A trip to VK4 for the inaugural Q-Tech meeting: the trip south

Monday 24 April

I departed Yugar a little after 0700. I followed the recommendation to travel back over Mount Glorious to Wivenhoe-Somerset Road (thus avoiding Monday morning Brisbane traffic), then to Ipswich, Warwick, Stanthorpe and across into NSW and Tenterfield.

Mount Mackenzie VK2/NT-025 1296 m 8 points

Mount Mackenzie is just west of Tenterfield and is very obvious as you approach the town from the north. I followed the signs out to the summit and set up mid-way between the actual summit and the lookout.

First in the log was Gerard VK2IO/p on Barraba Trig VK2/HU-065. I quickly worked another 4 stations and then shut down when I had no further replies. With the summit qualified, this was another new Unique and Complete.


Looking across Tenterfield from the lookout

I drove back down to Tenterfield and then headed south on A15.

I explored a possible approach to The Magistrate VK2/NT006, via Rockdale Road, which looked to be a potential approach route. It was not to be: I reached a locked gate with a sign “Private Property No trespassers”. So I aborted this attempt. Alternate approaches would require a significant detour. Unfortunately, no information has been added by previous activators to the summit page. I did not really go search for information, rather simply looked at some maps. The NSW National Parks website has little useful information on the Park.

Back on the main road, I headed south through Glen Innes to Grahams Valley Road and Maybole Road to the junction with Whites Road. From Whites Road, there were clearly tracks up to the target summit, but without any obvious entrance.

Mount Rumbee VK2/NT-005 1503 m 10 points

A short distance east of the Maybole Road Whites Road junction, there is an entrance into a farm – “Koala”. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I drove quietly up the drive to near the farm house at base of the summit. Exiting the vehicle, I heard sounds from sheds, so walked over. I found activity – several people were shearing. I introduced myself and explained my mission. The lady said that my request sounded reasonable and sought out her son. I explained my request briefly and he offered to show me the way to the summit.

The summit itself has an area of Crown land, but is surrounded by the farm apart from a possible public access route which shows up on the NSW SIX maps. There is a comms installation on the summit and another on the lower hilltop just to the north. The family are concerned that additional comms sites are not established.

I was guided through the various gates and had the final approach route outlined. I was able to drive to the top of the hill.

OnMt Rumbee

On Mt Rumbee

I set up at the trig. Tony VK3CAT was first in the log. Within 11 minutes, I had 14 in the log. With no further responses, I switched off and headed back down the hill after packing up. This time I had to open and close the various gates – not a difficult task. I called in to the shearing shed again to thank the farmer for permitting access and informing them that I was heading out.

Back on Maybole Road, I headed to the hamlet of Ben Lomond, and on to Inn Road.

Ben Lomond VK2/NT-004 1512 m 10 points

I approached the summit using the same route as Ian VK1DI, reaching a locked gate within the AZ. I also set up using the fence to support the squidpole. First in the log were Helen VK7FOLK/p and Jon VK7JON/p in VKFF-1139. I had 17 callsigns in the log within 21 minutes, but was unable to complete a contact with Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/HU-004. Thanks to Bill VK4FW, we coordinated a QSY to 80 m where I completed contacts with both Bill and Gerard. I switched back to 40 m to work friend Sergio VK3SFG and then packed up in developing gloom – the sun was below the horizon. This was a new Unique and another Complete for me.


Looking to the east. Mt Ben Lomond in shadow on the right.

I returned to Inn Road and Ben Lomond, then drove west and south to Narrabri, arriving a little before 2100. I indulged in a meal at a Chinese restaurant and then sought somewhere to sleep for the night. I ended up driving up into Mount Kaputar National Park to set up camp quite late.

Tuesday 25 April – ANZAC Day

Mt Coryah VK2/NW-004 1409 m 8 points
Mt Kaputar National Park VKFF-0353

I had camped in the Coryah Gap car park – perhaps not permitted, as it is not an official campsite. I packed up the camp and started the climb up the well-marked track. It took me 60 minutes for the climb.

First in the log was Rod VK2ZRD in Ulladulla. In just over 30 minutes, I worked 15 stations on 40 m. I switched to 20 m CW and attempted to contact JP1QEC on JA/YN-081. The contact was not completed – signals were marginal both ways. I spent a few minutes calling on 20 m ssb with no responses, then 30 m yielded another 2 stations. I moved back to 40 m, working several more stations, bringing the total to 26 for the activation. So another Unique and Complete in the bag.

I decided to continue the circuit walk, taking 40 minutes for the descent via longer route.

Once back at the vehicle, I descended to Narrabri to grab some brunch after taking a short detour to avoid the ANZAC commemorations outside the local RSL. I decided to head to the Australia Telescope Compact Array radio telescope (Paul Wild Observatory) for a quick look.


3 of the dishes at the Australia Telescope Compact Array

I then decided to head further west to Pilliga, given that it was only about 50 km away. Whilst researching the trip, I had noted that there were several abutting Parks north of Coonabarabran, with only a couple having been activated for WWFF.

Pilliga West National Park VKFF-0604

Logsearch reports one previous activation for this VKFF reference, with 11 contacts made. I headed into the Park via Yathella Road and found a spot on the southern side of the road. I threw a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole centre and strung out the dipole. Just as I was finishing rigging the antenna, it started to rain, so I connected the antenna to the IC-7000 in the car.

First in the log was Bob operating VK5WOW/p in Para Wirra Conservation Park VKFF-1739. Calls came quickly – much faster than in the morning. Park to Park contacts included VK5FMAZ/p and VK5PAS/p in VKFF-1752, VK2IO/p in VKFF-0196 and AX3ANL/p in VKFF-0773. I ended up 52 calls in the log in under an hour.

I packed up and headed back to the bitumen, then down the road to find an easy access into the Park to the east.

Pilliga West State (Coordinated) Conservation Area VKFF-1373 Not previously activated

I headed into the Park via Vale Road and found a side track junction that allowed me to be off the main track. I again threw a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole centre and strung out the dipole, connecting to the IC-7000.

First in the log was Nick AX3ANL/p in VKFF-0773, followed by Marija AX5FMAZ/p and Paul AX5PAS/p in VKFF-1752. Other notable contacts included Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/MN-047 in VKFF-0196 and Dave VK2ZK/p in VKFF-0041. In 1 hour and 13 minutes, I had 52 calls in the log.

I retraced my route to Pilliga, then SSE to Baradine and north and east into Timmallallie National Park.

Timmallallie National Park VKFF-0609

By time I found my way into the Park and set up, it was getting late. I set up in fading light. Fist in the log were Paul AX5PAS/p and Marija AX5FMAZ/pin VKFF-1752 on 40 m. In ess than 20 minutes I had 12 contacts in the log. I then changed to 80 m and ended up with a total of 41 contacts in the log.

I packed up in the dark and then returned to Barradine and headed south to Coonabaraban and booked into a motel for the night – the afternoon had been wet and I decided against camping.

It rained overnight and in morning, but the weather radar showed it looks as if it would clear. I posted an Alert for 0001 Z.

Wednesday 26 April

After grabbing some food at the local bakery, I headed out to Warrumbungle National Park. I dropped into Visitor Centre to pay the entrance fees and headed around to Split Rock car park / picnic area. I loaded up and started the Split Rock Circuit in the recommended direction. I forgot to turn on my GPS until I was a little up the fire trail… The Parks team have been working on the track, but it was still slippery in places, with almost 7 mm of rain overnight. Finally make around to the start of summit climb. It was very steep in places!

Belougery Split Rock VK2/CW-017 749 m 4 points
Warrumbungle National Park VKFF-0520

I loaded up and started the Split Rock Circuit in the recommended direction. I forgot to turn on my GPS until I was a little up the fire trail… The Parks team have been working on the track, but it was still slippery in places, with almost 7 mm of rain overnight. Finally make around to the start of summit climb. It was very steep in places!

Once I had climbed up enough to have mobile coverage, I updated the Alert for later, as the climb was taking longer than my initial guess.

I climbed to the summit cairn for some photos. The breeze was stiff, so I descended to a spot out of the wind but still in the AZ. I started calling on 7.090. Got 10 in the log, and then switched to 20 m, finding significant noise on 14.310, so I moved up to 14.320. Here I worked Andrew ZL3CC and John ZL1BYZ. With no answers to further calls, it was time to pack up and descend carefully back to the Circuit Track. Another Unique and Complete in the log.

View toSE

Looking SE towards the Breadknife and Needle Mountain

I decided to complete the circuit, which involved more ups and downs. I finally arrived back at the vehicle feeling a little tired. After loading the gear, I headed back towards Coonabarabran, then up to Siding Springs Observatory.

At the Observatory, I checked out the Café and looked in the door of the visitor centre, but decided against a detailed inspection. I then had a quick visit to the Anglo Australian Telescope.

Mount Woorut VK2/CW-003 1155 m 6 points

I set up on the top picnic table, with the sky looking rather threatening. The wind was significantly stronger. On switching on, I heard Gerard VK2IO/p in Myall Lakes National Park on Winns Mountain VK2/MN-067 working Rick VK4RF. They were discussing going to CW. I called in and quickly worked Gerard before dropping down to 7.085 to call CQ. Steve VK7CW called in – not strong but we completed the contact. Steve posted a spot for me and callers started to appear. So did a brief shower with hail. I got 10 in the log before the hail really hit, when I quickly packed up and headed down the road to Coonabarabran.

