SA Parks Award 5th Anniversary weekend 2018 Day 2

Sunday 11 March 2018

Whilst driving home the previous evening, I considered options for Sunday: Chase from home or head out and activate a Park or 2? I decided on the latter option.

I was away from home a little after 0830 local time and headed to Yinnar, Mirboo North, Leongatha, Inverloch, Wonthaggi and Dalyston and on towards Kilcunda. I then headed along Mouth of Powlett River Road to park the car next to the bridge across the river. I then walked across the bridge and a short distance (about 100 m) to enter the target Park.

Kilcunda Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2125

This is one of the Parks added in early August 2017 and had not yet been activated. Access is straightforward: take Mouth of Powlett River Rd from the Bass Highway B460, between Kilcunda and Dalyston. There is a small parking area on the west side of the river on the north side of the road. Walk across the bridge and then cross about 30-40 m of ground to the boundary fence of the reserve. There is more parking located further along, closer to the beach, but would involve a longer walk to access the reserve.


Google satellite view of area near VKFF-2125

The Reserve is part of a floodplain, covered with marsh species. The boundary fence on the southern boundary is decaying and easily stepped across. There are no signs at all. I decided to set up at a corner post on the southern boundary, using the post to support the SOTA lightweight squid pole. I strung out the dipole legs inside the Reserve boundary and had carried the folding chair in with me. I set up my typical SOTA station with the chair facing south, so that I had some protection from the sun – the Reserve is devoid of any trees or shrubs more than about 20 cm high.


Looking north across the Reserve

I was set up just on 2300 UTC (Saturday) and saw a SOTA spot for 20 m, so quickly reconfigured the antenna to 20 m and worked Warren ZL2AJ on ZL1/WK-151. I then swapped the antenna back to 40 m and heard Paul VK5PAS/p with a large dogpile of chasers. I tried calling a couple of times and then found a clear frequency and spotted myself on ParksnPeaks. A string of Hunters started calling. After about 10 minutes and 9 contacts, I listened up on the frequency where Paul had been and was rewarded with a P2P with Marija VK5FMAZ/p in VKFF-1124, followed immediately by Paul VK5PAS/p. I again changed frequency down the band to work 2 more Hunters. I then went to 20 m SSB to work 4 callsigns before swapping back to 40 m to work some other Activators that had been spotted. I found a clear frequency and started calling, working more P2P and other Hunters, being able to now rework stations worked earlier as we were now in the new UTC day. There was more jumping around in frequency to Hunt other Activators, plus I tried 80 m SSB and worked 5 more stations.

Back on 40 for the final few contacts to achieve the required 44. I closed down the station a little after 0105 UTC, with 51 contacts in the log. The tally included 16 P2P contacts with stations in 6 different Parks.

I packed up and walked back to the car, then headed back to the Bass Highway and back to Wonthaggi, then south to the next target.

Wonthaggi Heathlands Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2235


Looking into the Reserve

This was another of the Parks added in August 2017 and had not as yet been activated. Easiest access is at the end of Chisholm Road where there is a small turn around and car park. I parked in a spot on the east side in a manner which had the rear of the vehicle just inside the reserve boundary according to the CAPAD database. I set up a squid pole using a convenient fence post and strung out the link dipole.

First in the log was Mark VK4SMA/p in VKFF-0475 on 40 m SSB. The next 6 contacts were also P2P. After about 30 minutes, I swapped to 20 m and gained 9 callsigns, then back to 40 m for a P2P. Then down to 80 m for 6 callsigns and then back to 40 m. replies to calls were becoming less frequent as the afternoon progressed, but by 0420 UTC I had a total of 52 contacts in the log, including a total of 20 P2P. I was aware that Warren VK3BYD would be on a summit sometime soon, so I continued calling and then listening for Warren. I eventually worked Warren on 80 m CW. I waited and listened for Peter VK3TKK/p in another new Park, but heard nothing from him. I ended up giving up and packed up.

Two first Activations were in the bag/log after a pleasant day out in the natural environment, so I was happy. I had considered activating a third Park, but I was feeling tired and band conditions had been more difficult in the afternoon, so I simply headed for home.

Thanks to all the Hunters who worked me.

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SA Parks Award 5th Anniversary weekend 2018 – Day 1

The weekend of 10 & 11 March was the designated weekend to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the South Australia National Parks and Conservation Parks Award. It also coincided with a long weekend in Victoria as well as a planned S2S activity planned for Saturday evening local time in eastern Australia.

I had considered if I might make a trip west and activate some SA Parks, but a number of commitments popped up which prevented the trip.

I chased from home on Friday and Saturday morning, but decided to head out early on Saturday afternoon to pick up some more contacts from a Park first activated last year.

Saturday 10 March 2018

I left home a little after 1300 and headed to Cowarr and then towards Seaton. I then headed east(ish) toward Heyfield to around 521 Heyfield-Seaton Rd Seaton and into the Reserve via a track leading to a Temporary Beekeeping Site just inside the Reserve.

Glenmaggie Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2094

The clearing where I set up the station is visible in the Google satellite views, clearly inside the boundary of the Reserve. Once I pulled up, I spotted a sign indicating it is a Temporary Beekeeping Site. I set up by tossing a line over a tree branch and had the dipole centre at about 8 m. I used the tray at the rear of the Ranger as an operating table and used a folding camp chair, making for comfortable operating. I already had around 20 contacts from this reference, so only needed another 24 plus a few for safety to get to the target of 44.


Google satellite image with operating site visible

On switching on the radio, I heard a strong signal on 7.145 MHz – Tony VK3XV/5 in a Park! I waited for a chance to call and so started with a P2P contact. I then did a quick tune around the band to see who else was on and worked VI2WG50 celebrating 50 years for the Wagga Wagga ARC and then Lesley VK5LOL/2 in Kosciusko National Park. Lesley was ready for a break and offered the frequency to me. Thanks Lesley! Over the next 60 minutes I worked another 51 stations without need to move frequency. I then moved up to work Paul and Marija for P2P contacts, and then back to 7.150 for one final contact. 57 stations in the log after less than 90 minutes in the Reserve, including the time to set up and pack up.

Park to Park contacts:
VK3XV/5 in VKFF-1065
VK5LOL/p in VKFF-0269
VK2IO/p in VKFF-0232
VK5YX/2 in VKFF-0269
VK1DI/p in VKFF-0992
VK3DAC/p in VKFF-0763
VK5PAS/p & VK5FMAZ/p, both in VKFF-1047

I packed up and headed in to Heyfield and then out towards Glenmaggie. I was interested in check any signage associated with Glenmaggie Regional Park VKFF-1877. Whilst I did not check all sections of the Park, I saw very few signs – not helpful for future activators! The most obvious signs were associated with the Blores Hill Mountain Bike Park, which is part of the greater Regional Park.

I headed north and navigated around to the Ben Cruachan Natural Features and Scenic Reserve and then up to the end of Ben Cruachan Road. The section of the road beyond Avon Track is definitely 4WD only.

Ben Cruachan VK3/VT-042 827 m 6 points

This is a relatively rarely activated summit, with only 2 previous activations: Wayne VK3WAM in 2013 and myself in 2017. The location is very quiet from an RF noise perspective, yet has mobile phone coverage with Telstra. At the end of the access road there is a fence and a rustic picnic table, making for a good place to set up the RF gear. I again tossed a line over a tree branch, getting the dipole centre up at around 9 m. I strung the dipole out in a direction which should have favoured Europe for the S2S event that had already begun.

