VK3/VN-015 & VK3/VU-002

VK3/VU-002 (Mt Wombat)

Sunday 9th July, 2017

Sunday was the last day of my journey from Sydney to home, this time all in VK3 land. Decided to aim for two easier summits, using the activation count as a guide. First stop was Mount Wombat.  With multiple commercial towers atop, this has a good road all the way to the top. The weather was pretty ordinary seeing me sitting in fog the whole time I was there. I’ve read that the view from here is spectacular, but I saw none of it.

 

Set up the end fed half wave with the far end tied up to a new but unused commercial tower. Sat in the lee of the fire tower to get some protection from the breeze. Managed 6 QSO’s over the space of about 30 minutes. Local contacts being much harder than distant ones. I suspect that the ordinary weather had put most others off being out and about.

Needing to actually get home by the end of the day, packed up after contacts thinned out and headed to Mt Hickey.

VK3/VN-015 (Mt Hickey)

Mt Hickey is another summit with towers on top, and therefore a good road. But I had a little bit of time, so decided to park at the bottom of Mountain Track and walk the 1.5Km up to the peak. Once on top I again used the EFHW and managed 7 QSO’s over the next 30 minutes.

Mountain Track

Mountain Track

After 30 minutes the contacts dropped off, and I still needed to complete the drive home, so packed up and made my way back down the track, passing a group of 4WD’s who were surprised to see a walker appear out of the mist.

 

Both summits were bitterly cold and cloaked in mist. Happily I had dressed appropriately, with multiple layers of clothing. The wind and rain held off while I was there too, which made a big difference.

Tallarook State Forest

Tallarook State Forest

VK2/ST-042 – Mount Bowning

Saturday 8th July, 2017

My last summit in VK2 land was VK2/ST-042, Mount Bowning. This summit is on private land, so I put in a call to the owner on 0408 637 335 and asked if I could access the peak. After a bit of an awkward conversation I explained that I was an amateur radio operator, to which I had the reply, “say no more”. Entered via 79 Commons Rd, left the gates as I found them, and made my way to the top of the mount.

On top there’s some commercial stuff and a disused fire tower. The fire tower has a small toilet hut, with nothing it, which provided a very sheltered operating location. Setup the dipole and started calling. Managed 21 contacts over the space of about 45 minutes, including two ZL contacts, which I was pretty happy with.

Met the owner on the way back down and again thanked her for allowing me to access the site. She was looking for her sheep, who were trying to keep out of the wind on the far side of the mount.

Mount Bowning Outlook

Mount Bowning Outlook over the Hume Highway

VK2/ST-053 & VK2/ST-039

Saturday 8th July, 2017

Saturday 8th of July saw me traveling back from Sydney via the Hume. I planned to stay at Wodonga overnight, allowing more time for SOTA. After some planning I decided I have a go a VK2/ST-039, Mt Marulan, VK2/ST-053, Mt Mundoonen and lastly VK2/ST-042, Mt Bowning.

I tackled ST-053, Mt Marulan, from the West via Ticyes Lane. This finishes about 1km from the peak, and I had expected to be able to walk to the peak from here. However all the land around this side of the peak is privately owned. There is a fire trail heading off to the South, so I headed down that in the Subaru. That took me to a climb that really is a bit more than a sensible person would go up in a soft-roader. What the heck, I decided to give it a go and after lots of wheel spin and rock being thrown everywhere, made it to the top. A bit further down the track there was more climbing required, and I felt I’d perhaps pushed my luck a fair bit. Down an isolated track on my own, with no recovery gear and weather closing in, decided it was time to stop. I considered walking from that point, about 1.5Km from the peak. If I had more time I certainly would have, but didn’t want to spend all day on one peak so turned around headed back. The drive back down the steep section means I can confirm that the descent control on the Subaru works very well.

On to ST-039, Mt Mundoonen. This is literally at the side of the Hume. There’s a good track to the top, but a sign at the states Authorized Vehicles only so I decided to walk up. On top are there’s a disused aircraft navigation facility and some other commercial gear. I set the dipole up against the survey mark and straight away heard VK2WU/P on VK2/CT-001, which I noted at the top of the log sheet whilst I got organised, which proved to be the first of two disasters. Then I used the phone to confirm my summit details. This proved to be the second disaster. For some reason the phone did not refresh, and showed the details of Mt Marulan from earlier in the morning which I duly wrote on the log sheet.

Mt Mundoonen

Survey marker and antenna

First contact was Summit to Summit with VK2WU/P, where I gave the details of Mt Marulan. For the next 9 or 10 contacts I gave out summit id CT-001. A couple of people noted this was odd before I realised my error. Updated the spot with a comment that I was actually on Mt Marulan, and made another 10 contacts before realizing that even that reference was wrong. after somebody noted that was an uncommon peak.

Too embarrassed to  declare that I still had the wrong detail, decided to pack up and move on.

Operating Position

Mt Mundoonen – Operating Position

While driving back I pondered how to log the activation. I never made it to Mt Marulan , so can’t log that. I did climb and activate Mt Mundoonen, but didn’t announce that in my calls. Marulan and Mundoonen are the same point value, so figured the chasers are not better or worse off. Those that I gave CT-001 out too most likely also contacted VK2WU, so not benefit in my erroneous log. Decided I’d correctly log the two summit to summit contacts. It means the summit is in the log for me, but doesn’t award me any points.

What a stuff up. Still, I enjoyed the activation and made a bunch of contacts, so one to chalk up to experience I guess.

