A trio of new Parks in Bass Coast

Saturday was shaping up to be a pleasant autumn day in Gippsland, so I decided on Friday night to tackle a couple of Parks in South Gippsland and the Bass Coast. The plan was to activate two Parks which had not yet been activated.

Saturday 28 April 2018

I loaded the gear in the car and headed off, with the first stop to add some fuel to the tank. I then headed to Poowong in South Gippsland and on to head west on to Lang Lang Poowong Road (C434). About 6 km down the road you reach a small picnic area on the south side of the road – Henry Littledyke Reserve, also known as Nyora Flora and Fauna Reserve according to the sign at the interpretive shelter.

LittledykeSign1

Interpretive sign in the picnic area.

LittledykeSign2

Interpretive sign in the picnic area.

 

Nyora Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2169 Not previously activated

I arrived at the Park about 20 minutes prior to UTC rollover and set up the gear. I could see a Spot for Jono VK4ALE in VKFF-1665, so I tuned to his frequency. He was weak but I gave a couple of calls. Jono could not hear me. I tried turning up the transmit power and start to notice some RF breakthrough – something was odd with the set up. The antenna & feed showed a high SWR. I took the simple option: I dropped the 80/40/20/15/10 m link dipole and ran out the 40/20 m link dipole. It was after rollover by time I had the station reassembled.

NyoraNCR

The dam previously used to supply water for steam engines.

Gerard VK2IO was first in the log on 40 m, followed by a string of other callers. I had 31 in the log by 0100 but callers were now well spaced out. I tried 20 m for about 15 minutes with no callers. I saw another Spot for Jono and managed to make the P2P contact. I moved up to 7.144 and resumed calling. Contact number 44 came at 0142Z – thanks Allen.

I packed up the gear and headed west to Nyora and then around to the South Gippsland Highway and then the Bass Highway. Along the route I went past at least three other Parks. I stopped at Grantville to grab some food and then down to Bass and then west onto Bass Landing Road. The next Park is located at the end of the road.

Reef Island and Bass River Mouth Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2181
Not previously activated

Some of these newer Parks have names which are a mouthful! There were a number of vehicles parked in areas close to the Bass River. I found a spot and set up using one of the road boundary poles to support the squid pole. Other poles supported the ends of the lines holding out the antenna. I set up using the tailgate as the operating table.

First in the log was Rob VK4AAC/2 in VKFF-1406. After a few contacts, I decided to move around to the side of the tailgate, hoping to enter some shade. As I rotated the IC-7000, it died inexplicably. I quickly pulled out the KX2 and plugged it into the antenna and battery. I ended up with 46 in the log, most of them on 40 m SSB. Three additional P2P contacts were made: Nick VK3ANL/p in VKFF-2225, Les VK5KLV/p in VKFF-2252 and the final contact, Warren VK3BYD/2 in VKFF-0056 on 30 m CW.

I started packing up and remembered to take a photo or 2 before I took down the antenna….

BassRiverMouth

Looking NW across the Park with French Island on the horizon.

I headed back to the Bass Highway and headed north. I was considering my options and decided to have a look at Grantville NCR. I looked at the VicRoads Directory before leaving Bass River mouth. Stanley Road appeared to be the most likely spot for access without starting up the laptop and looking at more detailed mapping. I was aware that the Park was there, having seen the Park on the navigation system as I was heading south.

Grantville Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2101 Not previously activated

This Park is located south of Grantville township and is easy to find. Looking back as I am preparing these notes, there are four obvious access points:

At the western end: adjacent to the Rifle Range. The Rifle Range is within the Park, so setting up in the car park would be an option.

On the south side of the entrance road to the sand quarry. You would need to be careful here, as only 60 m of the access road abuts the Park boundary. The satellite image on Google Earth suggests that there may be a vehicle track which may allow access into the Park.

Off June Street in the Adams Estate. Some maps show a vehicle track entering the Reserve.

Off Stanley Road. I used this option, managing to find a spot beyond the Adams Estate where I could park the car off the road and within the Park boundary.

I tossed a line over a tree branch and hauled up the antenna. I again set up at the rear of the vehicle. I was set up and ready to operate at around 0530. The usual area for Parks operations up around 7.144 was very busy, with many stations on the band. I dropped down to 7.120, which was clear, and spotted myself. First in the log was Gerard VK2IO. I then discovered that this was another first activation – a stroke of luck given that this was a “bonus” unplanned activation. Next was Warren VK3BYD/2 in VKFF-0056 who called me on SSB for another P2P. We also worked on CW for another P2P. Next was Greg VK2EXA, followed by Rob VK4AAC/2 in VKFF-1406 for another P2P. Another 26 stations were worked on 40 m SSB. I tried 20 m, with no responses to my calls. I tuned around the band and worked Mike VK4XQM who was operating as part of the Military Radio Weekend. I tried 30 m next, with the KX2 tuner coping with the 40 m dipole….. I worked John VK4TJ on SSB and CW with his 3 callsigns. We then went to 40 m to work again on CW, and then to 80 m for three more CW contacts. Contact number 45 was Ian VK1DI on 80 m SSB at 0706Z. It was getting late and cool, so I decided to close the station, pack up and head for home.

The drive home was uneventful – about 90 minutes.

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A new VKFF certificate

I do enjoy chasing other Activators, regardless of their location: SOTA, WWFF reference or anywhere else. Given my simple antennas, most of my Chasing/Hunting is for Australian and New Zealand amateurs.

