A trip to the White Elephant Sale

Sunday 23 March was the date for the annual Eastern & Mountain Districts Radio Club White Elephant Sale (WES) (otherwise known as a hamfest), to be held in Heathmont. It can be fun to be at such events, even if the prime purpose is to catch up with people face to face. Of course, you might find a gem for sale at a bargain price (or not!).

The plan was to head off to Heathmont and to catch up with Bernard VK3AMB – I had purchased a small number of small fibreglass squid poles out of China, a couple for myself and more for people who accepted my offer of buying for them.

Come late Saturday night, I noticed some tempting Alerts had appeared on the SOTA watch site. I decided to make a plan in the morning and so did not post any Alerts.
On Sunday morning, it was up with an alarm, then pack the gear in the car and start heading towards Melbourne. En route I finally committed to a target summit for the morning.

VK3/VC-037 unnamed summit 415 m 1 point

VK3/VC-037 was one of a small number of revisions added to the VK3 summit list on 1 February 2014. It was first activated by Glenn VK3YY on 21 February 2014, the only activation prior to my visit. It was only a 1 point summit, but is located only a shortish distance north or my normal travel route to Melbourne.

My approach was from the south – head north from the Princes Highway along Tynong North Road. After a few kilometres, the sealed surface ends and road winds through the southern sections of the Bunyip State Park. Watch out for horses, walkers and other vehicles – the road is narrow in places. At the junction with Gembrook-Tonimbuk Road, the road swings east. As per Glenn’s notes, travel for 1.3 km to the junction with Link Road (incorrectly named in Glenn’s Notes, according to the signs and the Forest Explorer map).

Turn left into Link Road, climbing upwards and then watch for the Burgess Road junction in a saddle. Swing right into Burgess Road and travel to just short of the summit and park in the parking area before the locked gate. This is signed as the “Four Brothers Rocks Car Park”.

Station at VK3/VC-037

Station set up at VK3/VC-037

I took the same approach as Glenn – parked, walked along to the Nichols Hut Track and descended about 30 m vertically down the track, then returned back to Burgess Road. The sign for Nichols Hut Track looked just too good – so I used it to support the squid pole and the radio. The track/road junction is only a few metres below the high point of the summit, well within the activation zone.

I was set up by 2230Z, spotted myself and started working callers on 40 m. When the traffic dropped off, I changed bands to 20 m and promptly worked VK2KTT. Bernard VK2IB/3 on Mount Cope VK3/VG-001 was spotted on 40 m, so a quick change back to 40 m (de-telescope the squid pole, reconnect the 20 m links and then raise the squid pole again) to make contact with Bernard for a S2S. I heard a couple of other callsigns that I had not worked earlier, so dropped down 5 kHz to work three more stations on 40 m before moving back to 20 m.

On 20 m, I joined the queue to work Kaz VK8ZKZ/p and Greg VK8GM/p on Mount Gillen VK8/AL-100 for S2S contacts. I then worked John VK6NU, also on 20 m.

I spent several minutes talking with a Parks Victoria Ranger who was on patrol – he had unlocked the gate and driven through, locking the gate behind him. We talked about SOTA and he asked if I knew a tall amateur who often sets up at Kurth-Kiln Regional Park. He could recall the name and I had no idea of who it might be.

It started spitting rain, so I quickly packed up and returned to the car, starting the trip to Heathmont at around 2345Z. I headed to Gembrook, then Cockatoo, where I heard Allen VK3HRA come up on air, just into the new UTC day. I pulled over to the side of the road and chased Allen on Mount Terrible Spur VK3/VE-134. Then it was off to Heathmont, finally arriving a little before 0100Z.

Having checked the Park Note map, it looks as if Four Brothers Rocks is about 400 m further along Burgess Road. Perhaps this summit might be given the name “Near Four Brothers Rocks”?

At the WES I caught up with several people, mainly talking about SOTA, but also a little about Amateur Radio magazine. I missed a few stations that were out activating, but such is life unless you can sit beside the radio all day. I finally got away from the WES at around 0245Z and headed towards Healesville. The initial thoughts during the morning had been to go to Mount St Leonard VK3/VC-006. Just before heading off I was chatting with Marshall VK3MRG and I remembered that the new summit VK3/VN-029 Federation Range had not yet been activated. It was beyond Healesville, so I decided on a longer detour on the route back home.

