The 2014 edition of the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award activity weekend was a busy weekend for me.
I could not depart until Saturday morning, with some tasks to complete prior to leaving. Whilst checking for an email message & sending out another, I also checked the weather forecast – resulting in a change of my earlier plans. The weather was likely to change overnight Saturday, so I aimed to get a couple of SOTA summits done before the front arrived.
I was on the road before 0730 local for the long drive, with the radio listening on 7090 kHz. I made a couple of stops to chase SOTA stations along the way, but it became apparent later that some were missed due to the lack of mobile phone coverage once one is not far north of Orbost…. I am very aware of the advantages of having alerting software running! No mobile coverage means no spot notifications, so contacts are much less likely, especially when driving.
Mount Ellery VK3/VG-153 1276 m 8 points Not previously activated
Many roads and tracks in the region north of Orbost are still closed following the bushfires last summer, including significant parts of both Errinundra and Snowy River National Parks. I took the Bonang Highway up toward Goongerah. After passing the first Goongerah sign, look out for Sardine Creek Track (this is the northern end of Sardine Creek Track) and turn right onto the slightly rough start and cross the Brodbribb River and veer right. Head up to the junction with BA Track, turn left and follow it around to the junction of Big River Road. At the moment, BA Track is closed beyond the junction and this next section is also subject to a winter seasonal road closure. Head down Big River Road until you see the sign for Mount Ellery. I stopped about 550-600 m short of the signs – doh!
The slight map reading error led to a short hundred metre bush bash along the old road route, which is now very overgrown, until I hit the real route. It was then a solid climb to the base of the highest torr at the summit to set up the SOTA station. Mt Ellery is well inside the Errinundra NP. I worked 38 stations in about 90 minutes or so whilst on the summit, most on 40 m SSB, some on 20 m, and 2 S2S on CW – thanks Wayne and Gerard.
This was the first time I had a key or paddles on a summit – guess that means that I am becoming more confident. I had several months earlier received a set of paddles purchased via AliExpress. The paddles are also available on eBay as “UNI-715 Mini” Morse code key. I had mounted the mounting adapter at home, but left he paddles off the radio – the radio with the paddles mounted did not fit my carry bag. I simply placed the paddles and the Allen key in the bag and mounted the paddles once on site, and took the paddles off when packing up.
After an hour and a half on the summit, contacts were becoming hard to find and propagation was a little odd, so I packed up and headed back down to the car. I had 38 contacts in the log.
I followed the walking track all the back to Big River Road. You could drive up to the locked gate and park a couple of vehicles there, saving a short walk. I had an extra 560 m or so walk back up hill to the car, but it was easier that struggling with the regrowth over the old track. Back at the car, I loaded the gear inside and then drove back down to the Bonang Highway. On the way I passed the start of Ellery Creek Link Track, which heads up to VK3/VG-119, an as yet unactivated summit. But the track had area closed signs after the fires, so I was good and continued down to the bitumen. I then headed north to Bonang.
Monkeytop VK3/VG-041 1262 m 8 points
In Bonang, turn into Rising Sun Road, and then left into Yalmy Road. Much of Yalmy Road follows the eastern boundary of the Snowy River National Park. Follow Yalmy Road around to Monkeytop Track. This is subject to seasonal closure at The Big Tree, and labelled as 4WD only beyond the gate. I drove the Subie up the track to an old sign sticking out of a tree trunk – showing only “To Monkey” – the tree had covered the rest of the sign. I parked off the edge of the track near the sign and headed through the scrub to the summit to set up.
The Monkey Top activation was about 30 minutes only – contacts dried up and the day was getting late with a long drive back to Orbost – a relatively sleepy town, when meal orders stop at 2000 and few take away options. Rob VK3EK indicated that 20 m was open long path to Europe, but with 18 contacts from Snowy River NP in the log, I packed up and headed back. I made it back to Orbost with 2 minutes to spare before meal orders closed… After a lovely meal at the Orbost Club, I headed around to check in at the motel, have a nice hot shower and then followed up with some data entry into the PC before hitting the hay.
Coopracambra National Park VKFF-113
On Sunday morning I awoke to heavy rain and eventual got organised and headed east to Cann River and then north to Chandlers Creek and then up the WB Line track to get well inside Coopracambra NP. It was still raining heavily and blowing fairly hard, so any SOTA thoughts were abandoned. The closest summit was about 3.5 km away from me, with around 300 m of climbing. Given the weather, I decided against a very wet walk and activation. I set up the portable antenna on the squid pole and then worked 13 stations over the next hour, all on 40 m SSB. No responses to calls on 20 m, and I was unable to post a spot as there was no mobile phone coverage.
It was then back to Cann River.
Alfred National Park VKFF-618
From Cann River, I headed east on the Princes Highway to the West Wiggan Road and down to Soda Creek Track and in a kilometre or so to the east. I set up on the north side of the road to be just inside the Alfred NP. Once again, no mobile phone coverage, so I could not generate or receive spots. Conditions on 40 m were depressed and I had no responses to calls on 20 m. I made 19 contacts on 40 m in around 35 minutes of calling. I then packed up and headed back to Cann River for a short stop to grab some lunch.
Next was the start of the trip home with one final short diversion: off the highway to set up on the edge of Lind NP.
Lind National Park VKFF-287
There is only one road through Lind NP, which is currently closed due to a collapsed bridge. I headed up to the north-east corner of the park and set up on the edge of the Eastern Gas Pipeline easement, which map investigations indicated placed me just inside the park. I operated here for around an hour, again with all contacts made on 40 m SSB. Calls on 20 m were met with silence/band noise only. Worked 27 stations and managed to give Bernard VK3AV park number 44. It turned out that I also helped Paul VK5PAS/3 get his last 3 parks for the KRMNPA. Allen VK3HRA also gathered the last of his 45 NPs chased. Well done to all three!
From there it was a drive back to Traralgon to arrive late for a Parks Victoria “Friends” annual BBQ (there was still some food available). How did I get that invite? Easy, I am a ski patroller with Saint Gwinear Ski Patrol, which was presented with a 30 year service certificate at the gathering. As things started to wind up, it was time to head home for a solid night’s sleep.
Thanks to all who chased me over the weekend.
I managed to activate 5 out of the 6 East Gippsland (i.e. east of Orbost) Parks (other than the Alpine NP). I ran out of time to head to Croajingolong NP – sorry folks.
Thanks again to Tony for organising the weekend. I know of two amateurs who have achieved the 45 parks worked level and I hope that I assisted some others to move closer to the target. Thanks also to Andrew VK1NAM and others who organised a SOTA activation weekend to coincide with the NP activity – it certainly livened things up, despite the depressed HF conditions.