Hotham SOTA Summit 2019 – Sunday

Sunday 3 February 2019

Rik and Paul headed off early to walk across to Mt Loch VK3/VE-005 for quick activations. They then returned to the vehicles and started their trips home. Some others were heading back home. Others agreed on a basic plan of attack, with Brian taking Sid and Adele to a group of summits south of Omeo. Ron VK3AFW travelled alone, visiting Sam Hill, The Knocker, Mt Phipps and Mt Birregun. Three vehicles, each with two occupants, had a plan for a run of five summits to the southeast and east of Omeo.

The three vehicles headed down to Omeo and towards Swifts Creek. On the descent, I encountered a NSW-registered Prius with a female driver. She seemed to hate any corner and/or downhill section. She was travelling at a maximum of 80 km/h on sections where 100 would be safe. I managed to pass in a safe spot before the descent to Victoria River, but Compton and Andrew were stuck behind her. I waited for the others in Omeo, and of course, the Prius drove past and we were all stuck behind her. Patience was required….

We turned off at Tongio onto Bindi Road and then right onto Nunniong Road. The signs are poor and small. Watch for a Y intersection where the branch to the right drops downhill. There is a small black sign “Golf Club” (IIRC) about 100 m before the corner and another below the road sign at the Y junction. We climbed up the winding Nunniong Road and I stopped at the Washington Winch to wait for the others. Everyone jumped out for a few minutes to inspect the impressive aerial cables, pulleys, anchor point and the steam engine driven main winch. The equipment was used to haul logs out to the road in the very steep terrain.


Some of the aerial cables and an anchor point


The steam engine and winch mechanism

Compton headed off first, turning right a little up the road to climb Telegraph Track to the summit of Mt Nugong.

Mount Nugong VK3/VG-018 1482 m 8 points

When we reached the car park area, another vehicle was already there: most likely a fire watch person up inside the tower. It was a day of Total Fire Ban. We were all aware of the fact and knew to keep our eyes alert to the sky.

The plan was for Leigh and I to qualify the summit as quickly as possible and for me to then head off to the next target summit. On arrival, we would then work those still on Nugong for S2S contacts, after which the Nugong group would pack up and head for our summit. The plan was for this pattern to occur on each of the five summits planned for the day. Gerard, Andrew and I all wanted to qualify the summits on CW, so part of the plan was that Gerard would set up his HF antenna and I would use it to make four contacts and then go QRT. That would leave (in theory) operators wanting the summit to work Gerard and Andrew. So the pattern for the day was for me to qualify each summit on 40 m CW and then go QRT. Apologies to any that called and I did not reply – at least now you know why!

On exiting the vehicle, I grabbed my HT radio and worked Compton, who had walked down the access road to outside the AZ. Next I worked Alan VK3FABT back at the ski lodge, followed by Glenn Vk3YY and David VK3IL, both on Mt Murray VK3/VE-025. A few minutes later I worked Ron VK3AFW on Sam Hill VK3/VE-049 after I had assisted Gerard in stringing out the ZS6BKW antenna. Having worked Ron, I connected my KX2 to the HF antenna and started calling CQ on 80 m CW. I soon had three stations in the log but then no responses to my calls. I moved up to 40 m CW and soon worked John VK4TJ for my fourth CW contact. I switched off and packed up. Returning to the vehicle, I checked that Leigh had the summit qualified and we headed back down to Nunniong Road. At the corner, we stopped to work one of the others still on Nugong via 2 m FM to chase the summit. Looking back, we need not have bothered, as we would chase Nugong from our next target…. I guess that is was part of what was going to be a busy day – it got a bit crazy at times!

A few hundred metres east along the road, you need to swing left to remain on Nunniong Road, with straight ahead route becoming Bentleys Plain Road. About three kilometres north, we swung into Sawpit Road and then took Granite Flat Link Track to Escarpment Track and then north for about a kilometre to a link track signposted “To Mt Bindi”. We then reach Mt Bindi Track and travelled around to the high point, which is well inside the AZ. The track continues on for about 600 m to a helipad located on the spur just before the terrain drops away steeply. I must remember to go to have a look on future visit!

Mount Bindi VK3/VG-017 1484 m 8 points

On arrival, we exited the vehicle and fired up the handhelds on 2 m FM to work the four operators back on Mt Nugong – we had arrived on site about seven minutes before UTC rollover, so the contacts counted for Chaser points for “Saturday UTC”. I worked Compton and Gerard again after UTC rollover, then concentrated on getting HF up and running. Leigh worked the others on Nugong to gain the post-UTC Chaser points. I found a minor issue – I could not find my LiFePO4 battery. I thought that I had tossed all the radio gear into a plastic carry bin in the back of the vehicle, but the LiFe battery was not there. No major issue – I simply grabbed a LiPo battery and my voltage reducer unit.

As I was about to spot myself for 40 m CW, I saw a spot from Brian VK3BCM on Mt Delusion VK3/VG-026. So I moved to their frequency and soon had Brian, Sid and Adele in the log. Next was Wade on 2 m FM from Nugong, then Matt VK1MA who had asked me to move down 5 kHz for 40 m SSB. I moved down to the CW end of 40 m and soon had Allen VK3ARH/p on Mt Loch VK3/VE-006 in the log. I soon had worked another four callsigns on CW before I closed. I then packed up and we started to drive out. I double checked things and found that I had placed the LiFePO4 battery in my rucksack and pulled the draw string, closing the throat of the pack, but had placed the radio and the bag with the log in a storage bin…..