I looked at SOTAwatch and quickly worked Wade VK1MIC/p on VK1/AC-040., followed quickly by Bernard VK2IB/3 on VK3/VE-021. I then did some listening around on the bands and next in the log was Yuki JF1NDT/1 on JA/YN-065 on 17 m CW. I then set the antenna for 20 m and worked John VK6NU/p on VK6/SW-039. I was then busily listening around 20 m on both CW and SSB before I worked Wynne ZL1ATH on ZL1/WL-153. The summit was now qualified with only S2S contacts, so I was happy. Next were a couple of VK6 stations followed by Andrew ZL3CC on ZL3/CB-806. I dropped down the band and managed to work Jany LZ1IGT/p on LZ/RO-144 on CW. We had exchanged reports and I was attempting to send my reference when the iambic paddle started playing up – one of the mounting screws for a standoff had become so loose that the standoff was bending when a paddle was pressed, so I had no real control. Jany sent 73, so I gave up on CW and returned to the SSB end of the band.

Next was Warren ZL2AJ on ZL1/WK-195 followed by Csaba YO6PIB/p on YO/EC-426. After a few more Chasers, I worked Kyle ZL2KGF on ZL1/TN-002. I listened around the 20 m and tried calling several EU stations, but had no replies. Last in the log was Greg VK8GM. I considered calling on 40 m, but the sun was low in the sky and I decided to pack up and get down the worst of the track whilst there was still some daylight.

Screenshot-2018-3-14 VK EU S2S event – March 10, 2018

A screenshot showing S2S contacts during the S2S event. Map by Manuel HB9DQM.

It was then about 80 minutes to drive home and to then organise a late dinner meal.

Overall, it was a great afternoon of activating. Thanks to all who chased me and to those that organised the S2S event – my tally was low (14 stations worked, with 10 S2S), but I had fun.

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2018 Hotham SOTA Summit – the trip home

Wednesday 7 February 2018

I departed Wodonga close to 0900 and headed south west on the Hume Highway to Benalla and then south to Mansfield. I grabbed some food at a Bakery and then headed to Jamieson, with the later portion of the trip very slow behind 4 caravans and other vehicles stuck behind them. I turned right onto Eildon Jamieson Road and climbed the hills before turning onto Lake 1 Track and up to the AZ of the first summit of the day.

Bald Hill VK3/VE-137 990m 6 points
Lake Eildon National Park VKFF-0625

I had chased this summit several times, so this was a chance for another Activator Unique and Complete.

I set up with a line over a branch and hauled up the HF dipole. My first call yielded John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga, followed by VK7JON and VK2IO. After those contacts, I had no answers to calls for a long period. I swapped to 20 m, working another 7 stations. I then ran out the rest of the antenna and called on 80 m, working Mick VK3GGG and then with what was possibly an incomplete contact with Tony VK3CAT. I swapped to CW and we made it. Back to voice and I tried several other bands without any luck. I went back to 20 m when I saw a spot from Gerard VK2JNG/p in a Park and made contact, and then worked Geoff VK3SQ. With 15 definite contacts in the log, I called it quits and packed up, heading back down to Eildon Jamieson Road. From the junction, one simply headed across the road and started driving along Mount Terrible Track and on to the next summit.

Mount Terrible Spur VK3/VE-134 1010 m 6 points

I found a spot safely off the track and set up the station. I set up on 40 m SSB and quickly had 4 stations in the log. I tried calling for several minutes on 20 m with no replies, so packed up to move on.

A Forest Management vehicle pulled up and we exchanged greetings. The two officers were doing fuel assessments of the forest in preparation for a planned controlled burn in autumn. I explained what I was doing and then we went our separate ways – them into the scrub off the side of the spur and me on to Mt Terrible.

Mount Terrible VK3/VE-067 1316 m 8 points

I set up to the south of the hut near the summit, with the dipole running north-south. Starting on 40 m SSB, I again had 5 contacts in the log within a few minutes. I also heard VK3AFW and VK3SQ calling me, but had no response to my calls to them. Time was moving on, so I decided to pack up and get back on the track. I had achieved the key goal of the day – three Activator Uniques and three Completes.

But which way to travel? Either retrace my route and then make a decision once back to Eildon Jamieson Road, or to head south on Mt Terrible Track and work my way south to Mt Matlock? I decided on the latter route.

The track was rough and narrow in places, but I safely made it to the target.

Mount Matlock VK3/VC-001 1372 m 8 points

I arrived at Mt Matlock about 90 minutes after leaving Mt Terrible. I quickly set up and started calling after spotting myself. First in the log was Warren ZL2AJ. In less than 10 minutes, I had 7 stations in the log. I dropped down to 80 m, working another 4 stations. As I was packing up, the bottom cover of the KX2 fell off into my hand. I had lost one of the thumbnuts….. I reassembled the bottom plate as best I could, but still need to locate a replacement thumbnut.

I packed up and then resumed the trip home. The choice from here was simple, despite what the GPS in the car thought. I headed towards Aberfeldy. There was an option of another summit, if the travel went well and I was feeling up to it when I arrived at Aberfeldy.

The road was in reasonable condition, so progress was reasonable.

Mount Lookout VK3/VT-030 1115 m 6 points

Access to this one is simple: drive up the track to the cemetery and set up in the car park. Watch the ditch across the track just after it swings to the south.

I again threw a line over a branch and set up. This time I started on 80 m SSB and quickly had 4 stations in the log. With no further responses to calls, I swapped to 40 m and worked another 8 stations, including 2 ZLs. At just after 0800 Z, I switched off and packed up, heading south to Moe and then to home.


Aberfeldy Cemetery occupies part of the AZ. Baw Baw Plateau in the distance.

Overall, a good day: some new (for me) tracks explored, 3 new Activator Uniques and 3 Completes, plus 34 Activator points for the day.

I was tired but satisfied once I arrived home. It had been quite a trip… The only issue is that I kept forgetting to take some photos!

A big thank you to Brian for organising the weekend, and thanks also to all the participants – the camaraderie was terrific and it was great to have like-minded company  to discuss a variety of topics whilst travelling between summits.

Plan ahead – make sure that you keep the first weekend in February 2019 free, as I believe Brian will be organising a 2019 edition.

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2018 Hotham SOTA Summit – Sunday

Sunday 3 February 2018

I was among the first up and around in the morning. I organised my breakfast and some lunch. Others were soon up and about. Further discussions regarding plans continued. People were heading in a number of different directions.

I had decided to head out to the north east to attempt three 10 point summits, each of which had only been activated once previously. Phil VK3BHR had activated the first two targets, so the previous evening I had discussed the approach that he had used. I soon found out that I would have company: Allen wished to join me again, plus Compton and Paul were keen, with Compton in for a drive as well. So we headed off through Omeo, out to Benambra and up the Limestone Road. It was then left onto Misery Road and up Misery Trail.

On my last look in this direction, Dapples Creek Track was closed and the steep section of Misery Trail was looking rough, rocky and wet, so I aborted: I did feel comfortable tackling the slope in the Forester. This time, the track up to Mount Misery was easy, having been graded in the recent past. The track became a little rough after the summit, with several deep erosion gutters to negotiate. We continued to a little north of the summit and parked.

