A week of late Bonus season activations in NE Victoria

October 2022

The SOTA Bonus season for VK3 runs from 15 June to the end 14 October. Given that Victoria switches to Daylight Savings Time on the first Sunday of October, the Bonus season ends at 1100 local time on 15 October.

Due to many factors, I had not had much chance to get away for several days to visit family and activate some SOTA summits before the end of the Bonus season. One of the factors had been the weather patterns.

Saturday 8 October 2022

I finally headed off on Saturday morning, travelling east via Bairnsdale and Bruthen to then travel on the Great Alpine Road to Omeo and on to Mount Hotham. I parked in the Staff Long Term car park near Whiskey Flat.

Paw Paw Plain VK3/HVE-003 1710 m
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

From the car park, I picked my way through the undergrowth for about 100 m or so until I reached the Brabralung Trail, also known as the Hotham – Dinner Plain Trail. The Trail provides an excellent cross country ski trip during winter. The trail proved an easy route to the southeast, winding through the snow gums with some gentle ups and downs. The trail then started climbing up towards Paw Paw Plain. An initial short steeper section then does a sharp right turn and climbs diagonally up the hill to another sharp corner, this time to the left. This second corner is east and only 260 m horizontally from the HEMA summit. As the corner is the closest point on the trail to the summit, I decided to climb up through the open snow gums, dodging the thicker understory and fallen trees and branches. As I approached the summit, there were a few remnant patches of snow on the ground. I was soon set up on the summit, using a throw bag to place a line over a tree branch at about 6 m above ground to hoist the centre of the antenna. I spotted myself before I started setting up.

Looking west from the Paw Paw Plain summit, with Mt Loch (R) and Mt Hotham (C) visible through the snow gums.

I started calling on 40 m CW. Several minutes of calling yielded only two contacts. It was the middle of the day – around 0200Z. I switched to SSB and worked another 14 stations over the following 20 minutes or so. I swapped to 20 m CW, working three station, and then 15 m CW provided another two contacts. 10 minutes on 20 m SSB produced only one Chaser before a Spot came through for a Park activation. I swapped back to 40 m SSB to work Megan VK3TIN in VKFF-0231. I then found a clear frequency and worked another five stations before closing down. I had a total of 28 contacts in the log.

I was soon packed up and descended back down the slope to re-join the Trail within metres of where I had left it. I then travelled back towards Mount Hotham until I could see the large mounds of crushed rock in the car park, at which point I again navigated cross country to reach the car park and return to the vehicle.

I then drove up through the Mount Hotham village to a sweeping right hand bend near the access track to the summit proper. I noted that the gate on the track was open, but parked on the end of the road in the wide sweeping bend. I again loaded up with the rucksack and climbed up to the track, following an old pole line. I then travelled along the track until I was well inside the summit Activation Zone (AZ).

Mount Hotham VK3/VE-006 1861 m 10 points plus winter bonus
Mount Hotham VK3/HVE-001 1861 m

Earlier in the year, it was noted that the saddle between Mount Hotham and Mount Loch VK3/VE-005 was not as deep as previously thought. Investigations had revealed the prominence of Hotham to be between 121 and 141 m. There is no spot height in the critical saddle. Therefore, Mount Hotham is to be retired from SOTA at the next update, probably 1 November 2022. Most of Victoria outside the central region was recently added to HEMA, with the North East region added on 6 September 2022. So for a short period, Mount Hotham is valid for both SOTA and HEMA. It appears that I am likely the first to activate the summit for HEMA.

I strapped a squid pole to one of the snow poles beside the track and set up on a patch of grass on the opposite side of the track.

I started on 40 m CW and soon had six stations in the log in less than 10 minutes. I then swapped to 40 m SSB, where I worked 14 stations in the next 15 minutes. During the activation, the cloud rolled in and the breeze picked up, significantly lowering the apparent temperature to well below 0 C. I closed down and packed up.

I walked back down to the car, following the snow poles due to the decreased visibility. I was soon loaded up and on the road. The trip down to Harrietville was slow due to the low visibility, until I dropped below the cloud. The drive to Wodonga was uneventful.

