Third SANPCPA Anniversary weekend

1/2/3 April 2016

The last 3 years have seen an explosion in portable activity, mainly through 2 synergistic types of radio activity:

  • Parks activations
  • Summits On The Air (SOTA)

In November 2011, IIRC, Amateur Radio Victoria (ARV) promoted an activity weekend when amateurs would activate Victorian National Parks over a weekend, thus providing a concentrated short period of Parks activations which amateurs could Chase. At the same time, ARV was celebrating their centenary. I had use of the special ARV callsign for the Friday of the KRMNPA weekend, so I headed out to part of the Baw Baw National Park for the day; well, at least until the thunderstorms were getting too close for comfort!

The first 6 months or so after SOTA commenced in VK3 on 1 February 2012, SOTA was relatively slow. I can recall activations when it took an hour to gain the requisite 4 contacts to qualify the summit. Mid-week activations were rare and the one I attempted in July that year resulted in only 2 completed contacts before I needed to depart the summit due to the desire to be back at my vehicle by sunset!

I became more aware of SOTA through chasing someone activating a summit in a National Park which qualified for the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA).

In May 2012, I activated my first SOTA summit, which was also in a National Park, therefore helping my tally of Parks activated for KRMNPA.

That was the start of an on-going pattern: I would consider which Parks and/or summits I could activate when on a driving trip. The ideal was a Park with an easily accessed SOTA summit!

SOTA started to expand to the states other than Victoria as amateurs worked on the mapping tasks required to identify the qualifying summits. As more states became active, together with promotional efforts such as presentations to Clubs, the number of Chasers and Activators grew slowly. Activity weekends were promoted, especially when a new Association (i.e. a new state) became active on SOTA, and on the anniversary weekend of each association. Such weekends provided increased opportunities for Chasers to work summits.

Further KRMNPA annual activity weekends occurred, with some interstate amateurs using the opportunity to visit VK3 to activate some Parks toward the KRMNPA.

One of these amateurs, Paul VK5PAS, decided to look at establishing an award similar to the KRMNPA in SA. The result is the South Australia National Parks and Conservation Parks Award.

Sometime later, Paul started promoting the World Wide Flora & Flora Award scheme (WWFF) around Australia. The rest is history: more activity started a classic positive feedback mechanism, with each award scheme having synergistic effects on the others. More activity, more chasers, more activators, more Parks added to WWFF & VKFF, more activity….

So here we are at the third anniversary of SANPCPA.

A trip to VK5 was not an option for me, so I decided to support the weekend by heading to East Gippsland to activate some National Parks. Plans were somewhat loose, but I did book accommodation in Cann River for Friday and Saturday nights.

Friday 1 April

I was underway by mid-morning and stopped at Stratford to await the arrival of a friend for a chat over coffee. I then continued the trip to Cann River, stopping twice to work 2 SOTA activations.

After checking in at the motel, I headed east and made my way to the first activation site for the weekend.

Granite Peak VK3/VG-137 513 m 2 points
Alfred National Park VKFF-0618

Travelling east from Cann River on the Princes Highway (A1), turn left into Drummer Road just after crossing the Thurra River. Travel north-east on Drummer Road for just under 5.5 km and turn right into Bicentennial Road, then about 3.4 km to the junction with Bismuth Mine Track. Turn right and start climbing up to the ridgeline and follow the track along towards the summit.

The access track to this summit is rough in places and has become more overgrown since my first visit. I drove as far as I could – the track was still very slippery after rain earlier in the week. 4WD is essential and high clearance very desirable. I walked the final few hundred metres to the summit.

I set up in the scrub east of the track, placing me inside the Alfred National Park.

I set up on 40 m and the first contact was Rob VK4AAC/3 in Barmah NP. I moved down the band to find a clear frequency. It was around 0530Z and the band was busy. One contact was made on 7090 kHz, but Andrew VK3BQ was having some issues with a net on 7093, so I moved down when he asked.

When contacts became hard work, I moved to 20 m for a short period, expecting that it was too early for good EU propagation. But first in the log was Gerard F1BLL! I worked 4 VK stations, then callers were hard to elicit, so I moved back to 40 m as there were some spots on ParksnPeaks for some VK5 activators. After working Peter VK5PET/p, I found a couple more VK5 activators, then moved to a clear frequency, to be called by 3 more Parks activators. When the chaser queue became quiet, I moved up to work VK1DA/2 on a SOTA summit using AM – it was hard to break in through the pile up!

I moved back down the band and called again on SSB for another 7 contacts before pulling the pin.

I ended up with 48 unique callsigns in the log, with 6 Park to Park contacts.

It was then back down the track and to the motel, then across to the Hotel for dinner. Then back to the room to start electronic logging and start this blog entry.

