Hotham SOTA Summit 2019 – Saturday

Saturday 2 February 2019

I was driving with Paul VK3HN and Leigh VK3SG as passengers today.

We drive east to Omeo, fill the fuel tank and then head towards Benambra and on to Sassafras Gap on the Benambra – Corryong Road.

VK3/VE-053 1405 m 8 points

At Sassafras Gap, we turn left onto Eustace Gap Road and drive about 3.7 km to an unnamed track heading SE. The track is a little rough and becoming overgrown, with regrowth in the middle and on the edges of the track. After another two kilometres (approximately), we swing around a dead fallen wattle tree to remain on faint track travelling along the ridge line. Along the way, we dodge several fallen branches and find a couple of small fallen trees to drive over. We managed to drive to close to the actual summit, well within the AZ. You will know the spot easily, as the track starts to drop steeply down to the NE.

As we were pulling up, others were calling CQ on 2 m FM from other summits, so we all quickly qualified the summit on 2 m FM. We set up the ZS6BKW antenna by tossing a line over tree branch at about 10 m and soon I was making contacts on 40 m CW.

I made sure that I climbed down the spur until outside the AZ to work Paul and Leigh, thus gaining a new Chaser Unique and a Complete for the summit and qualify the summit on CW.

We packed up, and returned to Sassafras Gap and then headed north to Wild Boar Track.

Mount Sassafras VK3/VG-029 1588 m 10 points

From the start of the track, it is about 8.2 km to reach the summit. The track passes within a couple of metres vertical of the summit and there is a track to the trig, allowing one to park on the summit.

I started on 40 m CW while Paul and Leigh started calling on 2 m FM. Eight stations were worked on CW, including a S2S with VK3ARH on The Twins VK3/VE-017. I also worked S2S with David VK3IL/p on VK3/VE-017 on 2 m FM.

We packed up and moved north to the junction with Zulu Creek Track and swung right to drop down the eastern side of the ridge line. We follow Wild Boar Track east and south, past Paddy Joy Track and on to the junction with Buenba Road. Here it is straight ahead through an open gate onto Mt Gibbo Track and climb up to the summit – the track is a subject to Seasonal Closure, thus a very long walk is required to gain the summit points with the seasonal bonus. The track is definitely 4WD, but most is easily navigated, with a few rough patches.

Mount Gibbo VK3/VG-004 1743 m 10 points

We quickly set up the squid pole to support the ZS6BKW and I was soon working Gerard VK2IO/3 on Mount Selwyn VK3/VE-049 for a S2S on 40 m CW. I moved up the band a couple of kilohertz and worked Bernard VK2IB/3 on VK3/VE-104 for another S2S. A little later, I worked Andrew VK1DA/3 for another S2S to Mt Selwyn.

Whilst we were working stations, a woman walked back up to the summit advising that they had a flat tyre just down the hill and requested that we keep an eye out for them as we exited the summit – we had spoken to the couple back at the last track junction and again when they reached to summit.

Next in the log was Ron VK3AFW/p on Blue Rag Range VK3/VE-015 on 2 m FM, followed by Glenn VK3YY/p on Mt Nunniong VK3/VG-011, followed by some other members of that party.

Gibbo_PaulVK3HN

Paul VK3HN operating 2 m FM on Mt Gibbo

This was a new Activator unique and thus Complete summit for me.

We packed up and started to descend towards the east. As we were descending slowly, we could see the couple’s vehicle climbing the next spur ahead of us. The descent was slow, with a rocky surface and some rocky steps and holes to negotiate.

I caught up with the other vehicle and they pulled over to allow us to pass. We stopped beside them to discuss plans. They had been planning to attempt to exit via Tom Groggin and Thredbo. As they had no spare tyre, I suggested that they consider heading back to Omeo, as the first places in NSW which may be able to help was probably Khancobin or Jindabyne. We advised of our plans and wished them luck.

We continued on and swung onto Mt Anderson Track and on towards Mount Hope Road.

Mount Hope VK3/VG-014 1559 m 10 points

I parked off the side of the road at the high point of the spur running south west off the summit – a shallow saddle. We loaded up the gear and started the climb to the summit, finding and following animal track – probably formed by brumbies. On our visit, there was evidence of a vehicle having parked off the east side of the road on the grassy area. Veer slightly to the left as you start to walk east and you will spot several tracks – simply navigate up the “best” one heading up the spur line. There were a number of small diversions around fallen timber, but we were easily able to pick up a suitable track quickly. We took a few short breaks during the climb, as it was a warm afternoon, with temperatures around 30 degrees.

After some discussion about our altitude, Paul and I continued a little further uphill until I was above the 1540 m contour and we found a small clearing with a nice log for a seat. Leigh had stopped a little lower down the spur, just above the AZ boundary. He was feeling the effects of the heat and altitude.

We set up the link dipole with a squid pole. First in the log was David VK3IL/p on Brumby Hill VK3/VG-012 for a S2S on 2 m FM. I started calling on 40 m CW and soon had four contacts in the log. I packed up the HF gear and Paul and I walked back down to re-join Leigh just above the AZ boundary.

A string of S2S contacts followed on 2 m FM with the VK3IL et al. group having arrived at Mt Pendergast VK3/VG-022. I also headed down the hill a bit further to work Paul VK3HN still inside the AZ to chase the summit.