I had been looking at the maps for access to a 6-point summit which had not yet been activated.

Needle Mountain VK2/CW-036 1168 m 6 points NYA

Access looked possible via Cenns Cruaich Road off the Newell Highway. The road is initially unsealed. About 6.5 km along, I found out why it has not yet been activated: a gate with a large sign: Private Property. Gate to remain locked. Access only by Authorised Key Holders. I did not even bother to try to ask at the house nearby for permission, given the sign. I headed back out to the highway and then south to Dubbo and then on to Orange for the night.

Thursday 27 April 2017

After grabbing some food at a Bakery, I headed out of town to the SW.

Mount Canobolas VK2/CT-001 1397 m 8 points
Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area VKFF-1353

I encountered a couple of sections of road works which slowed the approach, but safely arrived at the car park at the summit. It was cold – only 0 degrees, with a breeze making the apparent temperature lower. I set up using one of the sign supports to hold the squid pole, only metres from the trig. As I was setting up, I visitor arrived and was interested in what I was doing. I explained as I finished setting up and he listened to the first few contacts. First in the log was Rick VK4RF, followed by Steve VK7CW and Nev VK5WG. With 11 contacts in the log, I had no further callers, so reconfigured the antenna for 20 m, working only John ZL1BYZ despite calling for nearly 10 minutes. I switched back to 40 m for only 2 more contacts. I was getting cold and a bus load of tourists had arrived. I explained what was going on to some of them and then the squid pole de-telescoped: a sign to pack up and go with 14 in the log. Another Unique and Complete.

OperatingMt Canobolas

Operating on Mt Canobolas

I drove back to Orange via the alternate route, thus avoiding the road work areas, then passed through town and out to the north east.

Mount Bulga VK2/CT-031 1060 m 6 points

The approach to Mount Bulga is relatively straight forward, but the track to the summit is 4WD with a steep gutter at the start. I was able to drive a few hundred metres up the track until I came across a tree half down across the track, but low enough to question if I had clearance. I parked, loaded up and climbed into the AZ. I had been listening to Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/HU-094 in VKFF-0375 calling on the approach and decided not to make the final climb to the actual summit in favour of a S2S contact.

Gerard was first in the log, followed by Steve VK7CW. I ended up with 13 in the log before deciding to pack up and head back down. Cliff VK2NP was lucky last – I was about to disconnect the antenna when he called.

Another Unique and Complete.

I drove back to the edge of Orange and then headed south to Blayney and on to Carcoar.

Mount Macquarie VK2/CT-011 1205 m 8 points

There are a couple of traps if approaching from near Carcoar: the first is that Mount Macquarie Road cannot be entered from the main road – you must enter into Carcoar and then drive under the main road. The second is that the first obvious track leads to a very steep track to the summit, which was very slippery after the overnight rain. I decided to explore further around and found a logging road with reasonable surface from on the south side of the summit. There were some ruts and wash outs, but all could be negotiated with care in a 2WD vehicle. You can drive to the summit, with a large and a smaller tower. As I approached, I could hear the noise level rise on the rig in the car. I drove around the main tower, noting the mess left by the logging of the pine trees. I drove about 150 m back down the access road and set up on the side of the road, about 10 m vertical below the summit. Once set up, I posted a Spot.

Col VK3LED was the first to call. After about 10 minutes calling, I had 6 in the log and no replies to further calls. I reconfigured for 20 m and called for at least 10 minutes with no responses. After going back to 40 m, I worked another 7 calls.

Another Unique and Complete.

After packing up, I head back to the main road and headed SW to Cowra and Grenfell. I had explored the maps and Google Earth for possible approaches to VK2/CW-048. An approach looked feasible off Grimms Lane, first going through the State Forest. That worked OK – a gate to pass through with no signs or lock. But the gate at the National Park boundary had a heavy chain with a large lock. Summit was therefore aborted. There is little information on the NP website about the Park. There is access from the east into the Park – perhaps next time!

I headed east and south, making my way to Temora, Wagga Wagga and south to Wodonga to spend three nights catching up with family.

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A trip to VK4 for the inaugural Q-Tech meeting: some SOTA and Park activity in SE VK4

Friday 21 April

I left Gatton and allowed the car navigation system to lead me to my first activation for the day. I used the simplest option of the “Town Centre” and entered a locality name I had seen when looking at my digital mapping the evening before. It wanted to take me on a narrow “Dry Weather Only” track, so I headed back a short distance and north about a kilometre to reach a sealed main road.

Mount Perserverance VK4/SE-024 805 m 6 points Not previously activated

The GPS system recalculated the route and had me coming in to the west of the summit, but then wanted me to go further west, so I cancelled the route and checked my mapping application on the laptop. A quick U turn and backtrack about 200 m took me to a linking road to get back on National Park Road, Palmtree School Road and then Perseverance Trig Street. As I approached the summit, the road condition slightly deteriorated as I passed a couple of signs for Ravensbourne National Park VKFF-0427. My earlier investigations suggested that it might be possible to be in both the National Park and the summit AZ.

The simple approach to the summit is from Esk Hampton Road (Highway 85): Take Shearer Road and National Park Road to Palmtree, and on Palmtree School Road and then Perseverance Trig Street. When you see the steep rutted track, swing right onto the newer track, which joins Diamond Road east of the summit. Turn left to follow the sign up to the comms facilities at the summit.

I came to a junction of the old road and a new track which ran around the south side of the summit. The direct approach on the old road was steep, rocky and rutted, so I thought I would look at the southern track. When I got almost around to the east side of the summit, there was a truck half blocking the track. It had a load of sawn timber on the back, but I managed to sneak around the front of the truck, the rear of which was well off the road. Once past the truck, I saw a sign pointing up to summit – an easy approach.

I set up on the northern edge of the cleared area, hoping that it might just be inside the National Park. When I was making contacts, I mentioned that it may be a Park activation, but would need to confirm my location in relation to the Park boundary on my return home. Checking the CAPAD outlines in ArcGIS Explorer, the boundary is a short distance further north, so this was not a valid Park activation. Sorry folks!

Geoff VK3SQ was first in the log on 7.090. I worked 11 stations on 40 m and then switched to 20 m after having no replies to a few CQ calls. I worked a further 7 stations before calls dried up and I shut down and packed up. I retraced my route back to National Park Road and along to Shearer Road and out to the bitumen of Esk Hampton Road/Highway 85. I then followed the vehicle GPS to next possible target – Mt Sevastopol VK4/SE-058. All was fine until Sebastapool Road, where I found a locked large gate, so the summit was aborted.

I entered the overnight destination into the navigation system, which directed me north and east to Toogoolawah, for a stop to grab a late lunch. The route then took me through Mount Beppo, Caboonbah and Bryden to route 31: Northbrook Parkway. This is a scenic and twisting climb up into D’Aguilar National Park. The road takes you through the AZ of Tennison Woods Mountain. D’Aguilar NP

Tennison Woods Mountain VK4/SE-117 770 m 6 points
D’Aguilar National Park VKFF-0129

Although I was expecting the track junction, I missed it near the top of the climb, so I needed to pull over at the next road junction and turn around. Traffic and the angle of approach were awkward, so I headed back over the top until I found a spot to again turn around. This time I was able to pull up and reverse in to the start of the track to the summit. I grabbed the gear and set up close to the locked gate to the summit: the track junction with the main road is inside the AZ.

I switched on a called on 7.090, with Gerard VK2IO first in the log. I ended up with 21 calls in the log from 40 m. Much of the activation was completed under a large umbrella, with heavy rain at times. I then packed up and headed around to the home of Kevin VK4UH, who had offered to host me for the weekend. Yet another Unique and Complete in the log.

Saturday 22 April

Redfest & Q-Tech

Kevin and I travelled separately to the event, with me arriving about 30 minutes later than Kevin, but still early. Traders at the Redfest hamfest were still setting up. I had a quick look around and managed to score some goodies: 2 x Omni Spectra 8-18 GHz power dividers, a 6 position SMA relay and a 800 – 2500 MHz 30 dB coupler, all for the grand total of $1.

The conference sessions were due to start at 1000, so I took my USB memory across to the venue at 0945. Minor issue – the computer refused to recognise the device. So I made a quick trip back to the car to get the portable hard drive, with its original copy of the file. Thankfully, that file worked.

The Conference session were an interesting and informative mix of topics:
ARISS School Program by Shane Lynd VK4KHZ;
Portable operating, Summits On The Air (SOTA) and Parks Award Programs by me;
Amateur Satellite Operation by David Hopkins VK4ZF;
Meteor Scatter by Kevin Johnston VK4UH;
EMR compliance and your Amateur Station by Doug Hunter VK4ADC.

It all went well. I returned to Kevin’s home.

Sunday 23 April

3 summits in D’Aguilar NP

I departed Yugar before 0800 and drove through Dayboro and up Laceys Creek road to the top of the range. I parked close to the locked gate and loaded up.