Saturday 2 April 2016

I woke early and was under way before 0800 EADT. The route was simple: head south from Cann River, following the signs for Point Hicks. The road is sealed for a while, then is unsealed and becomes rougher. Continue following the Point Hicks signs to near the Thurra River mouth, when the route changes name to Lighthouse Track. Beware the single lane bridges along the route.

Point Hicks Marine National Park VKFF-0953 First Activation

Take care travelling through the Thurra River campground and continue to the parking area just short of the locked gate. Beside the gate is a sign that indicates 2.2 km to the lighthouse. I guess that you could get through the gate by booking the Keeper’s Cottage at around $330 per night.

I loaded up and started the walk. I was at the lighthouse about 35 minutes later, then needed to find an operating site close enough to the high water mark: I set up south of the large obelisk noting that Captain Cook named the point in honour of the sailor who first sighted land. A nearby viewing compass indicated that the only land to the south was Macquarie Island before you reached Antarctica, with Tasmania to the west of south.


Memorial plaque at Point Hicks

I found a spot with a natural bench, with the squid pole strapped to a nearby boulder.

I was set up and the first contact was Peter VK3FPSR at 2232Z (Friday). Peter posted a Spot on ParksnPeaks and the fun began!

Notable contacts included the following:

Andrew VK3ARR on VK3/VC-018
Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0790
Norm VK5GI & Greg VK5GJ in VKFF-0919
Adrian VK5FANA in VKFF-0818
Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-0739
Russ VK2BJP/3 on VK3/VE-014 0n VKFF-0339
John VK4BZ/2 in VKFF-xxxx
Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/HU-056 in VKFF-0559
VK6MB on both 40 m & 20 m.

Thanks to all the Chasers! 56 contacts were made, with 9 Park to Park.


Operating site at Point Hicks

It was then time to pack up and head back to the car – about 30 minutes for the return trip.

Mount Everard VK3/VG-151 348 m 1 point Not Previously Activated
Croajingalong National Park VKFF-0119

It was then a case of retracing the inward route until reaching Cicada Track. Head east of north for about 430 m to the junction Mount Everard Track (no signage when I visited, but a sign on Cicada Track shortly after the junction “4WD only”) and turn left. Head north-ish for a bit over a kilometre until you reach the locked gate, with a sign beyond indicating 3 km to the summit.


The sign just beyond the locked gate on Mt Everard Track

The track climbs steeply in places. The day was warm and humid and the cloud was rapidly moving in from the west. The steeper sections slowed progress significantly. The track is largely 4WD MVO for most of the route beyond the gate, with the final 400 m or so a walking track to the Trig point. Just before starting the final climb, I started up RRT to check the distance to the nominal summit location. It took just over an hour to climb to the summit.

I set up using the Trig structure to support the squid pole. I turned on and dialled up 7.180 AM to attempt to work Andrew VK1AD/p on VK1/AC-043. We could not exchange all details on AM, so Andrew went to LSB & the contact was completed. The weekend was promoted as an AM and CW activity weekend, in addition to the SANOCPA anniversary weekend.

Notable contacts included:

VK1AD/p on VK1/AC-043
Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/HU-056 in VKFF-0559
Peter VK3TKK in VKFF-0xxx
Warren VK3BYD/p on VK3/VE-041 (CW)
Keith VK3OQ/p in VKFF-0897

The mist was getting heavier, so I shut down at 0316Z and headed back to the car – just under an hour for the return journey.

Croajingalong National Park VKFF-0119

Once back at the car, I had a good drink and then set up an antenna. I was running the rig in the car at about 30 W to a 40 m inverted V with apex at about 5 m. Over the next hour and a bit I worked another 25 stations.

Notable contacts included:

Andrew VK5MR/p in VKFF-1083
Tony VK3VTH/5 in VKFF-0380
Russ VK2BJP/3 on VK3/VE-007
VK3VIM/p in VKFF-0405
Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0790
Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF- 0739
Adrian VK5FANA/p in VKFF-0243
Norm VK5GI/p & Greg VK5GJ/p in VKFF-1052.

The total haul for for the Park, including the summit activation, was 48 contacts, with 3 Summit to Summit and 11 Park to Park QSOs.

I shut down at 0550Z to head back to Cann River for the night.

Sunday 3 April 2016

The night was longer due to the change back to Eastern Standard Time, so it was easy to be on the road early. I headed north on the Monaro Highway to Chandlers Creek, then onto WB Line to cross the Cann River East Branch and entered the Coopracambra National Park. Shortly after crossing the river, there is an open area on the left of the track to aprk and set up an antenna.

Coopracambra National Park VKFF-0113

I have activated this park previously, firstly to qualify it for the Keith Roget Memorial National Park Award and then again for VKFF/WWFF. However, I still needed another 26 contacts to reach the WWFF quota of 44.

