More VKFF certificates

Thanks to the many Activators who have been visiting new references, I have achieved another step in the VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll – 1275 references worked.

Thanks to Paul VK5PAS for his hard work as VKFF coordinator and the certificate. Thanks also to the other VKFF team members.

VK3PF VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1275

I have several new references over recent weeks, mainly when I have been out doing activations myself – especially on the days when I have been activating SOTA summits. Such is life.

I always try to work anyone that I can hear activating a Park or SOTA reference. After a bit of work with my Hunter log downloaded from Logsearch, I submitted a claim to Paul for the Boomerang Award – 160 references worked 5 or more times.

VK3PF Boomerang Hunter 160

As an Activator myself, I know that it can be difficult at times to reach even the VKFF level of 10 contacts when in a Park, so I will always call an Activator if I can hear them. The Boomerang Award is a nice idea to promote Hunters to call even though they already have a Park in their log book.

Thanks again to Paul VK5PAS.

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Three Razorback Spur summits

Sunday 14 October 2018

It was time to head for home, plus hopefully catch Mitch VK7XDM for another S2S contact. I left Wodonga a little later than planned, with some last minute extra tasks completed. I headed for Mitta Mitta and south on the Omeo Highway. I then headed east on Razorback Spur Track to the junction with Wombat Creek Track and parked close to the junction.

Razorback Range VK3/VG-033 1311 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

Wombat Creek Track is subject to a seasonal road closure. The summit is only about 450 metres along the track from the junction, with a climb of just over 70 m vertical. As I was walking up the track, I noticed evidence of motorbikes having been on the track very recently. I set up on the edge of the track close to the true summit, probably only one metre higher.

Mitch VK7XDM/p on Collins Bonnet VK7/SC-002 was first in the log using 40 m SSB. After working Mitch, I spotted myself on the CW end of the band. I had five contacts in the log in less than 10 minutes. With no further replies to calls, I moved up the band to work SSB and worked two more stations. After UTC rollover, I spotted myself on 80 m CW, working two more stations. I then moved up the band and spotted for SSB. I heard Matt VK1MA calling, but Matt was not hearing me. The antenna impedance was changing for no obvious reason. I checked all the links and connections but could not see any issues. I worked Geoff VK3SQ on 80 m SSB. Several minutes of calling went without answers. I saw a spot for 20 m, so reconfigured the antenna for 20 m and soon had John ZL1BYZ on ZL1/WK-063 in the log. I moved away from John and spotted myself, but had no callers. I reconfigured the antenna for 40 m and worked Gerard VK2JNG/p in VKFF-2635 before closing down and packing up.

I was soon back at the car and continued along Razorback Spur Track until I reached the junction with Sheevers Road, where I stopped and consulted the Rooftop Map for the area. There were several fallen trees to negotiate along the way. The far end of the road is marked as being in poor condition, so I gave up any idea of exploring further out, and headed back to the junction of Razorback Spur Track with Tokes Creek Track to park and load up the pack. Tokes Creek Track now traverses around the NE side of the summit.

Mount Martin VK3/VE-100 1182 m 6 points

I had chased this summit, so was keen to make it a Complete. The older maps show a track heading over the summit. You can see the blocked start of the track close to the junction, but there is only faint evidence of it beyond a few metres, with lots of regrowth. It was a scrub bash all the way to the summit – about 800 m horizontally plus about 70 m vertical from the GPS track, trying to find a path through the scrub as I climbed the spur line. The scrub continued all the way to what I could judge was the top – there was not much space, with the regrowth around 2 m high.

Once on top, I moved around a few tens of metres trying to find a spot with mobile coverage without success. I set up in a small gap in the scrub and strung out the antenna for 40 m.


A clear spot in the scrub to set up the station

I called on 7.090 MHz and Mitch came back to, from Collins Cap VK7/SC-006. Mitch said that he had easily qualified the summit, but waited around in case I appeared on another summit. Mitch was kind enough to spot me and left the frequency to me. I soon had three CW contacts in the log on the same frequency, so the summit was qualified. I called for many minutes on both CW and voice, but had no replies. I closed down, packed up and headed back down through the scrub – more hard work. Adding to the route finding and squeezing through the thick scrub was the dry and slippery leaf and bark litter on the ground. I drifted a little to the west of the spur on the descent.


The route to VK3/VE-100. Note that Tokes Creek Track has been realigned

Once back at the car, I headed back along Razorback Spur Track to Pegleg Track and then out to the high point of the track to park.

Mount Cooper VK3/VG-031 1317 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

This summit has a track shown going over the summit, but I find little if any evidence that it still exists. I loaded up and started climbing up the spur towards the summit until well inside the AZ to set up – about 700 m horizontally plus 110 m climb.

I spotted on 80 m CW and worked Nick VK3ANL. Several minutes of calling again went without any responses, so I moved up to my usual frequency in the SSB segment and again spotted, indicating CW calls were welcome. The summit was soon qualified with two SSB contacts plus one on CW – thanks Steve. I moved up to 40 m after opening the appropriate links in the antenna and spotted on 40 m CW. There I worked Gerard VK2IO and Warren VK3BYD/m – over in South Australia, I later discovered. With no more responses to calls, I moved up to 7.090 MHz and worked four more stations. With no more responses to calls, I closed down a little after 0500 UTC and headed back down the spur to the car.

