With all of my direct family now living in the northeast of Victoria, it was logical to combine a Christmas get-together with some SOTA (Summits On The Air) activations. The plan was to be in Wodonga for a family Christmas lunch on Saturday 22 December 2012, with further plans to be determined afterwards.
Friday 21 December – 4 summits
Departure from Churchill was at a reasonable time and the drive uneventful. Down the Princes Highway and then headed for Dargo and up the Dargo High Plains Road. Drive time was about 3 hours to the first stop.
The plan was to use 40 m for all activations, with 20 m and 2 m as possible back up options.
VK3/VT-018 (no name)
The Dargo High Plains Road actually passes within the activation zone of this summit, at around 1375 m (summit HASL is 1393 m). I parked near the junction of Whitelaw Road and walked the few hundred metres up towards the saddle to the north of the summit. Found an old faint 4WD track heading into the southern end and followed it in to the high point of the ridgeline. Looking south to the summit one could see lots of undergrowth and taller timber. Just a few metres in front of me on the edge of the track was a fallen gum tree. I knew that I was in the activation zone, so decided to use the obvious support for the squid pole…
The trunk also acted as a convenient operating table. The dipole legs were strung out along the track. I was set up just before the UTC day rollover and had my first contact with Ian VK1FD at 0004Z. At 0010Z I gave Dave VK3DBX in Morwell his first SOTA contact. At 0019 I heard Ian VK1DI 58, but had no response to my replies to his call – Ian explained that conditions at his end took a dive. After several more CQ calls with no responses, I tuned around and caught the end of the Albury-Wodonga net on 7.055. Managed to make contact with 2 more stations to qualify the activations. Several more calls on 7055 and 7090 resulted in no responses, so it was time to pack up.
I wonder if this summit might be called “Bullock Head”. The maps on Forest Explorer have no name, but nearby are Bullock Head Creek and Bullock Head Saddle……
Back to the road and down the road to the car for the drive up to Blue Rag Range Track.
VK3/VE-021 Mt Blue Rag (Alpine National Park)
The drive continued up the Dargo High Plains Road. I parked at the junction with the Blue Rag Range Track and climbed steeply up to a 4WD track at the crest on the ridge. This track is visible on the Google Earth images. It climbs over a small knoll & then drops into a saddle with a delightful alpine meadow around it – looks like a great place to camp, if you have your own water. It is only spoiled by the 4WD ruts at the low point creating a muddy area. The track continues out along the ridge. I travelled out about 600-700 metres to what looked to be the summit – the summit area is quite flat – and set up at the side of the track:
Lots of dead snow gums after the very hot fires (2007, IIRC) and plenty of regrowth. I spotted myself via SMS and the first contact was with Ian VK1DI at 0142Z. By 0205Z I had 6 in the log, including Glenn VK3YY and Ian VK3TCX – these would pop up regularly over the coming activations. After no response to a further CQ call, it was time to pack up and walk back to the car.
VK3/VE-015 Blue Rag Range (Alpine National Park)
Once back at the car, I pointed the Subaru Forester up the Blue Rag Range Track and carefully headed out toward the next summit – a trig point at the western end of the range. The track was rough and steep in places. Thankfully the Subie is pretty agile and manoeuverable. The track basically follows the ridge all the way. I chickened out when I came over a small sharp knoll to be faced by a very steep uphill slope covered with lots of dust and small, slippery looking rocks. I managed to execute a multipoint U turn on the narrow track – steep drop off on both sides! – and parked on the side of the track. I then walked up the remaining 55 m vertical & 500 m or so horizontally & set up using the trig point as the pole support. The views were magnificent in all directions.
My first contact was again Ian VK1DI, at 0322Z. By 0341Z I had 7 contacts in the log. With no responses to another CQ call, it was time to pack up & head back down.
The drive back was taken carefully, trying to again avoid the worst of the ruts and large rocks. The route is an impressive run mainly along the ridge line. I only bottomed out a few times, but did manage to scratch the passenger door in one place whilst hugging the edge of the track to avoid the deep ruts – ouch!
The plan was to then drive to Mt Freezeout and walk the 1.5 km to VK3/VE-023. There is a small carpark/picnic/camping area just south of Mt Freezeout, where I parked. I loaded up the pack and headed off. This area was also burnt in the 2007 fires and the regrowth is very thick, again with skeletons of dead snow gums adding to the mix. After only 100 m progress, I decided that I was not in the mood for 1.5 km of bashing through this scrub, so returned to the car.
It was a short drive to the Great Alpine Road, where there was a large campervan parked across the start of the 4WD track known as Twins Road. Not very considerate of them! I decided not to see if anyone was around and drove down to Bright & then Porepunkah. I hunted out the start of One Mile Creek Road and almost overshot the start of Mt Porepunkah Rd.
VK3/VE-098 Mt Porepunkah
One can drive all the way to the top of Mt Porepunkah, which I did & parked next to the firewatcher’s car. I walked down the hill to the last corner in the track, which is at about 1160 m and just outside the activation zone. I then walked back up and set up using the trig point as a mast support. First contact was Glenn VK3YY at 0629Z. By 0700 I had 8 contacts in the log and stopped calling, as I still had to drive to Wodonga.
It had been a long day, with 4 summits activated and 34 activator points gained.
More later when I get the urge to write some more.