New Year’s Day 2018

New Year’s Day and UTC rollover

On the previous afternoon, I had a chat with Warren VK3BYD on the ‘phone whilst driving back to Wodonga – easy using the hands-free system in the vehicle. We discussed a range of topics, including the holiday traffic on the Great Alpine Road and the number of cyclists. I had placed an Alert a couple of weeks earlier for The Horn for UTC rollover. The road trip up Mount Buffalo usually has lots of cyclists and few spots to safely pass them, especially when they are riding 2 or more abreast….. I decided to change my summit to Mount Stanley….

Mount Stanley VK3/VE-126 1052 m 6 points

Discussions earlier in the trip with Geoff VK3SQ indicated that Beechworth was to be avoided if at all possible due to the heavy traffic and high number of tourists visiting the town. I therefore decided to approach the summit via the route suggested by Russ VK2BJP: from Wodonga head south past Yackandandah, then turn right into Bruarong Lane, then onto Hillsborough Road and finally onto Mount Stanley Road.

I parked near the picnic table and proceeded to set up. The picnic table seats have seen some vandalism, but the support post provided a convenient tie off point for the squid pole. I strung the dipole out and checked SOTAwatch.

A string of S2S summit contacts followed: Tony VK7LTD on VK7/CH-057, Allen VK3ARH/p on VK3/VE-020, Tony VK3CAT/p on VK3/VT-010 on CW, VK5CZ/p VK5/SE-016 on CW, John VK2YW/p VK2/RI-025 on CW, Gerard VK2IO/p VK2/HU-093 on CW, plus some other CW contacts, then to SBB for S2S fun: Andrew VK3ARR/p on VK3/VC-019, Rob VK2QR/p on VK2/SW-021 and Sam VK2GPL on VK2/CT-001. A significant amount of time prior to UTC rollover was spent looking for other Activators without success.

After UTC rollover first in the log was Rob VK4AAC/2 in VKFF-0583, followed by Mick VK3GGG/p  on VK3/VS-015 in VKFF-2129. I cahsed more Activators and finally settled on a frequency to call. Post-rollover, I ended up with 31 contacts including 18 S2S, all on 40 m. I tried 20 m briefly with no responses. I finally closed at about 0135, after working Mick VK3GGG/p, now on VK3/VS-018 and Tony VK7LTD/p.

I packed up and headed into Stanley then to Myrtleford to grab some lunch. As I was driving in, I was considering how activators had reached the two summits just east of Myrtleford: many of the possible access tracks were through pine plantations which had Private Road – No Entry signs posted. I headed back out of town and drove up Morrisons Lane past the local Transfer Station. The bitumen ended and I was able to proceed. I saw no signs barring access. There was a large gate with a Road Closed sign, but it was wide open. So I headed up the road and navigated the maze of roads to reach the first target for the afternoon.

VK3/VE-178 (unnamed) 805 m 4 points

The summit is high in the plantation, with a water tank covered by a separate roof and a comms facility beside it. I set up using a small pine tree to support the squid pole and also providing some shade. I spotted myself and worked 13 stations in about 11 minutes, including Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/HU-093. With no more callers, I shut down and packed up. A new Unique and Complete.

I then drove north on some rough tracks through and on the edge of the plantation and then out into bush. As the track finally swung west toward the summit, in rapidly became very closed in with scrub. Another new Unique and Complete.

VK3/VE-197 (unnamed) 743 m 4 points

I approached the summit and set up using a line over a tree branch to lift the dipole. First in the log was Rob VK2QR/p, now on VK2/SW-015. Rob was about to close, so I stayed on the frequency and worked Ron VK3AFW/p on VK3/VE-137 after he worked Rob. Next was Peter VK3TKK/p in VKFF-2113, higher up the band. Back down to 7.090 and I was called by Gerard VK2IO/p, still on VK2/HU-093. I had 11 more callers over the next 10 minutes before I called it quits and packed up.

As I descended of the summit, I took a track heading down a spur which was outside the plantation. This eventually brought be back to Morrisons Lane close to the large open gate. From there, it was down to the main road and then north to Wodonga.

It had been a busy two and a half weeks. With family plans checked on the afternoon after returning to Wodonga, I decided to call it quits and to head for home on Tuesday morning. I had work that need to be done for the next issue of Amateur Radio magazine, the first of the New Year. I took a detour to catch up briefly with Peter VK3FPSR in Cobram prior to heading south to Melbourne and then back to the Latrobe Valley, where the grass was long and there were plenty of chores to complete. I decided against stopping to activate any summits or Parks and was able to navigate Melbourne before the traffic was too heavy.

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Christmas to New Year’s Eve 2018

Wednesday 27 December 2017

After several days of enforced short drives only due to the wrecked tyre suffered coming out from Beetoomba Spur, the task for the day was to get a new tyre fitted. All the tyre places were closed by time I got out to the bitumen on Saturday and all had been closed for Christmas and Boxing Day until today. Once that task was done, I returned to my temporary home and then headed off for some SOTA fun.

I headed toward Dederang Road and then onto Big Ben Road.

Mount Big Ben VK3/VE-105 1154 m 6 points

The access to the summit is straightforward via an unsealed road off Dederang Road. Near the start there is a cattle grid and at the edge of the forest is a gate to open and close. Then simply climb to the top.

I set up in the shade just off the summit clearing. First in the log was Mark VK4SMA/p in VKFF-1631 on 20 m. I switched to 40 m and started calling. I worked 14 stations on 40 m before I tried 20 m, where I worked another 5 stations. It was then back to 40 m to chase Wade VK1FWBD on VK2/ST-034. I then tried 6 m and worked Ian VK5CZ. About 20 minutes later, I chased Matt VK1MA/2 on VK2/SM-093. I then packed up and headed back down the access road. During the descent, the dual band whip lost the top two-thirds, with a screw having disappeared. I saw the top fall off, so stopped and retrieved the top sections. I have yet to source a suitable screw to repair the antenna…..

Back on the bitumen, I headed to Porepunkah and then to the access road for the next summit, taking a back road to avoid Bright – which is always hectic at this time of year.

Mount Porepunkah VK3/VE-098 1185 m 6 points

As expected, the fire tower was manned, so I set up back down the hill a little. I set up on 40 m and spotted myself. I quickly worked 14 stations, including VK4FMHT/p in VKFF-0129. I kept the activation relatively short, as I had another summit in mind. I packed up and headed back down the road, then up the Smart Creek Tawonga Gap Track.

VK3/VE-097 (No name) 1185 m 6 points

The access track is a little rough and steep in places. I set up on the summit and started on 40 m SSB. Second in the log was Manuel VK/HB9DQM on Mt Kosciusko VK2/SM-001 – an unexpected S2S contact. With 9 in the log, I tried 20 m, working 10 stations including several ZLs. Back to 40 m briefly to work Allen VK3ARH/p on VK3/VC-019 plus a couple more, then a hit the power switch to start packing up and to head back to Wodonga.

29 December 2018

Today was a bit of a road trip with Mum on board. He headed out to Jindera to find a shop that she was interested in browsing, only to find it was closed until a few days into January. From there we headed cross country to Wahgunya and then into Ruherglen for a good lunch at one of the hotels in town. We then headed toward Chiltern and I could not pass up an opportunity for a short activation.

Chiltern – Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620

I headed off the bitumen at Depot Road and onto a side track to find a spot to set up. I tossed a line over a tree branch and set up on 40 m. Greg VK2EXA was a big signal and first in the log. The signal strength was not surprising, given that Greg was located less than 18 km away. I ended up with 12 stations in the log before packing up as a few spots of rain arrived. It was then a simple matter to head south through Chiltern and then back to Wodonga.

30 December 2018

I had often driven along the Midland Highway heading north to Benalla and looked across at the hills of the Mount Sumaria State Park. The Park has two SOTA summits, both of which I had previously chased. I decided that it was time to activate at least one of the two summits and the Park. I headed off from Wodonga to Benalla and then south to Swanpool and followed the signs to the Park. Once inside the Park, I turned onto Mt Sumaria Road and headed around past the walking track to Mt Sumaria. I travelled on to turn onto Butchers Track up to the high point, spotting the sign for the Mount Samaria Track. I parked nearby and loaded up. I set off on the walking track, but after a while cut the corner for a more direct approach towards the summit. Once on the high ground, I soon picked up the Lightning Track and headed around to the summit.

VK3/VE-140 (unnamed) 974 m 6 points
VKFF-0770 Mount Samaria State Park

I was set up just below the rocks at the summit shortly prior to 0100 UTC. I quickly worked Peter VK3ZPF on Briarty Hill VK3/VC-029 in VKFF-2224 for a S2S and Park to Park contact. I then moved to a clear frequency and started calling. I worked a total of 16 stations in about 30 minutes on 40 m before switching to 20 m to work another 9 stations, including two ZLs. I also spent a few minutes explaining SOTA and WWFF to a couple of walkers who I had seen as a drove past the Spring Creek Sawmill site, obviously getting ready to head off on a walk.

