A last gasp attempt for a Complete

Late October 2022

I had almost given up hope of achieving a Complete for SOTA summit VK3/VE-079. A couple of weeks earlier, Warren VK3BYD and I arrived at the start of the access track to find large “Road Closed” signs. We choose to obey the signs and altered our plans for the day, as detailed in the previous blog. On my return home from that trip away, I found some important documents in the mail which ruled out the likely last possible attempt prior to the anticipated VK3 SOTA updates, likely to occur on 1 November 2022. I had an important appointment scheduled for me on 31 October in the morning. Warren was not available on the Friday and Saturday, but might be available on Sunday 30 October. The appointment meant the Sunday would be a very long day to get the summit and then drive home. I resolved that the opportunity would slip out of reach.

Mid-afternoon on Thursday 27 October, I received an email advising that the Monday appointment was deferred to Wednesday. I made contact with Warren to see if Sunday might be possible. By time he had responded, it was too late to start exploring options for permission to access the summit. On Friday morning, I attempted to make contact with the appropriate office of DELWP, leaving a message on the answering service. I also did some searching to explore what was happening with the access route.

I found that Glamour Hill Track was scheduled for fire prevention works, involving mulching a 20 m wide firebreak along the track. Later in the morning, I tried the general enquiry number for DELWP, and spoke with a very helpful lady based in Horsham. I explained my unusual quest, including helping her to find the track on the mapping system. I was advised that she would attempt to send a message in the right direction so that I might find someone with authority to consider my request for access permission.

A little after 1300 local, I received a phone call from an unknown mobile number, which I answered and found myself chatting with an officer from Forest Fire Management Victoria. I explained where and why I was hoping to reach, explaining that we had been out to attempt to reach the summit two weeks earlier and had obeyed the signs. I indicated that I fully appreciated that the answer to my request may well be in the negative. I explained that we were seeking permission to walk out along the track to reach the summit, to activate the summit and then return to the vehicle at the road closure. Verbal permission was granted!

By time I confirmed details with Warren, it was late afternoon. I started organising my gear so that I was ready for departure on Saturday morning.

On Saturday, I drove to Bairnsdale, Bruthen and on to Omeo. I then headed north to Mitta Mitta. I then decided to head around to Dartmouth for some tourist activity, watching the spilling of Dartmouth Dam. The site was impressive, as was the thunder of the water falling down the steep rock spillway. I decided against any radio activity other than occasionally chasing some other Activators at the odd times that I had mobile phone coverage. I then headed off to Wodonga for the night.

The impressive site at the foot of the rock spillway at Dartmouth Dam.

Sunday 30 October 2022

I once again met Warren at the Bakery in Tallangatta and he loaded his gear into my vehicle. We then headed east towards Corryong. Along the way, we received an SMS from Paul VK5PAS/7. I pulled into a logging road in the pines east of Shelley and parked the car, then switched off everything to remove the QRM from the vehicle electronics. We then waited our turn to call and work Paul in his Park before we resumed the trip. We headed east, then south on the Benambra – Corryong Road until we reached Gibb Range Road. We then followed Gibb Range Road around to the start of Glamour Hill Track to park.

VK3/VE-079 1262 m 8 points
VK3/HVE-029 Glamour Hill Track

We loaded up our rucksacks and headed south along the track. We noted that some vehicles had driven around the road block, but decided against driving down, as our permission was for us to walk to the summit. The track was in good condition all the way to the activation zone. The walk was around four kilometres each way, with a vertical climb each way of a little over 100 m. The approach took us just over an hour.

After checking the contour data on the GPS and confirming that we were well inside the summit Activation Zone, I selected a tree branch and soon had a line up to raise the centre of the doublet. I was soon on air calling without a Spot, as we had no mobile coverage. I called for several minutes without any responses. Warren then pulled out his satellite phone and posted a Spot. A couple of more minutes of calling resulted in my first caller. I soon had five contacts in the log on 40 m CW. I went QRT so that Warren could qualify the summit. As Warren was working callers, I grabbed his KX2, MFJ 40 m whip and counterpoise before walking back down the track to exit the AZ. I set up with the KX2 as a handheld and soon worked Warren for the Chase of the summit. I then walked back up to the rucksacks and to Warren. Warren called on 20 m CW for several minutes before he decided to go QRT. We were soon packed up and started the trip back to the car.

