VKFF-0055 Brisbane Ranges National Park

For awhile I’ve been threatening to activate some parks in addition to SOTA summits. Actually I’ve activated a few summits that are already in parks, so really I should go back and log those I guess. One of the differences is that you don’t need to walk in and carry all your gear. Just as well today, because the rain came down half the day. With the portable gazebo and the car to the keep the wind off, it wasn’t too bad.

I found a spot near the edge of the park where I could set up at the back of the car. It was also up high, where most of the car parks and picnic grounds tend to be down in the gullies.

Radio conditions were average. I started off looking for other activators, and the called for a bit around 7.090. About 20 contacts were made on 40m. Later I tried 20m, with no joy.

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Operating Position

The sun came out late morning, but around lunch time it looked like there was more rain on the way, so I packed up and headed home. The rain starting on the drive back, so my timing was spot on.

2 Otway Summits & Mt Leura

With a few days off around the Melbourne Cup holiday it seemed like a good idea to have a go at a few summits. I’d been toying with the idea of doing a circuit consisting of Mt Cowley, behind Lorne, Crowsnest Lookout, behind Apollo Bay, Mt Leura at Camperdown and Mt Elephant near Derrinallum. A quick look at the times showed Mt Elephant was not going to make the cut. Using Google maps to estimate the travel time it added up to around seven hours of driving for four SOTA points. Not something I’d recommend, especially given current band conditions, which could easily mean not even getting enough contacts to activate the summits.

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BOM HAP Chart

Mt Cowley – VK3/VC-022

The first summit target was Mt Cowley. It’s an easy drive up to the top. I came in off the Benwerrin – Mt Sabine Rd, an all weather 2wd track. This is the highest point in the Otway’s and is populated by a largish Telstra tower and some weather monitoring equipment.

I popped the gear into the backpack and walked out of the activation zone and back. Set up and started to call on 40m whilst spotting myself. After a few calls Kevin, VK7KR, came back with a strong 58 both ways. Calls for another five minutes raised Garry, VK2FGWR Mobile down at Mallacoota.  Another five minutes got no response, so I move to 20m. I’d not used 20m from a summit before, at least not with any success.

Five minutes of calling raised John, ZL1BYZ  and another 5 minutes found VK4FW. I called a bit more with no further calls, but four’s enough. So with that I packed up and headed to Crowsnest Lookout, via Lorne, where we had coffee and avoided feeding the cockatoos.

Crowsnest Lookout – VK3/VS-049

I could have got to Apollo Bay via the Mt Sabine track, which if I’d been on my own I probably would have done, but the XYL was with me and keen on the idea of coffee at Lorne, so we travel via the Erskin Falls Rd, and then along the Great Ocean Rd. It was pretty slow going, and would be worse on a nice weekend day.

Crowsnest Lookout is the very end of Tuxion Rd. The actual peak is inside private property, but the end of the road is inside the activation zone, so I set up there having walked out and in the zone. It’s a secluded spot that you’d probably get to yourself on the busiest of days in summer.

I managed 6 contacts on 40m and 2 on 20m here over 40 minutes, so the pace was up on the previous activation.

I rather cheekily popped through the fence to check out the view. There’s a large deck been built right on the peak that’d be great to activate from if you knew the owners.

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On the way up there was Koala scrambling up a tree. Always nice to see some wildlife.

This it was off to Mt Leura, in Camperdown.

Mt Leura – VK3/VS-050

It was another long drive from Apollo Bay to Camperdown. In hindsight I should have left this summit for another day, but too late now. It’s an easy drive to the top. Again I walked down and back then right to the top. There’s a seat that I was able to tie the squid pole too.

Once set up I started calling. The bands were alive with after work chatter, but it didn’t seem to do me much good. It took 40 minutes to get 2 * 40m contacts and 2 * 20m contacts.

When changing bands I found one of the links open on 40m, so the dipole could not have been working that well.

Finally I had 4 contacts and was able to pack up and head home.

The day had too much driving really. I should have stuck with the two Otway summits. And the conditions were ordinary, with only 4 contacts on 2 summits. But least they were qualified.

I added a map that can be zoomed in, though all the summits are easy enough to access. The GPS battery went flat before I got home, so the track isn’t a loop.

VK3/VC-018 – Mt Buninyong

Sunday 26th June was the inaugural FYBO contest which I thought I’d have a go at. Jason, VK3FJND, also thought he’d come along. He’s not really been on air so I wanted somewhere easy. Living at the foot of Mt Buninyong, that seemed like the logical choice.

It’s an easy drive up to the top via Mt Buninyong Rd from the Western Highway. There’s a walking track from the lower car park if you want walk up, but we chose to drive up and then walk down out of the activation zone and back up.

