These days I place more importance on the UTC rollover than to the local New Year start, so I had an early night and missed the local changeover of year.
I was on the road at around 0645 local and arrived in Mount Beauty at 0845 – 15 minutes early for the Bakery to open on New Year’s Day. I decided to wait the 15 minutes and bought some lunch. Then it was time to start the climb to Falls Creek and beyond. There are plenty of “Share the Road” signs with a cyclist outline and yes there were plenty of cyclists climbing towards Falls Creek. Some of the seem to think that sharing means that they can sit on the white line in the middle of the road, literally “taking the lane” and not bothering to attempt to move over, even on the very windy road. The result, several delays as I slowed almost to a standstill waiting until I had vision of the road ahead to safely pass – on several occasions, I could have passed them if they had simply moved to single file, but not when one was right out in the lane. Such is life – some people have little or no consideration for others. I really wondered about one guy who was descending from Falls Creek – high speed, using almost the whole road as he traversed a dark shadow region in the thickly forested portion of the road. I only saw him at the last minute due to the movement through the dark shadows. His attire was almost entirely black Lycra – very hard to pick up.
There were fewer cyclists after Falls Creek village as I traversed the Bogong High Plains Road. At one point I came across three cyclists on racing recumbent bikes doing a U-turn, with the three bikes across the whole road and very low to the ground. They were considerate and quickly made it possible to proceed.
Once over the high point of the road, it was not very far to the car park for the start of the walk to Mount Cope.
Mount Cope VK3/VG-001 1837 m 10 points
The walk in to Mount Cope is around 1.5 km, climbing just over 130 metres vertically. The walk took me about 30 minutes and I was set up between the rock cairn and some rocks to the west that appear to be the real summit, using a snow gum to support the squid pole and to provide me with some shade. I was ahead of schedule and my first contact was to chase Phil VK2CPR/3 for a S2S, the first of nine S2S contacts in a row. I had decided to initially chase as many S2S opportunities as possible before finding a spot to settle. Things were reasonably busy early and became more hectic as 2359 UTC approached. I did work Wayne VK3WAM/p on CW prior to rollover, but missed Ian VK5CZ/p completely – when I had gaps in those calling me, I quickly checked the spots and looked for CW spots (most from several to many minutes earlier) without luck, except for Wayne. Prior to rollover, I made 32 contacts, including 21 S2S (with 1 dupe – 2 operators on the same hill).
Then the fun started again after rollover. I again used a mix of search and pounce initially, followed by finding a spot to sit and call. I made 43 contacts after rollover, with 24 S2S (4 dupes). My last contacts were S2S with Andrew VK2MWP/p and Mark VK1EM/2, both on VK2/ST-022, at 0052.
It was then time to pack up and head back down to the car and to drive around to the Big River Firetrail to park the car.
Mount Nelse VK3/VE-004 1882 m 10 points
You can drive about a kilometre up the Big River Firetrail before you reach the locked gate, but a sign at the gate says “Turnaround point, please park on the main road” or similar.
The walk is straight forward – walk up the track and around to underneath Mount Nelse. In fact, the saddle to the west of the summit appears to be in the AZ, so one could simply climb up to the saddle and set up using one of the nearby snow poles to support the antenna or your squid pole – there are no trees up here!
I cut a couple of corners on the ascent, partly to get off the hard track surface. The climb of around 5.3 km with a climb of about 280 m vertical took a little over an hour and a quarter. I set up using the trig to support the squid pole.
The activation started with four S2S contacts. I was on the summit for over an hour and had run out of callers. Once the chasers thinned out on 40 m, I tried 17 m and was rewarded with three VK6 chasers. Another alert from RRT prompted the switch back to 40 m for the two Andrews out on VK2/ST-001, followed by Reuben in VK7, Wayne on CW and John VK5BJE/3. I started to pack up and had almost completely packed when RRT announced a new spot – time to re-erect the station. So the final contacts were Rob VK2/QR/p and Brian VK3MCD/2 on VK2/SW-007. Overall, there were 34 contacts with 15 S2S (including 3 dupes). I then packed up and headed back to the car.
I headed back towards Falls Creek and then up McKay Road (from memory, signposted for Mt McKay and Pretty Valley). The road will take you all the way to the summit. I parked near the top, walked back down until outside the AZ, then climbed back up and quickly erected the antenna, not very high off the ground.
Mount McKay VK3/VE-007 1849 m 10 points
First in the log this time was Col VK3LED/p on Mt Alexander VK3/VN-016 who had been working his way through the chasers. I moved up in frequency and promptly worked a further 17 stations, including a further S2S with Gerard, still on VK2/HU-093. This was a short activation, with me on air for 13 minutes. The day was getting late, and I still had a 2-hour drive back to Wodonga, so I called it quits and started the drive home.
On the drive back, I stopped beside the road three times to chase: VK3WAM/p on 40 m CW, Brian VK3MCD/2 and Tim VK3MTB/p, both on 40 m SSB.
Overall, it was a great day of both activating and chasing. Thanks to all activators and chasers.
For me, 40 Activator points for the local day, plus 356 S2S points.
The increased interest in SOTA in VK makes it almost tiring to be an activator! A summit can often be qualified within a couple of minutes of calling CQ. Whereas in the past it would often take 30 minutes or more to qualify a summit, the initial pile of chasers these days will usually take at least 15 minutes to work through. I have not checked the statistics, but the number of activators is also increasing, making it more interesting for all.
VK now has its second Super Sloth – Peter VK3FPSR advised me during our post-rollover contact on Mount Cope that the contact had taken him past the 10,000 point mark. Well done Peter! Rob VK2QR is closing rapidly on the target for Mountain Goat and may well have reached the target before I have a chance to post this blog entry early next week. Brian VK3MCD is also getting close. We are seeing chasers reaching Shack Sloth status in ever shorter time frames.
Keep up the activity everyone!