Two new summits near Shelley

24 December 2019

I had spent Monday doing family tasks, plus writing up the previous day’s activity for the blog. There was plenty of smoke haze around from the various bushfires, but on Tuesday morning I decided to head out to attempt two more of the new summits added at the start of November. I posted Alerts and was away from Wodonga before 0900 AEDT.

Both summits to be targeted require access through HVP Plantation land and roads. I had included the Koetong Plantation in my permit application, so access should be all above board for me as the application was approved.

I drove to Koetong and then took Burrowye Road to head north and then NE to the top of the ridge line. I then turned left into Hempenstall Road until a short distance after the junction with Marslen Road, turning into Hempenstall Fire Break. The summit is only about 500 m up the track.

VK3/VE-262 (unnamed) 800 m 4 points Not yet activated

I had checked the satellite imagery for this summit. There is a large turnaround around just west of the track junction at the top of the hill. The posted summit location is very close to the junction and the top of the hill is quite flat. I decided to set up on the edge of the south side of the turnaround, where there was a spot with shade from the pine trees. The is a large solid-looking post at the junction with the road names which looked suitable to support a squid pole, but it was in full sun and was thus not used.

I parked, donned a P2 face mask and started setting up the station, using a fishing rod holder hammered into the ground to support a squid pole. I attached the ZS6BKW to the pole and set up the station on my folding camp chair.

VE-262antenna

The uninspiring site at the summit of VK3/VE-262

I was on air a few minutes after 2300 UTC (Monday 23 December) and started calling on 40 m CW. I soon had my first caller – Steve VK7CW. Steve was kind enough to spot me. Next was Tony VK3CAT, followed by Gerard VK2IO. Next was Tony again, using VK3APC, followed by Warren VK3BYD. The summit was already qualified.

I moved to 20 m CW and started calling. I worked John ZL1BYZ, Andrei ZL1TM, John VK4TJ, Ian VK5CZ, Allen VK3ARH and Wynne ZL2ATH.

I moved to 40 m SSB and removed the mask. Here I worked Allen VK3HRA, Col VK3GTV and Tony VK3CAT. But I had no further callers. After calling for several minutes, I went looking around the band and found the Australian 40 m Net on 7.097. The net was about to close, but I checked in and worked Ron VK3AHR for my fourth SSB contact. I logged out of the net and closed the station and commenced the pack up after donning the face mask.

I loaded up the car and retraced my route back to the junction with Burrowye Road, but decided to follow Hempenstall Road out to the Murray Valley Highway. I then headed east to Shelley – Walwa Road and headed towards Walwa. I drove along the road to Gadds Road and took it in towards the summit passing a loaded log truck parked basically in the middle of the track along the way. I worked my way around to the summit and skirted around the southern flank.

I had spotted a track around the pine plantation starting on the north-eastern side of the pines. I found the track, engaged 4WD, carefully drove around the track to the high point on a ridge to the east of the summit and found a spot to park.

Ben Lomond VK3/VE-259 881 m 4 points Not yet activated

I loaded up the rucksack and started the climb up the hill, veering to the right as the scrub was notably thinner on the north side of a shallow gully. The climb was about 450 m horizontal with about 100 climb to the summit proper. I stopped climbing a little short of the summit, but well inside the AZ – the day was warming up and I saw little point in climbing all the way to the top in the heat – already over 30 C, plus the smoke haze.

I had zero phone coverage. I found a spot to set up and was soon calling on 40 m CW. I was spotted by the VK4CT RBNHole at 0114 UTC. Over the next 10 minutes I worked Gerard VK2IO, John VK4TJ and Scott VK4CZ. Further CQ calls yielded no results, so I moved to 20 m CW. John VK4TJ spotted me after I moved to 20 and I soon had John ZL1BYZ and Andrei ZL1TM in the log. At least the summit was qualified. I moved down to 40 m SSB and called for a few minutes without any responses, so decided to pack up and return to the car.

The descent was quicker, not having to work against gravity…..

I loaded the gear in the car, retraced my route back around to Ben Lomond Road and followed that road out to the north to reach the Shelley – Walwa Road. I drove back towards Shelley to the road junction with J5 Track & Old Walwa Road. I then travelled down Old Walwa Road to close to the WP (water point) sign on the east of the dam located inside the Reserve and found a spot to park in the shade of a large gum tree.

Pheasant Creek Flora Reserve VKFF-2422

I had activated this Reserve previously, but only achieved 26 contacts. From previous experience, I knew that phone coverage in the Reserve was poor to non-existent, so added a comment to “Please Spot” to the Alert.

PheasantCkFRs

Operating site at Pheasant Creek Flora Reserve

I set up with the ZS6BKW and the IC-7300, with the radio set to 30 W. Just as I was about to call, Shaun VK3KK/p came up on 7.144 MHz. I answer Shaun’s CQ call to make my first contact. I moved down to 7.135 MHz and started calling using the Voice Keyer function to repeatedly call CQ. I soon had Glen VK3GMC in the log. Further repeated calls went unanswered.

I moved to 80 m and called, making a couple of contacts. We then moved up to 40 m and worked again. Finally, we tried 20 m SSB and managed a weak contact both ways – thanks Ross. I moved back to 40 m and made many calls on 7.144 but only managed one caller – Grant VK3HP. I called repeatedly with no responses. I eventually gave up and moved up to 20 m CW and was spotted once again by the VK4CT RBNHole. Helpful, but of course it put me at Ben Lomond…. I soon worked John ZL1BYZ and Gary ZL2IFB. I finally had 10 contacts in the log. Further CQ calls went unanswered.

I later found that Gary had spotted me correctly as being in the Reserve, with Spots either side from the RBNHole. Later, I found that the ParksnPeaks History did not show the Spot from Gary.

I moved down to 40 m CW and was again spotted by the VK4CT RBNHole, again as at Ben Lomond. But I had no callers. I gave up, packed up and started the journey back to Wodonga. I will need to again revisit this Park to build the tally to the WWFF qualification quota.

Overall, it was a productive day, with two new summits and a valid VKFF activation.

Thanks to all who worked me during the day.

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