A summer weekend of SOTA fun

Friday 20 January 2017

I had a need to catch up with a friend located in Sunbury and desired to pick up and pay for a second-hand Spiderbeam 18 metre telescopic pole, which I had organised to buy the previous weekend.

I was away from home a little later than anticipated and headed west on the Princes Highway to Pakenham, then basically north through Cockatoo, Seville, Yarra Glen and on to Yea to garb some lunch. Having just finished lunch, I heard an alert for a VK3 SOTA activation. I found a quiet spot at the Yea River wetlands just east of town and managed to work Ken VK3KIM/p on Mount Kerang VK3/VU-010 on the mobile whip. Signals were not great, nor was propagation, but we made the contact.

I then headed west through Trawool and on to the property to purchase the Spiderbeam pole.

After a chat, I headed off to the west to Tallarook and then south a short distance, heading east and south on Ennis Road and into the Tallarook State Forest.

Mount Hickey VK3/VN-015 805 m 4 points

Ennis Road becomes Main Road. There was lots of small debris on the road, with a strong cold front having passed through the state overnight. Follow Main Road until you reach Mt Hickey Road and wind up to the summit, where you will find a fire watch Tower and lots of RF generators, including an AirServices Australia site. I choose to set up in the shallow saddle to the east of the summit, less than 10 m lower than the summit.

I strapped a squid pole to a stump and was quickly on air. I posted a Spot. Within 15 minutes I had 5 contacts in the log and received no responses to further CQ calls, so I packed up and headed back down to the Hume Highway.

South for 10 km and headed off on the Broadford turnoff, through Broadford and south to Jeffreys Lane. Turn into Jeffreys Lane and then turn into Mount Piper Lane. This is a little rough, but can be safely negotiated by a 2WD vehicle. The Lane ends in a car park, with a large locked gate to the rest of the reserve, plus a pedestrian gate.

Mount Piper VK3/VN-028 440 m 1 point

The summit lies inside the Mount Piper Nature Conservation Reserve. Just beyond the gate is an interpretive sign giving some basic information on the Reserve. There is no substantive information showing on the ParkWeb site.

Mount Piper is solitary steep peak rising some 210 m from the surrounding terrain. The Mount Piper Nature Conservation Reserve (94 ha) was established in 1980. Antimony was mined in the reserve from 1939 to 1945 but proved unprofitable. Shafts were sunk exploring for gold. During the 1940s, timber was sourced to fire the boilers at the Broadford paper mill.

The Reserve has one of the largest populations of the Golden Sun Moth, now restricted to a small number of locations. The Ant Blue Butterfly is another threatened species found with the reserve.

I loaded up my pack and headed up the walking track to the summit. After about 200 m, I reached Mount Piper Lane and decided to take the direct approach, climbing up Mount Piper Lane. A little way up I spotted an echidna exploring the base of a tree. When I spotted me, he (she?) curled up into a protective spiky ball. I waited patiently with the phone in camera made and managed to catch a photo of this lovely monotreme.


Echidna spotted during the climb

I continued to the end of the vehicle track, and then scrambled the last few metres up to the summit trig.

I set up on the trig, which had a convenient swivelling mount through which I ran the squid pole – no need to strap the squiddie to the trig.


The gear at the Mt Piper trig, with the view east over Broadford.

I spotted myself and started calling. It took several minutes before I gained a response, then I had a further four contacts inside 10 minutes. With no responses to further CQ calls, I packed up and headed back down to the car via the walking track.


Mt Piper descent track

I loaded up the car and started the trip south to Kilmore, then west across to Lancefield, across to Riddells Creek, and finally south to Sunbury. Just a little north of Sunbury, I heard Paul VK5PAS/p out in Warren Conservation Park. I stopped the car in a drive way and switched off everything to eliminate the noise. I had a solid contact with Paul, and then travelled on to my destination in Sunbury.

A new Unique and a new Complete.

