The weekend had been rather hectic. It started with a drive to Melbourne on Friday via Bayswater and then into Southern Cross Station in the heart of Melbourne to pick up Mum. We then travelled to Geelong for a family 21st Birthday celebration that evening.
Saturday saw a family visit in Geelong before driving to Ballarat, with a quick SOTA activation of Mount Bunninyong VK3/VC-018 before heading into Ballarat Central for a book launch: Henry Sutton The Innovative Man by Lorayne Branch. I met up with a couple of other amateurs at the launch for a chat. We then heading across to Sunbury to drop off a copy of the book over a coffee and more chatting before we headed for home.
Sunday started early with a drive into Morwell to the Eastern Zone Amateur Radio Club rooms to conduct a Special Assessment for an upgrade in licence. The candidate was successful, so the effort was worthwhile. We also attended a barbeque lunch at Boolarra before heading back home to relax.
Monday was a long drive via a slightly scenic route to reach Wodonga: Churchill to Nilma, Neerim South, Powelltown, Healesville, Alexandra, Bonnie Doon, Benalla and then up the Hume Highway. The route is a little longer in time and distance, but avoids the hassles of greater Melbourne. The wind was strong all day, so it was not a day for one of the routes over the mountains.
With the weather forecasting high temperatures later in the week, I opted to head for home on Tuesday.
Tuesday 4 December 2018
I departed Wodonga just after 0900 local time and headed roughly south: Yackandandah, Mudgegonga, Rosewhite, Ovens, Bright, Mount Hotham and on to Omeo for a break and to purchase some lunch. With clear skies, the views from the Great Alpine Road were excellent. Whilst stopped at Omeo, I posted an Alert for my first target summit. I then headed down the Great Alpine Road to Tongio, where I turned off onto Bindi Road and headed towards the Tambo Valley Golf Club on Nunniong Road.
Mount Hopeless VK3/VG-067 990 m 6 points
Mount Hopeless has only been activated once previously, by Brian VK3MCD in June 2017. I did not work Brian on that visit, but have spoken to him about the route that he used to access the summit. I took Brian’s route to the summit.
Opposite the entrance to the Tambo Valley Golf Club is the bottom of TVGC Track. The track rises moderately steeply, so I engaged 4WD from the start. The track climbs around 410 m vertically in 2.5 km. There are many large spoon drains, some with steep approaches. The surface is loose for most of the length, with some very steep sections with loose rocky surface. Definitely a track where one is glad that you had the suspension upgrade and lift kit installed. TVGC Track meets Mount Stawell Track at the top of the ridge line. Turn left to head towards the target. Mount Stawell Track is a smoother surface and you pass the turn off for the rest of Mount Stawell Track, into Mount Hopeless Track. Mount Hopeless Track passes within a metre vertical of top of the summit. I parked off the edge of the track and set up with a line over a tree branch to haul up the centre of the link dipole. I sent an SMS to Brian VK3BCM/VK3MCD that I was on the summit and setting up. I saw no visible trig or other marker on the summit.
I started on 7.032 MHz CW and worked Gerard VK2IO. After 10 minutes of calling on CW, I moved up to 7.090 SSB, spotted myself and started calling. Brett VK3FLCS was next in the log, followed a few minutes later by John VK4TJ. I worked John and then we worked again on CW. I returned to SSB, but several minutes of calling yielded no responses. I changed the antenna links to the 80 m configuration and spotted myself on 3.532 MHz CW. Next in the log was John VK2YW. Someone called me on CW just after I had answered the phone. I asked the caller to standby and I sent “?” and then completed the contact. Once home, I noticed that I had not entered the callsign! Brian had not heard my 80 m signal, so a quick link change was required to move back to 40 m. I moved to SSB on 7.090, where I worked Brian VK3BCM, giving him a Complete. I also worked Matt VK3FORD/m before moving to 80 m SSB. Next was back to 80 m SSB to work Geoff VK3SQ, who was not hearing me on 40 m. Further calls on 80 m yielded no responses, so I thought that I would try 20 m CW. I spotted myself and soon had Geoff ZL3GA in the log. With no more responses, I shut down and packed up. I had 10 in the log, 5 on CW and 5 on SSB, but with one callsign missing on CW. The summit was new Unique for me as an Activator.
