Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park VKFF-0956

Sunday 24 April 2016

Whilst the Wilsons Promontory National Park VKFF-0539 has been activated several times, it appears that the Marine National Park has had only a single previous activation, one which I missed as a Hunter. Logsearch showed that only 12 contacts had been made from the Park, so demand was likely to be high.

I had spent several hours on Saturday at an EZARC working bee, helping to erect 40 m of fencing near the clubroom. I returned home mid-afternoon and did a little chasing. My guests arrived back late after attending a concert and we chatted for far too long, resulting in hitting the pillow well after midnight. As a result, it was a slow start on Sunday morning, with the guests departing close to 0030 UTC. The weather forecast for the day was excellent – fine weather, low 20s temperature and light breezes.

I quickly got organised and loaded the radio gear into the car. I headed off via Boolarra, Meeniyan, Fish Creek and on to Tidal River. After parking the car, it was a case of loading up the pack and walking down the length of Norman Bay beach to reach the southern end, which marks the northern boundary of the Marine National Park (MNP).

I set up underneath some shrubs on the edge of the beach which offered some shade. I was less than 20 m from the high water mark at the MNP boundary. I tied the squid pole to some vegetation and strung out the linked dipole, keeping it to the edge of the vegetation.

Operating site

Operating site for VKFF-0956

Marine National Park sign

Marine National Park sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the station was assembled, I checked the mobile phone – zero coverage! I turned on the radio and dialled up 7.144 MHz, to find Tony VK3VTH/p activating Hepburn Springs Regional Park VKFF-0619. Tony was very happy to be my first contact. I then moved down the band and worked Rob VK4AAC/3 in Alpine National Park VKFF-0619 not far from Falls Creek. As I was finishing the contact with Rob, someone called for me to move to 7.095. It was John VK2YW. Others clearly heard the call, plus John spotted me on ParksnPeaks. So began the dogpile! I had 20 stations logged in less than 15 minutes, including Paul VK3HN/p on VK3/VN-002. The caller intensity eased a little, but continued at a steady pace.

Throughout the afternoon there was a steady stream of walkers passing by: the operating site was at the junction of the Oberon Bay Walking Track and the beach route, with many visitors walking around Norman Point to Little Oberon Bay or beyond. I received many odd glances and several people stopped to ask about my activities, which I was happy to explain.

Other notable contacts included Steve VK5SFA/p in Morialta Conservation Park VKFF-0783, Bob VK3BNC/p in Brisbane Ranges National Park VKFF-0055 and Compton VK2HRX/p on VK2/CT-032. After about two hours of operating, I tried 20 m, with two callsigns worked. With 56 contacts in the log (54 uniques), I decided to pack up and head back to the car.

I slowly worked my way back toward the Park entrance, stopping to work a couple of SOTA stations. Traffic was reasonably solid – it was a long weekend and the weather fine, so patience was required.

I headed for Fish Creek.

Mt Hoddle VK3/VT-076

As I approached Fish Creek, I decided to head east to climb up to park beneath Mt Hoddle VK3/VT-076. I have previously activated this summit, but there were a couple of Alerts out for likely SOTA activations, so I decided to hope for some S2S contacts.

I climbed up to the summit, a climb of about 135 m with 35 m climb, and set up near the trig. The signage refers to the summit as Mt Nicholl, yet the VicMap sheets have it as Mount Hoddle. I was on-air just after 0700 UTC, and first in the log was Glenn VK3YY/p on VK3/VT-004 for a S2S. I promptly moved to 20 m and spotted myself, having good phone coverage. I then worked a string of European stations, all at good strength. Also worked were ZL1BYZ, John VK6NU and Jon VK6JON/4. Amongst the Europeans was Danny ON4VT, one of the key people in the WWFF organisation. Unfortunately, I did not recognise the callsign at the time – sorry Danny! The band seemed to close at around 0727 UTC, with no further responses to my calls. 17 contacts on 20 m were in the log.

As the calls of CQ were raising no more responses, I moved back to 40 m and spent several minutes chatting with local Chris VK3QB, only seven kilometres away below the summit. Next was another S2S with Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/SY-001, followed by Paul VK5PAS. Amongst the string of callers on 40 m was Allen VK3ARH/p on VK3/VC-018 for another S2S. The final tally was 37 contacts worked. I packed up after sunset and carefully made my way back down to the car and headed for home.

Sunset from Mt Hoddle

Sunset from Mt Hoddle

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Third SANPCPA Anniversary weekend

1/2/3 April 2016

The last 3 years have seen an explosion in portable activity, mainly through 2 synergistic types of radio activity:

  • Parks activations
  • Summits On The Air (SOTA)

In November 2011, IIRC, Amateur Radio Victoria (ARV) promoted an activity weekend when amateurs would activate Victorian National Parks over a weekend, thus providing a concentrated short period of Parks activations which amateurs could Chase. At the same time, ARV was celebrating their centenary. I had use of the special ARV callsign for the Friday of the KRMNPA weekend, so I headed out to part of the Baw Baw National Park for the day; well, at least until the thunderstorms were getting too close for comfort!

The first 6 months or so after SOTA commenced in VK3 on 1 February 2012, SOTA was relatively slow. I can recall activations when it took an hour to gain the requisite 4 contacts to qualify the summit. Mid-week activations were rare and the one I attempted in July that year resulted in only 2 completed contacts before I needed to depart the summit due to the desire to be back at my vehicle by sunset!

I became more aware of SOTA through chasing someone activating a summit in a National Park which qualified for the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA).

In May 2012, I activated my first SOTA summit, which was also in a National Park, therefore helping my tally of Parks activated for KRMNPA.

That was the start of an on-going pattern: I would consider which Parks and/or summits I could activate when on a driving trip. The ideal was a Park with an easily accessed SOTA summit!

SOTA started to expand to the states other than Victoria as amateurs worked on the mapping tasks required to identify the qualifying summits. As more states became active, together with promotional efforts such as presentations to Clubs, the number of Chasers and Activators grew slowly. Activity weekends were promoted, especially when a new Association (i.e. a new state) became active on SOTA, and on the anniversary weekend of each association. Such weekends provided increased opportunities for Chasers to work summits.