Once everyone had the summit qualified and we had no more chasers, we headed back down to the car to head back to Hotham. I disturbed a snake as we were descending – I heard a rattle in the undergrowth and saw the snake retreating into the low scrub. Probably a black snake, about 80 cm or so long. We safely made it back to the car and headed south west along Mt Hope Road and on to Benambra, Omeo and up to Hotham.

We drove up to the Mt Hotham summit – Brian has arranged to have the gate open. I did not bother to make any contacts, as I shall attempt to make a visit during the bonus season. The discussions started about the day’s activities. Some were busy activating the summit, including working Gerard and Compton across on VK3/VE-030 and some working Andrew VK3JBL who had ventured up to Mt Torbreck VK3/VN-001.

At around 1930 local, we all loaded up into the vehicles and headed back to the ski lodge or direct to the General Store for a drink and a meal.

After all had eaten, we retired to the ski lodge for more discussion and drinks, including some planning for the following day.

A good day: a new Chaser Unique, two new Activator Uniques and three Completes, with a total of 38 points for the day. I could have added another 10 points by activating Mt Hotham, but will save it for the bonus season.

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Hotham SOTA Summit 2019 – the trip to Hotham

The fourth Hotham SOTA Summit had been organised and it was time to head up the hill.

Friday 1 February 2019

I was underway at a reasonable time and drove to Dargo and on up the Dargo High Plains Road, reaching my first target summit AZ before UTC rollover. Along the way, there were a couple of signs about fired in the region and a notice to observe Road Closed signs – advice that I intended to follow.

VK3/VT-018 1393 m 8 points

The Dargo High Plains Road conveniently passes through the activation zone (AZ), so one simply needs to park at the edge of the road and set up away from the vehicle.

I quickly set up the station with a line over a tree branch to lift the antenna. I had very marginal mobile phone coverage and saw a spot for a BV station on 20 m CW. I listened for several minutes, but signals were rarely above the noise and unworkable. I checked the Spots and soon had VK1AD/p on VK1/AC-048, plus Gerard VK2IO/3 and Compton VK2HRX/3 on VK3/VE-009 in the log for S2S contacts. I moved up the band slightly to work Geoff VK3SQ and thus had the summit qualified, all on 80 m SSB. I moved to 40 m CW and spotted myself. I had five contacts in the log on CW in less than 10 minutes, including a second with Gerard VK2IO/3 – a new band counted for Gerard towards qualifying the Alpine National Park. I moved up to 40 m SSB to work two more callsigns and then worked Andrew VK1AD/p again on the new day. I finished off by working Tony VK1VIC/p on VK1/AC-040 for another S2S.

I had plenty in the log and no more callers, so packed up and resumed the trip north along the Dargo High Plains Road. I reached Ritchie Road and saw no closure sign, so turned on to Ritchie Road to work my way around to White Timber Spur South Track.

White Timber VK3/VE-060 1375 m 8 points

I drove up the track to the high point of the spur, well inside the AZ. The track is rough – definitely 4WD country. I had no phone coverage, so was unable to spot. I came up on 40 m CW and soon worked Steve VK7CW, who indicated that he would spot me – Thanks Steve! I soon had another two CW contacts in the log. Several CQ calls went unanswered, so I tried 40 m SSB. Ian VK5IS answered, followed several minutes later by Compton VK2HRX/3, now on Mt Gibbo VK3/VG-004 for a S2S. Gerard also came up on voice, but was happy to make the contact on CW, giving me my fourth CW contact. I heard Geoff VK3SQ calling me blind, but he did not answer my calls. I also answered Adrian VK5FANA, but had no responses. I worked Andrew VK1AD/p on VK1/AC-048 for another S2S before I moved down to 80 m for several more contacts on SSB, including Geoff VK3SQ.

I packed up and retraced my route back to Ritchie Road and turned westward towards Basalt Knob. The entire length of Ritchie Road travelled was in reasonable condition and could be negotiated by a 2WD vehicle with good clearance. There are two creek crossings to be completed.

Basalt Knob VK3/VE-039 1512 m 10 points

I parked the car and walked a short distance up the hill to be inside the AZ and set up the station. Once again, I had marginal phone coverage. Glenn VK3YY/p was spotted and I soon had him in the log from Sam Hill VK3/VG-049, followed a couple of minutes later by Allen VK3ARH/p on Mt Wombat VK3/VU-002. I dropped down to 40 m CW and soon had four contacts in the log. I returned to 40 m SSB for one more caller before I tried SSB, working three callers. With no more callers, I again packed up and returned to the car.

I retraced my route east a short distance to Basalt North Track, which quickly become quite rough – definitely 4WD only. On reaching Blue Rag Range Track, I decided that I had time to head out to the Blue Rag Range trig.

Blue Rag Range VK3/VE-015 1717 m 10 points

As I was approaching the final steep climb onto the summit, there was a flurry of activity on 2 m FM. On reaching the summit, I jumped out with the handheld and soon had Ken VK3KIM/p on Mt Porepunkah VK3/VE-098 and Glenn VK3YY/p on Mt Livingstone VK3/VG-045 for S2S. Next I quickly draped a HF antenna across the tops of the snow gums to work Paul VK3HN/p on The Hump VK3/VE-019 on 40 m CW. Next were calls on 2 m FM from Rik VK3EQ/m and Brian VK3BCM. I returned to 40 m CW, working five more calls, including VK2IO/3 mobile whistling CW into the microphone!

