2018 Hotham SOTA Summit – Sunday

Sunday 3 February 2018

I was among the first up and around in the morning. I organised my breakfast and some lunch. Others were soon up and about. Further discussions regarding plans continued. People were heading in a number of different directions.

I had decided to head out to the north east to attempt three 10 point summits, each of which had only been activated once previously. Phil VK3BHR had activated the first two targets, so the previous evening I had discussed the approach that he had used. I soon found out that I would have company: Allen wished to join me again, plus Compton and Paul were keen, with Compton in for a drive as well. So we headed off through Omeo, out to Benambra and up the Limestone Road. It was then left onto Misery Road and up Misery Trail.

On my last look in this direction, Dapples Creek Track was closed and the steep section of Misery Trail was looking rough, rocky and wet, so I aborted: I did feel comfortable tackling the slope in the Forester. This time, the track up to Mount Misery was easy, having been graded in the recent past. The track became a little rough after the summit, with several deep erosion gutters to negotiate. We continued to a little north of the summit and parked.

Mount Misery Range VK3/VG-008 1647 m 10 points

I had been looking at this summit and the next for some time, but had not made the effort to make a second attempt until now. As it turned out, the approach was relatively easy. I had not brought any prepared notes or maps, so the approach was dead reckoning from map memory, with the GPS giving a little guidance when I bothered to look at it. We followed brumby tracks in roughly the right direction, but actual veered a little left of the ideal route. We ended up crossing an alpine sphagnum bog gully a couple of hundred metres north of the desired navigation target – the saddle between the summit and the main ridge to the west.

We then climbed up toward the summit, which from our approach direction looked a rather rocky. We found an opening on the ridge line to the north of the summit about 15 m below the summit proper, based on the contour lines. We decided to set up in that opening.

VHF to the other groups was totally unsuccessful. We set up on HF with Allen’s gear. An unexpected surprise was a S2S with Andrew VK3ARR/p on Mt Alexander VK3/VN-016.

After we had all qualified the summit, we started heading down, skirting the western face and heading to the true saddle. It was then a simple matter to head to the northwest following brumby tracks until we hit Misery Trail. Compton led the last few hundred metres; bringing us out about 20 metres from the cars….

We then loaded up and continued along Misery Trail and climbed up the steep 4WD track to the next target after passing the northern end of Dapples Creek Track. This section of Misery Trail is normally subject to a winter season closure.

VK3/VG-009 1625 m 10 points

At the top of the climb, the track swings to the north. At this point, the track is just below 1620 m, so well within the AZ. Allen and I were several hundred metres ahead of Compton, so quickly jumped out of the car with a handheld and worked Compton and Paul (outside the AZ) on 2 m FM. We then set about getting a HF antenna up, using a throw line over a tree branch to get a line up. On HF we worked several of the usual chasers, plus had S2S contact with Glenn VK3YY/p and Andrew VK3JBL/p on Mt Loch VK3/VE-005. We also worked  Leigh VK3SG on Blue Rag Range VK3/VE-015 on 2 m FM. We could just hear Tony VK3CAT at home on 40 m, but were unable to complete the contact, so we dropped to 80 m and made the contact. It was great to get Tony in the log.

We then packed up and headed north. The alpine country was its usual delight, including a great camping area – Charlies Creek Campground. We continued to climb up to the junction with Kings Plain Track.

Davies Plain VK3/VE-010 1754 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

The track junction is at around 1750 m – well inside the AZ. I parked the Ranger and we again worked Compton and Paul on 2 m FM, as they were a few minutes behind us and well outside the AZ. Allen & I set up the HF antenna as Compton and Paul were arriving. First in the log on HF was Tony VK3CAT, followed by Paul VK5PAS. I heard Mick VK3GGG, but Mick could not hear my replies – sorry Mick. I had 4 in the log, so stepped away from the radio to allow the others to qualify the summit.

After packing up, we retraced our route to the junction of Davies Plain Track, Misery Trail, McCarthys Track and Buckwong Track. Compton’s GPS wanted to take us out via McCarthys Track, the usual approach route to Davies Plain. I suggested that we take Buckwong Track and all agreed, so we headed roughly west. We skirted around to the south of the as yet unactivated Mt Murphy and then out onto Mt Hope Road, and then south back towards Benambra via Beloka Road and Limestone Road. It was then back to Omeo and Hotham.

Back at the lodge, we had a quiet cold drink and then awaited the return of the others. That evening we had a communal meal in the lodge and more discussions.

Monday morning was pack up and clean time, before we started heading off in different directions. I decided to simply head to Wodonga to catch up with family.

Just as I reached Wodonga, I received a ‘phone call from Ken VK3KIM/p on Mt Loch. He needed one more contact to qualify the summit. I had heard Ken calling CQ on 40 m SSB earlier in the trip and stopped to attempt to work him. But the 40 m signal abruptly disappeared. When Ken called me, I was too far away to assist – neither of us could hear anything of the other on 2 m FM – just too many kilometres and too many hills between us. Sorry that I could not help Ken.

The final leg of the SOTA weekend for me would happen on Wednesday when I would return home. I spent Monday afternoon and Tuesday on family tasks.

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