Further KRMNPA annual activity weekends occurred, with some interstate amateurs using the opportunity to visit VK3 to activate some Parks toward the KRMNPA.

One of these amateurs, Paul VK5PAS, decided to look at establishing an award similar to the KRMNPA in SA. The result is the South Australia National Parks and Conservation Parks Award.

Sometime later, Paul started promoting the World Wide Flora & Flora Award scheme (WWFF) around Australia. The rest is history: more activity started a classic positive feedback mechanism, with each award scheme having synergistic effects on the others. More activity, more chasers, more activators, more Parks added to WWFF & VKFF, more activity….

So here we are at the third anniversary of SANPCPA.

A trip to VK5 was not an option for me, so I decided to support the weekend by heading to East Gippsland to activate some National Parks. Plans were somewhat loose, but I did book accommodation in Cann River for Friday and Saturday nights.

Friday 1 April

I was underway by mid-morning and stopped at Stratford to await the arrival of a friend for a chat over coffee. I then continued the trip to Cann River, stopping twice to work 2 SOTA activations.

After checking in at the motel, I headed east and made my way to the first activation site for the weekend.

Granite Peak VK3/VG-137 513 m 2 points
Alfred National Park VKFF-0618

Travelling east from Cann River on the Princes Highway (A1), turn left into Drummer Road just after crossing the Thurra River. Travel north-east on Drummer Road for just under 5.5 km and turn right into Bicentennial Road, then about 3.4 km to the junction with Bismuth Mine Track. Turn right and start climbing up to the ridgeline and follow the track along towards the summit.

The access track to this summit is rough in places and has become more overgrown since my first visit. I drove as far as I could – the track was still very slippery after rain earlier in the week. 4WD is essential and high clearance very desirable. I walked the final few hundred metres to the summit.

I set up in the scrub east of the track, placing me inside the Alfred National Park.

I set up on 40 m and the first contact was Rob VK4AAC/3 in Barmah NP. I moved down the band to find a clear frequency. It was around 0530Z and the band was busy. One contact was made on 7090 kHz, but Andrew VK3BQ was having some issues with a net on 7093, so I moved down when he asked.

When contacts became hard work, I moved to 20 m for a short period, expecting that it was too early for good EU propagation. But first in the log was Gerard F1BLL! I worked 4 VK stations, then callers were hard to elicit, so I moved back to 40 m as there were some spots on ParksnPeaks for some VK5 activators. After working Peter VK5PET/p, I found a couple more VK5 activators, then moved to a clear frequency, to be called by 3 more Parks activators. When the chaser queue became quiet, I moved up to work VK1DA/2 on a SOTA summit using AM – it was hard to break in through the pile up!

I moved back down the band and called again on SSB for another 7 contacts before pulling the pin.

I ended up with 48 unique callsigns in the log, with 6 Park to Park contacts.

It was then back down the track and to the motel, then across to the Hotel for dinner. Then back to the room to start electronic logging and start this blog entry.

Saturday 2 April 2016

I woke early and was under way before 0800 EADT. The route was simple: head south from Cann River, following the signs for Point Hicks. The road is sealed for a while, then is unsealed and becomes rougher. Continue following the Point Hicks signs to near the Thurra River mouth, when the route changes name to Lighthouse Track. Beware the single lane bridges along the route.

Point Hicks Marine National Park VKFF-0953 First Activation

Take care travelling through the Thurra River campground and continue to the parking area just short of the locked gate. Beside the gate is a sign that indicates 2.2 km to the lighthouse. I guess that you could get through the gate by booking the Keeper’s Cottage at around $330 per night.

I loaded up and started the walk. I was at the lighthouse about 35 minutes later, then needed to find an operating site close enough to the high water mark: I set up south of the large obelisk noting that Captain Cook named the point in honour of the sailor who first sighted land. A nearby viewing compass indicated that the only land to the south was Macquarie Island before you reached Antarctica, with Tasmania to the west of south.

CookMemorial

Memorial plaque at Point Hicks

I found a spot with a natural bench, with the squid pole strapped to a nearby boulder.

I was set up and the first contact was Peter VK3FPSR at 2232Z (Friday). Peter posted a Spot on ParksnPeaks and the fun began!

Notable contacts included the following:

Andrew VK3ARR on VK3/VC-018
Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0790
Norm VK5GI & Greg VK5GJ in VKFF-0919
Adrian VK5FANA in VKFF-0818
Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-0739
Russ VK2BJP/3 on VK3/VE-014 0n VKFF-0339
John VK4BZ/2 in VKFF-xxxx
Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/HU-056 in VKFF-0559
VK6MB on both 40 m & 20 m.

Thanks to all the Chasers! 56 contacts were made, with 9 Park to Park.

PtHicksOpSite

Operating site at Point Hicks

It was then time to pack up and head back to the car – about 30 minutes for the return trip.

Mount Everard VK3/VG-151 348 m 1 point Not Previously Activated
Croajingalong National Park VKFF-0119

It was then a case of retracing the inward route until reaching Cicada Track. Head east of north for about 430 m to the junction Mount Everard Track (no signage when I visited, but a sign on Cicada Track shortly after the junction “4WD only”) and turn left. Head north-ish for a bit over a kilometre until you reach the locked gate, with a sign beyond indicating 3 km to the summit.

EverardWalkStart

The sign just beyond the locked gate on Mt Everard Track

The track climbs steeply in places. The day was warm and humid and the cloud was rapidly moving in from the west. The steeper sections slowed progress significantly. The track is largely 4WD MVO for most of the route beyond the gate, with the final 400 m or so a walking track to the Trig point. Just before starting the final climb, I started up RRT to check the distance to the nominal summit location. It took just over an hour to climb to the summit.

