The Horn and Mount Jack Range

Thursday 13 September 2018

Another day free to go play radio. I was aware that Rik VK3EQ was planning on heading to Mt Ritchie, so I decided to head to the Mount Buffalo National Park. Depending on conditions, I considered heading to The Horn, with cross-country skis in the vehicle. The drive down was reasonable, with a bit of traffic for part of the way. I stopped briefly to grab a photo of Eurobin Falls after entering the National Park. It was then the usual winding climb up onto the plateau. I saw no cyclists making the climb this time.

The Hump VK3/VE-019 1695 m 10 points plus seasonal bonus
Mount Buffalo National Park VKFF-0339

A message arrived from Rik just before I reached Cathedral Saddle that he was at his summit early. That made my decision easy: The Hump was the first target. I parked and hurriedly loaded up, grabbing the pack out of the back seat. I did not do a proper check – bad!

I loaded up and started the climb. The climb had some bare rock and uncovered track sections, but most of the climb was on at least 50 cm of firm snow, but with some softer areas where one could break through the surface. When I reached the saddle between The Cathedral and The Hump, I sent a message that I was still climbing and around 30 minutes from being ready. I kept climbing, now mostly on the firm snow. I stopped at the foot of the final rock buttress which forms the summit – well inside the activation zone.

I started to unpack to set up. Oops: no squid pole and no log book! I supported the dipole centre using a walking pole propped up into the top of a snow gum, so the centre was barely 2.5 m off the snow. I strung out the dipole, hanging across snow gum branches in places. For most of its length, the antenna was barely 1 m off the snow. Once the antenna was up, I considered options for logging: the first aid kit which has never been used has a notepad, but I remembered that I had VK Port-a-log installed on the ‘phone – not the current version, but it should work.

Rik had already been on air for a while, but I could not hear him on 40 m SSB. I found a clear frequency, spotted myself and started calling. I had the summit qualified for SOTA in only 4 minutes. Rik indicated that he was heading back to 80 m, so I connected the 80 m extensions and worked Rik on VK3/VC-003. I noticed that the FT-817 was showing the HiSWR warning…. I started to investigate the antenna and connection points. I found that the connection of the wire into one of the 80 m extensions was looking very suspect. Mitch VK3XDM/p messaged to say that he was on the summit of Mt Stirling VK3/VE-011. We arranged to try 2 m FM, using the FT-817 into the HF antenna configured for 40 m. Mitch was loud, with 58/59 signals exchanged. I returned to calling on 40 m SSB, working John VK4TJ and Ian VK5CZ on VK5/NE-066.

I returned to investigating the suspect antenna extension. I cut the wire off at the rear of the Anderson plug, stripped about 1 cm of the plastic outer coating off, teased the wire strands away from the Kevlar core, twisted the strands together and then jammed the wire across the mouth of the Anderson plug. I then plugged the cut off plug into the other plug, hoping that I would achieve a connection between the plug contact area and the jammed in wire. On returning to the radio and switching to 80 m, I now had no HiSWR alarm, so spotted and started calling.

I soon had a couple of calls in the log on SSB and CW, followed by another SSB contact. I called for several minutes without further responses. Then Andrew VK2UH called on CW and we completed the contact, followed by VK1DA/2. I finally had 4 CW contacts in the log, with a total of 16 contacts: summit qualified on CW & SSB, plus a VKFF qualification for the Park. I packed up the gear – by now my feet were wet and cold.

I made the descent carefully, not wanting to slip on damp rock sections or to damage myself if I broke through the snow surface with the foot going down tens of centimetres…. I made it to the bottom of the climb and started loading up the car and eating lunch.


Looking east to Feathertop and Hotham whilst descending The Hump

I drove Road closure at the Cresta ski area to check the snow surface – there was snow on the road beyond the closure, but the chance of bare patches on sunny corners. The climb to the end of the road is around 3 km with at least 130 m vertical climb. One then needs to climb up the walking track towards the summit to reach the activation zone. Having stopped and sat in the car, the legs were complaining, so I decided against tackling The Horn today.

I descended off Mount Buffalo and back to Porepunkah, then to Oxley and onto the Happy Valley Road (C534). I then turned off onto Happy Valley Track and climbed up the 4WD track to Mount Jack Track and on to just beyond the junction with North House Track. This junction is inside the activation zone of the next summit.

Mount Jack Range VK3/VE-090 1205 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

Having driven into the activation zone, I found a reasonable tree branch and tossed a line over the branch to haul up the dipole. I then set up a few metres away from the car.

First in the log was Rik VK3EQ/p on Donna Buang VK3/VC-002 for a S2S on 80 m SSB. Rik had waited until I was on the summit and set up – many thanks Rik! Next was Allen VK3ARH on both voice and CW, followed by Rob VK4AAC/3. I then swapped to 40 m CW, working 4 stations over about 15 minutes. I then moved to 40 m SSB, working 10 stations in the next 15 minutes. I finally switched to 80 m SSB for one final contact. A total of 20 contacts made in around an hour of operating, including 6 on CW.

I packed up and retraced my route over Mount jack and descended the rest of Mount Jack Track to check out the route. I then made my way back to Wodonga.

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