I must pass on my thanks to all the Activators out there – you are the ones doing the harder work. Yes, chasing can be a little hard at times depending on propagation and local noise, but the Activator does more work than those who chase.

Big thanks to Paul VK5PAS as VKFF coordinator and to the other members of the VKFF team, especially Mick VK3GGG.

Here is the latest certificate which arrived today.

VK3PF VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1050s

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Another trip to NE Victoria – 6

I had been in the NE for a week, plus I had an engagement in Melbourne on Friday evening, so it was time to head south east.

Friday 20 April 2018

After having said my farewells to family members, I was on the highway heading towards Melbourne by around 0930. My engagement was not until 1930, so I had plenty of time. I had committed to arriving mid to late afternoon at my host for the evening, so that needed to be considered in the mix.

I decided to activate a Park near Wandong, so simply headed south on the Hume Highway. As I was nearing the exit for Wandong, I decided that I might also attempt Mount Disappointment. I purchased some lunch in Wandong and then headed around to Disappointment Road. I reached Blair’s Hut picnic area and found the road ahead closed “due to roadworks”. As I only had time available for a quick activation, I decided against the short walk to the summit and returned back towards Wandong.

Wandong Regional Park VKFF-0979

Car is needed when activating many Parks to ensure that you are inside the Park boundaries. In this Park, some road reserves are excluded from the Park, so it is not as simple as setting up beside any track or road. I had previously considered using Radio Road as an activation site, but it had a locked gate at its start. I continued a little further and parked off Pattons Track.

Rob VK4AAC/2 was first in the log at 0240Z on 40 m. 30 minutes of operating yielded 17 contacts on 40 m, including a Park to Park with Bill VK4FW/p in VKFF-1492. I tried listening for Mitch VK3XDM on Mt St Leonard, but could not hear him on either 2 m nor 40 m. We arranged to try 80 m and made the contact. I worked another 5 stations on 80 m before returning to 40 m for another 5 contacts. Calls on 20 m yielded no results. 28 contacts in the log for the activation, so this one will need to be revisited another day to reach WWFF tally requirements.

I packed up and headed back towards Melbourne, with heavy traffic on parts of the Western Ring Road. I safely arrived at my destination and had plenty of time to chat and enjoy dinner with my hosts. I then headed off to visit the Melbourne Electronics and Radio Club to talk about portable operations, including SOTA and Parks. That talk was well received and I hope that it encourages some of the members to try portable operating, perhaps even in a Park or on a SOTA summit.

 

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Another trip to NE Victoria – 5

Thursday 19 April 2018

After filling the fuel tank, I headed towards Tawonga and then onto Mountain Creek Road. It was then onto Camp Creek Track, then The Hollow Way Road and on to the high point below the first target summit.

Bull Hill VK3/VE-048 1425 m 8 points

There is an old track junction at the high point in the road as the road swings to the NW, with the track blocked by a large log. The track heads into an old logging coupe. The regrowth in the coupe looked very thick. Unfortunately, the undergrowth towards the summit was also thick eucalypt about 1.5 to 2 m high. It was a bit of a slog up the 250 m to where I stopped: not quite at the top but well inside the AZ.

My first contact was Gerard VK2IO at 0139Z. The summit was qualified in only 4 minutes. I swapped to 20 m for a while but only had two callers. I then went to 80 m to work John VK3YW. I then returned to 40 m for a couple of more contacts before I had no more callers and shut down. A new Activator Unique and Complete for me.

The views to the eastern faces of Mount Bogong VK3/VE-001 were excellent during the return trip.

I retraced my route back to Tawonga South and headed into Mount Beauty to buy some lunch. I then headed south on Simmonds Creek Road, heading towards Hollonds Hill VK3/VE-172. The track to the summit looked to be in excellent condition, BUT it had large ROAD CLOSED signs. It was obvious that a fuel reduction burn was planned for the area, with several signs around the area. I decided to check the map, with the next planned target on Tawonga Gap Track. I decided to head up Pyramid Hill Firetrail and to then head across to Tawonga Gap Track. The track was in good condition, but had many spoon drains to negotiate. When I arrived at the junction with Dungey Track, the continuation of Pyramid Hill Firetrail looked to be in good condition with recent traffic. I decided to explore the route further along.

Pyramid Hill Spur VK3/VE-052 1405 m 8 points

The track to the high point near the summit was in good condition. There were many spoon drains and several logs that had been cleared from the track. I parked at the high point to the west of the summit and loaded up to climb towards the summit. The regrowth/undergrowth was similar to that at Bull Hill – thick and around 2 m high. I climbed up until the GPS showed only one more contour between me and the summit and set up the gear, so I was confident that I was in the AZ.

I posted a Spot and also announced that I was QRV on the Discord discussion group. Gerard VK2IO/m was first in the log. Within 5 minutes I had 8 contacts in the log. I then spent around 7 or 8 minutes calling on 20 m, working John ZL1BYZ. I returned to 40 m to work another 3 stations before I pulled the plug. Another Activator Unique and Complete in the log.

I retraced my route to Dungey Track and turned left, then right into Big Flat Track. This was rougher, with several rocky sections as well as some sections which would be very slippery when wet. I climbed up to the junction with Tawonga Gap Track and then headed north towards Tawonga Gap.

VK3/VE-109 (unnamed) 1149 m 6 points

The first high point on the track passes about 10 m below the summit high point, so I simply parked the car and set up nearby. There was a rough track heading towards the actual summit, but it had a Do Not Enter tape across the start of it, so that was another reason not to climb to the actual summit.

