In November 2015, Brian VK3MCD proposed a weekend SOTA gathering at the ski club lodge that he and his partner Kathy would be managing for the 2016 snow season. The costs were reasonable and people started to express interest. Planning progressed well and anticipation was building. All that one needs to get a feel for the summit possibilities for SOTA is to examine the SOTA Mapping project (SMP) with the VK3/VE and VK3/VG regions selected.
In his final Newsletter prior to the weekend, Brian identified 14 target summits that attendees might consider, all worth 8 or 10 points. Using the Range feature, SMP shows 27 summits within 25 kilometre range of Mount Hotham, but this tool only shows the VE region, and misses the VG region summits. Activators would be spoilt with choices! Many of the summits would be located in the Alpine National Park, so would be WWFF activations as well as SOTA.
Friday 19 February
I had an appointment of Friday morning and started packing the car once that was concluded. I was almost ready to depart when RRT sounded a Spot, so I finished packing and waited patiently for Andrew VK1AD/2 and Adan VK1FJAW/2 to come up on the nominated frequency. They took longer to set up than they thought, but I worked Adan at 2341Z (20160218) on VK2/RI-016. A few minutes later I worked Andrew VK1MBE/3 on VK3/VE-081. The Activators indicated that they were not staying for UTC rollover, so I finally switched off and started the journey to Hotham.
On the route up, I decided to have a look at a possible access route to a summit that had been activated only once before. I could not find any details of how the summit had been reached. I approached by a route which looked logical from the mapping data. However, I came to a gate with a large sign indicating a private road, with no easement existing. Therefore I abandoned the approach. Looking after the event, it appears that there should be a public access route from the gate, but I could not see the track from the gate. This one will need to wait until the future.
I retraced my route back to the Omeo Highway/Great Alpine Road and decided to simply head up to Mount Hotham.
I was the first to arrive at the lodge, being welcomed by Brian and Kathy. I carted in the required gear from the car and settled in. Other participants arrived over the afternoon. Whilst waiting, I did manage to work Paul VK5PAS/p and Ian VK1DI/p, both out in WWFF Parks, using the radio setup Brian had erected: a simple end-fed antenna with counterpoise for HF and a vertical for 2 metres. The 2 m rig was used to liaise with some of the incoming amateurs.
Dinner that night was various nibbles followed by spaghetti bolognaise. We even had some desert – a cake with whipped cream. There was lots of discussion about a variety of topics, but especially about which summits to tackle on Saturday. Groups started to form up. Given the low clearance of my vehicle, I opted to join Brian for a planned journey to the south west of Hotham. It was then off to bed for the night.