I set up using the Trig structure to support the squid pole. I turned on and dialled up 7.180 AM to attempt to work Andrew VK1AD/p on VK1/AC-043. We could not exchange all details on AM, so Andrew went to LSB & the contact was completed. The weekend was promoted as an AM and CW activity weekend, in addition to the SANOCPA anniversary weekend.

Notable contacts included:

VK1AD/p on VK1/AC-043
Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/HU-056 in VKFF-0559
Peter VK3TKK in VKFF-0xxx
Warren VK3BYD/p on VK3/VE-041 (CW)
Keith VK3OQ/p in VKFF-0897

The mist was getting heavier, so I shut down at 0316Z and headed back to the car – just under an hour for the return journey.

Croajingalong National Park VKFF-0119

Once back at the car, I had a good drink and then set up an antenna. I was running the rig in the car at about 30 W to a 40 m inverted V with apex at about 5 m. Over the next hour and a bit I worked another 25 stations.

Notable contacts included:

Andrew VK5MR/p in VKFF-1083
Tony VK3VTH/5 in VKFF-0380
Russ VK2BJP/3 on VK3/VE-007
VK3VIM/p in VKFF-0405
Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0790
Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF- 0739
Adrian VK5FANA/p in VKFF-0243
Norm VK5GI/p & Greg VK5GJ/p in VKFF-1052.

The total haul for for the Park, including the summit activation, was 48 contacts, with 3 Summit to Summit and 11 Park to Park QSOs.

I shut down at 0550Z to head back to Cann River for the night.

Sunday 3 April 2016

The night was longer due to the change back to Eastern Standard Time, so it was easy to be on the road early. I headed north on the Monaro Highway to Chandlers Creek, then onto WB Line to cross the Cann River East Branch and entered the Coopracambra National Park. Shortly after crossing the river, there is an open area on the left of the track to aprk and set up an antenna.

Coopracambra National Park VKFF-0113

I have activated this park previously, firstly to qualify it for the Keith Roget Memorial National Park Award and then again for VKFF/WWFF. However, I still needed another 26 contacts to reach the WWFF quota of 44.

I set up the portable 40/20 m link dipole on a 9 m squid pole and hooked up to the IC-706MkIIG in the car.

First in the log at 2223Z (Saturday UTC time) was Gerard VK2IO/p in Belford National Park VKFF-0023, the first of 9 Park to Park contacts. Several minutes of calling later resulted in a contact with Paul VK5PAS/m on his way to a Park. I had no mobile phone signal; Paul was kind enough to spot me on ParksnPeaks. The amount of calling required reduced significantly. I was reliant on others finding me, as with no phone coverage, I could not see any spots. After a period of steady chaser activity, things became hard work again after about 2345. I finally gave up just on UTC rollover and started to pack up. The total was 35 contacts with 9 Park to Park QSOs.

After packing up, I retraced my tracks to Cann River and then headed west on the Princes Highway. I decided to alter plans a little, and stopped in at Mount Raymond Regional Park.

Mount Raymond Regional Park VKFF-0975

I drove to the top of Mount Raymond but did not like to look of the power lines and the RF installations, so headed slightly downhill to a widening on the east side of the track just before Tower Road does a switchback back towards the highway. I set up the gear essentially the same as in the previous park. Logsearch indicates that this Park has only been activated once previously – by Tony VK3VTH.

With good phone coverage, I was able to do some strategic hunting to start the activation. First in the log was Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-0961, followed by a further 5 Park to Park contacts. I then moved to 7.095 MHz and started calling. When the chasers started being further apart, I again started hunting myself.

I ended up with 46 unique calls and 15 Park to Park QSOs before packing up a little after 0300Z.

I then headed back down to the highway, then east to Nowa Nowa, north to the Bruthen Buchan Road, then north east to Buchan. It was then on to the Buchan Orbost Road to Basin Road, then Old Basin Road and finally right onto Balley Hooley Road, and up onto One Tree Hill Lookout.

Snowy River National Park VKFF-0455

Another Park with more contacts required to meet the WWFF quota – 16 in this instance. I was very aware that Nick VK3ANL needed this Park as number 45 to complete the chase for the KRMNPA Chaser Merit Award, so this Park was included even though it was a significant detour on the trip home.

There is a nice picnic table at the lookout, together with good views west across the Buchan River valley, though a bit hazy today – Victoria is in the fuel reduction burn season. There are hints of what the view might be like up the Snowy River valley and across the Snowy River National Park, but on the eastern side the trees are growing up to block the views.

OneTreeHill

One Tree Hill lookout

Once again I used the same setup as earlier in the day. I again commenced with some strategic hunting of activators in SA Parks. After I completed the second contact, I heard Gerard VK2IO/p call me, asking me to QSY down 10 kHz. So I soon had Park number 3 for the activation, once I worked Gerard. Next in the log was Nick VK3ANL, now with all 45 Parks chased. Well done Nick!

I continued working callers and occasionally hunting other Parks for about an hour. I had 35 contacts, with 15 Park to Park QSOs. It was time to move on to the final target for the day.

I retraced my route back to the junction with Old Basin Road. The northern part of Balley Hooley Road looked to be more of a 4WD track, so I opted to head back to Basin Road, then head north to Tulloch Ard Road and on to Mount McLeod Track and up to the summit. This can be driven with a 2WD vehicle – just watch for rocks!

Mount McLeod VK3/VG-127 570 m 2 points

At the summit you will find a fire watch tower with some RF gear in a concrete tank & antennas on top of the tower. Just north of the tower compound is an old hut, complete with covered balcony with a table and chair when I visited. I set up the SOTA antenna using a 7 m squid pole lashed to the corner post of the balcony and set up the gear on the balcony deck, which was a good height to sit upon.

MtMcleodHut

Hut at Mt McLeod

First in the log was Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0877. In around 32 minutes I had worked 25 stations, including 4 Parks. The sun was by now low in the sky and the temperature was rapidly dropping. I briefly listened on 20 m for a European SOTA CW activator running QRPp, but he was too low for me to decode. The activation made this summit now Complete.