South of Mt Sim Jue VK4/SE-045 659 m 4 points
D’Aguilar National Park VKFF-0129

The climb of 2.8 km with a climb of about 220 m took me 55 minutes. I chose not to walk around to the summit itself but set up just north of the junction with the road to Mount Sim Jue, within 10 m vertical of the summit. Gerard VK2IO/p on Mount Elliott VK2/HU-093 was first in the log. Other notable contacts included Andrew VK1AD/2 on Bobbara Mountain VK2/ST-044, Bill VK4FW/p in VKFF-1552, Ian VK5CZ/p on VK5/SE-010 (15 m CW), John VK5BJE/3 in Snowy River NP VKFF-04555, Tony VK3CAT/p and Allen VK3ARH/p, both on Big Hill VK3/VE-059 (40 m CW), Wade VK1FWBD/2 on VK2/IL-005 and Grant VK4JAZ/p in VKFF-0179.

I packed up at around 0235Z, with a second group of motor bike riders disturbing the peace as they roared up the road – it is apparently common for motor bikes to find ways around the locked gates!

The return trip to the vehicle was much faster. I then headed north along the ridge line to the next summit.

Kluvers Lookout VK4/SE-039 683 m 4 points
D’Aguilar National Park VKFF-0129

Range Road travels largely along the top of the ridge line and takes you past the summit. There is a comms site with an impressive array of solar panels on the summit. I set up at the edge of the car park.

Wade VK1FWBD/2 on VK2/IL-005 was first in the log. I then worked John VK5BJE/3 in Lake Tyers State Park VKFF-0761. 3 more in the log then I paused to explain what I was doing to a couple that had arrived. I then worked Paul VK5PAS operating VK5WOW/p in Cooltong Conservation Park VKFF-0823. A quick CQ call yielded no responses, so I packed up and headed north. Yet another Unique and Complete in the log.

North of Mt Byron VK4/SE-043 662 m 4 points
D’Aguilar National Park VKFF-0129

I continued north along Range Road, then west along Sellin Road and into the Mount Mee section of the Park. Follow Lovedays Road, K Break, Army Road to Escarpment Link Break and south onto Western Escarpment Road. The summit is just north of Somerset Lookout.

Dennis VK4SX was first in the log, followed by Kevin VK4UH. Notable contacts included David VK5HYZ/p in Scott Creek Conservation Park VKFF-0788, Tony VK3CAT/p on Mt McKay VK3/VE-007, Marija VK5FMAZ/p and Paul VK5PAS as VK5WOW/p both in Coolton Conservation Park VKFF-0823, Bill VK4FW/p in VKFF-0701 and John VK5BJE/3 in Lake Tyers State Park VKFF-0761.


Looking SW from close to VK4/SE-043

I again packed up and headed back to Yugar, with yet another Unique and Complete in the log. The total number of callsigns in the log from the four activations should comfortably qualify the Park for WWFF.


Looking west to the D’Aguilar Range on the trip back to Yugar

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A trip to VK4 for the inaugural Q-Tech meeting: Heading north

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Having seen a message to one of the Groups several days ago, I emailed John VK5BJE suggesting that we might meet up on his travels east to Lakes Entrance. On the day, I met John VK5BJE & wife Judy in Traralgon for coffee and a chat. Of course, the caht continued for longer than it should have. I finally left Traralgon at about 1230 K and head east to Cann R and then north on the Monaro Highway to Bondi Forest Way. I made my way around Cairnlea Road and Mount Tennyson Road.

Mt Tennyson VK2/SM-087 1056 m 6 points

Mount Tennyson Road heads south and east around the edge of a pine plantation and climbs up to a high point on a ridge. I failed to record the name of the track at the junction – simply turn right and climb the track along the ridge to the summit, which has some comms installations.

I set up using a tree to support the squid pole and started calling on 7.090 MHz. Col VK3LED answered my calls and kindly posted a Spot. At about 0708Z, I heard Bill VK4FW call me, but he did not respond to my calls to him: sorry Bill. I ended up with 13 contacts in the log, including 3 ZL stations. I changed bands to 20 m for about 10 minutes of calling, yielding only one contact with Hans VK6XN/p in Ngari Capes Marine Park VKFF-1450 for a new Park.

The activation was a new Unique and Complete for me.

I then packed up and headed north, reaching my destination in Nimmitabel at a reasonable hour.

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Departing Nimmitabel at around 0800 local, I drove north through Cooma, Canberra and then on to Boorawa, Cowra, Canowindra, Molong, Cumnnock, Yeoval, Obley and along Gundong Road to the eastern edge of Goobang National Park. It was then south along Keen Trail and Wandoo Wandong Trail to Caloma Trig.

Caloma Trig VK2/CW-050 774 m 4 points
Goobang National Park VKFF-0204

I set up about 170 m north of the trig, but still inside the AZ: the trig itself is located in a reserve which is not part of the National Park! I spotted myself on 7.090 MHz a few minutes after 0500Z. First in the log was John ZL1BYZ, followed by Gerard VK2IO and Andrew VK2MWP. The fun continued until I decided at around 0600Z to try 20 m, when calls eased off on 40 m. 20 minutes of calling was rewarded with only one contact: Tadashi JA1VRY. The contact was tough, with lots of QSB.

I returned to 40 m, initially on 7.088 and then 7.085. Last in the log was Rob VK2QR in Talbingo.

48 contacts in the log over 1 hour 35 minutes: A new Unique, Complete plus the Park qualified for WWFF.


The Trig station at Caloma Trig – in poor repair

I retraced my route back to Gundong Road and headed North West to reach the Newell Highway A39, and then north to Coonabaraban to grab some food. I headed north on A39 to Number One Break Road, then east to Top Crossing Road to head south to Dandry Gorge Road to Sculptures in the Scrub camp area in Timmallallie National Park for the night.

Timmallallie National Park VKFF-0609 Not previously activated

I quickly set up the tent and an antenna. However, time was late and I had no mobile coverage, so could not spot myself. I searched around on both 40 m and 80 m, but had no luck with Calls. I did manage to work 10 stations on Thursday morning, all on 80 m. Time was getting on – it was after 2120Z and I wanted to head north to be on a new Summit at around UTC rollover. I packed up and headed back to the Newell Highway.

Thursday 20 April

The drive to Narrabri was uneventful. I headed out of town following the large brown sign for Mount Kaputar National Park. Be careful, the small sign at the correct intersection (Kaputar Corner) is NOT in the typical brown used for tourist signs! Head along Kaputar Road, enter the Park and climb up to Mount Kaputar car park.

Mount Kaputar VK2/NW-001 1500 m 10 points
Mount Kaputar National Park VKFF-0353

The final climb to the car park is sign posted as 4WD recommended. It was a little rough in places…. I parked in the top of the car park, well and truly inside the AZ, loaded up the gear and climbed the stairs and boardwalk to the summit marker. I took some photos on the summit and then climbed part way down the approach to set up using the guard railing to support the squid pole and antenna ends, sitting on the top of a short section of steps for the activation.


Looking west from Mt Kaputar summit

I spotted myself and started calling at 0013Z, with Rick VK4RF first in the log. I had 14 calls in the log by 0027Z. I changed the antenna configuration to 20 m and worked John ZL1BYZ and John VK6NU. After another 10 minutes of calling, plus explaining what I was doing to a couple of tourists, I switched to 15 m and was rewarded with Nigel VK6NI and Neil VK8ZCU.

I packed up, happy with the 18 contacts. I was about to head off back down the road when I heard RRT announce a new activation. I checked to find that it was a nearby summit, also in the same Park. I could barely hear the calls being made using the mobile whip in the car, so quickly strung out the SOTA antenna away from the car and set up the SOTA station. This time I could just hear Brett VK2BNN/p on Mount Yulludunida VK2/NW-020 at 0129Z – we exchanged 51 reports. I improved the antenna height and made a repeat contact at 0135Z, this time with 58 reports both ways. I then heard John VK2YW calling Brett and waited to work John. That brought another contact: Julie VK3FOWL/p, but with a weak signal received by Julie. A total of 20 contacts were in the log for the summit and Park. Yet another Unique and Complete for SOTA, plus a new Park for VKFF, but needing more contacts for WWFF.

I then headed back to Narrabri before heading north on the Newell Highway to Moree, Goondiwindi and on to Toowoomba. Finally in VK4, I ended up in a Gatton motel for the night.

The story will continue in the next entry.

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SA National and Conservation Parks Award anniversary weekend 2017 Day 4

Gunbower National Park VKFF-0740 continued

In the morning I awoke early and spent some time listening around 80 m. I ended up with 17 contacts in the log – much better than the one contact achieved on my last activation here, when I had a huge thunderstorm headed toward me. So Gunbower National Park qualified for VKFF, plus Gannawarra Shire qualified.

After packing up, I headed back to Cohuna for fuel and food, and then headed south to Pyramid Hill and Mitiamo, initially on C267.

Terrick Terrick National Park VKFF-0630

Head north on Mitiamo Forest Road and then Sylvaterre Tims Lake Road to the National Park. I headed in to the day visitor area and set up the station.

The first contact was again Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0581. On switching on, I heard Gerard working Ken VK3ALA/7. Having not chatted with Ken for some time, I called in and asked Ken to stand by. After working Gerard, we moved down in frequency to have a chat. I worked 4 stations on 40 m, then tried 80 m for some more local stations, working 5. I then returned to 40 m to work another 5 stations, including a couple of repeats on the new UTC day. The end result was 14 contacts in the log and a successful activation of Shire of Loddon.

