The rush to Christmas 2015

The end of the year always seems to pass quickly, with a rush in the week or so prior to Christmas.

Wednesday 23 December

The last day at work was Tuesday, so it was good to get home and relax for bit before thinking about what I needed to pack, especially as the plans were very loose for the Christmas – New Year period. The only thing that was definite was the need to be back at work on 4 January.

I had a medical appointment first thing on Wednesday morning, and then it was back home to pack the car. I was on the road by 1020 local. The trip to Melbourne was uneventful: I arrived at Strictly Ham at 1150 – a very good run. I purchased a mounting bracket and then spent a while chatting with Peter VK3AZL, who had agreed to meet me there to pick up a kit that I had decided to sell. I was back on the road a bit after 1230 and decided to take an easterly route: out to Lilydale, then Yarra Glen, Yea, Bonnie Doon and north towards Benalla. I was considering a couple of summit activations options. The afternoon was quite warm, so decided on an easy 2 point option. Once I reached Swanpool, I headed in an easterly direction with a few zig zags, through Tatung and Greta South, eventually making it to Myrrhee.

Mount Belleview VK3/VE-217 630 m 2 points

In the 60 kph zone in Myrrhee, turn north onto Belle Vue Rd. This is a good quality unsealed surface climbing up to the summit. Note that the summit spelling is currently incorrect on the SOTA database, but should be corrected at the next update. At the summit there is an Air Services Australia compound. A few hundred metres before the compound, you pass over a second cattle grid and drive though a vineyard. I decided to head back to closer to the cattle grid to have some distance in case of any potential interference from the comms site. I was driving back slowly when I saw a couple of cars coming up behind me, so I pulled over to the side of the road. The leading car stopped, so I jumped out to speak to the lady driver. I asked if the road was a public road, as it looked like it on the maps. She said no, and explained that they were concerned about biosecurity – not having any infection getting into the vines. I explained that I was an amateur radio operator and that I wished to set up nearby to activate the summit, asking if it was okay to park the car in the shade of the trees and to set up nearby. She was happy for me to do so.

In future, it might be safer/more prudent for an activator to set up in the area before the second cattle grid, thus having a little distance from the vines. The high point appears to be a little south, in amongst the vines.

I quickly set up the SOTA station and found that I had no mobile connectivity – although the site has some height, it is a long way south in the King River Valley. I had not placed an Alert, as I was not sure that I would be making a stop on the trip north.

I started calling on 7.090 MHz. After a few calls, Gerard VK2IO came back to me and agreed to place a Spot for me. I had my required four contacts within a few minutes, but continued calling. Closer in stations were more difficult to work – obviously the ionosphere was again disturbed. Ken VK3UH in Yarrum was a difficult contact to complete: he was 51 with me, but my report from Ken was only 21. It took several attempts for Ken to receive my report. I was about to pack up when Gerard VK2IO called back advising that Takeshi JA1UEH/1 was out on a summit (JA/GM-023) on 15 m CW. I reconfigured the antenna into 15 m mode and listened. Take was 519. I called several times, but received no responses. After about 15 minutes I gave up and started packing up the station. A total of 14 stations worked.

This was only a 2 point summit, but the successful activation made it Complete.

From Myrrhee, I headed north east to Moyhu, then cross-country on back roads to Myrtleford, then northish toward Yackandandah and up to Wodonga. I arrived safely at about 1830.

The next day or so would be devoted to family matters.

Christmas Day 25 December 2015

After a relatively quiet day, I checked email after Christmas lunch and saw that Matt VK1MA/3 was heading out to Mount Stanley VK3/VE-126. I decided to head up to Huon Hill, only 15 minutes away. In addition to the chance of a summit to summit contact with Matt, the added attraction is that part of the activation zone (AZ) at Huon Hill is in the Wodonga Regional Park, which I believe had not yet been activated.

Huon Hill VK3/VE-237 425 m 1 point
Wodonga Regional Park VKFF-0980 Not previously activated

Access to the summit is simple. From B400 (Murray Valley Highway) east of Bandiana, take Whytes Road north and then turn right into Kenneth Watson Drive. Climb up the windy road, taking care with the cattle grids and speed humps. The road is narrow in places. Park near the usually locked gate below the summit – although lots of locals with 4WDs seem to ignore the locked gate and simply drive up the steep embankment. This parking area is inside the AZ. The ridgeline at the summit appears to be the boundary of the Regional Park. I walked up and set up the station in the small shelter at the top, beside a small telecoms site – the fence made a good support for the squid pole.

HuonHill

Huon Hill map – pink is inside the Regional Park, purple is not!

As soon as I switched on the radio, I could hear Matt calling – good 59 signals both ways on 10 m. We chatted a little and then I moved down the band and put up a spot – but with fat fingers I posted the wrong frequency. I soon realised the error and corrected the spot. Adam VK2YK/p was next in the log. After several minutes of calling, I erected my untested 6 m Slim Jim. I could hear Matt at 31 on 52.2, but he could not hear me. Lots of calling on 6 m gained no responses – clearly my QRP was not being heard. Matt was running around 80 W and was stirring up some contacts. I decided to return to 40 m. At around 0500 Z, I spent some time again calling on 6 m, again without any contacts.

Back on 40 m, a few new stations were worked. I then tried 30 m for a single contact, then 20 m with Rick VK3RF/VK4HA worked. My last contact was a Wodonga local on 2 m FM. Further calling on 40 m yielded no results, so I packed up and headed back down. With 21 unique callsigns, the Park was comfortably qualified for VKFF purposes. Another visit will be required, but that is easy at any time that I am visiting Wodonga.

There appeared to relatively few stations about, which was not surprising given that it was the afternoon of Christmas Day. I headed back to base.

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