New SOTA summits for VK3 – 1

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!

FeathertopFrJaimathong

Looking across to Mt Feathertop from Mt Jaithmathang

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.

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6 Responses to New SOTA summits for VK3 – 1

  1. Paul Taylor says:

    Hi Peter, I recognised that some new and changed summits were announced, Archer Lookout VC-033 for example, but it did not twig that Mount Jaithmathang had been recognised as VK3/VE-244. I plan to get out to Fainter South VE-003 one summer so from Pretty Valley we now have two 10 pointers accessible in a day loop, allowing for a long-ish day. How feasible do you think that double would be?

    Regards Paul VK3HN.

    • vk3pf says:

      Hi Paul,

      It would be a loonnngggg day in my view, even with Daylight Savings….

      Probably achievable for the very fit. I was back at Tawonga Huts for a late lunch. OK, I arrived at Jaithmathang at about 1020 local, so wasted 40 minutes before I could officially activate the summit from 1100…..

      Tawonga Huts to Fainter South is another 7 km approx., with about 375 m vertical gain (including some ups & downs), so that is about 3 hours further walking….. And then the return trip.

      Probably better to plan on it as a 2-day trip: perhaps walk to Tawonga Huts and drop the heavy packs with camping gear. Out to Fainter South and activate, then return to Tawonga Huts, If you are feeling up to it, dash up to Jaithmathang and return to Tawonga Huts, probably for the night. Leisurely return to the vehicle at Pretty Valley the next morning or activate Jaithmathang and then the return trip to the vehicle.

      Reminds me of a ski touring trip tears ago: parked at Falls Creek, skied around to Pretty Valley, out to Tawonga Huts & drop the packs. Ski to Fainter South & return to the Huts, camp overnight (in tents – usually warmer than the Huts!!!). Next day we skied to Cope Hut, Rover Chalet and then Langford Gap and back to Falls Creek. It was a big weekend, but I was much fitter then!

      Cheers,

      Peter

      • Paul Taylor says:

        Thanks for your thoughts. It would be a long day. And you have to be careful to not underestimate how long two HF CW activations could take up there, up to an hour each. I am taking my information from a book I picked up in Bogong (Lt Bourke St) late summer, back when people shopped amongst other people. “Victoria’s Bogong High Plains” by Glenn van der Knijff.
        http://www.bogong.com.au/victoria-s-bogong-high-plains-tempest.html
        (No affiliation, but recommended).
        It’s an excellent book that gives you the details on getting into some of the less visited VE summits whilst seeing the best walking tracks of the high country. It made me anxious to get up there and try a few of the routes — unfortunately soon after Christmas Alpine National Park closed with the fires and none of us even got as far as Buffalo this year. As we all know too well. Victoria’s disastrous summer of fire.
        Anyway Chapter 6 “The Fainters” describes a walk from Pretty Valley to Fainter South via the Jaithmathangs, a single day loop, distance 23km, 7-8 hours, grade moderate, highest point 1883m, lowest point 1630m. The return trip bypasses the walk out to Mt Jaithmathang. That would be a very big day, and overnighting at Tawonga Huts would be sensible.
        You certainly covered some ground on the past expeditions. I was lucky to get around Lake Mountain back then.

        73 and we look forward to summer 2020/21. Paul VK3HN.

      • vk3pf says:

        Hi Paul,

        I have not looked at that book but probably should hunt it out. I note it was published in 2016, so one needs to consider likely changes in vegetation.

        I did note that the scrub was rather thick in most places once off the “usual” track.

        I can remember a couple of fun days back in the late 70s & early 80s. For example, a day trip on XC skiis from the Rover Chalet to Fainter South and return one year, and a different year Rover Chalet to Nelse then out to Spion Kopje and back. Good weather days selected and good snow conditions, back in the days when I was waxing the skiis, before “no wax” skiis were common….

        Cheers,

        Peter

      • Paul Taylor says:

        All noted. The book refers to the publishers website Open Spaces, some updates there but nothing much on Alpine NP when you would expect commentary on fire damage in the Park after last summer. On activations, 45 mins is a quick one for me, some ops are much faster, as we know!

        Cheers.

  2. vk3pf says:

    Paul – I forgot to add that I agree regarding the time required to complete an activation, especially if CW only. Activation time definitely needs to included in one’s planning calculations.
    Peter

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