A second visit to Glenmaggie Regional Park

A friend had requested advice regarding a delicate matter that had arisen. I suggested an option would be to start documenting the chronology of events leading to the current situation. I offered to head across to his home to assist with the task. So I headed off from home a little prior to 1000 local time, arriving in Maffra just after 1100 local (0000Z).

We soon had the computer fired up and started the documentation task. Whilst waiting for a task to complete, I checked ParksnPeak and saw that Ian VK5CZ/p was out on a SOTA summit. I dashed out to my car to grab the CW paddle to hook up to the rig. A few minutes later, I managed to work Ian on 40 m SSB: our first successful outcome for the day. We returned to the main task at hand. I managed to miss a couple of spots posted by Liz VK2XSE/p, but listened for her and even called. A couple of minutes later, Liz spotted that she was going QRT.

About an hour later, we heard a weak signal in the noise, as I had left the transceiver running on 7.144 MHz. Gerard VK2IO and Lee VK2LEE were attempting to work out where Tony VK3XV/5 was operating. I jumped in and managed to finally get the Park reference from Tony along with 33 reports both ways. I spotted Tony and heard the others complete contacts with Tony.

With the documentation task completed, we posted a response to the correspondent causing angst, then left to grab some lunch. We also decided to head off to the nearest Park to try an activation, after having checked the RADAR to note that the light showers would soon be past our intended location.

We headed off to the west in separate vehicles, through Tinamba and on towards Glenmaggie. I found a spot inside the Park boundary to stop and set up the station.

Glenmaggie Regional Park VKFF-1877

We parked to the east of Tyson Road, north of Tinamba Seaton Road, well inside the boundary of the Park. I quickly tossed a line over a tree branch at about 10-11 m and hauled up the centre of the doublet. We soon had the antenna legs run out and the station assembled. Opening ParksnPeaks showed that things were busy, with VK3XV/5, VK3TKK/p and Rob VK4AAC/3 all on air.

I quickly listened to the spotted frequencies and could only hear Tony, so soon had VKFF-1011 in the log for a Park to Park (P2P) contact. I spotted for 80 m and moved down and started calling., A few minutes later, I worked Peter VK3TKK/p in VKFF-2316, followed by Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-2100 – two more P2P contacts. Shortly after, I worked Steve VK3KTT. I soon  had seven contacts on 80 m SSB in the log. I moved up to 40 m and found a clear frequency to start calling. 15 minutes later and I only had two contacts in the log…. I moved to 40 m CW, which yielded five contacts in the next ten minutes, then nothing. I tried 20 m CW and worked another three stations. 20 m SSB yielded only a single contact with a local, who was also worked on 40 m, 15 m, 10 m and 6 m SSB plus 2 m and 70 cm FM.

Back to 40 m SSB, I worked Rob VK4AAC/3 again from VKFF-2100, plus David VK5PL. With no further responses to CQ calls, I decided to try my first session using FT8 in the field. I hooked my laptop up to the IC-7300 and was soon receiving signals on the FT8 frequency on 20 m, but I was not transmitting. I soon corrected the settings and was transmitting. I called a ZL station but was unable to complete despite continuing transmitting. My signal was reported at -16 but the other station gave up after several minutes. I tried a few CQ calls but had no responses. I dropped back down to the 40 m FT8 and soon had several calls in the log: VK2AJG, VK2IO, VK5WU, VK3NRB and VK1MIC. With no more responses, I changed back to 40 m SSB and was quickly answered by Paul VK5PAS, followed by Adrian VK5FANA. Paul posted another spot for me and I soon had another couple of contacts. I finally had 44 in the log – I thought at the time it was 45, but I had one duplicate contact. I moved up to 20 m FT8 and worked Ross VK3NRB on FT8, making it 45 contacts for the day. I decided to pack up and head for home.

Thanks to all the Hunters for your contacts.

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A trip to Neerim East

Saturday 9 March 2019

The morning started a little slowly, but with a little radio fun with chasing Katsu JP3DGT/3 activating JA/OS-004 on 17 m CW. After midday local time, I chased Tony VK3XV/p and Mike VK6MB/3 in Parks. I was considering what to have for lunch and then decided to head out to activate a Park which I had not yet activated. There was a lot of smoke in the air from bushfires – the closest one is about 10 km south of home: the Budgeree/Yinnar South fire. With the smoke, I did not want to do any outside work and decided for some radio therapy in the filed instead, hoping that the smoke would not be too bad at Neerim East, despite being not far from the Bunyip fires. The wind was from the east, so there was some logic in choosing the target Park.