I packed up and headed back, looking to see if I could see the “official” walking track – it is hard to spot the turn off back to Butchers Track from the Lightning Track, which traverses around the ridge line join Mount Sumaria Track. There was one sign in some disrepair, but the route to descend toward Butchers Track was not obvious. After a short excursion down the main descent on what later became clear was now Mount Sumaria Track, I headed back to the top and found the wanted track despite the lack of signage and followed the track back to the vehicle.

I then travelled back to Mount Sumaria Road and then south to Mansfield to buy some lunch.

After lunch, I headed toward Jamieson and veered off toward Goughs Bay and on to the next target summit.

Stillman Plateau VK3/VE-174 811 m 4 points
Lake Eildon National Park VKFF-0625

At Goughs Bay, take Walshs Road and then SEC Track – watch that you pick the main track and not the rougher track underneath the powerlines. Wind your way up to the top of the ridge line, past a gate which was open. At the top of the climb, swing right to continue climbing on Highett Point Track, which is rougher and with many deep spoon drains. At the top, swing right to remain on Highett Point Track for about 400 m to be close to the marked summit location. I parked and set up beside the track, not bothering to go to the marked location only a short distance away.

This summit had only been activated once previously, by Mitch VK3FMDV back in July 2013. I had worked Mitch (now VK3XDM & VK7XDM) on that activation, so the plan was to add a new Unique and a Complete.

A line thrown over a tree branch raised the antenna centre and I was soon calling on 40 m SSB. I worked 20 stations on 40 m SSB before hearing a CW call. I changed mode and retuned frequency to work Warren VK3BYD/p in the Alpine National Park. I then changed to 20 m SSB to work Warren ZL2AJ/m plus Rick VK4RF/VK4HA. I had no more responses to CQ calls, so I packed up. With 24 in the log, I was happy enough. I then retraced my route back to the bitumen and then headed north to Mansfield and back to Wodonga via Benalla.

31 December 2017

A day above Harrietville was planned. I headed south from Wodonga through Myrtleford, Bright and on to Harrietville. I then took Mill Road and on to West Ovens Track. I then took Albion Track and then turned south on Link Track and then headed east onto Gunns Track and then finally took the unnamed track to the Helipad. I may have been better to take Gunns Track from the track junction at the end of West Ovens Track, but at least I knew that part of the approach route was good for later in the day.

VK3/VE-030 (unnamed) 1570 m 10 points

My first visit to this summit was on the 2016 Mount Hotham SOTA weekend together with Compton VK2HRX. The approach used this time was easier 4WD than the approach that we had used in 2016. I set up the squid pole and ran out the dipole, then placed a spot on SOTAwatch – good phone signals on this summit, presumably from the installation on Mount Hotham. In less than 15 minutes I had 15 stations in the log. Given that it was after midday, I decided against other bands and packed up to head to the next target.

I retraced my route back to Gunns Track, then around onto Paddy Hill Track.

VK3/VE-070 (unnamed) 1286 m 8 points

Paddy Hill Track runs over the top of this summit. I found a spot to park and then set up by throwing a line over a tree branch. I called on 7.090 MHz and was quickly called by Paul VK5PAS, who spotted me. I worked six stations in less than 5 minutes and then tried 20 m, where I worked 3 ZLs, Brian VK3MCD/4 on Hamilton Island and John VK6NU. Back to 40 m for a few minutes for another 2 calls in the log before calls had no replies. I packe dup and headed back to Link Track and then north to Albion Track and around the side of Albion Point.

Albion Point VK3/VE-080 1255 m 8 points

I found a spot to park and then climbed up the spur into the AZ to set up with the squid pole supported by a bush. This was to be a quick activation: I worked 6 stations in 5 minutes, then no responses to further calls, so I packed up.

Back down to the car and then north along Albion Track and then onto Wet Gully Track. Wet Gully Track was rather rougher than my recollections from previous visits.

Ebenezer Range VK3/VE-081 1255 m 8 points

This summit is about 5.1 km north along Wet Gully Track from the junction with Cemetery Lane. The track runs right across the summit, which is simply a high point on the ridge line. I parked on the edge of the track and again threw a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole centre. I set the dipole parallel to the track and set up on the edge of the track.

I was about to post a spot and saw that Wallis VK2WP/p was on VK2/CT-006 on 40 m CW. I found him and found a pile up calling him. I then saw another CW spot: Ron VK3AFW/p was on VK3/VE-067, so I called on CW – success, with 599 reports both ways. Back to work Wallis, with weaker signals but another S2S CW contact completed. I considered the situation and decided to spot myself on CW and soon worked Steve VK7CW with his distinctive sounding CW, followed a few minutes later by Warren VK3BYD. A first for me – a summit qualified on CW, and not even a single call made on SSB as yet! I changed to 7.090 SSB and spotted. First up was Adam VK2YK/p on VK2/HU-024 followed by 4 more regulars. Last in the log was Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1983. With no further callers, I shut down and packed up.

I decided to see what the track was like to the north, so continued in that direction. About 9 km on I reached a track junction. Wet Gully Track continued on, with Hillsborough Track heading SW and Reliance Track to the east. I considered my options and tried Reliance Track. This route was reasonable, with a few spoon drains and some rough patches. I popped out at the Great Alpine Road beside the new water storage dam. From here, I headed north to Bright and then on back to Wodonga.

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The pre-Christmas week 2017

Sunday 17 December

Mt Barandudah VK3/VE-189 775 m 4 points
Barandudah Regional Park VKFF-0959

I again used Burgess Lane to access the Regional Park, off Boyes Road, then up to the ridgeline via Trig Track and then south and west along Barandudah Range Track. I set up using the main Park sign to support the squid pole and was about to spot myself on 40 m when I saw a SOTA spot for Manuel HB9DQM in ZL. I quickly reconfigured the antenna to 20 m and tried calling. Manuel could tell that I was there, but could not get the callsign. I quickly pulled out the 40 W amplifier and connected it up: success! ZL/HB9DQM/p on ZL3/OT-302 in the log. I then moved up 5 kHz and worked Tony VK3CAT in Melbourne – 20 m propagation was odd, with several close in stations worked over the following 10 minutes. With 16 stations in the log from 20 m, I moved to 40 m to work another 5 stations over the next 15 minutes. 21 in the log – more than enough for a morning out. I packed up and retraced my route back to the bitumen and then back to Wodonga.

Sunday lunch was out at a local restaurant to celebrate my mother’s birthday, followed by a quiet afternoon.

Monday 18 December

Hore Hill VK3/VE-192 763 m 4 points
Mount Granya State Park VKFF-0767

This summit is in the North West corner of the State Park. I had activated the other 3 summits in the Park previously and had chased Bernard VK2IB/3 when he did the first activation of the summit back in March 2014. This was an opportunity to make the summit complete.

I travelled to Bonegilla, then toward Bellbridge and along the Murray River Road C542 to Granya Road and south to Granya. Webb Lane takes you into the Park and a picnic and camping area. Beyond the campground, the tracks are all unsealed and have numerous large spoon drains. Follow the tracks carefully to get to Sugarloaf Track and climb up to the summit – Sugarloaf Track is definitely 4WD for much of its length.

I set up beside the track only a few metres away from the high point. I spotted myself and started calling on 40 m SSB. About 12 minutes later saw 8 stations in the log. I swapped to 20 m to gain 4 stations in 5 minutes, before returning to 40 m just before UTC rollover. I worked another 6 stations before closing and packing up.

I retraced my route back to Granya, then headed west and then south to enter the Jarvis Creek Plateau Regional Park to set up within the activation zone of VK3/VE-208.

Jarvis Creek Plateau VK3/VE-208 694 m 2 points
Jarvis Creek Plateau Regional Park VKFF-0969

This summit has a large activation zone. The summit location should move a few hundred metres at the next VK3 Association update and increase to 4 points – my mapping investigations found a point at about 702 m within the current activation zone.

I set up and started calling on 40 m SSB. I quickly had the summit qualified for SOTA and then moved to 20 m, where I worked another 9 stations over next 20 minutes. With no more callers, I packed up and headed back down to the main road and back to Wodonga.

Tuesday 20 December

I headed off to the east from Wodonga along the Murray Valley Highway B400 toward Corryong and made my way to Mount Mittamatite / Mount Mitta Mitta.

Mount Mitta Mitta VK3/VE-138 988 m 6 points
Mount Mittamatite Flora Reserve

I set up inside the AZ for the summit and started calling. Within 20 minutes I had 10 stations in the log, all on 40 m SSB. I packed up and headed down the road and into the car park for Embery Lookout.

Mount Mitta Mitta (Mittamatite) Regional Park VKFF-0974

I set up in the car park for Embery Lookout. Over the next 30 minutes, I worked 13 stations, all on 40 m SSB. This included a SOTA chase of Rob VK2QR/p on VK2/SM-047, who suggested a change of plans for me. There would be a benefit for Rob, so I took his suggestion. I packed up and headed down the access road toward Tintaldra, then headed to Corryong to buy some lunch. Then it was back toward Khancoban and then south toward Biggara.

Mount Elliot VK3/VE-151 932 m 6 points

Off the Upper Murray Road, I took Fishers Track to the summit. The approach was in very good though dusty condition. Rob advised me to ignore the signs on the gate regarding a private road – to simply take it quietly and to be sure to close the gates.