I headed back to Razorback Spur Track and then to the Omeo Highway. I drove past The Knocker VK3/VG-016, as I had activated it earlier in the year. I could have activated, but would only earn the seasonal bonus points. My route was then to the end of Knocker Road, and then south to Omeo. I considered staying the night in Omeo for an early start the following morning to try to get a couple more summits in before the seasonal bonus period finished at 2359:59 UTC on Monday morning, but decided that I had done enough. I headed south to Bruthen, around to Bairnsdale and then back home.

As I was driving back, I made some mental notes: wear long sleeve shirts for both sun protection and to help when scrub bashing, and acquire an appropriate pair of gloves to use when scrub bashing.

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Two summits near Dartmouth

Saturday 13 October 2018

I decided to attempt to reach a summit that I had chased twice, but not yet activated. I headed off from Wodonga towards Mitta Mitta and then Dartmouth. I turned off just after the Bullhead Plantation, onto Callaghan Creek Road. You drive through open grazing properties. At the junction with Bullhead Gap Road, I turned right into Callaghan Creek Track and climbed up to the junction with O’Connell Gap Track and parked just off the junction. Many maps show a track climbing to the target summit – I could find little evidence of its existence.

VK3/VE-149 (un-named) 936 m 6 points

I looked around where the track to the summit may have started, but could see only regrowth following a fire. I started picking my way up the spur through the scrub. I eventually reached the trig at the summit and set up the station with the trig frame holding the squid pole. Given the lack of space, I did not run out the 80 m extensions.


The station on VK3/VE-149

The OzTopo mapping shows the peak as “Connels Peak”.

First in the log was Mitch VK7XDM/p on Hartz Peak VK7/SW-008. Next were Tony VK7LTD/p and Angela VK7FAMP/p, both on Rats Castle VK7/CH-022. I dropped down tot eh CW end of the band, spotted and started calling. I soon had four calls in the log. With no further responses, I went back up to the SSB segment and spotted myself. I heard Compton VK2HRX call, but he could not hear my replies through his local noise. I worked two more stations before I had no more responses and shut down.

During the activation, Rik VK3EQ and Glenn VK3YY had spotted for Talbot Peak. They did not have an antenna for 80 m and could not be heard on 40 m, so we missed the S2S opportunity.

After packing up, I headed back down the spur through the scrub.

A new Activator Unique and Complete.

I decided to head down to Dartmouth to grab some lunch at the Hotel. While enjoying the meal, I considered my options. I was aware of a summit to the south which had not yet been activated. An attempt to reach the summit in early June failed due to the soft, slippery track surface. Conditions in the area were very dry, so I decided to see if I could reach the summit.

VK3/VE-162 (un-named) 882 m 4 points Not previously activated

The approach was relatively straight forward given the dry conditions. Take Horsfall Road in Dartmouth, following the signs for the Boat Ramp. Having climbed up out of the valley, I turned right into Humpy Creek Track, located in the saddle at the top of the climb. The track has an earth surface, several large spoon drains and some steep sections. The track swings to the west and descends into a saddle before swinging to the north and climbing to the summit. I set up beside the track, throwing a line over a tree branch.

I spotted myself as on VK3/VE-163, as that was the label on the waypoint on the GPS in the car. It was in error! I discovered the error after I had made six contacts when I changed from CW to SSB… I posted a new spot with a note on the correct reference. I shall email each of those who had the incorrect reference.

First in the log was Mitch VK7XDM/p on Blue Hill VK7/SC-020 on 40 m SSB. Next was Peter VK3TKK/p in VKFF-2301. I then spotted myself for 40 m CW and started calling. I worked five stations in about 10 minutes. With no more callers, I moved up the band to 40 m SSB and spotted the correct reference. I worked five stations before I ran out of callers. I changed the antenna configuration to 80 m, spotted for the CW end of the band and worked Tony VK3CAT. After several minutes of calling without success, I moved up the band and spotted for SSB. I worked two more stations before I had no more responses to calls.


Looking east of south from the summit, with Granite Peak just visible

I packed up and continued along the track in a northerly direction, eventually working my way back to Horsfall Road, back to Dartmouth and then back towards Wodonga. I was close to Lockhart Gap when a message arrived from Rik saying that he was setting up on another summit. I decided to make a detour to a nearby summit.

VK3/VE-241 (un-named) 926 m 6 points

From Lockhart Gap, I started climbing up Eskdale Spur Road  and then turned into McGrath Track to reach the summit. I parked close to the junction with Williams Track and climbed the final few metres to the summit. I set up and listened for Rik. Nothing was heard. I sent a message to Rik, but indicated that he had a high SWR on 80 m, so a contact was not possible.