The route was relatively simple: head from home to Moe, then I made my way around to Old Sale Road and followed it in its north of west route to Beards Track Rosworth. North along Beards Track, travelling through Sweetwater Creek Nature Conservation Reserve, which have previously activated. I travelled on until reaching Latrobe River Road, then a short distance north until I worked my way around onto Carrols Track and drove along it along the edge of pine plantations. Carrols Track ends at a junction with PP2 Track, which drops steeply down into a gully, with some short steep spoon drains plus some erosion. I changed into 4WD and slowly made my way down the hill until after reaching the western boundary of the target Reserve. Close to the bottom of the hill I reached a tree across the road – a tree big enough to no want to tackle without a chainsaw. I was adjacent to roughly the middle of the southern boundary of the Reserve, so I simply parked the vehicle and started to set up.

Neerim Flora Reserve VKFF-2410

This reference had been activated only once previously, by Peter VK3ZPF on a week day under wetter conditions. Peter had parked at the top of the hill and walked down and into the Reserve. Before I left home, I had double checked the Reserve boundary using the MapShare viewer. You can see in the image below that the southern boundary extends to beyond PP2 Track apart from a small section of the Track. The tree across the track was close to the point where the track deviates slightly further south and outside the Park boundary. I set up on the northern edge of the track.

NeerimFR_boundary

The antenna was running east-west, with the apex at around nine metres. I set up using the tray at the rear of the vehicle as the operating table. I could not spot myself as I had no phone coverage, being down in a gully away from any nearby sealed roads. I dialled up 7.144 MHz and asked if the frequency was in use. I heard no initial response, so started calling. Andy VK5LA came back to me, and when he finished, I heard Mike VK6MB/3 weakly. Mike did not hear my replies to him and dropped down to 80 m. I worked Andy and he spotted me. I worked four others before I dropped down to 80 m to work Mike for a Park to Park (P2P) contact. Mike was in Lake Tyers State Park VKFF-0761.

I returned to 7.144 MHz and started working other callers. John VK4TJ was next, followed by Tony VK3XV/5, now in Carappee Hill Conservation Park VKFF-1016. The calls continued to come slowly – thank goodness for the voice recorder on the IC-7300. About 44 minutes after I started calling, I worked Ian VK1DI/2 in Bimberamala National Park VKFF-0032. A short period with no responses to calls had me announce that I would drop down to work CW on 40 m, when Scott VK4CZ called in. I then moved down to 7.032 MHz CW to work six stations over the next 12 minutes.

I moved back up to 7.144 MHz and worked 10 stations over the next 10 minutes, the last of whom was Nick VK3ANL. Nick was weak on 40 m, so we moved down to 80 m SSB to make another contact. 80 m brought six contacts in total, including Nick VK3ANL on CW in addition to SSB. Ken VK3UH spotted me for 20 m SSB and I soon had Ray VK4NH in the log. With Ray’s extra callsigns, I finally had 47 contacts in the log. With no more responses, I started packing up and retraced my route back towards Latrobe River Road, but with a detour to check out the approach to the Reserve from the east.

NeerimNR_scrub

The “open” scrub at the operating site

I dropped down Boundary Track to Stanley Vale Track, then onto Invert Track and the eastern end of PP2 Track. There were a few potholes and ruts to dodge until I reached a nasty looking bog hole which had several big ruts and wet areas. I jumped out and walked around the bog and around the bend I saw the same tree across the track as I had encountered earlier. So access from the east is possible, but I suspect it could be very wet and muddy when wet. I retraced my route, but continued on Stanley Vale Track and climbed up Spur Track to get back to Latrobe River Road.

I missed the corner with Beards Track and simply made my way out to the west to Neerim South, then south to Bloomfield Road and Crossover. I decided to drop in for another activation of VKFF-0965.

Crossover Regional Park VKFF-0965

Shortly after passing Gunn Road, I swung in to the southern end of Bridge Road and then left onto Rokeby to Neerim Trail. I stopped and parked on the remnant of the track that has been cut off from reaching Bloomfield Road by a cutting. The spot is reasonably high and there is space to hand antennas from the trees, as long as you do not run lines across the track – it is used by walkers, horse riders, cyclists and motorbike riders.

I managed to throw a line over a branch at around 12 m above ground. As I was running out the antenna, the first of several motorcyclists came through and stopped for a short chat. He left after I reassured him that I would not be running any lines across the track at any low height!

I was finally set up at 0623Z and spotted myself. John VK4TJ was first in the log at 0625Z. Ten minutes later, I worked John VK5FLEA/p in Kenneth Stirling Conservation Park VKFF-0781. I worked three more stations before I had no resposnes.

I dropped down to 40 m CW and called for a few minutes before my first reply: Allen VK3ARH. I soon had seven on CW in the log, when I worked Gerard VK2IO/p in Rouse Hill Regional Park VKFF-2784. Next was John VK5FLEA/p again, this time on CW.