I set up on the summit, about 100 m away from the closest comms buildings. First in the log was Compton VK2HRX/p on VK2/HU-007. 30 minutes later I worked Rob VK2QR/p, now on VK2/SM-028. After discussing the route to my next target, I packed up and headed back down to the Upper Murray Road, then towards Biggara. Then into Bunroy Road and onto McCormacks Gap Track. Once I hit the main ridge (perhaps McCormacks Gap?), I turned left into Mount Elliot Ridge Track and climbed to the summit. This track is very rough in places – 4WD definitely makes it easier.

Mount Elliot Ridge VK3/VE-160 890 m 4 points

This was a new summit for me. I set up beside the track with a few metres of the high point of the summit. First in the log was Rob VK2QR/p, still on VK2/SM-028. A new Complete for Rob! After about another 10 minutes of calling, I had a few more in the log. I then spent some time chatting to a local teenage who approached up the track on his motorbike. I explained what I was doing, telling him about SOTA. After the chat, I spent a few minutes on 20 m, working three ZL Chasers before packing up. After a total of about 25 minutes operating, I managed to work 9 stations, comfortably giving me a new Complete.

I packed up and headed toward Corryong along McCormacks Gap Track. At the edge of the bush, it is slightly confusing: the track appears to head on through a closed but not locked gate, or you can go through the gate onto farm land. I headed on, only to find a vague resemblance of a track across the paddocks after I passed through the next gate. I think one should use the track at the first gate…. I worked my way down and eventually re-joined the more prominent track and then worked my way out to the bitumen.

As I was heading toward Corryong, I could see a large thunderstorm ahead of me. I phoned Rob, who was driving in the fringe of the storm. We both said that we would assess the weather as the afternoon progressed.

I headed back toward Wodonga, considering a trip to Black Mountain. When I reached the access road turn off (Jeffcott & Jewells Road), the weather was still looking very thundery. I decided to abort this one. I continued on toward Shelley and decided to try VK3/VE-167 – the sky had cleared significantly.

VK3/VE-167 (unnamed) 867 m 4 points

This summit is not far off the Shelley – Walwa Road. This summit is likely to become invalid at the next VK3 update, as there is a higher summit about 2.6 km to the north.

I set up and started calling, with lots of QRN from the thunderstorms off to the near east. I worked 5 stations on 40 m SSB before trying 20 m, where I again worked 3 ZL Chasers. Back to 40 m briefly for one final station in the log before I packed up and headed back to Wodonga.

Wednesday 21 December

I again headed east from Wodonga, this time almost to Koetong and then north to Mount Lawson.

Mount Lawson VK3/VE-129 1041 m 6 points
Mount Lawson State Park VKFF-0768

I walked from the car park up towards the summit until well inside the AZ. I set up before I checked my phone – I had no coverage where I was sitting…. So I simply started calling on 7.090 MHz SSB, hoping for a regular to hear me. John VK2YW happened to pass his shack door and heard me calling. We worked and he put up a spot, so I was soon fielding chasers. It took about 30 minutes to work 11 stations – plenty for SOTA purposes, plus enough to qualify the activation for VKFF.

I packed up and headed back to the car, and then drove out to Koetong and then to Walwa to buy some lunch. I then headed south into the National Park on Cudgewa Bluff Road, looking for Wermatong Track.

Left into Wermatong Track and progressed with care on this less-used track. I needed to dodge the odd rock and fallen tree branches, but was able to drive to the summit.
A possible alternate approach route was closed due to damage – McNamaras Track.

VK3/VE-213 (unnamed) 668 m 2 points Not Previously Activated
Burrowa-Pine Mountain National Park VKFF-0069

I set up on the edge of the track and posted a spot for 40 m SSB. In under 25 minutes, I had 9 in the log. Swapping to 20 m SSB, I worked 3 VK4 stations followed by 3 ZLs. A swap to 80 m yielded two closer in stations, and finally on 40 m I worked Compton VK2HRX. A total of 18 callsigns in the log. Wermatong Track definitely needs a high clearance vehicle.

I packed up and retraced my route back to Cudgewa Bluff Road, then headed east to Cudgewa before making my way south to the Murray Valley Highway to return to Wodonga.

Friday 22 December

A run along Eskdale Spur

I decided to take a run along Eskdale Spur, starting with Mount Emu at the southern end. Whilst driving south towards Dederang, I pulled into a side road and managed to chase Compton VK2HRX/p on VK2/CT-002. I then resumed the trip toward Tawonga and headed east on Mountain Creek Road before turning onto Eskdale Spur Track. All was good until I encountered a large tree across the road. I back tracked and found a smaller track that accessed the track roughly following a high-voltage power line. This afforded a slower but workable route up onto Eskdale Spur Track and on to the first target summit.

Mount Emu VK3/VE-061 1360 m 8 points

Mount Emu is a launch site for hang gliders. I set up on the summit using a signpost to support the squid pole. I started on 40 m SSB, working Compton VK2HRX/p on VK2/CT-004 first before finding a clear frequency. About 10 minutes later I was called by Manuel VK/HB9DQM on VK2/SY-002. After another contact, I worked Gerard VK2IO/p who was driving Manuel. In under 20 minutes I had 16 stations in the log. I packed up and restarted my travel along Eskdale Spur Track. The section from Mount Emu to Redbank Track was in excellent condition, having recently been resurfaced. It was a little rougher further on, but presented no problems.

Mount Yorke VK3/VE-082 1248 m 8 points

The track now skirts around the summit of Mount Yorke. I parked near the northern end of the diversion and walked up the track until well inside the AZ.

First in the log was Matt VK1MA, followed by Manuel and Gerard, both still on VK2/SY-002. In about 15 minutes I worked 8 stations, all on 40 m SSB. It was now after 0300 Z, so I packed up and headed back to the car to resume the trip north along the spur.

VK3/VE-071 (unnamed) 1283 m 8 points

This summit is only a short distance off Eskdale Spur Track. I parked at the start of the old track, now blocked off to prevent vehicle access and walked up into the AZ. In just over 10 minutes I worked 13 stations, all on 40 m SSB. With time rolling on, this was another short activation. I packed up and headed back to the car and then resumed the drive north.

Mount Tawonga VK3/VE-076 1268 m 8 points

The track beyond Bowman No 1 Road was a little rougher but was navigable. I set up close to the trig point. First in the log was Compton VK2HRX/p on VK2/CT-011 on 40 m SSB. The next 35 minutes saw 17 stations in the log, all on 40 m SSB, except for Warren ZL2AJ on 20 m – the only caller after a spot was posted.

I packed up and headed back to Bowman No 1 Road to begin the descent towards Eskdale before heading north towards Wodonga for the night.

Saturday 23 December

Saturday was another day with no family commitments, so I headed out for another day of radio.

I headed out past Tallangatta and then south on Tallangatta Creek Road. Well down the valley I turned into Cravensville Road and climbed up onto the top of the range. At the ridge line, I turned right into Gibb Range Road and travelled about 5.3 km to an embarkation point that I have used previously to head to the first summit for the day.

Gibb Range VK3/VE-069 1289 m 8 points

The access route that I used followed an old access track to a logging coup, then another track to the edge of the coup and then along the coup boundary to the summit. The regrowth has become thicker since my last visit – perhaps a scrub bash from the eastern side might be considered next time. I set up near the summit.

Twenty minutes of operating on 40 m SSB yielded 12 contacts, all on 40 m SSB. I packed up and retraced my route to the vehicle. I then travelled on along Gibb Range Road to Beetoombah Spur Track and headed north.

Beetoombah Spur VK3/VE-120 1089 m 6 points
Wabba Wilderness Park VKFF-0944

I again set up in the scrub on the east side of the track, which marks the boundary of the Park. Once on air, I worked 12 stations in about eleven minutes. I heard Rob VK4AAC/2 calling, very weak to me. He could not hear my replies. I switched to 20 m and worked Rob comfortably. With no further responses to calls on 20 m, I switched back to 40 m for only one more station. I had lunch whilst waiting for Gerard and Manuel to come up on air. I finally worked Manuel and Gerard on 40 m CW, both on VK2/IL-001. After those contacts, I packed up and started to retrace my route to Gibb Range Road.

Unfortunately, about half way back along the route, I had a rock puncture the sidewall of a tyre. I had to work out how to access the spare wheel and to change wheels, and then resume my journey. I took it slowly and carefully and finally reached Gibb Range Road. I then headed east, making my way out to Benambra – Corryong Road. Here I considered my options, having no spare tyre…. I decided to risk it and headed south to Wild Boar Track.

Mount Sassafras VK3/VE-029 1587 m 10 points
Wild Boar Range Scenic Reserve

I approached the access track with care and made it safely to the summit area. I walked across to the trig point and set up nearby. On switching on the radio, I found Manuel and Gerard on VK2/IL-005 for S2S contacts on 40 m SSB. I changed frequency and started calling. I worked another 10 stations over the next 10 minutes before closing after several calls with no responses. I packed up and headed back to the car.

The exit was taken carefully and fortunately I had no further issues. I headed north through Nariel Valley and then west on Murray Valley Highway back to Wodonga. By time I was back to civilisation, most places were closed. With a Sunday tomorrow and then Christmas Day, I will need to wait for tyre outlets to open before I can set out to any more Parks or summits.

