Sunday 8 December 2019
The area to the north of the township of Noojee is interesting geography. There is a complex valley system feeding into the Loch River with associated system of ridges rising to high knolls surrounding the valley complex. The Loch River is a tributary of the upper Latrobe River. Much of the terrain in this part of Victoria supports mountain ash forests which have long been harvested by the timber industry. Logging continues in the area. There is a complex network of roads and tracks in the area and careful navigation is required.
The northern and western boundaries of the Loch River catchment abut the Yarra River catchment and the north-flowing streams feed into the Upper Yarra Reservoir, a major water storage for the Melbourne Metropolitan area. As a consequence, many of roads are permanently closed and others are subject to seasonal road closures from May through to the end of November.
Other factors that anyone travelling on the roads in the area needs to consider are the likelihood of encountering logging trucks and coming upon road closures near active logging coupes.
Sunday morning was cool but dry after a week with strong winds and occasional rain. Although the grass at home was looking like it needed to be cut, I decided to allow the ground to dry out for a few more days given the weather forecast. Despite the early cloud cover, I decided to head out to attempt to reach one of the new summits added on 1 November 2019.
I was perhaps a little too rushed in packing the car. I left the SOTA pack, radio and logging tablet at home! I did have redundant equipment in the car, so when I arrived at my first destination all was not lost.
I drove to Morwell and headed west on the Princes Highway to Nilma, north to Neerim South and on to Piedmont. I then took Boys Camp Road to Camp Creek Road and climbed up to McCarthy Spur Road and then Boundary Track. I decided on this route as it would avoid the complex road network in the Loch Valley. After about one kilometre, you pass the junction with Montane Road and reach the Road Closure gate immediately below the McCarthy Spur SOTA summit VK3/VT-039. The bush looked a LITTLE less dense than I recall from my activation in late January 2013. I had no plan to climb this summit again but preferred to continue towards my main target for the day.
Given the strong winds over the previous week, I was not surprised to find Boundary Track littered with leaf litter and many small to medium sized fallen branches. All were easily navigated around, with the loose gravel surface of the track otherwise easily travelled when using care and taking ones time – the winding road would likely be enjoyed by rally car drivers, but I wanted to get to my destination. I continued on until just north of the summit.
VK3/VT-085 (unnamed) 853 m 4 points Not Yet Activated
The area around the summit was logged on 2014 and 2015 and is now covered with eucalypt regrowth around 2 – 4 m high. I had examined the area on the SOTA Mapping Project the previous day and found the logging track that I had spotted on the satellite imagery. I was able to drive along this track to its high point and pulled over into what was probably a log loading area prior to the “rehab” work following logging. I parked here. My guestimate is that I was close to the boundary of the Activation Zone (AZ). I pulled out a battery, radio, and antenna into a shopping bag, grabbed a squid pole and climbed about half way up the slope towards the summit until. The regrowth was not too thick – one could weave your way through the young trees. I was sure that I was in the AZ and started to set up the station.
I strapped the squid pole to one of the saplings and soon had the antenna up and the station assembled. I set up VK Portalog to record my contacts on my new phone. I had a paper log which I could have used, but wanted to experience the logging software on the new mobile phone. I had one issue though – one of the Settings options could not be opened, with the key area located at the bottom of the screen. This meant that I could not activate the option to keep the screen on whilst logging. If I was too long between touches on the screen, the phone would close down, requiring re-opening the phone by double-tapping, then logging in via the security features….. A bit of a pain! I should note that I am one of several people helping author Peter VK3ZPF by beta testing a new version of the software package.
I spotted myself on SOTAwatch3 for 40 m CW. My first contact was at 2308Z (Saturday UTC) – John VK4TJ. A couple of minutes later were Geoff VK3SQ, followed by Garry VK2GAZ, Bill VK1MCW and Chris VK1CT. Summit qualified!
I moved to 40 m SSB, working Col VK3GTV followed by Peter VK3ZPF/p on Mt Bride VK3/VC-009, about 14 km to the west of me. I explained the issue with the settings screen to Peter, who said that he should have a fix in a few days. I returned to calling, working Phil VK3BHR, Peter VK3FPSR and Gerard VK2IO.
