Start of bonus season 2020

Monday 15 June 2020

About two weeks earlier, I received a notice to owner/occupier that the home mains power supply would be interrupted during the day of Monday 15 June 2020 due to planned essential network maintenance. That date is also the first day of the seasonal bonus period for SOTA in the VK3 Association. So a basic plan was hatched early – a day of SOTA activations including some of the relatively local summits to which the seasonal bonus would apply. The only issue to consider was would the weather cooperate?

Late in the week prior, the weather forecast was looking reasonable, so I posted Alerts on SOTAwatch for the four summits planned. I received a phone call on Saturday from a close friend who expressed interest in joining me for the day. It was possible that another amateur may also join us, but a message on Sunday indicated that a work job had materialised, so it would be just the two of us.

Rik VK3EQ arrived at my home a little later than planned, but only by about 15 – 20 minutes, and we were soon on the road. The trip out through Traralgon was a little slower due to traffic levels and School Zone speed restrictions. We headed out to Licola and up the Jameson – Licola Road.

The trip up was relatively uneventful until we reached a tree of about 35 cm diameter down across the full width of the road. The tree had been dead for quite some time. Clearing the tree was required before we could progress further. We were just a few kilometres short of the junction with South Road. Just as well that I had charged the batteries on Sunday and put the battery chainsaw in the vehicle! Rik acted as supervisor, offering the occasional hint as I started the cutting. The first cuts resulted in the log sagging as expected and almost jamming the cut ends together. Another pair of cuts was made about 3.5 m further along the tree. We then pulled out an as yet unused drag chain. Rik started setting up the drag chain as I turned the vehicle around. We soon had the cut segment pulled to the side of the road about 10 metres from the main log. After disconnecting the chain, I again turned around and negotiated the gap created before parking just beyond the tree and then packed up the gear and loading it back into the Ranger.

We travelled up to the start of N7 Track and swung onto the small track a short distance along to the left. This track has some moderate pot holes and can be slippery, so I engaged 4WD. We climbed up the track and onto the plateau to park the vehicle.

Connors Plain VK3/VT-022 1305 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I noticed that the official mapping for Victoria has the summit name spelt differently to the SOTA database. I shall bring this to the attention of the Association Manager.

The 1280 metre contour is crossed just before the climb onto the plateau is completed. This summit has a large activation zone – once you have reached the plateau on the track, you are in the activation zone (AZ). I posted a spot to SOTAwatch that I was setting up, thus giving chasers a “heads up”. We set up with a line thrown over a tree branch to haul up the ZS6BKW doublet. The wind was noticeable and we had some occasional drizzle.

When I posted the spot, I noticed that David VK2NU was on summit VK2/MN-114, currently operating on 15 m CW. Once set up, I started calling on 40 m CW and soon had Andrew VK2UH in the log, followed by David VK2NU/p for a S2S contact. In quick succession, I worked VK2IO, ZL1BYZ, VK4TJ, VK3ARH and VK5IS. Summit qualified in only 11 minutes. I let Rik use the radio and he start calling on 80 m SSB. I grabbed a hand held and walked out of the AZ to work Rik for the chase. I returned to the station just as Rik moved to 40 m SSB. He soon had the summit qualified and closed down. As I started packing up, Rik wandered down the track before working me on 2 m FM. We soon had all the gear packed and headed back down to the main road.

The route to the next summit was uneventful: southeast towards Licola until we reached South Road, then roughly south until Mt Selma Road and then roughly west until west of the summit and up the access track and into the AZ. Travel was simply a case of steady progress, dodging pot holes and driving to the occasionally muddy conditions.

