A radio trip to near Warburton

Sunday 7 October 2018

Sunday morning started “earlier” than normal, as Daylight Savings Time commenced at 0200 local time, with clocks moving forward an hour. I decided to head for some more summits. I decided to head to Mount Donna Buang, even though I saw that Ron VK3AFW had alerted for the same summit. I hoped to be on the summit before Ron and aimed to simply qualify the summit with at least four chasers and then close down and move on, hopefully leaving plenty of chasers for Ron. As I drove up my street, I had three kangaroos bounding up beside the road, after I disturbed them grazing on a neighbour’s front lawn.

I headed back towards Warragul and north through Neerim South, west through Powelltown and north and east to Warburton and up the Acheron Way and up Donna Buang Road and finally Mount Donna Buang Summit Road to park just below the lookout tower at the summit.

Mount Donna Buang VK3/VC-002 1259 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus
Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-0556

I set up at a picnic table just north of the car park, strapping the squid pole to the table and strung out the antenna. I was on air with two contacts in the log when I saw Ron VK3AFW drive into the car park. As I was working the next chaser, Ron approached and I greeted him. We chatted briefly as I worked contact number four. I sent “?”, and then SK after there were no responses. I briefly chatted further with Ron as I packed up and Ron was setting up. I departed after wishing him well, having outlined my plans for the rest of the day. I had planned this activation to be a short one, as outlined above.

I drove back down to the Acheron Way, through Acheron Gap and past Road 15, the common starting point for access to Mount Ritchie. I drove on to Feiglans Road and then up to Road 8, then heading south to just short of the substantial gate that proclaims the boundary of the closed catchment. I parked in the corner of the bend, where the road was quite wide.

Mount Ritchie VK3/VC-003 1255 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus
Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-0556

I had been examining the mapping for Mt Ritchie access on and off for a couple of years. An entry in an early SOTA blog by Glenn VK3YY (IIRC) had indicated the warning signs on the substantial gate on Road 8, and thus most activators have approached via Road 15 and Road 10. Technically, this access route has some small incursions into the closed catchment area as Road 10 climbs up to the summit. I was aware of an earlier approach from the north. Mitch VK3XDM had also been examining the maps and decided to explore the northern approach on 25 September. He was confident that his approach remained outside the closed catchment boundary and he sent me images of the route and his GPS track plotted on an appropriate map. This northern approach is shorter, only about 2 km horizontally, with a climb of 200 m vertical.

At the end of the curve of the corner about 100 m short of the gate, there is a pink tape tied to a small sapling. There is a rough track with some scrub behind the large tree behind the tape.


Look carefully for the pink tape

A little to the east is a fallen tree with evidence of animals crossing the small shoulder at the edge of the track. I climbed over the shoulder and could see a faint old track climbing the spur. The lower reaches are a little less obvious, but become a more obvious old track as you start to climb. The track is actually present on many of the official maps, some marking the track as the old route of Road 8. Negotiate through some scrub, but basically try to climb straight up the hill. The first 50 -100 m is the worst for the scrub. The route becomes more open – this is typical of “rehabilitated” old tracks. The track becomes more obvious as you climb higher and meets the newer, more obvious, track alignment after a few hundred metres. From here, the track basically follows the ridge line. Take note of this point for reference on your return trip. The final 300 m of the climb are gentler until you reach the junction with Road 10.

I set up using the pole holding a sign (TO VP B) to support the squid pole. I strung out the dipole being sure to run the antenna inside the park boundary – the track alignment – and set up the station off the eastern side of the track alignment. I started on 80 m CW.

I packed up with 12 in the log and retraced my approach route. Be sure to veer to the left when the track starts to swing to the right of the ridge line, as the more obvious track actually enters into the closed catchment boundary. You need to pick up the older route to remain outside the closed catchment boundary. Care was needed on the descent on the steeper sections, as the track was well covered with litter – leaves, small branches and fallen bark. This presents a slippery surface with trip hazards.


The access track about midway to summit, looking downhill

Back at the car, I quickly looked at SOTAwatch and saw that Ron VK3AFW was on Mt Toolebewong VK3/VC-033. Unsure of how much longer Ron would be on air, I worked him from the car on 40 m CW. I loaded the gear into the car and headed north on Road 8 and drove to the high point at Mount Strickland.

Mount Strickland VK3/VN-030 1068 m 6 points

The high point of the road is well inside the activation zone of the summit. The summit proper is surrounded by thick eucalypt regrowth, so I set up using the road sign to support the squid pole. The boundary of the Yarra Ranges National Park is to the east of the actual summit and would require some scrub bashing to be inside both the Park boundary and the activation zone. But if you did the scrub bash, you would now be inside the closed catchment area, making the activation invalid!

Once the antenna was strung out and the radio connected up, I checked SOTAwatch and saw that Ron VK3AFW was still operating on VK3/VC-033, now on 20 m SSB. I could hear Ron, so I gave him a call to make a S2S contact for the first contact in the log.

I changed the antenna to 40 m CW and spotted myself. I soon had eight contacts in the log. I then moved up the band and worked three more on SSB. I then reconfigured for 80 m and worked another three stations on SSB. With no further callers, I shut down.

I packed the gear and loaded the car and retraced my route to Feiglans Road, Acheron Way and back to Warburton and then back to home about 2.5 hours after leaving the summit.

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