I retraced the route to Mitiamo, then headed south on C336 to C341, east to C338 and then south to about 1.4 km past C337.

Greater Bendigo National Park VKFF-0623

From C338, I turned west into Camp Road and travelled around to the Mulga Dam camp site. I found a spot away from others and set up the station. I tried to spot myself, but had no phone coverage. I tried calling CQ on 7.090 for about 15 minutes without any replies. The only signals that I could find was a group of three VK4 amateurs a little lower in frequency, so I ended up breaking into their discussions. Two of the stations could hear me okay and were willing to exchange reports. I considered trying 80 m and lowered the squid pole in preparation to run out the extra antenna wire. As I was doing this task, attacked I was by a small group of bees. One stung me on the forehead: that was it! I packed up as quickly as possible and departed.

At least the two contacts gave me the Shire activation: City of Greater Bendigo ticked off.

I retraced my route back to the bitumen, then headed north to C337, then headed east to Elmore and then onto A300 to head east to Stanhope. Here I stopped at the Recreation Reserve to use the toilet and also made contact with Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0611. Shire of Campaspe activated.

I then headed on toward Shepparton, then north to Mooroopna North and into the Lower Goulburn National Park.

Lower Goulburn National Park VKFF-0741

I again set up and managed to spot myself on ParksnPeaks. First contact was again Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0611. Over the next 50 minutes I worked a total of fifteen stations, all on 40 m SSB. By time I had packed up, it was 1430 local time, so I headed into Mooroopna to grab another late lunch.

It was then into Shepparton for fuel and head south toward Melbourne, ultimately headed to friends in Sunbury to catch up again. En route, I heard on ABC Local Radio that Mount Eccles is officially no more: Monday 3 April saw the mountain and the National Park renamed to its aboriginal name: Budj Bim. So I was probably the last person to activate the Park under the old name.

I was invited for dinner and to stay the night – an offer too good to refuse.

Tuesday morning was a leisurely start and I finally arrived home mid-afternoon, feeling rather tired.


Four days of travelling, with over 2000 km added to the odometer.

14 VKFF references activated, but most need future visits to qualify for WWFF.

7 SOTA summits activated, all becoming Completes.

24 Local Government Areas activated, several with sufficient contacts to qualify for the VK Shires Award as an Activator in the Rover category and all counting towards the VK3 2017 LGA Challenge.

The LGAs activated completed those remaining to have activated all 79 LGAs activated towards the Victorian Local Government Award, a challenge that I started (casually) back in 2012. I have submitted my award claim for that award.

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SA National and Conservation Parks Award anniversary weekend 2017 Day 3

Sunday 2 April

I was awake early the next morning, as we changed back from Daylight Savings Time to EST.

I headed west to Natimuk and then on toward Gymbowen on C213, then down Tooan Duffholme Rd.

Mount Arapiles – Tooan State Park VKFF-0765

I set up just inside the Park boundary. After spotting, I was called by Mick VK3GGG on 80 m at 2153 Z (Saturday UTC). Several more calls went unanswered, so I switched to 40 m and worked Bill VK4FW/p in VKFF-0363, Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/HU-54 and Peter VK6RZ. West Wimmera Shire activated. Further calls yielded no responses, so I packed up and headed back to C213, then back to Mt Arapiles.

Mount Arapiles VK3/VW-022 369 m 1 point
Mount Arapiles – Tooan State Park VKFF-0765

I parked in the car park, with some local walkers resting after their climb up from the gate and some rock climbers preparing to head off for the morning.

I loaded up and headed to close to the lookout just north of the fire watch tower on the summit to set up using the fence as a support for the squid pole. I decided to string up only for 40 m and above, as the area is scrubby and rocky, with a large drop to the north. Thus space is somewhat restricted.

First in the log was Gerard VK2IO/m. It took over 30 minutes to gain 5 contacts, making the summit activated and a total of 10 for the Park. Another Complete and Horsham Shire activated.

I packed up and drove back to Natimuk, then on toward Horsham, then north to reach the A8, then north to Dimboola.


Looking west to Mt Arapiles

Little Desert National Park VKFF-0291

From Dimboola, I headed down Horseshoe Bend Road to Horseshoe Bend to set up. First in the log was Adrian VK5FANA/p in VKFF-0909, followed by Rob VK4AAC/p in VKFF-1218 and Peter VK5KPR/p in VKFF-0920. Other notable contacts included Les VK5KLV/p in VKFF-0920, Andrew VK1AD/p on VK1/AC-043, Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1391, all on 40 m, and Col VK5HCF/p in VKFF-0804 on 80 m. Several minutes of calling on 20 m yielded nothing. Time to again pack up and move on to the next target. 13 contacts in the log for the Park and for Hindmarsh Shire.

I headed to Warracknabeal to buy a late lunch and to fuel the car. It was then north to Hopetoun and on towards Patchewollock via C247. North west of Desert Road, there is a small track to the left which takes you into Wyperfeld National Park.

Wyperfeld National Park VKFF-0549

First in the log was Richard VK5ZRY/p in VKFF-0813, followed by Andrew VK5MR/p in VKFF-0278, Peter & Kevin operating VK2SMS/p near Lightning Ridge, Chris VK5FR/p in VKFF-0911. Other notable contacts were Greg VK5GJ/p in VKFF-0936, Helen VK7FOLK/p and Jon VK7JON/p in VKFF-0432 and Bob VK5AFZ/p in VKFF-0826. 11 contacts added for the Parks tally and Yarriambiack Shire qualified.

I packed up and again headed north, but only to Moloney Rd, then west to the junction with King Road, where I called from the mobile for several minutes, working Helen VK7FOLK/p and Steve VK7CW to activate Rural City of Mildura.

It was then back to the bitumen and north to C248, then east to Speed and on to Sea Lake. It was then about 10 km south on C244 to Green Lake Regional Park.

Green Lake Regional Park VKFF-0967

The lake was dry. I headed a few hundred metres north along the eastern shore to set up beside the lake away from the power lines that travel beside the entry road,

On switching on, I found Paul VK5PAS/p and Marija VK5FMAZ/p in VKFF-0877, followed by Adrian VK5FANA/p in VKFF-1706. Several more stations were worked on 40 m SSB, including Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1303, Bill VK4FW/p in VKFF-0363 and Andrew VK5MR/p in VKFF-0278. I packed up at around 0739 Z with 14 in the log – enough for VKFF qualification of the Park and plenty for Shire of Bulloke.

It was then back up to Sea Lake and then east on C246 to Ultima, then continuing on Lake Bolga Ultima Road to Lake Boga. I made my way to the eastern shore of Lake Boga and managed to work Andrew VK5MR/m just as he was returning to Roxby Downs. Rural City of Swan Hill activated.

Back on the road, I headed south east on B400, through Kerang and on to Cohuna to find some food. With a pizza on board, I made my way into Gunbower National Park.

Gunbower National Park VKFF-0740

It was getting quite late as I entered the Park. I spent a little time searching for a reasonable site to set up camp. I stopped a couple of times to consume some pizza…. I found a reasonably flat site just off a track without huge trees overhanging and started to set up the tent. Once the tent was up, I erected the squid pole and antenna, set to 80 m.

I got the gear for the night into the tent plus the FT-817 and a couple of batteries. I set up and started calling on 80 m SSB. The first contact was Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0581. I ended up with 8 contacts before I gave up and went to sleep.

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SA National and Conservation Parks Award anniversary weekend 2017 Day 2

Saturday 1 April

Bay of Islands Coastal Park VKFF-0743

I found a spot to bivouac for the night. The tent rattled all night, with strong gusting winds and occasional rain events, so it was not particularly restful. I awoke early, packed up the tent and moved into the Coastal Park, at the end of Buckleys Road. I set up, spotted and called on 80 m, with responses from Mick VK3GGG and Geoff VK3SQ. Several minutes of further calls yielded no results, so I went to 40 m and worked Gerard VK2IO/m near Newcastle. Again I had no responses to calls, so moved to 20 m, where I worked Greg VK8GM in Alice Springs. With 5 calls in the log, I called it quits, with City of Warrnambool qualified.


Part of the coast with rough seas and rain on the way

I packed up and headed into Warrnambool to grab some breakfast. It was then west to Tyrendarra and NW up Mount Clay Road, then around to the locked gate at Mount Clay.

Mount Clay VK3/VS-051 186 m 1 point

I set up using one of the gate posts to support the squid pole and strung out the 40/20 inverted V. Ivan VK5HS was first in the log after I managed to post a spot. I ended up with 10 contacts in about 15 minutes. Given the agenda ahead, I closed when I had no replies to calls. Another Complete to the tally, plus Glenelg Shire activated.

I retraced my route to Tyrendarra, then headed NE to Mount Eccles National Park.

Mount Eccles National Park VKFF-0345

My access route was via C191 and C176, then some small roads to get to the Lake Surprise Picnic area. Another set up with the 40/20 inverted V. With good mobile signals, I first checked ParksnPeaks. First in the log was Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0790, followed by Marija VK5FMAZ. Adrian VK5FANA/p in VKFF-0812, Greg VK5GJ/p and Norm VK5GI/p in VKFF-1038, Mark VK5QI/p in VKFF-0941 and Gerard on VK2/HU-080 followed. A short excursion to 20 m yielded Rick VK4RF. With no further calls and 11 in the log, it again time to move on. Shire of Moyne in the bag.