Within 14 minutes of calling CQ, I had 18 contacts in the log, all on 40 m. I then spent 10 minutes calling on 20 m for two ZL stations. I returned to 40 m briefly to work another three stations and then ran out of callers. I packed up and headed north to Tawonga Gap and then headed back to Wodonga. Another Activator Unique and Complete in the log.

VE109view

Looking SSE from VK3/VE-109. Fainter, Pyramid Hill Spur and Feathertop are all visible.

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Another trip to NE Victoria – 4

The day of VK3/VE-1n1 summits

Wednesday 18 April 2018

This was to be a day of SOTA activations. The aim was to activate three new personal Uniques. I headed off from Wodonga at around 0845 local and headed east and then south, heading to Mitta Mitta along the Omeo Highway. About 3.7 km past Mitta Mitta, look for a track on the right – the track is a little short of where the electronic maps showed it should be located. This is the Disappointment Track. Climb up this track for 3.8 km to reach the summit. The track was in reasonable condition, but with a few steep and rocky sections. I did not see any obvious signs or cairns at the summit itself.

Mount Welcome VK3/VE-161 883 m 4 points Not Yet Activated

I simply parked off the edge of the track and tossed a line over a branch to lift the inverted V. I was set up and spotted myself at around 0030Z. Mick VK3GGG was the first caller. I had the summit qualified within a couple of minutes. I swapped to 80 m at around 0040 and worked John VK2YW. Without further responses after several minutes, I tried 20 m and worked John ZL1BYZ. I then tried 15 m and heard Steve VK3MEG calling, but he could not here me. Back to 40 m to bag Steve and several others, before a final switch to 80 m to work Brian VK3BBB, who could not hear me on 40 m.

I switched off at around 0130Z, packed up and continued along Disappointment Track to the cross roads with Trappers Gap Track. I continued straight ahead, on Scrubby Spur Track and on the Dorchap Range Track. Approaching the next summit, I could see the old track which is in the “rehab” process. The new track traverses around the southern side of the summit and does a switchback at the crest of the spur. The high point of the track is just beyond the old Elmo Track route to the actual summit and is within 10 m vertical of the true summit. I decided to simply set up beside the track at the high point. The track condition was generally good, with a few steeper sections.

VK3/VE-101 unnamed 1177 m 6 points

With no branches at a suitable height, I set up with a squid pole just off the edge of the track. I started on 40 m SSB, with 15 contacts in 15 minutes. I then switched to 20 m and worked John ZL1BYZ. I then switched back to 40 m with only one contact before I saw a Spot on ParksnPeaks for Gerard VK2JNG/p in a Park. I swapped to 80 m to work Gerard before returning to 40 m. I worked two more stations and then shut down.

I packed up and headed north along Dorchap Range Track. I parked the car near the saddle to the SSE of the next summit – the road has been rerouted around the south side of the summit.

Mount Dorchap VK3/VE-131 1032 m 6 points

This summit has a SOTA height of 1032 m, but the Geoscience Australia data has the height as 1056 m. I climbed up the spur towards the summit, a distance of about 375 m. I set up not quite on top, but only a few metres below the summit. The scrub was moderate. I again started on 40 m SSB and had five contacts in the log within about seven minutes. I dropped down to 80 m to work John VK2YW who could not hear me on 40 m. I tried 20 m for several minutes without responses. Back on 40 m, I worked another three stations before closing.

I continued generally north along Dorchap Range Track and then onto Springtime Track and popped out on the Omeo Highway via Stockyard Creek Road. I then headed into Eskdale to grab some late lunch.

Whilst eating lunch, I studied some maps. I had thought that I might attempt to activate a new 2 point summit, but decided that the time required would be too much. So I headed back towards Wodonga.

VK3/VE-159 (unnamed) 892 m 4 points

At Lockharts Gap, I turned right into Powerline Road and then north onto Lockharts Gap Road and out to the summit. The track was in excellent condition. This summit code messed up the accidental theme for the day – VK3/VE-1n1 summits! I again tossed a line over a tree branch and raised the inverted V, this time with the apex at around 10 m. Starting on 40 m SSB, I had 13 contacts in the log within 17 minutes, including Bill VK4FW/p in The Palms National Park VKFF-0485. I had just missed VK3NCC/2 in a Park at the start. I heard him later working Bill VK4FW/p, but Bill was too quick on the microphone button for me to try to grab Colin’s attention. I went to 20 m for one contact, then back to 40 m for another 11 contacts. I dropped down to 80 m to work 2 stations. It was now 1630 local, so I shut down and packed up. Checking the map, I decided to exit to the north, reaching the Murray Valley Highway just west of Tallangatta. It was then a simple return trip to Wodonga.

FrAboveTallangatta

Looking across Lake Hume from above Tallangatta

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Another trip to NE Victoria – 3

Monday 16 April 2018

This morning was one of the key reasons for the trip to the northest: Warren had invited me to join him on a work trip to a summit which only he had activated to date. I had an early start and met Warren in Glenrowan a little before 0830 local. I loaded my gear into Warren’s vehicle and we headed off to the southwest.

VK3/VE-236 (unnamed) 447 m 1 point

The access to this summit is restricted. The track crosses three different landholdings and requires 3 gates to be unlocked. The first gate clearly indicates that access is restricted, so I am very grateful to Warren for the opportunity to access this summit. It is only one point, but it also gives me a new Activator Unique and Complete.