BlueRagRange20190201s

The view to the east from Blue Rag Range trig.

I packed up and retraced my route back along Blue Rag Range Track to head to Hotham. Only a few minutes after leaving the summit, I worked Allen VK3ARH/p, now on VK3/VE-178. The Track was quite rough from the junction with Basalt North Track back to the Dargo High Plains Road, with some steep spoon drains, large holes and very rocky areas. I decided against activating Mount Blue Rag – it is a short distance from the Dargo High Plains Road and can be easily reached outside the seasonal road closure period.

I drove north to the Great Alpine Road and turned east to climb up to Mount Hotham and around to the ski lodge. I unload some things a start to settle into the lodge. Later in the afternoon, I worked Rik VK3EQ/p on VK3/VE-023 and Phil VK3BHR/p on VK3/VE-006, both on 2 m FM. There was lots of discussions and planning during the evening. I end up with two wishing to join my planned trip for Saturday.

It had been a good day, having activated two 8-point and two 10-point summits, so 36 Activator points for the day.

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Kurth Kiln Regional Park

Australia Day public holiday 2019 – Monday 28 January 2019

On Sunday afternoon, I finally got around to looking at the feed impedance of a home-made ZS6BKW doublet antenna. I constructed the antenna using some stainless steel multi-strand wire (about 2 mm OD) for the doublet section and some 450 ohm balanced line for the feeder section. I used a terminal block to connect the two sections together along with three 3D printed antenna “egg” insulators.

I set the antenna up in the backyard and connected the antenna analyser. The antenna is designed to be resonant in the 20 m band and usually allows operation on 40, 20, 17, 12 and 10 m amateur bands.

Initial measurement showed resonance at 13.8 MHz, so the total length was too long. This was expected, as I had cut the balanced line section long to allow for trimming: nothing worse than cutting a balanced feed too short – better to cut long and them trim back to adjust to the length required.

After adjustment, I saw resonance at around 14.180 MHz – close enough for initial use. I rolled the antenna onto a couple of winders and stored it in the vehicle.

I was a little slow getting going on Monday morning. I worked Peter VK3ZPF/p in Great Otway National Park VKFF-0405 and then started getting organised.

I decided to head for a Park that I have driven through a few times, about 100 minutes to the west of home.

Kurth Kiln Regional Park VKFF-0971

I had stopped once previously in this Park, down near the Kirth Kiln Picnic Ground. It was a couple years ago, on a week day afternoon and HF conditions were terrible. 20 minutes of calling yielded NO responses, so I gave up and headed on to a late afternoon engagement.

This time I decided to head for Egg Rock, Beenak. The approach was straightforward – head towards Gembrook and then turn into Beenak East Road and on to Egg Rock Track. Only one issue – the target track has no sign and does not show on the in-car GPS mapping…. As I passed the hard left junction, I thought “That is probably Egg Rock Track”. The heavy gate was open. I continued a short distance to Ash Landing Road to turn around and head back to the corning. I drove up the track to spot a vehicle parked at the base of the fire-watch and communications tower and drove around to the NW corner of the cleared area. I stopped and greeted the fire watch person atop the tower and indicated I intended to “play radio” for an hour or two. I got a positive response, so started to set up the antenna – the ZS6BKW.

I tossed a line over a tree branch at about 10 m and strung out the antenna. Due to the length of the open feed line, I moved the vehicle a little further away and set up on the tailgate, using the IC-7300 connected to the secondary battery in the vehicle.

kurthkilnrp_sign

The Park sign, showing some damage from “shooters”

eggrockstation

My station at Egg Rock

I switched on at around 0015Z, and heard Liz VK2XSE/p in the middle of a contact. I listened for a couple of minutes and missed Liz when I called – a stronger station had drowned me out. I checked ParksnPeaks on the ‘phone and saw that Peter VK3ZPF was still on air, so moved up the band and soon had a Park to Park (P2P) in the log – Peter VK3ZPF/p in Great Otway National Park VKFF-0405. I moved back down to 7.144 MHz and soon had Liz in the log from Mudjarn Nature Reserve VKFF-2674.

I moved back up to 7.155 MHz, as Peter VK3ZPF had advised that he was about to close. Peter also spotted me, but it was slow going after a couple of initial callers. It took 15 minutes of calling to raise the next contact! After another 15 minutes of calling, I moved down to 40 m CW and spotted myself, resulting in five callsigns in the log in the next few minutes. I then went back to 7.144 MHz to find the frequency unused, so spotted myself there and started calling. Contacts were again sparse, with lots of calling and few replies. Was it the antenna or conditions? It seems probably conditions and by now it was in the middle of the lunch break time…. I worked Peter VK2KNV/m and Liz VK2XSE/m, now headed back towards home, with a 200 km trip in front of them. I continued calling until around 0150Z, when I moved up to 20 m SSB. Lots of calling gave no results in 15 minutes, so I tried CW lower down the band. This move yielded three contacts from SE Queensland. I then tried 17 m, spotting myself once again. Nick VK3ANL responded and we worked SSB and then CW on the same frequency. I changed back to SSB but saw a signal on the spectrum scope, so went back to CW and soon had John VK4TJ in the log on 17 m. John also called back on SSB, so the contact tally was starting to rise.

