A first activation near Lake Dartmouth

Saturday 8 September 2018

I was a little slow off the mark on Saturday morning. I had only posted an Alert for the first summit of the day. I travelled east from Wodonga, stopping at the Tallangatta Bakery to buy some lunch. I headed south along Tallangatta Creek Road, up Cravensville Road and right into Gibb Range Road.

Gibb Range VK3/VE-069 1289 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I stopped at the usual spot that I have used previously – an entrance to an old logging coup which is now several years into rehabilitation: the regrowth is now over 4 m tall and encroaches significantly on the access track – in fact it grows in the middle of the track in places. It is relatively easy to follow the old track. I climbed up until I was well inside the activation zone and set up.

I checked SOTAwatch and saw that Tony VK3CAT/p was active on Mt Ritchie VK3/VC-003 on 40 m SSB. I could not hear Tony, so spotted myself on 80 CW. Tony must have seen the spot, as he was first in the log – thanks Tony! Mitch sent a message indicating that he was on his summit setting up, so I swapped to 80 m SSB. Mitch was next in the log for a S2S to VK3/VS-011, followed by Geoff VK3SQ. I swapped to 40 m CW and soon worked Steve VK7CW, John VK4TJ, VK2FGBR and Allen VK3ARH. There were other callers, but they were sending much faster than me and did not slow down, or my brain failed to decode the call…. Sorry folks. I swapped to 40 m SSB and worked Rob VK4SYD/p, Nick VK3ANL/p and Adam VK2YK/p, all in WWFF references. I tried 7.090 SSB for several minutes, working Nev VK5WG and Adrian Vk5FANA. Many more calls went unanswered. I tried 20 m CW and bagged John VK6NU. I had been on the summit for well over an hour and starting to feel cool, so shut down and packed up and walked back to the car.

I headed further east on Gibb Range Road, passing a couple of possible route choices: Benambra Spur Road leads towards VK3/VE-058 and VK3/VE-041, and Beetoomba Spur Track which leads out to VK3/VE-120. I continued on to Glamour Hill Track and headed south.

VK3/VE-079 (unnamed) 1262 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus Not previously activated

I had tried to access this summit at least three times previously, each time reaching a Road Closed sign. There was a logging coupe ahead. On each occasion, nobody was around, but I turned around and exited the area, respecting the closure sign. I suspect that the coup had been in operation for a considerable time, as the Rooftop Maps of the area show the sign was in place in 2007.

On my trip to Wodonga in May, I dropped into the DEWLP office at Eskdale and made enquiries about access. I explained my interest and exactly where I needed to reach. I was advised that there had recently been a regeneration burn in the area. After the officer had consulted with a colleague on the ‘phone, I was advised that access should be fine during the July – September period, when logging is prohibited. Otherwise, one should have a UHF CB radio in case the coup is operational – the road closed sign indicated to call on a particular channel and await instructions before proceeding. Such restrictions are understandable if one considers the risks of entering an operational logging area.

The road was easily passable, if a little rough surface in places. The road closed sign was no longer present, so I proceeded with due care to the edge of the coup and then navigated my way along the main track, dodging a few obstacles. Beyond the main loading area, the surface deteriorated but was in reasonable condition. I could see a couple of snig tracks that headed up towards the summit, located a little beyond the boundary of the logged area. I decided against that approach and continued as originally planned: to the high point of the track beyond the coup, where the Glamour Hill Track crosses the spur southwest of the summit, at a height of about 1250 m. There was an area where some clearing had occurred, perhaps for vehicle turnaround. The high point on the track was less than 10 m below the summit, so well within the activation zone. I parked off the track and set up with a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole. I was able to get the centre up to 10 m, almost at the limit of the standard coax length that I carry in the SOTA pack.

Once set up, I spotted on 40 m CW and soon worked Allen VK3ARH, followed by VK4TJ and John VK6NU. Then a pleasant surprise: I was called by Glenn VK3YY/p on Mt Toorongo Range VK3/VT-026. The signal was marginal, but we made the contact prior to QSB taking Glenn into the noise. I swapped to 40 m SSB. The first call was CW requesting a change to CW: soon Steve VK7CW was in the log. With no responses to CQ calls on 7.090 SSB, I swapped to 80 m SSB and worked three more stations. With no more callers, I closed down and packed up. I had been operational on the summit for around 35 minutes.

I retraced my route to Gibb Range Road and continued east to the Benambra – Corryong Road and then north. After reaching Nariel Valley, I decided to try for at least one more summit. I headed north, then turned SE on to Scrubby Creek Track. The track was steep in places, with many spoon drains and some rough sections.

VK3/VE-051 (unnamed) 1407 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I parked near the high point in the track below the summit and loaded up the backpack. I climbed up onto the spur line and climbed up for about 300 m horizontally, where the slope lessen off. Not quite on the summit, but well inside the AZ. I set up and spotted on 80 m CW.

First in the log was Tony VK3CAT/p, now on Mt Donna Buang VK3/VC-002. Next was Warren VK3BYD, followed by Paul VK3HN and Ron VK3AFW. I swapped to SSB when I had no responses to CQ calls. Next was Geoff VK3SQ, followed by Steve VK7CW and Nick VK3ANL/p, both on CW. Back on SSB, I worked three more callers before a brief period on 40 m SSB, working only John VK4TJ. It was time to close down and pack up, head back to the car and continue east.

There were patches of snow on the southern slopes, plus some wet patches on the track. I travelled east to Dunstans Logging Road, then south to Six Mile Ridge Track and west and south to the next summit.

VK3/VE-056 Six Mile Ridge 1393 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

There were a few damp areas on the way out to the summit, plus several large spoon drains. But the transit was quicker than expected: the track passes within a metre or two of the summit and I was on the summit & set up less than 50 minutes after closing on the previous summit.

I had patchy coverage, but managed to spot myself on 80 m CW. Steve VK7CW was the first caller, much stronger than a couple of weak responders. One of those weaker stations was John VK4TJ. Next was Warren VK3BYD, followed by Andre ZL1TM and Bill VK1MCW. Five on CW and with no further callers, I QSYd to SSB. I soon had five more in the log and started to pack up the gear, posting a spot that I was going QRT. Before I switched off, Allen VK3ARH called and we chatted for a couple of minutes. At the end, Paul VK3HN called, last in the log. It was almost 1720, the temperature had been dropping rapidly and I had a long drive ahead…

The views across to Mt Pinibar, Mt Boebuck and especially to Kosciuszko and the Main Range were spectacular!

LookingEast from SixMileRidge

Looking across to the Main Range

Once I had retraced my route back to the start of Six Mile Ridge Track, it was about 25 km out along Dunstans Logging Road to the bitumen. Dunstans Logging Road is a much easier access into these last two summits, needing only care along the smaller Six Mile Ridge Track and Scrubby Creek Track for shorter distances to logical parking points.

It was then a simple drive north and then west to return to Wodonga.

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