VK1 Winter QSO Party 2016

The VK1 SOTA enthusiasts organised a Winter QSO Party for Sunday 8 August, with operators heading out to many summits in the ACT and nearby NSW regions. SOTA operators from other states also posted Alerts of their plans to attempt to join in the fun, with the regular SOTA Activators hoping to improve their Summit to Summit (S2S) scores.

I did not post any Alerts, not deciding on my plans until first thing Sunday morning. I headed to Nilma, Neerim South and then towards Powelltown, then drove up Limberlost Road. The descent into the upper Latrobe River Valley was scenic, with some fog sitting down in the valley. The gravel surface on Limberlost Road was generally very good, with some small potholes to dodge. There was one spot with a tree across the road, but you could dodge the end of the tree by slowing and negotiating the debris on the wide road verge.

At 9 kilometres up from C425 (Yarra Junction – Noojee Road), there is the 9 km marker, the turn off to Outlook Track and the start of the walking track to my first summit for the day.

The morning was quite cool, but the overcast sky looked benign.

Spion Kopje VK3/VT-040 896 m 4 points

Although this summit is within easy reach, I had not visited it previously, so this would be a new Unique for me as an Activator. I loaded up my gear and started the climb up the track, which is rather overgrown. The lower section is easy to follow, by watch for your feet catching on the long leaves. Watch for the pink or blue tapes marking the route. The initial section is an old 4WD track which then disappears. You then start climbing upwards on steeper rocky ground and skit some large granite outcrops, eventually reaching the top, near where there used to be a firewatch tower.

I set up in the area with the large flat rocky outcrops. I used a young eucalypt sapling to hold the squid pole and deployed the new doublet antenna. This was connected to a LDG Z-817 tuner, then to the FT-817.

First station heard was Dave VK4DD/p on VK4/SE-097 on 40 m SSB, but I could not raise him initially. I gave up for the moment and swapped to 80 m SSB, working Andrew VK1AD and VK1VIC, both on VK1/AC-032 at around 2319Z. But the rig was show low output power and a “Hi SWR” warning – something was not right. I really should have tried the antenna at home before taking it to the field!

I lowered the squid pole and deployed the normal link dipole, leaving the doublet in place so that it was not a trip hazard – it could be packed up when I was finished.

Back on air, I worked Dave VK4DD/p. I check my phone and went to 40 m CW, for a S2S with Tony VK3CAT/p on VK3/VN-012. I then found Paul VK5PAS/p and Marija VK5FMAZ/p on Black Bullock Hill VK5/SE-016 on 40 m SSB. A string of Chasers then called me. I completed a tough contact with Nick VK3ANL/p on VK3/VC-030 just before UTC rollover, and then made another contact just after the first, now in the new UTC day.

I worked Paul VK5PAS/p, Ron VK3AFW/p, Ken VK3KIM/p and Tony VK3CAT/p (this time on SSB) again after rollover. I then managed Paul VK3HN/p0 on VK3/VC-006 after several minutes of looking around and calling. I had given up on 80 m, so kept calling on 40 m, but band conditions were terrible all day due to the ionospheric conditions.

So I missed most of the VK1, VK2 and VK3 stations that were out that were not within ground-wave distance – such is life.

I did make one final S2S contact: Kyle ZL2KGF/p on ZL1/TN-006 on 20 m SSB.

I gave up at around 0045Z, packing up and heading down to the car. I had a new Unique and a new Complete, so I was reasonably happy with the outing.

I retraced my route to Neerim Junction and decided to head off toward another summit, this one would involve a longer walk!

At Neerim, head west on Elton Road, cross the Tarago River at the narrow bridge, then follow Tarago Road to the road junction with Bunyip Road, Proposch Road and Forest Road. There is a “picnic area” just to the east of the road junction which has plenty of area to safely park. The start of Gentle Annie Track is just west of the junction.

