/SM-090 999 m 6 points

From the Mount Darragh Road, head south along Cathcart Trig Road. I parked the car just past junction with Granite Rd, near the start of an old 4WD/forestry track heading east. About 100-150 metres along the track, an old branch can be seen just as the track starts to drop off. The start of this branch track is becoming overgrown with regrowth but is easily followed on foot. Through some regrowth the track heads up into a saddle just below summit. Someone with a 4WD could drive up to the saddle if you were not concerned with scratching the paintwork.


Cathcart Trig track

It is an easy climb from the saddle to the old trig, following the remnants of the access track and dodging fallen trees.


Cathcart Trig – almost packed up.

I set up on 40 m with the squid tied to a sapling. First contact was Steve VK7CW followed by Rick VK4RF/VK4HA and then Amanda VK3FQSO, all on 40 m. I set up my coaxial dipole for 2 m to work Rod VK2TWR on 2 m SSB. Rod could not hear me on 40 m due to the propagation conditions, but we made it on VHF

Another new Unique and another Complete.

I packed up and headed back to the car, and then drove to Rod VK2TWR’s home in Nimmitabel, where I would be based for the weekend.

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A pleasant spring day in Gippsland

Tuesday 20 September 2016

A few days earlier, I had an invitation to join Rik VK3EQ and Mitch VK3XDM on a proposed day visiting some Gippsland summits. It was my first opportunity to enjoy a day together with these two friends for quite some time, so I accepted.

I headed into Traralgon to meet Rik & Mitch beside the Highway. We then headed to Licola and on up the Licola-Jameson Road, parking near Conners Plain summit.

Connors Plain VK3/VT-022 1305 m 8 points

We set up on the summit plateau, using Mitch’s gear: a 40 m dipole and a 7 m squid pole. Before the HF gear was set up, I worked both Rik and Mitch from down the hill, outside the AZ. Phone coverage was marginal and 40 m propagation poor with no NVIS and some band noise. We found out later that a coronal hole was impacting the ionosphere. It took quite some time to gather the required 4 contacts to qualify the summit for each of the 3 operators. We preserved, although we could have stretched the rules, as among the 3 of us, we had 6 callsigns that could have been used.

The first HF contact was Gerard VK2io, followed by Paul VK5PAS and sometime later Nev VK3WG. Further calling yielded no responses. We tried both 80 m (using Rik’s KX3 plus tuner into the 40 m dipole) and 15 m without any calls. So I needed to work Mitch on 2 m FM after he had left the AZ to get my fourth contact. We were on the summit for almost an hour.

We headed back to South Road and then onto Mt Selma Road.

Mount Selma VK3/VT-013 1464 m 8 points

The road and track to Mt Selma were in reasonable condition after a couple of low-rain days with some wind to dry things out. There was plenty of evidence of the 4WDers with their mud tyres making a mess….

We set up a little way from the trig, not bothering to go the short distance along the narrow track. Gerard VK2IO was again first in the logs. We spent some time trying on 80 m to work Jim VK1AT/3 in a Park to our east. We could just hear him on 40 m SSB, but we could not here me. Nothing was heard on 80 m. I ended up with 7 callsigns in the log, without having to work Rik or Mitch.

We packed up and headed back to South Road and on to the next summit.

Mount Useful VK3/VT-016 1434 m 8 points

We passed the spot where my Forester died last year and on to Mt Useful. We set up near the southern end of the summit clearing, to give some space between us and the gear on the summit. Paul VK5PAS was first in the log, followed 4 minutes later by Gerard VK2IO, then Eric VK7EK a few minutes later. Conditions on 40 m had deteriorated – it was hard work with few replies.


View east from Mount Useful

I called on the local Latrobe Valley 2 m FM chat frequency to work Michael VK3ALZ/m. Mitch was still calling on 40 m with no replies. I packed my gear and headed down the access track in case Mitch or Rik needed a final contact to qualify the summit. Our chatting on 146.5 MHz stirred up another local, Brian VK3BBB, so Mitch and Rik got the required fourth contact. Mitch picked me up on his way off the summit. We continued south, then headed west on Williamson Spur Track.