I packed up and retraced my route back toward Buchan, then on to Bruthen and Bairnsdale, stopping off for a short chat with Rob VK3EK and Mike VK3NMK, who was staying with Rob. After refuelling the vehicle in Bairnsdale, it was then the final stretch back to home.

Overall summary:

6 VKFF references activated,
3 SOTA summits, with 4 Summit to Summit contacts,
Over 300 contacts made over the weekend, with 297 as an Activator,
65 VKFF Park to Park contacts.
Many hours of driving, with 726 km added to the odometer.

Thanks to all the Chasers/Hunters over the weekend, and to all the other Activators out there. It is inevitable on a weekend such as this that I will miss many of the Chasing opportunities, but one also gains a potentially increased number of Chasers.

Congratulations to Paul VK5PAS on the success of the activity weekend.

My WWFF Activator tally was now 44 references worked.

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Mount Hotham SOTA weekend: Monday – homeward bound

Monday 22 February

It was yet another early morning, awoken by the early riser. It was time to get up, have breakfast, make lunch and pack up, followed by cleaning up prior to departure. There were some further discussions about which summits might be activated today and which route each vehicle would be taken. After personally thanking Brian and Kathy for all their hard work in organising the weekend, we all headed off in different directions. I had a brief chat with Rob VK2QR/3 at the Kosciuszko Lookout and looked at the electronic maps to help Rob decide his route choice.

After refuelling in Omeo, I headed to Hinnomunjie Bridge and then around onto Knocker Track. This track is steep and narrow in places but is in very good condition for an unsealed road. Fortunately I encountered no logging trucks whilst in transit. Despite the unsealed surface, this route is much shorter and faster than the Omeo Highway alternative, which is a slow and winding sealed route.

I parked at the summit of The Knocker VK3/VG-016 and set up nearby. Despite not having posted an Alert, I quickly qualified the summit on 40 m SSB. I had S2S contacts with Adan and Andrew on Mt Big Ben VK3/VE-106. I was aware that Compton was heading for a summit, but I did not wait for him to reach it. I did work Rob whilst he was mobile. With 13 contacts in the log, I packed up and retraced my tracks toward Omeo. I stopped along the way to work Compton VK2HRX/3 on Mount Sassafras VK3/VE-029.

I drove up Sam Hill / Mount Sam – the SOTA data has it as Sam Hill, but several maps use Mount Sam – VK3/VG-049. I set up in the shade and quickly qualified on 40 m SSB. I worked Compton as he was driving north. I continued calling and working stations until I managed the S2S with Rob VK2QR on Mount Sassafras VK3/VE-029. I heard a couple of people chasing Rob who had not worked me, so announced that I was moving up the band a little and managed to work four further stations. I then packed up and started the long drive home.

I made a brief stop in Bairnsdale, dropping in to say hello to Rob VK3EK. I found out that business was booming for Rob. He is being kept very busy with work, contributing to his lack of time available to be on air.

The rest of the journey home was uneventful.

It was a great weekend. Again, a very big thank you goes to Brian and Kathy for all their efforts. Thanks also to everyone who participated – the atmosphere was excellent all weekend. Special thanks to Brian VK3MCD and Compton VK2HRX for acting as chauffeur on Saturday and Sunday respectfully.

Keep your eyes open for some announcements for the next gathering – likely to be in southern NSW in October.

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Mount Hotham SOTA weekend: Sunday

Sunday 21 February

I was again woken by our early riser and got up and organised my breakfast and then lunch. Once again, there were several groups heading out in various directions.

I loaded my gear into Compton’s 4WD and we headed off towards the Mount Hotham Resort entrance station on the Harrietville side at Buckland Gap, then started up Gunns Track. The track was rough and steep, especially once beyond the first knoll. We crossed Mount Sugarloaf and continued around to the summit VK3/VE-030, following the “Helipad” sign.

We parked on the top of the hill and started setting up gear. Compton put up a Slim Jim of 2 m and a HF antenna, whilst I set up my 3.4 GHz transverter and dish. I tried listening for the VK3RGI beacon but could not hear anything. I called Ralph VK3WRE to find that he was on his way to Mount Tassie and that the beacon should be working. A little later, we tried making contact, but nothing was heard either way. The transverter had been sitting unused for a couple of years – I really should have checked that it was working before heading off on the trip.

On the summit of VK3/VE-030: Compton and gear.

On the summit of VK3/VE-030: Compton and microwave gear.

The pattern for contacts was largely similar to Saturday – lots of contacts on 2 m FM with the other groups out on summits. We could clearly see the nearby The Twins and could just make out the movement as Andrew and Adan were setting up. There was another group on Mount Murray, but being a little further away, we could not see anyone. We did manage to get the Mt Murray team to fetch the 23 cm gear from the vehicle and made S2S contacts with them on 23 cm FM. This was another Unique and a Complete for me. We eventually packed up and headed on to the next summit.

It was back to Gunns Track and then north and west on Paddy Hill Track around to VK3/VE-070. Compton quickly set up his dipole and Slim Jim. The summit was qualified using 2 m FM once again, but some 40 m SSB and a 2 m SSB contact were made. Again, this was another Unique and a Complete for me.

We packed up and headed back towards Gunns Track, but headed north on Link Track to reach Albion Track. We then headed out along Demon Ridge Track to look at VK3/VE-063, which has not yet been activated. When we arrived at the closest road approach, we could see why: the route involves significant descent plus ascent, with around 2 km to travel if you are a crow! Plus the scrub looked thick. Given that it was now well past midday local time and the temperature was rising to hot, we decided that this one could wait for another day. We retraced our route to Albion Track and worked our way around to the northern side of the summit of Albion Point to park the vehicle.

The track used to travel over the top of the summit, but the high point has been bypassed. We climbed up the hill into the AZ of Albion Point VK3/VE-080 and started calling on 2 m FM. First in the log was Allen VK3ARH/p on VK3/VE-024 for a S2S. Contacts were slow, so I went back to car to grab my pack to set up HF. As I was climbing back, Compton got his fourth callsign in the log and I was able to make contact as well – summit qualified. Again, this was another Unique and a Complete for me. We headed back down and continued north along Albion Track.

