A four summit day on Eskdale Spur

Monday 10 September 2018

It was forecast to be another fine day in the northeast, so I decided on another day of SOTA. I loaded up the car and headed to Mount Beauty to visit the Bakery to grab something for lunch later in the day. From there, I worked my around to Mountain Creek Road and up to Trappers Creek Gap and made the sharp turn left to start the climb up Eskdale Spur Track. The track was in reasonable condition for most of the way to the first target summit, with a few fallen trees to negotiate.

Mount Emu VK3/VE-061 1360 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

As I approached the cleared area at the summit, I noticed an addition since my previous visit: an Emergency Marker. The site is a well-known hang glider launch site.

I parked and found a site to set up the station partially in the shade, with just the right amount of sun on my back. I started on 40 m CW. My apologies to a couple of callers: my brain just was not decoding…. First in the log was Garry VK2GAZ followed by Gerard VK2IO. I called several times with no further responses, so swapped to SSB. I had a mixture of SSB and CW contacts – I asked some CW regulars who called on SSB to also work me on CW. With nine contacts in the log, I swapped to 80 m SSB and worked three stations. I was then called on CW and changed modes to work Steve VK7CW. With 4 CW contacts and 13 altogether (some which would not count for the SOTA overall tally), I decided to close down and move north.


Look across Mount Beauty towards Mounts Feathertop and Fainter

The next section of Eskdale Spur Track was a little rough in places, with some damp rutted areas, fallen timber on the edges encroaching on the track and the usual large spoon drains. I progressed reasonably well to the close to the next summit, parked near the junction with the old track (see comments below about tracks being rerouted), loaded up and climbed up to well inside the activation zone – about 500 m horizontally.

Mount Yorke VK3/VE-082 1248 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I quickly set up and spotted myself on 80 m SSB. I soon had four contacts in the log. I swapped to 40 m and worked Gerard VK2JNG/p in VKFF-2638. I spotted myself on CW and soon had six contacts in the log. I moved up the band and worked three more on SSB before I ran out of callers and closed down after about 35 minutes of calling.

I returned to the car and continued on to the next parking spot at the junction with the closed track to the summit. This section of track was in good condition apart from a couple of small sections on the south side of Mt Yorke.

VK3/VE-071 unnamed “1283 m” 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I believe that the summit height is overstated by 100 m for this summit, so it should be downgraded to only 6 points at some stage in the future, when the next update for the VK3 Association occurs. Eskdale Spur Track previously ran to very close to the summit, but like many other summits, the tracks have been rerouted around the summit to contour around at a lower altitude. The southern end of the old route has been well disguised, but the track from the northwest is still very obvious, but with trees dropped across the track and a large earth mound not very far up the old track. It is simple to walk up to an old track junction only just below the summit.

After setting up, I spotted and called on 80 m SSB. Geoff VK3SQ and Duncan VK3XBC were quickly in the log. Several minutes of calling brought no replies, so I swapped to 40 m CW. I worked seven stations. I moved up the band to work SSB and quickly had Tony VK7LTD/p on VK7/SC-045 in the log. I soon had three more in the log. I could see discussion traffic that Wade VK1MIC/3 was on air in Hepburn Regional Park. I could hear Wade at 31, but he could not hear me. Wade later indicated that he was on 80 m, and when I tuned to the frequency I could hear him at about 42-52, but again no luck in completing a contact. Time was getting on and I was aware that Mitch VK3XDM/p was expected to be on a summit at around 1500 local. I quickly packed up, returned to the car and headed north.

The section of the track to the junction with Bowman No 1 Track was good, but the surface deteriorated after that – there had been relatively recent work done on the track, but the surface was loose at times, plus the usual spoon drains and fallen timber to dodge. The distance to travel between VK3/VE-071 and Mount Tawonga is only about 5 km.

Mount Tawonga VK3/VE-076 1268 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

The eastern side of the track was burnt – I suspect a controlled burn had occurred, as it was only the undergrowth and litter that had burnt, with no evidence of damage at any height up the taller trees. There was a new track south along the spur which I did not explore – again probably associated with the burn. The burn may also explain why the track had been “resurfaced”.

Mitch was on his summit and on air by time I arrived at Mt Tawonga. I quickly set up away from the car and turned to 80 m. Mitch VK3XDM/p on Mountain No 3 VK3/VE-033 was first in the log. I moved up the band and worked Geoff VK3SQ and Duncan VK3XBC. Cliff VK2NP called but had me as a marginal contact and did not have my report to him. I tried calling Cliff on CW, but had no responses. My apologies Cliff, I should have persevered on voice. When I returned to SSB, he was not responding. Next was Steve VK7CW on CW, followed on 40 m CW by John VK4TJ, John ZL1BYZ and Andre ZL1TM – summit qualified on CW. With no more callers, I moved to work 40 m SSB. I soon had five more contacts in log. With no more callers after several minutes of calling, I closed down and packed up.

I retraced my route a short distance to the south and descended Bay Creek Track. This was steep in places, with the usual fallen timber, rocks on the track and large spoon drains, plus some rough areas. Near the bottom, one has to negotiate a gate. You are then soon on a better road and then on the bitumen and arrive at Mongans Bridge. Cross the narrow bridge and you are soon on the Kiewa Valley Highway.

It was then just the matter of driving back to Wodonga.

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