A mild August Sunday – Joining in the VK1 6 month celebrations

Sunday 11 August was set as a day to celebrate 6 months of SOTA in VK1. Many operators were planning to be on summits in VK1, including some keen central coast VK2 amateurs. The weather forecast was looking OK for most of the day, apart from some moderate winds. I therefore decided to head out and posted an Alert for my first planned summit.

Mount Toorongo Range VK3/VT-026 – 8 points plus seasonal bonus

Various mapping software packages, including Google Maps, suggest that it is a 2 hour drive from home to the closest road junction that they will still include the roads in their calculations – the junction of Link Road and Mundic Road. However, they do not show the South Face Road, which joins the bottom of the access road to Mount Baw Baw across to near Rawson. The road is not sealed, but the surface is currently in good condition. I had used this road to travel to Mount Baw Baw for the Mount Saint Phillack trip. It took about 1 hr 35 to get to just below the locked gate to park.

I had previously activated this summit in October 2012. I was considering how to approach the summit as I walked up the road. The options were the direct approach – straight up the hillside from the road at around the  high point of the road, or to try to walk along the ridge from the saddle to the east of the summit. This saddle can be reached via a short track leaving the Mt Toorongo Track about 300-400 m from the high point of the road. It tried the second option…..

VT026 operating position

The radio, the log book and the GPS on VK3/VT-026

The start was easy – open and low ferns underneath large old acacias (I think – been a while since I practiced by tree ID skills!). But then there was some thick scrub, but not too bad to start with, if you followed the animal pads. I decided to continue. The scrub got worse! Then some openish rock scrambling & low easy scrub before some thicker stuff again. I finally got to the summit just before 0030Z and was set up and had the first contact with Paul VK5PAS/p on 7.100 for a S2S, the first of 9 S2S contacts. A total of 32 contacts were made, with 18 in the first 10 minutes after I moved up to 7.105. When things slowed down significantly, I started to look around the band for any of the VK1 gang that I had not worked. I finally gave up waiting for Allen VK3HRA to reach his summit, starting to pack up at about 0150Z – the lazy wind was starting to have an apparently stronger cooling effect.

I had looked around the north side of the summit during a quiet period and the northern hillside looked reasonably clear – just grass and low ferns plus a few shrubs. So I simply headed straight down the hillside…. There was some rock scrambling, but nothing serious. At the bottom of a significant (about 1.5-2 m) drop off, there was a few metres of thicker scrub, but low in height and easy enough to step through.

VT026_2

A possible point to start the approach – just short of the high point on the road.

At the bottom of the slow, there is an embankment to negotiate to drop back to the road. I simply sat on the edge, positioned my feet on a rock edge, then stepped down to the road. I was only just (50 m or less) east of the high point on the road. Note for future reference – a reasonable spot from which to commence the final ascent. Moving down the road to take a photo, I noticed some rocks that may make the start of the climb easier. From the top of the embankment, basically head straight up, steeply, though the relatively low vegetation.

It was a brisk walk back to the car – downhill all the way, of course. I was about to drive off, but thought that I should mount the 40 m whip. When I turned on the radio, Allen VK3HRA/p on VK3/VS-005 the Chimney Pots was finishing a contact – his first I think. I jumped in with my call after the farewells had been completed and worked Allen shortly thereafter. Start the car and head off toward Noojee.

Hyde Hill VK3/VC-008

I had not posted an Alert for this summit, but these days one barely needs to do so – if you can catch one chaser, there will shortly be a pile up to follow.

On the approach along Big Creek Road, I misread my notes and added the cumulative VC008_1distance onto the speedometer distance, instead of the distance to the next major landmark…… So I overshot by about 8 km! I realised my error and back tracked, and parked the car close to the junction of Big Creek Road and Black Sands Road. It was then a matter of climbing up though the logging coupe, trying to follow the snig tracks when possible – the ground was a little firmer, but you had to cope with the short & steep spoon drains designed to limit rain runoff. The ground appeared to be granitic sands mainly, so was soft in places where it had been disturbed. I headed steadily up to what appeared to be the highest point in the coupe. The GPS said that I was about 10 m height of the actual summit – comfortably inside the activation zone with the need to negotiate the scrub beyond.

Looking down to the car - almost post apocalyptic.

Looking down to the car – almost post apocalyptic.

I set up using a tree stump, lashing the squid pole to it with a single strap. The stump top was a convenient table. Once set up, I found Michelle VK3FEAT/p on 7.090 when the radio was switched on. An easy S2S contact with Michelle and then Terry VK3UP, both on Mt Buninyong VK3/VC-018. I then QSYed up to 7.095 and started to work another 20 stations, including another S2S with Paul VK3HRA/p, plus 2 SA Conservation Parks. I started packing up just before 0500Z, then headed north and on to Warburton to add fuel to the car. Then on up to Mt Donna Buang.

Mount Donna Buang VK3/VC-002 in the Yarra Ranges National Park

The decision to activate this peak came whilst operating at Hyde Hill – you could clearly see the outline of the range, with Donna Buang in the cloud most of the time. Given that I was going to need to fuel the car, Warburton seemed to be a good choice, making VC-002 the next obvious peak for the day. I parked in a lower car park to outside the activation zone and climbed up to the summit, through the thin fog/cloud.

Almost forgot the photo: Looking back towards the summit tower.

Almost forgot the photo: Looking back towards the summit tower.

It was tempting to go into the public shelter near the summit tower – someone had lit the fire and you could feel the warm air coming out as you walked up to the entrance way. I chose to set up west of the building, near the toboggan run, using a small stump to support the squid pole. I noticed some strange behaviour – intermittent signals on receive! A jiggle of the coax caused signals to disappear or reappear. Mmm – I will need to re-terminate the coax, perhaps replace it with something more flexible next time – I am currently using LL195 cable – light but stiff.

I managed to prop the radio & cable into a stable position, then promptly worked Trevor VK3 ATB/p and Kevin VK3KAB/p on Pyramid Hill VK3/VN-005. 15 minutes of operating yielded 19 contacts. Given the hour of the day, the cable issue and the dampness, it was time to pack up and head for home!

Once home, some dinner and the local club weekly net was followed by log entry. I clicked over to the next certificate level as a Chaser. I guess I had best claim that soon.

A successful day: lots of contacts including several S2S, plus 28 Activator points added to the score.

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