At the summit there’s a grassy area with a shelter and some tables. We setup the linked dipole up and sat at one of the tables. The wind was picking up and was really icy with the temperature at around 3 degrees. Despite being well rugged up, it wasn’t long before both FJND and I were rather cold.

I made a couple of quick contacts before looking for a free frequency to call on. 7.090 was in use, but I couldn’t make out any of the conversations. So I went to 7.085 and started calling. I tried spotting myself on Sotawatch, but the spot never came out. Later I found that somehow the app had lost the password and wasn’t logged in. But that didn’t help whilst I was on the summit. I got no responses to my calls, after being on the summit for 45 minutes I barely had enough contacts to qualify the activation. Not sure why as the few contacts I had got good reports.

Jason had given up and gone to the car. I was making very few contacts and was getting cold too. So after only an hour I decided to give it away. It was so cold that I even forgot take a photo.

Next time I’ll have to be a lot more serious about my cold weather gear.

 

22nd May – Four Summits

On Sunday 22nd of May I had the good fortune to be able to spend the day ‘playing radio’ and decided that to make the most of it multiple summits would be attempted. I had been thinking of heading down the coast to activate Mt Cowley and Crowsnest at Lorne and Apollo Bay, but that seemed a lot of driving for two 1 point summits. Looking at summits around Ararat I came across Wayne Merry’s blog entry covering 5 summits in a day and decided I use that as a guide.

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Pyrenees State Forest

In the past when heading into this area I spend some time in the online maps planning the route, and then plug the summit into the GPS and let the auto route feature do it’s best to find the right roads. Which usually results in me on the wrong side of the summit and wasting a lot of time trying to sort out how actually get there. Not wanting to do that again, I spent 90 minutes the night before planning the route via landmarks the GPS knows, or adding way points at key track junctions. All of which worked, so it was time very well spent.

VK3/VS-015 (Blue Mountain)

The first summit was Blue Mountain. I headed to Glenlofty, then up the Glenlofty – Warrenmang Rd until the Blue Mountain track which I was expecting would get me as close as possible to the summit. I was expecting that this would be a bit of a walk. None of the maps showed tracks to the summit and Wayne had indicated that he’d walked in too. At the point I was expecting to have to park there was a freshly graded track heading to the summit. It had quite a few large water bars, mounds of earth across the road to get water off the steeper parts of the track. They’d make the track impassable to most 2WD’s with limited clearance, but the Subaru had no issue with them so I was able to drive all the way to the summit.

From the time I entered the forest area I was in fairly heavy fog, mostly having 50m to 100m of visibility ahead of me. That made the driving a lot more stressful than I was really expecting, and it made it more interesting when the track was rough and had a step section where the track disappeared into the fog!

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Blue Mt operating position

Around 9:30 I was on the summit and all set up. 15 contacts were made in around 20 minutes. That took me close to the date rollover and I thought about hanging around, but I had 6 summits planned and knew I wouldn’t have much hope of getting to all of them, so I packed up and kept moving.

VK3/VS-018 (Point 756/Pyrenees)

Second summit was a short drive away in the same area of the Pyrenees. The fog had cleared while I was atop of Blue Mountain, but I had soon driven down into it again. A short distance further along the Glenlofty – Warrenmang Rd and there’s a turn onto the Main Break track which goes basically all the way to the summit. There was a steep track at the point closest to the summit that I thought about driving up. The fog meant I couldn’t see what the track did and I usually figure that it’s better to walk and think I could have driven than drive and wish I walked, and the GPS showed the summit to be about 200m, so I left the car at the side of the road and was quickly at the peak.

Again there was no view to be had here, but the area was open with lots of tree to help with antenna set up. Around 11:15 I was back on air and managed 16 QSO’s over about 20 minutes, including a summit to summit with VK1DI/P on VK2 ST-053 . The area was very peaceful but I needed to keep moving so packed up and head off around 11:40.

VK3/VS-009 (Ben Nevis)

Next target was Ben Nevis. This is accessible via the Main Mt Cole Rd and then up the Ben Nevis Road. There’s a couple of large telco towers and a weather station on top so the road supports heavy vehicles. I setp between the main tower and the weather station. First contact was again a summit to summit with VK1DI/P on VK2/ST-044. I had a lot of QRM on 7.090 but was pretty good on 7.085, for 15 minutes anyway. Then a thumping noise started up which I was able to work over but did knock about weaker stations. It was a bit later in the day and many chasers had given up. 9 QSO’s were managed before I packed up.

Ben Nevis Operating Position

Ben Nevis Operating Position

Ben Nevis does have some great views, which was a first for today.