Sunday 9 October 2022

Previous discussions with Warren VK3BYD resulted in a plan for a joint SOTA activation trip. The key point of the plan was to attempt to both activate a SOTA summit which is due to be retired in the near future: VK3/VE-079. The SOTA Summit data shows that I am the only person to have activated the summit, so the idea was for Warren to activate and for me to chase him, thus making the summit Complete.

We arranged to meet at the Tallangatta Bakery. Warren pulled in just as I jumped out of the car. We both soon had purchased lunch and loaded into my vehicle. We travelled down the Tallangatta Creek valley and the climbed up Cravensville Road. We then swung onto Gibb Range Road and around to my usual parking spot to the NW of the first summit.

Gibb Range VK3/VE-069 1289 m 8 points plus winter bonus

Despite recent works creating a wide firebreak on the south side of the road, an old logging track is just visible through the regrowth eucalypts beyond the firebreak. We proceeded along the old track, weaving between the saplings and other obstacles. The track goes through a shallow saddle. Just before the track starts to drop on the south side of the saddle, there is another logging track that veers left. We followed this through regrowth, wattles and dogwood, climbing up into the AZ of the summit. Once we were both happy that we were in the AZ, we found a clearing to set up a station.

I started calling on 40 m CW, working three stations. Warren then activated the summit. I then moved to 20 m CW and worked another three stations. We were about to pack up when I heard a Spot. I was soon on 10 m SSB and worked Jeff VK8DNT in VKFF-1230. Warren also worked Jeff before we closed the station. We packed up and retraced our route back towards the car. Before we descended too far, we worked each other either side of the AZ boundary on 2 m FM. We returned to the car and resumed the trip along Gibb Range Road.

We decided against heading out to the Cravensville Range summit, due to the required bush bash up to the AZ.

We arrived at the start of Glamour Hill Track, only to find several signs plus a large tree across the road. The road was closed due to fire prevention works. With the summit to be retired on 1 November, it is unlikely that I will get the chance to chase it. The summit is a valid HEMA summit.

We decided to travel further along Gibb Range Road and around to a six point summit. I took Carmodys Track around to Remote Radio Road, and then south to the summit.

VK3/VE-095 (unnamed) 1192 m 6 points

I parked at the start of a blocked track which leads to the summit. We were soon set up only about 100 m from, and less than 1 m below, the summit.

Warren operating on VK3/VE-095.

Warren activated first. I worked four stations on 40 m CW and one on 20 m CW. We then packed up and headed south. Warren jumped out before the edge of the AZ with a handheld radio and I continued down before I worked Warren. Warren was soon back in the car and we continued south the re-join Gibb Range Road. We were soon on Corryong Benambra Road and heading north.

We stopped at the picnic/camping area beside Nariel Creek for a break to eat lunch.

We continued north and travelled around to Jeffcott And Jewells Road, and then onto Black Mountain Track. We reached a large tree across the road, with a just wide enough section removed. Taking the gap carefully, we slipped a little sideways and stopped. Engaging 4WD enabled exiting the boggy hole on the left-hand side of the gap. The rest of the drive was uneventful, despite some muddy and wet sections. We parked at the signs announcing that the walking track was closed due to fire damage.

Black Mountain VK3/VE-093 1202 m 8 points plus winter bonus

The track ends a short distance from the summit, less than 2 m below the summit. We set up close to the car. Time was short, as I had a family commitment back in Wodonga. I quickly worked four stations to qualify the summit on 40 m CW. Warren then worked stations to qualify the summit. We started packing up when a Spot came through. I soon worked Stuart VK3UAO in VKFF-2153, followed by Megan VK3TIN in VKFF-0361, from the car. Two Park to Park contacts, which unfortunately will not count as I did not work 10 stations, let alone the 44 required for P2P contacts to count for WWFF. We were running late and I did not bother to attempt making more contacts. We packed the gear in the car and exited back to the highway, and then back to Tallangatta.

Once in Tallangatta, we said our goodbyes and I headed back to Wodonga.

Monday 10 October 2022

I departed Wodonga and headed to Myrtleford to grab something for lunch. I continued on to Porepunkah and then up to Mount Buffalo. I had checked the Parks Victoria website, which noted that the final section Mountain Buffalo Road had been reopened after its winter closure. I travelled up to The Horn car park.

The Horn VK3/VE-014 1723 m 10 points plus winter bonus
Mount Buffalo National Park VKFF-0339

There were several cars parked. I walked up the track to the summit and set up inside the AZ, but not at the summit itself, as I wished to avoid the crowd.