VK3/VT-034 Unnamed summit 1019 m 6 points

This SOTA summit is likely to move further west along the ridge system, as I found a slightly higher spot than the current location. It is likely to be renamed Williamson Spur or similar when the next VK3 update occurs.

We again set up using Mitch’s gear. Gerard VK2IO was again the first in the log, followed by Rick VK4RF with a marginal signal – we could not confirm a contact with VK4HA due to the conditions.

We managed to raise Brian VK3BBB on 146.5 FM for a third contact. Early on, we could hear Paul VK5PAS, but he could not hear us due to an electrical storm near Adelaide. We eventually got a fourth contact each, then packed up and headed back to Traralgon.

There were plenty of topics discussed during the day, including other summits in the nearby hills. We also discussed options for adding 80 m extensions and perhaps links for 20 m into Mitch’s antenna.

The weather was good all day, although the breeze was brisk at times. It was a great day out – thanks for the invitation guys. I look forward to the next one.

So a good day: 4 summits activated, with a total of 39 activator points thanks to the seasonal bonus points.

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2016 Shepparton Hamfest weekend

The Shepparton and District Amateur Radio Club Hamfest was scheduled for Sunday 11 September, presenting an opportunity for a brief visit to family in Wodonga and a planned return home after the Hamfest. But plans changed…

I left home on Friday morning and headed to Healesville, then Yea and on to Benalla. By time I reached Yea, the forecast cold front and associated rain had arrived. I grabbed some lunch in Yea and continued to Benalla to refuel the car. I then arranged to meet Warren VK3BYD in Wangaratta mid-afternoon, at the golden arches place.

Warren had a coffee whilst a long chat progressed about all sorts of topics around SOTA. We eventually headed back to the vehicles and Warren took possession of a small 23 cm Yagi that was surplus to my requirements, plus some coax cable. We then parted ways and headed on up to Wodonga.

Saturday 10 September 2016

I did some shopping in the morning, driving Mum around for some goodies plus a visit to Jaycar for me. After lunch, the weather was looking reasonable, so I decided to head out to activate a summit and Park.

Jarvis Creek Plateau VK3/VE-208 694 m 2 points &
Jarvis Creek Plateau Regional Park VKFF-0969

I had last activated this summit and Park in late October 2015. Whilst that activation generated some 27 contacts, I needed more contacts to qualify the Park for WWFF with its quota of 44. So I headed out past Tallangatta and approached the Park via Jarvis Creek Road and Plateau Road. I found a high spot clearly inside the Activation Zone (AZ) and set up not far from the track.

It is expected that the summit location will change in the next VK3 SOTA update: There are two areas south of the current listed location which show 700 m contours, so the summit should also change to 4 points.

You can find very little information about Jarvis Creek Plateau Regional Park on the Parks Victoria website, but they have 3 photos showing the typical vegetation and a great view from the plateau.

I was set up and on air just prior to 05:00 UTC, with Gerard VK2IO the first contact in the log on 40 m SSB. I had marginal ‘phone coverage at my location, so data access was limited. I worked 31 stations on 40 m SSB, including Warren VK3BYD and Allen VK3ARH who needed the summit to each make a new Complete, both having Activated the summit during the FYBO weekend in late June. I switched to 20 m at around 05:45 UTC and worked John VK6NU, Phil VK6ADF and Peter VK6RZ in a short time, followed by John ZL1BYZ and Albert S58AL. Further calls yield no further responses, so I decided to pack up and head back to Wodonga.

Sunday 11 September

An early start in reasonable weather had me well down the highway with plenty of time to make the 1000 local start time for the Hamfest. I was aware that Warren VK3BYD was planning to Activate The Horn and The Hump on the Mount Buffalo plateau. I decided to divert to Dookie.

