A long weekend trip to NE Victoria – SOTA and SiOTA

I had not been out in the field to play radio much in the last few months, largely due to COVID Restrictions. The weather forecast for the weekend was looking reasonable, with the chance of wet weather on Thursday and again on Sunday and Monday. I received a request from my youngest brother for assistance on Wednesday. That call resulted in me picking up a jet ski from a town about 30 minutes’ drive away on Wednesday afternoon.

I had initially intended to stay off the roads this weekend, as it would be a long weekend for some with the Melbourne Cup holiday on Tuesday, and the Melbourne Metropolitan Region was being released from the COVID travel restrictions at 1800 on Friday.

Friday morning saw me heading off after the mains power had cut out at about 0745 as a result of heavy winds. I later determined that power did not return until around 1600 in the afternoon. I drove east to Bairnsdale, then north to Omeo, across Mount Hotham and then north to Wodonga. The trip was uneventful and the jet ski towed well. There were some minor delays due to roadworks and some traffic in places. The rain and high winds as I crossed Hotham were a deterrent to any portable radio activity. I did manage to work Matt ZL4NVW on ZL3/OT-357 on 20 m SSB from the car as I was driving through Harrietville. I easily reached Wodonga and dropped off the jet ski before heading to my mother’s house.

Saturday 30 October 2021

I was underway at a respectable time. I drove toward Beechworth as I headed for my morning target. Whilst en route, I called Geoff VK3SQ using the hands-free system in the car. That call resulted in an unexpected stop in Beechworth, as Geoff decided to join me on the trip. This resulted in an extended opportunity to chat. We were soon at our target, with both of us having remarked on the very smooth road surface on Mount Stanley Road.

Mount Stanley VK3/VE-126 1052 m 6 points

I parked near the picnic table and we were soon setting up the station at the table. An extra pair of hands made the job simpler. I finished the set up at around 2330 Z.

I was about to spot myself and saw a spot for Park activator, so dialled up their frequency. I awaited my chance to call, and soon had James VK2TER/p in VKFF-2713 in the log. I moved to the SOTA focus frequency and spotted, and soon had a couple of calls in the log. VK port-a-log announced a new spot, so I moved frequency to work Peter VK3ZPF/p in VKFF-2220, followed by Gavin VK2YAK/p at the Stroud Silo VK-STD2.

After UTC midnight, I moved to 40 m CW to chase James VK2TER/p in VKFF-2713, followed by Rod VK1ACE on VK1/AC-041. I moved to a clear frequency, spotted myself and started calling. I soon had five CW contacts in the log. I then moved to 20 m CW, resulting in only one contact. 17 m CW provided another contact, then nothing. I then returned to 40 m CW and soon had another seven in the log. I decided to call it quits and packed up, with 21 contacts logged.

I packed up and we headed back to Geoff’s place for a coffee. Whilst there, we chased Adam VK2YK/5 in VKFF-1688 and Peter VK3ZPF/p at Shelbourne Silo VK-SHE3.

I departed Beechworth and headed back towards Wodonga. I decided that it was too early to return, so detoured to the north and then SW on the Hume Highway to reach the Springhurst exit and drove around to the northern side of the railway station. I took a couple of photos, and then explored options for a site away from power lines. I ended up selecting a spot on Jenvey Lane, about 300 m from the silos and well within the 1 km radius required by the SiOTA rules.

A view of part of the Springhurst Station and the adjacent silos.

Springhurst Silo VK-SPT3 Not previously activated

I tossed a line over a tree branch and soon had the doublet in the air and connected to the IC-706MKIIG in the car. I spotted myself and soon had callers – five stations in about 10 minutes. I then heard an Alert and moved down the band to work Peter VK3ZPF/p at Kingston Silo VK-KNN3 for a Silo to Silo contact. I then returned to my previous frequency and worked 22 stations, including my first contact with one of the newly released 2×1 contest callsigns. Amongst the callers was Scott VK4MGL at the Port of Brisbane Silo VK-PRE4. I finished the activation by chasing Joel VK2VRO on Mount Cobaw VK3/VC-015. I had 29 contacts in the log.

The Springhurst silos

I packed up and drove to Rutherglen. After checking the SiOTA mapping, I set up the station at the northern end of the oval in Barkly Park, about 650 m from the silos.

