On Saturday 27 July 2013, I decided to activate Mount Saint Phillack in the Baw Baw National Park. I was somewhat optimistic with my arrival time when I posted the Alert!
I had silly thoughts about a possible second summit if all had gone well with St Phillack, so I drove to the Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort and paid their resort entrance fee of $43! Ouch! By time all the formalities were done, and having listened around from the car for other activations without any luck, I finally got underway at around 0030Z.
Snow cover at the resort was very patchy. I walked to the bottom of the Summit T-Bar tow before putting on my cross country touring skiis. Up the run was OK, but from then on coverage was somewhat patchy, slowing progress significantly. Once at the top of the hill and on to the Village Trail, I found lots more bare patches, plus the snow surface in poor condition due to lots of foot prints, despite large signs advising “No Walkers, Downhill skiers or Snowboarders”! During the descent to the low point at the northern limit of the trail, there were lots of rocks exposed and bare patches. I took off the skiis and carried then with me until I reached the next creek – actually the Tanjil River West Branch. By then it was clear that further skiing would not be an option, given the lack of snow . I left the skiis beside the track to pick up on my return, about 1.5 km from St Phillack.
The weather was okay – mostly sunny, moderate winds, so it was just a matter of steady progress on the uneven surfaces covered with icy snow. I did take my ski poles with me, which aided in balance in several spots. I arrived at the St Phillack summit at about 0200Z and started to set up. I propped the squid pole against the summit cairn and strung out the 40/20 link dipole. There was a couple of convenient small shelves on the summit cairn – one for the LiPo battery, another for the FT-817, leaving a third to hold the logbook.
Action came fast and furious! My first contact was at 0214Z and the summit was qualified within 2 minutes. At around 0223, I spotted Rik VK3KAN on his final approach to the summit from the east, along the Australian Alps Walking Track. I greeted Rik as he approached and worked a couple of more chasers. I asked the callers to standby so I could grab a drink, but they kept calling! I worked one more, then called for stations to standby. I needed a drink, plus I wanted to leave some action for Rik! I started to pull my station down (& forgot to take a photo with the HF antenna still up!) while chatting with Rik, who was getting his new pedestrian mobile station configuration set up. I was almost packed by time Rik was ready to start calling.
I grabbed the FT-817 plus a 2 m vertical whip and headed down the hill almost to St Phillack Saddle, outside the activation zone. I then worked Rik on 40 m using the 2 m antenna – the short distance meant that the very short whip was adequate. I then climbed back to the summit as Rik continued working chasers. Rik had qualified the summit by time I arrived and there were no more callers, so he collapsed the vertical antenna into his pack, grabbed his 2 m HH and headed back down the AAWT towards Mt St Gwinear. We worked each other once he was outside the activation zone. I then remembered that I had not pulled out the camera – opportunities missed! Took some photos, plus had a couple of guys who offered to snap me, so I have a shot of me holding the FT-817 with 2 m quarter-wave whip as if I was in contact with Rik.
It was then a case of pack up, load up and head back to Baw Baw, picking up the skiis along the way. Once back at the Village Trail, the route options were to return the way I had come (2.3 km) or to head left back towards Baw Baw village (2.5 km). Hoping the snow would be better, I chose the latter option, donning the skiis. Part way along, Village Trail was closed, so it was a climb back up along McMillans Trail with reasonable snow cover and a good surface. Once back onto the western section of Village Trail, it was slow going picking a route between the bare patches. It may have been quicker to walk…..
Then a quick trip down the alpine run to the end of the snow at the bottom of the tows, followed by a walk back to the car after having a chat to one of the ski patrol members who I know for several minutes.
By time I had all the gear back in the car, it was after 1500. I therefore decided not to proceed to another summit (not previously announced), as it would be getting quite late by time I would arrive on site, and later still when I got back to the car. It will wait for another day!
The trip home was fairly reasonable, with the South Face Road surface in good condition most of the way – just a few spots with lots of pot holes.
Note to self: Always approach St Phillack from St Gwinear – free parking and the route is a little easier, even with poor snow cover.