This summit, referred to as “Lurg” by CFA, is another which will be deleted at the next VK3 update. There is another summit with a trigonometric marker just to the east of Embling Road, with a height of 451 m. The saddle between to two hills is just over 350 m, so the eastern summit has prominence over Lurg. One downside is that the new summit is also on private land and will require permission to access.

VE236_R

Looking north east from Lurg. The new SOTA summit can be clearly seen, together with Mount Glenrowan VK3/VE-230 and VK3/VE-238 just to the south of Mount Glenrowan.

After navigating the three gates and the rocky final approach, Warren parked the work Ranger and started his work. One odd thing about this summit is the large number of rock cairns constructed around the broad top of the hill – not a single cairn at the summit, but lots of cairns of various sizes scattered around the hill top.

I looked around and decided to set up beside a fence just north of the summit. I decided to start on 80 m SSB, as I expected no close in propagation on 40 m. I was about to spot myself when I saw that Mick VK3GGG/p was in a Park, so worked Mick as the first contact. I then worked Geoff VK3SQ in Beechworth. With no further responses to calls, I swapped to 40 m SSB and quickly worked six stations in seven minutes. Several minutes of further calls yielded no more responses, so I switched to 20 m and was rewarded with John ZL1BYZ and a then Jacky ZL1WA. After several more calls with no responses, I decided to shut down and pack up. The timing was almost perfect, as Warren was just about finished with his tasks.

We headed back down the hill, with me jumping out whilst still in the AZ. Warren continued down the hill and we worked on 2 m FM, thus giving Warren a Complete. I headed down the track and locked the top gate, then down to re-join Warren for the rest of the trip, locking the gates as we descended. It was then back to Glenrowan to my vehicle. We said our goodbyes and Warren headed off towards Shepparton, having a task to complete on Mount Major.

I did a little more preparatory work regarding possible access to another as yet unactivated summit – VK3/VE-238. I am not holding my breath, but the approach has been made and the local Site Manager listened carefully to my request and said that he would discuss the request with those higher in the management. He took my contact details and will advise sometime soon. (Postscript: about 2 weeks later I received an email advising that access was not possible. I suspect that the summit is likely to remain unactivated for a long time.)

That task completed, I returned to the edge of Glenrowan and parked just inside the boundary of the next site of the day.

Fosters Lake Waterhole Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2090

This Park sits between the new Highway (Glenrowan bypass) and the old Hume Highway, at the eastern end of the main Glenrowan township. Access is simple. There is a picnic shelter which I suspect is outside the Park boundary. There is a picnic table closer to the “lake” which appears to be inside the boundary. I set up beside the table. Tossing a line over a tree branch was the quickest option and I ran out the heavier 80/40/20/25/10 m link dipole and set up the IC-7000 on the tailgate of the Ranger.

David VK5PL was the first to respond to my calls. Within 10 minutes I had 13 contacts in the log, including Rob VK4AAC/2 in VKFF-0312. I then swapped to 20 m SSB for 3 contacts before there were no more callers. I then tried 80 m SSB, working another 3 stations in VK3. Back to 40 m SSB for another dozen contacts before I received a text message from Geoff VK3SQ that he was finally home. I swapped to 80 m to work Geoff, and then back to 40 m. I then worked Steve VK3MEG and again swapped down to 80 m for an even louder contact with Steve. It was then back to 40 m for a couple of SSB contacts before I was invited to try CW by Nick VK3ANL. That worked well and I was quickly called by John VK4TJ on CW.

I then tried 30 m, using the antenna set to 20 m on one side of centre and 40 m on the other and hooked in my Z100 autotuner. It seemed to tune up, so I spotted myself and started calling. John VK4TJ answered my call and we then tried CW and made the contact before I heard signs of RF feedback. In the middle of a contact the rig shut down and then restarted. I quickly moved to reduce transmit power and managed to finish 2 more contacts. With 47 contacts in the log, I decided to shut down. I then headed into Glenrowan to the Bakehouse to grab some lunch. The venue was busy. They had very little hot food left, so I simply ordered a hamburger and waited….

Warby Ovens National Park VKFF-0742

The Warby Ovens National Park has several sections. Mount Glenrowan sits in its own section at the southern end of the Park, but it has restricted vehicle access – authorised vehicles only. Access to the summit for SOTA requires a 4.8 km walk with about 250 m of climb. I decided against the walk into the SOTA summit, having already activated the summit prior to the Park being added to the WWFF scheme. There are sections to the north along the Ovens River, plus sections along the Warby Range. Much of the Park was previously a State Park before the various sections were joined with the declaration of the National Park in June 2010. Phytophthora cinnamomi is an issue in the Park, with several tracks closed to vehicles. More information can be found in the Park Notes from the Parks Victoria website.

From Glenrowan, I headed west and north, working my way around the western side of the Warby Range. I climbed up the road into the Warby Ovens National Park and checked a couple of possible operating sites. The first two sites checked had no mobile coverage, so I kept looking. I ended up at the Warby Tower Lookout which had good Telstra coverage and good views to the north from the site of the old tower – only the bottom portions of the legs remain. You can see Wangaratta to the SE from the car park, but through the trees.

WarbyTowerView

View to the north from the Warby Tower Lookout.

I again tossed a line over a tree branch and set up the heavier antenna. I started on 40 m SSB and worked several stations. Gerard VK2IOoffered to look up the Park and advised that my current number of contacts was 20 from previous activations – about what I expected. So the target for the day was 24 if possible. It started off a little slow. At around 0600Z I switched to 20 m SSB, working 4 more callsigns, including F1BLL.

