Shepparton Hamfest visit, with some other radio fun

After an absence due to COVID, the Shepparton Hamfest was scheduled to return on the second Sunday of September. The event represented an opportunity to catch up with several friends, plus to arrange another visit to family in Wodonga. I was keeping an eye of the weather forecasts to determine my travel plans, finally deciding to depart home on the Friday morning.

During the week prior to departure, I learnt that two of the regions of Victoria which I had surveyed for HEMA had been added to the official list of summits – Northeast Victoria and East Gippsland. These two regions added approximately 300 summits to the HEMA list in VK3. I noted that the West Gippsland region was missing and inquired of the VK3 coordinator. That list was soon relocated and is currently being processed. There are now many more sites to visit to play radio!

Friday 9 September 2022

The weather forecast was not great, but I headed off anyway. I decided on the eastern route, via Bairnsdale, Omeo, Mount Hotham, Bright and on to Wodonga. During the drive to Bairnsdale, I managed to work Gerald VK2HBG/p in two Parks from the mobile. Past Bruthen, I took the Great Alpine Road until I reached the junction with Playground Road, which marks the southern boundary of the Mount Elizabeth Nature Conservation Reserve.

Peter Creek Road VK3/HVG-084 404 m First activation

I was lucky that the rain stopped as I was approaching the summit. The approach is simple: take Playground Road to Peter Creek Road, then climb up to the top of the first knoll. You are at the summit.

I quickly set up the station away from the car, spotted myself on ParksnPeaks.org and started calling on 40 m SSB. I soon had the summit qualified, making six contacts before spots of rain appeared. I closed down the station and quickly packed up.

I retraced my approach route to the Great Alpine Road and continued north. I made a stop at the Bakery in Swifts Creek to grab a late lunch and then continued north to Omeo, then headed across Mount Hotham. The traverse of Hotham was slow due to the speed limits and the thick cloud and rain.

Once I reached Bright, I explored a couple of approach options for nearby HEMA summits in the pine plantation. The first summit was blocked with a gate and signs advising logging operations in progress. The second summit I decided was not feasible due to steep and slippery tracks on the day. I then continued north to Beechworth and then headed east to approach the second HEMA summit for the day.

Twist Creek Road VK3/HVE-136 780 m First activation

This summit is located just north of Twist Creek Road, between Rawes Road and Erich Road. The summit is covered by pines. I decided to activate from the junction of Beilby Road and Erich Road, off the main road but well inside the Activation Zone (AZ). I kept the activation short and sweet, using the KX2 and the RHM8B whip antenna. It had been raining during the approach and I could hear an approaching thunderstorm, so I wanted a quick activation!

I soon had six contacts logged and the rain started again. I retreated to the car and packed up the gear. I then headed back to Beechworth and on to Wodonga.

Saturday 10 September 2022

First thing in the morning I need to undertake a couple of tasks in town. Once these tasks were completed, I headed out to activate a SOTA summit. I travelled through Yackandandah towards Dederang and around to Running Creek Road. I saw couple of lovely old vintage cars out for a run, with the driver and passengers well rugged up against the cold air and occasional showers.

I started up Mount Jack Track and was about 2 km up the track before I encountered a huge root ball and large fallen tree blocking the track. It was obvious that I could do nothing to get around the tree on the very steep slopes. I reversed back down the track for about 300 m to spot wide enough to complete a multi-point U turn. Once back on Running Creek Road, I headed west to Kancoona Gap, where the road changes name to Happy Valley Road. I saw some more vintage vehicles along the way. When I reached the junction with Rosewhite Track, I found several stopped vehicles, with two across the start of the track. One of the vintage vehicles had boiled and they were waiting for the cooling system to cool down. I explained that I wanted to travel up the track. The managed to push the vintage vehicle back enough for me to swing onto the track. I headed up the track, stopping a few times to clear several fallen branches from the track. I finally rejoined Mount Jack Track and headed north to the SOTA summit.

Mount Jack Range VK3/VE-090 1205 m 8 points + Winter bonus

I parked just north of the track junction near the summit and set up nearby.

My first contact was with James VK2TER in a new Park VKFF-3235 Mooney Mooney Aboriginal Area on 30 m CW. I then moved to 40 m CW and made 11 contacts. I moved to 40 m SSB and made another six contacts, including Summit to Summit contacts with VK2IO/p on VK2/CT-003 and Brian VK3BCM on VK3/VE-098. The whole activation was damp, as I was in thick cloud. When the drizzle started, I shut down, packed up and returned to the vehicle. I retraced my access route back to the bitumen, then headed east back to the Kiewa Valley Highway. I then headed north through Dederang and towards Kergunyah.