Some maps of the area show Mount Hopeless Track heading steeply down towards Swifts Creek, but the track is not obvious on the satellite imagery. The Rooftop’s map shows the track stopping above the Swifts Creek repeater site. I decided to exit by following my route back to Mount Stawell Track and descend via that track. The Rooftop’s map shows it as steep in places. I had to stop part way down to remove some sections of a fallen tree – just enough to get past with care. At the bottom of the descent, I turned left into Commins Track to head north, and then left into Low Saddle Track to take me to Nunniong Road. This route worked fine – less steep overall and TVGC Track and overall a better surface. But 4WD is definitely needed to access this summit.
I headed south on Nunniong Road, passing the old timber winch and driving past Mount Nugong VK3/VG-018. Time was getting on and I wanted to try to reach another new summit for me. I continued on along Bentley Plain Road, passing Moscow Villa and the other structures within the Bentley Plain Natural Features Scenic Reserve. I continued in a southerly direction and then turned FDA Road, into Wong Log Road and then on to Mount Wong Track. I reached Ferntree Creek Track and checking the map indicated a short distance of westward travel was required to resume travelling on Mount Wong Track. The southern section of Mount Wong Track was clearly less travelled: it was largely just two wheel tracks with low vegetation between them. Travel was slower, but the track was not difficult to negotiate.
Looking back at the mapping from home, it would have been possible to continue along Wong Log Road to Ferntree Creek Track, then west along it to the northern end of the southern section of Mount Wong Track.
VK3/VG-090 unnamed summit 846 m 4 points
This summit is likely to be renamed Mount Wong Track at the next VK3 Association update. I am not sure if the high point is actually Mount Wong, as I have not been able to locate a peak with that name via online searches, other than references to the summit name. The Track passes within one metre vertical of the high point, again with no visible trig or other marker. The summit was first activated by Peter VK3FALA in March 2015.
I again set up with a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole centre, right on the edge of the track. I started on 40 m CW on 7.032 MHz, after spotting myself. First in the log was John VK4TJ, followed by Gerard VK2IO and Ian VK5CZ. Further calls yielded no responses, so I moved to 7.090 MHz SSB and spotted myself. Brett VK3FLCS was the only caller that I heard. I dropped down to 80 m SSB on 3.615. I heard Compton VK2HRX call – 41 report. But Compton was running 100 W and could not hear my 10 W replies! Geoff VK3SQ was next in to log. With no further responses to calls, I moved up to 20 m CW and was rewarded with calls from Geoff ZL3GA and John ZL1BYZ. It was now after 1615 local and I still had a long drive home, so I closed down and packed up. I was happy: a new Activator Unique and new Complete.
One option was to return north along Mount Wong Track and exit to Ensay via Watts Creek Road, which Peter VK3FALA had used as his approach route. I decided to exit using the route used by Peter – head south to Dinner Creek Track, then a short distance south along it until it heads to the east, where you continue south via an unmarked and unnamed track which is shown on the Rooftop’s map. I had previously explored accessing the summit via other tracks in the area, including Hammond Road/Logie Track and Dinner Creek Track, but the western ends of the tracks end at gates with no entry signs or are cannot be found. The Rooftop’s map shows them as ending before one can reach a public access road – I wished that I had purchased the Rooftop maps earlier!
I engaged Hill Descent Control before I started the descent. The track was steep and rough in places, with lots of spoon drains and some ruts. This was definitely 4WD! I eventually reached Cutts Creek Road / Buchan-Ensay Road about one hour and forty minutes after leaving the summit. The views below are from Buchan-Ensay Road.
Looking back at the ridgeline used to descend from VK3/VG-090
Looking north towards Mt Hopeless and Mt Nugong (right of centre)
I then headed towards Ensay, before heading southwest on Sandy Creek Road to reach Great Alpine Road.
Finally back on the bitumen, I then had the task of maintaining concentration for the journey back to Churchill. I arrived at destination at around 2000 local.