Whilst in transit, we heard the group over on the Knocker VK3/VG-016 come up on 40 m, so we stopped and made contact with them to chase the summit. We told them that we were on route to our next summit.

We travelled on and up Wet Gully Track to Ebenezer Range VK3/VE-081 to again set up on 40 m and 2 m. I quickly qualified the summit on 40 m SSB before passing the microphone to Compton. We had S2S contacts with Andrew and Adan on Mt Murray VK3/VE-025 on 2 m FM. We then had some frustration as they managed to work the team on The Knocker, but we could not hear the later team. By this stage, the HF station on The Knocker had been packed up, so we missed a S2S. Such is life. If attempting to access this summit, note that Homeward Bound Track and Cavalier Spur Track have been closed off.

We then packed up, retraced our route to the track junction with Cemetery Lane and descended to the Great Alpine Road, and travelled back to the lodge.

Back at the lodge it was time to clean up and to chase the team still out when they activated Mount Sam VK3/VG-049. We then loaded into vehicles and headed down to Dinner Plain for a meal. We had ordered before the late team arrived from Mount Sam – in fact, those that ordered entrée had already been served their starters! The food was excellent. We eventually paid up and returned to the lodge for further discussions over red wine before retiring for the night. It was a quieter evening, as some people had departed for home that afternoon.

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Mount Hotham SOTA weekend: Saturday

Saturday 20 February

Some were very eager to get started on Saturday morning: the first person in my room was up and about at around 0600, so I was also awake. By 0700, many were up and preparing breakfast. There was further refinement of the rough plans made the night before and lunch needed to be prepared.

The groups started packing the vehicles and heading off. I joined Brian VK3MCD in his vehicle, together with Glenn VK3YY and wife Sarah and Alan VK3FABT. The plan was to head to White Timber VK3/VE-060 as the first summit. We headed down the Dargo High Plains Road and found the access route – Ritchie Road – only to find it blocked with plastic fencing and a Road Closed sign. I suggested that we head a little further south to VK3/VT-018, a summit which I had activated three times previously. The Dargo High Plains Road travels through the Activation Zone, so it is a very easy summit to activate.

We were in the cloud as we approached the summit, so everything was damp when we jumped out of the vehicle. We started setting up Brian’s KX3-based station on 40 m. Glenn started calling on 146.5 MHz FM and was quickly working some of the other teams. 2 m very quickly became hectic, with multiple callers and people calling when the station they were trying to reach was calling a different station. However, everyone soon had worked the other summits on offer. 40 m was not working well, but a few contacts were made. Once all had worked all the summits on offer, we packed up and retraced our route north and then headed out along Blue Rag Range Track and then south on Basalt North Track. When we reached Ritchie Road, there was another plastic fence and Road Closed sign, with a nearby sign indicating a planned fuel reduction burn in the area at some time between February and June.

We then headed west to Basalt Knob VK3/VE-039. We parked and walked a small distance up the hill into the AZ. Most calls were made on 2 m FM, with many S2S contacts made with the other groups. As on the previous summit, this was a relatively short activation before we packed up and headed back north. The key was to work all the other activators out on other summits and to ensure that each activator on our summit qualified the summit. This was a new Unique and a Complete for me.

It was back along our access route and then into Mount Blue Rag VK3/VE-021. Once again, it was 2 m FM with handheld radios, with many S2S contacts with the other groups. Brian was needed back at the lodge by 1330 local to help prepare the evening meal, so this one was another short activation for our group.

Once back at the lodge, lunch was consumed. Some headed off to walk out to Mount Loch. I had an easy afternoon in the lodge, chasing the other activating groups when possible. I did chase Compton VK2HRX/3 on 23 cm FM. Later, I worked John VK6NU/p on VK6/SW-031 on 20 m CW using my adapted KX3 paddles held onto a small clipboard.

Operating CW in the lodge

Operating CW in the lodge

Later in the afternoon we all headed up to the summit of Mount Hotham VK3/VE-006 for drinks and nibbles. Andrew VK1AD/3 set up two antennas – a dipole plus a 10 m vertical – and Tony VK3CAT set up his HF doublet and started calling on CW. Andrew could hear a OE5AUL/p, but could not break the EU pile up. After he had been working for a while, he offered up the station for others to use. I tried calling OE5AUL/p with the same result as Andrew. I quickly worked ZL3CC, VK6MB, VK6NU and F1BLL to qualify the summit, all on 14 MHz SSB. Eventually we started packing up, with Andrew VK1AD continuing on longer than most. We returned to the lodge for a great meal of curries and desert.

There was some planning for the following day. Compton VK2HRX offer to be chauffeur for me. Most were off to bed a little later than the previous evening.

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Mount Hotham SOTA weekend: The lead up

In November 2015, Brian VK3MCD proposed a weekend SOTA gathering at the ski club lodge that he and his partner Kathy would be managing for the 2016 snow season. The costs were reasonable and people started to express interest. Planning progressed well and anticipation was building. All that one needs to get a feel for the summit possibilities for SOTA is to examine the SOTA Mapping project (SMP) with the VK3/VE and VK3/VG regions selected.

 

Summits around Mt Hotham

Mount Hotham and nearby summits

In his final Newsletter prior to the weekend, Brian identified 14 target summits that attendees might consider, all worth 8 or 10 points. Using the Range feature, SMP shows 27 summits within 25 kilometre range of Mount Hotham, but this tool only shows the VE region, and misses the VG region summits. Activators would be spoilt with choices! Many of the summits would be located in the Alpine National Park, so would be WWFF activations as well as SOTA.