VK3/VN-029 Federation Range 1482 m 8 points Not previously activated
Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-556

The original summit list had VK3/VN-003 Federation Range as the SOTA summit. It was later identified that a higher point was located about 1.5 km NNW. The update on 1 February 2014 deleted VK3/VN-003 and added VK3/VN-029, with the same name. The new summit is also inside the National Park.

I had been considering leaving this summit until winter and to ski in, but it looked a good target for a Sunday afternoon.

Head to Marysville and then drive up Marysville-Woods Point Road (C513) – simply follow the signs for Lake Mountain Alpine Resort. Turn left into Lake Mountain Road and drive to the car park at the end of the sealed road. There are several buildings associated with the ski area located here, including a bistro and cross country ski hire (in winter). Head for the building on the left containing the bistro – the more western of the 2 obvious large buildings. It would be a good idea to download the ski trail map from the web site, as the ski trails are all very well marked. Walk along the path just west of the building and past the Ski Patrol entrance at the rear. You are now at the start of Royston Gap Road. During the ski season, walking on the ski trails is prohibited – you will need snow shoes or cross country skis.

Keppel's Hut ruin

Keppel’s Hut ruin

Keppel's Hut warning sign

Keppel’s Hut warning sign

On the drive up from Marysville, I managed to chase Allen VK3HRA/p on Bald Hill VK3/VE-137 and, a few minutes later, Matt VK2DAG/p on Mount Canobolas VK2/CT-001.
The simplest approach is to ascend along Royston Gap Road to Triangle Junction, then take the Panorama Trail north. At the branch point, head left and then on to the start of Hut Trail. Turn left here and head out along Hut Trail and climb up towards Boundary Hut/Keppel’s Hut. The grass is longer along this narrower trail, which is not groomed in winter. You will arrive at a branch point which has a one way sign. This junction is within the activation zone. I headed up the trail to the right (the wrong way) and followed the trail around to the Keppel’s Hut ruin, and then beyond to what I thought was the highest point on the trail. I strapped the squid pole to one of the ski trail poles and ran the dipole out along the trail.

Route to VK3/VN-029

Route to VK3/VN-029

The walk out to the summit took me around 80 minutes. There was little breeze and most of the walk was through cloud, making for an eyrie atmosphere walking up the trail with the tall skeletons of the snow gums killed by the 2009 bushfire. I started up the GPS at the start of Hut Trail, just to have an idea of the distance to the target. I was set up by 0520Z and managed to get mobile coverage to spot myself on 40 m by holding the phone well above my head.

VN-029 elevation profile

Elevation profile of the final approach and most of the return trip from VK3/VN-029

The summit was quickly qualified, including a S2S with Matt VK1MA/p on Mount Coree VK1/AC-023. The calls went unanswered after about 15 minutes and 12 stations logged. It was feeling as if it was about to start raining, so I packed up and headed back down. Sorry to the VK6 and other chasers – I decided not to venture to other bands.
The trip back was uneventful, other than the GPS battery dying about 500 m short of the car park. After loading the gear into the car, I headed back to Marysville and decided to bag Mount Gordon on the way past.

VK3/VN-027 Mount Gordon 764 m 4 points

I had activated this summit in October 2013. It is only a short distance (about 3 km) from Marysville Road. Mount Gordon Road heads off almost directly opposite the signs for the Trout & Salmon Farm. I parked at the hairpin corner and walked the last 400 m to the summit.

I spotted myself on 40 m at 0727Z. First in the log was Steve VK3HK who needed a little information about SOTA, followed by Tony VK3CAT. Next was Matt VK1MA/p on Mount Coree VK1/AC-023 for another S2S contact, followed by Marshall VK3MRG. There were only a small number of callers, perhaps it was around meal time for some? I changed to 20 m at 0744Z, to be rewarded with VK6MB replying with a strong signal, with a weaker signal underneath him. I worked Mike and then called for the other station to identify – no response. Further calls bagged 2 G stations and an EA1 – not bad for 5 W PEP, an inverted V dipole with the apex at 7 m and not having posted an Alert before the activation. Thanks to Don, Ernesto and Glen for my first European DX from a SOTA summit. Further calls yielded no responses, so I packed up and started the long drive home.

It was a good day out; even if relatively little time was spent at the WES!

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