Kergunyah Silo VK-KRH3 First activation

Some weeks earlier, Peter VK3ZPF had emailed me asking if I could obtain a photo of what he believed would be a “new” silo at Kergunyah. I looked at the site and grabbed a screenshot from StreetView which was clear enough for Mark VK3OHM to add the new silo. There was a minor issue – the system reused the same Silo code as the now removed Korumburra South silo…..

The silo is just south of 3125 Kiewa Valley Highway Kergunyah. It is an old brick silo, amongst trees and sheds. After taking a photo, I looked for an activation site. I set up the ZS6BKW doublet with a line over a tree branch hooked up to the IC-706MKIIG in the car, parked off the edge of the road south of the silo site, near the edge of the activation zone.

The Kergunyah silo, hiding amongst the trees and farm sheds

First in the log was Warren VK3BYD on 40 m CW, from VKFF-1406 Batemans Marine Park. I moved to 40 m SSB and worked another 42 stations (including a CW contact with Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/CT-005). A dozen of these occurred after I called in on the VK3SRC net frequency, having heard Joe operating as I was tuning the band. Thanks to Joe and the net members for letting me work you all, plus letting several others call me on the net frequency.

I then packed up and headed back to Wodonga.

Sunday 11 September 2022

I was underway slightly later than planned. I headed to Wangaratta and around to Wangandary Road, climbing up onto the Warby Range. Along the way, I had managed to work Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/CT-004 on both CW and SSB. I could see plenty of water cascading down waterfalls on the eastern face of the range following the recent rains. I headed towards Wenhams Camp, parking the car in an opening near the high point of Booth Road NW of the summit of Mount Warby.

Mount Warby VK3/HVE-196 480 m First activation
Warby Ovens National Park VKFF-0742

I walked up the spur towards the summit to ensure that I was well inside the summit AZ. I was sure that my parking site was inside the AZ, but wanted to be sure that the activation was valid. I soon had the antenna up and the gear set up.

First in the log was Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/CT-005 in VKFF-2505. I then worked another 15 stations before the callers dried up. I packed up and returned to the car. I headed north back out towards the bitumen, stopped and exercising the battery chainsaw to help clear a fallen tree from the road. I then headed west to Devenish and on to Shepparton, passing several silos en route.

I arrived at the Shepparton Hamfest about an hour after the doors opened to the public. After finding a parking spot, I walked though and paid the entry fee. The next 100 minutes were spent largely chatting with friends plus trying to get around to look at the items on sale. I made a couple of return trips to the car to work stations out in the field. I waited until after the door and raffle prizes were drawn and then made my way across to Mooroopna. I crossed the Goulburn River on Watt Road and turned onto Hattons Track and then onto a side track and found a spot to park.

Mooroopna silo VK-MRN3
Shepparton Regional Park VKFF-0976

A quick snap of the Mooroopna silos, taken while stopped at the traffic lights.

I soon had the ZS6BKW doublet in the air in inverted-V configuration and the IC-7300 set up on the tailgate of the Ranger.

My first contact was a Silo to Silo with Rob VK2VH at Meringur silo VK-MRR3 on 40 m SSB. I worked about 25 contacts before moving to CW. Soon after, Ross VK3BEL dropped by to say “Hello”. So the CW was interrupted for several minutes as I chatted with Ross and he checked out my setup. I worked several callers as Ross watched on. Ross left, leaving me to concentrate on the callers. 20 m SSB was next, yielding four contacts, followed by 20 m CW, which produced seven contacts. I chased a few other stations and ended the activation with 54 contacts in the log.

I packed up and headed back towards Wodonga, deciding to take essentially the route taken in the morning. I stopped whilst still transiting the Shepparton suburbs to work David VK3TUN in VKFF-2399.

The next stop was at the gate of a silo.

Pine Lodge silo VK-PNE3

The remaining activations were using the mobile system to minimise the loss of time. The routine became simple: park the car and turn it off. Open and then close the door to start the shutdown of the vehicle systems, enter the silo code into the logging system, find a clear frequency if needed and send a Spot, and then start calling CQ. Work all callers until there were no replies to my CQ calls, then start the journey to the next silo. Short and sharp was the order of the day, as it was well into the afternoon!

Pine Lodge silos.