I spotted myself on 40 m CW and soon had three in the log, including John VK5PF/p in Coorong National Park VKFF-0115. I spotted on 40 m SSB and called for many minutes with no responses. I reconfigured the antenna for 80 m and spotted in the SSB segment with a note that CW calls were OK. I soon worked Gerard VK2IO who gave me a very weak report. I heard Rob VK4AAC/3 call, but we were unable to complete a contact. Two more CW contacts followed. I then went back to 40 m SSB and worked Mitch VK7XDM/p, now on Mt Wellington VK7/SC-001.

I then shut down, packed up and headed back down to Lockhart Gap and then back to Wodonga.

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Three summits near Tumbarumba

Friday 12 October 2018

I decided to head across towards Tumbarumba (Tumba to many) with the goal of activating a couple of 8-point summits. As I was driving out of Wodonga, I rang John VK2YW for a quick chat about a summit which I had not yet activated. John had been at the summit installing a repeater earlier in the week. John advised that he preparing for a WICEN activity based near Tumba and would be returning to the summit to turn off the repeater, but not until Tuesday or Wednesday. I had some commitments at home, so Wednesday would require changing some appointments. John advised that no keys were required, so I decided to change my plan and head to the summit on my way to Tumba. I drove to Holbrook and then took the Jingellic Road, then turned onto Jingellic Road. After a short delay due to roadworks, I continued on and into Walteela Road and then Ikes Mountain Road. There were a couple of gates to open and close and the track quality slowly deteriorated but was mainly just bumpy.

Mount Ikes VK2/SW-030 1061 m 6 points
Bogandyera Nature Reserve VKFF-2532 Not previously Activated

The last gate was at the boundary of the Bogandyera Nature Reserve VKFF-2532. However, the access road and the area around the summit are excluded from the Reserve. I had checked the Activation Zone of the summit with Google Earth some time ago. I believe that there are a couple areas which are inside the both the AZ and the Reserve: one to the northwest of the summit and another area on the southerly ridge from the summit. Google Earth (GE) heights are sometimes in doubt: GE shows the summit heights as approx. 1055 m. I checked by creating a polygon and set the height of the polygon as 1036 m – the AZ height (summit height according to SOAT less 25 m). I note that ParksnPeaks states that there are no SOTA summits in the Reserve – Activators should do their own research. I plotted a waypoint and added it to the GPS.

I parked in a sweeping corner just below the summit, after having driven to the summit and looking at the trig point. After loading the gear in the rucksack, I headed about 115 m out along the NW ridge until I was at the waypoint.


Trig name plate

Mount Ikes_S

Activation site – just inside the Reserve boundary & in AZ

I set up the station and spotted on 40 m SSB, with a comment CW calls were okay. I started calling and heard “CW” being sent. I sent “QRZ de VK3PF/2” (or similar) in CW and soon had Steve VK7CW in the log. Three other CW contacts followed – the summit was qualified for SOTA inside 10 minutes. I swapped back to calling on SSB. I heard John VK2YW/m calling, but John could not hear me. A couple of contacts – VK7 and VK5 – followed before I heard Geoff VK3SQ call. Again, I was not heard when I returned his call. Four more stations were worked, including John VK2YW/m. After further calls went unanswered, I swapped to 80 m SSB and managed to work Geoff VK3SQ. I called for several minutes without responses, so moved to 20 m CW and spotted myself. The move yielded John ZL1BYZ, but no other callers. Time was rolling on, so I closed down and walked back to the car. The net result was 12 contacts in the log. A new Activator Unique and Complete.

It was then a matter of retracing the access route to Jingellic Road and then head north to Tumba to grab some lunch.

I then headed south and stopped for a few minutes to catch up with John VK2YW and some of the other Wagga area amateurs at the event headquarters at the Harry Angel camp ground on the Hume and Hovell Track, just off the Tooma Road. I then headed further along the Tooma Road and turned into Elliot Way. The next turn was onto Black Jack Logging Road, then Nurenmerenmong Road and on to the summit.

Pilot Reef Mountain VK2/SW-021 1380 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I set up by tossing a line over a tree branch and hauling up the dipole. I spotted and started calling on 40 m CW, yielding only John VK4TJ.After 15 minutes of calling, I changed to 40 m SSB, working Tony VK7LTD and Robert VK2XXM. Next was John VK5BJE/p in Jallukar Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2115. Next I could hear Andre ZL1TM calling weakly, but he did not respond to my reply. I called him on CW and soon had the contact in the log. Regulars Nev VK5WG and Mitch VK7XDM were next. Ian VK5IS called on voice but was happy to swap to CW for a contact, with Ian VK5CZ next on CW. Discussion on Discord revealed that I was inaudible in Sydney, so I swapped to 80 m CW to work Gerard VK2IO. With no further callers on CW or SSB, I swapped back to 40 m to work Gerard VK2JNG/p in Limeburners Creek National Park VKFF-0597. There was more traffic on Discord, so I swapped back to 80 m SSB to try to work Compton VK2HRX. He was a clear signal to me, but my 10 W was insufficient to get through the S6 noise at his end. I gave up and closed down.