Rutherglen Silo VK-RTN3 Not previously activated

I used the same configuration as at Springhurst. My first contact was with John VK5HAA on Lagoon Hill VK5/SE-008 on 40 m SSB. I moved up the band and spotted myself. Geoff VK3SQ was the next in the log. I then moved down to work Stephen VK4IDK in VKFF-1218. I returned to my spotted frequency and worked another 14 stations, including Scott VK4MGL who called me from VK-PRE4. I then chased Chris VK1CT/p in VKFF-0841 before spotting on a new frequency and working two more stations. I decided to pack up, with 20 in the log.

The Rutherglen silos

I then drove around to the station to take a photo of the silos before heading back for Wodonga. I stopped just out of Rutherglen to work Peter Vk3ZPF/p on Mount Blackwood VK3/HVC-038 in VKFF-0763. I then resumed the journey back to Wodonga.

Sunday 31 October 2021

I considered my options for playing radio on Sunday morning, and decided on a day of Silo activations. I headed west to Rutherglen and then north to Wahgunyah. I stopped to take a photo of the silos and then moved around to the junction of John and Sarah Street, parking up against the locked gate on John Street. The location showed as being about 950 m from the silos, so not a lot to spare with the 1 km radius allowed.

The Wahgunyah silos

Wahgunyah Silos VK-WHH3 Not previously activated

The Wahgunyah silos are part of the large Uncle Toby factory site. My selected operating site was more than 100 m from the nearest power lines, close to the Murray River and the Carlyle H115 Bushland Reserve (NOT valid for VKFF at this time).

I again set up with the doublet raised with a line over a tree branch connected to the IC-706MKIIG in the car. I sat in the car with the windows open, enjoying the sounds of bird song and trees rustling in the gentle breeze.

My first contact was at 2330Z. I worked three stations within three minutes, but then nothing in the next 10 minutes. I moved to 80 m SSB to make two contacts. I continued calling without any replies. A few minutes after UTC midnight, I moved to 20 m SSB and only made one contact. I then heard an Alert, so moved to 40 m CW to chase Warren VK3BYD on Mount Loch VK3/VE-005 in VKFF-0619. I then moved to 40 m SSB, where I worked Andrew VK1AD/2 on VK2/ST-006 in VKFF-0474. I moved to a clear frequency and spotted myself, and worked another five stations. I then moved to chase John VK5HAA on VK5/SE-010. 90 minutes of calling and chasing/hunting had yielded only 14 contacts. Conditions were tough! I packed up to move to the next silo.

I headed back to the main road and headed south, west and then south again to reach the next target.

Peechelba East Silo VK-PCT3 Not previously activated

This silo is located at the end of a spur line, just north of the junction of and Peechelba Road. I inspected the silos and set up amongst some shady trees just to the west of the silos. Once again, I hauled up the doublet and connected to the radio in the car.

The operating site at Peechelba East

I made two contacts reasonably quickly, but had S5-6 noise. I closed down and relocated a little further NE along Jones Swamp Road, near the very end of the old rail line. I was back on air less than 20 minutes after the last contact. There was still some noise, but at a much lower level than the previous site. I made another four contacts on 40 m SSB. I then tried 20 m SSB, making only two contacts. I moved to 80 m SSB and made a further three contacts. A total of only 11 contacts were made in around an hour – very slow progress. I packed up and headed into Wangaratta.

I grabbed some lunch and then looked for an operating site. Wangaratta has two silos, with overlapping activation zones at a Park – the choice was obvious!

Wangaratta Silo VK-WNR3 Not previously activated

Wareena Park provided the operating site. There is a region where the two activation zones overlap. I set up as far as I could from the power lines but inside the overlap region. I set up in the same manner as earlier.

Wangaratta silo from the western side

First in the log was Gavin VK2YAK in VKFF-1410. I then chased Warren VK3BYD/p on Mount Hotham VK3/VE-006 on 40 m CW. I next called on 80 m SSB, where I worked three stations. I next called on 40 m SSB, where I worked 12 stations in 12 minutes. I then moved to 40 m CW, where I worked 6 stations. A total of 23 stations were worked before I took a break and officially closed for the silo.

