The fourth Hotham SOTA Summit had been organised and it was time to head up the hill.
Friday 1 February 2019
I was underway at a reasonable time and drove to Dargo and on up the Dargo High Plains Road, reaching my first target summit AZ before UTC rollover. Along the way, there were a couple of signs about fired in the region and a notice to observe Road Closed signs – advice that I intended to follow.
VK3/VT-018 1393 m 8 points
The Dargo High Plains Road conveniently passes through the activation zone (AZ), so one simply needs to park at the edge of the road and set up away from the vehicle.
I quickly set up the station with a line over a tree branch to lift the antenna. I had very marginal mobile phone coverage and saw a spot for a BV station on 20 m CW. I listened for several minutes, but signals were rarely above the noise and unworkable. I checked the Spots and soon had VK1AD/p on VK1/AC-048, plus Gerard VK2IO/3 and Compton VK2HRX/3 on VK3/VE-009 in the log for S2S contacts. I moved up the band slightly to work Geoff VK3SQ and thus had the summit qualified, all on 80 m SSB. I moved to 40 m CW and spotted myself. I had five contacts in the log on CW in less than 10 minutes, including a second with Gerard VK2IO/3 – a new band counted for Gerard towards qualifying the Alpine National Park. I moved up to 40 m SSB to work two more callsigns and then worked Andrew VK1AD/p again on the new day. I finished off by working Tony VK1VIC/p on VK1/AC-040 for another S2S.
I had plenty in the log and no more callers, so packed up and resumed the trip north along the Dargo High Plains Road. I reached Ritchie Road and saw no closure sign, so turned on to Ritchie Road to work my way around to White Timber Spur South Track.
White Timber VK3/VE-060 1375 m 8 points
I drove up the track to the high point of the spur, well inside the AZ. The track is rough – definitely 4WD country. I had no phone coverage, so was unable to spot. I came up on 40 m CW and soon worked Steve VK7CW, who indicated that he would spot me – Thanks Steve! I soon had another two CW contacts in the log. Several CQ calls went unanswered, so I tried 40 m SSB. Ian VK5IS answered, followed several minutes later by Compton VK2HRX/3, now on Mt Gibbo VK3/VG-004 for a S2S. Gerard also came up on voice, but was happy to make the contact on CW, giving me my fourth CW contact. I heard Geoff VK3SQ calling me blind, but he did not answer my calls. I also answered Adrian VK5FANA, but had no responses. I worked Andrew VK1AD/p on VK1/AC-048 for another S2S before I moved down to 80 m for several more contacts on SSB, including Geoff VK3SQ.
I packed up and retraced my route back to Ritchie Road and turned westward towards Basalt Knob. The entire length of Ritchie Road travelled was in reasonable condition and could be negotiated by a 2WD vehicle with good clearance. There are two creek crossings to be completed.
Basalt Knob VK3/VE-039 1512 m 10 points
I parked the car and walked a short distance up the hill to be inside the AZ and set up the station. Once again, I had marginal phone coverage. Glenn VK3YY/p was spotted and I soon had him in the log from Sam Hill VK3/VG-049, followed a couple of minutes later by Allen VK3ARH/p on Mt Wombat VK3/VU-002. I dropped down to 40 m CW and soon had four contacts in the log. I returned to 40 m SSB for one more caller before I tried SSB, working three callers. With no more callers, I again packed up and returned to the car.
I retraced my route east a short distance to Basalt North Track, which quickly become quite rough – definitely 4WD only. On reaching Blue Rag Range Track, I decided that I had time to head out to the Blue Rag Range trig.
Blue Rag Range VK3/VE-015 1717 m 10 points
As I was approaching the final steep climb onto the summit, there was a flurry of activity on 2 m FM. On reaching the summit, I jumped out with the handheld and soon had Ken VK3KIM/p on Mt Porepunkah VK3/VE-098 and Glenn VK3YY/p on Mt Livingstone VK3/VG-045 for S2S. Next I quickly draped a HF antenna across the tops of the snow gums to work Paul VK3HN/p on The Hump VK3/VE-019 on 40 m CW. Next were calls on 2 m FM from Rik VK3EQ/m and Brian VK3BCM. I returned to 40 m CW, working five more calls, including VK2IO/3 mobile whistling CW into the microphone!
I packed up and retraced my route back along Blue Rag Range Track to head to Hotham. Only a few minutes after leaving the summit, I worked Allen VK3ARH/p, now on VK3/VE-178. The Track was quite rough from the junction with Basalt North Track back to the Dargo High Plains Road, with some steep spoon drains, large holes and very rocky areas. I decided against activating Mount Blue Rag – it is a short distance from the Dargo High Plains Road and can be easily reached outside the seasonal road closure period.
I drove north to the Great Alpine Road and turned east to climb up to Mount Hotham and around to the ski lodge. I unload some things a start to settle into the lodge. Later in the afternoon, I worked Rik VK3EQ/p on VK3/VE-023 and Phil VK3BHR/p on VK3/VE-006, both on 2 m FM. There was lots of discussions and planning during the evening. I end up with two wishing to join my planned trip for Saturday.
It had been a good day, having activated two 8-point and two 10-point summits, so 36 Activator points for the day.