Mount Misery Range VK3/VG-008 1647 m 10 points

I had been looking at this summit and the next for some time, but had not made the effort to make a second attempt until now. As it turned out, the approach was relatively easy. I had not brought any prepared notes or maps, so the approach was dead reckoning from map memory, with the GPS giving a little guidance when I bothered to look at it. We followed brumby tracks in roughly the right direction, but actual veered a little left of the ideal route. We ended up crossing an alpine sphagnum bog gully a couple of hundred metres north of the desired navigation target – the saddle between the summit and the main ridge to the west.

We then climbed up toward the summit, which from our approach direction looked a rather rocky. We found an opening on the ridge line to the north of the summit about 15 m below the summit proper, based on the contour lines. We decided to set up in that opening.

VHF to the other groups was totally unsuccessful. We set up on HF with Allen’s gear. An unexpected surprise was a S2S with Andrew VK3ARR/p on Mt Alexander VK3/VN-016.

After we had all qualified the summit, we started heading down, skirting the western face and heading to the true saddle. It was then a simple matter to head to the northwest following brumby tracks until we hit Misery Trail. Compton led the last few hundred metres; bringing us out about 20 metres from the cars….

We then loaded up and continued along Misery Trail and climbed up the steep 4WD track to the next target after passing the northern end of Dapples Creek Track. This section of Misery Trail is normally subject to a winter season closure.

VK3/VG-009 1625 m 10 points

At the top of the climb, the track swings to the north. At this point, the track is just below 1620 m, so well within the AZ. Allen and I were several hundred metres ahead of Compton, so quickly jumped out of the car with a handheld and worked Compton and Paul (outside the AZ) on 2 m FM. We then set about getting a HF antenna up, using a throw line over a tree branch to get a line up. On HF we worked several of the usual chasers, plus had S2S contact with Glenn VK3YY/p and Andrew VK3JBL/p on Mt Loch VK3/VE-005. We also worked  Leigh VK3SG on Blue Rag Range VK3/VE-015 on 2 m FM. We could just hear Tony VK3CAT at home on 40 m, but were unable to complete the contact, so we dropped to 80 m and made the contact. It was great to get Tony in the log.

We then packed up and headed north. The alpine country was its usual delight, including a great camping area – Charlies Creek Campground. We continued to climb up to the junction with Kings Plain Track.

Davies Plain VK3/VE-010 1754 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

The track junction is at around 1750 m – well inside the AZ. I parked the Ranger and we again worked Compton and Paul on 2 m FM, as they were a few minutes behind us and well outside the AZ. Allen & I set up the HF antenna as Compton and Paul were arriving. First in the log on HF was Tony VK3CAT, followed by Paul VK5PAS. I heard Mick VK3GGG, but Mick could not hear my replies – sorry Mick. I had 4 in the log, so stepped away from the radio to allow the others to qualify the summit.

After packing up, we retraced our route to the junction of Davies Plain Track, Misery Trail, McCarthys Track and Buckwong Track. Compton’s GPS wanted to take us out via McCarthys Track, the usual approach route to Davies Plain. I suggested that we take Buckwong Track and all agreed, so we headed roughly west. We skirted around to the south of the as yet unactivated Mt Murphy and then out onto Mt Hope Road, and then south back towards Benambra via Beloka Road and Limestone Road. It was then back to Omeo and Hotham.

Back at the lodge, we had a quiet cold drink and then awaited the return of the others. That evening we had a communal meal in the lodge and more discussions.

Monday morning was pack up and clean time, before we started heading off in different directions. I decided to simply head to Wodonga to catch up with family.

Just as I reached Wodonga, I received a ‘phone call from Ken VK3KIM/p on Mt Loch. He needed one more contact to qualify the summit. I had heard Ken calling CQ on 40 m SSB earlier in the trip and stopped to attempt to work him. But the 40 m signal abruptly disappeared. When Ken called me, I was too far away to assist – neither of us could hear anything of the other on 2 m FM – just too many kilometres and too many hills between us. Sorry that I could not help Ken.

The final leg of the SOTA weekend for me would happen on Wednesday when I would return home. I spent Monday afternoon and Tuesday on family tasks.

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2018 Hotham SOTA Summit – Saturday

Saturday 2 February 2018

The aim was a reasonably early yet civilised start time. People were up and moving around the lodge from around 0700 local time. Discussions late on Friday evening indicated that there were to be probably three groups heading in different directions:

Compton VK2HRX/3 with Andrew VK3JBL heading for the Blue Rag Range circuit (Mt Blue Rag, Blue Rag Range, Basalt Knob, White Timber and possibly VK3/VT-018). Given the likely travel time for the other 2 groups, I convinced Compton to leave Mt Blue Rag until last and possibly dropping VK3/VT-018.

Brian VK3MCD was to lead a larger group out to the east – I think it ended up being 3 vehicles in this group.

Myself with Allen VK3ARH as passenger: with Allen keen to activate Mt Sarah for a complete. Allen and I had discussed options during the previous week. I suggested that I was willing to drive and suggested a route which would allow some flexibility depending upon travel times. We were joined by Glenn VK3YY and Paul VK3HN, which did give the Ranger a larger than normal load. As I had mentioned to Allen in our email exchanges, I had previously activated all the likely target summits planned for the day.

We were underway shortly after the 0830 target departure time. The route was relatively simple in theory: down to the start of the Dargo High Plains Road and then onto Twins Road. This track is generally rough and narrow, so we were fortunate that we did not meet any other vehicles whilst traversing it. We drove past the usual ascent routes to The Twins and VK3/VE-023 and on until the turn off below Mt Murray. It was then around the side of VK3/VE-064 via Twins Jeep Track and then onto Selwyn Creek Road, then up Selwyn Logging Road and south on Tea Tree Range Road.

As we were approaching Mt Sarah, we had a chat using 2 m FM with Compton, who was approaching Blue Rag Range. We decided to continue south, heading for the most southern of our target summits for the day. This would make for better timings between summits later in the day.

VK3/VT-023 1302 m 8 points

We were able to drive up to the summit on Tea Tree Spur Track. There is a helipad on the summit, so plenty of room to set up stations. I set up a HF dipole for Allen VK3ARH to start calling. Meanwhile, Glenn was already calling using his KX2 and a multiband base-loaded whip connected direct to the radio. Liaison with Compton and Andrew on Blue Rag Range resulted in me setting up the IC-X2A handheld with a short coax to a pcb 2-element Yagi, resulting in two S2S contacts with Compton and Andrew on 1296 MHz. The others in our group also worked both Andrew and Compton. Shortly afterwards, Brian’s group was on air from Mt Pendergast, so it all became a little hectic with everyone wanting to make S2S contacts…. I worked Ken VK3KIMfor the S2S plus one more contact to get at least 4 for the summit to qualify.

Once everyone had enough contacts, we started to pack up and headed back to the north to Mt Sarah.

Mount Sarah VK3/VE-032 1552 m 10 points

The run back up to Mt Sarah was straight forward and I decided to climb the summit from the south, straight up the 4WD track. I parked just over the summit, off the side of the track. Allen began setting up his HF antenna (a 40/20 trap dipole). Glen quickly had his KX2 and whip in action. Using 2 m FM, I quickly had a couple of contacts in the log. Using Allen’s set up, I soon had the summit qualifies by working some chasers on 40 m SSB. It was then back to 2 m FM to work some of the eastern group members now on Brumby Hill VK3/VG-012. A little while later, we worked Compton and Andrew, now on Basalt Knob VK3/VE-039. After again ensuring that everyone had the required contacts, including S2S with the other groups, we packed up and headed north.