I then tried 15 m SSB, again working John VK4TJ on voice followed by CW. Just after 0300, I moved up to 12 m, not really expecting any responses. I soon had Scott VK4CZ in the log, followed by a little while later by John VK4TJ on CW, together with Nick VK3ANL. Nick was actually contact number 45, so the Park was finally qualified at 0319Z, three hours after I switched on. I was about to spot myself on 10 m when I saw a spot for Ian VK1DI/2 in a new Park, so changed back to 40 m SSB to work Ian from Oakdale Nature Reserve VKFF-2694. After working Ian, I moved up to 7.155 MHz and worked the last few contacts, finishing off with Paul VK5PAS and Marija VK5FMAZ.

I shut down at 0400Z and started to pack up. I had 54 contacts in the log. I believe that the antenna was performing adequately, as several others reported on the patchy propagation and rapid, deep QSB on the bands. One nice feature of the IC-7300 is the voice memory, so one can call CQ lots of times by simply pressing the correct “button”….

Whilst packing up the antenna, I felt something odd on my neck. I swept my neck with my hand and found a stick insect on my hand. I dropped it on the ground and took a couple of photos using the phone before resuming the pack up.

eggrockstickinsect

The stick insect

eggrockview

A view through the trees near the operating position

After ensuring that I had left no trace, I started the trip home. It was a little slower and dustier than the approach, as I ran into a group of 4WD vehicles part way back down the route. Slow and steady until I reached the bitumen, when they stopped and allowed me to pass.

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Next steps in VKFF Awards

I have been making slow progress in increasing my tallies of unique Parks worked/hunted and activated in the World Wide Flora and Fauna Awards. In the local Award scheme, the steps come in 25 unique Park/Reference increments once you get past the named steps and start working up the Honour Roll levels.

VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1350 references hunted/worked

The biggest contributor for me for the latest certificate / step was a trip made recently by Peter VK3TKK into East Gippsland. Peter dropped in for a coffee and chat on his way east and we discussed his plans and some options. Most of the time during his several days of activating, he was weak on 40 m, but Peter usually also activated on 80 m – where I was able to work him every time. I worked Peter in 22 references on his trip, of which 10 were the first time I had hunted the reference. Several were the first time the reference had been activated.

Of course, there were others who also contributed to my Hunter tally, so a big thank you to all the Activators that I have worked.

vk3pf vkff hunter honour roll 1350

VKFF Honour Roll 1350 references worked

VKFF Activator Honour Roll 175 references activated

This is one where I am more in control: I am the activator and need to ensure that I make at least 10 contacts from each reference activated for the activation to count for the VKFF award scheme. I have activated from a few more references, but some of them (especially those activated several years ago when I was unaware of WWFF and was working towards the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award) have less than 10 contacts made. I must get around to visiting some of those Parks again…..

A big thank you to all the chasers/hunters who have called me when I have been out activating.

vk3pf vkff activator honour roll 175

VKFF Activator Honour Roll certificate 175 references activated

As always, special thanks to VKFF National Coordinator Paul VK5PAS and to all the other team members who enable all of this activity and provide the system which records the contacts.

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Won Wron Flora Reserve

Saturday 19 January 2019

After a week of hot weather, I decided to head out to activate a Park about an hour’s drive away. But first I had some domestic tasks to complete. I was finally on the road a little before UTC rollover on Saturday morning, after having posted an Alert on ParksnPeaks.

I arrived on site a little before 0100Z and found a spot to set up inside the Park boundary.

Won Wron Flora Reserve VKFF-2488 Not previously activated

vkff-2488_view

Looking east of south from the operating site

I was located only about 10 m inside the Park boundary, having driven a short distance down a rough track and parked the vehicle. I tossed a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole and set up with the radio on the tailgate of the vehicle. I was in partial shade for the first 40 minutes or so.

Once set up, I checked the Spots and listened around for a couple of stations without success. I made a number of calls trying to work John VK3CU/p and Vicki VK3LT/p in Alpine National Park. I spotted myself and started calling. Several minutes later, I had a call from Paul VK5PAS on 40 m SSB. After a short chat with Paul, I started to log Gerard VK2IO, but I did something wrong and had to wait while Port-a-log restarted….. Operator error! The next 10 minutes saw another 8 contacts in the log, all on 40 m SSB, then nothing. I continued calling, but gave up and moved to 40 m CW. The next 20 minutes saw 7 more contacts – slow going. I returned to 40 m SSB to work another six stations over the next ten minutes. With no further responses, I decided to try 20 m for a while. But before I started calling, I erected a sun shade structure at the rear of the vehicle, as it was getting to be quire hot in the sun.

Ten minutes of calling yielded only three callsigns in the log before I tried 20 m CW, yielding another three callsign – actually the same three calls, but now on CW after the SSB contacts!