I headed into MacArthur, then on C185 to Penshurst to grab a late lunch, then up to the car park at Mt Rouse.

Mt Rouse VK3/VS-048 369 m 1 point

When I was set up, I saw a spot for Rob VK4AAC/p, so quickly moved to 40 m to work him in VKFF-0722. Adrian VK5FANA/p in VKFF-0812, Peter VK5PET/p on Mt Lofty, Paul VK5PAS/p & Marija VK5FMAZ in Talisker CP and Wade VK1FWBD/p on VK1/AC-038 VKFF-0863 were highlight contacts. With 7 in the log and Shire of Southern Grampians qualified, I headed north to Dunkeld to add fuel to the car. Bad move: the advertised price on the automated system did not include the GST charge, so the cost is actually 10% higher! I then headed east on B160. A little way down the road, I passed through a small hamlet with a petrol outlet, with a cheaper price and presumably not adding the GST as an extra. Such is life.

East of Streatham, I headed NNE on Eurambeen-Streatham Rd to Raglan.

Mount Cole VK3/VS-008

In Raglan, navigated around to Raglan-Mt Cole Rd. The start of Frees Point Road had a large sign indicating that it was a dead end. I headed further up the road to 37.33294 S 143.28293 E, to turn left, the left again and then onto Mt Cole Track. I gave up driving at about 350 m from the summit, then walked up to the high point in the track, comfortably inside the Activation Zone.

I set up and worked VK1AD/2 on VK2/ST-036, Brian VK3MCD/p on VK3/VC-019, Peter VK5PET/p on VK5/SE-005 and Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/HU-054, plus Nev VK5WG. 5 in the log and no further responses, so it was again time to pack up. Pyrenees Shire activated and another Complete.

I retraced my route back to Raglan, then down to the Western Highway and west to Ararat.

One Tree Hill VK3/VS-036 569 m 2 points
Ararat Hills Regional Park VKFF-0958

I worked my way around to the road to the One Tree Hill Lookout, then on to close to the summit. Another quick set up with the 40/20 inverted V. My first call on 40 m was answered by Mick VK3GGG/p on VK3/VW-016 VKFF-0629. Next was Allen VK3ARH/p on VK3/VC-024 and later Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/HU-54. It did not take long to have 10 contacts in the log, so I again pulled the plug at 0728 Z. Ararat Rural City qualified and another complete.


Looking toward the Grampians from One Tree Hill

As I was driving down from the lookout, I considered my options. I decided on another summit and headed to Halls Gap.

Near Boroka Lookout VK3/VW-007 867 m 4 points
Grampians National Park VKFF-0213

From Halls Gap, I worked my way up C222 to Mt Difficult Road and up to the car park for Boroka Lookout. I grabbed the gear and headed slightly up hill to the base of the rock to ensure that I was in the AZ. I set up on 80 m and quickly worked Col VK3LED, Bill VK4FW/p in VKFF-0363 and Nev VK5WG. After a few more minutes calling, I changed to 40 m and worked Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0780. Summit qualified, another Complete and Shire of Northern Grampians activated. A few more contacts for the Park added to the tally. I packed up and headed down, then drove to Horsham to find a motel room for the night and some food.

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SA National and Conservation Parks Award anniversary weekend 2017 Day 1

31 March to 3 April

Several anniversary events are held each year by groups interested in Parks and/or SOTA. The weekend of 1 & 2 April 201 was to be the fourth anniversary of the SA National and Conservation Parks Award, with many planning to activate Parks in South Australia (SA).

In addition to the SANCPA activity, several SOTA operators were planning to attempt activations of summits using 160 m.

Despite the poor HF propagation conditions of recent months, I decided to head out within Victoria to support the SA activators. I decided to head to western Victoria, as I had activated very few Parks or summits to the west of Melbourne, apart from a trip south and then home from the WIA Annual Meeting in Mildura in 2012.

I still needed to activate several local government areas for the Amateur Radio Victoria (ARV) Local Government Award (LGA) to qualify for all VK3 LGAs Activated. I had completed the full set of 79 LGAs Chased some time ago. So the plan was to activate LGAs in western and northern Victoria, which would also help with the tally for the 2017 LGA Challenge promoted by ARV.

The area to be traversed covers more than half of the state, presenting too many options for activation sites. I focussed my planning around a reasonably direct route which would allow most LGAs to be activated from a Park or a SOTA summit. As you will see, some back tracking was required! A benefit of the planned route was that I would maximise the time available activating and minimise the effect of the roughly 2-hour drive each way from home to Melbourne.

Friday 31 March

After an appointment in the morning, I packed the car and headed to Melbourne, with a stop in Clayton before heading to Sunbury to catch up with friends. I finally departed from Sunbury at about 1445 local time. My initial route took me south and west: Toolern Vale, Bacchus Marsh and on to Anakie. From there, it was short trip up the Geelong-Ballan Road to Butchers Rd and then west to find an operating spot on the north side of the road.

Brisbane Ranges National Park VKFF-0055

The chosen operating site fulfilled my needs: inside the National Park and inside the Golden Plains Shire. I set up with a 7 m squid pole and the 40 m /20 m inverted V antenna and managed to post a spot to ParksnPeaks.

First in the log was Rick VK4RF, followed by Adrian VK5FANA and Bill VK4FW. Within half an hour, I had 10 contacts in the log, mainly VK4 & VK5, with one VK2 and a couple of VK3 stations. 10 contacts made the activation valid for VKFF purposes, so I called it quits and packed up given that further calls yielded no responses.

I drove back down to Anakie and pulled over to call on 146.500 MHz FM, with Bill VK3YHT in Geelong and Rex VK3FRJF in Clifton Springs calling back, thus qualifying the City of Greater Geelong. With no further responses, I resumed the drive to Geelong and then across to Point Lonsdale.

Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park VKFF-0954


Looking south to Point Lonsdale lighthouse & the Heads

I proceeded to the car park at the end of Lawrence Rd to find it almost empty. I parked on the eastern boundary and set up the station as previously: 7 m pole and 40/20 inverted V. After spotting myself, first in the log was Neil VK4HNS/p followed by Adrian VK5FANA. Amongst the callers were Paul VK5PAS/p and Marija VK5FMAZ/p in Deep Creek Conservation Park VKFF-0780. After about 20 minutes of calling, I had no further callers, so again packed up and departed. The route was back along the Bellarine Highway to Geelong, where I stopped to fuel the car and grab some food.

I then headed west on the Princes Highway to Winchelsea and pulled off onto a quiet side road to spot myself and call CQ Shires. Bill VK4FW answered the calls, thus qualifying Surf Coast Shire. Further calls yielded no replies, so the trip west resumed.

Near Colac, I again found a quiet side road to activate Colac-Otway Shire. I again spotted and was called by Adrian VK5FANA, but apparently he could not hear me. A few minutes later, I called Peter at VK3SMS, the Lightning Ridge Men’s Shed Radio Club. I then resumed the drive to Camperdown.

Mount Leura VK3/VS-050 310 m 1 point

I drove up to the summit and set up using one of the sign support legs to hold up the squid pole. The wind was picking up, so it was cool. The first callers was Steve VK5CW at 1033 Z. I had 4 calls in the log within 10 minutes, but could not raise any other responses. I was packing up when I heard Bill VK4FW calling, so I quickly strung out the anternna again and managed to work Bill, making call number 5, thus qualifying Corangamite Shire under the Rover category for the Australian Shires award. This made for a new SOTA Complete. I packed up and headed toward Warrnambool, then south at Allansford.

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Antennapalooza 2017

The fourth running of Antennapalooza occurred on the weekend of 8 & 9 April, based near Foster in South Gippsland. Antennapalooza is an event run by the Gippsland Gate Radio & Electronics Club for sharing information, especially relating to antennas and portable operations. This year, the camp site was open from Friday afternoon to Monday.

Given the weather forecast, I decided to make it a day trip on Saturday. I arrived at around 1000 local. After exchanging greetings with several of the early arrivals, I mentioned that I was planning to head to a local SOTA summit. Sergio VK3SFG and Jon VK3TUL jumped in with me. Theo VK3AP and a colleague decided to follow us up to the summit.

We headed off back toward Foster and navigated around to Foster – Mount Best Road and then to Wonga – Square Top Road and parked at the junction with Mount Square Top Road.

Mount Square Top VK3/VT-071 447 m 1 point

The summit is located on private property, so permission is needed to access the summit. I had attempted to call the contact person the evening before and left a message. He called back just after 0700 Saturday morning. All was clear for access. We climbed over the very low fence beside the gate and started the climb up past the apparently vacant house on site, following the driveway and then a farm track. The climb is relatively steep, climbing about 90 m vertical over about 400 m.

On arrival, I grabbed the handheld and called CQ on the 2 m liaison frequency for the event, and promptly worked two stations at the campsite. I then decided to set up using a tree branch to support the HF antenna. Jon and Theo offered to assist by running out each side of the HF dipole.