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Some mid-December Parks fun

In the lead up to Christmas, I managed to get out for several day trips to activate a mixture of Parks and SOTA summits. Most of the Parks were activated only to the 10+ contacts, enough to qualify the Park for VKFF awards. I had activated some of the Parks previously, so the activations this time were just for fun en route to or from another target Park.

14 December 2017

I wanted to activate the Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort for the ARV Victorian Local Government Award Challenge, so I planned a loop around some of the Parks in the Latrobe River valley.

Moondarah State ParkVKFF-0764

I travelled from home to Moe and then towards Erica. I then took Tanjil Bren Road to a spot where I could set up off the main track. I tossed a line over a tree branch to raise the inverted V. I used this method for most of the day. I was on air and calling at about 2348 Z (13 December). I worked 8 callsigns prior to UTC midnight, and then worked 2 more callsigns just after rollover, all on 40 m SSB. With 10 in the log, I packed up after further calls yielded no responses.

I back tracked to the main road and headed north to Erica. Then north past Rawson to the South Face Road.

Baw Baw National Park VKFF-0020

From the South Face Road I turned into East Tyers Road towards the campsite on the Australian Alps Walking Track. I found a spot to set up well inside the Park boundary. I worked 10 stations on 40 m SSB and then 3 more on 20 m SSB. Operating time was about 30 minutes.

I retraced my route to South Face Road and headed west and entered the access road to Mount Baw Baw Village.

Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort

The main snow resorts in Victoria are actually excised from the surrounding Local Government Area and are classified as “Unincorporated areas” answering to the Victorian government. French Island is another such area.

I found a spot to set up inside the Resort boundary. I posted a spot to ParksnPeaks and started calling on 40 m a few minutes before 0200 Z. 30 minutes of operating yield 9 callsigns in the log. I again packed up and headed west through Tanjil Bren, Noojee and then south through Neerim South before turning onto Bloomfield Road.

Crossover Regional Park VKFF-0965

I turned onto the southern section of Bridge Road (signposted for the historic timber trestle bridge) and then left onto a track that traverses the Park. I set up a few hundred metres down the track.

First in the log was Peter VK3TKK/p in Mount Ridley Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2156 – a pleasant surprise. I ended up with 20 callsigns in the log, all on 4o m SSB. Second last in the log was Rob VK4FFAB/p in Bullock Creek Conservation Park VKFF-1490, another unexpected Park contact.

With no further answers to calls, I again packed up and headed south to Nilma and then to Darnum and Cloverlea, before driving up onto the Strezlecki Range and travelling around to the eastern section of the next Park.

Mount Worth State Park VKFF-VKFF-0771

This time I set up using a squid pole lashed to a post to support the inverted V. First in the log was Rob VK4FFAB/p in Bullock Creek Conservation Park VKFF-1490 on 40 m SSB. I tuned around to find a clear frequency and started calling. I ended up with 11 callsigns in the log, all on 40 m SSB. The last contact was on 0532, after which I packed up and headed for home.

15 December 2017

I decided on a second day out playing Parks. I was a little slow getting going in the morning. I headed to Gormandale and then to Willung and into the southwest corner of the first Park.

Holey Plains State Park VKFF-0758

I found a spot on South Boundary Road, again tossing a line over a tree branch to support the inverted V. I was actually on air a few minutes before UTC midnight. First in the log was Nick VK3ANL on 80 m SSB. Nick has a birdie on 3.610 MHz, so I moved up 5 kHz to make it easier. I was about to re-spot myself and saw a spot for Peter VK3TKK/p. I quickly reconfigured the antenna for 40 m and called Peter, in Tooborac Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2212. Peter was about to pack up when I called, so I stayed on 7.144 MHz. in just over 20 minutes I had 20 callsigns in the log and then nothing – time to again pack up.

I retraced my route towards Willung and then east and south to get to the next target Park.

About 6 minutes from my target, I heard Peter VK3TKK/p in his next Park, so worked him whilst mobile.

Kangaroo Swamp Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2194

I found a spot to park inside the Reserve boundary and called Peter VK3TKK/p, still in Spring Plains Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2194. This was the first known contact from VKFF-2194. I called him again from the vehicle, completing a Park to Park contact. I then set up the inverted V antenna. I ended up with 20 in the log before I had no more callers. I decided against trying any band other than 40 m and packed up to head to the next target.

I headed south and west to the Hyland Highway and south to Yarram. Just outside Yarram I stopped and worked Peter VK3TKK/p in Costerfield Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2071. I continued on to Yarram and dropped in to have a coffee and chat with Ken VK3UH. During the chat, we both worked Andrew VK1DA/2 on VK2/SM-059 in VKFF-0138. After a 30 minute break with Ken, I was back on the road, heading to Alberton.

Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park VKFF-0748

I headed down Telegraph Road and onto a track into the Park to again set up the inverted V. I was on air just after 0300 Z. It took about 45 minutes to work 12 stations – harder work. With no more responses to calls, I again packed up to move on. I retraced my route to the South Gippsland Highway and then headed west to Foster and then to Sandy Point. En route, I stopped to again work Peter VK3TKK/p, now in Axedale Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2037. As I was leaving Foster, I decided to skip Wilsons Promontory National Park. At Sandy Point, I headed to the end of Sandy Point Road.

Shallow Inlet Marine and Coastal Park VKFF-0749

The last few hundred metres of Sandy Point Road is surrounded by the Park. I parked on the beach of Shallow Inlet, using the squid pole to support the antenna.

First in the log was again Peter VK3TKK/p, now in Mount Sugarloaf Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2158. I moved down the band slightly and started calling. I ended up with 16 in the log. Once I had no more replies to calls, I again packed up and headed back north and then west to Walkerville and on to the Cape Liptrap Lighthouse car park.

Cape Liptrap Lighthouse Reserve

The Victoria Local Government Award Challenge also counts activations and chases from lighthouse reserves, so this was an obvious target to include in this day. I grabbed the SOTA pack and walked down to close to the lighthouse to set up. I managed to work 4 stations over about 15 minutes of calling – enough to qualify the reserve.

I then packed up and moved back close to the car park so that I was outside the Lighthouse Reserve and now in the surrounding Park.

Cape Liptrap Coastal Park VKFF-0745

I again set up with the SOTA gear. First contact was Ken VK3UH on 80 m. Further calls went unanswered, so I moved to 40 m. 5 stations on 40 m, 4 on 30 m, no responses on 20 m. The eleventh contact was on 80 m: Peter VK3TKK/p, now in Jackass Flat Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2114. I again packed up and headed off, this time to Venus Bay, Inverloch and then along the coast road toward Cape Paterson. Once inside the area with the next Park offshore, I found a spot to set up within the required 100 m of the high water mark.

Bunurong Marine National Park VKFF-0945

Given that it was late in the afternoon, I started on 80 m SSB. I quickly worked 5 stations, including Peter VK3TKK/p, now in Pilchers Bridge Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2176. I switched to 40 m and worked another 9 callsigns. It was now after 0800 Z, so I packed up and headed toward home, almost 90 minutes away.

The journey was uneventful, but I was rather tired once I arrived.

Saturday 16 December

This was the first day of a trip to the northeast of Victoria for a family birthday and then Christmas. I packed the car and finally got on the road. I travelled west to Nilma and then north and west toward Warburton, then along the Warburton – Woods Point Road. I then headed west toward Marysville and into the Lake Mountain Alpine Resort.

Lake Mountain Alpine Resort

This was the last of the Alpine Resorts that I needed to activate to complete the main set of “Unincorporated Local Government Areas” for the ARV LGA Challenge. I drove up the access road to just beyond the winter pay station and set up on the edge of the car park. If I had more time, I would have driven up to the main resort area and included an activation of SOTA summit Federation Range VK3/VN-029, which is outside of the Resort area. I started calling on 7.090 SSB and finally raised some stations – I was unable to spot myself as there was no mobile signal. After I worked a few stations, I packed up and headed down to Marysville to buy some lunch, then headed north to Buxton.

Buxton Silver Gums Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2058

This NCR is located about 3.4 km south of Buxton, beside Maroondah Highway B360. There is a parking area off the highway. I set up, spotted myself and started calling. 10 minutes of calling yield 5 stations on 40 m SSB. Ten minutes later, I had another 3 call signs logged. I then tried 20 m SSB, gaining another 9 call signs in the log in the next 15 minutes. With 17 in the log, the Reference was well qualified for VKFF. I packed up and resumed my journey north to Alexandra.

McKenzie Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2139

This reference is adjacent to the town boundary in Alexandra: head south on the main street (Grant St) and then watch for Plantation Lane on the right. I drove south along Mount Pleasant Road and observed the small parking area and display boards at the northern end of the reserve, then checked the rest of the eastern boundary. I doubled back and took Plantation Lane, finding a shady spot to park the vehicle and then grabbed the SOTA gear to walk into the Reserve to find a spot to set up.

I started on 80 m SSB, working 2 call signs within minutes. After another 5 minutes of calling without responses, I moved to 40 m, working another 13 call signs in just over 10 minutes. After no more calls, I went to 20 m and worked another 6 stations. 21 call signs in the log in about 45 minutes – not too bad. With no more replies to calls, I packed up and headed back to the car.