 

Mount Burngoogee – VK2/RI-016

Early this year I put some effort into studying for, and ultimately passing the Australian Advanced license exam, resulting in new call sign. VK3OAK. A normal person would be quickly up on air to make the most of that effort, but I was sidetracked by a host of other activities for nearly 6 months. In my defence, on a couple of occasions that included inclement weather. That changed the first weekend in July. I had opportunity to travel to Sydney unaccompanied, so chose to drive and play radio up and back. The trip up was again more time restricted than I’d hoped, but I did get the chance to attempt an activation of Mt Burngoogee.

The site was easy enough to access, as are most sites with commercial towers atop. Whilst the road goes to the top, there’s a gate about 1.5K before the peak, and the last section needs to be walked. Which is fine with me.

The fence is down just below the gate and you can see that others have simply driven over it. I parked the car and did the walk. I actually prefer summits that needs at least a little bit of walking.

Locked Gate at Mount Burngoogee

The chain has more locks that chain links.

Lots of kangaroo’s wanted to know what I was up too. Every time I got the camera out they’d hop away before I could get a shot.

On top I set up the dipole with the pole tied to the survey marker. There was zero noise from all the towers, which was a good start. I spotted myself and started calling. After about 30 minutes Steve, VK7CW, came back. I got a 58 report, so was getting out okay. 10 minutes later Brett, VK2VW came back with a 55.

By now I was running out of time, so gave it away. Disappointing that my first go with the new call and first summit outside VK3 didn’t qualify. I guess that’s the risk with a mid week activation.

On the plus side, the weather was perfect really, and the view pretty good. Nice distraction on the drive up the Hume.

Hopefully I’ll do better on the way home!

SOTA VK3/VN-016 & VN-023

VK3/VN-016 & VKFF-0973 – 18th March

18th of March was the John Moyle field day, so seemed like a good idea to be out in the field. My first target was VK3/VN-016, Mt Alexander, which is also VKFF-0973. Access is easy, via a sealed road from either end of the park. There’s multiple commercial towers at the peak but still plenty of room to easily setup.

After walking down and back I setup my linked dipole, spotted myself and started calling. I made one contact and got a very poor report. I could hear others but it was soon apparent that they couldn’t hear me. 😦 Happily this was a drive up, so over to the car and grabbed the EFHW. Straight away I had chasers coming back to me. Some reported that they could just make me out before, but could easily hear me now. I don’t know what happened with the dipole. I checked everything out at home, and followed up with on air testing, and all worked fine. All up I managed 10 QSO’s over the course of about an hour.

VK3/VN-023 (Mt Tarrengower)

Once things quietened down I packed up and headed to Maldon, where summit VN-023 is. Again this is an easy drive up a sealed road. At the summit I grabbed the gear and walked down and back, then climbed the tower and tried 2m contact on the HT, with no success. As it was rather hot and quite a few tourists, I set up a bit away from tower in the shade, and also away from the public. The JM field day was in full swing by now, so had no difficulty getting 21 contacts, though little to no interest in SOTA detail.

I wasn’t paying attention here and didn’t snap any photos. Doh.

Quite a pleasant day out, though next time I think I’d go out and focus on the John Moyle contest.

VKFF-0757 Enfield State Park

Enfield is the closest VKFF park to home so it was about time that I got out there an activated it. Monday 13th March is the Labour Day holiday, and I managed a leave pass from home duties for a few hours to give the park a try.

I’ve scouted around a few times looking for a good spot to set up, with not a whole lot of joy. All the picnic areas seem to be down the bottom of gullies, besides creeks and river crossings. In the end I decided that the dam site at the entry to the park would be as good as any. Set up the dipole with the ends up a little in some trees, though not as high as I’d hoped.

Managed 15 QSO’s over the space of an hour or so. The March flies were bad here too, so applied the insect repellent. Works well, but is very greasy. I need some way to clean my hands before handling the radio. Might be a point to consider for next time.

Operating positionn

Enfield State Park

Enfield State Park

Enfield State Park

 

Kara Kara National Park

January 15th – 2017.

I’m a bit behind with this post, so hopefully I can remember all the details. Two summits, both inside a National Park

Kara Kara (St Arnaud Range) National Park, VKFF-0629

VK3/VW-016 (West of England Fire Tower)

First up was VW-016 at the Northern end of the park. Google shows Centre Road as running from one end to the other, but the use of the title road is a little optimistic. Track would be much more appropriate. I came in from Stuart Mill, which proved to be as good an access as any. Center Rd is clearly signed as 4WD only, and the Subaru Forester, which is really a ‘soft roader’ rather than off roader, had no issues. I think most 2WD’s would struggle for clearance in a few spots, but with some care they’d probably get there.

I set up under the shade of a tree near the fire tower. There is a table a chair that would be a good spot on a cooler day. I used the EFHW for the first time and seemed to have reasonable success, with 13 contacts made.

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West of England Fire Tower summit operating position

Then it was a slow but easy enough drive down to the other end of the range.

VK3/VW-013 (West of England Range)

At VW-013 I set up using the linked Dipole, which was a mistake. This would have been a much better spot for the EFHW, but I didn’t want to make the short walk back to the car to swap over antenna. After a fair but of mucking around I was up on air.

I manged 10 contacts, but was nearly picked up and carried away by the march flies. Their bites really hurt and they don’t seem to bothered by being smacked. After 10 contacts I’d had enough of the flies and packed up.

The only other people I saw all day was a couple of trail bike riders who stopped to enjoy the view at the fire tower. All in all it was a pleasant day out.

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.

hap-chart-3rd-chart

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.