I dropped down to 80 m and soon had four more contacts, including Nick VK3ANL on SSB and CW and Mike VK6MB/3 in Lake Tyers State Park VKFF-0761. With no further callers, I returned to 40 m SSB but had no responses to calls. After about 15 minutes, I had a short tune around the band and managed to work Frank F5PAU.

I moved up to 20 m SSB but had no replies. I dropped down the band for CW and worked only Andrei ZL1TM.

I moved back to 40 m SSB at around 0800Z and worked another five contacts, including Gerard VK2IO/p again. I then worked three calls on CW on the same frequency. The tally was getting closer to the magic 44, but I had no further responses to calls. I again dropped down to 80 m SSB and soon had six more in the log, including both Gerard VK2IO/p and John VK5FLEA/p for P2P on both SSB and CW. These were followed by eight more contacts, including three on CW plus Nik VK3ZNK/p in Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park VKFF-0747. It was getting late – the sun had set and I would soon run out of light. I had 49 in the log, so I was happy.

I packed up and headed back out to Bloomfield Road, hitting the bitumen at 2000 local. I then had a drive of about an hour to reach home to grab a late dinner.

Thanks to all the Hunters, with special thanks to all who spotted me from Neerim Flora Reserve, especially John VK4TJ.

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A trip to Melbourne with a Park detour

Thursday 28 February 2019

I needed to travel to Clayton to pick up an item, so decided to add a detour to the trip home. I left home about mid-morning and arrived at destination in Clayton in reasonable time. I made a couple of other stops before heading east along Wellington Road towards my target Park for the day.

Baluk Willam Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2042

This Reserve is located in South Belgrave, north of Wellington Road. It is split by Courtneys Road, with the road reserve excluded from the reserve boundary. There are some walking tracks and a small car park off Orchid Road. There is an interpretive sign at the car park, but only part of the car park is inside the reserve boundary so care is needed to select an operating site to ensure the station is inside the boundary, as required by the WWFF rules.

The Park is just over 67 hectares and mostly scrub. It is a sanctuary for over a third of Victoria’s orchid species. The Reserve contains thirteen Ecological Vegetation Classes, including shrubby foothill forest, damp sclerophyll forest, wet sclerophyll forest and heathy woodland (dominated by Sliver-leafed Stringybark). Over 250 indigenous plant species have been recorded in the reserve, including 73 orchid species. Several of the orchid species are rare or vulnerable in Victoria.

BalukWillamSign

The Reserve Wecome sign

I quickly set up the station, posting a spot as I commenced the process – I wanted to let Mike VK6MB/3 know that I was coming up shortly having seen a spot from Mike on arrival. I had a major issue once set up – S5-6 noise across 80 m. Despite the noise, I managed to complete a contact with Mike on 80 m SSB Park to Park to Lind National Park VKFF-0287. I spent another 10 minutes calling on 80 m with no replies heard above the noise. I then decided to move one end of the antenna. The result was a significant drop in the noise level. There was a power line transformer not far away, plus an obvious solar panel array on the closest house, either of which may have been the source of the noise.

I moved up to 40 m SSB and soon had three regulars in the log: John VK4TJ, Gerard VK2IO and Adrian VK5FANA. Further calls yielded no replies, so I set up the paddle and moved down to the CW segment of the band. This resulted in several calls, again working John and Gerard, plus Steve VK7CW.

I returned to 40 m and could just hear Geoff VK3SQ calling but he could not hear my responses. We dropped down to 80 m SSB to make a contact. I then tried 20 m SSB, with the noise level higher. I worked John VK4TJ on CW, as I was not deciphering his voice signal.

I next tried 30 m SSB, even knowing that the antenna match was poor. I again worked Mike VK6MB/3 in Lind National Park. I had no further contacts on SSB, so spotted for CW and again worked John VK4TJ plus Joergen VK2KJJ. I tried 15 m SSB and soon had John VK4TJ in the log on both SSB & CW, but no other callers. I tried 12 m, again working John VK4TJ on SSB & CW but no other callers.

I moved back to 40 m SSB and managed another contact with Mike VK6MB/3, working hard to make contacts from Lind National Park. I moved down from 7.144 MHz to 7.135 MHz and soon had some more callers: Mark VK3MDH/m in Belgrave, Compton VK2HRX, John VK2JON, Keith VK3MKE and then Nick VK3ANL on SSB and then CW. I then dropped down to 80 m and worked Keith and Nick again, but no further callers. Back on 7.135 MHz, I worked Dennis VK2HHA. After working Dennis, I stopped to chat with Mark VK3MDH, who had driven down to find me. With some assistance from Mark, we managed to finally make contact  with Michael VK3FCMC on 2 m FM – I could hear Michael on 15 m SSB, but he could not hear me on 15 , 40 or 80 m. Michael was contact 44 – Park qualified. As Mark drove off, we made an “insurance” contact on 2 m FM – 45 in the log and all done for me. It had been a hot afternoon, with temperatures in the mid to high 30s relieved a little by a gentle breeze for most of the afternoon. It took about three hours to make the contacts. Thanks to all who called, but especially John VK4TJ who looked for me on every band.