I retraced my route to Elliot Way and headed back towards Tumba and then turned north on to Powerline Road and climbed to the next target.

Granite Mountain VK2/SW-015 1445 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I set up the station again, with antenna set on 80 m – where it was when I packed up. I spotted and started calling on 80 m SSB. The first contact was on CW – Tony VK3CAT. Next was Warren VK3BYD and Gerard VK2IO/m, both on CW. Several minutes of CQ calls on both CW and SSB went unanswered, so I swapped to 40 m CW, working ZL1BYZ, ZL1TM and VK4TJ. With no more responses, I swapped to 40 m SSB. Paul VK3HN/p and Liz VK2XSE/p were both on air, but I was in the skip zone. I found a clear frequency and spotted, working Nev VK5WG and Mitch VK7XDM. I had no further responses and Discord had a couple of requests for contacts. No joy on 40 m, so I went back to 80 m and heard Compton VK2HRX calling me, but again he could not decipher my reply. I tried cross mode CW/SSB, but no joy. I worked Andrew VK2UH on CW. In discussion that followed, I offered to return to the car and pull out the IC-7000. I quickly had it connected up and called Compton with 75 watts. I eventually had my report received & confirmed and received my report from Compton. Success. It was getting late, so I closed down & packed up.

I retraced my route to Elliot Way and returned to Tumba, then headed back to the Hume Highway and returned to Wodonga.

Thanks to all who chased today.

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Two new summits west of Lake Buffalo

Thursday 11 October 2018

I had a few family tasks to complete in the morning, so it was a late start. I decided to have a look at accessing at least one previously unactivated summit. I am not sure why they have not been attempted, other than perhaps the points are low compared to some other summits nearby. The two summits are close to large pine plantations, so I was anticipating coming across signs indicating that the roads were closed to the public. Unsure that I could access the summits, I did not post Alerts.

I drove from Wodonga to Myrtleford, and then followed the signs to Lake Buffalo. I then followed the Buffalo River Road, Lake Buffalo Whitfield Road and then Carboor Road. I was considering heading to the northern end of Mount Emu Track for my approach, but I stopped briefly to check the map on my GPS running OziExplorer. I could see that it looked as if one could make an approach from a closer route.

Mount Emu VK3/VE-121 1075 m 6 points Not previously activated

From Carboor Road, I turned left into Mount Emu Quarry Road and climbed up the road to the quarry. I then followed the track around the western side of the quarry. The track started to swing west and around the upper side of the pine plantation. A short distance on, I reached the acute angle junction with Mount Emu Track. I drove just beyond to swing around and have an easier approach to the start of the track. The track climbs a short distance on to a ridge line and then swings right to climb the spur. The track climbs around 200 m vertical in about one kilometre horizontally on the map. There are several large spoon drains to negotiate. I then swung right at a T intersection and continued climbing towards the summit: about 1.7 km horizontally for another 100 m vertical climb. There are some more drains and the undergrowth is encroaching on the edge of the track, with some small bushes in the middle. I saw the Trig point hiding behind some regrowth and found a shady spot to park. The only No Entry or Road Closed signs seen were at the quarry, so the approach is a valid route.


Looking east at Mount Emu Track

I set up by tossing a line over a tree branch and set up the station with the folding camp chair near the base of the tree. I started on 80 m SSB, with the Spot indicating that CW calls were welcome.

Geoff VK3SQ was first in the log on SSB. Next was Tony VK3CAT on CW. Several minutes of calling went unanswered, so I swapped to 40 m CW. A string of callers followed: VK4TJ, VK7CW, VK2IO, ZL1TM and VK2ASB. I swapped to SSB and soon had four more callers in the log.

I ended up with 11 in the log. I did not bother with any other bands and packed up the station and loaded it into the car.


Mt Emu Trig

I decided to head out in the same direction as I was pointing, thus traversing Mount Emu Track out to Carboor Road. The track starts out narrow, with encroaching vegetation in places plus some steep sections. Part way along, the track is better maintained and widens. The final section of the track is through pine plantation and I encountered a machine and operator trimming the branches from the pines on the edge of the track.

Once on Carboor Road, I headed back towards Lake Buffalo, but stopped at the track junction where I had earlier swung into Emu Quarry Road. The road opposite is Bread and Butter Gap Road – I followed it to the junction with Parkinson Road. I stopped and considered my options. The direct approach up a track that climbed almost to the summit was not viable, with several trees across the track, but one could park near the junction and climb the 230 m horizontal and 55 metres vertical to the summit. One option was to continue a couple of kilometres and then back track. The direct approach up the hill was a no-go, with several trees across the track visible from below. I opted to head around Parkinson Road and then climb Ridge Track. The first section of about 400 m was definitely 4WD – very rough & rutted, where large vehicles had traversed the track when it was very wet, producing wheel ruts and mounds of earth. But then I could veer onto the old Ridge Track away from the edge of the plantation and drove up to the summit proper.

VK3/VE-209 (unnamed) 685 m 2 points Not previously activated

I parked the car and again set up with a line over a branch to haul up the antenna. I set up the chair again, spotted myself and started calling on 40 m SSB.

