Boxing Day to New Year’s Eve 2015

VK3/VE-243 395 m 1 point

Boxing Day 26 December 2015

After a day spent with family members, I decided late in the afternoon to attempt the other summit very close to where I was staying. The summit has no name. It is on the ridge system to the south of Bandiana. Some of the mapping data suggests that the Army base property may extend to the summit. Mark VK3ASC had activated this summit some time ago and I managed to work him on that activation. Mark advised that there is public access from the western end of the ridge, off Donnington Drive.

From Beechworth Road, turn east into Balmoral Drive, then right into Halsingor Avenue, then right again into Donnington Drive. At the end of the road, veer right into a driveway after the last house on the right. Be careful – there is short sharp spoon drain! Drive up and park near the normally locked gate. The gate has signs indicating no unauthorised access, but that walker access is allowed provided you remain on the formed tracks. Another sign indicated an number of non-permitted activities relating to the conservation efforts to preserve the area. These should not be an issue for the SOTA activator.

WodongaCouncilSigns

Signs at the locked gate.

Enter through the walkers’ gate and start climbing toward the large green building, which I believe contains a large water storage. A vehicle track veers off to the left away from the fenced compound around the building – this is the route. You climb up along the spur and then along the ridge, climbing over a locked gate with a sign about the significant vegetation. Continue along the ridge, down into the saddle and then climb up to the eastern knoll to the summit. There is a large area of activation zone.

I simply strung the dipole centre up to a tree branch and set up to call on 40 m SSB. Nev VK5WG was first in the log, followed by 12 others over the next 12 minutes. Once there were no more callers, I spent some time listening and calling on 20 m, trying to catch V890IARU, one of the stations celebrating 90 years of the IARU, but my 5 W was insufficient with the propagation conditions. I packed up and retraced my route to the car, and then headed back to base.

Mount Granya VK3/VE-165 863 m 4 points
Mount Granya State Park VKFF-0767

28 December 2015

I have activated Mt Granya a couple of times previously. It is an easy summit to access – simply follow the signs from the Murray Valley Highway (B400) east of Tallangatta, initially on Corio Quay Road, climbing up to the high point of the road. Turn left into Mount Granya Road and follow this unsealed road to its end. The road is narrow in places, so care is required. At the summit there is a fire watch tower and some comms equipment, plus a picnic area with display board and some toilets. The picnic area includes a fixed picnic table and a fireplace.

As on previous activations, I strapped the squid pole to the picnic table, which became the operating table.

Once again I started on 40 m SSB, with Peter VK2FPMC/p and Tony VK1VIC/2 on Mt Mundoonen VK2/ST-053 first in the log. I worked 19 stations prior to UTC rollover. After rollover, there were another 19 contacts before I spent some time listening on 15 m CW for for JP1QEC on JA/YN-059. He was very weak, with the signals not workable at my location. I tried calling on 15 m SSB with no responses, then gave 20 m SSB a try, yield Paul VK2KTT in Coffs Harbour and Warren ZL2AJ, the ZL1 Association Manager.

A spot dragged me back to 40 m SSB – Peter VK3ZPF/p was out on Mt Bride VK3/VC-009 for a S2S. I tried calling on 15 m SSB using the dipole set for 40 m and worked Rick VK4RF/VK4HA. It was then back to 40 m to chase Ian VK1DI/2 on Cathcart Trig VK2/SM-090. I worked Stef VK5HSX/p in Missent Conservation Park VKFF-0799 followed by Adan VK1FJAW/p and Andrew VK1AD/p, both on Mt Tidbinbilla VK1/AC-013 in VKFF-0377. The last contact in the log for this activation was Peter VK3TKK in Mornington Peninsula National Park VKFF-0333.

When combined with the contacts made when I activated Mt Bolga, I should now have the 44 required for WWFF.

I packed up and headed back down to B400, then east to near Koetong. I entered the Mount Lawson State Park and worked Adan VK1FJAW/p from the car just before he and Andrew closed down. I then continued on to the Mount Lawson car park.