I packed up and started the drive home, coping with the Melbourne afternoon peak traffic.

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A new WWFF Activator certificate

I had not been keeping a close watch on my WWFF Activator tally, so received a pleasant surprise when I checked on Logsearch last week: I had qualified 121 Parks as an Activator at the 44 contacts qualification level. As usual, it took only a couple of days for the new certificate to arrive via email.

Once again, thanks to all who hunt for us Activators when we are out in a Park, and thanks to the team who manage the database and associated systems.

vk3pf_A-121

Activator certificate: 121 references activated

 

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A Park after a hamfest

Sunday 17 February 2019

The weekend ended up being a little hectic. It all started with the trip to Melbourne on the Friday, with a radio being dropped off for repair, followed by a pick up at an electronics store. I drove across to Bayswater to pick up some books from the WIA office and then headed across to the west of Melbourne to my host for the weekend.

Saturday saw a trip to the Moorabbin and District Radio Club in Highett for the annual VK3 SOTA Conference where I was one of the eight presenters, with “SOTA and Parks for Newbies” the theme this year. The day went well, with the informal discussions as valuable as the formal presentations – it was great to catch up with everyone. Following the conference, I returned to my host’s home for the night.

Sunday morning was a relatively early start to arrive at the venue of the WANDARC Hamfest in Werribee to set up a table to hopefully sell some books and other stock on behalf of the WIA. Sales were slow, but it was a good morning for catching up with lots of amateurs who I had not seen for some time. These days, the socialising is the main reason to attend such events.

The crowd dissipated quickly after the door prizes were drawn at noon. I packed up and loaded the stock into the car after buying some lunch. I then headed across to Point Cook, negotiating the traffic en route.

Point Cook Coastal Park VKFF-1875

Traffic was heavy, especially once close to Point Cook Road. There was a significant delay at the road junction at Point Cook Road, a T intersection where I faced a Give Way sign. Patience was required. Just before reaching the Park, I worked Rob VK2QR/5 in VKFF-0822 whilst mobile.

The Park extends from the boundary of the Point Cook RAAF Base (RAAF Williams) in a northeast direction towards Altona. The northern end of the Park incorporates the Cheetham Wetlands – an area of shallow lagoons previously used as salt pans to harvest salt. The Park is part of a complex of RAMSAR wetlands around Port Phillip Bay. As such, the Park is popular for bird watching, sightseeing, walking and also aircraft watchers. There are many paths within the Park and I saw several family groups riding bicycles on the sealed roads. The Park adjoins the Point Cooke Marine Sanctuary. The latter is listed on Protected Planet and the CAPAD database (IUCN Category II), so may be added to the VKFF program in the future.

PointCookCP

The Park. Thanks to Google Earth.

I headed south towards the Park and entered via the Main Drive gate. There were plenty of people in the car parks, so I continued on toward the Picnic Area at the end of Side Entrance Road until I found a car park which had only a single vehicle and parked at the opposite end. I quickly set up the ZS6BKW antenna using a squid pole lashed to a post. The station was set up on the tailgate of the vehicle and I soon had Rob VK2QR/5 in the log as a Park to park (P2P) contact at 0254Z. I moved up to 7.144 MHZ and heard Mike VK6MB/1 in Namadgi National Park VKFF-0377, so waited for a chance and completed another P2P contact. I then moved up to 7.150 and started calling whilst posting a spot. As is often the case, there was an initial flurry of callers and then things started slowing down. At this time, I started having a lot of audio noise due to the RAAF Roulettes aerobatics team commencing a display above the nearby Point Cook RAAF base and Museum. It was quickly obvious that a special event was occurring at the base, which explained the large number of cars parked opposite the end of the runway in the Park: plane spotters! It was rather distracting, with the aircraft often completing a manoeuvre near my location. It was an occasion when I wished that I had packed the SLR camera with a long lens to capture some images. I later found that the display was part of a Valentine’s Day celebration at the RAAF Museum.

After about fifteen minutes Alan VK5AR/p called in and I had another P2P contact. I then assisted Alan by looking up his Park reference. I went back to calling with a steady but slow rate of contacts. I had 36 in the log by 0400, so took a short break to connect up my new paddle and spotted on 7.034, with a contest station calling on 7.032 MHz.

