Saturday 2 February 2018
The aim was a reasonably early yet civilised start time. People were up and moving around the lodge from around 0700 local time. Discussions late on Friday evening indicated that there were to be probably three groups heading in different directions:
Compton VK2HRX/3 with Andrew VK3JBL heading for the Blue Rag Range circuit (Mt Blue Rag, Blue Rag Range, Basalt Knob, White Timber and possibly VK3/VT-018). Given the likely travel time for the other 2 groups, I convinced Compton to leave Mt Blue Rag until last and possibly dropping VK3/VT-018.
Brian VK3MCD was to lead a larger group out to the east – I think it ended up being 3 vehicles in this group.
Myself with Allen VK3ARH as passenger: with Allen keen to activate Mt Sarah for a complete. Allen and I had discussed options during the previous week. I suggested that I was willing to drive and suggested a route which would allow some flexibility depending upon travel times. We were joined by Glenn VK3YY and Paul VK3HN, which did give the Ranger a larger than normal load. As I had mentioned to Allen in our email exchanges, I had previously activated all the likely target summits planned for the day.
We were underway shortly after the 0830 target departure time. The route was relatively simple in theory: down to the start of the Dargo High Plains Road and then onto Twins Road. This track is generally rough and narrow, so we were fortunate that we did not meet any other vehicles whilst traversing it. We drove past the usual ascent routes to The Twins and VK3/VE-023 and on until the turn off below Mt Murray. It was then around the side of VK3/VE-064 via Twins Jeep Track and then onto Selwyn Creek Road, then up Selwyn Logging Road and south on Tea Tree Range Road.
As we were approaching Mt Sarah, we had a chat using 2 m FM with Compton, who was approaching Blue Rag Range. We decided to continue south, heading for the most southern of our target summits for the day. This would make for better timings between summits later in the day.
VK3/VT-023 1302 m 8 points
We were able to drive up to the summit on Tea Tree Spur Track. There is a helipad on the summit, so plenty of room to set up stations. I set up a HF dipole for Allen VK3ARH to start calling. Meanwhile, Glenn was already calling using his KX2 and a multiband base-loaded whip connected direct to the radio. Liaison with Compton and Andrew on Blue Rag Range resulted in me setting up the IC-X2A handheld with a short coax to a pcb 2-element Yagi, resulting in two S2S contacts with Compton and Andrew on 1296 MHz. The others in our group also worked both Andrew and Compton. Shortly afterwards, Brian’s group was on air from Mt Pendergast, so it all became a little hectic with everyone wanting to make S2S contacts…. I worked Ken VK3KIMfor the S2S plus one more contact to get at least 4 for the summit to qualify.
Once everyone had enough contacts, we started to pack up and headed back to the north to Mt Sarah.
Mount Sarah VK3/VE-032 1552 m 10 points
The run back up to Mt Sarah was straight forward and I decided to climb the summit from the south, straight up the 4WD track. I parked just over the summit, off the side of the track. Allen began setting up his HF antenna (a 40/20 trap dipole). Glen quickly had his KX2 and whip in action. Using 2 m FM, I quickly had a couple of contacts in the log. Using Allen’s set up, I soon had the summit qualifies by working some chasers on 40 m SSB. It was then back to 2 m FM to work some of the eastern group members now on Brumby Hill VK3/VG-012. A little while later, we worked Compton and Andrew, now on Basalt Knob VK3/VE-039. After again ensuring that everyone had the required contacts, including S2S with the other groups, we packed up and headed north.
We were well up the road towards Selwyn when I noticed an odd sound – we had picked up a passenger under the car. I pulled over and jumped out to look – a small lump of timber about 11 cm diameter and at least 700 mm long had lodged itself between the bottom of the body and the rear axle. It was firmly lodged, with the front hanging down and hitting the ground to produce the knocking and scraping sounds that I had heard. I could not budge the timber, so we got out the jack and lifted the rear wheel on the driver side. Both Allen and Glenn assisted with try to remove it. Allen ended up using the wheel spanner to assist with break off part of the rear end of the log and Glenn pulled it out forwards. After a quick check of the brake line – which was surrounded by the broken ends of the log, we loaded up and headed north once again.