I had no further callers, so dropped down to 80 m SSB and called for several minutes but only worked Tony VK3CAT. I moved to 20 m CW and worked John ZL1BYZ, Gerard VK2IO (much stronger on 20 than 40) and Ian VK5CZ. The contact with Ian was complicated as another station was sending at the same time….. (When I returned home, I saw an email from a US station who thought that we had made a contact. I replied indicating what had happened at my end and apologised for not being able to confirm the contact.) I called a couple of times without response and was about to give up, but saw a spot for a JA SOTA station. I moved up to 17 m CW and soon had Yuki JF1NDT/1 on JA/YN-048 in the log (429 sent, 449 received).
I was about to pack up when I saw a new spot, so moved down to 80 m CW and soon worked Warren VK3BYD/p on Mt Loch VK3/VE-005 in the Alpine National Park VKFF-0619.
After working Warren, I packed up and returned to the car.
Whilst descending, I considered my options. I decided to continue north along Boundary Track to reach Whitelaw Track and head east towards, hoping that I would not encounter any road closures.
The road up to Whitelaw Track was in good condition, as was Whitelaw Track. The drive was delightful – gently undulating terrain as the track wound its way up and down along the ridgeline surrounded by tall mountain ash forest. I did reach a Caution sign and found an active logging coupe, but the gates were open and I could drive through the edge of the coupe located on the south side of the track. I continued on to the target summit and parked close to the large sign for the National Park.
Mount Horsfall VK3/VT-028 1131 m 6 points
Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-0556
I considered my options for locating the station and decided to use the sign to support the squid pole, with the station just to the north of the sign and thus located inside the Park boundary. With blues sky and few clouds, the views across the closed upper Yarra Valley were spectacular.
I soon had the station set up and spotted myself on 40 m CW. Once again John VK4TJ was the first to respond. Several contacts followed: Jerry VK7EE, Bill VK1MCW and Ivan VK3ASG. I replied to an SMS from Warren VK3BYD regarding Andrew VK3ARR – he had not yet been spotted. I replied that the Alert said “+/- 1 hour” and shortly after received a response from Warren that Allen and Andrew were setting up. Next in the log was Allen VK3ARH/p on Federation Range VK3/VN-029 in VKFF-0556, around 29 km away to the west of north. Signals were good – 559 sent by me, with a response of 599. I then worked Tony VK3CAT followed by Warren VK3BYD/p, still on Mt Loch.
I moved up the band to work Andrew VK3ARR on Federation Range VK3/VN-029 on SSB and then moved slightly higher and worked Col VK3GTV. I spent several minutes calling with no responses.
I then moved up to 10 m SSB, working Gerard VK2IO, John ZL1BYZ and Ian VK5CZ.
With a dozen contacts in the log, I closed down and packed up.
I continued to the east along Forty Mile Break and then headed south along No 3 Road to reach Toorongo Road. No 3 Road had recently been resurfaced and was good travelling on a surface which was mainly soft but dry. I continued south and west on Tooroongo Road, passing through another active logging coupe which would likely be a road closure on a week day. I eventually reached Loch Valley Road, then headed south to Noojee, then west and south to Neerim South to grab some lunch at the Bakery.
I then travelled around to Crossover Regional Park and soon set up the station there.
Crossover Regional Park VKFF-0965
I decided on another activation here which would take my total to five activations, thus qualifying the Park for the Boomerang Award as an Activator. I set up the ZS6BKW and the IC-7300 on the tailgate.
I spotted on 10 m SSB and soon worked David VK5NAH, John VK5FLEA and Derryck VK4FDJL/5. I moved to 40 m CW to again work John VK5FLEA but had no further callers. I moved up 40 m SSB and was about to spot when Dieter VK3FFB started calling CQ. I answered Dieter and we had a brief chat. I moved back to 7.144 MHz, with the stations that had been chatting on 7.140 with loud signals having closed. I spotted myself and was soon making contacts: John VK5FLEA, John VK4TJ and his extra callsigns, Adam VK2YK, Gerard VK2IO, Rob VK2VH and VK4AAC/2, Gerald VK2HBG/m, Lee VK2LEE, Peter VK3RV and finally Brett VK2VW. I had 18 contacts in the log, so had comfortably qualified the activation for VKFF and therefore Boomerang Award.
I packed up and returned to the bitumen, heading south to Nilma and then to home via the Princes Highway.
Thanks to all who called me over the day.