Three Gippsland summits on a winter day

Over the previous week, I had been chasing Canadian amateur – John VA7JBE – as he activated summits in north east Victoria with Brain VK3MCD, in Canberra with Andrew VK1AD and near Sydney with Compton VK2HRX.

I had replied to John before he left for Australia offering to take him to some local summits should he be passing through Gippsland. The plans came together with John arriving at my home on the evening of Tuesday 18 July. After discussing my plan outline and considering the forecast wet and cold weather, we decided to go ahead. I sent a message to Rik VK3EQ that we were heading out, an invitation which Rik quickly accepted.

Wednesday 19 July

Rik arrived at about 0815 after a minor navigational hitch. John and I were ready to go, so we were on the road within a few minutes of Rik’s arrival. We drove to Traralgon and then on to Heyfield to stop at the Bakery to buy some food. We then headed off to Licola and up the Licola – Jamieson Road (C486) to just after the 22 km mark and turned left onto the start of N7 Track. The track junction is less than a kilometre from our first target for the day.

Connors Plain VK3/VT-022 1305 m 8 points

We had rain and a little sleet as we drove from Heyfield to the N7 Track, with some snow on the side of the road as we gained height. Just in from the start of N7 (about 50 metres), there is a small track to the left. Follow this track – it leads up onto the plateau, well inside the Activation Zone (AZ). We set up in the rain, using a log to support the squid pole.

HF band conditions were poor. After a long period of calling on 40 m, we changed the antenna to 80 m, where we were rewarded with a call from Col VK3LED.

Having mobile coverage, I rang Ross VK3FREB, who lives in Maffra. Ross was visiting a mutual friend, David VK3DY. HF was poor on 80 m due to local noise in Maffra, but we were able to work David and Ross on 2 m simplex. Unable to raise any other callers on either 80 m or 2 m, we resorted to one of us exiting the AZ with a hand held radio to work the other two operators, so that we could each qualify the summit. This was a 3-point summit for me, as I had activated the summit earlier in the year, so I gained only the Winter Bonus points on this occasion.

Once we all had four contacts in the log, we packed up and headed but down to the C486 and headed back toward Licola and the junction with South Road, where we headed south to Mt Selma Road.

Mount Selma VK3/VT-013 1464 m 8 points

Mt Selma Road was a little slippery in places, with some large pot holes. There was plenty of evidence of the yahoos ripping up both the track and the areas near the track by driving their mud-tyre equipped 4WD vehicles in a reckless manner. I drove past the summit to the western end of Mt Selma Track and carefully drove up to the highest point on the track. We did not bother walking into the Trig point, as we were well inside the AZ. There was snow on the ground away from the track and cleared surrounds, with the “boys” having been all over the cleared areas around the track cutting up the surface.

I set up the squid pole using a small sapling for support. We quickly had the antenna strung out. Ross VK3FREB came up on 2 m FM, so we all worked Ross.

After we all had the summit qualified, we again packed up and retraced our route back to South Road and then headed south.

South Road was in good condition and we made good time to the junction with Mt Useful Track.

Mt Useful VK3/VT-016 1424 m 8 points

The track was a little cut up in places, with the results of the mud-larks/yahoos cutting up the cleared grassed areas near the tower on the summit. The rain had been getting heavier and the wind stronger as the day went on, so I was cheeky and parked the vehicle under the carport beside the Fire Watch accommodation hut. We strapped the squid pole to one leg of the carport structure and set up the radio under the carport. At least we were out of the rain, if not the wind!

HF conditions had improved somewhat, so we had an easier time qualifying the summit this time. We again worked Ross in Maffra via 2 m FM. After we had all qualified, we again packed up and headed back to South Road. Given the worsening weather, we decided against heading out to VK3/VT-034 and simply headed south and east to Seaton and then back home via Traralgon. We arrived home before 1500 local. After unpacking the vehicle, we said goodbye to Rik, who still had a drive of approaching 2 hours to get back to his home in Melbourne.

It was a profitable day for all three of us, but especially John. As he had spent several months working in the UAE, John was happy to get out into some colder conditions. Plus he had another three summits plus the bonus points.

We had a leisurely afternoon catching up on email and other tasks.

John stayed overnight again and headed off toward Melbourne the next morning, with several stops planned before heading to a social gathering of SOTA operators for dinner that evening. I decided against the drive, given that I had no tasks to complete in Melbourne – 3 hours plus of driving just for dinner was not very attractive, despite the chance to catch up with some of the other SOTA operators.

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