Mount Lawson VK3/VE-129 1041 m 6 points
Mount Lawson State Park VKFF-0768

The easiest access to Mt Lawson is to turn off B400 west of Koetong – watch for the sign for the Trestle Bridge. A couple of short sections of road and turns take you across the old rail line route (being developed as a rail trail) and then continue north along Firebrace Track, which then swings west; after about 4 km from the highway, turn north onto Mt Lawson Road. Follow this road north, taking care to remain on the correct road! The track is a little rough in places, but passable in a 2WD. Park in the parking area at the end of the road and start the walk up toward the summit, passing the locked gate just south of the parking area. The walk up to the AZ is only about 400 m, with a little further climbing taking you into the scrub around the granite tors at the actual summit, which has a comms mast and equipment shelter below the tor.

This time I set up on the boundary of the scrub on the large exposed slab of granite, at the eastern base of the summit tors. I again started on 40 m SSB. I worked 36 stations fairly quickly – over about 30 minutes – including Peter VK3ZPF/p, now on Britannia Range VK3/VC-011. A JA station was spotted on 15 m CW, so I changed bands to listen for him. He was not workable at my location! I looked on 12 m CW and worked Neil V73NS on Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands – a nice catch! 15 minutes on 15 m SSB yielded John ZL1PO and Gary VK8GM. Next I tried 10 m, but just failed to work Adam VK2YK – he was 31 to me, but I heard no reply to my calls. Back on 40 m SSB to work Brian VK3MCD/2 on Gurkeroo Ridge VK2/SW-051. I also worked John VK5BJE/3 in Grampians National Park VKFF-0213. I went back to 20 m SSB and called for several minutes before working Warren ZL2AJ. Back to 40 m again, this time to chase Peter VK3ZPF/p in Kirth Kiln Regional Park VKFF-0971, a new reference for me. I have tried twice to activate that Park, but on both occasions had no contacts due to an upset ionosphere. Next in the log was Adam VK2YK/p on Mount Yarrahapinni VK2/MN-079 in Yarriabini National Park VKFF-0557.

Adam was the last contact – I believe that I worked 46 unique callsigns, but will double check the logs…

Mahers Hill VK3/VE-233 502 m (?) 2 points

29 December 2015

Listed as Maher Hill on SOTA, this summit is being reviewed after my activation. On site, the northern knoll appears to be slightly higher than the current summit location. Some maps show the height as either 503 m or 507 m. Some maps also show two trig points, one at the current SOTA summit location and one at the northern knoll. Google Earth shows the high point as the northern knoll. The discussion is possibly moot, as all three knolls on the hill are within the same activation zone.

Access is via a right of way off the Murray Valley Highway B400 near Lake Hume, about 1.3 km south of Ludlows Reserve. You can park the car adjacent to the locked gate and enter through the walker gate. The gate has a sign about fire dangers in the area. Head east up the road reserve, then north to reach another pair of gates – one vehicle, one for walkers. The vehicle gate has a sign indicating authorised entry only, walkers permitted if you remain on the formed tracks, Wodonga City Council. Pass through the gate and continue north on the track, keeping an eye out for the red and green markers. After passing a small dam on the east of the track, watch for the remnants of an old fence, just before a gully. You will spot some markers just to the west.

AccessMaherHill

Look for the small route markers in front of the tree to start the climb.

Walk toward the markers, then head SSW onto the track which climbs up the steep eastern slope of the ridge. Once you gain the peak of the ridge, head north along the fence line (one track either side of the fence, so make your choice). Once I reached the marked SOTA summit, it appeared that the northern knoll was higher. Although it meant another 500 m of walking each way, I headed to the northern knoll, as there were some large trees nearby, promising some shade on a very hot day after a climb of 200 m vertically.

ParkMaherHill

The parking spot is at the eastern end of the tree plantation on the right.

I set up under one of the trees, using a stump to support the squid pole. First contact was a 40 m CW S2S with Tony VK3CAT/p on Dingo Ridge VK3/VC-028. After 19 contacts, I tried 10 m SSB, with a contact with Alan VK7AN/p. I also heard Ron VK3AFW, but he could not hear me. After a long time calling on 10 m, I went to 20 m SSB and worked VK6XL, VK4Rf, VK4HA and VK5CZ.

I packed up and headed back to the car – it was very hot!