Calling on 40 m SSB promptly had a further 3 contacts in the log. I then handed the microphone to Sergio for him to activate. As I was posting a Spot, I noticed two other stations out on air on summits. We quickly worked Andrew VK3JBL/p on VK3/VC-037 S2S and a few minutes later, Wade VKL1FWBD/p S2S VK1/AC-037. We then chased Paul VK5PAS/3 in Shallow Inlet Marine and Coastal Park VKFF-0749, followed by Chris VK3PAT/p and Chris VK3QB/p who were out with Paul.

We finally got back to our posted frequency, and a string of callers were worked. Last in the log was Ian VK1DI/2 on VK2/SM-049 for a final S2S.

With no further callers, we packed up and headed back to the event site, happy with a new Unique and Complete.

During the afternoon, several people gave presentations to the small gathering:

Paul VK5PAS spoke about portable operations in general, about the VKFF/WWFF Awards and about the SANPCP Awards.

Tony VK3XV/VK3VTH spoke about the Keith Roget National Parks Award and briefly about the Victorian Local Government Award.

I spoke about SOTA.

An impressive cold front moved across a little after 1700 local, with lightning, thunder and plenty of rain. Discussions continued despite the rain and the falling temperature. I gave up at around 1815 and started the drive home.

It was great to catch up and to share ideas with those present. I shall certainly endeavour to make it to the next event. Thanks to Chris VK3QB and every one else involved in organising the event.

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2017 SOTA Mount Hotham gathering

Brian VK3MCD organised a second gathering of SOTA enthusiasts based at the Peninsula Ski Club at Mount Hotham, held over the last weekend in February. This date clashed once again with the Wyong “Field Day” hamfest, so a few possible attendees from VK1 and VK2 decided against the trip to Hotham. This year it was a self-catering effort, with plans for a group meal out on Saturday evening.

I headed off on Friday, about mid-morning. The drive was uneventful apart from a few sections of roadwork. I stopped for fuel in Bairnsdale, and later a little south of Ensay to eat lunch and to work Paul VK3HN/p on Mt Nelse VK3/VE-004 on SSB. I saw a SSB spot for Tony VK3CAT/p, but could not hear him at the time. Just before I started the drive to Omeo, I sent a SMS to Tony suggesting that we try CW. I received a reply a few minutes later, so pulled over to the side of the road and shut down everything in the car – I have terrible RFI from the car and the GPS and its DC converter. I worked Tony on 7 MHz CW, so VK3/VE-019 was in the log. Thanks Tony!

North to Omeo, and then on toward Benambra and Corryong until I reached Tablelands Road. Left into Tablelands Road and along to Porphyry Hill Track.

VK3/VG-063 Gresson Knob 1044 m 6 points Not previously activated

Porphyry Hill Track has a gate at its Tablelands Road junction – not locked. I was considering aborting, but saw a sign a few metres beyond the gate indicating a firewood collection area. This confirmed my earlier investigations that this was public access. The drive up was steep in places with careful pointing required in a few places, but the little Impreza managed OK, although I did engage low range at the first really steep section. I made it all the way to the summit, making for a short walk from the car to set up using a eucalypt sapling to support the squid pole.

I posted a spot and Adrian VK5FANA was first in the log, followed by Ian VK5CZ, Mick VK3GGG and Nev VK5WG. Several calls yielded no replies, so I changed to 20 m to gain a further 4 contacts: ZL1SKL, ZL1BYZ, VK4QO and VK6NU. With no replies to further calls, I shut down and packed up for the trip back to Omeo and up to Mount Hotham.


Looking north while leaving the summit

After arriving, the social discussions started, even while assisting Brian to erect an OCFD for HF and a 2 m vertical on the lodge balcony. Late afternoon yielded contacts with Paul VK3HN/p on Mt McKay VK3/VE-007, Tony VK3CAT/p on Mt Loch VK3/VE-005 CW with a broken iambic paddle operated as a straight key and Allen VK3ARH/p on Ulrich Peak on 2 m FM, but only after I drove up to the Loch car park – there was too much blockage at the lodge.

Friday evening was quite social, especially after everyone had eaten dinner. Various options were discussed, with groupings unsure when everyone retired. Further discussions occurred in the morning over breakfast. Glenn VK3YY was planning to have a look at The Twins Track, hoping to get to The Twins and VK3/VE-023. Brian VK3MCD was looking at trying to get to Mt Bindi to the southeast of Omeo. Ron VK3AFW was planning to head to Mt Phipps and Mt Birregun.

Saturday 25 February

I decided to join Brian, along with Paul VK3HN. We headed off to Omeo and on toward Mt Nugong. On the approach to the summit we stopped to look at “The Washington Winch”, a steam driven winch used to haul logs up out of the valley below using steel cables and pulleys which was imported into Victoria in the 1920s and used into the 1960s. The Washington Winch is of historical and scientific significance.

Mt Nugong VK3/VG-018 1482 m 8 points

Mt Nugong is a drive-up summit, with a solar powered communications site on the summit. We set up on the summit using one leg of the sign to support the squidpole and Brian’s OCFD antenna. First in my log was VK3YY/p on Mt Blue Rag VK3/VE-021 – a great start, a S2S contact! Within 10 minutes the summit was qualified, including the time spent in passing the microphone around to ensure that everyone made enough contacts to qualify. 40 m propagation was poor, with poor NVIS.

We packed up and headed around to Nunniong Road, then north to Sawpit Road. We then followed an old logging track (I think it may have been Granite Flat Link Track) to Escarpment Track, then north to Mount Bindi Track.

Mount Bindi VK3/VG-017 1484 m 8 points Not previously activated

I had looked at this summit previously and had discussed an earlier attempt to access the summit with another amateur. I had thought that a real 4WD vehicle would be needed and had not attempted to find a way to the summit before my Forester died. Therefore, it was a clear choice when Brian suggested trying to get to this one the night before! In the end, access was OK, and an easier route to the summit is likely to be possible, but not yet confirmed.

Nunniong Road and Escarpment Track are two of many in the area subject to seasonal road closure, so the most likely time to be able to access is during summer and autumn. Nunniong Road is reasonably good, okay for a 2WD vehicle with care. The southern end of Escarpment Track looks very rough and narrow. When we reached it further north, it was a better track. Sawpit Road was also OK for the section that we travelled, and looked okay at the northern end. Therefore, a possible approach route may be Nunniong Road to Sawpit Road, north to Sawpit Link Track, south on Escarpment Track to Mt Bindi Track and in to the summit. Mt Bindi Track was a little rough – 4WD recommended. Retrace your approach route back to Nunniong Road to exit.

We set up on the edge of the track, less than 80 m from the nominal summit location and clearly inside the activation zone. Brian, as driver, had the privilege of starting the activation. My first contact was with Alan VK3FABT back at the lodge on 40 m SSB. I had the required qualifying contacts with other stations via 2 m FM, including Tony VK3CAT/p and Allen VK3ARH/p, both on Mount Feathertop VK3/VE-002. Tony and Allen had walked out in about 3 hours – a good effort.

We packed up, with Brian having had a telephone call about an incident concerning Ron VK3AFW: his car had overheated and he was stranded in Omeo. We advised Ron that we would pick him up after doing our next activation, given that we were so far east of Omeo. Brian wanted to bag Mt Nunniong.

We headed back to Escarpment Track, then north to Nunniong Plains Track. We passed the end of Sawpit Road and continued on. We followed this across rough country to reach Nunniong Road. It may have been quicker to go back along Sawpit Road – a greater distance but perhaps faster?

Mount Nunniong VK3/VG-011 1617 m 10 points

I had activated this summit previously and we approached using the same route: Nunniong Road north to Jam Tin Flat Track, Diggers Hole Road to the junction with Blue Shirt Track. According to the GPS, the track junction is just inside the AZ. To be sure, travel down Blue Shirt Track to the first high point – clearly inside the 1600 m contour.

Two contacts on 7 MHz and two on 2 m FM had the summit qualified. Given the time required to exit the area to pick up Ron in Omeo, we called it quits given the poor HF propagation.

We followed the GPS directions back to Omeo: retrace back to the start of Jam Tin Flat Track, then north along Nunniong Road to Limestone Road – including travelling through the AZ of Brumby Hill VK3/VG-012. Then travel west back to Benambra and Omeo. We picked up Ron and headed off to the next summit.

Mount Birregun VK3/VT-020 1363 m 8 points

The approach is straight forward: head towards Hotham on the Great Alpine Road, then south toward Cassilis. Then follow the signs for Dargo: Upper Livingston Road, then Birregun Road.

We again set up with Brian’s OCFD plus 2 m. I qualified the summit on 2 m FM, mainly with contacts back to the group at Hotham. Ron had his first completed activation for the day…

We loaded up and headed back to Mt Phipps.

Mount Phipps VK3/VG-015 1536 m 10 points

We approached from Birregun Road via Mount Phipps Track. We activated the summit via 2 m FM, given how poor HF had been all day. I suspect that Ron was more than happy to have an activated summit in the log so quickly.

We retraced our route back to Birregun Road, then south to Dinner Plain Track. This was initially in very good condition, but deteriorated to 4WD later on. We followed it all the way through to Dinner Plain, then back to Hotham on the Great Alpine Road.

Once back at the lodge, it was a quick pick up of some items, then up to the summit. Brian had arranged access direct to the top, where we set up for some late afternoon nibbles and drinks. Some chose to set up stations to activate Hotham. I decided to not activate at this time, planning to visit the summit during the bonus season.