Mount Major VK3/VU-011 377 m 1 point

I had visited this summit on my last visit to the SADARC Hamfest a couple of years ago. I arrived at the car park to find a few mountain bike riders preparing to head up the hill, loading up the trailer and then jumping into the minibus. I parked and spoke to the person in charge, who indicated that it was fine for me to drive up – just to be alert for descending riders, especially on my return. I set up using a post near the trig point, hoping that the antenna legs would be out of the way of the riders.

Switching on the radio, I had loud signals from Marija VK5FMAZ/p in Belair National Park near Adelaide. I waited for a chance to call in, making contact at 2340 UTC. John VK5BJE/p and Paul VK5PAS/p were nearby and wanted the single SOTA point. I checked the SOTAwatch site and saw that Warren was on air, so dropped down to work him on 40 m CW for a S2S, then moved up to 7.085 and spotted myself, working 7 stations before UTC rollover. Most of the stations were a reasonable distance away, so NVIS was not working on 40 m. After rollover, I worked 6 stations before Warren called me on CW for a cross-mode S2S contact – thanks Warren! I guess that I could have changed to CW, but the contact was completed. I worked the gang over at Belair NP again, followed by Al VK1RX/p on Boboyan Divide for another S2S, this time on 80 m. I went back to 40 m, and managed to catch Andrew VK1DA/2 on VK2/ST-053 for another S2S at 0030 UTC. I decided to pack up and head on to Shepparton.

SADARC Hamfest

After a short chat with the guys at the door, I was almost immediately greeted for a longish chat. Several minutes later I managed to catch up with Peter VK3FPSR. He advised that the Club had a sales table, so I dashed back to the car to grab a box with an FV-107 which had been gathering dust at home for several years. After getting it set up on the sales table, I started working my way around the tables. Most gems had long been snapped up, but it was good catching up with lots of people.

I visited Dave and Claureen at the TTS Systems table, paying for and picking up a Spiderbeam 12 m fibreglass pole and accessories. More looking, a coffee and many more chats were had before the proceedings started to wind down after the raffle prizes were drawn. I was approached by an amateur and we haggled somewhat over the price of the VFO. I sold it, so at least offset the cost of the new pole. After that deal was completed, it was time to head off to find some food, fuel the car and head to the next stop.

Shepparton Regional Park VKFF-0976

I headed south on the Murray Valley Highway to Kialla, turning west into Raftery Road and then onto Rafterys Track, entering the Raftery Bend section of the Park. The dirt Rafterys Track had lots of potholes filled with water and some mud – clearly some visitors like making mud with their 4WD vehicles. I found a spot a few hundred metres into the Park which gave a little distance from any power lines and set up the 80/40 dipole with my 7 m squid pole to support it. I sat in the car, using the IC-706MkIIG set at about 30 W.


The Park sign just off the entrance.

First in the log for a Park to Park was Warren VK3BYD/p on The Hump VK3/VE-014 for a SOTA chase as a bonus, 40 m CW. It was then to SSB to work Rob VK4AAC/3 a few kilometres away in Lower Goulburn National Park for another Park to Park (P2P). I was getting some RF feedback, so I turned the power down to 10 W. I am not sure why I was getting the feedback, having used a similar configuration in the past. Propagation was improved compared to the morning. I worked Marija, Paul and John in Belair NP for P2P contacts, and several more as the afternoon progressed. I spent time calling on 15 m and 20 m SSB after spotting myself on ParksNPeaks, with no responses. So back to 40 m, with slow progress. I eventually made it to a total of 48 contacts – Park qualified!

Notable contacts, all SSB except VK3BYD/p:

VK3BYD/p CW VK3/VE-014 in VKFF-0339
VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-0741
VK5FMAZ/p in VKFF-0022
VK5BJE/p in VKFF-0022
VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0022
VK1RX/p on VK1/AC-021 in VKFF-0377
Nick VK3ANL/4 on VK4/SE-117
VK1DI/p in VKFF-0852
VK5KLV/p in VKFF-0812
Steve VK2LAD in VKFF-0547
VK2YK/p in VKFF-1349
Tony VK7LTD/p in VKFF-1144
Marcus VK5WTF/p in VKFF-0933

It was a matter of packing up and heading back to Wodonga for another night.