Mount Big Ben VK3/VE-105 1154 m 6 points

Wednesday 30 December 2015

The route to Mt Big Ben is simple: Head north on Big Ben Lane, which starts about 440 m SE of the junction of Tunnel Gap Road with C528 (Yackandandah – Dederang Rd). Big Ben Lane swings right and crosses open paddock, then swings north to a closed gate. Continue through the gate and climb up to the summit.

I was set up in the shade of a blackwood tree near the edge of the cleared area at the summit y just after 2300Z (29/12). First in the log was Brian VK3MCD/2 on Black Jack Mountain VK2/SW-010 on 7.090. I moved up and started calling. Amongst the callers was Tony VK3VTH/5 in Ewen Ponds Conservation Park VKFF-0796. After about 24 contacts, I swapped to 10 m SSB to work Adan VK1FJAW/2 on Yankee Ned VK2/SW-026, Tony VK1VIC/2 on Big Badja Hill VK2/SM-059 in Deua National Park VKFF-0138 and Rick VK4RF/VK4HA. After a few minutes of calling CQ without responses, I switched to 20 m for a couple of contacts, including Frank ZL2APD. A spot called me back to 40 m to chase Andrew VK1AD/p on Mt Taylor VK1/AC-037, quickly followed by Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/CT-056 and Allen VK2HRA/p on South Hells Gate VK3/VT-059. A total of 34 stations were worked up until UTC rollover.

After rollover, Tony VK3CAT called almost immediately, followed by another S2S with Allen VK3HRA/p. Shortly after, Ian VK1DI/p on Pheasant Hill VK1/AC-021 called in, with Gerard VK2IO/p calling about 3 minutes later for another S2S. Andrew VK1AD/p and Tony VK1VIC/2 followed several minutes later. After working Tony, I tried 10 m SSB for 2 contacts, then went listening for Glenn VK3YY/p who had spotted as coming up on 6 m. Nothing heard, but I did catch Kevin VK3KAB/p on Mt Torbreck VK3/VN-001 on 15 m SSB after he had worked a station in El Salvador. As soon as our contact was completed, Glenn handed the microphone to Glenn for a S2S. I then moved up the band and managed to break through the pile up to work Mark YS1/HB9KNA in El Salvador – he was running 900 W to a 3-element Yagi and was amazed to be working QRP stations with dipoles! I then found a clear frequency and started calling after spotting myself. After 4 callsigns were logged, I could just hear Ian VK5CZ calling, but in the noise. We switched to CW, but I think the contact was incomplete – there was lots of QSB.

I tried 30 m SSB and worked Adam VK2YK. Having worked most of the portable stations, I reconfigured the antenna to 40 m and called Tony VK3VTH/5, now in Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park VKFF-0927. It was then time to pack up and move on.

Whilst driving to the next summit, I chased VK3MCD/2 on VK2/SM-021 Mt Hudson.

Mount Stanley VK3/VE-126 1052 m 6 points

On Mt Stanley, I chose the hot operating site – the nice picnic table, with the sun beating down fiercely! A call on 7.090 to ask if the frequency was in use was quickly answered in the negative by Amanda VK3FQSO, so she was first in the log. A few minutes later I worked Tony VK1VIC/2 on Bald Mountain VK2/SM-052. Other S2S contacts included Greg VK2GSB/p on VK2/HU-094, Gerard VK2io/p on Mt Solitary VK2/CT-056 (30 m), Allen VK3HRA/p now on North Hells Gate VK3/VT-050, and Rob VK2QR/p and Brian VK3MCD/2 on Far Bald Mountain VK2/SM-023.

On his way home, Tony VK1VIC/m was the last contact in the log, with a total of 28 contacts made including 5 unique S2S.

Late in the activation, I noticed that something was odd on the car – the 2 m/ 70 cm dual band whip was snapped off at the first loading coil! I must have hit an overhanging branch on the way down off Big Ben.

I found a shady spot to park down the road and called Warren VK3BYD to ask if anyone in the region might stock amateur mobile whips. He said it was unlikely and headed out to check his shed. 10 minutes later, he called me back, saying he had a solution for 2 m. So I detoured to Warren’s home where we fitted an end-fed commercial VHF whip and tuned it for the 2 m band. Lots of discussion occurred during the operation and over a cold soft drink afterwards. The net result was that I was back in Wodonga quite late in the afternoon! Many thanks for the assistance Warren!

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