 

VK3/VS-013 (Mount Lonarch)

Next summit on the list was Mt Cole. But that was going to be a walk in and it was late in the day so instead I aimed for Mout Lonarch. I thought this would be more on the way home but checking the map later it really wasn’t.  Access was via the Mount Lonarch Rd and then Tower Rd.  The site does have a comms tower but it didn’t seem to have much infrastructure and it didn’t generate any noise that I heard.

Mount Lonarch Comms tower

Mount Lonarch Comms tower

It was about 30 minutes before sunset when I got on air and SOTA traffic was right down. First QSO was with ZL1BYZ. I’ve not had a contact with New Zealand before and it took me a moment to process the call sign. I sent a 5&8 report and got a 4&4 report back, which I was very happy with. Only managed 6 QSO before there was no more interest. I had a go at 20m but heard nothing. Packed up about 5 and headed back in the dark. Saw lots of roos on the roads. Happily none leaped out right in front of me.

Mount Lonarch View

Mount Lonarch View

Given the weather and the length of the days this time of year I thought I did pretty well.

The zoomable Open Street map with tracks is here: http://u.osmfr.org/m/87635/

Backup Codes

Jumped onto the PC this morning to write up last weekends outing. For some reason WordPress decided to ask for the two factor authentication code. No problem, that’s an SMS. Grab my phone and look. Hmm, no SMS. Wait 30 seconds. No SMS. 5 minutes, still no SMS.

Start to look at the help pages. If I have the original set up email it has some recovery code I can use. But I signed up for WordPress 6 years ago, the email has long been sent to the bit bucket. Next I need Backup Recovery codes. Did I ever save them? Who knows, I know I couldn’t find them.

Tried logging in from another PC and also my phone. I can get in to edit the site, but can’t access the security settings as they all ask for the two factor authentication codes.

Check SMS again, nothing. Check the help again. Seems I’m locked out and this will be permanent. Whilst I can edit the site on devices I’m logged in on, not being able to access the security settings means that at some point, and maybe soon, I’ll end up locked out everywhere.

Whilst pondering the consequences of the situation I realise I’ll lose the VK3MEL url if I change sites.

Tried logging in again, for about the tenth time, via my phone. 2 seconds later I got an SMS. Tried on the PC, again got an SMS. Whew.

Lesson learned. Print out and archive all the recovery codes on ALL my accounts. (Note to self for next time, look in the “home” directory.)

I still haven’t written the entry for last weekend, and for the moment I’m out of time. But my ability to recover from any future access issue has improved. So maybe it was worth the time.

VC-023 (Mt Bolton) 07 May

Coming into winter and the forecast is for rain, and lots of it from Sunday. So after mowing the lawn and a few odd jobs around the house I wanted to make the most of the good weather and play radio. Mt Bolton was the chosen target, about 35Km from home and supposedly not that difficult to access. After checking it out on Google maps I headed out.

Sunraysia Highway passes to the South of the summit, but access is via the Northern side. After a false start I traveled to Waubra, turned right onto what Google shows as the Talbot Waubra Rd, but the sign shows as the road to  Evansford and Talbot. I guess either way it goes to Talbot. Then turned right onto the Mt Bolton Rd. This quickly becomes a dirt road that’s in ordinary condition due to fires and wet weather. Easily passable in a 2wd though. Near the top of the dirt road I turned right again onto a smaller track which, if it’s named at all, the has lost the sign with the name to the fire.

It looked like the fire had been through the area a couple of months earlier and there are still home sites that are just piles of tin.  At the end of the track is a gate which is clearly some sort of land boundary. There’s both a vehicle gate and walking gate, so it didn’t look to be a normal farm arrangement. Both had signs asking to “please shut the gate”, but no other markings.

Whilst I was pondering if I should go through a local farmer turned up. He explained that the North side of the fence is department of lands property, and the South side is City Of Ballarat. So all public property that got very little use. He assured me that it was fine to climb the mount, that he’d done it many times. He also explained that whilst you could tackle it head on and go straight up the mount, it was easier to walk round to the West side and then track back.

With that I drove through the gate and parked at the base of the summit. I ignored his advice and decided to tackle the mount head on, for about 10 vertical meters anyway. A fitter and younger version of me, without a pack full of radio gear, would have made it up. But this time I chose to walk around the mount to the West side, and then climb. All the burnt trees made the area rather dirty, otherwise it wasn’t that difficult.

Once on top I got the Dipole set up. There wasn’t much to anchor the squid pole too other than a small rock outcrop, which also made a nice operating position.

The weather was clearly deteriorating with the wind really picking up and rain off in the distance. On air I could hear static crashes which I assumed to be far off lightning.