The new paddle took a little adjusting and a few contacts to become familiar with its use. The paddle is the Porta Paddle-II Precision Iambic Paddle, purchased as a kit. The kit arrived midweek and was easy to assemble apart from a couple of fiddly bits such as the springs. I also purchased the leg strap mount for the paddle, so I was also learning a new position for sending. I had a little noise on the band, making some calls a little harder to copy. This was not helped by the fact that I was feeling tired….

Cliff VK2NP was first in the log on CW. Several contacts followed, with the last contact tough – he called at a much higher speed and I had trouble deciphering the callsign, He slowed down a little when I sent “QRS pse”, but it was still probably 25 wpm. I finally decoded the callsign and had a report in the log. I called again with no replies, so dropped down to 80 m SSB to work Nick VK3ANL and Allen VK3ARH.

I then moved up to 20 m SSB and worked another three stations, making a total of 50 contacts.  The time was now 1615 local, and I still had a long drive home, so I closed down and packed up to start that long drive home.

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Cape Paterson (Patterson) Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2063

This Park had been activated twice previously, but looked to be worth activating. It is about 1.5 hours’ drive from home.

Sunday 10 February 2019

I headed off from home aiming to be on site after UTC rollover. I used my normal route towards South Gippsland, heading to Yinnar, then west onto the Strzelecki Highway (B460), south to Mirboo North and then SW to Leongatha. Minor issue though: a couple of kilometres south of the B460 / C469 junction, I reached a traffic jam – traffic was largely stationary. I do not know what was causing the delays, perhaps a road accident at the junction. I headed into the plantation south of the road and worked my way through the track network onto Darlimurla Road and met further detours manned by CFA volunteers before finally getting back onto B460. (Update: local news on Monday night indicated that a motorcyclist died after running into the rear of a car waiting to turn right into Darlimurla Road. Sad news!)

That was not the only delay….. I had forgotten that the date was the Mirboo North Italian Festa, with around 15000 people attending. Traffic in Mirboo North was a disaster….

Once through Mirboo North, things moved fairly smoothly, despite an area of roadworks with a 40 km/hr speed restriction.

The route was simple from Mirboo North: On to Leongatha, Inverloch and around to Cape Paterson. It is interesting to note that the Parks Victoria website lists the Reserve as having only one “t”, yet the CAPAD database has the spelling with two “t”s….

I drove along the eastern and northern boundaries, finding very limited parking. The road reserves extended to the edge of the thick coastal vegetation within the reserve. I travelled around to the local small shopping centre and purchased some lunch, then headed back to the reserve via Cassia Street.

The end of Cassia Street extends onto a mown firebreak that extends along the inside of the western and southern boundaries of the Reserve, providing a place to park the vehicle and set up with the antenna running close to the thick scrub and bracken. It looked as if the firebreak was regularly used, so I avoided obstructing the fire break. I set up using the tailgate of the vehicle as my operating table.

VKFF-2063map_s

The Park aerial view showing the boundary, with the firebreak visible

I was finally set up at about 0245Z and spotted myself. I then noticed that Linda VK7QP/p was in a Park (VKFF-1133), so listened for her signals for a couple of minutes. Linda was in the noise at my location and we probably would have needed 80 m to make a contact. I returned to my spotted frequency and promptly worked Geoff VK3SQ, who had been calling me after seeing the spot. Next was Lou VK3AQZ in Wonthaggi, who invited me to visit for a coffee when I was finished. It was slow work, with lots of calls with few replies. Thank goodness for the IC-7300 Voice Memory… I was called by Mike VK6MB/2 for a Park to Park (P2P) from VKFF-0334. I occasionally changed frequency to listen for Linda, but she was always only just audible in the noise and not good enough to work.

At around 0315Z, I tried switching to CW, only to find that the 6.35 mm to 3.5 mm stereo adapter had a fault, with a short causing continuous sending of dahs. So much for picking up some CW contacts!

With only eight contacts in the log, I dropped down to 80 m SSB and worked 5 station in about 15 minutes. I returned to 40 m SSB and managed a Park to Park (P2P) with Peter VK3ZPF/p in VKFF-2054, followed by Cliff VK2NP. Ten minutes of calling produced no callers, so I set up for CW, setting up the KX2. Only 10 W output compared to the 30 W I was using on the IC-7300, but I quickly had four more contacts in the log. I switched back to the IC-7300 and 40 m SSB to work some more stations, including Alan VK5AR/4 in a Park for which he did not know the reference. I had some noise at the time and recorded the Park name incorrectly, so I will not claim a P2P contact. I finally managed to work Linda VK7QP/p, now in VKFF-1153 for another P2P. This was followed by lots of calls with no response, first on 40 m SSB and then 20 m SSB. 20 m CW yield three calls in the log.