Back to 40 m SSB at around 0625Z, and I started work more stations.

I ended up with 38 contacts in the log, more than the 24 needed to bring this Park up to WWFF qualification level. I could have tried for the extra 6 contacts to make to 44 for this activation, but I needed to be back in Wodonga at a reasonable time, so called it quits at 0700Z. I still had over an hour of driving once I was packed up.

I made it back a little later than expected.

Overall, a profitable day: One new SOTA Complete & Activator Unique, plus two Parks qualified to WWFF level.

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Another trip to NE Victoria – 2

Sunday 15 April 2018

During discussions whilst organising the trip away, I had discussed a small number of low point value SOTA summits with Warren VK3BYD. These summits are due to be deleted at the next VK3 Association update due to lacking prominence as a result of incorrect height data or mapping errors. Warren was interested in a single activation on Sunday morning, so we made arrangements to meet in Moyhu at a reasonable hour. From Moyhu, Warren loaded his gear into my vehicle and we headed east to Meadow Creek and around to Braines Lane. Along Braines Lane to Fire Track Number 1 firetrail and into the bush. We climbed up to the track junction with Fire Track Number 2 and then headed south. As we turned the corner, we saw a Firewood Collection Area sign, reassuring us that our research regarding access was correct. Whilst heading south towards the summit, we needed to stop and move a fallen tree off the track. Together we were able to lift the butt end and swing the tree around to the edge of the track, without any need to resort to other methods. Note to self: I must do something about buying a drag chain from the place that sends me promotional emails several times a day with essentially the same content – lots of gear relating to 4WDing and camping.

We were busy discussing a number of topics during the drive and actually overshot the intended parking spot. I continued on to the southern side of the hill top just to check access from there, and then turned around and headed back to the northern side of the hill top and parked on the edge of the track at a slightly wider point.

Carboor Range VK3/VE-231 509 m 2 point Not Yet Activated

This summit will be deleted at the next VK3 update. There is a higher summit of 553 m just above the junction of Fire Track Number 1 and Fire Track Number 2, which will become the replacement summit.

VE231_replacement

Looking north from VK3/VE231 to the replacement summit

The tracks described above would be drivable in a 2WD vehicle with reasonable clearance in the dry. There were a couple of places when I felt a little slipping during the drive down – it had been raining the previous day and some drizzle during the drive to the summit. The track was in good condition, possibly having received some treatment in preparation for the Domestic Firewood Collection season. One can also access the area via Fire Track Number 2 from the NNE.

I loaded up my pack and Warren decided to bring his gear as well – just in case…. The approach was relatively simple: climb up the ridge line through open timbered country along the rocky spur. The climb was about 350 m horizontally plus about 60 m vertical climb. With the rain the previous day and drizzle on and off during the morning, it was slippery underfoot and some care was required. We reached the summit and found a suitable spot just to the SE of the high spot. I started set up by tying a line around a rock and tossing it over a tree branch: success at first attempt – Warren was impressed! Warren assisted with string out the dipole and I assembled the rest of the station. Warren spotted me and I started calling on 40 m SSB. First in the log at 0021Z was Gerard VK2IO. I soon had four in the log and no more chasers responding to my CQ calls, so I changed the FT-817 to CW and swapped to allow Warren to take the operating position.

WarrenVK3VE231

Warren operating on VK3/VE-231

While Warren was operating, I strung out the 80 m extensions for the antenna. Warren soon had the summit comfortably qualified on CW and we reconfigured for 80 m, as some of the VK3 regulars could not hear us on 40 m. I took the operating position and started calling CQ on CW. Allen VK3ARH was the first to respond. Allen later posted to the Discord discussion group:
“They are breaking the rules. BYD doing SSB and PF on CW. Hurting my head…..”

While I was working stations on CW, Warren grabbed his pack and headed down the hill. He then called me on CW, thus earning a Complete for the summit. I then worked Ian VK5CZ as the last contact on CW. I did hear a weak VK3H? calling, but the signal was weak and I could not quite get the end of the callsign. I believe it was probably Paul VK3HN – sorry I missed you Paul.

I changed the antenna link and called on 20 m SSB for about 20 minutes, working only Warren ZL2AJ. We decided to call it quits, as it felt as if the rain was about to return. We packed up and retraced our route back to the track and car. I headed down quicker than Warren and called him on 2 m FM once I was outside the activation zone, thus making the summit Complete.

Once we had the gear in the car, we again headed south along the track. The local who had given Warren some information about the track had indicated that the track did cross private land. We found a gate well down the track. I did not appear to be locked, but it was clear to us we had found the private land boundary, so turned around to head back out. Prior to reaching the gate, we had found the reason for the excursion south: an old rock cairn just off the track, which locals claim was constructed by Hume & Hovell on their return trip from Port Phillip.

On the return journey Hume showed his wonderful bush-craft by leaving his first route and recovering it near Carboor school at Hurdle Creek, to the south-east of Wangaratta, thus saving 150 miles.
See, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/2064003

We jumped out and check out the 2 cairns on the site. One looked older. Both had been there for quite some time by their appearance.

HH_Cairns

The cairns, one purported to have been erected by Hume and Hovell

The drizzle started again, so we retreated to the car and resumed the journey.

I retraced our route back out to Braines Lane and then made our way back to Moyhu. I said farewell to Warren and he headed off. I followed a couple of minutes later, heading back to Wodonga.