Mount Selma VK3/VT-013 1464 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

The wind was significantly stronger and gusty on Mt Selma. BOM observations for the closest location show wind speeds around 20 km/hr gusting to 40 km/hr. Air temperature was about 4 C, so the apparent temperature was well below zero. We quickly set up in a similar manner to the previous summit and Rik started calling on 80 m SSB as I posted a spot. I walked out of the AZ to work Rik on 2 m FM before returning to start calling on 80 m CW, working Allen VK3HRA. With no further callers, I moved to 40 m CW. The next 10 minutes yield seven callers in the log. Rik started calling on 40 m SSB. With the cold conditions, we were about to pack up when a spot appeared indicating that David VK2NU had arrived at the next summit. I waited for David to appear on 40 m CW, working Rik down the hill on 2 m FM. David was soon in the log and we quickly packed up to retrace our access route back to South Road.

South Road becomes Springs Road at the junction with Green Hill Track, which might confuse some people…. We headed south with the cloud lifting slightly, but with the wind still quite strong and gusty. The final approach to the next summit is via Mount Useful Tower Track, which was in good condition.

Mount Useful VK3/VT-016 1434 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I parked the vehicle at one of the rear corners of the fire watcher building, hoping for some shelter from the wind, now gusting to around 50 km/hr. We sat in the car to eat lunch; the wind was fierce at times.

I spotted that we were about to commence setting up and started that task. Once the antenna was up, we set up the rest of the station and I was soon calling on 40 m CW. Wynne ZL2ATH was first in the log, followed by VK2IO, VK5CZ and ZL3GA. With the summit qualified, I let Rik start calling on SSB, noting local QRM from the telecoms equipment on the summit. I walked back down the track to exit the AZ and worked Rik on 2 m FM.

I returned to the station and switched to 80 m CW, working only Andrew VK2UH.  I moved back to 40 m CW and posted that I was calling on 7.035, waiting for David VK2NU/p to come up on air on VK2/MN-108 – we had significant QRM on 7.032 MHz. I worked ZL1TM and VK4TJ before quickly checking 7.032 and finding David working a station. I waited until the contact was completed and then called David, making the last contact for this summit. Luckily, David’s signal was well above the QRM.

We quickly packed up and headed back to Springs Road and then headed south.

At “The Springs”, we headed west on Williamsons Spur Track, travelling past the now retired summit VK3/VT-034. We soon arrived at the track to the start of the replacement summit, VK3/VT-083.

VK3/VT-083 (unnamed) 1022 points 6 points

This summit was first activated in early November by Peter VK3ZPF. At the time, I was activating in NE Victoria. I could not hear Peter on 40 m and missed him while in transit between summits when he moved to 80 m. The new summit is 3 m higher than the previous summit VK3/VT-034, which was retired on 31 October 2019.

We parked just below the summit proper, behind some scrub giving a little protection from the wind. I soon had a line over a tree branch at around 11-12 m up – got the line over on the first attempt. Rik was impressed when he emerged from the Ranger.

We had just missed David VK2NU, who had posted that he was QRT. We also missed Nick VK3ANL in a Park – we could not hear him on 80 m, probably just missing him. Propagation was too long for the path on 40 m.

We soon had the station up and running and I spotted Rik on 80 m SSB. A few minutes later, I took over and spotted for 80 m CW, working Tony VK7LTD and Allen VK3ARH. I moved to 40 m CW and worked seven more stations.

Rik came up on 40 m SSB to work some stations to qualify the summit and we then closed down – even though the wind speed had dropped somewhat, it was cold.

We quickly packed up and headed back to Springs Road and then headed south towards Seaton. At the junction with Binns Road, we encountered some road works signs, so progress slowed. We negotiated some road work machinery with care as we reached them. I stopped just prior to the start of the bitumen surface and disengaged 4WD.

The rest of the drive home was uneventful. Rik transferred his gear back to his vehicle and departed for Melbourne as I grabbed a torch to go and check the Mains breaker in the fuse box – power was off. As suspected, the main breaker was off, so flicking it on solved that issue.

Thanks to all who chased us during the day. We both qualified each summit, plus we also worked each other as chasers from off each summit, thus we each earned 39 Activator points and 30 Chaser points for the day. We both gained one new summit activated, chased and Complete. We travelled approximately 300 km for the trip.

It was great to have company and the time to chat with Rik during the drive.

I was slack and forgot to take any photos during the day, so no images…..

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