My first contact was a Park to Park with VK2HQ in VKFF-1779. I moved to a clear frequency and spotted. I made seven contacts on 40 m SSB, followed by four on 40 m CW. With the summit qualified on both SSB and CW, I closed and packed up. I descended to the vehicle and drove around to park at Cathedral Saddle. I worked Peter VK3TKK at VK-KPA5 Kapunda silo from the car. I again loaded up the rucksack and climbed up to the summit of The Hump.

The Hump VK3/VE-019 1695 m 10 points plus winter bonus
Mount Buffalo National Park VKFF-0339

I visited the summit, but set up a little lower down, well inside the AZ. I started on 40 m CW, where I worked four stations in less than five minutes. Next came four contacts on 40 m SSB. A Spot came through for Andrew VK1DA/p on VK1/AC-041 in VKFF-0845. I tried to make a contact, but conditions were strange. We finally made the contact on 80 m CW. I returned to 40 m SSB to make two more contacts. I tried other bands, making two CW contacts on 17 m before I closed and packed up. I descended back to the car and headed down the mountain.

A panoramic view to the east from The Hump. Views from the Main Range (under cloud), Mt Bogong, The Bogong High Plains, Mt Feathertop, Mt Loch and Mt Hotham, The Great Dividing Range to the south. The Horn near the right hand side in the mid-ground. The photo needs vertical exaggeration to see the summits along the obvious horizon.

I found a spot to park inside the Park boundary and decided to set up again, this time connecting the doublet to the IC-706MKIIG in the car. I made another 26 contacts before I closed. I have not yet checked for duplicates, but made a total of 51 contacts from the Park. I packed up and resumed the journey to Wodonga.

Tuesday 11 October 2022

I decided on the morning to head out to attempt a run of summits along a ridge system on the western side of the Ovens River. I drove to the northern edge of Harrietville and took Cemetery Lane to climb up onto the ridge. I then headed south on Albion Track before taking Link Track to reach Paddy Hill Track. I then headed SW to reach the first summit for the day.

VK3/VE-070 (unnamed) 1286 m 8 points plus winter bonus

I parked off the edge of the track and set up nearby. First in the log was Rob VK2VH at VK-GRM5 Geranium silo. Next I hunted Col operating VK2HQ in VKFF-2769. I then moved to 40 m CW where I worked four stations. A period on 20 m CW produced only one contact. I then moved to 40 m SSB to chase Andrew VK1AD on VK1/AC-043. I then moved up 5 kHz and spotted, working three more stations. I next moved up the band to again work Rob VK2VH, now at the Peake silo VK-PKE5. I then closed down and packed up.

As the tracks had been in generally good condition and largely dry, I decided to attempt to get to another summit to the SE. I took Paddy Hill Track around to Gunns Track, then around to an unnamed track to the summit.

VK3/VE-030 (unnamed) 1570 m 10 points plus winter bonus
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

I set up on the eastern side of the track so that I was in the National Park. I posted a Spot, which I later noticed was for the wrong summit – I was rushing to set up.

I worked six stations on 40 m CW and then moved to SSB. I made two contacts before I noticed the summit code error. I posted a new Spot with the correct code. I worked 16 more stations on 40 m SSB, including Peter VK3TKK/5 in VKFF-0897. I then tried 20 m CW, making two contacts. Geoff VK3SQ sent an SMS stating that he could not hear me on 20 m CW. I arranged to move to 40 m and worked Geoff on CW. I then closed and packed up.

Once the gear was loaded back in the vehicle, I retraced my route. At the junction with Paddy Hill Track, I decided to try following Gunns Track. The route worked and I returned back to Albion Track and up to the northern side the next summit to park.

Albion Point VK3/VE-080 1255 m 8 points plus winter bonus

I climbed up into the summit AZ and set up. I started on 40 m CW, quickly working six stations. I then moved to 40 m SSB, where I worked eight stations. I then packed up and descended to the car. I continued along Albion Track to the high point of the track close to the next summit.

Albion Track VK3/HVE-053 1144 m

Albion Track crosses the ridge at 1140 m, so I simply parked off the track and set up nearby. I worked nine stations on 40 m SSB, including John VK5HAA/p in VKFF-1752 and Daryl VK3AWA in VKFF-0747. This was a quick activation. I believe that the activation was the first of this HEMA summit.

