Christmas to New Year’s Eve 2018

Wednesday 27 December 2017

After several days of enforced short drives only due to the wrecked tyre suffered coming out from Beetoomba Spur, the task for the day was to get a new tyre fitted. All the tyre places were closed by time I got out to the bitumen on Saturday and all had been closed for Christmas and Boxing Day until today. Once that task was done, I returned to my temporary home and then headed off for some SOTA fun.

I headed toward Dederang Road and then onto Big Ben Road.

Mount Big Ben VK3/VE-105 1154 m 6 points

The access to the summit is straightforward via an unsealed road off Dederang Road. Near the start there is a cattle grid and at the edge of the forest is a gate to open and close. Then simply climb to the top.

I set up in the shade just off the summit clearing. First in the log was Mark VK4SMA/p in VKFF-1631 on 20 m. I switched to 40 m and started calling. I worked 14 stations on 40 m before I tried 20 m, where I worked another 5 stations. It was then back to 40 m to chase Wade VK1FWBD on VK2/ST-034. I then tried 6 m and worked Ian VK5CZ. About 20 minutes later, I chased Matt VK1MA/2 on VK2/SM-093. I then packed up and headed back down the access road. During the descent, the dual band whip lost the top two-thirds, with a screw having disappeared. I saw the top fall off, so stopped and retrieved the top sections. I have yet to source a suitable screw to repair the antenna…..

Back on the bitumen, I headed to Porepunkah and then to the access road for the next summit, taking a back road to avoid Bright – which is always hectic at this time of year.

Mount Porepunkah VK3/VE-098 1185 m 6 points

As expected, the fire tower was manned, so I set up back down the hill a little. I set up on 40 m and spotted myself. I quickly worked 14 stations, including VK4FMHT/p in VKFF-0129. I kept the activation relatively short, as I had another summit in mind. I packed up and headed back down the road, then up the Smart Creek Tawonga Gap Track.

VK3/VE-097 (No name) 1185 m 6 points

The access track is a little rough and steep in places. I set up on the summit and started on 40 m SSB. Second in the log was Manuel VK/HB9DQM on Mt Kosciusko VK2/SM-001 – an unexpected S2S contact. With 9 in the log, I tried 20 m, working 10 stations including several ZLs. Back to 40 m briefly to work Allen VK3ARH/p on VK3/VC-019 plus a couple more, then a hit the power switch to start packing up and to head back to Wodonga.

29 December 2018

Today was a bit of a road trip with Mum on board. He headed out to Jindera to find a shop that she was interested in browsing, only to find it was closed until a few days into January. From there we headed cross country to Wahgunya and then into Ruherglen for a good lunch at one of the hotels in town. We then headed toward Chiltern and I could not pass up an opportunity for a short activation.

Chiltern – Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620

I headed off the bitumen at Depot Road and onto a side track to find a spot to set up. I tossed a line over a tree branch and set up on 40 m. Greg VK2EXA was a big signal and first in the log. The signal strength was not surprising, given that Greg was located less than 18 km away. I ended up with 12 stations in the log before packing up as a few spots of rain arrived. It was then a simple matter to head south through Chiltern and then back to Wodonga.

30 December 2018

I had often driven along the Midland Highway heading north to Benalla and looked across at the hills of the Mount Sumaria State Park. The Park has two SOTA summits, both of which I had previously chased. I decided that it was time to activate at least one of the two summits and the Park. I headed off from Wodonga to Benalla and then south to Swanpool and followed the signs to the Park. Once inside the Park, I turned onto Mt Sumaria Road and headed around past the walking track to Mt Sumaria. I travelled on to turn onto Butchers Track up to the high point, spotting the sign for the Mount Samaria Track. I parked nearby and loaded up. I set off on the walking track, but after a while cut the corner for a more direct approach towards the summit. Once on the high ground, I soon picked up the Lightning Track and headed around to the summit.

VK3/VE-140 (unnamed) 974 m 6 points
VKFF-0770 Mount Samaria State Park

I was set up just below the rocks at the summit shortly prior to 0100 UTC. I quickly worked Peter VK3ZPF on Briarty Hill VK3/VC-029 in VKFF-2224 for a S2S and Park to Park contact. I then moved to a clear frequency and started calling. I worked a total of 16 stations in about 30 minutes on 40 m before switching to 20 m to work another 9 stations, including two ZLs. I also spent a few minutes explaining SOTA and WWFF to a couple of walkers who I had seen as a drove past the Spring Creek Sawmill site, obviously getting ready to head off on a walk.

I packed up and headed back, looking to see if I could see the “official” walking track – it is hard to spot the turn off back to Butchers Track from the Lightning Track, which traverses around the ridge line join Mount Sumaria Track. There was one sign in some disrepair, but the route to descend toward Butchers Track was not obvious. After a short excursion down the main descent on what later became clear was now Mount Sumaria Track, I headed back to the top and found the wanted track despite the lack of signage and followed the track back to the vehicle.