I returned to 40 m SSB and worked several more stations. I was about to pack up when I saw a new spot from Peter VK3ZPF/p in VKFF-2031: I had tried calling Peter earlier on 40 m SSB and later found out that he had been calling me, but signals were too weak. We finally made it on 80 m SSB. It was now 0552Z and I had 49 in the log, so I decided to call it quits.

Station VKFF-2063

Partial view of the station taken from just outside the park boundary

After packing up, I called Lou VK3AQZ on the ‘phone and arranged to visit him and his wife Rhonda VK3ZYL in North Wonthaggi. It only took about 15 minutes to reach Lou’s house and we had a very long chat over coffee and home-made scones with jam and cream. Lou showed me some of his very well built home-brew equipment, including his multimode, multiband HF transceiver, his automatic antenna tuning unit and antenna/rig switch.

It was then a matter of driving home. I took a punt that the Festa in Mirboo North and the road incident would both be over, which proved to be the case, so the trip home was uneventful.

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Hotham SOTA Summit 2019 – wrap up

Monday 4 February 2019

I had not decided on a firm plan for the day. The day started with contacts on 2 m FM with Gerard VK2IO/3 and Compton VK2HRX/3 on Mount Hotham VK3/VE-006. I then had breakfast and checked the Victorian Emergency website to find Plan A was ruled out with a fire located nearby to the intended target summit. We soon had a request to help move a pile of firewood. With many helping, the wood pile was soon in the wood shed portion of the lodge. People started tidying up, packing up and departing. In the end, I decided to simply drive home.

Things were very busy at times over the weekend, especially when several groups were on different summits at the same times. The larger distances between groups meant that 2 m FM communications were not always possible, especially with simple “rubber duck” antennas. When one group was moving between summits, they would drop to lower altitudes and behind ridges and hills, thus some possible contacts were missed.

Overall, I am more than satisfied with my weekend’s results. I worked two new Activator Unique summits and therefore gained two Completes. Our first summit on Saturday gave me a new Chaser unique and Complete.

Overall results for the weekend:

Activator points:  118
Chaser points:  413
Summit to Summit points:  430

Now qualified for Activator CW points 500 certificate, with CW qualified points tally now at 579. I will need to wait for the SOTA Awards shop to reopen for electronic certificates to apply for the formal certificate, plus a couple of others. I see no point in claiming a paper certificate, as it takes the Awards Manager time to confirm eligibility. The MT IT team are working to make the database more friendly for the Awards Manager & I am happy to wait!

Thanks to all who attended the weekend and a huge thank you to Brian and Kathy for hosting the event. It is great to spend time with like-minded people, discussing mutual interests. It is also good to have some company in the car when travelling to and from summits.

I am expecting that a summary report of the weekend will be published in Amateur Radio magazine in an upcoming issue.

Some of the others who attended have published accounts on their own blogs. Paul VK3HN has prepared an interesting video, so check it out.

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Hotham SOTA Summit 2019 – Sunday

Sunday 3 February 2019

Rik and Paul headed off early to walk across to Mt Loch VK3/VE-005 for quick activations. They then returned to the vehicles and started their trips home. Some others were heading back home. Others agreed on a basic plan of attack, with Brian taking Sid and Adele to a group of summits south of Omeo. Ron VK3AFW travelled alone, visiting Sam Hill, The Knocker, Mt Phipps and Mt Birregun. Three vehicles, each with two occupants, had a plan for a run of five summits to the southeast and east of Omeo.

The three vehicles headed down to Omeo and towards Swifts Creek. On the descent, I encountered a NSW-registered Prius with a female driver. She seemed to hate any corner and/or downhill section. She was travelling at a maximum of 80 km/h on sections where 100 would be safe. I managed to pass in a safe spot before the descent to Victoria River, but Compton and Andrew were stuck behind her. I waited for the others in Omeo, and of course, the Prius drove past and we were all stuck behind her. Patience was required….

We turned off at Tongio onto Bindi Road and then right onto Nunniong Road. The signs are poor and small. Watch for a Y intersection where the branch to the right drops downhill. There is a small black sign “Golf Club” (IIRC) about 100 m before the corner and another below the road sign at the Y junction. We climbed up the winding Nunniong Road and I stopped at the Washington Winch to wait for the others. Everyone jumped out for a few minutes to inspect the impressive aerial cables, pulleys, anchor point and the steam engine driven main winch. The equipment was used to haul logs out to the road in the very steep terrain.

