A visitor from the north east activates some VK3/VT summits

On the weekend of 13 & 14 September, I had the pleasure of hosting Warren VK3BYD / VK3KS. Warren was coming to the Latrobe Valley as his wife was to participate in a coach development program, leaving Warren to fill in time between arrival and departure as he saw fit. We corresponded via email and a couple of ‘phone contacts to discuss possible summits. Ultimately a plan was hatched.

Mount Toorongo Range VK3/VT-026 1257 m 8 points + seasonal bonus

I met Warren at the local leisure centre and we loaded up his gear in my vehicle. We then headed off to Trafalgar, Willow Grove, Icy Creek and toward Tanjil Bren. Along the way, we both chased Andrew VK1MBE/2 on North Brother VK2/MN-081. Up the Toorongo Tanjil Link Road, then Mundic Road and Mount Toorongo Road, parking just below the locked gate – the road is subject to seasonal road closure. From the car, it was a climb of about 125 m vertically over 1.2 km to the high point in the road, then steeply up the side of the hill to the summit: about 42 m vertically over approximately 125 m horizontally.

Warren set up with his end fed wire, L match tuner and his ATS-4 transceiver and started calling on 40 m CW. I went to the top of the rocks at the summit and pulled out my IC-X2A handheld, a pcb 2-element Yagi for 23 cm and pointed towards Morwell. I managed a contact of about 52 km to Dean VK3NFI on 1296 MHz FM – not bad for 1 W through the local scrub at my end. I then worked S2S on 146.5 MHz with Jim VK3ZAP/p on Mt Dandenong VK3/VC-025 and Tony VK3CAT on Mt Ritchie VK3/VC-003, using the FT-817 and a homebrew coaxial dipole. I missed Brian VK3MCD on his first summit – I had not looked at the spots, and Brian had moved to 20 m before I noticed he had been spotted on 40 m. After the VHF contacts, I set up closer to Warren. As I was about to start calling on 40 m, Warren moved off to 20 m and RRT announced a spot for VK8GM/p. I quickly changed the link dipole to 20 m and set the frequency to hear Greg at good strength. Warren switched off his rig and I worked Greg S2S on VK8/AL-096, followed by Steve VK8XR/p on the same summit. We convinced Steve and Greg to have a go at a cross-mode contact with Warren. This was a little complicated, as Warren’s rig cannot receive USB, so Warren listened on my FT-817, then I switched off the radio whilst Warren transmitted, then I had to switch back on for the response….. Warren completed a contact, so was very happy. I then went to 40 m SSB for 14 contacts. After packing up, we headed down to the car.

Once back at the car, we retraced the route back to Icy Creek, then on to Noojee. Just before Noojee we had 2 stops to work Brian VK3MCD/p on The Knocker VK3/VG-016 and 10 minutes later Andrew VK2MWP/p on VK2/ST-002. Just after Noojee, there were large signs about Big Creek Road being closed, so we followed the signs toward the Ada Tree for a longer and slower unsealed route before approaching our target from the north. We safely made it to the junction of Big Creek Road and Blacksands Road, where we found another large sign about a potential road closure to the south.

Hyde Hill VK3/VC-008 902 m 6 points

We parked near the road junction and climbed up through the low regrowth. We tried to follow the snig tracks up where possible, as the ground was otherwise very soft in places. For future visitors: head up onto the logged area, then head in a roughly westerly direction. Once about half way across, you will find a snig track that will take you most of the way up to the high point of the coupe. We came down via that snig track.

We set up at the edge of the logging coupe, which was inside the activation zone according to the maps and my GPS reading from my activation last year. I was set up quickly and worked Peter VK3FPSR followed by a couple of others, and then Tony VK3CAT/p on Donna Buang VK3/VC-002 on the opposite side of the Yarra River valley to us, and then Rob VK2QR/3 on Mt Granya VK3/VE-165 for 2 S2S contacts. After 18 contacts were in the log, I then started to get set up to try another 23 cm FM contact whilst Warren worked on 40 m CW. I managed to again work Dean VK3NFI, this time at around 70 km on 1296 MHz FM.

We veered further to the north on our descent, which was easier as we picked up a good snig track, as per my comments above.

Once back at the car, I decided to risk an exit directly south along Big Creek Road, hoping that the road would be open on a Saturday afternoon – we saw several cars coming up from that direction as we descended. The road was indeed open and we made it back to the bitumen.

As we drove down, we discussed options and decided to skip the planned Spion Kopje activation and to try to get close to South Hells Gate. From Forest Explorer, I had found a likely access route which seemed to avoid the seasonal road closures. When we got to the target track junction we found a very substantial gate – closed and locked. So we then headed back to Churchill for a shower, a meal and lots of talk over a couple of glasses of wine and later Muscat.

On Sunday, we were underway by 0800K, heading to Seaton and then up Springs Road to our first target.

Mount Useful VK3/VT-016 1434 m 8 points + seasonal bonus

I had activated Mount Useful a couple of weeks earlier, so I was just the “taxi driver” for Warren. After dropping Warren outside the AZ on the way up, I parked near the summit and walked north west out of the AZ and returned to the summit just as Warren arrived. I set up to attempt to chase whoever would be activating that morning. No summit points for me on this one, just a chance to chase to get some S2S points.

Warren VK3KS on Mt Useful

Warren VK3KS on Mt Useful

I managed S2S contacts with Ian VK1DI/2 on VK2/ST-036, Andrew VK1NAM/2 on VK2/ST-010, Nigel VK5NIG/p on VK5/SE-013, and Mark VK2WU/3 on VK3/VE-126. Andrew VK2UH chased me after I worked Mark and was followed by Amanda VK3FQSO. I made no other HF contacts on Useful – I was attempting to minimize interference with Warren.

After Warren had comfortable qualified the summit, we packed up and headed back south to Williamsons Spur Track and then negotiated the fallen trees along the way. We parked just outside the AZ and walked up to the summit.

VK3/VT-034 1019 m 6 points

As we got to the summit, I heard a RRT alert, and quickly set up. First in the log was Ian VK5CZ/p on VK5/SE-015 for S2S. I had 7 stations in the log before Warren had his station set up, then I went to listening mode to allow Warren to qualify the summit on CW. I came back up at 0221Z, and was immediately called by Scott VK2SWD/p on Mt Perisher VK2/SM-007 for S2S. I worked another 7 stations before things were quiet and I packed up.

I had lunch once back at the car and received an RRT alert that Ian VK1DI/2 was up. Without checking the time of the spot, I rushed back up into the AZ, set up and heard nothing from some calls to Ian. I then saw that the spot had gone up more than 20 minutes earlier – it seems that I was too late. Phone coverage down from the summit here was very patchy, so I guess the alert on my phone came at least 15 minutes after Ian was first spotted….

We packed up and headed back toward Churchill, as Warren wanted to be back before his wife’s activities were concluded. As we were passing Glengarry, another RRT alert enabled both of us to work Andrew VK1NAM/2 on a summit.

I dropped Warren at the leisure centre and headed home to relax briefly after a busy weekend. Then I needed to proof read the October issue of Amateur Radio magazine!

Thanks for the company Warren!

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