Mount Selwyn VK3/VE-049 1424 m 8 points
We drove to the bottom of the final ascent to the summit and I gave it a try in low range. The track was very cut up, with prominent holes and a loose surface. Near the top were several rock slabs. I had not engaged the centre diff lock, so was not surprised when we stopped part way up. I carefully backed down and then reverse parked into a space just off the track at the base of the climb. We all walked up the slope to the summit area. Again Allen started setting up his HF gear whilst Glenn pulled out the KX2. Before Allen was set up, Glenn was working John ZL1BYZ. We all shared radios, except for the 2 m handhelds…. I quickly had 4 in the log, plus then the S2S action commenced, with the eastern group on Mt Nunniong VK3/VG-011 and Compton and Andrew now on White Timber. I was using the 40 m set up to work some of the Nunniong group and was called by Perrin VK3XPT mobile – we had met Perrin on Mt Sarah. We were soon packing up and headed back down to the vehicle.
On our way out to the main road, we were met with a Hilux coming up the track. He backed up until he found a spot to pull over. We then headed south and then turned onto Great Divide Trail and then headed around to Twins Jeep Track. We traversed the track to the eastern side of the target summit. It was after 1500 local and I had not yet eaten lunch, so I suggested that the other three climb into the AZ whilst I ate lunch as they climbed. I would then work them from near the car.
VK3/VE-064 1344 m 8 points
This was a new summit for the other three. We managed to have all three qualify the summit from within the group, with one person heading up into the AZ and working the others. I used two callsigns, so each operator ended up with 4 calls in the log. They climbed down and we continued back towards Hotham. When we arrived at the track junction north of Mt Murray, we decided that we had sufficient time to activate that summit as well.
Mount Murray VK3/VE-025 1640 m 10 points
It was more of the earlier routine: Glenn was quickly on air with the KX2 and whip while Allen set up the dipole. I worked John ZL1BYZ and John VK4TJ with Glenn’s rig and then worked Andrew on VK3/VT-018 and Ron VK3AFW and Leigh VK3SG on VK3/VG-017 using 2 m FM. There was the usual clamour of activity for everyone to get the S2S contacts in the log. We packed up and continued the return journey to Hotham.
As we were approaching Hotham, we liaised with Compton and Andrew, already on the summit – they had decided to bypass Mt Blue Rag. We suggested that we might drop down to the lodge to grab a cold drink and we quickly had instruction regarding grabbing some drinks from the fridge for Andrew and Compton.
Mount Hotham VK3/VE-006 1861 m 10 points
One feature of the Annual Hotham SOTA Summit is that Brian organises vehicle access to the summit, making it a breeze to enjoy a good social session of drinks and nibbles on the summit whilst also activating the summit. As we carefully drove up the access track, Compton and Andrew were inspecting the inside of the fire watch tower.
Allen quickly set up the HF antenna and Glenn started calling on the KX2 and whip. I was enjoying the view and sent a text message to Warren VK3BYD/p on Mt Stanley that we were on the summit and setting up. Andrew set up his 23 cm transverter system whilst Compton pulled out his handheld and pcb 4-element Yagi. Andrew had a good signal on receive from Warren, but Warren had to open the mute on the radio to hear Andrew. Swapping over to the handheld and 4-element Yagi resulted in very good signals both ways. Warren ended up with 8 contacts S2S Hotham to Stanley on 23 cm FM!
I qualified the summit with three more contacts on 2 m FM, working Brian, Ron and Ken as they were driving up the Great Alpine Road, running a little later than planned.
We eventually packed up and headed down to The General Store for dinner. The food was good but the venue (and a few patrons) was very loud.
We eventually made the move to retire to the lodge, for a quieter environment. Discussions continued for a while, including possible activities for Sunday. Some were staying until Monday morning, whilst others would tackle one or more summit on their way off the mountain.