From here, I headed north and east to Benalla and then on to Wodonga, my base for the next 2 weeks.

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VKFF activation weekend 2017

Saturday 25 November 2017

The weekend of 25/26 November was the designated VKFF activation weekend for the year. It is an interesting weekend, with many activators out in Parks. This year, Alerts were posted on ParksnPeaks for around 60 VKFF References to be activated.

Locally, the weather forecast was for a hot day with afternoon thunderstorms. I considered the forecast before deciding late on Friday evening to go out Saturday morning. The plan was to head to three of the Nature Conservation Reserves added in August.

I awoke early and got underway. The route plan was to head toward Briagalong. I was aware of significant areas of the Princes Highway which had rod works occurring, so after Rosedale I headed north to Tinamba, planning to then head east to Maffra and on to the planned Park. Driving north, I was looking up at the hills to the north and west: Ben Cruachan, Gable End and many others were clearly visible. Just as I approached the roundabout in Tinamba, I changed my mind and headed straight ahead toward Newry and then on to Valencia Creek.

VK3/VT-047 unnamed summit 732 m 4 points
Avon Wilderness Park VKFF-0942

From Valenica Creek, the approach is relatively straight forward, although with many twists and turns. Head northwest on Wombat Road which then heads south and then west before a low level crossing of the Avon River before a short section heading west and then north. When you get to the start of the forest on the west of the road, turn left into Mount Angus Track. After about 540 m, turn right to continue toward Mount Angus. As you climb, you will encounter many large spoon drains, plus the track is likely to have scattered fallen timber and small rocks. My first activation of the summit used the same approach in the old Subaru Forester. About 13.2 km after leaving Wombat Road, you eventually reach the track junction of Mount Angus Track and Avon Track. Veer right and then drive onto the helipad on the actual summit, which is inside the Park boundary.


Google Maps view of access route used

I tossed a line over a tree branch and hauled up the antenna and feedline prior to running the link dipole legs out parallel to the track. I set up on 40 m initially. I had weak mobile reception so was able to self-spot. Gerard VK2IO was first in the log followed by two more callers. Several minutes of calling produced no responses, so I changed the antenna to 80 m. I worked five stations on 80 m, including Mick VK3PMG/p in VKFF-2146. With no further responses to CQ calls, I switched back to 40 m to chase Garry VK2GAZ/p in VKFF-0041, Tony VK7LTD and Angela VK7FAMP/p in VKFF-1797. After working three more stations, CQ calls went unanswered, so I switched to 20 m. Calls here results in contacts with ZL, VK7 and VK5. After more unanswered calls, it was back to 80 m to work Mitch and Geoff, then back to 40 m. Hunting around and calling resulted in P2P contacts with Gerard VK2JNG/p in VKFF-1967, Paul VK5PAS/p and Marija VK5FMAZ/p in VKFF-0911, Jon VK7JON/p and Helen VK7FOLK/p in VKFF-1829, plus several other hunters. The final contact here was a S2S and P2P with Warren VK3BYD/p on Mt Piper VK3/VN-028 and VKFF-2155 on 80 m CW.

I then packed up and retraced my route back to Valencia Creek and then headed to Briagalong. Perhaps I made a poor route choice here, as I worked my way across to Gorge Road only to encounter a Road Closed sign as I reached Freestone Creek. I slowly drove on along the track and easily crossed the gravel ford and then straight into the middle of Briagalong.

I stop at the local café to buy some lunch was followed by a trip south and then east to the next target.

Swallow Lagoon Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2199

This reference had not previously been activated. I approached along Freemans Lane, turn into Swallow Lagoon Road and spotting a locked entrance gate opposite the junction with Andrews Road. I parked here and noted a pedestrian access gate.


The reserve sign inside the gate

I grabbed some gear and set up about 5 m inside the gate, again throwing a line over a tree branch to lift the dipole centre. The dipole was run out parallel to the fence.


Swallow Lagoon NCR operating position. Thanks to Google Maps.

I started off on 40 m, working Marija VK5FMAZ/p and Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0911 first up. Next was Tony VK3XV/p in VKFF-0624, followed by Mick VK3PMG/p in VKFF-2047 and then Greg VK5GJ and Norm VK5GI in VKFF-0999. A few more chasers later was Nik VK3NLK/p in VKFF-0750. A few more in the log and I worked Ian VK1DI/p in VKFF-1775, followed about six minutes later with Brett VK3FLCS/p in VKFF-2158.

A switch to 20 m yielded Paul VK5PAS/p again, followed by Neil VK4HNS/p in VKFF-0471, and Rob VK4AAC/p in VKFF-0200. Swapping back to 40 m yielded Angela VK7FAMP/p and Tony VK7LTD/p in VKFF-1144, Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0041 and Gerard VK2JNG/p in VKFF-0492. I swapped the antenna back to 20 m to work John ZL1BYZ on CW for a SOTA contact and then back to 40 m to catch Allen VK3ARH/p in VKFF-2070 followed by a couple of other Hunters. I finished off with Jon VK7JON/p and Helen VK7FOLK/p in VKFF-1802.

The last 30 minutes or so had the sounds of thunder in addition to the bird calls, so I decided to pack up as the rate of answered calls was very low. I had 36 in the log, but hoped to activate at least one more Park for the day.

I drove east along Andrews Road to Munro, then south to the Princes Highway to head toward Bairnsdale. I then took the Dargo and Glenaladale turnoff to head to Fernbank.

Fernbank Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2088

This Park is behind the Fernbank Recreation Reserve, which looked rather neglected. My earlier investigations of this park suggested that access might be easiest from the track running on the southern side of the railway line. These thought proved to be correct: at the western end of the reserve, there was a track into a set of bollards at the reserve boundary. I parked here and walked in about 30 m to set up. This reference had not previously been activated.


Fernbank NCR position. Thanks to Google Maps.

As I approached Fernbank, I could see some large thunderstorms to the north….. The activation was to have a background of thunder and birdsong… Once set up, I was able to log Liz VK2XSE/p in VKFF-1269, followed a few minutes later by Jon VK7JON/p and Helen VK7FOLK/p in VKFF-1802. Several minutes of calls then went unanswered before I worked Dave VK2ZK/p in VKFF-1348, followed by Gerard VK2JNG/p in VKFF-0492. A couple of minutes later were Marija VK5FMAZ/p and Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-1639 and then Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0041. A couple more contacts were made before I saw a local walking along to investigate the voice he had been hearing. I explained the VKFF and WWFF programs and even made a few calls. I then switched to 20 m, yielding only Rick VK4RF. The thunder was getting louder and I had 13 in the log, so I packed up and headed back to the bitumen and back to the highway.

Once on the highway, I headed east to the Lindenow turnoff and headed south toward Meerlieu, then east on Boundary Road.

Bengworden Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2045

This was another reference which had not previously been activated. My mapping showed the reserve boundary starts at the junction with Swindlers Road. But this road had a locked gate, plus the reserve had no signs. The start and end of the reserve was obvious, plus it showed on the mapping on the vehicle GPS system. I drove along to the eastern end and parked beside the locked gate. I walked in about 100 m and set up.


Operating position Bengworden NCR. Thanks to Google Maps.

First in the log were Paul VK5PAS/p and in Marija VK5FMAZ/p VKFF-1122 on 40 m. I worked three more Hunters before I worked Tony VK7LTD/p and in Angela VK7FAMP/p VKFF-1825, followed by Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0041. Shortly thereafter I worked Gordon VK5GY/p in VKFF-1086. I tried 20 m with no responses to calls and also tried to work Peter VK3TKK/p in Organ Pipes National Park. I could hear Peter, but he had S7 noise and could not hear me. I gave up when it started to rain – the thunderstorms were almost upon me. I had 10 in the log, so at least I had the Park qualified for VKFF.

I loaded up the vehicle and headed for home, with many dark clouds visible dumping rain and with the occasional lightning display. I was a bit slack about taking photos during the day as I was too focussed on the radio activity and driving.

Sunday was rather wet, so I decided to hunt from home. Propagation had been up and down all weekend, so only a few activations were worked from home.

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A visit to the Yarra Valley Hamfest 2017

I had been busy with a major editing task for the last couple of weeks and had already started work on the November issue of Amateur Radio magazine. The forecast for Sunday was for a nice day with strong winds and a late cold front to pass across the eastern half of Victoria. I was undecided on Saturday, but awoke early, so decided to head towards Yarra Glen for the hamfest.

Sunday 29 October 2017

After posting an Alert on ParksnPeaks, I hit the road towards Pakenham and then on to Yellingbo.

Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2224 Not Yet Activated

Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve (NCR) is one of the 200+ NCRs added to the VKFF list in August 2017. Prior to my visit, this reference had not yet been activated. The Reserve is just off one of my possible route choices when heading to the north or northeast of Victoria, especially during winter when the Great Alpine Road across Mt Hotham is often closed.

Yellingbo NCR is almost 643 hectares in size, predominantly running along three creeks on the southern slopes of the Yarra Valley, around the hamlet of Yellingbo. Like many of the NCRs, there are no Park Notes available. Amateurs intending to activate the reserve should read the Management Plan whilst planning their visit.

