The last full day for Winter Bonus 2017

In VK3, the Winter Bonus ends at 2359 UTC on 14 October each year. From 15 June through to the end of the bonus period (1100 local time in VK3 on 15 October), summits above 1200 m attract a 3-point bonus.

The weather forecast looked great for the weekend. I had several tasks on the “to do” list, but felt a need to get out and play SOTA. With one major task dealt with on Friday night, I decided on Saturday morning to head for the hills. The basic plan was to try to get to several summits with the bonus points, including a possible camp out on Saturday night, thus possibly activating one or perhaps 2 summits on Sunday morning… This meant that more gear needed to be loaded into the vehicle. That led to a big mistake, which I realised about 90 minutes down the road.

I packed most of the gear into the car and departed home at around 0900 local. I headed east towards Bairnsdale. I was only about 15 kilometres short of Bairnsdale when it hit me: I had left the SOTA backpack in the radio shack! The obvious option was to abort. But as I gathered my thoughts, I realised that I could proceed: I had a full set of portable gear in the vehicle – antennas, heavy duty squid poles, feedlines, an IC-7000 transceiver, an spare LiFePO4 battery plus a backpack with my KX2 along with my camera. No need to turn around – all should be go.

I filled the fuel tank in Bairnsdale and then headed north through Wy Yung and Bullumwaal and north towards Mount Baldhead. On my previous activations of Mount Baldhead, I had approached via Swifts Creek. Today’s approach allowed easy access to summit which I could activate from the road side on my trip north. One could add Mt Taylor VK3/VG-142 (1 point) with a very short detour.

Unnamed summit VK3/VG-080 897 m 4 points

This summit might be given a name for SOTA purposes of “Near Purtle” or perhaps “Purtle Spur” at the next VK3 update. Checking Google Earth, the height data suggests that the summit height is 904 m, so perhaps it may also go up to 6 points?

The summit is very close to the junction of Morris Peak Road and Mount Baldhead Road. I drove over the high point of the road, with moderate scrub visible from the road. The scrub just north of the obvious parking place near the road junction looks to be thicker. The road just north of junction is just inside the activation zone. I parked near the junction and walked to close to the high point in the road and then set up with antenna along the edge of the road.

I spotted myself and then worked 6 stations before I had no more calls. The summit was qualified and I now had a new Complete.

I packed up and continued roughly north along Mount Baldhead Road. As I travelled, I was enjoying the views through the trees, looking down into and across the various valleys. I did slow down to have a slightly longer look at the south and west sides of Mikado Hill VK3/VG-051, which has not yet been activated. I had a quick look at this one from the road which traverses it northern flank and the bush looked thick. From the south and west, the bush looked no better and from what I could see, it has not yet seen any logging activity, unlike other areas in the area. Given the prime reason for the trip, Mikado Hill can wait for another day.

Mount Baldhead Track was looking very overgrown, so I continued on and took the next track to the east – a road into young regrowth forest. The junction is clearly visible on the satellite imagery on Google Earth at about 37°22’28.87″S 147°32’49.20″E. There were a few obstacles to dodge but it was just a matter of take it easy. When I met the upper section of Mount Baldhead Track, it was almost completely overgrown. The route to the summit continues along Mount Baldhead Track to the summit. I drove to the summit and parked under an old eucalypt in the shade.

Mount Baldhead VK3/VE-027 1374 m 8 points

The antenna was hoisted with a throw bag over a tree branch, so the antenna feed point was at about 10 m. I spotted myself on 40 m and Col VK3LED was first in the log. Another 7 contacts followed before I had no more calls after working Mitch VK7XDM, so I packed up. I had everything back in the vehicle when I received a text message saying that I could not be heard in NE Victoria. I answered saying I was packed up but would try 80 m on the next summit.

I exited by headed north down Mount Baldhead Track to Boomerang Spur Road and back onto Mount Baldhead Road. Both the approach and exit route need reasonable vehicle clearance.

It was then north to Grassy Ridge Track and west to Mount Delusion Track, which has had a reasonable amount of traffic in recent times – the last time I was at its eastern end, it was looking underutilised and had vegetation encroaching. So this time I headed straight up the Track, along the edge of an area that has been logged in the past few months.

Mt Delusion VK3/VG-026 1375 m 8 points

Once in the AZ, I found a spot where I could park off the track and again set up with a line over a branch. Ian VK5IS was first in the log on 40 m. Next up was S2S contacts with VK3CU/p and VK3LT/p, both on Mt Arapiles VK3/VW-022. After another 3 contacts I called with no responses, so dropped down to 80 m and spotted myself. I worked Geoff VK3SQ. An SMS from Tassie sent me back to 40 m to work Mitch VK7XDM. With no further calls, I packed up and headed to Mount Delusion Road and then north to Omeo. From Omeo, it was out to Hinnomunjie and on to Knocker Track and finally up Knocker Link Track.

The Knocker VK3/VG-016 1506 m 10 points

After again tossing a line over a branch, I started on 80 m with Matt VK1MA first in the log. Next was Allen VK3ARH. With no further calls after working Allen, I moved to 40 m another 6 stations. With no more callers, and the summit comfortably qualified, I started to pack up. The activation had a short interruption whilst I was explaining what I was doing to a deer stalker who driven up the track and saw my vehicle, so came over to check to see what was happening.

I packed up after having no more answers to CQs. I retraced my route back toward Omeo, but turned off at the Golf Club to climb up the hill to the next summit.

Sam Hill VK3/VG-049 1206 m 8 points

As I drove up onto the summit area, a large mob of kangaroos quietly bounced off.

Kangaroo grazing

One of the locals grazing near the summit

After placing a line over a branch and spotting myself, I started working stations on 40 m. First up was Warren ZL2AJ. Three more calls had the summit qualified. I moved to 80 m and worked Sergio, Mitch and Steve. Seven in the log – I was happy. I quickly packed up and grabbed a quick photo – the snow was still present on Mt Bogong. The sun was getting low in the sky.

Mt Bogong from Sam Hill

Looking towards Mt Bogong from Sam Hill

As I drove back down to the Omeo Highway, I considered my options. It was already after 1800 local time. I decided, why not….. I headed for a sixth summit for the day.

Unnamed summit VK3/VG-036 1285 m 8 points

Heading south from Omeo on the Great Alpine Road, I turned into Tongio Gap Road and then onto Splitters Range Road. The road starts with a gate, then across a paddock to another gate. Be sure to close them both… The road then climbs up to the summit, with a cleared area with a communications building & mast at the junction with The Dog Track. During the drive up, I needed to dodge a couple of kangaroos as well as a doe and fawn.

I have proposed that the summit be given the name Splitters Range in the next VK3 update.

I again deployed a line over a branch to hoist the antenna. The throw bag, designed for arborists, normally sits with the portable gear in the car. At 340 grams plus the line and its holder, the kit is a little heavy to add to the SOTA pack.

I started on 80 m, with John ZL1BYZ first caller, followed by Mitch, Steve and Tony, so I had the summit qualified before I moved to 40 m. First on 40 m was Jackie ZL1WA, followed by Paul VK5PAS. It was now after 0815 with no more callers and the sun was on the horizon. It was time to pack up and head back to the bitumen. After dodging more kangaroos, I finally made it back down to the Great Alpine Road.

During the drive down, I considered my options: should I find somewhere to camp with the chance of another summit or 2 in the morning, or head for home? I decided on the latter option and headed south. I finally arrived home at 2315 local – it had been a long day. The pay-off: 6 summits activated with a new Complete plus 61 Activator points to add to the tally.

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