Friday 19 February

I had an appointment of Friday morning and started packing the car once that was concluded. I was almost ready to depart when RRT sounded a Spot, so I finished packing and waited patiently for Andrew VK1AD/2 and Adan VK1FJAW/2 to come up on the nominated frequency. They took longer to set up than they thought, but I worked Adan at 2341Z (20160218) on VK2/RI-016. A few minutes later I worked Andrew VK1MBE/3 on VK3/VE-081. The Activators indicated that they were not staying for UTC rollover, so I finally switched off and started the journey to Hotham.

On the route up, I decided to have a look at a possible access route to a summit that had been activated only once before. I could not find any details of how the summit had been reached. I approached by a route which looked logical from the mapping data. However, I came to a gate with a large sign indicating a private road, with no easement existing. Therefore I abandoned the approach. Looking after the event, it appears that there should be a public access route from the gate, but I could not see the track from the gate. This one will need to wait until the future.

I retraced my route back to the Omeo Highway/Great Alpine Road and decided to simply head up to Mount Hotham.

I was the first to arrive at the lodge, being welcomed by Brian and Kathy. I carted in the required gear from the car and settled in. Other participants arrived over the afternoon. Whilst waiting, I did manage to work Paul VK5PAS/p and Ian VK1DI/p, both out in WWFF Parks, using the radio setup Brian had erected: a simple end-fed antenna with counterpoise for HF and a vertical for 2 metres. The 2 m rig was used to liaise with some of the incoming amateurs.

Dinner that night was various nibbles followed by spaghetti bolognaise. We even had some desert – a cake with whipped cream. There was lots of discussion about a variety of topics, but especially about which summits to tackle on Saturday. Groups started to form up. Given the low clearance of my vehicle, I opted to join Brian for a planned journey to the south west of Hotham. It was then off to bed for the night.

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Mount Cobaw VK3/VC-015

Tuesday 16 February 2016

I had spent the weekend in Wodonga with family events. Most of Monday was spent proof reading the March issue of Amateur Radio magazine. I decided to head for home on Tuesday, with a detour to Heathcote to pick up some spare parts that I had purchased.

I was finally away from Wodonga at around 1000 local, and drove down the Hume Highway to the Puckapunyal turnoff south of Seymour, then across to Tooborak and then up to Heathcote. After picking up the goods, I drove into town to buy some lunch and then decided to attempt to get to Mount Cobaw, even though I did not have detailed paper maps with me. I drove down to Mia Mia and then turned east and then south on Burke & Wills Track – a sealed road that travels to Lancefield.

Mount Cobaw VK3/VC-015 770 m 4 points

When the road reaches the top of the climb up Cobaw Range, turn right into Ridge Road – the junction is a short distance south of the Prosts Road junction. You enter an area which was burnt in October 2015. I started to continue along Ridge Road, but it rapidly became very rough, so I retraced my tracks a short distance and took Reillys Road to Pendergast Road, following the sign saying Ridge Road Extension, and then left into Ridge Road. I found Camp Track, which I knew from “map memory” was a possible approach route. It very quickly became very rough – definitely not suitable for the Impreza!

I had not read the summit notes by Wayne VK3WAM or Allen VK3HRA/VK3ARH. However, I had examined what looked to be a feasible route on my electronic maps. From Camp Track, I continued west along Ridge Road to next vehicle track on the left, at 37.2276 S 144.6275 E. This unnamed track was very rough only a few metres in from Ridge Road, so I parked the car and loaded up.

CobawRoute

The approach to Mt Cobaw

The track climbs steeply about 55 m metres in 500 m to the top of the knoll and I then followed a track clearly used by motor bikes a little way along the spur. Once the tracks headed off the spur line, I simply navigated along the spur into a saddle and then climbed up to the summit, finding the well-defined track that runs north-south across the summit area. My approach route was 1.5 km from the vehicle, which could be reduced to 1 km if you had a capable 4WD vehicle to get to the top of the knoll. The approach included 91 m of ascent and 27 m of descent.

On the approach to Mt Cobaw

Terrain on the approach and descent

The route was through open forest with bracken and grass, with lots of granite boulders and some fallen timber to navigate around. It was possible to follow animal pads for most of the route. I almost stepped on an echidna, who was hiding in the grass – clearly my approach had been loud enough!

echidna hiding

An echidna trying to be incognito

I setup close to what appeared to be the highest point, simply throwing a line over a tree branch to get the dipole centre up at about 4 m.

20160216_CobawOpSite

Operating site on Mt Cobaw

As I was stringing out the dipole legs, I remembered to post a Spot to SOTAwatch at 0339Z. Once set up, I called a couple of times on 7090 kHz. John VK3YW was first in the log, with Steve VK7CW calling in whilst we were chatting. Steve was followed by Adrian VK5FANA and then Adam VK2YK called. He was strong to me, but I was not strong to him, so it took a few attempts for him to receive his report. The summit was qualified – another Complete. I called for several minutes without further replies, so I switched off at around 0400Z, packed up and retraced my route back to the car. It was rapidly cooling down and I still had a long drive ahead.

The drive back was simple, with the challenge being to make a decision of how to get across Melbourne and suburbs in afternoon peak traffic. I arrived at home just before 1900 local.

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A new summit in Baw Baw National Park

Saturday  6 February 2016

The day started slowly. I had a task to complete for a friend – to pick some plums off my tree and to drop them to the friend in Newborough. Whilst picking the fruit, I could see all the motor bikes and other vehicles associated with the day’s stage of the Herald Sun Tour travelling along the road on the other side of the paddocks north of my home. When I was almost done with picking, the lead bunch of 5 or 6 travelled past. I loaded up the car, including the SOTA pack on a whim and locked up the house. I then drove up to the Churchill shops, parked and stood beside the road to await the peleton. Eventually they arrived, travelling quickly toward Boolarra. Within a few minutes, the held-up traffic cleared and I resumed my trip to Newborough.

After delivering the fruit, a long chat and a coffee, I headed up toward Rawson and then the Thomson Dam. On the descent toward the dam, I kept an eye out for the Narrows Road and travelled along to the western end of Low Saddle Track.