We were well up the road towards Selwyn when I noticed an odd sound – we had picked up a passenger under the car. I pulled over and jumped out to look – a small lump of timber about 11 cm diameter and at least 700 mm long had lodged itself between the bottom of the body and the rear axle. It was firmly lodged, with the front hanging down and hitting the ground to produce the knocking and scraping sounds that I had heard. I could not budge the timber, so we got out the jack and lifted the rear wheel on the driver side. Both Allen and Glenn assisted with try to remove it. Allen ended up using the wheel spanner to assist with break off part of the rear end of the log and Glenn pulled it out forwards. After a quick check of the brake line – which was surrounded by the broken ends of the log, we loaded up and headed north once again.


The unwanted passenger – firmly lodged in position

Mount Selwyn VK3/VE-049 1424 m 8 points

We drove to the bottom of the final ascent to the summit and I gave it a try in low range. The track was very cut up, with prominent holes and a loose surface. Near the top were several rock slabs. I had not engaged the centre diff lock, so was not surprised when we stopped part way up. I carefully backed down and then reverse parked into a space just off the track at the base of the climb. We all walked up the slope to the summit area. Again Allen started setting up his HF gear whilst Glenn pulled out the KX2. Before Allen was set up, Glenn was working John ZL1BYZ. We all shared radios, except for the 2 m handhelds…. I quickly had 4 in the log, plus then the S2S action commenced, with the eastern group on Mt Nunniong VK3/VG-011 and Compton and Andrew now on White Timber. I was using the 40 m set up to work some of the Nunniong group and was called by Perrin VK3XPT mobile – we had met Perrin on Mt Sarah. We were soon packing up and headed back down to the vehicle.


Glenn with his KX2 plus VK3PF working ZL on 20 m before Allen had his antenna up. Mt Selwyn. Photo by Allen VK3ARH (Many thanks Allen!).

On our way out to the main road, we were met with a Hilux coming up the track. He backed up until he found a spot to pull over. We then headed south and then turned onto Great Divide Trail and then headed around to Twins Jeep Track. We traversed the track to the eastern side of the target summit. It was after 1500 local and I had not yet eaten lunch, so I suggested that the other three climb into the AZ whilst I ate lunch as they climbed. I would then work them from near the car.

VK3/VE-064 1344 m 8 points

This was a new summit for the other three. We managed to have all three qualify the summit from within the group, with one person heading up into the AZ and working the others. I used two callsigns, so each operator ended up with 4 calls in the log. They climbed down and we continued back towards Hotham. When we arrived at the track junction north of Mt Murray, we decided that we had sufficient time to activate that summit as well.

Mount Murray VK3/VE-025 1640 m 10 points

It was more of the earlier routine: Glenn was quickly on air with the KX2 and whip while Allen set up the dipole. I worked John ZL1BYZ and John VK4TJ with Glenn’s rig and then worked Andrew on VK3/VT-018 and Ron VK3AFW and Leigh VK3SG on VK3/VG-017 using 2 m FM. There was the usual clamour of activity for everyone to get the S2S contacts in the log. We packed up and continued the return journey to Hotham.

As we were approaching Hotham, we liaised with Compton and Andrew, already on the summit – they had decided to bypass Mt Blue Rag. We suggested that we might drop down to the lodge to grab a cold drink and we quickly had instruction regarding grabbing some drinks from the fridge for Andrew and Compton.

Mount Hotham VK3/VE-006 1861 m 10 points

One feature of the Annual Hotham SOTA Summit is that Brian organises vehicle access to the summit, making it a breeze to enjoy a good social session of drinks and nibbles on the summit whilst also activating the summit. As we carefully drove up the access track, Compton and Andrew were inspecting the inside of the fire watch tower.

Allen quickly set up the HF antenna and Glenn started calling on the KX2 and whip. I was enjoying the view and sent a text message to Warren VK3BYD/p on Mt Stanley that we were on the summit and setting up. Andrew set up his 23 cm transverter system whilst Compton pulled out his handheld and pcb 4-element Yagi. Andrew had a good signal on receive from Warren, but Warren had to open the mute on the radio to hear Andrew. Swapping over to the handheld and 4-element Yagi resulted in very good signals both ways. Warren ended up with 8 contacts S2S Hotham to Stanley on 23 cm FM!

I qualified the summit with three more contacts on 2 m FM, working Brian, Ron and Ken as they were driving up the Great Alpine Road, running a little later than planned.

We eventually packed up and headed down to The General Store for dinner. The food was good but the venue (and a few patrons) was very loud.

We eventually made the move to retire to the lodge, for a quieter environment. Discussions continued for a while, including possible activities for Sunday. Some were staying until Monday morning, whilst others would tackle one or more summit on their way off the mountain.

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2018 Hotham SOTA Summit – the trip up

I had been to the two previous Hotham SOTA gatherings organised by Brian VK3MCD. I was more than happy to commit to the 2018 edition.

Thursday 1 February 2018

I had a few tasks to complete in the morning and headed off from home early in the afternoon. I drove to Bairnsdale and dropped in for a very quick catch up with Rob VK3EK. After a quick exchange of greetings and a bit of information exchange, I resumed the trip by heading to Bruthen and then onto Engineers Road.

Mount Sugarloaf VK3/VG-081 889 m 4 points

About 32 km up Engineers Road you will find the start of Sugarloaf Tower Track. Less than 100 m along the track is a locked gate, meaning a 2 km walk to the summit. A couple of maps show vehicle tracks heading off the summit to the west, so I returned to Engineers Road and climbed to the junction with Deptford Mount Sugarloaf Road. There was no obvious track heading toward the summit. A short distance down Deptford Mount Sugarloaf Road a found the southern track from the summit, with very large steep earth mounds, clearly placed as part of “track rehabilitation”. I returned to the road junction, parked the vehicle and loaded up the SOTA pack. I found the rehabilitated start of the old track and started the steep climb towards the summit: about 100 m climb over about 600 m horizontal distance. Fallen timber, some steep spoon drains and some regrowth added a little to the challenge. Part way up the track I took a short break to look up the route, with another steep spoon drain about 30 m ahead. Just as I stopped, I heard a rustle in the litter on the track just in front of me. Looking down, I saw a snake less than 60 cm from my feet, fortunately facing away from me. We looked at each other for many seconds, with neither of us moving. I even reached for my ‘phone and took a photo….


The local encountered during the climb

After taking the photo, I took a large step to my right. The “bendy stick” moved to my left into the thicker undergrowth off the track. I resumed the climb, with better (I hope) scanning of the close in terrain ahead. After about 280 m horizontally I reached a track junction, about 60 m vertical up from the vehicle. The remaining track was a gentler gradient, but with several fallen trees across the track. I emerged onto the summit clearing to see a small radio communications facility with a solar array for power. I spotted a steel pipe standing just south east of the comms facility – a suitable support for a squid pole.


