VK3/VE-159 unnamed summit 892 m 4 points
When I checked the Alerts on Saturday night, there were three SOTA activations slated for Sunday morning local time, including Mount Townsend VK2/SM-002 – a 10 point summit. I considered my options, including some summits close to Albury & Wodonga. I decided to head a little further away to VK3/VE-159, as this would give me another Complete summit.
My approach was straight forward – simply get to Lockhart Gap Road and drive to Lockhart Gap. At the Gap there is a lookout with an excellent view up the Mitta Mitta River Valley. I simply glanced and headed up Lockharts Gap Track, veering left at the top of the climb at the junction with Powerline Road. Once again, I drove to the summit to park and then walked out of the AZ and back up.
I set up using a 2 m gum sapling to support the squid pole. As soon as I turned on the radio, it was clear that there was activity on 7.100. I quickly worked Phil for a S2S, then moved down 5 and was called by Ed VK2JI before I could call – well guessed Ed! Shortly after was a S2S with Andrew VK1NAM/p on VK1/AC-037. Callers kept on coming, with 40 m activity final slowing at around 2250Z. I tried 20 m and worked 2 stations in VK5 and one in northern VK2. It was then back to 40 m and another S2S with Phil VK2FPJR/p, this time on VK2/IL-001. Things were then quiet until just prior to UTC rollover. 16 stations were worked after rollover, including another S2S with Andrew VK1NAM/p on VK1/AC-037, all on 40 m. I listened for VK2TWR until about 0020Z, then packed up and head back to Lockhart Gap.
VK3/VE-135 Lockhart 1004 m 6 points Not previously activated
On the western side of Lockhart Gap is one end of the Eskdale Spur Track. The track along to the saddle south of Lockhart would be passable in a 2WD vehicle without issues, at least at the moment. I parked in the saddle and then looked for the start of a 4WD track marked on the map. I could not see it – there was lots of fallen timber and thick shrubby regrowth close to the road.
I loaded up and started picking my way through the mess, starting on the western side of the spur line. I zig-zagged up the spur line by following animal tracks – probably wombats. After about 200 m, whilst on the eastern side of the spur line, I spotted the old 4WD track, so headed slightly further east and then north along the track. There was regrowth along the track, but progress was relatively quick. As I approached a broad gully about 600 north of the saddle, I could see a very thick band of blackberries and other scrub, mainly blackberries. The obvious option was to head back toward the ridge line and generally upwards, then swing toward the east along the ridgeline to the summit. There was thicker regrowth closer to the summit, but it was relatively easy to follow the wombat tracks. The summit trig was obscured until about 25 m away. Just past the trig, there is a nice open area on the northern side of the trig, which is where I set up.
RRT had gone off when I was 200 m away from the summit, with Phil VK2FPJR/p on a new summit. By time I was on the summit & set up, Phil had closed his station. Set up was a few minutes longer than normal, as it had been a very hot, humid climb up through the bracken and regrown, dodging fallen timber.
My first call was to see if Phil was still around and Andrew VK2UH came back to indicate that his activation had been short. I quickly worked 19 stations, all on 40 m. As the weather was so warm and humid, I decided to call it quits and head back to the car.
I basically headed back in roughly the same route as taken for the last part of the climb and headed down to the old 4WD track not far from where I had left it on the way up. I then followed it all the way back to the saddle, with it easier to follow once you were on the track. The last 100 m was thicker rubbish scrub, with some blackberry canes to avoid. In the final push through to the saddle, I was showered with lots of fine dead leaves, being covered with them and lots down the neck of my shirt. Thankfully my hat kept most of the rubbish off my face and eyes. Once on the road, I placed a walking pole in the ground with my hat on top, and took a photo to show where to start looking for the track.
I removed my shirt and tried to get some of the rubbish off my back & shoulders. After I good drink, it was into the car and I headed south along Eskdale Spur Track. Given the hot and humid weather, I was not keen for more scrub bashing. About 3 kilometres south of the saddle where I had parked to attempt Lockhart, a spur heads south to another SOTA summit, VK3/VE-144. This would involve a walk of about 1.4 km, with a climb of 200 m vertically. It would be a bush bash the whole way – definitely not for me on day like today. I drove on to the junction with Sandy Creek Road and stopped to check the maps. I heard activity on 7.090 – stations were working Rod VK2TWR/p on Mount Townsend. I quickly made a contact with Rod at 0328Z, and then headed down Sandy Creek Road and back towards Wodonga.
Sandy Creek Road was generally in good condition, with a few potholes in places. It is a viable approach route to Eskdale Spur Track. The section of Eskdale Spur Track immediately beyond the junction looked to be rougher and less used.
Overall, a reasonable day of SOTA: one summit completed and a new one activated for a total of 10 points, plus four S2S contacts and a new Chaser Unique thanks to Rod.