The COVID lockdown of Melbourne was finally over and my friend Rik VK3EQ made contact to see if I was interested in a short camping trip to the Snowy Plains and Moroka area of the Victorian Alps. I was happy to commit, so a few days later we agreed to a three day trip commencing 24 November. I explored some options and posted three Alerts for Tuesday and one Alert for Wednesday to SOTAwatch.
I spent much of Monday afternoon getting the camping gear organised, as I had not been out on a camping trip for several years. A request from a local friend for assistance caused some interruption, with me losing about an hour and half to help him. Most tasks were completed in the evening.
Tuesday 24 November 2020
I was up early on Tuesday and finished the last couple of tasks. Rik arrived about 15 minutes early. We started getting the gear into my vehicle. We departed home at about 0820. The drive was straightforward. First to Traralgon with a stop for fuel, then out to Cowarr and then north to Licola and then past Tamboritha Saddle to Arbuckle Junction. We then travelled up the Howitt Road past the Snowy Range Airport and the Bryces Gorge car park and then onto the access track to the high point of the Snowy Range.
Bryces Plain VK3/VT-004 1642 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
I could drive right to the high point. We had a quick look, noting the radio installation and associated solar array and the remote weather station. We drove off the summit and parked in a small camping area just east of the summit, only a metre or two below the summit proper.
I grabbed the throw line and managed to throw the line over a branch of a snow gum at about 15 m above ground. Rik had been getting his gear organised at the car and was very impressed when he saw the line. We soon had the ZS6BKW run out and set up.
I spotted myself for 20 m CW at about 0029 Z and started calling. A couple of minutes later John ZL1BYZ replied and was soon in the log. Shortly afterwards, Jackie ZL1WA was worked. Further calls on 20 m went unanswered. I changed to 40 m CW and again spotted on SOTAwatch. I then worked four more stations. With the summit qualified, I left the rig for Rik to use. Rik called on 40 m SSB and soon had the summit qualified.
I walked down the track to exit the AZ and worked Rik on 2 m FM for Chaser points. I returned to the station. We were eating lunch when I received an SMS from Andrew VK1DA saying that he had missed us. I replied and indicated that I would come up on 7.032 MHz CW shortly. I soon had Andrew in the log, followed by Ian VK5CZ and Allen VK3ARH.
We packed up, loaded the gear into the car and headed back to Howitt Road and headed back south.
We drove back down to Kelly Lane and parked near the locked gate. Kelly Lane is seasonally closed from the start of May to the end of November.
Mount Reynard VK3/VT-002 1710 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
We walked down Kelly Lane to cross the bridge over Shaw Creek. We did not bother to check the map and turned right on an old track until we found a fence. We climbed up along the fence line and reached some rocky faces higher up before we reached the northern shoulder of a knoll about 2 km ESE of the summit. We walked roughly west for a few hundred metres, looking at the shoulder of Reynard and trying to spot the saddle between our location and Reynard. Once we thought that we needed to head down, we did so, negotiating our way through lots of fallen dead snow gums. Once out into the clear again, we found ourselves west of the saddle. We started traversing towards the saddle and found a faint foot pad close to the saddle. This led up into the saddle where we spotted some pink tape. We then followed the walking track all the way to the true summit and a trig marker – a brass plate concreted into the ground with a small (under a metre) steel pipe nearby – the later perfect to support a squid pole.
I spotted myself for 40 m CW on SOTAwatch with the comment that I was setting up. I worked Rik as he was approaching the AZ on 2 FM. When I started calling, I had at least two stations calling me and I missed both callsigns. I soon had Bill VK1MCW in the log followed by Gerard VK2IO. Next was Gary ZL2IFB, followed by Andrew VK1DA and Ian VK5IS. I signed QRT and handed the gear over to Rik and then went for a walk out of the AZ so that I could chase Rik.
Rik was qualified by time I returned and we packed up. We retraced our inbound route back to the saddle, and then veered to the east following a faint track at times and otherwise walking through the very clumpy snow grass. We descended a short steep drop with care before we crossed Shaw Creek and climbed back up to Howitt Road at a sign that read “No Road”. We then walked south along Howitt Road to just above the parked car and descended the small drop to the car.
We jumped in and headed back to Arbuckle Junction and then headed around towards McFarlane Saddle. We checked a possible approach route for VK3/VT-003, but found the road closed due to fire damage. The walking track south from McFarlane Saddle (Lake Tarli Karng Trail) was also closed due to fire damage, forcing us to abort the attempt to reach VK3/VT-003. When we found a location with mobile coverage, I amended to Alert to indicate the attempt was abandoned.
We continued on to the Moroka River and around to Horseyard Flat camp ground to set up camp for the night.