A trip to Mount Skene

Saturday 13 December 2014

Despite teaching related duties at work having concluded for 2014, things were still very busy in recent weeks. Meetings, preparation for the coming year, it all chews up time. One good thing has been the ability to occasionally get to the car park and chase an activation. I awoke early on Saturday morning and decided to head for the hills. Several amateurs had posted activation Alerts. I simply grabbed some breakfast, loaded the gear in the car and hit the road. Sorry, but I did not even think about posting Alerts.

I headed to Traralgon, then Cowwarr, on to Licola and then up the Jamieson-Licola Road (C486). This road is generally in reasonable shape, but with some areas with large potholes. Note that the road is subject to seasonal road closure imposed by the Shire of Mansfield from Queen’s Birthday weekend in June until the end of October. Permits are required during this time, available from 4WD Victoria. The seasonal closure effectively restricts access to three summits that normally attract the winter bonus points.

Mount Skene VK3/VE-031 1565 m 10 points

The Jamieson-Licola Road crosses through the activation zone. I parked near the sign for the summit and walked west & SW along the road until out of the AZ, then headed back up to the sign and across to the summit trig, following the slowly regenerating old jeep track.

I set up near the trig, trying to pick a spot without lots of small ants….. No joy!

I had marginal ‘phone coverage, but could occasionally update the SOTAwatch web page. First in the log was Andrew VK1DA/2 on CW for a S2S. A little later, I worked VK1NAM/2 (on the same summit as 1DA). Other S2S included Gerard VK2IO/p, VK2IB/3 (CW) and VK1MBE/2 before UTC rollover, with several repeats after rollover, plus Warren VK3BYD/p & Allen VK3HRA/p on Mt Selwyn. Altogether, I made 39 contacts across 40 m, 30 m, 20 m & 17 m.

I returned to the car, finding a “lost” orange coloured pen from Canberra Indoor Rock Climbing about 70 m from the trig – perhaps evidence of a previous SOTA activator??

I headed back toward Licola, but only as far as Lazarini Spur Road, where I turned right. The road is labelled as 4WD only, but would be OK in the dry for a 2WD with good clearance. There were several trees across the road to negotiate – either under, around or over…… I continued on past Champion Spur Track for about half a kilometre, into a sharpish right hand bend. I was aware that I was short of the closest approach to the summit, but the terrain above the road looked like it offered reasonable progress through the scrub. Previous reports of the ascent had indicated thick regrowth.

VK3/VE-091 (unnamed) 1207 m 8 points

I had looked carefully at the maps for this summit (Lazarini Spur??) and it was clear that it had a large AZ. I loaded up and started climbing up to the east of the creek line/gully, following animal tracks and picking my route based on the scrub ahead. I eventually reached the end of the knoll to the east of the saddle east of the summit. The knoll had a reasonably clear area. Double checking the 10 m contour map & the GPS map images (again 10 m contours), it was confirmed that the saddle was inside the AZ, as was my location on the knoll. Looking across the saddle and toward the summit revealed lots of thick regrowth. I stayed where I was and set up – it was inside the AZ.

I simply hung the inverted V off a wattle sapling at about 2.5 m above ground. More ants…. I had no phone coverage and started calling on 7.090. Rob VK3EK was first in the log and kindly posted a spot. But it was lunch time, and I had not posted an Alert. I worked another 4 stations over the next 10 minutes and then gave up after repeated CQ calls with no responses. I packed up and headed back down the hill, but ventured right somewhat, into thicker regrowth…. I got back down to the road about 200 m east of the car, so it was just a short walk west along the road to complete the excursion.

It was then a case of retracing my route back to the Jamieson-Licola Road and heading towards Licola, but only to track N25 – the Alpine Walking Track. The track is an old 4WD track, but the scrub is starting to close in across the track. If you were not worried about scratches on the paintwork, it would be easily negotiated in a 4WD, with only a few short, steep but shallow spoon drains to tackle. I parked at the start of the track and walked up.

Mount Shillinglaw VK3/VE-068 1301 m 8 points

From the road, the climb is about 1.3 km with a rise of about 110 m. I set up just across the summit ridge, looking for a shady spot. More ants, everywhere ants….. No phone coverage, again, unless I walked about 100 m back north, where coverage was marginal.

First in the log was Bernard VK2IB/3 for a S2S on 40 m SSB. Next up was Gerard VK2IO/p on 40 m CW. Several 40 m SSB contacts followed, then S2S with both Warren VK3BYD/p and Allen VK3HRA/p on 40 m CW on VK3/VE-066. I believe that this was the summit that took Allen to Mountain Goat – well done Allen! Last in the log was VK2MWP on CW, contact number 17. I packed up and headed back down.

It was then simply a matter of retracing my route back to Licola for a short stop at the general store for an ice cream and a drink, then back to home.

A good day out: 3 new summits for me, 63 contacts including 18 S2S contacts (even if some were 2 operators on the one summit). The downside: lots of small ant bites, plus several march fly bites!

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