AerialGearAnchor

Some of the aerial cables and an anchor point

EngineWinch

The steam engine and winch mechanism

Compton headed off first, turning right a little up the road to climb Telegraph Track to the summit of Mt Nugong.

Mount Nugong VK3/VG-018 1482 m 8 points

When we reached the car park area, another vehicle was already there: most likely a fire watch person up inside the tower. It was a day of Total Fire Ban. We were all aware of the fact and knew to keep our eyes alert to the sky.

The plan was for Leigh and I to qualify the summit as quickly as possible and for me to then head off to the next target summit. On arrival, we would then work those still on Nugong for S2S contacts, after which the Nugong group would pack up and head for our summit. The plan was for this pattern to occur on each of the five summits planned for the day. Gerard, Andrew and I all wanted to qualify the summits on CW, so part of the plan was that Gerard would set up his HF antenna and I would use it to make four contacts and then go QRT. That would leave (in theory) operators wanting the summit to work Gerard and Andrew. So the pattern for the day was for me to qualify each summit on 40 m CW and then go QRT. Apologies to any that called and I did not reply – at least now you know why!

On exiting the vehicle, I grabbed my HT radio and worked Compton, who had walked down the access road to outside the AZ. Next I worked Alan VK3FABT back at the ski lodge, followed by Glenn Vk3YY and David VK3IL, both on Mt Murray VK3/VE-025. A few minutes later I worked Ron VK3AFW on Sam Hill VK3/VE-049 after I had assisted Gerard in stringing out the ZS6BKW antenna. Having worked Ron, I connected my KX2 to the HF antenna and started calling CQ on 80 m CW. I soon had three stations in the log but then no responses to my calls. I moved up to 40 m CW and soon worked John VK4TJ for my fourth CW contact. I switched off and packed up. Returning to the vehicle, I checked that Leigh had the summit qualified and we headed back down to Nunniong Road. At the corner, we stopped to work one of the others still on Nugong via 2 m FM to chase the summit. Looking back, we need not have bothered, as we would chase Nugong from our next target…. I guess that is was part of what was going to be a busy day – it got a bit crazy at times!

A few hundred metres east along the road, you need to swing left to remain on Nunniong Road, with straight ahead route becoming Bentleys Plain Road. About three kilometres north, we swung into Sawpit Road and then took Granite Flat Link Track to Escarpment Track and then north for about a kilometre to a link track signposted “To Mt Bindi”. We then reach Mt Bindi Track and travelled around to the high point, which is well inside the AZ. The track continues on for about 600 m to a helipad located on the spur just before the terrain drops away steeply. I must remember to go to have a look on future visit!

Mount Bindi VK3/VG-017 1484 m 8 points

On arrival, we exited the vehicle and fired up the handhelds on 2 m FM to work the four operators back on Mt Nugong – we had arrived on site about seven minutes before UTC rollover, so the contacts counted for Chaser points for “Saturday UTC”. I worked Compton and Gerard again after UTC rollover, then concentrated on getting HF up and running. Leigh worked the others on Nugong to gain the post-UTC Chaser points. I found a minor issue – I could not find my LiFePO4 battery. I thought that I had tossed all the radio gear into a plastic carry bin in the back of the vehicle, but the LiFe battery was not there. No major issue – I simply grabbed a LiPo battery and my voltage reducer unit.

As I was about to spot myself for 40 m CW, I saw a spot from Brian VK3BCM on Mt Delusion VK3/VG-026. So I moved to their frequency and soon had Brian, Sid and Adele in the log. Next was Wade on 2 m FM from Nugong, then Matt VK1MA who had asked me to move down 5 kHz for 40 m SSB. I moved down to the CW end of 40 m and soon had Allen VK3ARH/p on Mt Loch VK3/VE-006 in the log. I soon had worked another four callsigns on CW before I closed. I then packed up and we started to drive out. I double checked things and found that I had placed the LiFePO4 battery in my rucksack and pulled the draw string, closing the throat of the pack, but had placed the radio and the bag with the log in a storage bin…..

We headed back along Mt Bindi Track to Escarpment Track, then north to Sawpit Link Track to head east. We then headed south to Lake Hill Track to head east. Just before the corner, we met Compton and Andrew heading north towards Sawpit Link Track. We chatted briefly before everyone resumed their trips.

I headed east on Lake Hill Track, after David VK3IL had reported using it the previous day. It was a pretty drive through snow plains and some areas which would be very swampy in the wet. The result was lots of rutted areas to negotiate. We made our way across to the final short steep drop down to Nunniong Road, which needed some careful selection of lines to avoid some rocks. It was then a simple trip north along Nunniong Road to Jam Tin Flat Track before heading east to continue along Diggers Hole Road to Blue Shirt Track. I drove along Blue Shirt Track to the high point of the track, well inside the AZ of the target summit.

