A spring day of summits and mountain driving

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Activations have been very restricted in Victoria due to the COVID19 restrictions in place. Regional Victoria had been able for a couple of weeks to leave home “for exercise or outdoor recreation”, provided one obeyed the other restrictions. The weather had been cold and windy, including snow to low levels. I decided late on the Tuesday evening to head out, subject to weather looking okay in the morning. On Wednesday morning, after checking the weather forecast, I decided to go ahead. I posted Alerts on SOTAwatch, loaded the gear into the car and headed off.

I travelled west to Trafalgar, then north to Willow Grove, then NW through Hill End to Icy Creek, towards Tanjil Bren and then took the Toorongo – Tanjil Link Road to Mundic Road, then Mt Toorongo Track. The road becomes very sinuous after Hill End, turning to unsealed once you reach the Link Road. I parked just below the locked gate on Mt Toorongo Track and loaded up the gear.

Mount Toorongo Range VK3/VT-026 1257 m 8 points plus Winter Bonus

Looking up at Mount Toorongo (with the mast) and the SOTA summit, to the right, from Icy Creek

The access track is subject to Season Road Closure from mid-June to early November and thus the large locked gate. It is an easy walk of about 1.15 km up the track, climbing about 100 vertical until you reach a high point just below the actual summit. One then needs to climb steeply up to the summit, picking your way through the knee high grasses, other shrubs and around some rocks. One climbs about 30 m vertical in about 150 m.

I strung the ZS6BKW antenna up with a line over a tree branch, only about 3-4 m off the ground. I set up the station, hit the Tune button on the KX2 and it showed a 1:1 match. But I had no audio…. I turned up the volume, all the way to maximum, but still nothing. I had no idea of what was wrong and have not yet investigated the issue.

I pulled out the ID51A handheld and started calling on the Mount Tassie 2 m repeater, with no replies. I made a couple of phone calls to locals and managed to make some simplex contacts. One of the locals was of no assistance, as he was at Ocean Grove – a little too far away. I also spotted on SOTAwatch and soon had another three contacts in the log. The best contact was probably Mark VK3PI at about 93 km. Summit qualified, I packed up and retraced my route to car.

At the car I connected up the APRS system and thought that I had turned it all on. I drove back to the Toorongo – Tanjil Link Road, then headed north to Toorongo Road, then east and north to reach Nine Mile Road. Then north to reach Warburton – Woods Point Road and followed that around to Corn Hill Road and up to the next summit.

Mount Matlock VK3/VC-001 1372 m 8 points plus Winter Bonus

I parked below the summit and started to set up the station. A line over tree branch at about 8 m provided the support for the centre of the antenna. I again tried the KX2, but still had no audio out. I reached for the new toy – an IC-705. It had no antenna tuner, but I had an Elecraft T1 Tuner and connected that in line. But no joy – I could not get it to activate….. I should have tried the combination at home! I ended up trying without the tuner, with the IC-705 putting out 5 W only. Several calls yielded Paul VK3HN on SSB, followed by VK3ANL and VK1DA on CW. Back on SSB I worked Rik VK3EQ.

I moved to 40 m CW and soon had four contacts in the log. I moved up to 40 m SSB and called several times, working only John VK5HAA for a second contact. I moved to 20 m CW and worked ZL1BYZ and ZL3GA. With no more takers, I closed down and packed up.

I quickly ate lunch and started down the hill towards Matlock, rapidly losing mobile coverage. I checked the APRS system and it now seemed to be working. I then drove onto Walhalla Road and headed south. The road surface was definitely rougher. I enjoyed the brief views through the trees when possible, with my attention firmly on the road for 99.9% of the time.

On reaching the outskirts of Aberfeldy, I took Cemetery Road to the cemetery car park.

Mount Lookout VK3/VT-030 1115 m 6 points

Just as I stopped the car, the phone beeped. It was a message from Brian VK3BCM that he was on a summit, but it was sent 50 minutes ago. I again tossed a line over a tree branch and set up the gear. I messaged Brian that I was set up, which is when I saw the time he had sent the earlier message. Brian replied that he was climbing to his next summit, so I spotted and started calling on 80 m SSB. I soon had Geoff VK3SQ and Allen VK3ARH in the log. Then I heard some CW, so changed to CW mode and after several calls worked Andrew VK1DA. I changed back to SSB but had no further callers. I moved to 40 m CW and soon had ZL1BYZ, ZL3GA and VK4TJ in the log. An SMS arrived, so I moved back to 80 m SSB to work Brian VK3BCM on VK3/VE-082.

I moved back to 40 m CW and worked VK2XF. With no further calls, I switched to SSB and moved up to work Gerald VK2HBG/p in VKFF-2572. I then returned briefly to 40 m CW to work VK2IO and then back to SSB and worked VK4KC. I moved to 20 m CW but had only a single response – ZL3RIK. I called back several times, but did not make the contact. I moved up to 20 m SSB and spotted. I then completed a contact with Rick ZL3RIK. Further calls yielded no responses. A spot came through for a JA activator, so I moved down the band to CW, where I heard several ZL stations calling the JA, but could not here the JA.

Checking the time, I decided to stay put. I caught up with some emails until Brian sent an SMS. I quickly moved to 80 m SSB and worked Brian on Mt Emu VK3/VE-061 for another S2S.

I then packed up and started the drive home – south towards Walhalla until Thomson Dam Access Road and some sealed road at last. Down and across the dam wall and climb up the other side to reach Thomson Valley Road and then south to Rawson, Erica and on to Moe, then home.

Overall, almost 300 km of driving, with around 60% being unsealed and very sinuous. A total of 29 contacts were made.

Thanks to all who chased.

Now that I have these notes drafted, I must investigate the issues which made the day more stressful!

Postscript

Hooked the KX2 up to a different LiFePO4 battery today at home. Audio was fine! Go figure! The only possible issue might have been the 4S LiFePO4 battery used on the Wednesday morning. When I first attempted to measure voltage at home this morning, there was no indication. I placed the battery on the desk and again measured the voltage and it showed 13.2 V, so should have been OK. It is currently on charge. On the second and third summits I used a larger 18 Ah LiFePO4 battery that was in the car.

The T1 Tuner seems to be okay, but its 9 V battery showed only 7.2 V, so that is now in the recycle pile! I have checked the operation of the T1 with the IC-705 with the mode set to FM to easy tuner operation and all is okay to a 50 ohm load.

Lessons: it is worth double checking the gear before you head out. Do not assume that because it worked last time, all will be okay. Also, check out the operation of a new item of kit at home first!

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2 Responses to A spring day of summits and mountain driving

  1. VK2TWR says:

    Good to see You out Pete it might encourage others to get out and activate It has been very qui9te thanks for putting in the effort
    73 Rod

  2. Paul Taylor says:

    Good to hear you out on the summits again Peter, maybe share your thoughts on the new toy sometime? 73 Paul VK3HN.

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