I moved down to 80 m, after running out the extensions of the antenna. I worked Geoff VK3SQ and heard Compton VK2HRX. Compton could not hear my responses, so I returned to 40 m SSB to make the contact. After several minutes of calling with a few responses, I tried 30 m, using the antenna in an offset feed arrangement. The tuner seemed to cope and I worked three stations over about 20 minutes of calling. I returned to 40 m SSB with a very low response rate until Ken VK3UH called me, about 3 hours and 20 minutes after I started calling at the start of the activation. After a chat on 40 m SSB, we tried several different bands. It took us a few minutes on some band changes, but I soon had Ken in the log on a total of five different bands. The total was now up to 45 contacts – Park finally qualified!

I started to pack up and then headed back out to the main road and made my back to the main road and then on to home. It had been a long day!

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Four Parks west of Bairnsdale

6 January 2019

The weather forecast for the day looked reasonable, expected to reach into the mid-20s but fine. There was a large bushfire southeast of Rosedale which was reported as affecting 11,000 hectares of land, including a significant portion of the Holey Plains State Park VKFF-0758. There was a “Watch and Act” warning extending to Longford in the east and south to Gormandale, Willung and Stradbroke.

I had unfinished VKFF business to the west of Bairnsdale, with VKFF-2045 Bengworden Nature Conservation Reserve activated last year late one afternoon with poor band conditions and thunderstorms nearby. On that activation, I only made 10 contacts, so needed another 34 contacts to bring the Park up to WWFF qualification.

I travelled from home to Rosedale for a quick stop at the Bakery to grab a salad roll for lunch, then eastwards to Fulham and then on to Perry Bridge, Meerlieu and Bengworden before turning west on Boundary Road to get to the Park boundary.

Bengworden Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2045

There is a locked gate near the eastern end of the boundary fence. I parked near the gate and unloaded the gear required from the car: folding chair, KX2, antenna, coax, battery and a line & weight to toss over a tree branch. After climbing over the fence, I walked in around 100 m to a suitable spot and began setting up.

bengwordenncr

The Bengworden NCR from the operating position

I was ready to be on air by around 0040 and saw a spot on 40 m SSB for Peter VK3ZPF on a SOTA summit in a Park. I soon had Peter in the log for a Park to Park contact. I then spotted myself on 7.135 MHz and started calling. By 0110Z I had another 22 contacts in the log, including another Park to Park with Adam VK2YK/p.

I then reconfigured the antenna for 20 m and soon had Rob VK4AAC/p in a Park in the log. I also worked a VK7 and three more VK4 stations on 20 m SSB.

I noticed a SOTA spot on 40 m, so swapped back down to work VK/9V1RT on Mount Perisher. I returned to 7.135 MHz and spotted again, working another six stations in the next 10 minutes. Then I had no more callers…. I checked the Port-a-log Summary – 35 contacts in the log, so I decided to close the station and move on to the next Park.

Once loaded up into the car, I headed east back along Boundary Road to Bengworden Road, then north to Leathams Road and into the next Park.

Moormurng Flora and Flora Reserve VKFF-2391 Not previously activated

moornurngffr

The Moormurng FFR sign

I entered the Park and carefully drove along the track – muddy sections, deep ruts and potholes in places required some care. I drove across towards the western boundary and found a spot to set up. I again tossed a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole centre. This time I set up at the rear of the Ranger, using the tailgate as an operating table and choosing the IC-7300 connected to the auxiliary battery.

With the Sunday morning amateur radio news broadcasts now over, I started on 7.144 MHz, less than an hour after the last contact in the previous Park. Gerard VK2IO was first in the log. Next was Compton VK2HRX followed by Neil VK4HNS/p in VKFF-2552. In just over 30 minutes, I had 30 contacts in the log. I moved up to 20 m SSB and worked eight contacts in the next 15 minutes. 20 m CW brought four more contacts. I moved down to 40 m CW and worked another 6 contacts. The Summary showed 48 contacts – Park qualified. I packed up and made my way out to Redcourt Lane and north to the Princes Highway, then west to Lindenow-Glenaladale Road. I travelled north to Lindenow South and then west and southwest along Fernbank-Lindenow South Road. At the rail crossing, you head straight ahead onto Cowells Lane for a short distance to reach the next Park.

Saplings Morass Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2434 Not previously activated

This small Park requires a little care to ensure that you are inside the official Park boundary. The setup here was basically the same as in the previous Park.

saplingsmorassfr

Saplings Morass Flora Reserve

I was on air and calling in just under an hour after closing at the last Park. Robert VK3DN was the first to respond to my calls on 7.144 SSB. In 25 minutes I had 30 stations in the log, all on 40 m SSB. The day was moving on and I decided to call it quits and move to the fourth target for the day without trying any other bands or modes. Access to this Park is relatively simple, so I can return on another trip to East Gippsland.

I returned to Fernbank-Lindenow South Road and headed to Fernbank and then south to the Princes Highway. I crossed the Highway onto Sargoods Road and then turned east onto the access track which runs parallel to the Highway. The track was very soft and sandy – it looks as if it has been ploughed to help form a fire break. I engaged 4WD and took it gently. About 700 m along the track I found an open old rusty gate into the Reserve. I carefully backed into the gate opening so that the rear half of the vehicle was inside the boundary. I set up in a similar manner as the previous two Parks – a line over a branch and the IC-7300 on the tailgate.

