The extended weekend of Friday 11 to Monday 14 November 2016 was the annual Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA) activity weekend – the fifth occurrence of the event IIRC. The event is coordinated by Tony VK3XV / VK3VTH on behalf of Amateur Radio Victoria and provides opportunities for Chasers to hunt out Park Activators in the 45 Victorian National Parks.
The 2016 event looked as if all 45 National Parks would be activated, if the plans of all Activators came to fruition.
Once again this event fell on a weekend when I had other duties to perform, but I could chase from home when in earshot of the radio and I hoped to get out on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday.
Friday 11 November
HF conditions were not the best for all of the weekend. There was little if any NVIS propagation on 40 m, where most of the action was occurring. Despite the conditions, I did manage to work operators in six of the VK3 National Parks plus an additional six VKFF references across VK2, VK3 and VK4.
Saturday 12 November
On Saturday morning I worked two VK3 National Parks in between completing some essential tasks. I then packed some gear and headed off to buy some lunch and to travel to my selected Park for the afternoon.
Baw Baw National Park VKFF-0020
I had activated this Park on several previous occasions, but no other activators had announced an activation across the weekend. Therefore I had a slightly longer drive rather than opting for one of the two Parks closer to home.
I drove to a little north of Rawson to investigate one possible site picked from looking at the Google Earth imagery. The site would have been suitable, but there was no mobile phone coverage, so I headed to a second site which did have some coverage. This allowed me to spot myself plus to also see other spots, making chasing much easier.
The operating site was near the start of Steel Bridge Track, just inside the southern Park boundary. I set up the 80/40/20/15/10 m link dipole supported by a 7 m squid pole, connected to the IC-706MkIIG powered by the car battery. For most of the afternoon I was operating with 30 W peak power. It seemed appropriate that the first contact shortly after 0100Z was Tony VK3VTH/p in Chiltern Mount Pilot NP.
Most of the first 20 minutes of operating was spent chasing other activators, with 10 VKFF references in the log, seven of them being VK3 National Parks. I found a clear frequency and posted a spot to work a few more before changing to 80 m CW to chase Warren VK3BYD on Mt Nelse VK3/VE-004 in Alpine NP. This activation took Warren to Mountain Goat, all CW. Very well done Warren!
The rest of the afternoon was a mixture of chasing any spotted activators and lots of calling with few replies. During the afternoon, some time was spent on 20 m with few answers to calls. But I did manage to work Andrew ZL3CC on ZL3/WC-638 and John VK6NU/p on VK6/SW-039 in VKFF-1459. I also worked some Latrobe Valley locals on 2 m FM. I finally gave up at around 0630Z, with 44 unique callsigns in the log if my count is correct. 15 VK3 National Parks were worked, plus another 9 VKFF references, for a total of 24 unique VKFF Park to Park contacts.
Late in the evening, from home I worked Gerard VK2IO/p in Seven Mile Beach NP.
Sunday 13 November
I awoke early and hit the road, this time with the SOTA gear on board. I headed east on the Princes Highway toward Bairnsdale and then north through Lindenow South and into the hills, working my way around to Stoney Creek Track, Burnetts Ridge Road and Sandy Creek Road to a road junction with Tabberaberra Road and Calvi Track, a logical place to park.
Calvi Hill VK3/VG-134 527 m 2 points
Mitchell River National Park VKFF-0321
I loaded up with the SOTA gear and climbed up Calvi Track for about 1.5 km to the start of an old track which is now very overgrown. Calvi Track up this section is becoming encroached by regrowth and has some typical Victorian spoon drains. It would be possible to traverse this section in a vehicle with reasonable clearance provided that you were not concerned about scratches on the vehicle paintwork. From this track junction, it was a scrub bash up to the summit of Calvi Hill. As I hit the main ridge very close to the top (slightly to the east of the true summit), I hit a small clearing. The GPS indicated that I was well inside both the Activation Zone and the National Park boundary. This was to be the operating site.
The scrub bash was about 500 m horizontally with a climb of about 65 m. The 1.5 km climb up Calvi Track to the start of the scrub bash involved a climb of about160 m vertical.
First contact was Paul VK5PAS/3 in Barmah NP, followed by Tony VK3XV/p in Lower Goulburn NP and Rex VK3OF/p in Little Desert NP. Band conditions on 40 m were still poor and contacts were hard to find. I could hear others working stations that were closer to me, but I rarely heard them. I continued calling. I had now phone coverage, so could not spot myself or see any spots – it was a case of occasionally searching around the band and pouncing when a new callsign was heard, or back to 7.140 and calling CQ.
I managed to chase nine VK3 National Parks and a further 5 VKFF references interstate.
A highlight occurred just before 0142Z. I was tuning around and could just hear David VK5PL working Rex VK3OF/p in Little Desert NP on 7.135. When the contact was completed, I called on the frequency for David to move up to 7.140. I don’t think that David heard my call, but Rex did and relayed to David. I moved back to 7.140 and shortly after David appeared on frequency. We worked – not great signals but enough for the contact. This was Park number 45 for David, so he finally had all 45 VK3 National Parks. Congratulations David!
The last contact was Scott VK7NWT – contact number 25, comfortably past the 23 needed to move my total number of contacts from this Park to the 44 required for WWFF qualification. I packed up and headed back down the hill to the car, then retraced my route back toward civilisation. From the southern end of Stoney Creek Track, I worked my way across to Melwood, then around to Tower Road and then north to the gate to Mt Taylor.
Mount Taylor VK3/VG-142 474 m 1 point
The top of Mt Taylor has several RF installations and there was a high level of noise. I parked the car at the top and walked down the hill a little and set up, hoping that the noise levels would be lower – they were. I was still well inside the Activation Zone.
Paul VK5PAS/2 was first in the log, in VKFF-1178. Next was Adam VK2YK/p in VKFF-1377 followed by Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0249. These operators were found from looking at ParksnPeaks. I then called on 7.090 to work some more stations as the rain finally arrived – I had seen the rain band moving across the Gippsland Plains as I was driving up Tower Rd. Despite the rain, I worked Bernard VK3AV/p in Yarra Ranges NP and Tim VK3MTB/p in Morwell NP. Last in the log was Geoff VK3SQ before I gave up and packed up.
I then drove back down Tower Road and into Bairnsdale, then headed for home.
It had been a good day out: Mitchell River NP qualified for WWFF and the two summits qualified for SOTA and now new Completes.
Back at home, I worked Gerard VK2IO/p in Jervis Bay NP.
Monday 14 November
Conditions were again poor on the bands, but I managed to work another five stations in Parks on Monday, if you include the whole UTC day – I worked John VK2AWJ/3 on Tuesday morning in Tarra-Bulga NP.
On Wednesday, I managed to work Mick VK3PMG/p in Mount Buffalo NP. Perhaps not officially part of the KRMNPA weekend, but I will include the contact in my tally!
All up, I activated two National Parks and two SOTA summits that were new one for me, making them Complete. On the Chaser side, I worked 27 of the Victorian National Parks plus another 23 VKFF references. I also worked three SOTA summits over the weekend – all from Baw Baw NP on Saturday afternoon. Many Parks were missed due to poor propagation conditions.
Thanks to all the Chasers and especially the other Activators. Some activator plans did not eventuate, but I understand that 41 of the Victorian National Parks were activated over the weekend – a very good effort!