Mount Hotham SOTA weekend: Saturday

Saturday 20 February

Some were very eager to get started on Saturday morning: the first person in my room was up and about at around 0600, so I was also awake. By 0700, many were up and preparing breakfast. There was further refinement of the rough plans made the night before and lunch needed to be prepared.

The groups started packing the vehicles and heading off. I joined Brian VK3MCD in his vehicle, together with Glenn VK3YY and wife Sarah and Alan VK3FABT. The plan was to head to White Timber VK3/VE-060 as the first summit. We headed down the Dargo High Plains Road and found the access route – Ritchie Road – only to find it blocked with plastic fencing and a Road Closed sign. I suggested that we head a little further south to VK3/VT-018, a summit which I had activated three times previously. The Dargo High Plains Road travels through the Activation Zone, so it is a very easy summit to activate.

We were in the cloud as we approached the summit, so everything was damp when we jumped out of the vehicle. We started setting up Brian’s KX3-based station on 40 m. Glenn started calling on 146.5 MHz FM and was quickly working some of the other teams. 2 m very quickly became hectic, with multiple callers and people calling when the station they were trying to reach was calling a different station. However, everyone soon had worked the other summits on offer. 40 m was not working well, but a few contacts were made. Once all had worked all the summits on offer, we packed up and retraced our route north and then headed out along Blue Rag Range Track and then south on Basalt North Track. When we reached Ritchie Road, there was another plastic fence and Road Closed sign, with a nearby sign indicating a planned fuel reduction burn in the area at some time between February and June.

We then headed west to Basalt Knob VK3/VE-039. We parked and walked a small distance up the hill into the AZ. Most calls were made on 2 m FM, with many S2S contacts made with the other groups. As on the previous summit, this was a relatively short activation before we packed up and headed back north. The key was to work all the other activators out on other summits and to ensure that each activator on our summit qualified the summit. This was a new Unique and a Complete for me.

It was back along our access route and then into Mount Blue Rag VK3/VE-021. Once again, it was 2 m FM with handheld radios, with many S2S contacts with the other groups. Brian was needed back at the lodge by 1330 local to help prepare the evening meal, so this one was another short activation for our group.

Once back at the lodge, lunch was consumed. Some headed off to walk out to Mount Loch. I had an easy afternoon in the lodge, chasing the other activating groups when possible. I did chase Compton VK2HRX/3 on 23 cm FM. Later, I worked John VK6NU/p on VK6/SW-031 on 20 m CW using my adapted KX3 paddles held onto a small clipboard.

Operating CW in the lodge

Operating CW in the lodge

Later in the afternoon we all headed up to the summit of Mount Hotham VK3/VE-006 for drinks and nibbles. Andrew VK1AD/3 set up two antennas – a dipole plus a 10 m vertical – and Tony VK3CAT set up his HF doublet and started calling on CW. Andrew could hear a OE5AUL/p, but could not break the EU pile up. After he had been working for a while, he offered up the station for others to use. I tried calling OE5AUL/p with the same result as Andrew. I quickly worked ZL3CC, VK6MB, VK6NU and F1BLL to qualify the summit, all on 14 MHz SSB. Eventually we started packing up, with Andrew VK1AD continuing on longer than most. We returned to the lodge for a great meal of curries and desert.

There was some planning for the following day. Compton VK2HRX offer to be chauffeur for me. Most were off to bed a little later than the previous evening.

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