Late afternoon on Mt Hotham, looking SW

After the summit, we headed back down to The General for dinner. Only one issue – they lost my order and my meal did not arrive until about 2130, after Alan had raised the issue with staff and they followed up….. It was back to the lodge for some discussions and then off to bed.

Sunday 26 February

Sunday was more varied. Some were planning to activate summits on their way home, whilst we had two groups planning to activate summits and return to Hotham. I joined Ken VK3KIM and Ron VK3AFW for a trip to the south west.

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

The route out to this summit is an iconic 4WD track, so it was not surprising that we found about 8 4WD vehicles lined up on the summit when we arrived: they had driven up to enjoy the views in the early morning following sunrise: the sun rising above cloud-filled valleys. By time we arrived, the low clouds had mostly evaporated.


Looking back Blue Rag Range Track

We set up just north of the trig, with a 40/20 inverted V and a 2 m vertical on separate masts. My first contact was Tony VK3XV/p on Huon Hill VK3/VE-237 in Wodonga Regional Park. A string of contacts followed: S2S with Allen VK3ARH/p on Albion Point VK3/VE-080; Tony VK3CAT/p, Paul VK3HN/p and Brain on Mt Tabletop VK3/VE-028; Glenn VK3YY/p on The Horn VK3/VE-014, and several others. Amongst the contacts were S2S by me and Ron with Brian on Tabletop on 23 cm FM – a first SOTA 23 cm contact for Ron and Brian.

We packed up and headed back down the track to Basalt North Track, then south.

Basalt Knob VK3/VE-039 1512 m 10 points

We drove up and parked at the edge of the helipad, then set up just inside the AZ. This time we used my gear. On switch on, we heard Allen VK3ARH/p calling CQ on 40 m CW – where the rig had last been used. I quickly completed a S2S with Allen, followed by Ron working Allen. A few minutes later, I worked Glenn VK3YY/p on The Hump VK3/VE-019 for another S2S. Shortly after, I worked Brian VK3MCD/p as his group were walking out from Mt Tabletop. The contact with Brian qualified the summit for me. The others made further contacts before we had lunch prior to moving on.

White Timber VK3/VE-060 1375 m 8 points

This summit was the main reason to join Ken and Ron the day. The approach from Basalt Knob was relatively easy: Ritchie Road was in good shape and open on this occasion. We reached White Timber Spur South Track and negotiated the deep gutter with a couple of scrapes. The track was serious 4WD and we gave up after a few hundred metres when we reached a deeply rutted and steep section. We parked off track and loaded up my rucksack of gear to climb up to the AZ. The whole area is regrowth, quite thick off the track.

First in the log was Allen VK3ARH/p on VK3/VE-030 for a S2S. 40 m propagation had improved and we worked several more chasers on 40 m SSB. Once we had all qualified and had no further callers to CQs, we shut down and headed back to the car.


Ken on White Timber

Once back on Ritchie Road, we followed it out to the Dargo High Plains Road: excellent condition most of the way, but care needed with two creek crossings. At this time of the year, many 2WD vehicles could use this approach, retracing their route to exit. We then headed north, back to Blue Rag Range Track.

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

The final approach is a little rough, with deep ruts to negotiate, then a mess in the saddle. Once through the saddle, follow the track up until it flattens out to ensure you are in the AZ. We set up on 40 m and quickly had four VK5 stations in the log plus a couple of “locals” on 2 m FM from near the lodge on Hotham.

We then packed up and returned to the lodge for some nibbles before Brian, Ken and myself headed down to Dinner Plain for dinner.

Monday 27 February 2017

Those remaining at Hotham were planning to head off the mountain and eventually to home. Ron and Ken planned a couple of summits close to Omeo and then in to confer with the RACV mechanic and hear his assessment of the Outback. I decided to head for Mansfield, via Myrtleford and then across country. I stopped at a bakery in Mansfield for lunch, then south to Jamieson and then toward Licola. En-route I stopped to listen for Ron and Ken on VK3/VG-064 but could only hear chasers.

Mount Skene VK3/VE-031 1565 m 10 points

The high point in the road across the top is clearly inside the AZ. I set up on the edge of the road, using a sign post to support the squid pole. I managed to post a spot for 40 m SSB and was soon rewarded with a call from Gerard VK2IO/m. Several of the regular callers followed, with 10 completed contacts in 20 minutes. I heard Geoff VK3SQ call me, but he was unable to hear my responses, even after I added the 40 W amplifier. Sorry Geoff.

I packed up and continued toward Licola.

Mount Shillinglaw VK3/VE-068 1301 m 8 points

A Shire of Mansfield tractor with a scrub “mower” attachment was parked at the junction with the Alpine Walking Track. I parked behind it and loaded up with the pack for the approach walk of about 1.8 km with about 130 m climb. The afternoon was quite warm, slowing progress a little. The track is becoming encroached with regrowth from the edges, but quite easy to follow. Watch for diversions around large fallen logs.

During the climb I some plants with lovely purple berries – I guess that I should do some research to identify the plant species. There were other plants with bright red berries.


On the approach

I found a spot without close-by ant nests – there are many about! Tony VK7LTD answered my CQ calls on 40 m SSB and kindly spotted me. By time Col VK3LED called me, the Kandos groups had started up on 7093, so we moved down to 7085. Col then re-spotted me. Over the next 20 minutes, I had 13 contacts in the log. I was about the pack most of the gear in the rucksack when the phone beeped – coverage was very marginal, so I was somewhat surprised. It was a SMS from Rik VK3EQ that he was on a summit. I quickly reassembled the station – luckily I had not yet dropped the antenna. I then joined the dogpile to work Rik on VK7/SW-171 for a S2S. I listened briefly after completing the contact, then packed up and headed back to the car.

I then resumed the trip toward Licola. I checked the watch as I crossed the Mansfield/Wellington Shire boundary and decided on one last summit for the weekend.

Conners Plain VK3/VT-022 1305 m 8 points

After parking the vehicle, I climbed up onto the plateau and set up using a stump for a support. I managed to post a spot and called on 7085. Andrew VK2UH was first in the log, followed by Gerard VK2IO/m, Nev VK5WG, Paul VK5PAS and John VK4TJ. With no further responses to CQs on 40, I switched to 20 m and posted a spot. I was rewarded with calls from Oliver DK7TX and Ogi 9A7W. Excellent contacts, as I was only running 5 W. Further calls gained no responses, so I shut down and headed back to the car and resumed the trip home.

I arrived back at home at about 2025 local, with the fuel warning light showing for the last 30 km or so. Lots of kilometres covered, with some terrific scenery and 3 summits activated.


It was a productive weekend, with terrific camaraderie. It was also highly productive for the SOTA scores.

13 summits activated for 114 Activator points
27 summits chased for 238 Chaser points
148 S2S points
3 new Activator Unique summits taking my total to 250 Uniques activated
2 new Chaser Uniques
2 new Complete summits.

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A summer weekend of SOTA fun

Friday 20 January 2017

I had a need to catch up with a friend located in Sunbury and desired to pick up and pay for a second-hand Spiderbeam 18 metre telescopic pole, which I had organised to buy the previous weekend.

I was away from home a little later than anticipated and headed west on the Princes Highway to Pakenham, then basically north through Cockatoo, Seville, Yarra Glen and on to Yea to garb some lunch. Having just finished lunch, I heard an alert for a VK3 SOTA activation. I found a quiet spot at the Yea River wetlands just east of town and managed to work Ken VK3KIM/p on Mount Kerang VK3/VU-010 on the mobile whip. Signals were not great, nor was propagation, but we made the contact.

I then headed west through Trawool and on to the property to purchase the Spiderbeam pole.

After a chat, I headed off to the west to Tallarook and then south a short distance, heading east and south on Ennis Road and into the Tallarook State Forest.

Mount Hickey VK3/VN-015 805 m 4 points

Ennis Road becomes Main Road. There was lots of small debris on the road, with a strong cold front having passed through the state overnight. Follow Main Road until you reach Mt Hickey Road and wind up to the summit, where you will find a fire watch Tower and lots of RF generators, including an AirServices Australia site. I choose to set up in the shallow saddle to the east of the summit, less than 10 m lower than the summit.

I strapped a squid pole to a stump and was quickly on air. I posted a Spot. Within 15 minutes I had 5 contacts in the log and received no responses to further CQ calls, so I packed up and headed back down to the Hume Highway.

South for 10 km and headed off on the Broadford turnoff, through Broadford and south to Jeffreys Lane. Turn into Jeffreys Lane and then turn into Mount Piper Lane. This is a little rough, but can be safely negotiated by a 2WD vehicle. The Lane ends in a car park, with a large locked gate to the rest of the reserve, plus a pedestrian gate.

Mount Piper VK3/VN-028 440 m 1 point

The summit lies inside the Mount Piper Nature Conservation Reserve. Just beyond the gate is an interpretive sign giving some basic information on the Reserve. There is no substantive information showing on the ParkWeb site.

Mount Piper is solitary steep peak rising some 210 m from the surrounding terrain. The Mount Piper Nature Conservation Reserve (94 ha) was established in 1980. Antimony was mined in the reserve from 1939 to 1945 but proved unprofitable. Shafts were sunk exploring for gold. During the 1940s, timber was sourced to fire the boilers at the Broadford paper mill.