The comms facility on the summit

I started to set up, but the squid pole collapsed as I was running out the dipole. Not a simple vertical collapse: the upper sections had broken from the lower two sections. Closer inspection revealed a very significant vertical crack dropping down from the top of section 2. I made a field repair and finally had the antenna in position. I spotted myself before I had switched on the radio. On switch on, it was obvious that the regular afternoon net was operational on 7.093. I made a quick call and announced that I was going down in frequency.

In 20 minutes of operating, I had 11 contacts in the log. I switched to 20 m SSB for contacts to ZL1, VK2 and VK1. I had an offer of a CW contact, so I remained on the same nominal frequency and made the first contact. A few minutes later, I had 5 contacts in the log. I then swapped back to 40 m, but on CW, picking up another station. Back up to SSB for 2 more contacts and I saw that one of the VK1 operators was on a summit, so it was back down the band to work Bill VK1FWBK on Mt Taylor VK1/AC-037. Back to voice to chase Phil VK2JDL/1 on VK1/AC-031. A little while later I was called by Wade VK1FWBD/p on VK1/AC-040. Time was advancing and I was about to switch off when I had a call from Warren VK3BYD. After that contact, I switched off, packed up and headed back down to the vehicle. 29 contacts, including 7 CW and three S2S. A new Unique and Complete.

I then headed roughly north towards Omeo for the night, stopping for a meal at Swifts Creek. It was then a short trip to Omeo to my accommodation for the night.

Friday 2 February 2018

I was up before 7 am, and headed downstairs for breakfast. I was on the road shortly after 0800, heading to Benambra. From Benambra, it was north on Benambra Corryong Road, heading for Sassafras Gap. The warning signs were correct – watch for logging trucks!

At Sassafras Gap, I turned onto Eustace Gap Road. The road surface was generally very good. 12.6 km along, I reached the target track: Kings Spur Track.

Toke Gibbo Hill VK3/VG-028 1364 m 8 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

This summit has only been activated once previously – by Rhett VK3WE back in 2013. He made 15 contacts on that activation. I was able to make a contact with Rhett that day, so this trip was planned to be a Complete.

The summit is about 4.4 km along Kings Spur Track. The track has significant regrowth in the centre of the track, up to around half a metre high. There were also several spoon drains to negotiate, some of which you could not see over the rim due to the regrowth. All went well apart from the occasional brush with encroaching scrub.

You cannot miss the summit, which has a sign “Toke Gibbo” just off the track. I parked a little beyond and used the signpost to support the squid pole.


Summit sign at Toke Gibbo

I switched on the gear and quickly worked Pail VK3HN/p on The Hump VK3/VE-019. I moved down the band and worked Compton VK3HRX/3 on Mt Hope VK3/VG-014 for a new Unique for me. I found a clear spot at 7.095 and started calling. I worked 11 more on 40 m before moving 20 m SSB for 3 contacts on SSB, then 5 contacts on CW followed by one final SSB contact. A total of 23 contacts were made for the new Unique and Complete. Many of the operators were also gaining a new Unique. All contacts were made before UTC rollover, were technically on 1 February.

I packed up and retraced my route back towards Sassafras Gap.

VK3/VE-053 1405 m 8 points Not previously activated

NB: I gave the incorrect summit reference on the day. I used VK3/VG-053 rather than VK3/VE-053. Sorry to all involved. The bonus for the effort of removing the contact from the SOTA database and re-entering it will be an additional 2 points.

I had looked carefully at the maps and satellite imagery near this summit. There is no indication of a track closer than about one kilometre from the summit. The obvious lead in approach track is about 3.8 km from Sassafras Gap. It looks a little rough near the start, but I took it carefully. After about 2 km, the obvious track starts to head downhill to the south of the summit, with several large trees across the track visible only a short distance along from the start of the descent. There looked to be a track continuing along the ridge line, with a dead wattle across the track. As I got closer to the dead tree, I saw that I could skirt around the dead tree, and then it was simple to follow the track as far as possible. I needed to negotiate some fallen trees, crossing some which were significant little bumps. The track actually continued beyond the summit, so I did not get the anticipated exercise. I tossed a line over a tree branch and set up the dipole.


SOTA Mapping view of summit area

On switching on, I heard Phil VK3BHR/p calling from Mt Hotham VK3/VE-006. A S2S contact to start the activation – excellent.

I announced that I would move down the band and was quickly called by Gerard VK2IO, who posted a Spot for me. Next was Allen VK3ARH/m, on his way to join the group at Hotham for the weekend. A steady stream of contacts saw me with 10 in the log within 15 minutes. With no more callers, I stopped to grab some food and have a drink after I announced that I was going QRT. Just as I was about to finish the pack up, I heard Compton VK2HRX/3 calling CQ. I quickly reconnected everything and called Compton – the antenna was still up. Success – another S2S and a new Chaser Unique. Compton was on Mt Gibbo VK3/VG-004. A total of 11 contacts in the log, all on 40 m SSB. I quickly packed up and headed back to Eustace Gap Road and Sassafras Gap. At Sassafras Gap I turned left for the short trip to Wild Boar Track.

Mount Sassafras VK3/VE-029 1588 m 10 points

The summit is about 8.2 km along from the main road; with track a little rough in places. There is a nice clearing near the trig with plenty of room for the 40 m dipole. As I was travelling along Wild Boar Track, I announced to Compton that I was about 3 km from the summit. Compton replied that he would wait on Mt Gibbo until I was set up.

Compton called me at 0124 Z and we chatted for several minutes before he started packing up. I started to call on the same frequency. I quickly had 5 calls in the log. Further calls brought no responses, so I packed up and started the return trip.

After crossing the Gibbo River, I was rather surprised as I came around a corner: in front of me was a fully loaded log truck surrounded by a dense dust cloud. Only problem for me was that the truck was close to the deep gutter on MY side of the road. I headed as close as I dared to the edge of the gutter whilst rapidly slowing. Thankfully, the truck and I avoided each other. I sat waiting for about a minute for the dust cloud to begin to disperse. A bit of unexpected excitement…

The rest of the journey to Omeo was uneventful. I topped up the fuel tank in Omeo and started to do some shopping. I saw Compton waiting to fuel up, so approached on foot and greeted him. We kept it brief – we had plenty of time to talk later. I finished my shopping and headed up to Hotham.

I saw several “incognito” cars as I approached Hotham – cars with camouflage, obviously development vehicles undergoing testing. Compton arrived only a couple of minutes behind me to the base of the stairs to the lodge. We drove up to the Corral car park and headed down Higgi Drive and then parked in front of the building. We found the front door and the after entering the access code, started to unload the gear.

We then moved the vehicles back down to the road.

It was then simply a matter of waiting for everyone else to arrive over the coming hours.

The 2018 edition of the Annual Hotham SOTA Summit had begun.

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Australia Day 2018 at Churchill National Park

I had vague plans for Australia Day 2018 – January 26: probably attend the local community event and then see what eventuated. The weather forecast was for a very warm day, with early cloud.

Those plans went out the window when I received an email requesting an Assessment event, if I was able to assist. The candidate had been attempting to arrange an assessment to upgrade to Advanced licence with some Assessors closer to his home, but progress with organising a date had been glacial. I contacted a couple of other Assessors in the region and we managed to make suitable arrangements that fitted in with the candidate. The end result was that I was to be in Cranbourne at around 0900 on the morning of Australia Day.

