In late October, an email exchange began between Andrew VK3ARR and myself regarding possible updates to the VK3 SOTA summit. Andrew had seen a comment on my blog regarding VK3/VE-071, a summit with a HASL 100 m lower than the height listed on the SOTA database. The summit was valid, but the correct height meant that it would lose (two) 2 points for Chasers and Activators, plus the 3-point seasonal bonus would disappear. I had also been active in the sotavk3admin group, set up by AM Wayne VK3WAM, with several others discussing new and questionable summits. Thus Wayne was aware of most of the changes recommended by myself and the VK3 Admin group. Andrew and I discussed a number of other possible changes and then I waited to hear if the update would proceed.
Semi-formal advice of an update on 1 November 2019 was made on 30 October to the OZSOTA group. The message included details of summits being retired, most with nearby replacement new summits, and of the new summits being added. (Formal advice was made via the SOTA Reflector on 1 November, but that formal advice arrived a little late for anyone wanting to be on a new summit at the moment the summit became valid for SOTA.)
I quickly created waypoints in OziExplorer and decided on Thursday late morning that I would attempt to activate one of the new summits on Friday morning.
Thursday 31 October 2019
I packed gear into the car and headed to Omeo and then up the Omeo Highway and across the Bogong High Plains Road. I made reasonable time and decided on a quick activation on my way to my overnight camp site.
Mount McKay VK3/VE-007 1849 m 10 points
This summit is an easy one except in winter: you can drive to the summit. I quickly set up a station, spotted myself and called on 80 m CW. My first caller was John VK4TJ. Warren VK3BYD and Geoff VK3SQ followed – three stations in the log. With no further calls, I moved to 40 m CW and bagged one more chaser – Wynne ZL2ATH. Summit qualified. With no further callers, I packed up and headed down to the camping area near Pretty Valley Hut to set up camp.
After a long drive, I had an early night, expecting to wake early in the morning.
Friday 1 November 2019
I did indeed wake early….. I organised my gear, had some breakfast, packed the camping gear in the car and headed off for the start of the walk.
Mount Jaithmathang VK3/VE-244 1840 m 10 points First activation
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
I note that the SOTA system has this summit name with incorrect spelling. I have notified the team requesting a change.
The approach for most people involves a significant walk.
Park at the Pretty Valley Reservoir car park. Follow the Mount Fainter Fire Trail to Tawonga Huts – about 4.2 km with about 160 m vertical climb, followed by the same height dropped as you descend to Tawonga Huts.
At Tawonga Huts, continue a short distance to the start of the walking track to the summit. The summit track is relatively easy to follow except for a few places where there are false leads as a result of regrowth of the vegetation. The climb covers about 1.8 km with a vertical climb of just under 210 m.
The forecast was for about 20 C for Falls Creek, but with strong winds. It made for a hot walk. I finally reached the summit soon after 1000 local. I tried to take a couple of photos and to post something on FaceBook, but my phone complained about battery volts and went into battery saver mode. I switched it off. Perhaps I should have tried to restart the phone from scratch – later in the day I plugged it in to charge in the car, and it indicated 75% charge. The joys of technology!
I selected a spot just below the summit trig (or that which remains!), with some shade from a boulder, plus a reduction in the force of the wind. I set up with a doublet antenna which works well on 40 m and above. The match was poor on 80 m.
I was set up by 2330 Z. I scanned 40 m SSB and heard Scott VK4CZ/p in VKFF-1480. He was not strong but I called several times. Scott recognised that there was a caller, but could not decipher any intelligence. I waited a few minutes and called on CW when Scott’s signal was a little stronger. This time he recognised the call, but said he had no key. I tried again a few minutes later, and this time we managed to complete a CW/SSB cross-mode contact. Thanks Scott!
I then waited until 0000 UTC, when the summit would become valid.
I called on 40 m CW and soon had my first contact in the log: Steve VK7CW. Steve spotted me after I sent that I had no phone. Gary ZL2IFB, John VK4TJ and Gerard VK2IO followed. Then there was a period of confusion: I had both Andrei ZL1TM and Ron VK3AFW/p on another new summit calling me at the same time. I tried to complete the contact with Andrei, sending and receiving reports, but heard no 73. (I later noted that Andrei had not logged the contact on the SOTA database.) I then called Ron, but heard nothing. I later heard that Ron had not changed his antenna configuration for 40 m. When he tried to find me, I had moved 40 m SSB. When I was back in Wodonga, I noted that I had only been spotted by Steve on 40 m CW and no others had spotted me, which partially explains why it was hard work making contacts.
I worked Nev VK5WG and Tony VK7LTD on 40 m SSB, but no other callers.
I changed to 80 m and tuned the CW segment, hearing Ron VK3AFW/p calling, but he could not hear my responses. I then called in the SSB segment and gained two more contacts. The day was getting on and I still had a significant walk out, so I gave up, packed up and started the descent. The summit was qualified on CW and SSB, but I was two contacts short of VKFF qualification for the Park.
I took a lunch break at Tawonga Huts and a school group out hiking arrived. I chatted with a couple of the students. I made my way back to Pretty Valley, passing the student’s rucksacks and encountering a mob of eight brumbies plus a foal near the top of the climb.
Back at the car I had a long drink of water, packed the gear in the car and started the drive back to Falls Creek. I then headed to Wodonga for the night.
Part way down to Mount Beauty, I saw Andrew VK3BQ’s vehicle heading up the hill, loaded with mountain bikes. I switched on the VHF/UHF radio and called on 146.500 MHz, with no response. A little further on, I saw a rider working up the hill and just caught a wave from the rider: it was Andrew VK3BQ, as I found out later. I was past Andrew before I had a chance to reciprocate.
I safely reached Wodonga and then settled in for a night of relaxation with Mum.