The Reserve has one of the largest populations of the Golden Sun Moth, now restricted to a small number of locations. The Ant Blue Butterfly is another threatened species found with the reserve.

I loaded up my pack and headed up the walking track to the summit. After about 200 m, I reached Mount Piper Lane and decided to take the direct approach, climbing up Mount Piper Lane. A little way up I spotted an echidna exploring the base of a tree. When I spotted me, he (she?) curled up into a protective spiky ball. I waited patiently with the phone in camera made and managed to catch a photo of this lovely monotreme.


Echidna spotted during the climb

I continued to the end of the vehicle track, and then scrambled the last few metres up to the summit trig.

I set up on the trig, which had a convenient swivelling mount through which I ran the squid pole – no need to strap the squiddie to the trig.


The gear at the Mt Piper trig, with the view east over Broadford.

I spotted myself and started calling. It took several minutes before I gained a response, then I had a further four contacts inside 10 minutes. With no responses to further CQ calls, I packed up and headed back down to the car via the walking track.


Mt Piper descent track

I loaded up the car and started the trip south to Kilmore, then west across to Lancefield, across to Riddells Creek, and finally south to Sunbury. Just a little north of Sunbury, I heard Paul VK5PAS/p out in Warren Conservation Park. I stopped the car in a drive way and switched off everything to eliminate the noise. I had a solid contact with Paul, and then travelled on to my destination in Sunbury.

A new Unique and a new Complete.

Saturday 21 January 2017

The key event for Saturday was supposed to be a social one: a Family Day for members of the Macedon Ranges Amateur Radio Club, to which I was invited.

After adding fuel to the car, I headed up to Mount Macedon, to the summit area.

Mount Macedon VK3/VC-007 1005 m 6 points
Macedon Regional Park VKFF-0972

I have previously activated Mount Macedon as a SOTA summit, but had not visited since the Park was added to the WWFF system. The summit area is well known for the high level of RF interference, due to the numerous RF sites around the summit. I parked the car about 100 m down Francis Road, about 10-15 m vertically below the posted summit height. I set up running the dipole parallel to the edge of the unsealed road.

I posted a Spot indicating a short activation shortly after 2300 UTC (20/01/2017). The first contact was a couple of minutes later and I had 12 in the log inside as many minutes. Further calls yielded no responses, so I packed up and head off to the picnic venue.

Macedon Regional Park VKFF-0972

I was a short drive around to Days Park in another area of the Regional Park. After catching with some of those already present, I excused myself and set up the squid pole and 40/20 link dipole and started working stations to build up numbers toward the WWFF quantum of 44. Most stations were worked on 40 m. I worked 5 stations on 20 m, but none on 15 m. I also worked several on 2 m FM, most at quite short distance… I ended up with a total of 63 contacts in the log, including some SOTA contacts.

We decided to pack up a little after 1500 local, and headed back to Sunbury for the night.

Sunday 22 January 2017

After seeing the weather forecast for the next few days, I revised my notional plan. I headed north west, driving up the Calder Highway and then across to Maldon and up Mount Tarrengower. I had hopes of activating several summits during the day, so the plan was for short activations, hopefully only requiring the use of 40 m.

Mount Tarrengower VK3/VN-023 565 m 2 points

Mount Tarrengower dominates the skyline above the historic gold mining town of Maldon. A large poppet head sits on the summit, together with several RF sites. I set up in the shade of some trees just west of the poppet head.

First in the log was Rob VK4AAC/2 in Goonoo National Park VKFF-0590. I moved away from Rob to find a clear frequency – not easy on Sunday morning with all the News Broadcasts. Over about 25 minutes I gained 10 contacts. I heard Geoff VK3SQ very weakly, but he could not hear my QRP signal – sorry Geoff.

With no responses to further CQ calls, I packed up and headed back to the car and headed north west.

I drove into Loddon Shire and then east toward Eddington, stopping for a 10 minute VK3PF/m activation of the Shire for four stations in the log. Then it was further west then north to Moliagul.

Mount Moliagul VK3/VN-024 525 m 2 points

Mount Moliagul Road starts near the junction of B240 and C278 – just east of the intersection. It is signposted “Mt Moliagul lookout” or similar (I did not record the details). The Road is unsealed but suitable for 2WD vehicles. There were some rough sections with ruts, but they were easily navigated.

There are some comms sites on the summit. I parked and again set up under a nearby tree to gain the shade.

I spotted a short activation on 40 m and gained 10 stations in about 15 minutes. Once again, with no responses to further CQ calls, I packed up and headed back to the car and headed back to Moliagul and then south and in towards Mt Bealiba.

A new Unique and a new Complete.

Mt Bealiba VK3/VN-026 “481 m” 1 point

I believe that this summit needs to move location – there is a higher point about 500 m to the north. Both high points fall within a common activation zone. Having established that from the maps, I decided to activate the high point to the north.

I approached off the St Arnaud – Dunolly Road via Log Bridge Track, Martins Road and Bealiba Range Track. I reached a steep and rocky section and parked the Impreza to walk the rest of the approach, despite the hot temperature.

The climb was about 750 m horizontal with a climb of just over 80 m vertical, taking me about 17 minutes. After looking at the notional summit and confirming that it looked lower and that the GPS mapping confirmed that the saddle was less than 25 m lower than the summit, I set up on the edge of the track.


Mt Bealiba track

After spotting myself, I worked 8 stations in about 10 minutes, after several initial calls after spotting.

It was hot on the summit, so again I closed when I received no responses to further CQ calls.

A new Unique and a new Complete.

I walked back to the car and retraced my route back to the bitumen and then headed to Dunolly to get some lunch. Just as well I was not any later, as the Bakery was packing up, just on 1500 local. I then headed south to Maryborough, Talbot and on to the Mount Beckworth Scenic Reserve

Mount Beckworth VK3/VC-024 635 m 2 points

There is good information about the Mount Beckworth Scenic Reserve on the Parks Victoria website http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/mount-beckworth-s.r.

Having read Allen VK3ARH’s blog, I found the small car park a few hundred metres before the Manna Gums Picnic Area. After entering the Reserve via Mountain Creek Road, turn left at the first junction. When the trees thin out, keep an eye out for an old sign on the right which indicates “Management Vehicles and Walkers Only” in a clear patch of grass before some trees. I parked in the shade and loaded up for the climb. I followed the vehicle track to its end, then the walking track, which rapidly heads north – the opposite direction to the summit! But it gradually climbs and the extra distance is sure to be better than climbing through long grass, bracken, scrub and around boulders, let alone thinking about what might be slithering around unseen. After about 600 m, you reach a track junction and turn left, climbing up to the ridge line. It is then a matter of climbing up the Management Vehicles Only track to the summit. It is a little rough in places, with loose granitic sand and granite boulders and slabs.

At the summit there are some signs, the trig on top plus a very large pine, the “Lollipop Tree”, planted in 1918. At the time I reached the summit, it provided excellent shade!


Mt Beckworth track

I set up, spotted and started calling. I soon had responses, firstly Gerard VK2IO in Sydney, then Rick VK4RF/VK4HA. Last was Justin VK7TW about 12 minutes later, with a dozen in the log. With no further responses, it was again time to close and return down the hill.

I drove back out to Kierces Road, then south to Coghills Creek Road to turn right. NW to Coutts Road, and then south on Evansford Road to Mt Bolton Road. I followed the latter almost to the final crest, and then followed the track on the right to the fence and gates.

Mount Bolton VK3/VC-023 645 m 2 points

After passing through the pedestrian gate, I headed west to the foot of the climb to the summit. I climbed up to about the first large band of granite boulders/slabs, well within the AZ.

I set up quickly, spotted myself and started calling on 40 m. Adam VK2YK was first in the log. I ended up with five calls in the log in about 10 minutes after the first reply. Once again, there were no responses to CQ calls, so I closed and returned to the car and headed to Waubra, then toward Ballarat.

Whilst travelling on the Ballarat bypass, I noted that the fuel gauge was getting low. I decided against stopping yet and headed to Mount Warrenheip.

Mount Warrenheip VK3/VC-019 714 m 4 points

The summit is not far off the Western Highway. Head south at the Kryal Castle turn off and then around the castle, turning left into Mount Warrenheip Road and on up to the summit.

I set up at the last corner before the summit, as there was a guy having a snooze in his car at the top. Given that it was late in the day and that 40 m propagation had been ordinary all day, I set up on 80 m.

I spotted myself and quickly had Allen VK3ARH at nearby Lal Lal nearly blasting me off the hill. We had a chat for a few minutes, then I resumed calling. I soon had five callsigns in the log and packed up the SOTA station. I had a rig running in the car and worked a couple of stations on 40 m for the local Shire: MZ3. It was then time to head back down to the highway.

As I was driving down, the fuel warning light came on. So I headed back to Woodmans Hill on the outskirts of Ballarat for fuel and a cold drink. I then headed back toward Melbourne. I grabbed some takeaway for a late meal at about 2120… It was then a case of navigating my way across Melbourne, with road works on the West Gate Bridge, on the link across to the Tunnels and again on the freeway near Warragul Road. I finally reached home at midnight.

It had been a long day, but a success with six summits activated (four new Uniques/Completes) and six local government areas activated.

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