We took some brief pauses to admire the views to the west: Mount Cravensville Range, Mount Benambra, Granite Peak and Mount Bogong were all visible from within the old logging coupe through which the track ran.

We were back at the car about 70 minutes after we started the return journey. We then headed back out to the Benambra – Corryong Road. I decided to head south to reach Wild Boar Track. I mentally noted that the track sign at the intersection for Wild Boar Track was missing.

Looking back at the Glamour Hill Track summit from Gibb Range Road, north of the summit at the edge of a logging coupe.

We took Wild Boar Track out to reach our next summit. There were some rough sections and several large puddles along the way, but the underlying road surface was firm. I engaged 4WD once we reached the steeper section of the climb. We drove to the high point of the track and swung into the track to the trig to park beside the trig.

VK3/VE-029 Mount Sassafras 1588 m 10 points

We started unpacking gear at the tailgate of the vehicle and I managed to post a Spot that I was setting up. We started on a late lunch and soon had the antenna up. I set up a camp chair at the end of the feedline and was soon calling CQ. I worked six stations in nine minutes before I sent “QRX New Op” and swapped with Warren. I then finished my lunch while Warren was qualifying the summit. We then both hunted Bob VK2EG in a Park on 40 m SSB. I was just shutting down when Warren received an SMS, which saw me briefly back on 40 m CW to work Andrew VK2DA. We then packed up and started back down the track. I stopped a short distance down the track and Warren jumped out with my handheld radio. I continued about 100 m down the track until outside the AZ and called Warren from the VHF radio in the car, making a Chaser contact. Warren walked down to me before we started to real trip out.

The exit was uneventful – back to Benambra – Corryong Road, then north to the Murray Valley Highway, then back to Tallangatta. I dropped Warren at his car and gave him my thanks once again for his company and the Complete. I then headed back to Wodonga.

Monday was a wet day, spent undertaking some shopping and some other tasks for family. Tuesday was to be a trip back home, with the weather forecast for cold and very wet conditions.

Tuesday 1 November 2022

I had confirmation via email that the anticipated VK3 SOTA updates were expected to occur at 0000 UTC on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the forecast was very wet and cold conditions over much of the state, especially in the Alps.

I finally departed Wodonga at about 1030 local time and headed down the Hume Highway to Benalla, then south to Mansfield. I then drove around to the access route to the only summit for the day.

VK3/HVN-011 The Paps South Peak 671 m

Warren VK3BYD had activated this summit in April.

Access is usually straightforward: Take Paps Road off the Maroondah Highway. The only issue is that the road looks like a track across the farm paddock. Open and close the gates on either side of the farm paddock, then start the climb up the road towards the summits. You reach a marked fork, with a track to each of the north and south summits. A couple of hundred metres along the track to the south summit I found a tree across the road. I initially backed up and looked up the track to the north summit to see if there might be a track linking the two tracks – no such luck. I returned to the fallen tree and decided to clear the tree.

I had occasional drizzle. The battery chainsaw did the job, requiring a second battery. I need to cut two significant branches before cutting the trunk at the two edges of the track, plus in the middle of the cut section due to the mass of the truck. I soon had the pieces tossed over the downhill side of the track and proceeded to the south summit.

The rain cleared as I found a spot to park and set up. I soon had the doublet in the air and started calling on 40 m CW. I worked four stations, including Warren VK3BYD. I then tried SSB, working three stations before deciding to quit before the approaching rain squall arrived. I packed up and started back towards the track junction in increasingly heavy rain. Given the wet conditions, I decided against activating the SOTA summit on the north summit. Just as I jumped back into the car after closing the final gate, the rain intensity again increased and it started hailing.

A panoramic view from NE (L) around to SW from The Paps South Summit. Lots of heavy rain squalls….

The rest of the trip was wet but otherwise uneventful.

The activations on this trip were unusually short. Thanks to all who worked us during the activations. Thanks again to Warren for his company and for the opportunity to chase VK3/VE-079, which has now been retired from SOTA. I look forward to hopefully getting out to the replacement summit at some stage in the future.

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