Saturday 6 February 2016
The day started slowly. I had a task to complete for a friend – to pick some plums off my tree and to drop them to the friend in Newborough. Whilst picking the fruit, I could see all the motor bikes and other vehicles associated with the day’s stage of the Herald Sun Tour travelling along the road on the other side of the paddocks north of my home. When I was almost done with picking, the lead bunch of 5 or 6 travelled past. I loaded up the car, including the SOTA pack on a whim and locked up the house. I then drove up to the Churchill shops, parked and stood beside the road to await the peleton. Eventually they arrived, travelling quickly toward Boolarra. Within a few minutes, the held-up traffic cleared and I resumed my trip to Newborough.
After delivering the fruit, a long chat and a coffee, I headed up toward Rawson and then the Thomson Dam. On the descent toward the dam, I kept an eye out for the Narrows Road and travelled along to the western end of Low Saddle Track.
VK3/VT-062 Unnamed summit (Probably to be “Low Saddle Track”) 555 m 2 points Not Yet Activated Baw Baw National Park VKFF-0020
Although this summit was on the original VK3 summit list, it had not yet been activated. Perhaps this was because it is worth only 2 points and is a little off track. But it is inside the Baw Baw National Park, so gives a triple benefit: KRMNPA and VKFF/WWFF contacts as well as SOTA.
I had looked at access into this summit previously, coming in along Low Saddle Track from Walhalla Road near the bridge across the Aberfeldy River. Low Saddle Track is subject to a season closure from June to late October/November. It is definitely 4WD from both ends. On the previous trip, I worked my way across the deep spoon drains until I reached a very steep drop off with more spoon drains. I decided to not risk attempting the descent lest I was not able to get the Forester back up the track – I might be stuck in a remote location! Not a good look, so discretion won out and I retreated on that occasion.
The start of Low Saddle Track from the west is also steep with large spoon drains, as I found on arrival at the start of the track. I looked at the track and initially decided to again abort. Then I had second thoughts: it was still before 0200Z, the route was about 4 km, but with about 340 m of climb from the Thomson River to the summit. I was at about 100 m above the river, which meant an extra 100 m of climbing at the end of the day…. The day was quite warm, but I decided to give it a go.
After loading up, I headed down the hill carefully. It is very steep with a loose surface in places. The first 100 m or so is the worst, after which there are no further spoon drains and a gentler slope down to the river. At the river, I stopped and changed into my sports sandals and then waded across the ford. The water was about mid-thigh at the deepest. Once on the other side, it was back to the hiking shoes and start the real climb.
The first section is straight forward – climbing up to a saddle in the spur that runs between the Thomson and Aberfeldy Rivers. The Google Earth images show segments of the track south of the saddle, but at the saddle you can clearly see that the Parks staff have clearly made a significant effort to rehabilitate the southern start of the track – it has trees and rocks everywhere, drainage ditches and plenty of regrowth. But there is an obvious foot track heading in.
After about 300 m, it was back to the old track surface, with occasional fallen timber across the track but with easy diversions. In the saddles further on there was significant regrowth in places, but relatively easy to navigate. The worst bit was the vertical climbs on what had become a hot afternoon.
I eventually reached the summit activation zone at around 0425Z and proceeded to set up the station after another large drink of water. I started on 40 m SSB at 0440Z, quickly working Dave VK2JDS and Gerard VK2IO. Gerard kindly spotted me on SOTAwatch. A steady string of chasers followed. When the callers ran out at just before 0500Z, I called to ask for a spot on 10 m. Allen VK3ARH obliged, so it was up to 10 m. First in the log was Rick VK4RF/VK4HA with solid signals, followed by another VK4 and then Nev VK5WG. Further calls yielded no results, so I shut down. I should have checked SOTAwatch, as looking back I can see that Matt VK1MA/2 had finally gone to 40 m – I heard nothing from the stations activating in VK2 in listening around on 10 m. An opportunity missed.
All up, I had 25 contacts logged, 4 on 10 m. I had a single S2S contact with Nick VK3ANL/p on VK3/VN-015.
It was a long walk back in the heat, but fortunately mostly downhill. It was good to get to the river, where I was able to replenish my exhausted water supplies. Then it was hard work climbing the final 100 m vertical up to the car.
Back in Churchill, I bought some Chinese take away and had plenty of fluids to drink. I certainly fell to sleep quickly once I went to bed. A very tiring walk given the hot afternoon (high 20s I think). Thanks to all the Chasers.