Mount Nunniong VK3/VG-011 1617 m 10 points

We had no or very marginal phone coverage. Many SOTA summits suffer from this issue…. We quickly used a squid pole to raise a Slim Jim vertical for 2 m above the tops of the snow gums, enabling some very quick contacts to be made. I worked Brian VK3BCM/p, Sid VK3/ZS5AYC and Adele VK3/ZS5APT on Mount Baldhead VK3/VG-027 and Compton VK2HRX/3 still on Mt Bindi VK3/VG-017, so had the summit qualified on VHF. I set up the ZS6BKW antenna with a line over a tree branch at about 7 m and soon worked Allen VK3ARH, Gerard VK2IO/3 on Mt Bindi VK3/VG-017, Bill VK1MCW and John VK4TJ, all on 40 m CW. We packed up quickly and retraced our route to Nunniong Road to head north to the junction with Forlorn Hope Track.

Brumby Hill VK3/VG-012 1581 m 10 points

Just in from the junction, Forlorn Hope track has a locked gate. Vehicle access is prohibited except for management vehicles. The gate marks the boundary of the Buchan Headwaters Wilderness Zone, with a sign indicating Walkers Only beyond the gate. A significant walk will be required to access the Forlorn Hope summit, which has not yet been activated.

We again set up quickly, using two squid poles: one for a Slim Jim and the other for the ZS6BKW. We soon had plenty of action on 2 m FM: Glenn VK3YY/p and David VK3IL/p on VK3/VE-023, Brian VK3BCM/p on VK3/VG-064, Phil VK3BHR/p on The Horn VK3/VE-014, Brian VK2HRX/3 and Wade VK1MIC/3 still on Mt Bindi VK3/VG-017 and a few minutes later Ron VK3AFW/p on Mt Phipps VK3/VG-015.

I had the HF gear set up and worked four stations on 40 m CW, with a short break to work Rik VK3EQ/p on Mt Porepunkah VK3/VE-098 on 2 m FM. After a few minutes of calling without replies, I moved to 80 m CW to make a contact with Warren VK3BYD.

Expecting that the group behind us would work others, I took a break from HF and waited for the other group to reach Mt Nunniong. While we were waiting, recovering our breath and eating lunch, we worked Ron VK3AFW/p on Mt Birregun VK3/VT-020, Brian VK3BCM/p as well as Sid and Adele on Sam Hill VK3/VG-049 and finally Compton VK2HRX/3 and Gerard VK2IO/3 on Mt Nunniong VK3/VG-011, all on 2 m FM. Leigh will have worked most, plus a few others of the other group at Nunniong whilst I started packing up the HF gear.

We packed up the gear and started off further north along Nunniong Road to reach Limestone Road, then headed a short distance northeast to Misery Trail. We headed up Misery Trail and onto Mt Pendergast Track to park only a few metres from the trig point.

Mount Pendergast VK3/VG-022 “1450 m” 8 points

I note that a 1:50000 map that I have has the summit height as 1461 m – the difference is inconsequential for SOTA points purposes. We again used a squid pole to support the Slim Jim while I tossed a line over a tree branch for the ZS6BKW.

We soon had action on 2 m FM before I had strung out the HF antenna. Phil VK3BHR/p on The Hump VK3/VE-019 was followed by the group of Gerard VK2IO/3, Compton VK2HRX/3, Andrew VK1DA/3 and Wade VK1MIC/3 who had finally reached Brumby Hill VK3/VG-012.

I set up 40 m CW and four stations on 40 m CW, including John ZL1BYZ. I then closed and we packed up the station. We discussed another option, but it had already been very long day of concentrating whilst driving on some rough roads and tracks, so we decided to simply retrace our route to the junction of Nunniong Road and Limestone Road to wait for the group from Brumby Hill. When they finally approached, I described the required route to reach the summit of Mt Pendergast. As they drove up to the summit, we started to drive out towards Omeo. We parked at the junction of Limestone Road and McCallums Road and heard the first call from Mt Pendergast just after having switched off the engine. We quickly worked all on the summit from the car. Some on Mt Pendergast also worked a couple of people back at the lodge on Hotham.

We headed back to Benambra and on to Omeo to fill a request for soft drinks. The small supermarket had closed over an hour before we arrived, so I need to pay the premium price demanded in a café and from the bar at the hotel…..

We could see thunderstorms throughout our drive back, but we only had a few light showers. The group behind us experienced heavy rain and hail.

We returned to the lodge and had a quiet cold drink whilst recovering from the day’s driving. When the other group arrived, we cooked some meat on the barbeque and sat down to enjoin a very good feed. More discussion and drinking occurred until quite late in the evening.

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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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