Gentle Anne VK3/VT-078 670 m 2 points
Bunyip State Park VKFF-0753

OzTopo shows the summit height as 686 m, a little higher than the SOTA database, and the 2005 VicMaps 1:25k sheet shows the summit as above 680 m. The climb starts at the junction of Bunyip Road and Gentle Annie Track at around 460 m.

Gentle Annie Track is subject to Winter Seasonal Road Closure, but it looked as if someone had broken and removed the lock and chain – the gate was open. I knew that the track was steep and rutted, so I did not even consider attempting to drive up, even if I had a solid 4WD vehicle instead of the little Impreza!

The surface was slippery in many places, with evidence of recent attempts to climb the track in 4WD vehicles and motorcycles. There were portions of the track very churned up, with many deep ruts and holes.

I took the climb slow and steady, eventually reaching the summit at around 0300Z.

I looked around for an operating spot, settling in a rough opening just south of the summit on the south side of the track, which placed me just inside Bunyip State Park VKFF-0753.

I had good signal strength on the phone, but it displayed “Not connects” and “Emergency Calls Only” messages. It seemed strange. With no connectivity, I could not spot or check spots for others! I still had no connectivity much later in the day when I reached home, when I did a phone restart – problem fixed. Better remember that for in the future!

First in the log was Rick VK4RF/VK4HA on 40 m SSB, but Rick did not hear my request for a spot. Rick was followed by Ron VK3AFW/p and Ken VK3KIM/p, this time on Mt Strickland VK3/VN-030. It was slow going, with lots of calls with few replies. I worked Bob VK5AFZ/p in VKFF-0115 and later John VK5BJE/p in VKFF-0873. Finally Steve VK7CW was able to post a spot for me at around 0355Z, which shortly after resulted in a weak contact with Gerard VK2IO/m in VKFF-1375.

I gave up at around 0415Z, with 18 contacts in the log. Another Unique SOTA summit and a new Complete, plus a Park qualified for VKFF.

The descent to the car was much quicker, with the aid of gravity, but one still needed to take it carefully due to the slippery steep surface.

I retraced my route to Neerim. I stopped at the Bakery at Neerim South for a very late lunch, and then headed for home.

The afternoon had been warm for this time of year. It was a good day out with some exercise and some radio fun. Two new Activator Uniques and two new Completes, so a successful day.

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6 Responses to VK1 Winter QSO Party 2016

  1. vk5bje says:

    Hi Peter, I was pleased to have at least one contact with you on Sunday. I was out of action in the morning attending another event and probably missed the best time. It looks like the Winter SOTA party was a great success.
    Cheers

    John D
    VK5BJE/VK5PF

  2. Paul Taylor says:

    Good to work you S2S Donna Buang to Spion Kopje Peter. I too missed out on the VK1s on 40, better luck next time. 73 Paul vk3hn

  3. judelns says:

    Hi, how close can you get to Spion Kopje in a 2WD, and how easy is it to find the track?

    • vk3pf says:

      Hi Jude,
      Unless it has been very wet, you can get to the start of the old 4WD track junction with Limberlost Road. Look for the junction with Outlook Track off to the north and park near there. The old 4WD track up to the summit is quite close on the south side of Limberlost Rd. The start is a little overgrown, plus has a couple of piles of material on the track. As you get up higher, you reach granite outcrops, but by then the track is relatively obvious. From memory, there were occasional tapes as well.
      I could email you a Garmin GPS track if you wish.
      Good luck,
      Peter

      • judelns says:

        Thanks Peter, that’s very helpful. Since I was considering approaching from Mount Beenak, you don’t think there’s any 2WD access from the south or west sides, like up Spion Kopje track (even if not so close)?

      • vk3pf says:

        Hi Jude,
        I have not tried to approach from the west or south. I approached from the north via Limberlost Road and retraced my route on my exit, then est and south before working my way around to approach Gentle Annie. When I visited Beenak, I came from the NW and exitted to the south. Looking at the maps, there appear to be options to get to the west end of Limberlost, or alternatively, to drop down to the north off the range to access C425 then east through Powelltown and then up Limberlost Rd.
        Good luck.
        Peter

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