I parked at the gate of the Pine Lodge silo. I spotted myself and started calling on 40 m SSB. I soon had eight callers in the log in about 10 minutes. I then resumed my trip. I headed back to the main road and drove to the railway crossing at Cosgrove and parked off the road.

Cosgrove silo VK-CSE3

Cosgrove silos.

My first contact occurred less than 15 minutes after the last contact at the previous silo. I worked eight stations in about seven minutes. When there were no more callers, I started up the vehicle and started to drive to the next stop, just less than six kilometres away.

Dookie silo VK-DKE3
Dookie 2 silo VK-DKI3

I parked outside the exit gate of the Dookie silo, well inside the AZ of both silos.

Dookie silos.

I activated the Dookie silo first, making eight contacts. With no further callers, I changed silo code, spotted and started calling from Dookie 2, working ten contacts. With no further responses, I started the vehicle and resumed the trip.

Dookie 2 silos.

Devenish silo VK-DVH3

Devenish silos.

I travelled just over 28 km to Devenish and parked. I walked across the road to take a photo and then started the activation. I worked nine stations in about six minutes. There were then no further callers, so I resumed the trip to Wodonga.

The trip was straight forward: back over the Warby Range and into Wangaratta, then onto the Hume Highway and NE to Wodonga.

Monday 12 September 2022

The day started with some domestic tasks. I then headed to Chiltern. The Bakery and most stores were closed. So I then headed to Beechworth to grab something for lunch, and then headed to Mount Pilot.

Mount Pilot VK3/HVE-186 530 m First activation
Chiltern Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620

The car park at Mount Pilot is outside the AZ for the summit. I walked up the track until well inside the AZ and set up the station. I lugged the large battery and the IC-7300 up the hill.

I set up the station with a line of a tree branch to haul up the doublet. I decided to use the Club callsign VK3BEZ for the activation, adding a Park to the tally for the WWFF Team category.

I worked 22 stations on 40 m SSB and then chased Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-2019 again on CW. I tried 20 m SSB, 17 m SSB and CW, 30 m SSB and CW, making 25 contacts. I then worked Geoff VK3SQ on 80 m SSB before going to 40 m CW. I returned to 40 m SSB for a further spell before I received an SMS and moved to 20 m SSB to work Marty VK4KC. Overall, I made 71 contacts before I closed down, packed up and returned to the car. I then drove back to Wodonga.

Tuesday 13 September 2022

My first call was into a shop in Wodonga to pick up some items that I had returned for repair on Saturday. I then headed out to the target for the day.

Baranduda Range 720 m First activation
Baranduda Regional Park VKFF-0959

I approached via Bantik Track to reach the top of the range, then headed northeast along the range to reach the HEMA summit. I parked the car in a shallow drain to be off the track and set up the station nearby. Half of the antenna ran across the track, but was at least 6 m up at the track edge, so unlikely to be an issue for any passing vehicles.

I decided to again use VK3BEZ for the activation. I was set up just after 2330 UTC. The first contact was with VK2HQ in VKFF-3227 Cullunghutti Aboriginal Area, followed by Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/CT-012 in VKFF-3199. I moved to a clear frequency, spotted myself and started calling. I moved down to 40 m CW to chase Gerard VK2IO/p again, only a few minutes before UTC midnight. I worked another 10 CW contacts before heading back to SSB to chase VK2IO/p, followed by VH2HQ & VK2BYF for Park to Park contacts on the new UTC day.

I found a clear frequency on 40 m SSB and worked another 22 stations. Next was three contacts on 80 m SSB. I then tried 17 m CW, only working Gerard VK2IO/p again. It was then down to 40 m SSB for a SOTA chase, then 20 m SSB followed by CW. I short stint on 15 m CW yielded two US regular Hunters. Back to 40 m SSB to chase another SOTA contact. I then pulled out the laptop and set up FT8. All booted up okay and I was soon working stations on 10 m FT8. An SMS exchange with Geoff VK3SQ resulted in contacts with him on several bands. A short stint on 30 m CW yielded three contacts. I then went to 40 m FT8, where I made 14 contacts. I went to 20 m FT8 for three contacts, and then to 20 m SSB for three more contacts, followed by three CW contacts. I then closed down and packed up.

As I was heading back to Bantik Track, I heard a Spot come through and soon worked Brian VK3BCM on VK3/VG-064 from the car, before descending down the track to the gate at the Park boundary. The activation yielded 102 contacts. Thanks to all the Hunters!

I headed back into to Wodonga for a family gathering for most of the rest of the afternoon.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

This was another transit day, heading back home. As usual, I planned to do some radio activity en route.