Within two minutes, Mitch VK7XDM called. Inside another 10 minutes, I had eight in the log and then no more callers. I spotted that I was going QRT, switched off and started packing up.

Later, I saw a spot from Steve VK7CW requesting CW. Sorry Steve, I did not see the message until I was well off the hill…. I am happy to be called on CW: if I am SSB and using the KX2, all I need to do is to use the paddles to send the CW without changing anything. The only disadvantage of this operating situation is that I do not have the benefit of the KX2 decoded CW when in receive to double check my brain!

To exit, I again considered my options. I decided to follow Ridge Track and then Chamber Track. The views as I drove along the long ridge across the Buffalo River valley to the Mount Buffalo Plateau were excellent. After several kilometres, I swung onto De Luet Track, Blain Road, Dwyer Road and finally onto Mitchell Track to reach Merriang South Road. I then headed north to reach Lake Buffalo Road and then back to Myrtleford. It was then simple to drive back to Wodonga.

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Mount Benambra revisited

Family commitments saw me driving to Wodonga on Tuesday 9 October. I was free during the day for most of the following days, so managed to get out for some radio therapy in the bush.

Wednesday 10 October 2018

The approach for today was simply: head towards Mitta Mitta and then Dartmouth. Continue past the township towards the dam wall and then turn left onto Mount Benambra Road. It has a prominent sign for tourists, noting 16 km to the lookout. The track was a little rough in places, but a Commodore did arrive at the summit later – the driver complaining about the state of the track…..

Mount Benambra VK3/VE-041
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

The summit was in the clouds and the wind was blowing hard, so I set up part way down the track towards the Tower Man’s Hut. I quickly set up, as I was aware that Mitch VK7XDM/p was setting up on a summit. I strung out the antenna configured for 80 m and soon had Mitch in the log – a S2S to VK7/CH-022. Next was Andrew VK1DA/p on VK1/AC-040 for another S2S. I moved to a clear frequency, spotted myself and started calling CQ. After 10 minutes, I gave up. Due to the strong wind, I pulled down the antenna and moved further down the track into a more sheltered site still inside the AZ.

I erected the antenna again and set it for 40 m. I spotted myself on CW and over the next 10 minutes or so worked 5 stations. Summit qualified! I swapped to SSB and called on 7090, working only one VK5 station. After more calling, I gave up and tried 20 m CW, working VK6 and ZL1. Further calls went unanswered on both CW and up the band on SSB. I packed up and headed back to the car, with a total of 11, so the activation counts for VKFF.

I headed down to the junction of Benambra Track and Mount Benambra Road. This time I headed to the north, descending down the ridge to Benambra Spur Road, which was narrower and rougher. The road became a little rougher after the junction with Tallangatta Creek Track. I travelled around to the Dart Track junction and swung left and around to the saddle below the summit and south of Mount Cravensville.

Mount Cravensville Range VK3/VE-058

I found a spot wide enough to park off the road, loaded up the rucksack and started the climb to the south through the regrowth until I was close to the summit. I set up a little below the summit so as to avoid the worst of the wind.

I set up and spotted for 40 m CW. I soon had three in the log. With no further responses to CQs, I moved to 40 m SSB. Several minutes of calling CQ, I was answered by Dennis operating VK100MARCONI. The contact took several minutes to complete due to noise at Dennis’ end. Next was Mark VK4SMA/p in VKFF-0719. I was then called on 7090 CW and worked Steve VK7CW. Several more minutes of calling went unanswered, so I tried 20 m CW, bagging John ZL1BYZ. Further calls on 20 m went without any responses, so I packed up and worked my way down the hill back to the car.

I continued along Benambra Spur Road to Gibb Range Road, then headed to the left. I decided to head to Mount Lawson, so exited via Cravensville Road out to near Koetong. I then worked may around to the car park for Mount Lawson.

Mount Lawson VK3/VE-129
Mount Lawson State Park VKFF-0768

I grabbed the pack and started up the climb to the summit. I set up below the actual summit but well inside the AZ.

I spotted myself and soon had two stations in the log on 80 m SSB after no responses on CW. I then swapped to 40 m CW and worked John VK4TJ. A couple of minutes of CQs went unanswered and I saw a message from Mitch that he was setting up on his second summit. I swapped back to 80 and started calling CQ. I soon had Mitch VK7/CH-025 in the log. Next was Tony VK3CAT on CW on the same frequency, followed by Marc VK3OHM. Next was Andrew VK1DA/2 on VK3/ST-053 on 80 m CW, followed by Ron VK3AFW. I swapped back to 40 m and worked Steve VK7CW on CW followed by Adam VK2YK on SSB. I had no further calls, so I closed down and packed up with 11 in the log. I walked back to the car and then headed back towards Koetong and back to Wodonga.