VK3/VT-062 Unnamed summit (Probably to be “Low Saddle Track”) 555 m 2 points Not Yet Activated Baw Baw National Park VKFF-0020

Although this summit was on the original VK3 summit list, it had not yet been activated. Perhaps this was because it is worth only 2 points and is a little off track. But it is inside the Baw Baw National Park, so gives a triple benefit: KRMNPA and VKFF/WWFF contacts as well as SOTA.

I had looked at access into this summit previously, coming in along Low Saddle Track from Walhalla Road near the bridge across the Aberfeldy River. Low Saddle Track is subject to a season closure from June to late October/November. It is definitely 4WD from both ends. On the previous trip, I worked my way across the deep spoon drains until I reached a very steep drop off with more spoon drains. I decided to not risk attempting the descent lest I was not able to get the Forester  back up the track – I might be stuck in a remote location! Not a good look, so discretion won out and I retreated on that occasion.

The start of Low Saddle Track from the west is also steep with large spoon drains, as I found on arrival at the start of the track. I looked at the track and initially decided to again abort. Then I had second thoughts: it was still before 0200Z, the route was about 4 km, but with about 340 m of climb from the Thomson River to the summit. I was at about 100 m above the river, which meant an extra 100 m of climbing at the end of the day…. The day was quite warm, but I decided to give it a go.

After loading up, I headed down the hill carefully. It is very steep with a loose surface in places. The first 100 m or so is the worst, after which there are no further spoon drains and a gentler slope down to the river. At the river, I stopped and changed into my sports sandals and then waded across the ford. The water was about mid-thigh at the deepest. Once on the other side, it was back to the hiking shoes and start the real climb.

The first section is straight forward – climbing up to a saddle in the spur that runs between the Thomson and Aberfeldy Rivers. The Google Earth images show segments of the track south of the saddle, but at the saddle you can clearly see that the Parks staff have clearly made a significant effort to rehabilitate the southern start of the track – it has trees and rocks everywhere, drainage ditches and plenty of regrowth. But there is an obvious foot track heading in.

After about 300 m, it was back to the old track surface, with occasional fallen timber across the track but with easy diversions. In the saddles further on there was significant regrowth in places, but relatively easy to navigate. The worst bit was the vertical climbs on what had become a hot afternoon.

I eventually reached the summit activation zone at around 0425Z and proceeded to set up the station after another large drink of water. I started on 40 m SSB at 0440Z, quickly working Dave VK2JDS and Gerard VK2IO. Gerard kindly spotted me on SOTAwatch. A steady string of chasers followed. When the callers ran out at just before 0500Z, I called to ask for a spot on 10 m. Allen VK3ARH obliged, so it was up to 10 m. First in the log was Rick VK4RF/VK4HA with solid signals, followed by another VK4 and then Nev VK5WG. Further calls yielded no results, so I shut down. I should have checked SOTAwatch, as looking back I can see that Matt VK1MA/2 had finally gone to 40 m – I heard nothing from the stations activating in VK2 in listening around on 10 m. An opportunity missed.

All up, I had 25 contacts logged, 4 on 10 m. I had a single S2S contact with Nick VK3ANL/p on VK3/VN-015.

It was a long walk back in the heat, but fortunately mostly downhill. It was good to get to the river, where I was able to replenish my exhausted water supplies. Then it was hard work climbing the final 100 m vertical up to the car.

Back in Churchill, I bought some Chinese take away and had plenty of fluids to drink. I certainly fell to sleep quickly once I went to bed. A very tiring walk given the hot afternoon (high 20s I think). Thanks to all the Chasers.

 

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A couple of quick activations on a Tuesday afternoon

Tuesday 19 January 2015

I had a meeting at the WIA on Tuesday morning and the plan was to meet with the VK3 Association Manager Wayne VK3WAM in the evening for a meal and to discuss updates to the VK3 Association Rules Manual (ARM). Before I left home in the morning, I put the SOTA pack in the car just in case I decided that I could fit in an activation in between the existing commitments.

Early in the afternoon, as we winding up discussions at the WIA office, I received a call from Rod VK2TWR indicating that he was likely to be on a summit by around 0400Z. I therefore decided to head off for a possible Summit to Summit contact (S2S). From Bayswater, I headed out through Lilydale, Yarra Glen and up to Toolangi, then worked my way around to the locked gate below Mt Saint Leonard.

Mount Saint Leonard VK3/VC-006 1012 m 6 points
Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-0556

This was a new summit for me, so a successful activation would make the summit Complete. Although the day was a day of Total Fire Ban, the wind was moderate and the temperature was in the low 30s. Just after turning into Monda Road, there was a tree across the road. After pulling a large separate branch to the edge of the road, I was able to navigate under the main trunk and make my way up to the junction with Road 10 and the large locked gate. I loaded up with my gear and walked up to just west of the summit tower and set up on the edge of the access road in the shade. The dipole was simply tied up to an overhanging branch, the centre at about 3.5 m high.

It took a couple of calls and self-spotting to stir up some chasers. I then worked 12 stations over about 15 minutes on 40 m SSB. I then tried 6 m, using the dipole in 40 m configuration. I could not hear any signals, and calls received no responses. I switched to 10 m SSB and spotted myself. I quickly worked both Ron VK3AFW and Tony VK3CAT. Tony made a comment about which connector the radio was using on 6 m?? I checked – Doh! It was configured for the Front connector on the FT-817 and I was connected to the Rear. A quick adjustment of the settings changed that and I switched the antenna back to 40 m configuration. That rapidly resulted in solid contacts with both Ron and Tony on 6 m. Further calls on 6 m and 40 m resulted in no responses. I rang Rod to find out his progress – he thought it would be another hour until he was on his summit, so I started to pack up.

Back to the car and then drive back down to the bitumen, then south into Healesville and up Don Road to Nyora Road.

Mount Toolebewong VK3/VC-033 735 m 4 points

I have activated this one previously, but it was a target with the available driving time to try to catch Rod for a S2S without spending an hour sitting and calling on Mt St Leonard – which would have been an option, building up the number of contacts for the WWFF scheme.