One new Activator Unique, together with a Chaser Unique and Complete. For those who chased us, you had best plan to activate the summit prior to the next VK3 update, whenever that will occur.

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Another trip to NE Victoria

I had a few days coming up without local commitments, so organised a trip to NE Victoria.

Friday 13 April 2017

On Friday morning I packed the car and head off at around 1000. The trip was straightforward, east to Rosedale, then north and east to Tinamba, Newry, Briagalong and then on to Dargo. Sounds like a bit of a zig-zag route, but it avoided several areas with ongoing roadworks, so did not cost much time. I then headed up the Dargo High Plains Road, dodging a couple of 4WD vehicles and a couple of logging trucks who wanted the whole road….

VK3/VT-018 1393 m 8 points

The Dargo High Plains Road runs through the activation zone of this summit and the scrub is of moderate density through to the flat summit, so I took the easy option and set up next to the road, making sure that I was on the windward side – thus I did not get covered in dust when a vehicle went past. I used my standard SOTA set up with the dipole up in the tree with a line thrown over a branch.

I had no mobile coverage, so had to call repeatedly on 7.090 MHz before I worked John VK4TJ. John spotted me and a couple of minutes later I had more callers.

After I worked all callers on 40 m, and had a break to eat lunch. Just as I was ready to close, Brian VK3BCM came up on Mt Matlock VK3/VC-001. Once Brian was in the log, I packed up and headed north to Blue Rag Track and in to Mt Blue Rag. I set up again and was able spot myself thanks to coverage from the sites on Mt Hotham.

Mount Blue Rag VK3/VE-021 1679 m 10 points

The activation was straightforward. I continued calling until I saw a spot on 40 m for Brian VK3BCM, now on Mt Selma VK3/VT-013. Once Brian was in the log, I packed up and head back out to the Dargo High Plains Road.

I had considered additional summits, but decided against any as I had an engagement in Wodonga before 1800….

I then travelled north to the Great Alpine Road and then north to Bright and on to Wodonga, arriving in time for my engagement.

Saturday 14 April 2018

The weather forecast was not good for Saturday, with cold fronts expected to bring cold, wet and windy conditions. The forecast for the NE predicted the fronts arriving early afternoon, so I decided to chance the weather. The plan was to attempt to bag a couple of VK2 Riverina summits for Completes.

Munderoo VK2/RI-005 890 m 4 points
Woomargama State Conservation Area VKFF-1398 Not Yet Activated

The approach was straight forward: Up the hUme Highway and take the Woomargama exit. Into to Woomargama and then right into Tunnel Road. South to the top of the manin ridge and ridge into Hanels Road. Along to a couple of tracks on the right, and into Wagra Trig Firetrail. Down into a gully and climb out to the next ridge top and Wagra Firetrail. South along the trail and on to the summit. I parked the car and set up the SOTA station on the opposite side of the track.

I gave a couple of short calls after UTC rollover with no replies, so I shut down and packed up. I then continued south to the next target. I had 7 in the log, so the summit was qualified and the next target was also in the same VKFF reference, so I could build numbers for Park qualification.

Wagra Mountain VK2/RI-003 913 m 6 points
Woomargama State Conservation Area VKFF-1398

There is a nice clearing just below the summit high point and I set up on the edge of the clearing.

S2S with Warren ZL2AJ on ZL1/HB-113 on 20 m SSB.

WagraTrig

The trig at Wagra Mountain, hidden in the bush to the south of the clearing

I retraced my route back over Munderoo on the way out and I choose to take Wagra Link Firetrail. This route was easier and shorter, bringing me back to Hanels Road at the same junction that I left it.

I drove back to Tunnel Road and spotted a sign for a vineyard 1 km down the road, so I took the detour to have a look. Unfortunately, it was closed, but afforded a good view of the morning’s summits.

WagraMunderooFrTunnelRd

Looking across to Wagra Mountain (left background) and Munderoo from Tunnel Road

I climbed back up Tunnel Road and had a quick look at the Tunnel Road Picnic Area. Here I made the decision to attempt to get to another summit along Tin Mine Track, which traverses a mixture of public and private land before crossing the Woomargama National Park. Care is needed at track junctions or you will miss the critical left hand turn….. I eventual found my way back to Tin Mine Track and then up to the next target. Note to self: Paper maps needed to check against map memory.

Mount Jergyle VK3/RI-004 892 m 4 points
Woomargama National Park VKFF-0547

Tin Mine Track is reasonable for 2WD vehicles until you reach the National Park boundary. It then becomes rougher and 4WD required, with lots of spoon drains, wash outs and rocky shelves. The track passes through the Activation Zone, so I simply parked about 100 m west of the summit and set up beside the road. I quickly set up beside the track and worked 15 stations on 40 m SSB. The sky to the SW was looking ominously grey and Tony VK3CAT checked the RADAR images and advised that I quickly don the wet weather gear! When I ran out of callers, I packed up, finishing the task as the first rain drops arrived. I attempted to head out to the east, but about 8 km further on I caught up with another 4WD that had driven past me whilst activating and we were confronted with a 40 cm tree across the track with no way around. Neither vehicle had a chainsaw on-board, so it was a U turn and retrace my route back to Tunnel Road and then back to Wodonga.

It was a good day out: 3 SOTA Activator Uniques and Completes, plus one new VKFF reference qualified at WWFF level and one at VKFF level.