In my rush to depart, I neglected to top up the fuel in the vehicle. Not a major issue, with just under half a tank on the gauge. The thought was to perhaps add some fuel at Bright……

As I was driving through Bright there was lots of traffic. I forgot about the fuel, but did stop to grab some lunch for later. I travelled on to Harrietville to stop at a ski shop. I purchased a set of chains for the car so that I was legal, with chains that actually could fit the tyres on the car, as opposed to the chains for the smaller original tyres. Mind you, I have not fitted chains for many years, but you need to have chains aboard to enter all the Victoria ski resort areas.

The view north from the Great Alpine Road on the shoulder of Mount Hotham. The Razorback Ridge on the left running out to Mount Feathertop. On the right, the shoulder of Mount Loch and across to the Bogong High Plains and Mount Fainter.

I drove up over Mount Hotham and down to just short of Omeo, taking the Cassillis Road, then Birregun Road. Next, I headed up Zig Zag Track and onto Mount Phipps Track to my first summit for the day.

Mount Phipps VK3/VG-015 1536 m 10 points plus Winter bonus

I parked near the summit and set up nearby. I made 12 contacts on 40 m SSB, followed by two on 40 m CW and then two on 20 m CW. I packed up and resumed the drive, descending to the south to return to Birregun Road and on to the next summit, about 17 km to the south from Mt Phipps.

Mount Birregun VK3/VT-020 1363 m 8 points plus Winter bonus

I parked and set up the station just north of the summit proper, less than 5 metres vertical below the summit. First in the log was Dan VK3NDG using the VK3BEZ callsign from Moondarra State Park VKFF-0764. Dan had no phone coverage, so I was able to Spot him once he had found a clear frequency. Next were some more Park contacts: Joel VK2MOE in VKFF-0111, and Al VK7AN and Rod VK7HAM in VKFF-2906. Then a jump in frequency to chase Ken VK3KIM on VK3/VN-012, then up 5 kHz following a voice request to move “up 5”. I then moved to CW on 40 m, where I worked five stations. A short stint on 20 m CW yielded only one contact. I packed up and decided to head towards Dargo.

The next stop was about 11.5 km south.

VK3/VT-033 (no name) 1032 m 6 points

I parked the car and grabbed the SOTA pack. I climbed up the firebreak on the ridge line until I was well inside the AZ. I operated here with the KX2 and the RHM8B whip.

First in the log was a summit to summit with Ron VK3AFW on VK3/VN-012, on 40 m CW. I moved up the band a few kilohertz and spotted, working another five contacts on CW. I then moved to 40 m SSB to chase Greg VK1AI on VK1/AC-013. I then moved to a clear frequency and worked another eight contacts. I packed up and returned to the car. I continued south to the road junction below the next summit, just under 7 km away.

From the junction, I started up the small track towards the summit, but stopped a few hundred metres along as it was looking very overgrown. I retreated to the main road and then headed along Gidleys Track, then drove up the access track after engaging 4WD. I need to stop a few times to remove some fallen branches and negotiated some large spoon drains. I drove over the summit and did a U-turn at the helipad, returning to park close to the summit. I soon had the station set up nearby, this time using the doublet.

Mount Steve VK3/VT-036 987 m 6 points

I spotted myself on 40 m CW and soon had eight contacts in the log. I then moved to 40 m SSB and spotted. I again worked Dan using VK3BEZ from VKFF-0764, followed by 11 further contacts. It was now 0620 UTC, so I packed up and retraced my access route.

Once back at Jones Road, I continued to Dargo. The first few kilometres were slow going, with the road closed to all vehicles other than “light 4WD”. Several sections of road had been repaired and had a rough surface. I reached Dargo and found that the Store closed at 1600 local, almost an hour before I arrived. I checked the estimated Distance To Empty (DTE) and decided that I could make it to at least Stratford.

I headed towards Bairnsdale on the Dargo Road until I reached Glenaladale, then took Beverleys Road, Stockdale Road and Briagalong Road to reach Stratford. The DTE suggested plenty of fuel to make Sale, so I headed down the Princes Highway and filled the tank in Sale, with an indicated DTE of under 110 km.

From there, it was a simple job of driving home.

Thanks to all who called me during the activations.

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1 Response to Shepparton Hamfest visit, with some other radio fun

  1. vk5bje says:

    Hi Peter your blog is always a great read – I admire your energy and commitment and always enjoy saying hello. 73 JD VK5BJE/VK5PF

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