One might be surprised at the ecological values if one was simply driving along the roads near the NCR. To quote from the management plan Summary:

“The reserve protects a diverse array of flora and fauna including around 285 native flora species and 230 native vertebrate species.  The reserve also protects areas of Sedge-rich Eucalyptus camphora Swamp Community, which is considered to be of national significance.

The reserve provides habitat for the last wild colonies of the endangered Helmeted Honeyeater, Victoria’s rarest bird and its avifaunal emblem.  Once widely distributed in the Westernport to mid-Yarra area, the known wild population of the Honeyeater is now around 100 individuals, most of which reside within the reserve.  In accordance with recommendations in the Helmeted Honeyeater Recovery Plan 1999–2003 (Menkhorst et al. 1999), management aims to protect and enhance habitat to allow this population to survive and expand.

Also of note is the presence of the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, which is the only known occurrence of this possum in lowland forest areas.  Other significant vertebrates include the Spotless Crake, Powerful Owl, Southern Emu-wren, Yellow-bellied Glider, Platypus, Mountain Galaxias, Southern Pigmy Perch and Swamp Skink.”

Intending activators should also take note of two of the significant management directions listed in the Summary:

  • Maintenance of the current low levels of passive visitor use to ensure natural values are not adversely affected.
  • Encouragement of active recreation activities at alternative locations to the reserve.

Later in the Plan, one should read section 6.1 on Visitor use. This section lead me to “Parslow Bridge” as a possible site for an activation. A search of that name on Google Maps did not help, but a quickly found the spot by examining the area around Yellingbo: the bridge on Parslows Road across Woori Yallock Creek.

Careful examination of the mapping information and satellite images shows an unsealed car park on the north side of Parslows Road immediately to the east of the Creek. The northern half of the car park area is inside the Reserve, whilst the southern half of the car park is on the road reserve. Being beside the road, it is an area where an amateur radio activation is unlikely to cause disturbance of the Helmeted Honeyeaters.

It set up against the fence on the north side of the car park. The space is tight – not quite enough space for an 80 m dipole. I used a squid pole supported by one of the fence posts and initially strung the inverted V out for 40 m.There were plenty of bird calls from the scrub nearby whilst I was setting up.

The Alert had been for 7.144 MHz, but being Sunday morning, there were a couple of News Broadcast stations nearby. I found a clear frequency and spotted myself. 20 minutes of calling yielded only 11 contacts on 40 m, so I strung out the rest of the dipole and called on 80 m. This yielded another five callsigns, including a station from near Benalla who was keen to ragchew. It happens that he knew a previous holder of VK3PF. It was now 2320 UTC (Saturday UTC time) and the hamfest had been underway for 30 minutes. This was not a concern, as I was visiting primarily as a social opportunity.

Yarra Valley Amateur Radio Group Hamfest

I packed up and headed to Yarra Glen. I paid the entrance fee and was quickly greeted by two amateurs and started chatting. This pattern continued for the next 45 minutes. In between chats, I managed to have a quick scan of the stalls. I saw nothing much of interest to me.

I finally departed at around 1200, sending a text message to a friend declining the invitation to join them at the local hotel for lunch – I had other targets in mind.

After purchasing some lunch at a bakery, I headed toward Healesville and up the Black Spur to Dom Dom Saddle.

Mount Vinegar VK3/VC-005 1069 m 6 points

From Dom Dom Saddle, I headed along Dom Dom Road and then veered onto the link track towards Road Eight. As indicated by Tony VK3CAT in a post after his activation of Mount Dom Dom VK3/VN-017 on 15 October, the normally locked gate was open. I drove around onto Road Eight. When I passed the junction with Carters Gap Road, I noted that the gate there was locked. I continued on and up, passing a helipad area with a large water tank. Soon after, there was another open gate. I was able to drive all the way to the summit, making this an easy access 6-ponter today!

I checked out the trees nearby – mainly tall mountain ash with the lowest branches a long way up. I decided to set up with a squid pole strapped to a tree stump on the north side of the track, so I was outside the Yarra Ranges National Park boundary. This activation was SOTA-only.


Looking from Mt Vinegar towards Mt Ritchie

After checking the frequency of choice, I started calling CQ. When I finished the call, I heard Alan VK7AN/p calling CQ – we had been doubling. Alan was a good copy, so I waited whilst he worked a couple of stations and then made a contact with him. Alan left me with the frequency and I worked another 4 stations on 40 m SSB before I switched to 80 m. 80 m only yielded Nik VK3NLK/p in the Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park VKFF-0747. Sorry that it was not a Park to Park contact Nik! With no more callers, I packed up, happy to have 6 in the log and a new Unique and a new Complete.


Looking NNE from Mt Vinegar

I headed back down to Dom Dom Saddle and considered my options. I decided to head to another new Unique to make another new Complete.

Back down the Black Spur with the usual slow traffic and then very slow through Healesville. After crossing the Yarra River, I headed south towards Warranmate Hills Nature Conservation Reserve. Lunch must be good at “Ezard at Levantine Hill”, as there were three helicopters parked on the lawn! I considered my options as I approached the Reserve, but decided to head around to the southern approach which has been used by several amateurs.

Warranmate Hills Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2244 Not Yet Activated
Briarty Hill VK3/VC-029 424 m 1 point

I parked the car at the entrance gate on Yarraloch Way and loaded up the SOTA pack. I started along the Management Vehicle Only (MVO) track, noting some signs posted about new Regulations for the Reserve, banning mountain bikes from single tracks and permitting their use only on MVO tracks. As I was walking along the tarck, I recalled that one needs to drop down vertically before starting to climb, so I decided to venture uphill on one of the single tracks that climbed from the MVO.

The walk was pleasant but warm. The temperature was in the mid-20s. The track chosen headed up along the edge of gully and there was evidence of previous mountain bike use. The track eventually crossed the gully and I started working my way up the spur on various single tracks. I eventually ran out of obvious tracks and continued up the spur using animal tracks most of the way. Near the top of the climb I encountered a wire fence. I crossed the fence and very quickly found an old vehicle track. I followed this north and then west to join the main track to the summit.

There is a large Telstra comms site at the summit, so I set up about 100 metres down the track trying to avoid any unwanted RF noise.

I spotted myself on 40 m and was quickly answered by Paul VK5PAS once I started calling. 40 m was full of signals, with EU and NA stations working the CQ WW SSB contest. I worked six locals on 40 m before changing antenna links for 20 m, hoping to hear Phil VK6ADF/p and Hans VK6XN/p, both out in Parks. As I was changing the antenna, I received an SMS from Tony VK3CAT. Shortly afterwards, we worked each other on 2 m FM. Thanks for the contact Tony – I was now close to the magical 10 contacts needed for VKFF qualification.

I tuned around on 20 m SSB. Nothing heard from Hans or Phil. The band was busy with contest traffic. I spotted again down below 14.200 and after the second call, a contest station in Bulgaria started calling CQ. I tried calling back – no response. Then Warren ZL2AJ tried to call the Bulgarian – he had no response. So I called Warren – success! Nine callsigns were now in the log.

I gave up on 20 m and strung out the 80 m extensions before spotting myself. I was quickly called by Mick VK3GGG. I finally had the Park qualified. Further calls went unanswered, so I switched off and packed up at around 0730 UTC.

I headed down off the summit via the steeper original track and then back down the main track. Along the way I met someone walking up the track for some exercise. We discussed options for descent to the southern entrance. I offered to show me the 2 route options that he knew, given that he had not planned to go much further. As we descended along the track, I outlined SOTA and WWFF. We reached a point on a slight flat area of the ridge where there was an old vehicle track. There was a more defined option further along, but I decided to head down on the option in front of me. I thanked him for the company and pointing out the start of the track, located at roughly where I thought it might be as I was considering my descent options and the information that I could recall from earlier blog descriptions of the summit. The track is becoming a bit overgrown lower down, but I eventually reached the main MVO track. It was then simply a matter of following the MVO track as it crossed several ridges and gullies and eventually back to the car. I arrived back at the car just before 2000 local time.


Looking to the SE during the descent


My route to the summit & return

All that remained was the 2 hour drive home!

Looking back at the maps, I suspect that this summit may be a little easier from the northern entrance. One would save about 100 m of climbing and would simply follow the MVO track up the hill.

As noted by Tony VK3CAT: it is a tough walk and climb for only 1 SOTA Activator point. But it was a new Unique and another Complete, together with a first activation of the VKFF reference, so I am satisfied.

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The last full day for Winter Bonus 2017

In VK3, the Winter Bonus ends at 2359 UTC on 14 October each year. From 15 June through to the end of the bonus period (1100 local time in VK3 on 15 October), summits above 1200 m attract a 3-point bonus.

The weather forecast looked great for the weekend. I had several tasks on the “to do” list, but felt a need to get out and play SOTA. With one major task dealt with on Friday night, I decided on Saturday morning to head for the hills. The basic plan was to try to get to several summits with the bonus points, including a possible camp out on Saturday night, thus possibly activating one or perhaps 2 summits on Sunday morning… This meant that more gear needed to be loaded into the vehicle. That led to a big mistake, which I realised about 90 minutes down the road.

