A group of SOTA operators had agreed that they would assist with running a “Club Corner” table promoting SOTA at the Centre Victoria RadioFest on Sunday 10 February 2013, held at the Kyneton Racecourse. I was to be one of the helpers.
As the weekend approached, it appeared that there would be plenty of people around to help set up the display. I decided to activate a local summit during the first hour of the event, so that those at the event could actually make a SOTA contact. Further thoughts early in the week prior added to the basic plan…..
On the Mildura trip in May 2012, I had activated most of the National Parks in the west of Victoria. A blown tyre cost me half a day (and many $), so I missed the chance to activate the St Arnaud Range National Park. Looking through the nearby SOTA summits, I found that 2 of the 4-point summits had not yet been activated and they were not far off the logical route to get to the St Arnaud Range NP.
I left Churchill early on Saturday morning for the long drive, to Melbourne, over the Westgate, then to Ballarat and Avoca.
As I was driving along the the Western Ring Road I heard Glenn VK3YY/p on Mt Macedon VK3/VC-007 calling CQ on 146.5 MHz FM. We had a partial contact before I descended off the Geelong Rd overpass onto flatter ground. But a few minutes later we managed to complete the contact as I drove around the Sunshine bypass – another 6 points for the Chaser log.
Point 756 Pyrenees VK3/VS-018
I fueled the car and grabbed an early lunch at Avoca, then proceeded to Warrenmang and up onto the Pyrenees portion of the Great Dividing Range. The drive in to the vicinity of VK3/VS-018 (Point 756 Pyrenees) was straightforward – unsealed but in good condition apart from some bumpy sections which were OK at slow speed. Parked the car to the east of the summit and climbed up along a 4WD track and then about 50 m on a very old track & cross-country to the summit. Set up using a stump to hold the squid pole.
There was a steady stream of contacts, although some were hard work due to band conditions. 17 stations were worked before I took the photo with my phone. The Nikon lens had stopped working – it looks as if the autofocus motor has failed.
Walked back to the car & retraced my route back to the main saddle on the Glenlofty-Warrenmang Rd, then around to Blue Mountain Track, which is marked as a 4WD track.
Blue Mountain VK3/VS-015
The surface on the early section of the track was fine, but I managed to get a stick through a tyre as I carefully worked around a fallen tree – ouch. Quickly changed the wheel & decided to risk proceeding to the summit. The track became a little rougher after passing Barkly Track. I parked in the saddle to the north of the summit & climbed up the track to the summit, where there is what appears to be remnants of an old summit cairn. Close by at a track junction was a post with the track names and a large stump which made for a nice operating table. The post was a convenient support for the squid pole.
I initially set up the 6-element Yagi and attempted to work Wayne VK3WAM, but nothing was heard by either station. I quickly swapped back to the HF configuration with the 40 m inverted V and proceeded to work 9 stations. I packed up & headed back to the car and then back to Avoca to hopefully find a new tyre – the service station I had stopped at had tyres visible out the back, so I hoped that they would still be open and that they had a tyre of the correct size. Luckily they did, but of course that meant more time consumed and I was now well behind schedule.
West of England Range VK3/VW-013 in the St Arnaud Range National Park
Drove up to Redbank and into the St Arnaud Range NP, then up the quite rough Centre Road toward VK3/VW-013 West of England Range. I drove past the summit area and down into the saddle to the north, then walked back up and out to the summit. Conditions on 40 m were noisy, but I managed to work Paul VK5PAS after a few minutes of calling. So at least I could tick off the National Park. another hour of calling and searching found very little activity and no more contacts. Band noise was increasing with thunderstorms building around Victoria. So I gave up and headed off the range.
I headed south and ended up spending the night in Maryborough.
Mount Tarrengower VK3/VN-023
Next morning was another early start and I was on Mt Tarrengower VK3/VN-023 at a good time. The breeze was brisk, as evidenced by a hot air balloon travelling past quickly to the west. I set up on a picnic table just to the north est of the poppet head.
I quickly worked 3 stations on 40 m, then had troubles on 2 m working Wayne VK3WAM/p. Not sure why the contact was difficult, but it gave me contact number 4 to qualify the summit points. After several more calls with no replies, I packed up and headed back down to Maldon and then to Mt Alexander.
Mount Alexander VK3/VN-016
I found a spot to park outside the activation zone and climbed back to the summit cairn and set up nearby. There are several telecommunications facilities on the top of Mount Alexander, so it has the potential to be a noisy site. Luckily, the spot I picked close to the summit cairn was not too bad.
In theory, there should have been stations aplenty to work me from the Centre Victoria RadioFest – many of the regular chasers were to be in attendance. I found out later that the site had very high noise levels. It took over an hour to get the required 4 contacts for the summit points. The fourth contact was Ernie VK3DET on his first activation on Mt Buningyong – well done Ernie. Time was rolling on, so I packed up and headed off the hill to Kyneton.
On site of the Centre Victoria RadioFest I was quickly mobeed by people wanting to chat and to buy a squid pole – I had organised a box of 7 m HD poles from the supplier in Sydney and was selling them to SOTA enthusiasts at just above my cost. It was great to catch up with so many SOTA Activators and Chasers, and also with many other amateurs at the event. I attend these events mainly for the social side, rather than looking for bargains to buy!
Mt Macedon VK3/VC-007
After helping to pack up, I headed into town for a late lunch and then toward Melbourne. At almost the last minute, I decided to head to Mt Macedon. It was a bad decision – I got caught in extremely heavy traffic leaving a “Picnic at Hanging Rock” event. After lots of sitting stationary in traffic, I made it to the car park and climbed up to the old summit cairn to set up.
I quickly managed to work 5 stations, including S2S contacts with Ron VK3AFW/p on Mt Tarrengower and Wayne VK3WAM/p on Mt Cobaw.
I packed up and also caught up with 2 other SOTA activators Allen VK3HRA & Brian VK3MCD before departing.
As I was driving down I caught Wayne VK3WAM/p on Pretty Sally. It was then down to the highway and a quick stop at Organ Pipes National Park, where I completed another contact with Wayne, still on Pretty Sally.
Then it was just a matter of being patient with the traffic and driving back to Churchill.