I then travelled back to Mount Sumaria Road and then south to Mansfield to buy some lunch.

After lunch, I headed toward Jamieson and veered off toward Goughs Bay and on to the next target summit.

Stillman Plateau VK3/VE-174 811 m 4 points
Lake Eildon National Park VKFF-0625

At Goughs Bay, take Walshs Road and then SEC Track – watch that you pick the main track and not the rougher track underneath the powerlines. Wind your way up to the top of the ridge line, past a gate which was open. At the top of the climb, swing right to continue climbing on Highett Point Track, which is rougher and with many deep spoon drains. At the top, swing right to remain on Highett Point Track for about 400 m to be close to the marked summit location. I parked and set up beside the track, not bothering to go to the marked location only a short distance away.

This summit had only been activated once previously, by Mitch VK3FMDV back in July 2013. I had worked Mitch (now VK3XDM & VK7XDM) on that activation, so the plan was to add a new Unique and a Complete.

A line thrown over a tree branch raised the antenna centre and I was soon calling on 40 m SSB. I worked 20 stations on 40 m SSB before hearing a CW call. I changed mode and retuned frequency to work Warren VK3BYD/p in the Alpine National Park. I then changed to 20 m SSB to work Warren ZL2AJ/m plus Rick VK4RF/VK4HA. I had no more responses to CQ calls, so I packed up. With 24 in the log, I was happy enough. I then retraced my route back to the bitumen and then headed north to Mansfield and back to Wodonga via Benalla.

31 December 2017

A day above Harrietville was planned. I headed south from Wodonga through Myrtleford, Bright and on to Harrietville. I then took Mill Road and on to West Ovens Track. I then took Albion Track and then turned south on Link Track and then headed east onto Gunns Track and then finally took the unnamed track to the Helipad. I may have been better to take Gunns Track from the track junction at the end of West Ovens Track, but at least I knew that part of the approach route was good for later in the day.

VK3/VE-030 (unnamed) 1570 m 10 points

My first visit to this summit was on the 2016 Mount Hotham SOTA weekend together with Compton VK2HRX. The approach used this time was easier 4WD than the approach that we had used in 2016. I set up the squid pole and ran out the dipole, then placed a spot on SOTAwatch – good phone signals on this summit, presumably from the installation on Mount Hotham. In less than 15 minutes I had 15 stations in the log. Given that it was after midday, I decided against other bands and packed up to head to the next target.

I retraced my route back to Gunns Track, then around onto Paddy Hill Track.

VK3/VE-070 (unnamed) 1286 m 8 points

Paddy Hill Track runs over the top of this summit. I found a spot to park and then set up by throwing a line over a tree branch. I called on 7.090 MHz and was quickly called by Paul VK5PAS, who spotted me. I worked six stations in less than 5 minutes and then tried 20 m, where I worked 3 ZLs, Brian VK3MCD/4 on Hamilton Island and John VK6NU. Back to 40 m for a few minutes for another 2 calls in the log before calls had no replies. I packe dup and headed back to Link Track and then north to Albion Track and around the side of Albion Point.

Albion Point VK3/VE-080 1255 m 8 points

I found a spot to park and then climbed up the spur into the AZ to set up with the squid pole supported by a bush. This was to be a quick activation: I worked 6 stations in 5 minutes, then no responses to further calls, so I packed up.

Back down to the car and then north along Albion Track and then onto Wet Gully Track. Wet Gully Track was rather rougher than my recollections from previous visits.

Ebenezer Range VK3/VE-081 1255 m 8 points

This summit is about 5.1 km north along Wet Gully Track from the junction with Cemetery Lane. The track runs right across the summit, which is simply a high point on the ridge line. I parked on the edge of the track and again threw a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole centre. I set the dipole parallel to the track and set up on the edge of the track.

I was about to post a spot and saw that Wallis VK2WP/p was on VK2/CT-006 on 40 m CW. I found him and found a pile up calling him. I then saw another CW spot: Ron VK3AFW/p was on VK3/VE-067, so I called on CW – success, with 599 reports both ways. Back to work Wallis, with weaker signals but another S2S CW contact completed. I considered the situation and decided to spot myself on CW and soon worked Steve VK7CW with his distinctive sounding CW, followed a few minutes later by Warren VK3BYD. A first for me – a summit qualified on CW, and not even a single call made on SSB as yet! I changed to 7.090 SSB and spotted. First up was Adam VK2YK/p on VK2/HU-024 followed by 4 more regulars. Last in the log was Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1983. With no further callers, I shut down and packed up.

I decided to see what the track was like to the north, so continued in that direction. About 9 km on I reached a track junction. Wet Gully Track continued on, with Hillsborough Track heading SW and Reliance Track to the east. I considered my options and tried Reliance Track. This route was reasonable, with a few spoon drains and some rough patches. I popped out at the Great Alpine Road beside the new water storage dam. From here, I headed north to Bright and then on back to Wodonga.

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