The alarm was set and all was OK except the night was very warm, so sleep was not as restful as it should have been. I was up ahead of time and received a “heads up” about a Park activation. I prepared various items in preparation for possible activities in the afternoon. Prior to departing home, I worked Warren VK3BYD/p on 80 m CW in Arcardia Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2036 – the very first activation of this reference.

It was then time to hit the road and drive to Cranbourne, arriving at the venue, Gippsland Gate Radio & Electronics Society (GGRES), at about 0910. The candidate and my fellow Assessor had already arrived, so we started early with the paperwork and then the Assessment. The outcome was positive: although some questions were answered incorrectly, the candidate had answered enough questions correctly to exceed the 70% pass mark. After going through the paper with the candidate, we completed the remaining paperwork and then said goodbye to the candidate, who had a lunch engagement to attend.

I then chased Rob AX4AAC/2 in Gourock National Park VKFF-0474 and Paul AX5PAS/p in Kinchina Conservation Park VKFF-1764, using the Club equipment in the radio shack.

The GGRES members were planning a BBQ lunch and I was invited to stay. We continued chatting and then eating – it is always pleasant to catch up with fellow amateurs. After lunch, I took my leave and headed off to the target Park – decided late during lunch.

Churchill National Park VKFF-0621

The trip took about 22 minutes, despite the heavy traffic at times. I entered the Park off Churchill Park Drive and did a quick survey of the car parks – there were a number of vehicles around and initially no spots to park with some shade. However, one vehicle left, so I grabbed that spot, which give me plenty of space to park with the tailgate lowered to form an operating table and a nearby tree to toss a line over a branch and raise the antenna. I needed 26 contacts to bring this Park to WWFF qualification.

On switching on the radio, I could hear traffic on 7.144 MHz. I waited and called when appropriate, resulting in a Park to Park contact first up, working Wade AX1FWBD/2 in Budderoo National Park VKFF-0062 at 0236 Z. Wade was ready to pack up, so left the frequency to me – thanks Wade! I called and had a string of callers. David, the first caller, was kind and spotted me, saving me that small task. A little while later I worked Paul AX5PAS/p in VKFF-0764 and Brett AX3FLCS/p in VKFF-2205. Calls on 40 m were becoming further apart, so I tried higher bands. 15 m yielded Adrian VK5FANA at 0320. 15 minutes of calling on 20 m SSB yielded no results, so I returned to 40 m. The band was very slow, but I eventually had 45 in the log and packed up at about 0415. Thanks to all the Hunters for calling today.

During the Activation, someone asked for the Local Government Reference. I think I replied that I thought that it might be Greater Dandenong. Sorry – I was wrong. I checked and the Park is in City of Casey – CC3.

By this time, the temperature was into the low 30s and I was feeling a bit tired. I opted to simply head for home. On arriving home and checking ParksnPeak, I saw that I had missed 2 Activations – such is life! One cannot watch a web site and drive at the same time…. The ParksnPeaks audio alerts do not work on my Android phone. Perhaps it is time to look at the VK3ZPF app?

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A trip to Bacchus Marsh

Mid-week I remembered to browse the adverts on vkclassifieds. You never know what might come up. This day, I spotted a microphone – the Icom IC HM-103. This microphone is the one that came standard with the IC-706MkIIG. I have an IC-706MkIIG, and the price was very good, even if the condition was listed as “unknown”. So I logged in and sent a message to the seller. A little later, the phone rang – it was the seller. I agreed to buy at the cheap asking price and we then discussed options for postage or pick up. I decided on the spot to pick up the microphone on Saturday from Bacchus Marsh – a bit of a drive for a $15 microphone of unknown working state. The weather forecast was reasonable and I hoped to activate at least one Park. I arranged to ring the seller early in the afternoon to meet and do the exchange.

Saturday 20 January 2018

I woke a reasonably early hour despite not setting an alarm and was on the road before 0800 local time. The drive was straightforward – north to the Princes Highway and then head west to Melbourne, along CityLink and then around to the Western Ring Road and onto the Sunshine Bypass. Then on through Melton and I stayed on the Highway and turned off onto Pentland Hills Road. From there, it was into Myers Road and into the car park just inside the Park gate.

Werribee Gorge State Park VKFF-0775

I had often driven past this Park, usually on the highway with a more distant destination as my target. The trip today allowed me to consider this Park as the target. The good trip meant that I was on-site by around 1030 local time. The car park was almost full, but I found a spot to park with a convenient nearby tree. I tossed a line over a branch at about 8 metres and was set up within 15 minutes.

Geoff VK3SQ was first in the log on 40 m SSB. When I was setting up, I saw that Rob VK4AAC/2 was in a Park, but I could not hear him on 20 m, as he was too close to me. Rob called me before UTC rollover on 40 m, an easy contact. I ended up with 17 in the log by UTC rollover.

After UTC rollover, I continued working stations on 40 m SSB, including a few repeat contacts as the rules allow. I switched over to 20 m after about 25 minutes after rollover and quickly worked seven stations, taking me to a total of 46 stations in the log in under an hour of operating. This was my quickest qualification of a Park for quite some time. I started packing up and then headed into Bacchus Marsh to grab some lunch.


Kellys Creek near operating site

Traffic was rather heavy in Bacchus Marsh, but I found something to eat and also had a quick browse at the Darley Market. I then called the seller and drove around to his home for the exchange of dollars for the microphone. After a few minutes of chatting, I headed off to the second target of the day. Back to Gisborne Road and then north to Russells Road and then onto Seereys Track.

Lerderderg State Park VKFF-0763

I drove up Seereys Track well past the Park sign and found a spot off the track close to a high spot on the ridgeline and well off the road reserve. I set up by again tossing a line over a branch to raise the antenna.

I was ready to be on-air shortly after 0200Z. I spotted myself and started calling on 40 m SSB. Forty minutes of calling yielded 22 stations in the log – much slower going than the morning had been. I swapped to 20 m SSB and worked 15 stations over the next 30 minutes, including Mark VK4SMA/p for a Park to Park. I then tried 30 m SSB, whom I could not hear on 40 m. Next was 30 m SSB for three stations over 20 minutes of calling. I then dropped back to 40 m SSB, after spending some time listening for Jon VK7JON/p on 10 m SSB – nothing heard. Four new stations on 40 m got me to 44 contacts before I swapped to CW on the same frequency. The IC-7000 was not set up for CW, so I swapped radios to my KX2 and called CQ. The first call threw me a little – it was not the callsign that I was anticipating….. So I sent “AGN” and got the callsign: John VK4TJ. I then worked Andrew VK2UH. I went back to SSB briefly and chatted with Andrew – he did not initially hear me, as the KX2 must have been transmitting on the displayed frequency without any CW offset, so Andrew did not hear me as I was exactly on zero beat. But we ended up making the contact, so thanks to both Andrew and John for the contacts. A total of 46 contacts were made in just over 2 hours of operating to qualify the Park.

I again listened briefly on Jon’s frequency on 10 m, but again nothing was heard. So I packed up and retraced my route to Bacchus Marsh and then onto the highway and headed towards home.

The return trip was unremarkable, with the usual traffic hot spots as one crossed Melbourne and the suburbs. I arrived home just after 1800 local.