I was just set up when I heard Rod calling “Last calls”. I called Rod but bumped the radio. I am not sure what I did, but I had no Tx signal. I powered the radio off and started it again, and was then able to work Rod for a S2S to Mt Perisher VK2/SM-007. I was going to wait for Rod to finish on 7.100 MHz, but he kept having new stations call him, so I moved down to 7.090 MHz, spotted myself and calling. I quickly worked another 5 stations, then I packed up and headed off – I needed to be in Oakleigh by 1830 local.

As I was driving out, I heard another spot for VK3, so stopped the car to check: it was Gerard VK2IO saying that he could not hear me with the QRM from the Kandos net on 7.093. Sorry Gerard – it was a quick activation and I did not even think about the net as they were not causing me any issues.

I managed to have a reasonable run on the roads across to Oakleigh and had a few minutes to spare before the designated meeting time of 1830. It turned out that only Wayne and I made the meeting. We enjoyed a meal and then started looking at the updates to the list of VK3 summits. Some will be going as the summit heights were incorrect or there is a higher summit nearby that make the current summit ineligible. A small number of new summits were found and will be added. There will be a change of wording in the ARM about access to the activation zone so that our local rules no longer conflict with the global rules.

Wayne and I said our goodbyes and I headed for home – about a 1.75 hour drive.

Sorry folks, my mind was busy and I forgot to take any photos on this trip!

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After New Year 2016

Saturday 2 January 2016

After a good meal, shower and a great night’s sleep, it was again off early on Saturday morning. We loaded up into Rod’s Landcruiser “ute” and headed to Dalgety and then Jindabyne via The Snowy River Way, then south on the Barry Way to Gullies Road then Thornybrush Road and into Paupong Nature Reserve to the summit Box Ridge VK2/SM-065.

Box Ridge VK2/SM-065 1260 m 8 points

You can drive right to the summit of this one, with a couple of gates to negotiate en route. We used a Telstra line marker stake to support the squid pole and set up the station using a large umbrella to protect the gear. It was raining lightly, but enough to make you wet fairly quickly. It was therefore a quick activation.

Rick VK4RF was first up of 17 contacts for the quick activation, including a S2S with Marshall VK3MRG/p on Mt Torbreck VK3/VN-001.

Peter on Box Ridge

Peter on Box Ridge

We packed up and retraced our route toward the Barry Way.

Jillamatong Hill VK2/SM-064 1262 m 8 points

Access to this summit is via private property. Fortunately, Rod knows the owner of the north side of the hill. We simply drove up to the house, parked beside the garage and loaded up for the climb – about 800 m horizontal and around 130 m vertical. We set up on a log NE of the trig and I started operating. Again the rain was falling, so it was another quick activation, with only 6 stations worked. Rod decided to hold this summit in reserve for the winter bonus season.

It was a quick walk back down to the car, then down to the Barry Way, into Jindabyne and out on the Alpine Way to.

VK2/SM-053 unnamed summit 1459 m 8 points

At Crackenback, turn on to Wollondibby Road and drive past the distillery and climb up to the saddle. At the saddle, turn right into the fire trail and climb to the summit. The area is a partially developed land sale area, with a single temporary dwelling passed on the way up.

I again set up with the umbrella protecting the gear – it was wet. Rod sat in the car.

A quick fire activation, with 5 contacts including Nick VK3ANL/p on VK3/VS-009. When I had no responses to a “final call”, I shut down and packed up.

Back on the bitumen, Rod took me around to the Snow Tube terminal for a look at the infrastructure and the approach that Rod has used to access VK2/SM-046. It was then back to Jindabyne and then north towards Eucumbene .

Wattle Hill VK2/SM-063 1305 m 8 points

We stopped at a farm gate on Eucumbene Road and worked our way through several farm gates and then steeply climbed in 4WD toward the summit – again, Rod knows the owner. We set up using a fence post to support the squid pole. It was raining, so this was another quick fire activation, with only 8 contacts made. We then packed up and retraced our route to Eucumbene Road and then headed north towards Eucumbene.

Mount Cobrabald VK2/SM-051 1471 m 8 points

From Eucumbene, head north along Braemar Bay Road, then turn in through the farm gate and onto the access road. Again, Rod knows the owner. Drive around to the north of the summit and then up the rough 4WD track to the summit.

Finally we were clear of the rain. We set up using the trig to support the squid pole. First in the log was Peter VK3FPSR, with a total of 24 contacts made by me.

We packed up and headed back down to Eucumbene , then headed off toward Adaminaby, turning south on Seven Gates Road.

Trig TS3825 VK2/SM-057 1372 m 8 points

We again entered into a farm, another contact of Rod – it really helps having someone who has grown up in the area! Following rough farm tracks, we worked our way towards the summit, including some quite steep climbs.

We set up using a fence post for the pole support, only 25 m or so from the trig. First in the log was Peter VK3FPSR, with a total of 8 contacts made by me. We were done in just over 30 minutes before we packed up and headed back to Cooma and then Nimmatabel for the night.

It was a satisfying yet tiring day. Over 350 km driven and six summits activated, 5 of them new ones for me and now Complete.

Sunday 3 January 2015.

We again set off early, driving to Delegate. The further south we drove, the wetter the conditions. Our first goal had been Mt Tingaringy, which has a steep final approach. We stopped at Delegate and discussed our options. At 0900 EADT, we decided to throw in the towel. We could not have a coffee at the General Store – there was no sign of it opening. Rod headed back to home and I worked my way back to the Monaro Highway and down to Cann River, most of the way in heavy rain. All thoughts of activations went out the window once I encountered all the holiday traffic on the Princes Highway. I decided to simply head for home, patiently! The traffic was terrible! I decided that stopping to activate even a Park en route would only expose me to more traffic later in the day! So it was careful driving until after Bairnsdale, then using back roads to avoid most traffic. I was rather bushed once finally home!

It had been several days of lots of activity. I did ring Rod once home, noting that I had left my toiletries bag at his place! He will post it down to me soon.

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