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160 m SOTA activity day 2018

Several weeks ago, a number of regular SOTA activators started discussing options for what has become an annual event: a SOTA activation event held close to 1 April, with a couple of activities to be considered: AM mode and/or 160 m.

I have heard some SOTA and Parks activators making comments regarding the supposed difficulty in erecting an antenna for 80 m, so one would not expect those activators to consider 160 m operation.

I started to consider how my participation might occur this year. The chosen date was the Saturday of the Easter weekend, so options included getting away from home to somewhere a little more remote, staying at home to avoid the traffic and crowds and/or activating a local summit. In the days leading up to the weekend, I decided on the last option: stay at home and thus avoid the heavy long weekend traffic, but heading out to a local summit for the Saturday late afternoon activation event.

I considered a number of antenna options, but decided to build an inverted L for 160 m. I still had some of the DX Wire UL wire on hand for the main radiator wire. I visited a local electrical supply outlet and purchased some 1.5 mm2 single core cable and started the task of measuring and assembling the various wires. By Friday afternoon I had the components: 4 counterpoise wires, each about 12.5 m long, from the single core cable purchased. The cable was red, so should be easily seen and I settled on the heavier house wiring cable as it should sit on the ground reasonably well. The radiator wire was about 40 .2 m long and wound onto a SOTAbeams antenna winder together with 30 m or so of builder’s line. Also in the kit was a BNC to 2 x 4 mm binding post adapter.

31 March 2018

The 160 m antenna components plus all the usual SOTA and Parks gear was loaded into the vehicle after lunch on Saturday, together with my as yet unused 12 m and 18 m Spiderbeam telescopic poles. I had purchased the 12 m pole about 18 months earlier and had not yet put it to use. The 18 m pole was purchased second hand in late January 2017 but had not yet been used. I had built 2 carry “cases” for the 2 long poles, using appropriate sized poly pipe with a fixed cap at one end of the pipe and a screw cap at the other. The cases would provide some protection when in transit and when handling the poles, plus the case could be used as a base support for the pole, rather than strapping the pole in use direct to a support.

Mount Hooghly VK3/VT-049 698 m 2 points

I have visited this summit on several occasions, as it is the closest summit to home. The summit used to house a low to the ground fire spotting tower, with the platform only a couple of metres off the ground. However, vandals abused the building and its remains were eventually removed from the site. One end of the access road has become very overgrown, whilst the other end is now significantly narrowed due to regrowth from the sides of the track. Eucalypt plantation trees are surrounding the track on the western approach. The final track from the saddle just below the summit has some deep ruts from some of the local hoons tackling the track aggressively in wet conditions.

I left home at about 0520 Z and drove up the approach route. The final approach was slow, with the encroaching vegetation and then the ruts to negotiate. I parked in the area between the trig point and the small knoll on the western end of the summit.

Scouting around, I picked a bush of about 2 m height as the support for the 18 m pole case and started the setup. I pulled out the first section of the pole and used some double sided Velcro to hold the radiator wire to the pole near the junction of the top and next section of pole. I then ran out the radiator wire prior to raising the pole section by section. The 18 m pole is heavy! I ended up not using all sections of the pole, with the high point of the wire at around 13 m above ground. The far end of the wire was run out to the NE and the support line tied off to some scrub at about 2.5 m, leaving the end of the radiator at about 6 m off the ground. I then ran out the counterpoise wires and connected the wires to the adapter. A length of coax then ran to an antenna tune and then the IC-7000 with the power set at about 30 W. I had an antenna analyser with me, but took a simple approach and simply hit the tune button on the radio. The tuner found a match, so I started looking around the band.

The next task was to start up the tablet and VK port-a-log – I was to finally try electronic logging on a tablet in the field. This was the first time that I had actually used the the app, so it took a little extra time to start…..

First in the log was Helen VK3FOLK/p in The Nut State Reserve VKFF-1831. It was a tough contact with 40 m very noisy plus we were a little too close given there had been poor NVIS on 40 m throughout the day. I then worked Paul VK5PAS before checking ParksnPeaks and moving to 20 m. The tuner again found a solution and I soon had Bill VK4FW/p in VKFF-1681 in the log. Next was John VK6NU/p on VK6/SW-039 on 17 m SSB. A quick look at SOTAwatch lead me to 30 m, where I worked Chris DL4FO/p on DM/HE-570. I listened around the bands trying to hear and work some of the EU activators, but could not break through.

I returned to 40 m SSB and spotted myself. A string of chasers were worked, including Bernard VK2IB/3 and Warren VK3BYD/p, both on Mount Hotham VK3/VE-006, and Gerard VK2IO/p on Canoelands VK2/SY-002 in VKFF-0041. I later chased Marcus VK5WTF/p on Mount Gawler VK5/SE-013. After several more chasers were worked on 40 m and 80 m, it was time to add some extra layers due to the rapidly falling temperature.

I again spent some time searching for and attempting to work more of the EU activators, again without luck. Checking SOTAwatch, I saw John VK6NU/p again, this time on 20 m CW and made the contact. I again checked SOTAwatch and saw that Warren and Bernard had started on 160 m, plus Allen VK3ARH/p was now active from his summit. So I switched to 160 m and soon had a good signal from Allen, who was working John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga. When they finished, I sent my callsign and soon had my first S2S contact on 160 m CW in the log. Allen was on Blue Hill VK3/VG-010 in the Cobberas, giving me a new Chaser unique. I then dropped down the band to work Warren and Bernard on Mount Hotham. Three 160 m CW S2S contacts in the bag! Plus the summit was also qualified on both SSB and CW.