The Billabong Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2449 Not previously activated

The areas of the Reserve close to the boundary are quite thickly covered in bracken for most of the area, then thick saplings/brush closer to the lagoon area. Those without a 4WD might park closer to the Billabong Roadhouse and walk in along the boundary track to find a spot to set up inside the boundary fence.

thebillabongffr

The Billabong FFR from standing on the tailgate

I spotted myself and soon had Geoff VK3SQ in the log, less than 40 minutes after the last contact at Saplings Morass. In 25 minutes, I had 28 calls in the log. A pleasant surprise was being called by Matilda operating VI25AJ, the Australian Jamboree station at Tailem Bend. I moved to 40 m CW and worked seven stations, inkling Andrew VK2PEZ, who made his first on air CW contact.

I moved to 20 m to make another ten contacts, four of them on CW. Among the last of the contacts was Chris VK1CT in VKFF-0842.

I ended up with 47 contacts in the log. I packed up and headed for home, noting the wide spread of smoke plumes rising from the Rosedale bushfire.

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VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1325

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had applied for the VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1325 certificate.

I know that VKFF coordinator Paul VK5PAS has been busy, including some very long days at his workplace. SO I was happy to wait for Paul to find the time and energy to create the next level certificate.

Once again, Paul has used another terrific photo taken in an Australia Park for the certificate.

As always, big thanks to the following:

  • VKFF Coordinator Paul VK5PAS.
  • All the Activators getting out there in great outdoors to activate Parks.
  • All the State Coordinators, who process all the logs.

It can sometimes be a challenge to catch the Activators. Local noise masking signals, timing of activations, and challenging propagation conditions (often the lack of propagation!) all introduce challenges. Trying multiple bands – even 80 m in the middle of the day – can help some Hunters. Posting an Alert on ParksnPeaks prior to heading out also helps Hunters to expect your activation. Posting a Spot on ParksnPeaks once you are on air gives the Hunter a clear signal that you are there. Other “spotting” on other sites may help the Activator to the spread the news of their activity (e.g. one of the FaceBook groups), but remember that such sites are NOT the primary tool: ParksnPeak in VK/ZL for WWFF and SOTAwatch for SOTA. If you have poor or no phone coverage, then ask the Hunters to Spot you – you will eventually get one who can help you out. Posting an Alert and Spotting not only helps the Hunter, it also helps you as the Activator.

Yes, I know that I sometimes forget to post an Alert….. None of us are perfect!

Cheers,

Peter VK3PF

VK3PF - VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1325

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Great Yambla Ridge

New Year’s Day 2019

Local New Year’s Day in Australia is a day for the SOTA operator to consider options carefully…. The SOTA Rules for Activating and Chasing are based on the UTC and UTC year. Given that UTC midnight occurs at 1100 local time in VK1, VK2 and VK3, an Activator can plan to be out on a summit earlier in the morning. As long as you make contact with at least four different callsigns before 1100 AEDT, and then four callsigns after 1100 AEDT, then you can gain the points for the chosen summit twice with only one activation – once for the year just gone, and for the New Year. Many SOTA Activators plan to use this provision in the rules. I heard on-air that around 40 Activators in VK and ZL had posted Alerts to operate on a SOTA summit across the critical time on 1 January 2019.

I had considered my options. An obvious choice would be to head to a summit with high points value that you were unlikely to Activate during the Seasonal Bonus period (Winter in VK3). I had been looking at some as yet unactivated summits in the North East of Victoria and southern New South Wales. In the end, I decided on a new summit and posted an Alert on Monday afternoon.

Great Yambla Ridge VK2/RI-018 656 m 2 points Not previously activated
Benambra National Park VKFF-0029

This summit had been on my RADAR for some time. Although it earns only 2 points, the activation zone extends into the Benambra National Park. The summit location is on private property, so permission is needed to activate the summit. The National Park is surrounded by private property, so members of the public need landowner permission to cross the private land to access the National Park. I believe that the Park had only been activated twice prior to my activation.

I had been examining the mapping to seek information over several months. Earlier in the year, I took a short detour up towards the area of the summit to see if I could find additional information that might be useful. I drove to the gate of a property that looked likely to provide access and noted the details on the sign. Back at home, I conducted a web search and found an email address. In the week prior to heading to Wodonga for this visit, I sent an email to the address explaining a little about myself and SOTA, with a request that I might be allowed to cross the property to access the summit. A day or two later, I received a phone call advising that access would probably be granted. I would need to make contact before I left Wodonga and all should be okay.

I rang the number in the morning as I was about to leave Wodonga and left a message when I got to the message bank – it was relatively early on New Years Day. Under an hour later and I was on site but could find nobody around the sheds as agreed. I moved up to the houses, took a punt and walked up to the obvious open door. Again, no signs of movement, perhaps not surprising on New Year’s day morning a little before 0900 local…. I called out “knock, knock” and waited. A few minutes later and I was chatting with a person in a dressing gown. I apologised for waking them. Soon all was sorted – I had discussed my preferences and proposed route was confirmed. I thanked to farmer and headed off to drive up the farm tracks to the summit.