I packed up and loaded the gear into the car before continuing north. I drove north on Wet Gully Track to the next summit.

Ebenezer Range VK3/VE-081 1255 m 8 points plus winter bonus

Wet Gully Track was in much better condition than when I visited last year.

I parked just north of the summit and set up a few metres away, just off the side of the track. I first worked Daryl VK3AWA again. I moved to a clear frequency, posted a Spot and then worked another six stations on 40 m SSB. I then moved to 40 m CW and worked another six stations. I then closed, packed up and loaded up the gear.

I continued north to reach the next summit.

VK3/VE-256 (unnamed) 930 m 6 points

Wet Gully Track crosses the shoulder of the summit at around 905 m. I parked off the track and walked up an old vehicle come foot pad until I was well inside the AZ. I was soon set up and spotted. I worked 10 stations on 40 m CW. The last contact was a surprise – a station from HA5. I later learnt from an email that he was listening on a webSDR receiver in VK3. I closed down, packed up and returned to the car. I continued north to exit to Bright and then headed back to Wodonga.

It was a busy day!

Wednesday 12 October 2022

I decided on another big day, hoping that the rain would largely hold off.

I headed off from Wodonga to Mount Beauty, where I found the Bakery was closed. I was able to purchase some lunch from a small cafe. I then headed through town to make my way to Mountain Creek Road, Camp Creek Road and finally Hollow Way. I parked at the start of an old logging track on the NW of the summit.

Bull Hill VK3/VE-048 1425 m 8 points plus winter bonus

I loaded up the pack and made my way up into the AZ to set up the station. First in the log were VK2HQ and VK2BYF, both activating VKFF-2712. I then tried 40 m CW, working eight stations. I returned to 40 m SSB and worked another eight stations before UTC midnight. Just after midnight, I worked Deryck VK4FDJL in VKFF-1570.

I packed up and headed back to the vehicle, and retraced my route back to the start of Eskdale Spur Track. I stopped briefly along the way the grab a photo of the hills out to the NNW. The distant view was good, despite the immediate surrounds being desolate due to logging.

Looking to the NW from The Hollow Way, along Eskdale Spur.

I then travelled up Eskdale Spur Track to reach the next target summit.

Mount Emu VK3/VE-061 1360 m 8 points plus winter bonus

I parked near the high point. I soon had a line over a tree branch and used the excellent picnic table provided by Forest Fire Management Victoria as my operating position. I worked five stations on 40 m CW and then seven on 40 m SSB, plus one of those also on CW.

The operating position on Mount Emu.

I packed up and loaded the gear in the vehicle. I continued north along Eskdale Spur Track. I parked on the NNE shoulder of the next summit and again loaded up the rucksack. It was a steady climb up the spur to reach the AZ – around 180 m vertical climb over about 1 km horizontal.

Mount Yorke VK3/VE-082 1248 m 8 points plus winter bonus

I set up the station and quickly worked 10 stations on 40 m CW. I decided to end the activation, as time was rolling on, plus the skies were looking more threatening.

I packed up and climbed down back to the vehicle and continued north. The next summit was not very far and I drove up to the summit itself to park off the edge of Bowmans No 2 Track.

Bowmans No 2 Track VK3/HVE-055 1140 m

I was quickly set up with a line over a tree branch. I started on 40 m CW, working nine stations in around 15 minutes. Rain caused an end tot eh activation – I quickly moved the RF gear to the car and then packed up the antenna system. I loaded up the vehicle. I retraced the short descent back to Eskdale Spur Track before continuing north to the end of an old rehabilitated track on the NW shoulder of the next summit to park.

VK3/VE-071 (unnamed) 1183 m 6 points

I walked up the track into the AZ and set up the station. I worked eight stations on 40 m CW before the rain started again. I quickly packed up and returned to the vehicle to resume the trip north, this time in the rain. A little care was required in some areas where the track surface was loose and slippery. I was soon parked only metres from the trig on the last summit for the day.