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A radio trip to near Warburton

Sunday 7 October 2018

Sunday morning started “earlier” than normal, as Daylight Savings Time commenced at 0200 local time, with clocks moving forward an hour. I decided to head for some more summits. I decided to head to Mount Donna Buang, even though I saw that Ron VK3AFW had alerted for the same summit. I hoped to be on the summit before Ron and aimed to simply qualify the summit with at least four chasers and then close down and move on, hopefully leaving plenty of chasers for Ron. As I drove up my street, I had three kangaroos bounding up beside the road, after I disturbed them grazing on a neighbour’s front lawn.

I headed back towards Warragul and north through Neerim South, west through Powelltown and north and east to Warburton and up the Acheron Way and up Donna Buang Road and finally Mount Donna Buang Summit Road to park just below the lookout tower at the summit.

Mount Donna Buang VK3/VC-002 1259 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus
Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-0556

I set up at a picnic table just north of the car park, strapping the squid pole to the table and strung out the antenna. I was on air with two contacts in the log when I saw Ron VK3AFW drive into the car park. As I was working the next chaser, Ron approached and I greeted him. We chatted briefly as I worked contact number four. I sent “?”, and then SK after there were no responses. I briefly chatted further with Ron as I packed up and Ron was setting up. I departed after wishing him well, having outlined my plans for the rest of the day. I had planned this activation to be a short one, as outlined above.

I drove back down to the Acheron Way, through Acheron Gap and past Road 15, the common starting point for access to Mount Ritchie. I drove on to Feiglans Road and then up to Road 8, then heading south to just short of the substantial gate that proclaims the boundary of the closed catchment. I parked in the corner of the bend, where the road was quite wide.

Mount Ritchie VK3/VC-003 1255 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus
Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-0556

I had been examining the mapping for Mt Ritchie access on and off for a couple of years. An entry in an early SOTA blog by Glenn VK3YY (IIRC) had indicated the warning signs on the substantial gate on Road 8, and thus most activators have approached via Road 15 and Road 10. Technically, this access route has some small incursions into the closed catchment area as Road 10 climbs up to the summit. I was aware of an earlier approach from the north. Mitch VK3XDM had also been examining the maps and decided to explore the northern approach on 25 September. He was confident that his approach remained outside the closed catchment boundary and he sent me images of the route and his GPS track plotted on an appropriate map. This northern approach is shorter, only about 1.3 km horizontally, with a climb of 175 m vertical.

At the end of the curve of the corner about 100 m short of the gate, there is a pink tape tied to a small sapling. There is a rough track with some scrub behind the large tree behind the tape.


Look carefully for the pink tape

A little to the east is a fallen tree with evidence of animals crossing the small shoulder at the edge of the track. I climbed over the shoulder and could see a faint old track climbing the spur. The lower reaches are a little less obvious, but become a more obvious old track as you start to climb. The track is actually present on many of the official maps, some marking the track as the old route of Road 8. The track becomes more obvious as you climb higher and meets the newer, more obvious, track alignment after a few hundred metres. Take note of this point for reference on your return trip. The final 300 m of the climb are gentler until you reach the junction with Road 10.

I set up using the pole holding a sign (TO VP B) to support the squid pole. I strung out the dipole being sure to run the antenna inside the park boundary – the track alignment – and set up the station off the eastern side of the track alignment. I started on 80 m CW.

I packed up with 12 in the log and retraced my approach route. Be sure to veer to the left when the track starts to swing to the right of the ridge line, as the more obvious track actually enters into the closed catchment boundary. You need to pick up the older route to remain outside the closed catchment boundary. Care was needed on the descent on the steeper sections, as the track was well covered with litter – leaves, small branches and fallen bark. This presents a slippery surface with trip hazards.


The access track about midway to summit, looking downhill

Back at the car, I quickly looked at SOTAwatch and saw that Ron VK3AFW was on Mt Toolebewong VK3/VC-033. Unsure of how much longer Ron would be on air, I worked him from the car on 40 m CW. I loaded the gear into the car and headed north on Road 8 and drove to the high point at Mount Strickland.

Mount Strickland VK3/VN-030 1068 m 6 points

The high point of the road is well inside the activation zone of the summit. The summit proper is surrounded by thick eucalypt regrowth, so I set up using the road sign to support the squid pole. The boundary of the Yarra Ranges National Park is to the east of the actual summit and would require some scrub bashing to be inside both the Park boundary and the activation zone. But if you did the scrub bash, you would now be inside the closed catchment area, making the activation invalid!

Once the antenna was strung out and the radio connected up, I checked SOTAwatch and saw that Ron VK3AFW was still operating on VK3/VC-033, now on 20 m SSB. I could hear Ron, so I gave him a call to make a S2S contact for the first contact in the log.

I changed the antenna to 40 m CW and spotted myself. I soon had eight contacts in the log. I then moved up the band and worked three more on SSB. I then reconfigured for 80 m and worked another three stations on SSB. With no further callers, I shut down.

I packed the gear and loaded the car and retraced my route to Feiglans Road, Acheron Way and back to Warburton and then back to home about 2.5 hours after leaving the summit.

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Mount Tooronga Range and Rokeby Flora Reserve

Saturday 6 October 2018

The forecast was for a pleasant spring day. I decided to head out to a relatively local 8-point summit.