All up I made about 20 contacts in fairly short order, with 2 summit to summits. VK3WU on Mt Bogong (VK3/VE-001) and VK1MBE on Livingston Hill (VK2/SM-093).

All on 40m SSB. I should have a crack at 20m too as the dipole has links for that band.

I spotted an echidna on the way up, and a couple of wallabies on the way down.

All up it was a good afternoons outing. I was glad I made the effort and went up the hill.

Here’s a link to the map in OSM. I think it’s a better map, but wordpress won’t let me use it, for security reasons apparently. OSM Track – VK3/VC-023

VS-004 (Mt Langi Ghiran) 24 April

Langi Ghrian is just outside Ararat, about an hour from home. The Langi Ghrian state park has two summits, Mt Langi Ghiran and Mt Gorrin and I’d planned to activate Langi Ghiran before 10am local time and then go over to Mt Gorrin for the afternoon. But the climb up Langi was harder than than expected and it took forever to get set up, so it was just one summit for the day. The title shot for this post shows Mt Langi Ghrian on the right and Mt Gorrin in the cloud on the left.

Access is via Kartuk Rd, then Reservoir Track and finally Easter track. Both Reservoir and Easter track had a couple of obstacles that would challenge a standard 2WD with limited clearance. No problem in the Subaru happily. I parked at the gate on Easter Track and headed up the hill. It’s about 2 km to the high point of the track. There’s a small rock cairn indicating the spot to leave the vehicle track and head bush.

From there it’s about 750m to the summit up a poorly defined walking track. I’m not sure that I was actually on the track the whole time. At a few points it’s necessary to scramble up some rocks. It’s all worth it for the 360 degree views when at the top.

Panorama view from the summit

Setting up the linked dipole took forever. The antenna wire kept getting caught up in the vegetation. I got the squid pole up, balanced against a tree. While I was thinking about how to make sure it stayed there, it fell over. 😦 Then the antenna came uncliped from the top of the pole and got caught up in a tree. Eventually I had to climb the tree to get it down. Finally it was all sorted out and I was on the air.

15 contacts were made over the course of about 20 minutes, including 3 summit to summits. Good signal reports were received, so the mucking about with the antenna paid off.

The journey back to the car seemed faster and easier than the journey up, though I was grateful for the track marking on the GPS. It’d be easy to lose the track on the way down. Lots of the walk was on granite that had some moss growing on it. It might be very slippery in winter.

I used a different pack this time, though I’m still not very happy with it. And the whole lot is too heavy. Some serious work to make the set up lighter is needed. I also need to add some tools to fix any cabling issues. If the antenna had broken getting it out of the tree I would have been a bit stuck.

All up it was a great day!

Langri Garain Height profile 3

Elevation Profile

VS-003 (Mt Buangor) 27 March

Second activation, this time a little further from home and a slightly more challenging summit. Mucked around for a while trying to drive in from the east, going up tracks that the little 2wd Astra was never going to get through. Eventually drove around to the west side and got most of the way on the Main Mt Cole road. Then up Wallaby Caves track and finally up the track to the peak. The track to the peak has a few wet spots that I probably wouldn’t have driven through in winter, but wasn’t a problem in mid March.

Walked the last couple of hundred meters up from the end of the vehicle track. There’s a large rock cairn right at the top of the peak. I balanced the squid pole in the rock cairn and set up the linked dipole. The radio came to life straight away and 19 contacts were quickly made.

Mt Buangor is a state park so qualifies for the parks awards too. I must get the logs uploaded for that. Made a few park to park contacts and a couple of summit to summits.

Realized when heading off from the car that I hadn’t brought a jumper. It was warm enough that the exercise going up and back kept me warm, but a couple of degrees colder it would have been a problem.

I need to put more effort into planning the route in. I spent too much time mucking around in the car which could have been spent on air. Otherwise it was a good day.

VC032 – 14 March 2016

Vk3/vc-032

First activation so I wanted to find a site that was easy to access and not too far from home. VC-032 fit the bill. Nondescript little hill that doesn’t even have a name.

Parked the car in a clearing off the road, which seems to be the popular spot to activate from. Packed up the gear and headed off down the hill and then down a side track to get out of the activation zone.

Once back set up the linked dipole on the 7m squid pole. Turned on the radio and hear Alen, VK3ARH, on a nearby summit. So first SOTA contact was summit to summit. 🙂 Went on to make a further 18 contacts before packing up.

Overall I had too much gear. In particular need to look at what I use to wind up the antenna wire. I also need to pay attention to the operating location. I worked sitting on a small log, all hunched over. Wasn’t at all comfortable.

Had a good time though. Hopefully first of many.


Google Map of the site and my access. The track off the the east is where I walked to get out of the activation zone.