1 March 2020
One of the summits added to the VK3 SOTA Association on 1 November 2019 was Motor Bike Hill, located near Wrathung, on the north-eastern boundary of the upper Avon River catchment. The summit had not yet been activated for SOTA, so a plan was hatched to visit the site.
The new summit is about 6.5 km (as a bird flies) to the south of Lamb Hill VK3/VT-025. An option for the approach might have included Lamb Hill as a destination, approaching either via Tamboritha Saddle to reach the Moroka Road, or up Marathon Road and around Moroka Road to reach Moroka Range Track and then to the junction with Old Moroka Road. Climb and activate Lamb Hill, descend back to the vehicle and then south along Old Moroka Road to reach the new summit.
I opted for a different option, as I was aware that the lower part of my route was likely to be passable. There are likely other route options, but I simply opted for a route where at least part of the 4WD travel was known.
I arranged company for the trip. I departed home just after 0800 local and headed to Maffra to pick up Ross VK3NRB. We then headed north through Boisdale towards Valencia Creek and around to the low level bridge across the Avon River on Wombat Road. We then drove up Mount Angus Track to the unnamed summit VK3/VT-047, the end of my previous travels in this area. We then continued north to join Old Moroka Road and on to the junction with Pleydells Spur Track. The slopes on the western side of the track were steep. We turned into Pleydells Spur Track and climbed to the top of the spur to park at the sharp right turn in the track. We were within 40 metres horizontally of the summit and less than one metre in height of the summit. The trip to the summit was around 136 km from my home and took three hours travel time. There are plenty of views along the route.
Motor Bike Hill VK3/VT-084 979 m 6 points Not previously activated
We set up by tossing a line over a nearby tree branch to haul up the centre of the ZS6BKW antenna and then set up the station on a folding table. As I was setting up the KX2, Ross walked down the track to exit the activation zone. Ross was the first in the log on 2 m FM. I spotted myself on SOTAwatch for 40 m CW and started calling. It took many calls before I received any replies. Andrei ZL1TM was first on CW, followed by Allen VK3ARH several minutes later. I called for another 5 minutes with no further responses. I moved to 20 m CW, spotted and started calling. Andrei called again, much stronger this time. Next was John VK4TJ, but again there were no further responses to my CQ calls. I received an SMS from Gerard VK2IO saying that he had missed me on 40 m, implying that he could not hear me on 20 m. With no further responses, I replied to Gerard and returned to 40 m CW to log him. I then moved to 80 m CW and worked four stations in about 15 minutes. Whilst working the CW contacts, I could hear some crashing noises in the scrub behind me. I asked Ross what was making the noise. He replied “A blue tongued lizard”. A couple of minutes later, he said I should look over my shoulder. I saw a large Lace Monitor Varanus varius – around 1.4 m long – walking across the track (best guess at identity). I missed catching an image of the monitor, as I was in the middle of a contact and the monitor crossed the track quickly and disappeared into the scrub.
I gave up and moved to 80 m SSB. The aim now was to call and for stations to work both Ross and myself. First in the log on voice was Ron VK3ZLP, followed by Mark VK3PI operating special event callsign VI50AWS, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Western & Northern Suburbs Amateur Radio Club. Mark was activating Mount Macedon VK3/VC-007 and the Macedon Regional Park VKFF-0972. Mark also worked us both with his own call. Next in the log was Geoff VK3SQ, after we moved down in frequency away from a noise source at Geoff’s location.
We then packed up and started the descent, with Ross walking down with a handheld so that I could call him from lower down the track to chase the summit.
Once Ross arrived back at the car, we retraced our access route to return to VK3/VT-047. As we drove south, the views across the upper reaches of the Turton and Avon River valleys were excellent.
VK3/VT-047 (unnamed) 732 m 4 points
Avon Wilderness Park VKFF-0942
There is a helipad at the junction of Mount Angus Track and Avon Track, providing a nice cleared area with great views across the Avon River valley to the north and west. The Park boundary is along the track edges, placing the entire helipad inside the Park boundary. I tossed a line over a tree branch and again set up the ZS6BKW. We positioned the table in the shade at the northern edge of the helipad.
I was about to spot myself and saw a spot on ParksnPeaks for Linda VK7QP/3 in Screw Creek Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2188, near Inverloch. I quickly moved the radio to 80 m SSB and dialled up the correct frequency. Linda was working Mark VK3PI. We waited until the contact was completed and then called. Linda was an excellent signal, with 59 reports both ways. So we had a Park to Park contact as our first log entry. After Ross had worked Linda, we tuned down the band to find Mark VK3PI/VI50AWS for another Park to Park and also Summit to Summit contact. A good start to the activation!
Ross was hungry, so I moved to 80 m CW while he had lunch. I soon had Ron VK3AFW, Paul VK3HN, Allen VK3ARH and Warren VK3BYD in the log. Ross had walked down the hill and we worked on 2 m FM. VK Port-a-Log announced another Parks Spot, so we moved to 40 m SSB to work Malcolm VK3OAK/p in Dereel Lagoon Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2306. We then dropped down to 80 m SSB and worked Geoff VK3SQ before returning to 40 m SSB, working four more stations.
We packed up and I started driving down the hill, with Ross having headed off on foot a minute earlier. I caught him and descended out of the AZ before calling him on 2 m FM for the chaser contact. We then returned back down to Valencia Creek. As we dropped into the valley floor, the increase in temperature was obvious – it was around 31 C compared to around 20 C higher up. We then headed across towards Briagalong and headed up Freestone Creek Road and worked our way around the tracks to reach our next target.
Mount Moornapa VK3/VT-080 485 m 1 point
Mount Moornapa Flora Reserve VKFF-2401
On reaching the summit we could see two vehicles parked at the trig. We parked a short distance east of the trig off the edge of the track and in some shade. I again tossed a line over a branch to lift the ZS6BKW. We set up the station on the table a short distance from the vehicle.
Ross walked down the road whilst I finished the station set and we worked on 2 m FM. I spotted for 80 m CW and called many times before Warren VK3BYD called. I called a few more times before Warren called again, this time using his VK3KS callsign. Further CQ calls on 80 m CW went unanswered. I moved up to 40 m CW to work VK2IO, ZL1BYZ and ZL2ATH. I was about to move to SSB when another station called – John VK5HAA (ex-VK5FLEA). Once I had worked John, I moved to 40 m SSB and was called by Malcolm VK3OAK/p, now in Illabarook Grassland Flora Reserve VKFF-2335. With no further responses to CQ calls, I moved to 80 m SSB and worked four stations. I went for a walk and worked Ross from outside the AZ.
I returned to the car and we packed up the station. We headed east and headed along Tower Link Road. We had almost reached the next track junction when we were stopped by a large tree across the track. I decided not to attempt clearing the tree due to its size and the way it was laying. I then had to reverse around a kilometre up the road before I found a spot wide enough to undertake a U-turn. On reaching the next track junction, we stopped and discussed our options – turn left and travel down a rough track and work our way around to a possible fourth target summit, or abort that one and head for home. Given that it was almost 1730 local, we decided to head for home. Part of the thinking was that we needed to walk up through the bush once we reached a parking spot, and the warm humid day discouraged an uphill scrub bash…. It can wait for another day, probably on a cooler morning.
We travelled back out to Freestone Creek Road and turned south to travel back to Maffra via Briagalong and Boisdale.
I dropped Ross at his home and then drove home.
It was a profitable day – one new summit activated, plus two new SOTA summits chased and now Complete, and two new Parks chased.
Thanks to Ross for the company and his contacts with me, and also thanks to all who called us during the day.