Monday 22 December 2014
With no family activities planned for Monday, I decided to head for the hills. I posted an Alert for VK3/VE-064 after I entered by passcode (which arrived via email overnight) into aprsdroid. I sent a single test spot, which worked. Once on the road, I activated tracking. This was my experience of running APRS. I have noted that it is a useful tool for chasers, so thought that I would give it a try.
I headed from Wodonga to Myrtleford, then to Porepunkah and up the Buckland Valley Road and then up Selwyn Creek Road. Allen VK3HRA had used this route on his recent trip with Warren VK3BYD to activate summits in the area. Once on the Divide, I headed along the Twins Jeep Track. Climbing up was steep and rocky in places, with no obvious place to park the vehicle. I drove around the south side of the summit and found a spot to park in the saddle to the east of the summit.
VK3/VE-064 (unnamed) 1334 m 8 points Not previously activated
This summit had been on the list of target summits for Warren VK3BYD and Allen VK3HRA on 13 December. I had looking at the three 8-point summits for some time, but had not yet had a chance to attempt them.
From the saddle, it was straight forward climb of 54 metres vertical up the spur, about 400 m in distance. There is considerable regrowth around the summit, with a small clearing just short of the summit.
As it was a warm sunny day, I actually set up amongst the regrowth so that I had some shade. I simply tied the dipole centre up at about 2.5 m on a sapling and strung out the dipole. There was a nice fallen log to use as an operating table, for operation at a convenient height when standing – little need to worry about the ants.
First of 13 contacts in the log was S2S with Andrew VK3NAM/3 on Federation Range. He was about to close operations, so I was lucky to catch him. I let people know that I was aiming for two more summits for the day, even though I had no further alerts posted. After no further responses to calls, I packed up and headed back to the car, considering my options: further east on Twins Jeep Track to Mount Murray, which I had activated in late 2013, or to head west for the next two summits?
I decided on the latter option, as I had not yet activated those summits. I did consider doing other bands, but decided to stay with only 40 m and to keep operations short, thus maximising my chances to get all three summits activated. Once back at the car, it was back along the track to the main saddle, and then up Montain Track – with a very steep & rough section that I just managed to get up. Higher up I parked and then climbed up to the summit from outside the AZ.
VK3/VE-066 (unnamed) 1331 m 8 points
I set up using a sapling to support the squid pole, with the dipole running parallel to the track. I hung my pack on a broken branch of another sapling and found that I could balance the radio on the top of the pack. Thus another operation was done whilst standing, with few issues with the plentiful ants.
I posted a spot and quickly worked 10 stations in 10 minutes. Then calls dried up, so I packed up and headed down.
Once back in the car, the steep section looked worse going down, but was safely negotiated. It was then off to the south and west along Selwyn Creek Road, and then followed the sign for Tea Tree Range (Selwyn Logging Road, perhaps). I climbed up to the track to the junction signposted Mt Selwyn and double checked my map on the laptop. I was only 11 km from Mount Sarah, which had only a single joint activation back in November 2013. I decided to try my luck and headed south along Tea Tree Range Road. The road was in reasonable condition, with only the odd damp spot and some small fallen timber to dodge. Before long I was at the turn off to Mount Sarah.
Mount Sarah VK3/VE-032 1552 m 10 points
I drove to the summit area, and then exited the AZ back down the track and down the track toward Guys Hut, then back to near the car. I simply strung the dipole centre from a snow gum.
I had some mobile coverage, so spotted myself. Rob VK3EK worked me first, completing the summit. Over 15 minutes I worked 11 stations. I heard Ron VK3AFW clearly at 53, but Ron could not hear me. I then packed up and headed further south, to another summit just 6 km further along Tea Tree Range Road. Time was getting on and the track to the summit had fallen timber. I thought that I would check an alternate approach from the south. I double checked the GPS and map at the high point of the road – it was just inside the AZ – good enough!
VK3/VT-023 (unnamed) 1302 m 8 points
I parked the car, grabbed the pack and headed SW down the track about 200 m to exit the AZ, and then returned. I rigged a 7 m squid pole and strung out the dipole roughly N-S. I had some mobile coverage, so spotted myself. Larry was the first of 14 contacts, including Rob VK3EK to complete the summit – he and Mike VK3XL were the only previous activators here, back in November 2013. This was another short activation, only just over 10 minutes between first and last contacts, with no further responses received to CQ calls. I packed up and headed back to the north.
Just after I had passed the track into Mt Sarah, I heard Brian VK3MCD/p come up over on Mt Blue Rag. I did a quick U-turn and returned to just below the AZ, grabbed the pack and headed up into the AZ. A very quick set up followed, with the dipole strung across the snow gum branches – enough for 59 reports for a S2S. Mt Blue Rag is only 16 km away, across the Wongungarra River valley. I am not sure whether this fits within the rules – a single contact after having left the summit AZ and returning later? I dropped down in frequency and called for several minutes with no further responses, so packed up and resumed the trip north. At the track junction, I turned left and headed up to the junction of the track to Mt Selwyn.
Mount Selwyn VK3/VE-049 1424 m 8 points
The track up to the summit is also part of the Australian Alps Walking Track. It is 4WD, with a very rough, rocky and steep final climb to the summit. I walked up. As I approached the final steep climb, I saw two 4WD vehicles considering how to tackle the final climb. By time I got to the bottom of the final climb, one vehicle was up on the summit. I stood back to watch the second tackle the climb, bouncing and slipping on the rough, dusty and rocky climb.
I chatted with the driver of one vehicle as I set up the station. Once ready, I spotted myself. First in the log was Rob VK3EK. Shortly after I worked Brian VK3MCD/p on Blue Rag Range for a S2S. I worked 13 stations before I had no further responses to calls, so I packed up and headed back down.
I decided to exit the area via Mount Selwyn Road. The early section down to Buffalo Range Track is a bit rough, with some boggy areas and several large spoon drains as it transits very loamy soils on intially gently rolling terrain. Lower down the track is good for any vehicle with reasonable clearance.
The rain that had been looming to the north all afternoon finally arrived just when I hit the bitumen closer to Porepunkah. Just before Porepunkah, I finally had mobile reception again. It was then simply a matter of returning to Wodonga.
I check the APRS track on Tuesday, and it clearly shows me on all five summits, but with some long gaps in between summits.
So APRS worked OK – whenever I had mobile coverage, as expected. Overall, a good day for me: five summits activated (all new for me), including one not previously activated; four summits completed; 42 points added to the Activator tally and several S2S contacts. The downside: one blown tyre and a damaged muffler after hitting a rock which was hiding in the grass.