Monday 12 September

A reasonable start time, but had to pack the car, then head off to meet Warren VK3BYD. Warren had sent a message on Friday evening that he needed to visit a summit on private land for work on Monday morning – an opportunity too good to miss.

Mount Lady Franklin VK3/VE-224 544 m 2 points

Access to this summit is via a reasonable track crossing land owned by 2 separate landholders. There are several communications installations on the top of the hill. I jumped into Warren’s vehicle after he locked the gate. At the top he parked close to his work site and I wandered about 100 m to the east to set up just off the summit proper.


Looking up to Mt Lady Franklin from the access track.

I was set up and running not long after the start of the UTC day, with Gerard VK2IO first in the log. Despite the poor propagation (no NVIS on 40 m), the summit was qualified in 6 minutes. I tried 20 m, working Rick VK4RF/VK4HA again. Back on 40 m, it was slow progress. Thanks to some liaison, I worked Andrew VK2UH on CW – 519 reports both ways – to make the contact without having to go to 80 m. I could hear Andrew on SSB, but he could not hear me. I worked a few more, including Phil VK2JDL/p on VK2/ST-001 for a S2S. I then tried out the new 80 m extensions to the link dipole for the first time, working Rod VK2TWR who was not audible on 40 m SSB. Back to 40 m to work Col VK3LED, then Warren reappeared, having completed his tasks. I started to pack up and Warren drove down the hill until outside the AZ and made the final contact on 2 m FM, giving him a Complete. The activation also made the summit Complete for me.


View towards Albury from the operating site, with the Murray River in flood.

We headed back down the hill to my car and each headed our own way. Thanks for the opportunity Warren!

For me, it was down the road and onto the Hume Highway for the start of the long drive home. The weather deteriorated, so no more radio activity happened.

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VK1 Winter QSO Party 2016

The VK1 SOTA enthusiasts organised a Winter QSO Party for Sunday 8 August, with operators heading out to many summits in the ACT and nearby NSW regions. SOTA operators from other states also posted Alerts of their plans to attempt to join in the fun, with the regular SOTA Activators hoping to improve their Summit to Summit (S2S) scores.

I did not post any Alerts, not deciding on my plans until first thing Sunday morning. I headed to Nilma, Neerim South and then towards Powelltown, then drove up Limberlost Road. The descent into the upper Latrobe River Valley was scenic, with some fog sitting down in the valley. The gravel surface on Limberlost Road was generally very good, with some small potholes to dodge. There was one spot with a tree across the road, but you could dodge the end of the tree by slowing and negotiating the debris on the wide road verge.

At 9 kilometres up from C425 (Yarra Junction – Noojee Road), there is the 9 km marker, the turn off to Outlook Track and the start of the walking track to my first summit for the day.

The morning was quite cool, but the overcast sky looked benign.

Spion Kopje VK3/VT-040 896 m 4 points

Although this summit is within easy reach. I had not visited it previously, so this would be a new Unique for me as an Activator. I loaded up my gear and started the climb up the track, which is rather overgrown. The lower section is easy to follow, by watch for your feet catching on the long leaves. Watch for the pink or blue tapes marking the route. The initial section is an old 4WD track which then disappears. You then start climbing upwards on steeper rocky ground and skit some large granite outcrops, eventually reaching the top, near where there used to be a firewatch tower.

I set up in the area with the large flat rocky outcrops. I used a young eucalypt sapling to hold the squid pole and deployed the new doublet antenna. This was connected to a LDG Z-817 tuner, then to the FT-817.

First station heard was Dave VK4DD/p on VK4/SE-097 on 40 m SSB, but I could not raise him initially. I gave up for the moment and swapped to 80 m SSB, working Andrew VK1AD and VK1VIC, both on VK1/AC-032 at around 2319Z. But the rig was show low output power and a “Hi SWR” warning – something was not right. I really should have tried the antenna at home before taking it to the field!