I packed most of the gear into the car and departed home at around 0900 local. I headed east towards Bairnsdale. I was only about 15 kilometres short of Bairnsdale when it hit me: I had left the SOTA backpack in the radio shack! The obvious option was to abort. But as I gathered my thoughts, I realised that I could proceed: I had a full set of portable gear in the vehicle – antennas, heavy duty squid poles, feedlines, an IC-7000 transceiver, an spare LiFePO4 battery plus a backpack with my KX2 along with my camera. No need to turn around – all should be go.

I filled the fuel tank in Bairnsdale and then headed north through Wy Yung and Bullumwaal and north towards Mount Baldhead. On my previous activations of Mount Baldhead, I had approached via Swifts Creek. Today’s approach allowed easy access to summit which I could activate from the road side on my trip north. One could add Mt Taylor VK3/VG-142 (1 point) with a very short detour.

Unnamed summit VK3/VG-080 897 m 4 points

This summit might be given a name for SOTA purposes of “Near Purtle” or perhaps “Purtle Spur” at the next VK3 update. Checking Google Earth, the height data suggests that the summit height is 904 m, so perhaps it may also go up to 6 points?

The summit is very close to the junction of Morris Peak Road and Mount Baldhead Road. I drove over the high point of the road, with moderate scrub visible from the road. The scrub just north of the obvious parking place near the road junction looks to be thicker. The road just north of junction is just inside the activation zone. I parked near the junction and walked to close to the high point in the road and then set up with antenna along the edge of the road.

I spotted myself and then worked 6 stations before I had no more calls. The summit was qualified and I now had a new Complete.

I packed up and continued roughly north along Mount Baldhead Road. As I travelled, I was enjoying the views through the trees, looking down into and across the various valleys. I did slow down to have a slightly longer look at the south and west sides of Mikado Hill VK3/VG-051, which has not yet been activated. I had a quick look at this one from the road which traverses it northern flank and the bush looked thick. From the south and west, the bush looked no better and from what I could see, it has not yet seen any logging activity, unlike other areas in the area. Given the prime reason for the trip, Mikado Hill can wait for another day.

Mount Baldhead Track was looking very overgrown, so I continued on and took the next track to the east – a road into young regrowth forest. The junction is clearly visible on the satellite imagery on Google Earth at about 37°22’28.87″S 147°32’49.20″E. There were a few obstacles to dodge but it was just a matter of take it easy. When I met the upper section of Mount Baldhead Track, it was almost completely overgrown. The route to the summit continues along Mount Baldhead Track to the summit. I drove to the summit and parked under an old eucalypt in the shade.

Mount Baldhead VK3/VE-027 1374 m 8 points

The antenna was hoisted with a throw bag over a tree branch, so the antenna feed point was at about 10 m. I spotted myself on 40 m and Col VK3LED was first in the log. Another 7 contacts followed before I had no more calls after working Mitch VK7XDM, so I packed up. I had everything back in the vehicle when I received a text message saying that I could not be heard in NE Victoria. I answered saying I was packed up but would try 80 m on the next summit.

I exited by headed north down Mount Baldhead Track to Boomerang Spur Road and back onto Mount Baldhead Road. Both the approach and exit route need reasonable vehicle clearance.

It was then north to Grassy Ridge Track and west to Mount Delusion Track, which has had a reasonable amount of traffic in recent times – the last time I was at its eastern end, it was looking underutilised and had vegetation encroaching. So this time I headed straight up the Track, along the edge of an area that has been logged in the past few months.

Mt Delusion VK3/VG-026 1375 m 8 points

Once in the AZ, I found a spot where I could park off the track and again set up with a line over a branch. Ian VK5IS was first in the log on 40 m. Next up was S2S contacts with VK3CU/p and VK3LT/p, both on Mt Arapiles VK3/VW-022. After another 3 contacts I called with no responses, so dropped down to 80 m and spotted myself. I worked Geoff VK3SQ. An SMS from Tassie sent me back to 40 m to work Mitch VK7XDM. With no further calls, I packed up and headed to Mount Delusion Road and then north to Omeo. From Omeo, it was out to Hinnomunjie and on to Knocker Track and finally up Knocker Link Track.

The Knocker VK3/VG-016 1506 m 10 points

After again tossing a line over a branch, I started on 80 m with Matt VK1MA first in the log. Next was Allen VK3ARH. With no further calls after working Allen, I moved to 40 m another 6 stations. With no more callers, and the summit comfortably qualified, I started to pack up. The activation had a short interruption whilst I was explaining what I was doing to a deer stalker who driven up the track and saw my vehicle, so came over to check to see what was happening.

I packed up after having no more answers to CQs. I retraced my route back toward Omeo, but turned off at the Golf Club to climb up the hill to the next summit.

Sam Hill VK3/VG-049 1206 m 8 points

As I drove up onto the summit area, a large mob of kangaroos quietly bounced off.

Kangaroo grazing

One of the locals grazing near the summit

After placing a line over a branch and spotting myself, I started working stations on 40 m. First up was Warren ZL2AJ. Three more calls had the summit qualified. I moved to 80 m and worked Sergio, Mitch and Steve. Seven in the log – I was happy. I quickly packed up and grabbed a quick photo – the snow was still present on Mt Bogong. The sun was getting low in the sky.

Mt Bogong from Sam Hill

Looking towards Mt Bogong from Sam Hill

As I drove back down to the Omeo Highway, I considered my options. It was already after 1800 local time. I decided, why not….. I headed for a sixth summit for the day.

Unnamed summit VK3/VG-036 1285 m 8 points

Heading south from Omeo on the Great Alpine Road, I turned into Tongio Gap Road and then onto Splitters Range Road. The road starts with a gate, then across a paddock to another gate. Be sure to close them both… The road then climbs up to the summit, with a cleared area with a communications building & mast at the junction with The Dog Track. During the drive up, I needed to dodge a couple of kangaroos as well as a doe and fawn.

I have proposed that the summit be given the name Splitters Range in the next VK3 update.

I again deployed a line over a branch to hoist the antenna. The throw bag, designed for arborists, normally sits with the portable gear in the car. At 340 grams plus the line and its holder, the kit is a little heavy to add to the SOTA pack.

I started on 80 m, with John ZL1BYZ first caller, followed by Mitch, Steve and Tony, so I had the summit qualified before I moved to 40 m. First on 40 m was Jackie ZL1WA, followed by Paul VK5PAS. It was now after 0815 with no more callers and the sun was on the horizon. It was time to pack up and head back to the bitumen. After dodging more kangaroos, I finally made it back down to the Great Alpine Road.

During the drive down, I considered my options: should I find somewhere to camp with the chance of another summit or 2 in the morning, or head for home? I decided on the latter option and headed south. I finally arrived home at 2315 local – it had been a long day. The pay-off: 6 summits activated with a new Complete plus 61 Activator points to add to the tally.

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Glenmaggie Regional Park VKFF-1877

Sunday 23 July 2017

The weather forecast for Sunday did not look great, with strong winds all day and two cold fronts to pass through the region during the afternoon. I decided to risk the weather and head out to another of the new Parks. I was away a little after 0900 local and travelled to Heyfield, finding that the Bakery is not open on Sundays…. Lunch would therefore wait until mid-afternoon during the return trip.

The Glenmaggie Regional Park needs careful attention to the mapping detail, as it appears to be made of at least two separate sub-parks, the area managed by Parks Victoria and some areas closer to Lake Glenmaggie that are managed by Southern Rural Water, the local Rural Water Authority. As best as I can tell, the two areas are called “Glenmaggie Regional Park”. Be aware that there is also a Glenmaggie Nature Conservation Area nearby, which is not part of the Regional Park.

The Glenmaggie Regional Park is part of the Gippsland Plains region and sits to the east of Lake Glenmaggie. Part of the Park is the Blores Hill Mountain Bike Trail Network. Given that was a Sunday and there were lots of MTB riders and their vehicles nearby, I headed down towards the end of Sandy Point Road and set up just off the road in an area which is shown as part of the Park on the mapping on the Parks Victoria website. I was about 200 metres east of the end of Sandy Point Road.

I tossed a line over a tree branch, getting the dipole centre about 12 m off the ground. I set up an IC-7000 set to 25 W on the tailgate of the Ranger, powering it from the secondary battery in the rear of the ute. When I switched on the radio at around 0100 Z, I could hear stations working Gerard VK2JNG/p in Garrawilla National Park VKFF-0588 on 7.144 MHz. In my eagerness, I worked Gerard and then Allen VK3ARH/p in VKFF-1879 with the dipole ends still on the ground! But two P2P contacts made for a good start to the activation!

The next 10 minutes brought another 5 contacts, after which the going became harder. Lots of calls were made with few replies. One of the contacts was with Sam VK2HAX, who was a very difficult copy. I thuink that Sam may have been in the Barrington Tops National Park, as I saw some Spots for him a little later in the afternoon. After 30 minutes, I swapped to 80 m and worked another 6 stations.

Back to 40 m for some more Chasers, including Nigel VK5NIG/p and Stu VK5STU/p, both out in VKFF-1699. I saw a Spot for Trevor VK4KWI/p on a Summit in a Park, so I spent some time listening for him and waiting for the QSB to improve the signal a little. We finally completed a contact, so another P2P in the log.

