On Saturday, I again tackled three relatively local 8-point summits to increase my Activator score by 33 points. The weather had been warm for a few days, and the last snowfall had been about 10 days earlier, so I was hopeful that the road may be reasonably clear.
From Traralgon, I headed north to Licola and then up the Jamieson-Licola Road (C486). Using this approach gives you the maximum amount of sealed road surface. Licola allows an opportunity to top up on fuel and/or other supplies at the general store. Note that the fuel costs are much higher than many country localities.
Connors Plain VK3/VT-022 1305 m 8 points plus season bonus
After Licola, the road climbs steadily on its way toward Jamieson. There were a few fallen trees across the road, but all either had sections removed or could be negotiated easily. Continue to climb along route C486. Once you pass the junction with South Road you are getting close to the first target. There is a camping area on the left as you climb towards a saddle. Keep an eye open for the 22 km sign on the edge of the road. A few hundred metres on you will be at the junction with N7 Track on the left. Turn in here and find a spot to park. During the approach drive, I stopped briefly to chase Bob VK5FO/p on Mt Gawler. Just as I was parking the car, I heard Rob VK2QR/p come up and work Bob. I tried to catch Rob’s attention without luck, so missed his first summit for the day.
It is worthwhile noting that C486 is subject to a road closure from mid-June through to just before the Melbourne Cup Day weekend from the boundary of the Wellington and Mansfield Shires, only a few hundred metres beyond the N7 track junction. There is a sign on the road side, but no gate. Travel on C486 beyond this point requires a permit from Four Wheel Drive Victoria, making Mts Shillinglaw VK3/VT-068, Skene VK3/VE-031 and VK3/VE-091 technically very difficult during the bonus season: an access permit is required, which essentially means you need to be on a trip with a 4WD Club that has covered all the required steps.
From the vehicle, I followed one of the old logging track routes up the slope to get to the plateau of Connors Plain. All of flattish area of the plateau is inside the activation zone. I simply set up using a tree stump to support the squid pole and act as an operating table.
The views to the ranges to the west, north and east were excellent, with all the higher peaks covered with snow. But no snow at Connors Plain. The sky had about 30% cloud cover at the start of the climb, with the cover increasing as the day went on.
32 stations were worked, all on 40 m SSB. Early in the log was Bob VK5FO/p for a S2S. I decided to get moving to the next summit as I was unsure of road conditions. So I packed up after about 30 minutes, walked back down to the car and headed back toward Licola, but only to South Road.
Mount Selma VK3/VT-013 1464 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus
Head south on South Road until you climb up out of the low point and up to the junction with Mount Selma Road at the edge of a broad saddle. This is a hard right turn. Mount Selma Road is a little rough in places and has a few wet areas. There were also a few trees down to negotiate. It could be tackled with care in a 2WD vehicle as long as you have reasonable ground clearance. I drove around to the western junction between Mount Selma Road and Mount Selma Track and parked off the road. I then walked up Mount Selma Track until I was well inside the activation zone and set up beside the track using a tree stump.
1 worked 36 stations, including S2S with Ian VK1DI/2 on Mt Wee Jasper, Gerard BK2IO/p on Mt Perisher and Marshall VK3MRG/p on VK3/VE-178. I ventured up to 20 m for about 10 minutes, with one contact into VK4 only, then back to 40 m to work a diminishing number of chasers – I was hoping that Rob VK2QR might be on schedule for his next summit. After more than an hour on the summit, I worked Marshall for S2S and was caught by Ian VK5CZ before I started to pack up. Once back to the car, I listened to Marshall working the chasers while I headed back to South Road. Despite the Garmin Map showing otherwise, South Road heads south and eventually becomes Springs Road, which skirts around the side of the next summit – Mount Useful.
Mount Useful VK3/VT-016 1434 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus
On the south side of Mount Useful, look for the junction with track to the summit. This is wet and rutted in places, but one can drive to the summit area. Or you can park at the track junction and walk the 800 m to the summit. If you drive to the top, just grab the gear and walk just over half way down the track to exit the AZ and then return to the summit.
I set up close to the trig point area, using a small tree to support the squid pole. First in the log was Brian VK3MCD/p, on VK3/VE-090. Next was Rob VK2QR/p on Skains Mountain VK2/SM-038. About 10 minutes later, Marshall VK3MRG/p still on VK3/VE-178 called in for another S2S. A total of 24 contacts were made, again all on 40 m SSB.
I packed up and headed south, hoping to squeeze in a fourth summit for the day: VK3/VT-034. This was not to be: there were several trees down across the road. The first few could be negotiated with care. However, in a steeper section, there was a larger tree across the whole track. Someone had cut the fallen trunk in two places with a chain saw, but the section was too heavy to move. They had not cut it into smaller pieces, so I had to abandon this approach. It turns out that I had left my maps of the area at home, so that marked the end of the activation day.
I headed down South Road toward Seaton and dropped in to Mike VK3MM’s place to catch up and retrieve a radio I had loaned Mike after he and Sue VK3SUE had been burnt out by a bushfire (the Aberfeldy fires of January 2013). Whilst at Mikes, I ignored one RRT alert, but did chase Rob VK2QR/p on Mt Nattung.
From Mike & Sue’s place, it was an easy drive down to Seaton and then back to Traralgon. Early that evening I had a long chat with Allen VK3HRA about the day’s activities and the state of the roads. The nett result was that Allen successfully completed activations of the same three summits on the Sunday.