As my mother and one brother both live in Wodonga and my other brother is currently based at Jingellic, it has become a tradition for me to travel to Wodonga for a couple of weeks around Christmas. Once I had several tasks at home completed, I was watching the weather forecasts with interest.
Wednesday 16 December 2020
The forecast was looking a little suspect for the Victorian Alps and eastern Victoria, especially in the afternoon. The forecast for Gippsland for the whole day, with fog and drizzle expected. I decided to depart and hope for the best.
I departed home a little after 0830 and headed to Rosedale for a short stop at the Bakery. I then headed for Stratford and then on to Dargo. As I moved closer to Dargo, the weather became clearer. I then started the climb up the Dargo High Plains Road.
VK3/VT-016 1393 m 8 points
This summit is only a short distance off the Dargo High Plains Road. The road passes through the Activation Zone. The summit itself can be reached with a scrub bash. On this occasion, I decided to simply activate from the side of the road, away from the car. I found a spot to park and soon had a line over a tree branch and the ZS6BKW erected.
I spotted myself on SOTAwatch and started calling on 40 m CW. Things were a little slow, with only three contacts over 12 minutes. I moved to 20 m CW and worked another two stations. Calls on 80 m CW yielded no responses. 80 m SSB yielded another contact. It took about 30 minutes to gain the six contacts.
I packed up and continued north along the Dargo High Plains Road. I decided to attempt a slightly more adventurous combination of summits and turned west onto Ritchie Road. Once I was a little away from the main road, I started traversing an area which was burnt in the January 2020 bushfires. In places one could see the route ahead, with the road winding up and down the various spurs as it crossed the valleys of the upper catchment of Twenty Five Mile Creek, including two fords. Fortunately, several fallen dead trees had been cleared, so the drive was uneventful and I soon reached White Timber Spur South Track. Ritchie Road through to Basalt Knob could be negotiated when dry in a 2WD vehicle with reasonable ground clearance.
White Timber VK3/VE-060 1375 m 8 points
The track south is definitely 4WD. It has some spoon drains and some rutted areas. The grass beside and in the middle of the track was quite high. On my first visit to this summit, we aborted the drive in due to a very rough and wet patch and we walked up the track. On this occasion, I was able to drive to the high point of the track, which was well inside the Activation Zone. I found a spot to park and soon had the station set up a short distance from the vehicle.
The only problem was that mobile phone coverage was poor. If I moved about 25 m away from the station, I had marginal coverage and could sometimes post a spot via the vk port-a-log app.
I started calling on 40 m CW and had my first call in the log about 70 minutes after the last contact at the first summit. Several minutes of calling CQ yielded no further contacts. I managed to post a spot for 20 m CW and soon had two ZL stations in the log. Further calls went unanswered. I moved back to 40 m CW and landed a VK4 after several minutes of calling. I tried 80 m SSB and managed to work one station. Five contacts meant that the summit was qualified. I decided to pack up and to move to the next summit.
I retraced my access route back to Ritchie Road and turned left, driving around to Basalt Knob.
Basalt Knob VK3/VE-039 1512 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
The route traversed more ground which had been burnt. The “hut” at the junction with Basalt North Track was a burnt out shell. The hut was actually an old railway carriage. All that was left is the twisted metal frame. I drove up to the helipad area below the summit and parked in the shade.
I climbed about half way up the slope to ensure that I was inside the Activation Zone. I soon had the station set up. Mobile phone coverage was better here, so I was able to spot.
I decided to start the activation on 20 m CW. The first contact was in the log only 50 minutes after the last contact on White Timber. I soon had two ZLs and a VK5 in the log. Several minutes of further calling went unanswered. I moved to 40 m CW and worked a VK2 and the same VK5. Once again, further calls were fruitless. I moved to 40 m SSB and worked only two stations in 30 minutes – things were slow! The summit was well qualified, but I was hoping to reach 10 contacts for VKFF qualification. 30 m CW produced another contact. I then returned to 40 m CW and soon had three more callsigns in the log, for a total of 11 contacts. I packed up and returned to the car.
I returned to the junction with Basalt North Track and turned north, hoping that the track was in better condition than a year ago. Work has been done of the track and condition was good for a 4WD track. There are many short, steep and tall spoon drains, some of which scraped the underside of my raised vehicle.
As I was nearing the junction with Blue Rag Range Track, I could see that Blue Rag Range Trig was already enveloped in dark cloud. The time was about 1625 and the drive out to the trig and back would take at least an hour, plus time for the activation, in a likely very damp environment. I decided to abort Blue Rag Range summit and headed east on Blue Rag Range Track. Brian VK3BCM had commented that the track was in poor condition when I last travelled out to the trig, so I was a little apprehensive. My concerns were unfounded, as the track was in good condition – still 4WD, but in reasonable condition as I traversed the track. I stopped at the high point about 500 m west of the Dargo High Plains Road.
Mount Blue Rag VK3/VE-021 1679 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
There is a narrow track heading south to a saddle with a helipad and then climbs slightly onto the summit plateau. The saddle is above 1660 m, so the knoll to the north of the saddle beside the main track is comfortably inside the Activation Zone. I parked the car and set up a few metres away.
Mobile coverage was good, presumably from the base stations on Mount Hotham.
I again started on 20 m CW, working two ZL stations. I moved to 40 m CW and worked 10 stations in 20 minutes. I packed up and headed back to the car.
I drove down to the Dargo High Plains Road, finding a nice piped crossing instead of the previous deep gutter at the junction.
I then headed north to the Great Alpine Road, noting that the area around Mount Freezeout had not been burnt and the route to the summit was likely to be through thick snow gum revegetation.
Once at the road junction below Mount Blowhard, I turned left and drove down to Harrietville, on to Bright and then on to Wodonga.
Thanks to all the chasers who worked me during the day. I was tired but very happy when I arrived in Wodonga – 36 Activator points earned and a significant milestone reached.