Saturday 21 January 2017

The key event for Saturday was supposed to be a social one: a Family Day for members of the Macedon Ranges Amateur Radio Club, to which I was invited.

After adding fuel to the car, I headed up to Mount Macedon, to the summit area.

Mount Macedon VK3/VC-007 1005 m 6 points
Macedon Regional Park VKFF-0972

I have previously activated Mount Macedon as a SOTA summit, but had not visited since the Park was added to the WWFF system. The summit area is well known for the high level of RF interference, due to the numerous RF sites around the summit. I parked the car about 100 m down Francis Road, about 10-15 m vertically below the posted summit height. I set up running the dipole parallel to the edge of the unsealed road.

I posted a Spot indicating a short activation shortly after 2300 UTC (20/01/2017). The first contact was a couple of minutes later and I had 12 in the log inside as many minutes. Further calls yielded no responses, so I packed up and head off to the picnic venue.

Macedon Regional Park VKFF-0972

I was a short drive around to Days Park in another area of the Regional Park. After catching with some of those already present, I excused myself and set up the squid pole and 40/20 link dipole and started working stations to build up numbers toward the WWFF quantum of 44. Most stations were worked on 40 m. I worked 5 stations on 20 m, but none on 15 m. I also worked several on 2 m FM, most at quite short distance… I ended up with a total of 63 contacts in the log, including some SOTA contacts.

We decided to pack up a little after 1500 local, and headed back to Sunbury for the night.

Sunday 22 January 2017

After seeing the weather forecast for the next few days, I revised my notional plan. I headed north west, driving up the Calder Highway and then across to Maldon and up Mount Tarrengower. I had hopes of activating several summits during the day, so the plan was for short activations, hopefully only requiring the use of 40 m.

Mount Tarrengower VK3/VN-023 565 m 2 points

Mount Tarrengower dominates the skyline above the historic gold mining town of Maldon. A large poppet head sits on the summit, together with several RF sites. I set up in the shade of some trees just west of the poppet head.

First in the log was Rob VK4AAC/2 in Goonoo National Park VKFF-0590. I moved away from Rob to find a clear frequency – not easy on Sunday morning with all the News Broadcasts. Over about 25 minutes I gained 10 contacts. I heard Geoff VK3SQ very weakly, but he could not hear my QRP signal – sorry Geoff.

With no responses to further CQ calls, I packed up and headed back to the car and headed north west.

I drove into Loddon Shire and then east toward Eddington, stopping for a 10 minute VK3PF/m activation of the Shire for four stations in the log. Then it was further west then north to Moliagul.

Mount Moliagul VK3/VN-024 525 m 2 points

Mount Moliagul Road starts near the junction of B240 and C278 – just east of the intersection. It is signposted “Mt Moliagul lookout” or similar (I did not record the details). The Road is unsealed but suitable for 2WD vehicles. There were some rough sections with ruts, but they were easily navigated.

There are some comms sites on the summit. I parked and again set up under a nearby tree to gain the shade.

I spotted a short activation on 40 m and gained 10 stations in about 15 minutes. Once again, with no responses to further CQ calls, I packed up and headed back to the car and headed back to Moliagul and then south and in towards Mt Bealiba.

A new Unique and a new Complete.

Mt Bealiba VK3/VN-026 “481 m” 1 point

I believe that this summit needs to move location – there is a higher point about 500 m to the north. Both high points fall within a common activation zone. Having established that from the maps, I decided to activate the high point to the north.

I approached off the St Arnaud – Dunolly Road via Log Bridge Track, Martins Road and Bealiba Range Track. I reached a steep and rocky section and parked the Impreza to walk the rest of the approach, despite the hot temperature.

The climb was about 750 m horizontal with a climb of just over 80 m vertical, taking me about 17 minutes. After looking at the notional summit and confirming that it looked lower and that the GPS mapping confirmed that the saddle was less than 25 m lower than the summit, I set up on the edge of the track.


Mt Bealiba track

After spotting myself, I worked 8 stations in about 10 minutes, after several initial calls after spotting.

