A circumnavigation of the upper Thomson River catchment

I felt the urge to get out into the hills again for another dose of SOTA. Saturday was spent on some domestic tasks amongst chasing a little SOTA activity and lots of the SA National Parks and Conservation Parks Award anniversary activity. Saturday night was an hour longer with the change from Daylight Savings Time to EST. Even so, I probably should have set an alarm. It had been raining steadily most of Saturday.

VK3/VT-029 Unnamed summit 1115 m 6 points

This summit has only been activated once previously, by Wayne VK3WAM in September 2013. He had a 6 km long walk in, as the T-J Divide Track is subject to a winter road closure.

I was away from home a little late at about 2150Z and finally decided which route option to take once I was on the highway – Moe, Rawson, Erica and then around the Thomson Valley Road, right into Nine Mile Road and up to The Triangle. I managed to work a couple of VK5 portable stations out for the SANPCPA Anniversary weekend whilst traversing the Thomson Valley Road – of course, I pulled over to make the contacts. Right into Warburton-Woods Point Road to St Clair, then right into Thomson-Jordan Divide Road and travel along the spur to Cream Can Hill. I took the direct option and travelled down Thomson-Jordan Divide (T-J Divide) Track. I could have stayed on the main road and taken the next left once around the back of Cream Can Hill – this climbs back up to join T-J Divide Track and is also a better road surface. Then travel along the track towards Mount Easton, which is beyond the SOTA summit. There were some Road Works signs on display. As I approached my intended parking spot, I encountered Road Closed Ahead signs: Logging was occurring on the western slopes of the summit. The weather was misty – cloud and occasional rain and/or mist, making the roads slippery in places, with many puddles after a couple of days of rain from an East Coast Low system.

I worked Al VK1RX/p on Mt Gingera, Allen VK3HRA/p on VK3/VC-024 and Rob VK3EK on Mt Taylor from the car just before UTC midnight.

GPS track to summit

The GPS track to the activation site on VK3/VT-029

I parked the car and headed up toward the summit, following roughly where the track was within the logging operations area – the bunting was not across the track and being a Sunday, no one was around. I climbed up to the flat area of the summit and set up just out of the logged area, in an opening created by a bulldozer.

 

Operating site

The operating site on the summit

I quickly set up and started operating after searching the pack for a pencil – I had left the log at home! Fortunately, I had my printed map. I just needed the pencil, finding a spare in the top pocket. I was operational with the first contact (Mark VK3YN) in the log at 0027. I worked a total of 20 stations, including S2S contacts with Al VK1RX/p, Rob VK3EK/p and VK3HRA/p.

The mist started again and then turned to rain, so I only operated on 40 m and packed up once the initial pile up had been worked. So then back to the car and retrace my steps back to St Clair, then right and on to Mt Matlock.

VK3/VC-001 Mt Matlock 1372 m 8 points

Mount Matlock

Mount Matlock

I drove up to the summit, grabbed the gear and headed back down the track until outside the AZ, then climbed back up and used the trig to support the squid pole.

First in the log was Greg VK5ZGY/p in the Naracoorte Caves National Park. 31 more contacts were made, including 7 SANPCPA stations. 2 contacts were made on 24 MHZ, and 2 on 20 m, including Mike VK6MB.

After closing the station, it was a short walk to the car, then back down to the Warburton-Woods Point Road and head east to Matlock, then veer slightly right onto Walhalla Road. Walhalla Road was in terrific condition, after a significant amount of road works over the previous year. I pulled over briefly to work Al VK1RX/p on Mt Ginini, as I was not sure if he would still be on-air when I arrived at my next stop. Better to have a Chaser contact from the car in the log than to miss the Chaser points! As soon as you move beyond the corner with Mount Selma Road, road conditions deteriorate immediately. The approximately 11 km to Aberfeldy took almost 40 minutes.

VK3/VT-030 Mount Lookout 1115 m 6 points

Mount Lookout

Mount Lookout

I parked in the cemetery car park and walked back to the road and back north until outside the AZ, then retraced my route. I set up inside the cemetery this time – the bench seat looked too inviting as an operating position. I was careful to ensure that the dipole was strung high enough to not present a hazard should anyone visit the site.

Once set up, I worked a couple of VK5 portable stations first off, before being asked to QSY up by a SOTA chaser after I completed a contact. Then the fun with the pile up began at 0430Z. I made S2S contacts with Al VK1RX/p and Peter VK3ZPF/p – thanks for chasing me!

After working the pile up, I chased a few more VK5 parks stations before trying 12 m, without any luck. Matt VK2DAG had indicated that he would listen, but I heard nothing. After several minutes of calling, I gave up and headed to 20 m. Contacts started with John VK6NU and Stuart VK5STU. Then the fun really began – a dog pile of European stations. Contacts were completed with OH9XXand S51RU. There was significant QSB plus lots of QRM. I dropped back to 40 m for a SANPCPA contact, and then back to 20 m. Contacts were made with HA5LV, VK5MPJ, OK1SDE, S58AL, F5IDJ, OK7WA and DL1DVE on 20 m before I gave up with the QRM – lots of strong stations just coming up on air and the QRP was not winning the battle.

The decision was made to drop back to 40 m and look for other portable stations. The result was a S2S with David VK3IL on Mount Feathertop, then I went back to 20 m – wall to wall QRM. I tried listening for Mark VK3ASC/p on Maher Hill VK3/VE-233. He was there, but extremely weak. I called a couple of times but was too weak for him. Back to trying to work the Europeans, but QRM was increasing. I finally managed to chase Mark after he changed to 30 m, resulting in an easy S2s contact. As I had been on the summit for 2 hours and things were cooling off, so I decided to pack up and head for home.

Overall, a good day out for 20 Activator points added to the tally, together with several S2S contacts and SANPCPA stations. I had not posted alerts before starting the trip as I was not sure of the road conditions and it was a last minute decision to head to the hills.

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