We headed back along Mt Bindi Track to Escarpment Track, then north to Sawpit Link Track to head east. We then headed south to Lake Hill Track to head east. Just before the corner, we met Compton and Andrew heading north towards Sawpit Link Track. We chatted briefly before everyone resumed their trips.

I headed east on Lake Hill Track, after David VK3IL had reported using it the previous day. It was a pretty drive through snow plains and some areas which would be very swampy in the wet. The result was lots of rutted areas to negotiate. We made our way across to the final short steep drop down to Nunniong Road, which needed some careful selection of lines to avoid some rocks. It was then a simple trip north along Nunniong Road to Jam Tin Flat Track before heading east to continue along Diggers Hole Road to Blue Shirt Track. I drove along Blue Shirt Track to the high point of the track, well inside the AZ of the target summit.

Mount Nunniong VK3/VG-011 1617 m 10 points

We had no or very marginal phone coverage. Many SOTA summits suffer from this issue…. We quickly used a squid pole to raise a Slim Jim vertical for 2 m above the tops of the snow gums, enabling some very quick contacts to be made. I worked Brian VK3BCM/p, Sid VK3/ZS5AYC and Adele VK3/ZS5APT on Mount Baldhead VK3/VG-027 and Compton VK2HRX/3 still on Mt Bindi VK3/VG-017, so had the summit qualified on VHF. I set up the ZS6BKW antenna with a line over a tree branch at about 7 m and soon worked Allen VK3ARH, Gerard VK2IO/3 on Mt Bindi VK3/VG-017, Bill VK1MCW and John VK4TJ, all on 40 m CW. We packed up quickly and retraced our route to Nunniong Road to head north to the junction with Forlorn Hope Track.

Brumby Hill VK3/VG-012 1581 m 10 points

Just in from the junction, Forlorn Hope track has a locked gate. Vehicle access is prohibited except for management vehicles. The gate marks the boundary of the Buchan Headwaters Wilderness Zone, with a sign indicating Walkers Only beyond the gate. A significant walk will be required to access the Forlorn Hope summit, which has not yet been activated.

We again set up quickly, using two squid poles: one for a Slim Jim and the other for the ZS6BKW. We soon had plenty of action on 2 m FM: Glenn VK3YY/p and David VK3IL/p on VK3/VE-023, Brian VK3BCM/p on VK3/VG-064, Phil VK3BHR/p on The Horn VK3/VE-014, Brian VK2HRX/3 and Wade VK1MIC/3 still on Mt Bindi VK3/VG-017 and a few minutes later Ron VK3AFW/p on Mt Phipps VK3/VG-015.

I had the HF gear set up and worked four stations on 40 m CW, with a short break to work Rik VK3EQ/p on Mt Porepunkah VK3/VE-098 on 2 m FM. After a few minutes of calling without replies, I moved to 80 m CW to make a contact with Warren VK3BYD.

Expecting that the group behind us would work others, I took a break from HF and waited for the other group to reach Mt Nunniong. While we were waiting, recovering our breath and eating lunch, we worked Ron VK3AFW/p on Mt Birregun VK3/VT-020, Brian VK3BCM/p as well as Sid and Adele on Sam Hill VK3/VG-049 and finally Compton VK2HRX/3 and Gerard VK2IO/3 on Mt Nunniong VK3/VG-011, all on 2 m FM. Leigh will have worked most, plus a few others of the other group at Nunniong whilst I started packing up the HF gear.

We packed up the gear and started off further north along Nunniong Road to reach Limestone Road, then headed a short distance northeast to Misery Trail. We headed up Misery Trail and onto Mt Pendergast Track to park only a few metres from the trig point.

Mount Pendergast VK3/VG-022 “1450 m” 8 points

I note that a 1:50000 map that I have has the summit height as 1461 m – the difference is inconsequential for SOTA points purposes. We again used a squid pole to support the Slim Jim while I tossed a line over a tree branch for the ZS6BKW.

We soon had action on 2 m FM before I had strung out the HF antenna. Phil VK3BHR/p on The Hump VK3/VE-019 was followed by the group of Gerard VK2IO/3, Compton VK2HRX/3, Andrew VK1DA/3 and Wade VK1MIC/3 who had finally reached Brumby Hill VK3/VG-012.

I set up 40 m CW and four stations on 40 m CW, including John ZL1BYZ. I then closed and we packed up the station. We discussed another option, but it had already been very long day of concentrating whilst driving on some rough roads and tracks, so we decided to simply retrace our route to the junction of Nunniong Road and Limestone Road to wait for the group from Brumby Hill. When they finally approached, I described the required route to reach the summit of Mt Pendergast. As they drove up to the summit, we started to drive out towards Omeo. We parked at the junction of Limestone Road and McCallums Road and heard the first call from Mt Pendergast just after having switched off the engine. We quickly worked all on the summit from the car. Some on Mt Pendergast also worked a couple of people back at the lodge on Hotham.

We headed back to Benambra and on to Omeo to fill a request for soft drinks. The small supermarket had closed over an hour before we arrived, so I need to pay the premium price demanded in a café and from the bar at the hotel…..

We could see thunderstorms throughout our drive back, but we only had a few light showers. The group behind us experienced heavy rain and hail.

We returned to the lodge and had a quiet cold drink whilst recovering from the day’s driving. When the other group arrived, we cooked some meat on the barbeque and sat down to enjoin a very good feed. More discussion and drinking occurred until quite late in the evening.

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