I lowered the squid pole and deployed the normal link dipole, leaving the doublet in place so that it was not a trip hazard – it could be packed up when I was finished.

Back on air, I worked Dave VK4DD/p. I check my phone and went to 40 m CW, for a S2S with Tony VK3CAT/p on VK3/VN-012. I then found Paul VK5PAS/p and Marija VK5FMAZ/p on Black Bullock Hill VK5/SE-016 on 40 m SSB. A string of Chasers then called me. I completed a tough contact with Nick VK3ANL/p on VK3/VC-030 just before UTC rollover, and then made another contact just after the first, now in the new UTC day.

I worked Paul VK5PAS/p, Ron VK3AFW/p, Ken VK3KIM/p and Tony VK3CAT/p (this time on SSB) again after rollover. I then managed Paul VK3HN/p0 on VK3/VC-006 after several minutes of looking around and calling. I had given up on 80 m, so kept calling on 40 m, but band conditions were terrible all day due to the ionospheric conditions.

So I missed most of the VK1, VK2 and VK3 stations that were out that were not within ground-wave distance – such is life.

I did make one final S2S contact: Kyle ZL2KGF/p on ZL1/TN-006 on 20 m SSB.

I gave up at around 0045Z, packing up and heading down to the car. I had a new Unique and a new Complete, so I was reasonably happy with the outing.

I retraced my route to Neerim Junction and decided to head off toward another summit, this one would involve a longer walk!

At Neerim, head west on Elton Road, cross the Tarago River at the narrow bridge, then follow Tarago Road to the road junction with Bunyip Road, Proposch Road and Forest Road. There is a “picnic area” just to the east of the road junction which has plenty of area to safely park. The start of Gentle Annie Track is just west of the junction.

Gentle Anne VK3/VT-078 670 m 2 points
Bunyip State Park VKFF-0753

OzTopo shows the summit height as 686 m, a little higher than the SOTA database, and the 2005 VicMaps 1:25k sheet shows the summit as above 680 m. The climb starts at the junction of Bunyip Road and Gentle Annie Track at around 460 m.

Gentle Annie Track is subject to Winter Seasonal Road Closure, but it looked as if someone had broken and removed the lock and chain – the gate was open. I knew that the track was steep and rutted, so I did not even consider attempting to drive up, even if I had a solid 4WD vehicle instead of the little Impreza!

The surface was slippery in many places, with evidence of recent attempts to climb the track in 4WD vehicles and motorcycles. There were portions of the track very churned up, with many deep ruts and holes.

I took the climb slow and steady, eventually reaching the summit at around 0300Z.

I looked around for an operating spot, settling in a rough opening just south of the summit on the south side of the track, which placed me just inside Bunyip State Park VKFF-0753.

I had good signal strength on the phone, but it displayed “Not connects” and “Emergency Calls Only” messages. It seemed strange. With no connectivity, I could not spot or check spots for others! I still had no connectivity much later in the day when I reached home, when I did a phone restart – problem fixed. Better remember that for in the future!

First in the log was Rick VK4RF/VK4HA on 40 m SSB, but Rick did not hear my request for a spot. Rick was followed by Ron VK3AFW/p and Ken VK3KIM/p, this time on Mt Strickland VK3/VN-030. It was slow going, with lots of calls with few replies. I worked Bob VK5AFZ/p in VKFF-0115 and later John VK5BJE/p in VKFF-0873. Finally Steve VK7CW was able to post a spot for me at around 0355Z, which shortly after resulted in a weak contact with Gerard VK2IO/m in VKFF-1375.

I gave up at around 0415Z, with 18 contacts in the log. Another Unique SOTA summit and a new Complete, plus a Park qualified for VKFF.

The descent to the car was much quicker, with the aid of gravity, but one still needed to take it carefully due to the slippery steep surface.

I retraced my route to Neerim. I stopped at the Bakery at Neerim South for a very late lunch, and then headed for home.

The afternoon had been warm for this time of year. It was a good day out with some exercise and some radio fun. Two new Activator Uniques and two new Completes, so a successful day.

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