Wangaratta West Silo VK-WNT3 Not previously activated

As I was within the activation zone of VK-WNT3, I did not need to move. I was soon back on air calling on 40 m SSB. I worked 13 stations before I moved to hunt Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1487. I then returned to my previous frequency and worked another eight stations. For my final stint, I moved to 80 m SSB, where I worked five stations. I had a total of 27 contacts in the log. I packed up and headed around to each silo site to grab a photo of each before heading back to Wodonga.

Wangaratta West silo

Conditions had been poor all weekend. Thanks to all who made the effort to make contact.

Monday 1 November 2021

Monday was spent undertaking some tasks around the house for Mum, with a quick trip to a local reserve to chase Nik VK3ZK/p on Mount Feathertop VK3/VE-002. A little later, I saw a spot for Glenn V K3YY on Federation Range VK3/VN-029. I decided to drive to the nearby Huon Hill to attempt a summit to summit (S2S) contact.

Huon Hill VK3/VE-237 425 m 1 point
Wodonga Regional Park VKFF-0980

It took about 15 minutes to drive to the car park below the locked gate just below the activation zone for Huon Hill. I walked up to just below the summit to set up the station in the shade of a large tree.

I soon had Glenn VK2YY in the log. Several minutes later I worked Peter VK3ZPF/p in VKFF-2464, not far from my home. I moved down the band to the SOTA focus frequency, spotted myself and started calling. Over the next 40 minutes I managed to work another 19 stations, including Alan VK3TCP on Mount Warrenheip VK3/VC-019 in VKFF-2402. I decided to close down at about 0350Z.

I earned no activator points for this activation, as I had been on the summit back in February. But I did earn some Chaser and S2S points.

I packed up and returned to base.

Tuesday 2 November 2021

After completing a task for Mum, I headed off at about 1000. I drove to Yackandandah and then to Bruarong and around to Mount Big Ben Road and up to the summit.

Mount Big Ben VK3/VE-105 1154 m 6 points

I set up just below the summit amongst the trees. I was on air with about 10 minutes to spare before UTC midnight. I quickly tuned around to try to make contact with other activators, but succeeded in making contact only with Phil VK2JDL on VK2/MN-063 in VKFF-0114 on 40 m SSB.

After UTC midnight, I had more success. I worked Andrew VK1DA/p and Andrew VK1AD/p, both on VK2/ST-017 on 80 m, followed by another contact with Phil VK2JDL on 40 m. Next was Warren VK3BYD/p in VKFF-0620 on 40 m CW, followed by Marty VK4KC/p in VKFF-1645 on 20 m CW. I then spotted and worked two stations on 40 m CW. Next was 80 m SSB, which gained only one contact. I then went to 40 m SSB to again hunt Marty VK4KC/p. I moved down the band and worked three stations before I had no further callers. Next I tried 20 m CW, where I worked two stations before I jumped to SSB to again work Marty VK4KC/p. I returned to 20 m CW to worked Gerard VK2IO/p.

I then had a string of S2S contacts: Phil VK2JDL on VK2/MN-167 in VKFF-0114 on 40 m SSB, Rik VK3EQ on VK3/VT-036 on 80 m SSB, Andrew VK1AD/2 on VK2/SW-028 on 40 m SSB and Andrew VK1DA/p on the same summit on CW.

I packed up and headed back down the hill. I turned towards Dederang, then north to Kergunyah and then west on Simpson Road to the top of the ridge, then north to the next summit.

(Mount Murramurrangbong ridge) VK3/VE-163 872 m 4 points

I parked just below the summit. The named mountain is to the northwest and lower than the SOTA summit. I soon had the station erected and worked Rik VK3EQ, now on VK3/VT-033. I worked three more stations on 40 m SSB before again working Andrew VK1AD/2, now on VK2/SW-034.

I then tried 40 m CW, working six stations, followed by three more on 20 m CW. I next jumped back to 40 m SB to work Rik VEQ, now on VK3/VT-020. Andrew VK1DA/2 was next on 40 m CW, on VK2/SW-034. I moved up the band and worked two more stations on CW before moving back to 40 m SSB to chase Phil VK2JDL, now on VK2/MN-081 in VKFF-0143. I moved up the band and started calling on 40 m SSB, working another 10 stations, including Rik VK3EQ, now on VK3/VG-015.

I was now 0600Z, so I decided to pack up and return to Wodonga.

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