I set up the portable 40/20 m link dipole on a 9 m squid pole and hooked up to the IC-706MkIIG in the car.

First in the log at 2223Z (Saturday UTC time) was Gerard VK2IO/p in Belford National Park VKFF-0023, the first of 9 Park to Park contacts. Several minutes of calling later resulted in a contact with Paul VK5PAS/m on his way to a Park. I had no mobile phone signal; Paul was kind enough to spot me on ParksnPeaks. The amount of calling required reduced significantly. I was reliant on others finding me, as with no phone coverage, I could not see any spots. After a period of steady chaser activity, things became hard work again after about 2345. I finally gave up just on UTC rollover and started to pack up. The total was 35 contacts with 9 Park to Park QSOs.

After packing up, I retraced my tracks to Cann River and then headed west on the Princes Highway. I decided to alter plans a little, and stopped in at Mount Raymond Regional Park.

Mount Raymond Regional Park VKFF-0975

I drove to the top of Mount Raymond but did not like to look of the power lines and the RF installations, so headed slightly downhill to a widening on the east side of the track just before Tower Road does a switchback back towards the highway. I set up the gear essentially the same as in the previous park. Logsearch indicates that this Park has only been activated once previously – by Tony VK3VTH.

With good phone coverage, I was able to do some strategic hunting to start the activation. First in the log was Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-0961, followed by a further 5 Park to Park contacts. I then moved to 7.095 MHz and started calling. When the chasers started being further apart, I again started hunting myself.

I ended up with 46 unique calls and 15 Park to Park QSOs before packing up a little after 0300Z.

I then headed back down to the highway, then east to Nowa Nowa, north to the Bruthen Buchan Road, then north east to Buchan. It was then on to the Buchan Orbost Road to Basin Road, then Old Basin Road and finally right onto Balley Hooley Road, and up onto One Tree Hill Lookout.

Snowy River National Park VKFF-0455

Another Park with more contacts required to meet the WWFF quota – 16 in this instance. I was very aware that Nick VK3ANL needed this Park as number 45 to complete the chase for the KRMNPA Chaser Merit Award, so this Park was included even though it was a significant detour on the trip home.

There is a nice picnic table at the lookout, together with good views west across the Buchan River valley, though a bit hazy today – Victoria is in the fuel reduction burn season. There are hints of what the view might be like up the Snowy River valley and across the Snowy River National Park, but on the eastern side the trees are growing up to block the views.


One Tree Hill lookout

Once again I used the same setup as earlier in the day. I again commenced with some strategic hunting of activators in SA Parks. After I completed the second contact, I heard Gerard VK2IO/p call me, asking me to QSY down 10 kHz. So I soon had Park number 3 for the activation, once I worked Gerard. Next in the log was Nick VK3ANL, now with all 45 Parks chased. Well done Nick!

I continued working callers and occasionally hunting other Parks for about an hour. I had 35 contacts, with 15 Park to Park QSOs. It was time to move on to the final target for the day.

I retraced my route back to the junction with Old Basin Road. The northern part of Balley Hooley Road looked to be more of a 4WD track, so I opted to head back to Basin Road, then head north to Tulloch Ard Road and on to Mount McLeod Track and up to the summit. This can be driven with a 2WD vehicle – just watch for rocks!

Mount McLeod VK3/VG-127 570 m 2 points

At the summit you will find a fire watch tower with some RF gear in a concrete tank & antennas on top of the tower. Just north of the tower compound is an old hut, complete with covered balcony with a table and chair when I visited. I set up the SOTA antenna using a 7 m squid pole lashed to the corner post of the balcony and set up the gear on the balcony deck, which was a good height to sit upon.


Hut at Mt McLeod

First in the log was Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0877. In around 32 minutes I had worked 25 stations, including 4 Parks. The sun was by now low in the sky and the temperature was rapidly dropping. I briefly listened on 20 m for a European SOTA CW activator running QRPp, but he was too low for me to decode. The activation made this summit now Complete.

I packed up and retraced my route back toward Buchan, then on to Bruthen and Bairnsdale, stopping off for a short chat with Rob VK3EK and Mike VK3NMK, who was staying with Rob. After refuelling the vehicle in Bairnsdale, it was then the final stretch back to home.

Overall summary:

6 VKFF references activated,
3 SOTA summits, with 4 Summit to Summit contacts,
Over 300 contacts made over the weekend, with 297 as an Activator,
65 VKFF Park to Park contacts.
Many hours of driving, with 726 km added to the odometer.

Thanks to all the Chasers/Hunters over the weekend, and to all the other Activators out there. It is inevitable on a weekend such as this that I will miss many of the Chasing opportunities, but one also gains a potentially increased number of Chasers.

Congratulations to Paul VK5PAS on the success of the activity weekend.

My WWFF Activator tally was now 44 references worked.

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