So, what about the microphone? On Sunday afternoon, I pulled out the IC-7000 from the car and plugged in the HM-103. On SSB, there appears to be no transmitted audio with the HM-103. This will require some further investigation… But the other reason for buying the microphone makes the purchase worthwhile: After setting the menus correctly, the HM-103 Up/Down buttons work as expected in CW mode. So for $15, at least a bought a cheap paddle for CW! Now to do some research and figure out why the audio side does not work….

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New Year’s Day 2018

New Year’s Day and UTC rollover

On the previous afternoon, I had a chat with Warren VK3BYD on the ‘phone whilst driving back to Wodonga – easy using the hands-free system in the vehicle. We discussed a range of topics, including the holiday traffic on the Great Alpine Road and the number of cyclists. I had placed an Alert a couple of weeks earlier for The Horn for UTC rollover. The road trip up Mount Buffalo usually has lots of cyclists and few spots to safely pass them, especially when they are riding 2 or more abreast….. I decided to change my summit to Mount Stanley….

Mount Stanley VK3/VE-126 1052 m 6 points

Discussions earlier in the trip with Geoff VK3SQ indicated that Beechworth was to be avoided if at all possible due to the heavy traffic and high number of tourists visiting the town. I therefore decided to approach the summit via the route suggested by Russ VK2BJP: from Wodonga head south past Yackandandah, then turn right into Bruarong Lane, then onto Hillsborough Road and finally onto Mount Stanley Road.

I parked near the picnic table and proceeded to set up. The picnic table seats have seen some vandalism, but the support post provided a convenient tie off point for the squid pole. I strung the dipole out and checked SOTAwatch.

A string of S2S summit contacts followed: Tony VK7LTD on VK7/CH-057, Allen VK3ARH/p on VK3/VE-020, Tony VK3CAT/p on VK3/VT-010 on CW, VK5CZ/p VK5/SE-016 on CW, John VK2YW/p VK2/RI-025 on CW, Gerard VK2IO/p VK2/HU-093 on CW, plus some other CW contacts, then to SBB for S2S fun: Andrew VK3ARR/p on VK3/VC-019, Rob VK2QR/p on VK2/SW-021 and Sam VK2GPL on VK2/CT-001. A significant amount of time prior to UTC rollover was spent looking for other Activators without success.

After UTC rollover first in the log was Rob VK4AAC/2 in VKFF-0583, followed by Mick VK3GGG/p  on VK3/VS-015 in VKFF-2129. I cahsed more Activators and finally settled on a frequency to call. Post-rollover, I ended up with 31 contacts including 18 S2S, all on 40 m. I tried 20 m briefly with no responses. I finally closed at about 0135, after working Mick VK3GGG/p, now on VK3/VS-018 and Tony VK7LTD/p.

I packed up and headed into Stanley then to Myrtleford to grab some lunch. As I was driving in, I was considering how activators had reached the two summits just east of Myrtleford: many of the possible access tracks were through pine plantations which had Private Road – No Entry signs posted. I headed back out of town and drove up Morrisons Lane past the local Transfer Station. The bitumen ended and I was able to proceed. I saw no signs barring access. There was a large gate with a Road Closed sign, but it was wide open. So I headed up the road and navigated the maze of roads to reach the first target for the afternoon.

VK3/VE-178 (unnamed) 805 m 4 points

The summit is high in the plantation, with a water tank covered by a separate roof and a comms facility beside it. I set up using a small pine tree to support the squid pole and also providing some shade. I spotted myself and worked 13 stations in about 11 minutes, including Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/HU-093. With no more callers, I shut down and packed up. A new Unique and Complete.

I then drove north on some rough tracks through and on the edge of the plantation and then out into bush. As the track finally swung west toward the summit, in rapidly became very closed in with scrub. Another new Unique and Complete.

VK3/VE-197 (unnamed) 743 m 4 points

I approached the summit and set up using a line over a tree branch to lift the dipole. First in the log was Rob VK2QR/p, now on VK2/SW-015. Rob was about to close, so I stayed on the frequency and worked Ron VK3AFW/p on VK3/VE-137 after he worked Rob. Next was Peter VK3TKK/p in VKFF-2113, higher up the band. Back down to 7.090 and I was called by Gerard VK2IO/p, still on VK2/HU-093. I had 11 more callers over the next 10 minutes before I called it quits and packed up.

As I descended of the summit, I took a track heading down a spur which was outside the plantation. This eventually brought be back to Morrisons Lane close to the large open gate. From there, it was down to the main road and then north to Wodonga.

It had been a busy two and a half weeks. With family plans checked on the afternoon after returning to Wodonga, I decided to call it quits and to head for home on Tuesday morning. I had work that need to be done for the next issue of Amateur Radio magazine, the first of the New Year. I took a detour to catch up briefly with Peter VK3FPSR in Cobram prior to heading south to Melbourne and then back to the Latrobe Valley, where the grass was long and there were plenty of chores to complete. I decided against stopping to activate any summits or Parks and was able to navigate Melbourne before the traffic was too heavy.

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Christmas to New Year’s Eve 2018

Wednesday 27 December 2017

After several days of enforced short drives only due to the wrecked tyre suffered coming out from Beetoomba Spur, the task for the day was to get a new tyre fitted. All the tyre places were closed by time I got out to the bitumen on Saturday and all had been closed for Christmas and Boxing Day until today. Once that task was done, I returned to my temporary home and then headed off for some SOTA fun.

I headed toward Dederang Road and then onto Big Ben Road.

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

The access to the summit is straightforward via an unsealed road off Dederang Road. Near the start there is a cattle grid and at the edge of the forest is a gate to open and close. Then simply climb to the top.

I set up in the shade just off the summit clearing. First in the log was Mark VK4SMA/p in VKFF-1631 on 20 m. I switched to 40 m and started calling. I worked 14 stations on 40 m before I tried 20 m, where I worked another 5 stations. It was then back to 40 m to chase Wade VK1FWBD on VK2/ST-034. I then tried 6 m and worked Ian VK5CZ. About 20 minutes later, I chased Matt VK1MA/2 on VK2/SM-093. I then packed up and headed back down the access road. During the descent, the dual band whip lost the top two-thirds, with a screw having disappeared. I saw the top fall off, so stopped and retrieved the top sections. I have yet to source a suitable screw to repair the antenna…..

Back on the bitumen, I headed to Porepunkah and then to the access road for the next summit, taking a back road to avoid Bright – which is always hectic at this time of year.

Mount Porepunkah VK3/VE-098 1185 m 6 points

As expected, the fire tower was manned, so I set up back down the hill a little. I set up on 40 m and spotted myself. I quickly worked 14 stations, including VK4FMHT/p in VKFF-0129. I kept the activation relatively short, as I had another summit in mind. I packed up and headed back down the road, then up the Smart Creek Tawonga Gap Track.

VK3/VE-097 (No name) 1185 m 6 points

The access track is a little rough and steep in places. I set up on the summit and started on 40 m SSB. Second in the log was Manuel VK/HB9DQM on Mt Kosciusko VK2/SM-001 – an unexpected S2S contact. With 9 in the log, I tried 20 m, working 10 stations including several ZLs. Back to 40 m briefly to work Allen VK3ARH/p on VK3/VC-019 plus a couple more, then a hit the power switch to start packing up and to head back to Wodonga.