Mount Tooronga Range VK3/VT-026 1257 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I have activated this summit previously and the approach requires a drive of just under 2 hours from home via Moe, Hill End, Icy Creek and towards Tanjil Bren to the Link Road. The final approach is via Mount Tooronga Track to the seasonal closure at a locked gate. In summer, you can usually drive up to quite close to the summit. When the gate is closed, there is a walk of about 1.3 km with a climb of about 170 m vertical. Simply walk up the Track to the high point of the road and then start climbing up the hill in a southerly direct to reach the summit.

When I reached the summit, I saw that Glenn VK3YY/p was on air on Federation Range VK3/VN-029. I sent an SMS to Glenn that I was on site and starting to set up. Glenn was soon in the log using 2 m handheld transceivers. I finished setting up the HF antenna and started calling on 80 m CW, followed by SSB. I then moved to 40 m CW. SSB. ?Back to 80 m briefly to try for more local contacts.

I packed up and headed back down the hill to the track and back to the car. I drove down to Mundic Road and decided to try it as a way to head to Noojee. Care was required to avoid side roads in this logging area. The route to take is to the end of Mundic Road, then north on Ridge Road, west on Balta Road, Tooronga Road and then Loch Valley Road. I arrived in Noojee at about 1430 local for a late lunch.

I considered my options for a further activation and decided to head to Rokeby for a Park activation.

Rokeby Flora Reserve VKFF-2428


This Park was first activated by Peter VK3ZPF a few weeks ago. I checked out the northern area of the Park, which is in a gully. I headed around to the southern end to park close to the gate on Old Telegraph West Road. I walked about 500 in along the rail trail and then set up inside the reserve boundary. I ran out the 40 m antenna and started calling on 40 m SSB after spotting myself on ParksnPeaks.

Callers were infrequent, so it took some time to reach 10 hunters in the log. After several minutes of further unanswered calls, I tuned around the band. I found some strong stations, but my meagre 10 watts was insufficient for me to be heard in Europe…. I decided to pack up and head for home, with only 10 in the log – enough to qualify the Reserve for VKFF.

Once back at the car, it was simply a matter of headed back to the main road (C425) and heading south and then east on the Princes Highway and then to home.

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AFL Grand Final Day

Saturday 29 September 2018

Victoria has a long weekend with a Public Holiday on the Friday, the day prior to the Australian Football League (AFL) Grand Final. I usually try to be away for the weekend, usually activating some SOTA summits. This year I decided to stay at home and to get out on the Saturday to activate a new Park.

One of the local Club members has recently moved house and was having a garage sale at the now sold previous home in Longford on the Saturday morning. I had a few tasks to complete early in the morning and reached the garage sale late in the morning. I had a look around and a chat with those present. I did spend a few dollars on a new old stock UHF CB antenna, but otherwise resisted picking up any other items.

I headed south on the South Gippsland Highway for about 13 km to the south east corner of Holey Plains State Park.

Holey Plains State Park VKFF-0758

I have activated this Park on three previous occasions, and my route from the garage sale to the new Park took me past the eastern end of Holey Plains State Park, so I decided to undertake another quick activation to work towards the Boomerang Award.

A short distance after crossing Carr Creek, there is a track that runs along the southern boundary of the Park. I drove in about 100 m and parked the vehicle, and then set up the station using a line over a tree branch to lift the antenna feed point. I had everything ready to go just after 0300 UTC and was about to spot myself when I saw a spot for Ade VK4SOE/p in VKFF-0471. Next in the log was Mark VK4SMA/p in VKFF-1652. It was a little difficult to find callers, but in the next 20 minutes, I worked another eight stations, getting me to the 10 required for a valid VKFF activation. I packed up and returned to the Highway to continue south.

21.5 km further on, I turned into Big Tower Road and headed towards the west to reach the Park boundary.

Mullungdung Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2406
Not previously activated

I stopped briefly to photograph the park sign, and then continued on to reach the high point in the road. As I drove closer, you could see the “big tower” beside the road ahead. I stopped just past the tower to grab another photo and then decided to continue on: there was a camp site on the north side of the road (in the State Forest, but outside the reserve) with several vehicles and campsites set up, with many motorbikes around.


Big Tower

“Mullundung tower (or Big Tower) was one of the largest of its type to be built. The tower was constructed using large hand-hewn spliced legs, with timber bracing, steel re-enforced joints and steel bolts. The base is 6.7m square and is a tapering structure crowned by a small lookout cabin. The timber used in the construction of the tower appears to be mostly yellow stringybark (Eucalyptus Muelleriana)

The tower was abandoned in 1960, in preference for a lookout tower erected on Mt. Fatigue.”
This website notes the tower height as 30 m. The tower now has a security fence around the site.

I sought a quieter location, away from the motorcycles. The first site considered would have been adequate for radio, but there was no mobile phone coverage. I continued on the roads which form the Reserve boundary until near the south east corner of the Reserve, where I headed in a short distance on a small track and then into the open forest to set up. This spot had mobile phone coverage and was about 100 m inside the southern boundary of the Reserve.