There were a couple of gates to open and close, plus a couple which were open. The track was in reasonable state for most of the climb, with a few rougher areas. I reached the area of the summit – only about 50 m from the “high” point of a flat hilltop. I then moved back down the track to the boundary fence with the National Park and assessed my options for an operating site.

opsitegreatyamblaridge

Operating site: Blue is the Park area, red is area below the Activation Zone

I set up using a squid pole lashed to a corner post on the fence, the folding table and chair, all inside the Park boundary as required by the WWFF Rules. I was also well inside the SOTA Activation Zone – I estimate only 5 or 6 metres below the actual summit.

station at vk2_ri-018

The station set up beside the fence post, inside the National Park

As expected, things rapidly became a little hectic. With so many Activators on air, it becomes difficult to try to catch the other Activators.

I was on air by approximately 2245Z. When I turned on the radio, I could hear a contact in progress. I waited to call the Activator. My first calls were drowned out by louder stations, but I soon got through and had my first Summit to Summit (S2S) for the day in the log – Leigh VK3SG/p.

With the help of the SOTAwatch website, I tried listening for various Activators, bagging two more before 2300Z. I then Spotted on 7.144 MHz and soon had 10 more in the log. I now had both the summit qualified for SOTA and the Park qualified for VKFF.

When I had no more callers, I started chasing other Activators. I tried a listening for some of the ZL stations on 20 m without success. I did work John VK6NU/p on VK6/SW-039. I dropped back to 40 m to work Mitch Vk7XDM/p and Rik Vk3EQ/7, both on VK7/WC-013 in VKFF-0347. I continued chasing others, bagging Geoff ZL3GA on ZL3/OT-478 on 20 m SSB and Justin VK7TW/p on VK7/CH-057 on 40 m.

After 0000Z, I tried calling for a while with few responses. Back in chaser mode with some band changes, I managed a few more S2S contacts. I also had several unsuccessful calls to Activators on voice – the rig was only outputting 5 W due to the temperature.

I saw Ian VK5CZ/p spotted, so moved to 40 m CW to work Ian, followed by Andrew VK1DA/2. I then moved up a small way and spotted and soon had the summit qualified on CW. I continued with a mix of chasing others and spotting and calling.

My last contact was logged at 0213Z, by which time it was getting very warm – into the low 30s.

I had 51 contacts in the log, with 34 S2S contacts and 19 Park to Park contacts.

I packed up and headed back down the track. I took a short detour to the local trig point to have a look – the trig is in poor condition, located on a knoll lower than the summit.

I made my way back down to the road and drove back to Wodonga.

A new SOTA Activator Unique and a new VKFF reference qualified to WWFF level.

The farmer gave me permission to pass on contact details for any others wishing to activate the summit. Contact me direct for the details.

Summary of results for the day:

34 S2S contacts for 160 S2S points
156 Chaser points
4 Activator points

19 Park to Park contacts

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Four summits along Buffalo Range

Sunday 30 December 2018

Saturday was a quiet day, although I did venture out to a local recreation reserve in the afternoon to work Compton VK2HRX/3 on Mt Tabletop. I could not hear Compton on 40 m SSB on the mobile whip and started to set up the portable antenna. I sent a text message asking if 80 m was possible. I almost had the antenna up when Compton signified that he was calling. I could hear him, but it was difficult with band noise. I messaged back indicating the antenna was almost up and finished the installation, changed the antenna connections to the radio and then worked Compton comfortably. It was hot in Wodonga – the high 30s.

Sunday morning I decided to head to the hills, given that high 30s were again forecast. I posted an Alert without checking my notes, posting the reference for the second target summit, not the first…. I left Wodonga at around 0900 local and headed south to Porepunkah and then down the Buckland Valley Road. After crossing the narrow road bridge, I started the climb up Goldie Spur Track to Buffalo Gap, enjoying the views across to the South Face of the Mount Buffalo Plateau when I had the chance. Goldie Track was easy to negotiate. At Buffalo Gap I turned south onto Yarrabuck Track, which became a little rougher and steeper in places, with large spoon drains.

VK3/VE-078 (unnamed) 1262 m 8 points

Yarrabuck Track crosses the summit at about 4.6 km from Buffalo Gap.

There is a large cleared area on the summit with some impressive trees and great views to the east. I noticed the Alert error and deleted the incorrect Alert and posted a new one. I set up by tossing a line over a branch and hauling up the link dipole and set up the folding table and chair. I spotted myself for 40 m CW and had four in the log within 20 minutes – a little slow, but the summit was now qualified. I moved up the band for SSB and searched around for a clear frequency – between groups and amateur News broadcast stations, 40 m is often busy on Sunday mornings. I spotted myself and had four in the log inside five minutes, then no responses to calls, so I dropped down to 80 m SSB for only one caller. I moved up to 20 m SSB and soon worked John ZL1BYZ and heard Warren ZL2AJ/m call me. I called Warren several times but he did not respond. Next in the log was John VK4TJ. After several minutes of calling, I saw a Spot from Andrew VK3ARR/p on VK3/VC-032 on 40 m, so dropped back down to 40 m and made the S2S contact. I then worked Mark VK4SMA/p in Springbrook Conservation Park before I packed up and resumed the journey south.

A new Activator Unique and a Complete for me.

The rest of the track heading south was a little rougher in places: in addition to the usual spoon drains, there were some rough rocky and rutted sections.

The next summit was just under 9 km further along Yarraback Track.