It was hot on the summit, so again I closed when I received no responses to further CQ calls.

A new Unique and a new Complete.

I walked back to the car and retraced my route back to the bitumen and then headed to Dunolly to get some lunch. Just as well I was not any later, as the Bakery was packing up, just on 1500 local. I then headed south to Maryborough, Talbot and on to the Mount Beckworth Scenic Reserve

Mount Beckworth VK3/VC-024 635 m 2 points

There is good information about the Mount Beckworth Scenic Reserve on the Parks Victoria website http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/mount-beckworth-s.r.

Having read Allen VK3ARH’s blog, I found the small car park a few hundred metres before the Manna Gums Picnic Area. After entering the Reserve via Mountain Creek Road, turn left at the first junction. When the trees thin out, keep an eye out for an old sign on the right which indicates “Management Vehicles and Walkers Only” in a clear patch of grass before some trees. I parked in the shade and loaded up for the climb. I followed the vehicle track to its end, then the walking track, which rapidly heads north – the opposite direction to the summit! But it gradually climbs and the extra distance is sure to be better than climbing through long grass, bracken, scrub and around boulders, let alone thinking about what might be slithering around unseen. After about 600 m, you reach a track junction and turn left, climbing up to the ridge line. It is then a matter of climbing up the Management Vehicles Only track to the summit. It is a little rough in places, with loose granitic sand and granite boulders and slabs.

At the summit there are some signs, the trig on top plus a very large pine, the “Lollipop Tree”, planted in 1918. At the time I reached the summit, it provided excellent shade!


Mt Beckworth track

I set up, spotted and started calling. I soon had responses, firstly Gerard VK2IO in Sydney, then Rick VK4RF/VK4HA. Last was Justin VK7TW about 12 minutes later, with a dozen in the log. With no further responses, it was again time to close and return down the hill.

I drove back out to Kierces Road, then south to Coghills Creek Road to turn right. NW to Coutts Road, and then south on Evansford Road to Mt Bolton Road. I followed the latter almost to the final crest, and then followed the track on the right to the fence and gates.

Mount Bolton VK3/VC-023 645 m 2 points

After passing through the pedestrian gate, I headed west to the foot of the climb to the summit. I climbed up to about the first large band of granite boulders/slabs, well within the AZ.

I set up quickly, spotted myself and started calling on 40 m. Adam VK2YK was first in the log. I ended up with five calls in the log in about 10 minutes after the first reply. Once again, there were no responses to CQ calls, so I closed and returned to the car and headed to Waubra, then toward Ballarat.

Whilst travelling on the Ballarat bypass, I noted that the fuel gauge was getting low. I decided against stopping yet and headed to Mount Warrenheip.

Mount Warrenheip VK3/VC-019 714 m 4 points

The summit is not far off the Western Highway. Head south at the Kryal Castle turn off and then around the castle, turning left into Mount Warrenheip Road and on up to the summit.

I set up at the last corner before the summit, as there was a guy having a snooze in his car at the top. Given that it was late in the day and that 40 m propagation had been ordinary all day, I set up on 80 m.

I spotted myself and quickly had Allen VK3ARH at nearby Lal Lal nearly blasting me off the hill. We had a chat for a few minutes, then I resumed calling. I soon had five callsigns in the log and packed up the SOTA station. I had a rig running in the car and worked a couple of stations on 40 m for the local Shire: MZ3. It was then time to head back down to the highway.

As I was driving down, the fuel warning light came on. So I headed back to Woodmans Hill on the outskirts of Ballarat for fuel and a cold drink. I then headed back toward Melbourne. I grabbed some takeaway for a late meal at about 2120… It was then a case of navigating my way across Melbourne, with road works on the West Gate Bridge, on the link across to the Tunnels and again on the freeway near Warragul Road. I finally reached home at midnight.

It had been a long day, but a success with six summits activated (four new Uniques/Completes) and six local government areas activated.

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