My operating location (Image: Google Earth Pro.)

First contact was on 80 m SSB at 0440 UTC. I soon had four in the log. I swapped to 40 m SSB at around 1500 UTC, after many minutes of calling CQ on 80 m without any responses: I can only guess that many were “glued” to the television watch the football match. The next 35 minutes yielded only 16 contacts. I tried 30 m, gaining one more in the log. Fifteen minutes of calls on 20 m went unanswered. I changed to 80 m again at around 0600 UTC, gaining another two contacts. Lots more calling were again unproductive. I swapped back to 40 m, with more fruitless calling. Last in the log was Stefano VK5FSCD/p in VKFF-1127. Several more minutes of calling were again unanswered, so I gave up when a rain shower hit. I packed up and headed out to the Highway and then headed for home.

Thanks to all the Hunters who called. For those that missed out, I will return to the Park, as I ended up with only 24 in the log.

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The trip back to home base

Sunday 16 September 2018

It was a cold but sunny morning. I checked the reports for Mount Hotham and saw that they were requiring 2WD vehicles to fit chains. I decided to head home via the Great Alpine Road and to assess the weather and snow levels as I traversed Mount Hotham. I packed my things in the car and headed off for Bright, Harrietville and up to Hotham. There was a bit of cloud about but it was mostly sunny. I decided to go for two more summits.

Almost into Omeo, I swung into Cassilis Road and then Upper Livingstone Road. It was then a right turn onto Birregun Road and a steady climb up to the junction with Mount Phipps Track. There were lots of slightly rutted areas and some snow beside the road in the shady gullies and southern slopes. I engaged 4WD when I entered Mount Phipps Track.

Mount Phipps VK3/VG-015 1536 m 10 points plus seasonal bonus

I quickly set up after responding to a message from Mitch VK3XDM – he was on Mount Saint Phillack VK3/VT-006. Mitch responded that he would swap back to 80 m from 40 m when I was ready. His timing was almost perfect: I was about to spot myself when Mitch called CQ on the 80 m frequency he had used earlier. An easy S2S was quickly completed, along with Duncan VK3XBC/p who was with Mitch. Mitch then closed down and I started calling. Next in the log was Warren VK3BYD on both SSB and CW. I soon had four more callsigns in the log on CW. I returned to SSB but had no responses to calls, so I changed the antenna to 40 m. First in the log was VI5MARCONI from VKFF-0788 Scott Creek Conservation Park. John VK5BJE/VK5PF was at the key. I moved up a couple of kilohertz and spotted myself.  I soon had three more CW contacts in the log. With no more responses to my CQs, I moved up the band to the SSB segment to again work VI5MARCONI, this time with Paul VK5PAS on the microphone. Rob VK4AAC/3 was the next station worked, with Rob in the Chiltern Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620. We were at the limit of ground wave propagation – Rob was clear to me but was having trouble hearing my 10 W from the KX2. We completed the contact. I moved down to the usual SOTA frequency and worked two more callers. I then switched back to 80 m and worked four more. The summit was comfortably qualified.

Before packing up, I listened on both 40 m and 20 m for Greg VK4VXX/6, but heard nothing from him. On his nominated 20 m frequency, I found VI4MARCONI, but he apparently did not hear my calls. I packed up and headed back to the car and headed back down Mount Phipps Track to Birregun Road, then turned right to head down to Mount Birregun. There were more damp and rutted sections on the road, but I made steady progress.

Mount Birregun VK3/VT-020 1363 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

With the sun shining, I set up away from the actual summit but well inside the activation zone. I wanted to avoid any QRM from teh solar panel array on the comms facility on the summit. Once set up, I spotted myself and started calling on 40 m CW. First in the log was Allen VK3ARH. In less than 10 minutes, the summit was qualified on CW. I moved up the band to the SSB segment and started calling after posting a spot. Ten minutes brought another five contacts. I changed to 80 m CW, working Tony VK3CAT and Allen VK3HRA. Moving up the band brought another three SSB contacts. It was now 1530 local and I had a long drive to get back to sealed roads: either retrace my route back towards Omeo, or to proceed south on Birregun Road towards Dargo. I chose the latter. Along the way, I drove past several summits but decided against any further activations – time together with the cold and wind helped with the decision. The route down Birregun Road takes you quite close to VK3/VT-033 and Mount Steve VK3/VT-036, both 6-point summits. There are also summits requiring short detours south of Dargo.

I was finally home at around 0900 UTC and was feeling rather flat after another long day.

Many thanks to all the chasers/hunters over the past 11 days.

Overall summary

Since I left home on Friday 7 September, I achieved the following whilst on activations:

  • 20 SOTA summits activated, including a first activation (VK3/VE-079).
  • 203 Activator points earned (including the seasonal bonus points).
  • 28 Summit to Summit contacts for 203 S2S points.
  • 7 VKFF references activated, including a first activation.
  • 5 Park to Park contacts that will count towards my Park to Park score. P2P contacts made from other parks will not count for me, as I did not reach the 44 contact quota from six of the Parks.
  • About 3500 km driven
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