29 December 2018

Today was a bit of a road trip with Mum on board. He headed out to Jindera to find a shop that she was interested in browsing, only to find it was closed until a few days into January. From there we headed cross country to Wahgunya and then into Ruherglen for a good lunch at one of the hotels in town. We then headed toward Chiltern and I could not pass up an opportunity for a short activation.

Chiltern – Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620

I headed off the bitumen at Depot Road and onto a side track to find a spot to set up. I tossed a line over a tree branch and set up on 40 m. Greg VK2EXA was a big signal and first in the log. The signal strength was not surprising, given that Greg was located less than 18 km away. I ended up with 12 stations in the log before packing up as a few spots of rain arrived. It was then a simple matter to head south through Chiltern and then back to Wodonga.

30 December 2018

I had often driven along the Midland Highway heading north to Benalla and looked across at the hills of the Mount Sumaria State Park. The Park has two SOTA summits, both of which I had previously chased. I decided that it was time to activate at least one of the two summits and the Park. I headed off from Wodonga to Benalla and then south to Swanpool and followed the signs to the Park. Once inside the Park, I turned onto Mt Sumaria Road and headed around past the walking track to Mt Sumaria. I travelled on to turn onto Butchers Track up to the high point, spotting the sign for the Mount Samaria Track. I parked nearby and loaded up. I set off on the walking track, but after a while cut the corner for a more direct approach towards the summit. Once on the high ground, I soon picked up the Lightning Track and headed around to the summit.

VK3/VE-140 (unnamed) 974 m 6 points
VKFF-0770 Mount Samaria State Park

I was set up just below the rocks at the summit shortly prior to 0100 UTC. I quickly worked Peter VK3ZPF on Briarty Hill VK3/VC-029 in VKFF-2224 for a S2S and Park to Park contact. I then moved to a clear frequency and started calling. I worked a total of 16 stations in about 30 minutes on 40 m before switching to 20 m to work another 9 stations, including two ZLs. I also spent a few minutes explaining SOTA and WWFF to a couple of walkers who I had seen as a drove past the Spring Creek Sawmill site, obviously getting ready to head off on a walk.

I packed up and headed back, looking to see if I could see the “official” walking track – it is hard to spot the turn off back to Butchers Track from the Lightning Track, which traverses around the ridge line join Mount Sumaria Track. There was one sign in some disrepair, but the route to descend toward Butchers Track was not obvious. After a short excursion down the main descent on what later became clear was now Mount Sumaria Track, I headed back to the top and found the wanted track despite the lack of signage and followed the track back to the vehicle.

I then travelled back to Mount Sumaria Road and then south to Mansfield to buy some lunch.

After lunch, I headed toward Jamieson and veered off toward Goughs Bay and on to the next target summit.

Stillman Plateau VK3/VE-174 811 m 4 points
Lake Eildon National Park VKFF-0625

At Goughs Bay, take Walshs Road and then SEC Track – watch that you pick the main track and not the rougher track underneath the powerlines. Wind your way up to the top of the ridge line, past a gate which was open. At the top of the climb, swing right to continue climbing on Highett Point Track, which is rougher and with many deep spoon drains. At the top, swing right to remain on Highett Point Track for about 400 m to be close to the marked summit location. I parked and set up beside the track, not bothering to go to the marked location only a short distance away.

This summit had only been activated once previously, by Mitch VK3FMDV back in July 2013. I had worked Mitch (now VK3XDM & VK7XDM) on that activation, so the plan was to add a new Unique and a Complete.

A line thrown over a tree branch raised the antenna centre and I was soon calling on 40 m SSB. I worked 20 stations on 40 m SSB before hearing a CW call. I changed mode and retuned frequency to work Warren VK3BYD/p in the Alpine National Park. I then changed to 20 m SSB to work Warren ZL2AJ/m plus Rick VK4RF/VK4HA. I had no more responses to CQ calls, so I packed up. With 24 in the log, I was happy enough. I then retraced my route back to the bitumen and then headed north to Mansfield and back to Wodonga via Benalla.

31 December 2017

A day above Harrietville was planned. I headed south from Wodonga through Myrtleford, Bright and on to Harrietville. I then took Mill Road and on to West Ovens Track. I then took Albion Track and then turned south on Link Track and then headed east onto Gunns Track and then finally took the unnamed track to the Helipad. I may have been better to take Gunns Track from the track junction at the end of West Ovens Track, but at least I knew that part of the approach route was good for later in the day.

VK3/VE-030 (unnamed) 1570 m 10 points

My first visit to this summit was on the 2016 Mount Hotham SOTA weekend together with Compton VK2HRX. The approach used this time was easier 4WD than the approach that we had used in 2016. I set up the squid pole and ran out the dipole, then placed a spot on SOTAwatch – good phone signals on this summit, presumably from the installation on Mount Hotham. In less than 15 minutes I had 15 stations in the log. Given that it was after midday, I decided against other bands and packed up to head to the next target.

I retraced my route back to Gunns Track, then around onto Paddy Hill Track.

VK3/VE-070 (unnamed) 1286 m 8 points

Paddy Hill Track runs over the top of this summit. I found a spot to park and then set up by throwing a line over a tree branch. I called on 7.090 MHz and was quickly called by Paul VK5PAS, who spotted me. I worked six stations in less than 5 minutes and then tried 20 m, where I worked 3 ZLs, Brian VK3MCD/4 on Hamilton Island and John VK6NU. Back to 40 m for a few minutes for another 2 calls in the log before calls had no replies. I packe dup and headed back to Link Track and then north to Albion Track and around the side of Albion Point.

Albion Point VK3/VE-080 1255 m 8 points

I found a spot to park and then climbed up the spur into the AZ to set up with the squid pole supported by a bush. This was to be a quick activation: I worked 6 stations in 5 minutes, then no responses to further calls, so I packed up.

Back down to the car and then north along Albion Track and then onto Wet Gully Track. Wet Gully Track was rather rougher than my recollections from previous visits.

Ebenezer Range VK3/VE-081 1255 m 8 points

This summit is about 5.1 km north along Wet Gully Track from the junction with Cemetery Lane. The track runs right across the summit, which is simply a high point on the ridge line. I parked on the edge of the track and again threw a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole centre. I set the dipole parallel to the track and set up on the edge of the track.

I was about to post a spot and saw that Wallis VK2WP/p was on VK2/CT-006 on 40 m CW. I found him and found a pile up calling him. I then saw another CW spot: Ron VK3AFW/p was on VK3/VE-067, so I called on CW – success, with 599 reports both ways. Back to work Wallis, with weaker signals but another S2S CW contact completed. I considered the situation and decided to spot myself on CW and soon worked Steve VK7CW with his distinctive sounding CW, followed a few minutes later by Warren VK3BYD. A first for me – a summit qualified on CW, and not even a single call made on SSB as yet! I changed to 7.090 SSB and spotted. First up was Adam VK2YK/p on VK2/HU-024 followed by 4 more regulars. Last in the log was Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1983. With no further callers, I shut down and packed up.

I decided to see what the track was like to the north, so continued in that direction. About 9 km on I reached a track junction. Wet Gully Track continued on, with Hillsborough Track heading SW and Reliance Track to the east. I considered my options and tried Reliance Track. This route was reasonable, with a few spoon drains and some rough patches. I popped out at the Great Alpine Road beside the new water storage dam. From here, I headed north to Bright and then on back to Wodonga.

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