I briefly considered my options: to spot myself on 160 m or not? Or perhaps look for more EU stations? It was now almost 1930 local time and the sun was below the horizon, plus the temperature was about 11 degrees. I decided to shut down and pack up whilst I still had a little light left. As I was packing the antenna, I noticed the moon rising over the ridges – with a distinct pink hue induced by the smoke in the air from burns in the region. In the photo, you can make out the pole holder on the left, strapped to the bush. The pole had already been lowered. Not the best photo – taken with the ‘phone in low light!

HooghlyMoonRise

Moon rise from Mt Hooghly

With all the gear in the vehicle, it was time to make my way back down the hill.

I would not normally use the 12 or 18 m poles for SOTA as they are heavy! But this was a “drive up” summit, so nothing needed to be carried any distance. I also need to consider options for supporting the poles at sites without convenient support structures. I was happy with the performance of the inverted L – I made contacts on all bands 160 to 17 m with only a few seconds for the tuner to match the antenna on each band change.

I also noticed that the Victorian mapping system shows a spot height near the summit of 698 m, but also shows two contours at 700 m, so will pass this information on to the Association Manager – it will mean an extra 2 points for the summit after the update goes through….

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SA Parks Award 5th Anniversary weekend 2018 Day 2

Sunday 11 March 2018

Whilst driving home the previous evening, I considered options for Sunday: Chase from home or head out and activate a Park or 2? I decided on the latter option.

I was away from home a little after 0830 local time and headed to Yinnar, Mirboo North, Leongatha, Inverloch, Wonthaggi and Dalyston and on towards Kilcunda. I then headed along Mouth of Powlett River Road to park the car next to the bridge across the river. I then walked across the bridge and a short distance (about 100 m) to enter the target Park.

Kilcunda Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2125

This is one of the Parks added in early August 2017 and had not yet been activated. Access is straightforward: take Mouth of Powlett River Rd from the Bass Highway B460, between Kilcunda and Dalyston. There is a small parking area on the west side of the river on the north side of the road. Walk across the bridge and then cross about 30-40 m of ground to the boundary fence of the reserve. There is more parking located further along, closer to the beach, but would involve a longer walk to access the reserve.

VKFF-2125a

Google satellite view of area near VKFF-2125

The Reserve is part of a floodplain, covered with marsh species. The boundary fence on the southern boundary is decaying and easily stepped across. There are no signs at all. I decided to set up at a corner post on the southern boundary, using the post to support the SOTA lightweight squid pole. I strung out the dipole legs inside the Reserve boundary and had carried the folding chair in with me. I set up my typical SOTA station with the chair facing south, so that I had some protection from the sun – the Reserve is devoid of any trees or shrubs more than about 20 cm high.

VKFF2125

Looking north across the Reserve

I was set up just on 2300 UTC (Saturday) and saw a SOTA spot for 20 m, so quickly reconfigured the antenna to 20 m and worked Warren ZL2AJ on ZL1/WK-151. I then swapped the antenna back to 40 m and heard Paul VK5PAS/p with a large dogpile of chasers. I tried calling a couple of times and then found a clear frequency and spotted myself on ParksnPeaks. A string of Hunters started calling. After about 10 minutes and 9 contacts, I listened up on the frequency where Paul had been and was rewarded with a P2P with Marija VK5FMAZ/p in VKFF-1124, followed immediately by Paul VK5PAS/p. I again changed frequency down the band to work 2 more Hunters. I then went to 20 m SSB to work 4 callsigns before swapping back to 40 m to work some other Activators that had been spotted. I found a clear frequency and started calling, working more P2P and other Hunters, being able to now rework stations worked earlier as we were now in the new UTC day. There was more jumping around in frequency to Hunt other Activators, plus I tried 80 m SSB and worked 5 more stations.

Back on 40 for the final few contacts to achieve the required 44. I closed down the station a little after 0105 UTC, with 51 contacts in the log. The tally included 16 P2P contacts with stations in 6 different Parks.

I packed up and walked back to the car, then headed back to the Bass Highway and back to Wonthaggi, then south to the next target.

Wonthaggi Heathlands Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2235

VKFF2235

Looking into the Reserve

This was another of the Parks added in August 2017 and had not as yet been activated. Easiest access is at the end of Chisholm Road where there is a small turn around and car park. I parked in a spot on the east side in a manner which had the rear of the vehicle just inside the reserve boundary according to the CAPAD database. I set up a squid pole using a convenient fence post and strung out the link dipole.

First in the log was Mark VK4SMA/p in VKFF-0475 on 40 m SSB. The next 6 contacts were also P2P. After about 30 minutes, I swapped to 20 m and gained 9 callsigns, then back to 40 m for a P2P. Then down to 80 m for 6 callsigns and then back to 40 m. replies to calls were becoming less frequent as the afternoon progressed, but by 0420 UTC I had a total of 52 contacts in the log, including a total of 20 P2P. I was aware that Warren VK3BYD would be on a summit sometime soon, so I continued calling and then listening for Warren. I eventually worked Warren on 80 m CW. I waited and listened for Peter VK3TKK/p in another new Park, but heard nothing from him. I ended up giving up and packed up.

Two first Activations were in the bag/log after a pleasant day out in the natural environment, so I was happy. I had considered activating a third Park, but I was feeling tired and band conditions had been more difficult in the afternoon, so I simply headed for home.

Thanks to all the Hunters who worked me.

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