VK3/VE-076 Mount Tawonga 1268 m 8 points plus winter bonus

The rain stopped just as I parked the vehicle. I was soon set up and calling. I worked nine stations on 40 m CW before the next rain shower started. I quickly packed up and retraced my route back to Bowmans No 1 Track, which I followed out to the NE to reach Fluerty Track and Smythes Road to Little Snowy Creek Road, then out to Eskdale and the Omeo Highway. It rained all of the way back to Wodonga.

Friday 14 October 2022

Thursday was a write off for radio activity, with rain most of the day and also overnight. The early part of the morning drive was in drizzly conditions. I headed to Mitta Mitta and south to the eastern side of Mount Wills. Here I decided against attempting Mt Wills given the conditions and headed out to the junction of Razorback Spur Track and Wombat Creek Track to park. I walked up Wombat Creek Track, which is a seasonal road closure. There was lots of debris on the track and one larger tree to climb over.

Razorback Range VK3/VG-033 1311 m 8 points plus winter bonus

As I approached my operating site, the drizzle stopped. I quickly set up and made six contacts on 40 m SSB to quickly qualify the summit. I returned to the car and headed back to the Omeo Highway.

I received an SMS as I was travelling back to the highway, which soon resulted in a change of plans for later in the day. I tried to ring the person who had sent the message, but coverage was poor. I continued south to the start of Knocker Track and then out along it to Knocker Link Track. I stopped at the high spot and made the phone call, making loose plans for Saturday afternoon. I then drove out to the summit of The Knocker to park.

The Knocker VK3/VG-016 1506 m 10 points plus winter bonus

I set up near the trig, with a line over a tree branch. I made seven contacts on 40 m SSB before closing.

I packed up and headed back to Knocker Track, which I followed SE to reach Omeo Valley Road. I took it slowly over the new Hinnomunjie Bridge, as hydrologists were sitting on the guard rail recording observations – the Mitta Mitta River was flowing fast after the recent rains, which had stopped for now. I then headed south to the outskirts of Omeo and took Connlleys Road to Mount Sam Track and up to the next summit.

Sam Hill VK3/VG-049 1206 m 8 points plus winter bonus

I quickly set up with a line over a tree branch. I made 10 contacts on 40 m SSB before the callers ran out. I packed up and descended back to the Omeo Highway and into Omeo, where I grabbed something from a bakery for a late lunch. I then drove out of town on the Great Alpine Road to Tongio Gap Road and onto Splitters Road. The latter road requires two gates to opened and closed as you traverse some farmland, with cattle grazing in the paddock. I then took Splitters Track up to the next summit.

VK3/VG-036 (unnamed) 1285 m 8 points plus winter bonus

I set up a little north of the summit and its radio site. I prefer to set up away from radio installations, especially those with solar power, as it reduces the likelihood of any interference. I soon had a line over a tree branch and the station set up. I worked nine stations before I had no further callers.

I packed up and retraced my access route back to Tongio Gap Road, then headed south to reach the Great Alpine Road and on to Swifts Creek. I then headed out along Cassilis Road to Brookville Road and then up Mt Delusion Road. I then took Mt Delusion Track to its high point and found a spot to park. I noted that there has been extensive recent logging in the area near the summit.

Mount Delusion VK3/VG-026 1375 m 8 points plus winter bonus

I quickly set up the station away from the vehicle. I worked 12 stations, including Jim VK1RF in VKFF-1533, and Gavin VK2YAK and Richard VK2OKR in VKFF-1778.

I packed up and retraced my route back to the main road, then took Grassy Ridge Track to Dorothy Cutting, then onto the southern end of Boomerang Spur Track and then Baldhead Track to the next summit.

Mount Baldhead VK3/VG-027 1374 m 8 points plus winter bonus

I was again quickly set up. I worked 11 stations on 40 m SSB before I had no further responses to calls. I packed up and retraced my route back to Dorothy Cutting.

I decided to head south to Baldhead Road. I encountered a logging coupe with road closed signs, but the gates were wide open and I had no response when calling on the UHF CB. I proceeded through the edge of the logging area and was soon out the other side. I then followed Baldhead Road south and eventually made my way out to the Princes Highway. I stopped for some food at Stratford before continuing home, arriving at about 2030 local time. Another long day.

Summary

Over the week, I activated 22 SOTA summits and three new HEMA summits. 19 of the SOTA summits earned seasonal bonus points, with a total of 237 Activator points earned. Thanks to all the stations who responded to my calls.

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