VK3/VE-099 (unnamed) 1183 m 6 points

view north to buffalo

Looking north towards the Mt Buffalo Plateau

 

The summit has a little space beside the track. I set up in a similar fashion to the previous summit and looked at SOTAwatch before I spotted myself. I saw that Dan ZL4DVG was on a summit on 40 m CW. I tuned to his frequency and could hear him 539 and called him a couple of times without any response. I moved up a little in frequency and spotted myself for 40 m CW. In about 12 minutes I had 5 contacts in the log – summit qualified. I moved up the band and spotted for SSB. I worked six stations in less than 10 minutes. It was now after 1300 local time, so I packed up and moved on.

A new Activator Unique for me.

I continued south and on to Buffalo Range Track. About 5 km south of the last summit, I could see the old track up to the next summit. A new track contours around the summit on the eastern side. The old track looked quite rough and steep, so I decided to check the southern side. About one kilometre on I reached the southern end of the old track, which looked somewhat over grown and some fallen timber. I parked the car and loaded up the rucksack.

VK3/VE-086 (unnamed) 1220 m 8 points

The climb to the summit was around 500 m horizontally and about 100 m vertical climb, taking just over 30 minutes. I set up and worked Mark VK4SMA/p, now in Nerang National Park. I moved down the band and spotted for 40 m CW. I had a steady stream of callers, working 8 stations in around 20 minutes, including Andrew VK3ARR/p on VK3/VC-007 for another S2S. I moved up the band and spotted on SSB, working nine stations in around 15 minutes.

I believe that this was the first activation of the summit on voice – from memory, the first activation was CW only.

A new Activator Unique and Complete for me.

I packed up and quickly descended to the car – only about 15 minutes for the downhill trip.

I loaded up the car and continued along Buffalo Range Track. The next summit was just over 7 km south and east.

VK3/VE-062 (unnamed) 1345 m 8 points

I again set up like the first two summits. I spotted for 80 m SSB and soon had Tony VK3CAT in the log. Eight minutes later, there were five in the log and no further callers. I moved up to 40 m CW and spotted. The next fifteen minutes or so saw another 10 contacts in the log. I also heard Geoff VK3SQ call me, but he did not respond to my calls.

I gave up calling at around 1630 local – the summit was well qualified on both CW and SSB and I had a long drive back to Wodonga in front of me.

A new Activator Unique and Complete for me.

I packed up and continued south. I took a chance and turned into Twin Creeks Road to descend to Mount Selwyn Road and on to Buckland River Road and eventually back to Porepunkah and then back to Wodonga.

Thanks to all who chased today. It was a busy day for me, gaining me four new Activator Uniques, three Completes and 30 Activator points.

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Mount Barandudah

28 December 2018

The heat wave was forecast to continue, with temperatures expected to reach around 40. I had a slow start to the day and checked the SOTA Alerts. I noted that Sid and Adele were due to be out in SE Queensland but what really caught my attention was that Sam VK2GPL was going to activate Mt Perseverance VK4/SE-024. I had activated this summit in April 2017 and I do not believe that anyone else had been there as yet, so this was a chance to bag a Complete.

I headed off just after 1100 local and headed around to Boyes Road and Burgess Lane. The two gates were open, saving short efforts in the heat to open and close the gates. I drove up Darmodys Track and Cobs Track to reach Baranduda Range Track. I stopped and quickly posted an Alert, but posted the wrong summit code – sorry folks! I then headed generally west. The tracks were more rutted than on my last visit with more exposed rocks and some quite rough sections. I made it through to track junction just before the Park boundary and parked close to the track junction.

Mount Baranduda VK3/VE-189 775 m 4 points
Baranduda Regional Park VKFF-0959

I set up with a line over a tree and the folding table and camp chair, with the KX2 to a LiFePO4 battery. I was about to spot myself when I saw that Sid and Adele were on air, as was Ian VK1DI/2. I opted to work Ian first and soon had a Park to Park in the log – Ian was in VKFF-0312. I had to look up the Park and Summit references whilst chatting with Ian. Ian offered the frequency to me, as he was about to close. I thanked Ian but declined, noting that I may come back after hopefully making contact with Adele VK4/ZS5APT & Sid VK4/ZS5AYC. I then moved down to 7.090 and waited my chance to join the pile up chasing Sid & Adele. I eventually made the contacts: 54 sent and 42 received from them both on VK4/SE-011. I am not sure if they were inside the Park or not…..

I then moved down to 40 m CW and spotted myself. Eleven minutes saw six contacts in the log. I saw a spot from Sam Vk2GPL/4, so moved up to his frequency and worked him on SSB on Mt Perseverance VK4/SE-024– a new Chaser Unique and Complete. I moved up the band to find Tony VK5FBIC in Anstey Hill recreation Park VKFF-1683. It was hard work, but we made the contact. I moved down to 7.135, spotted myself on SSB and started calling. 30 minutes of calling saw the tally grow to 30 stations. With that total and a Park to Park in the log, I decided to keep calling. The temperature was around 30, but the breeze was cooling and the sun was behind cloud most of the time. A short move to 20 m SSB bagged five contacts before a final push on 40 m SSB saw the total rise to 47 contacts. I packed up and headed back the way I had come and back to Wodonga. The pack up was a little warmer, as the sun broke through the clouds.

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