Just before 0300 Z I swapped to 20 m SSB, with lots of calls and no replies. I was listening and about to revert to 40 m when Ian VK5MA/6 popped up out of the noise – I had seen a Spot for him in VKFF-0647, but had heard nothing for the last 5 minutes. After working Ian, I swapped back to 40 m and managed to again work Gerard VK2JNG/p, now in VKFF-1179. After a few minutes of calling, I went back to 80 m for a while, managing to attract two more Chasers. Approaching 40 contacts in the log, I went back to 40 m. Several minutes calling were unproductive. I spent a couple of minutes listening to Gerard working his Chasers, when I heard Pail VK5PAS/p and Marija VK5FMAZ/p call Gerard. I waited and then followed them down the band a little to work them both in VKFF-1750. I moved down7.090 and started calling CQ there, which had the desired result of a few extra callers.

I finally decided to pack up after a contact at 0416 Z, with 52 contacts in the log. The sky to the west was looking increasingly dark. I quickly packed up and drove to the end of Sandy Point Road to take a photo across Lake Glenmaggie towards the mountains.


Looking NW across Lake Glenmaggie from Sandy Point

I then drove back to Heyfield for an afternoon snack from the take away store and then headed for home. Only about 15 minutes later and I was driving through heavy rain….

Thanks to all the Chasers and to the other Activators for the Park to Park contacts. Another good day out playing radio in the field, away from the higher levels of QRM now experienced at home.

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Mirboo North Regional Park VKFF-1876

On 18 July 2017, VKFF Coordinator Paul VK5PAS announced that he had added five new Parks in Victoria to the VKFF list of references. Two of these Parks are within an hour of my home, so they were quickly added to my mental “to do” list.

Previous plans meant that the Parks would need to wait until late in the week or the weekend, as I spent the Wednesday driving 2 other amateurs around to activate three 8-point summits – see the previous post.

Friday looked like a reasonable chance to head out, so I get myself organised by late morning.

Mirboo North Regional Park VKFF-1876

Friday 21 July 2017

There is little information on the Parks Victoria website about this Park, other than for the popular Lyrebird Forest Walk. The Park has four separate sections: one near Hallston, one north and west of Mirboo North, a section almost directly north of Mirboo North, which includes the Lyrebird Forest Walk and adjacent to the Strzelecki Highway (B460), and a section south of Boolarra.

Being the closest, I headed for the section south of Boolarra, accessing it via Limonite Road, Fishers Road and Banktown Road. I set up just inside the boundary, off the western side of Banktown Road. The spot that I chose was a small grassed area, located on the ridge that Banktown Road travels along south of Fishers Road. I set up the squid pole using a pole holder and ran the link dipole parallel to the track and about 3 m in from the track edge.

The radio gear was set up on the tailgate of the ute. Today I used the FT-817 running off the SOTA LiPO battery.

First in the log was Gerard VK2JNG/p in Trinkey State Conservation Area VKFF-1382. I moved down in frequency and had a strong signal from Sergio VK3SFG in Mirboo North. I spent a few minutes discussing the Park with Sergio, who is looking forward to activating the Park in the near future. Next in the log was Cliff VK2NP. After several minutes of calling, I checked ParksnPeaks and saw a Spot for Mark VK4SMA/p in White Rock Conservation Park VKFF-1676. I listened for several minutes and then called Mark when he was heard a little louder. I had no response, so I quickly added my 40 W amplifier into the system and called again: success. Contact was made. I then switched to 80 m and spotted myself, quickly working four more stations.

I tried 20 m, but had only one call – Sergio saying hello again. I then tried 30 m SSB, again working Sergio and hearing Rick VK4RF calling, but Rick did not hear me.

I returned to 20 m SSB and was called by Hans VK6XN, followed by Bill K4WMS and Stan VK3PSR in nearby Boolarra. Next was Fred VK4FE in Port Douglas, Phil VK6ADF, Mason W5FMH and Franc ZL1SLO.


Late afternoon sun streaming through the trees and onto the station in VKFF-1876

I returned to 40 m, and worked Al EA2BY/5. I moved down the band a little and started calling on 7.085. Band conditions were now a little better, with stations in VK2, VK4, VK5 and VK6 calling in over next hour or so, but was slow going…..

At about 0700 Z I went back to 80 m, working Mick VK3GGG, Paul VK5PAS, Barry VK5KBJ/p and Marija VK5FMAZ. With no further callers and light starting to fade, I returned to 40 m to work Marija and Paul on a second band, comfortably taking me past the quota of 44 stations.

I packed up and back out to Limonite Road and then headed for home. As I was driving out, I noticed that the outside temperature had fallen to 4 degrees – little wonder I was feeling a little cool late in the activation. A good way to spend a fine winter Friday afternoon – a new Park successfully activated.

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Three Gippsland summits on a winter day

Over the previous week, I had been chasing Canadian amateur – John VA7JBE – as he activated summits in north east Victoria with Brain VK3MCD, in Canberra with Andrew VK1AD and near Sydney with Compton VK2HRX.

I had replied to John before he left for Australia offering to take him to some local summits should he be passing through Gippsland. The plans came together with John arriving at my home on the evening of Tuesday 18 July. After discussing my plan outline and considering the forecast wet and cold weather, we decided to go ahead. I sent a message to Rik VK3EQ that we were heading out, an invitation which Rik quickly accepted.

Wednesday 19 July

Rik arrived at about 0815 after a minor navigational hitch. John and I were ready to go, so we were on the road within a few minutes of Rik’s arrival. We drove to Traralgon and then on to Heyfield to stop at the Bakery to buy some food. We then headed off to Licola and up the Licola – Jamieson Road (C486) to just after the 22 km mark and turned left onto the start of N7 Track. The track junction is less than a kilometre from our first target for the day.

Connors Plain VK3/VT-022 1305 m 8 points

We had rain and a little sleet as we drove from Heyfield to the N7 Track, with some snow on the side of the road as we gained height. Just in from the start of N7 (about 50 metres), there is a small track to the left. Follow this track – it leads up onto the plateau, well inside the Activation Zone (AZ). We set up in the rain, using a log to support the squid pole.

HF band conditions were poor. After a long period of calling on 40 m, we changed the antenna to 80 m, where we were rewarded with a call from Col VK3LED.

Having mobile coverage, I rang Ross VK3FREB, who lives in Maffra. Ross was visiting a mutual friend, David VK3DY. HF was poor on 80 m due to local noise in Maffra, but we were able to work David and Ross on 2 m simplex. Unable to raise any other callers on either 80 m or 2 m, we resorted to one of us exiting the AZ with a hand held radio to work the other two operators, so that we could each qualify the summit. This was a 3-point summit for me, as I had activated the summit earlier in the year, so I gained only the Winter Bonus points on this occasion.

Once we all had four contacts in the log, we packed up and headed but down to the C486 and headed back toward Licola and the junction with South Road, where we headed south to Mt Selma Road.

Mount Selma VK3/VT-013 1464 m 8 points

Mt Selma Road was a little slippery in places, with some large pot holes. There was plenty of evidence of the yahoos ripping up both the track and the areas near the track by driving their mud-tyre equipped 4WD vehicles in a reckless manner. I drove past the summit to the western end of Mt Selma Track and carefully drove up to the highest point on the track. We did not bother walking into the Trig point, as we were well inside the AZ. There was snow on the ground away from the track and cleared surrounds, with the “boys” having been all over the cleared areas around the track cutting up the surface.

I set up the squid pole using a small sapling for support. We quickly had the antenna strung out. Ross VK3FREB came up on 2 m FM, so we all worked Ross.

After we all had the summit qualified, we again packed up and retraced our route back to South Road and then headed south.

South Road was in good condition and we made good time to the junction with Mt Useful Track.

Mt Useful VK3/VT-016 1424 m 8 points

The track was a little cut up in places, with the results of the mud-larks/yahoos cutting up the cleared grassed areas near the tower on the summit. The rain had been getting heavier and the wind stronger as the day went on, so I was cheeky and parked the vehicle under the carport beside the Fire Watch accommodation hut. We strapped the squid pole to one leg of the carport structure and set up the radio under the carport. At least we were out of the rain, if not the wind!

HF conditions had improved somewhat, so we had an easier time qualifying the summit this time. We again worked Ross in Maffra via 2 m FM. After we had all qualified, we again packed up and headed back to South Road. Given the worsening weather, we decided against heading out to VK3/VT-034 and simply headed south and east to Seaton and then back home via Traralgon. We arrived home before 1500 local. After unpacking the vehicle, we said goodbye to Rik, who still had a drive of approaching 2 hours to get back to his home in Melbourne.

It was a profitable day for all three of us, but especially John. As he had spent several months working in the UAE, John was happy to get out into some colder conditions. Plus he had another three summits plus the bonus points.

We had a leisurely afternoon catching up on email and other tasks.

John stayed overnight again and headed off toward Melbourne the next morning, with several stops planned before heading to a social gathering of SOTA operators for dinner that evening. I decided against the drive, given that I had no tasks to complete in Melbourne – 3 hours plus of driving just for dinner was not very attractive, despite the chance to catch up with some of the other SOTA operators.

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