This last Saturday it was time to head for the hills again. After last week’s trip, I was keen to get summits in on this trip that I had not activated before. There did not appear to be fire reduction burns in this area as well.
The plan was to activate the first, Spion Kojpe, on 2m and then the rest on 40m + other HF. I packed the end-fed for the 2nd and 3rd activations, and I planned to use my vertical on a squid pole for the 4th and 5th activations.
Spion Kojpe VK3/VT-040
It looks like the easiest approach to this summit is via Limberlost Rd, leaving the Noojee Rd at 016066 (remember this is the 10km, 1km 100m of the easting and then the same for the northing UTM or Map Grid of Australia). The road is quite good for 2wd, although some of the lower sections were a little soft due to recent logging activity. Higher up, the road was quite firm. I headed up to the junction of Limberlost Rd and Outlook Track at 986030. The track leaves here to the south west, easily seen from the road junction.
Time to get the gear ready. Squid pole, and 2m colinear, check. Put aside the HF antennas, grab the HT, FT-817 mike, CW key, batteries, power cable, all check. Good to go, but what about the FT-817 itself? Ahhh, not here. What am I going to do. I did want to do this summit on 2m, but all the others were for HF – well, it’s too far to drive back home. 2m FM it’s going to have to be and here’s hoping the 1700mAh battery in the Wouxun KG-UVD1P can last.
From just a few metres to the west of the road junction, the track heads off south west. It’s quite good for the first 200m, but then degrades. It can still be followed however, and it is best to stay on it. Look for the blue flagging tape, and if you lose it, simply retrace. It makes it’s way to a large flat rocky top where I put the squid pole up on a nearby tree.
Things worked quite well here, and I quickly got my required contacts on FM. I put the radio down to 1 watt to conserve the battery as things rolled along.
I went to take some pics in the quite misty conditions. The summit was in the clouds. The screen went black and the phone switched off. I turned it back on and it complained about low battery. Hmmm.
This was my first go at using this Android GPS app. It uses Oziexplorer maps, which for south east Australia can be obtained here. It also can load in a few internet based maps, of which the one I find most useful is the OpenCycleMap, which is a derivative of OpenStreetMap. Of course the internet maps need an internet connection to update. Phone coverage was patchy up here.
The app is fairly easy to use, and the navigation feature is nice. One thing though is that this app is heavy on the battery. Before my little hickup with the phone camera, my phone had gone from 100% at the car down to about 70% in one hour. That’s pretty heavy. It also crashed a few times and needed restarting. So there is a few bugs, but the heavy power consumption is something that is going to have to be looked at.
Gentle Annie VK3/VT-078
Next summit was Gentle Annie. I am driving a Prius up here, so I’ll avoid the 4wd tracks. I drove west along the main rd, which goes through a few names until I arrived at Bunyip Rd at 899037. Turning left, it was straight forward through Bunyip Gap and through to 958991. Gentle Annie track heads off from here. I would not like to get a low clearance vehicle up here, and it would be too steep for the Prius. I had planned to walk, and no FT-817, it was the 2m colinear heading up.
I got to the top and set up at the trig point. The trig structure looks like someone has crashed into it at some stage and it’s leaning over a little. Still ok for clamp the squid pole on. Setup the colinear and started calling. No responses. After about 10 minutes and the UTC change-over I was wondering what was going on. Of course the Wouxun has no SWR meter to tell me if all is not well. I tried with the 1/4 wave and got some responses. After a little detective work, using reports from chasers, I identified that the match for the colinear was playing up. I jury-rig fixed it, and the reports were much better. It was interesting that the reports were little different from matched (about SWR 1.15) vs unmatched (about SWR 2.3). The Wouxun is clearly not reducing power into a 2.3 SWR. Not ideal, but not too bad. It was also likely not reducing power into that shorted match setup that I had going at the start of the activation. Lucky the HT still works!
I tried to take a photo of the setup at Gentle Annie. The phone camera app came up after an unusual delay (and a black screen for about 3 seconds). I took the photo and the phone switched off. I turned it back on, again to a low battery warning and no actual photo had been taken. Well that’s it for photo shoots for today.
With this activation, I had now activated 100 unique summits. It was something that I had targeted quite early in getting into SOTA, and it was my main objective for this trip.
Back down to the car, and I was going to have to try and get what charging I could into the phone while driving around.
North Hell’s Gate VK3/VT-050
With the phone battery low and the heavy battery use from Androzic and the dodgy camera, I would need to fall back to the old favourite, Trekbuddy with loaded Forest Explorer maps taken from screenshot grabs. Trekbuddy is reasonably light on the battery, and I have all the VK3 SOTA summits loaded in for that app as well. One side benefit of this is that with Trekbuddy having the GPS on and fixed, I could run Androzic for a quick look at an Oziexplorer map with a GPS fix already there. Look at it in that app, and then exit.
I had heard a few stories about this summit being somewhat hellish to access. I used Proposch Rd to access it. The road heads up to a point about 1.1km north west of the summit. It forks in two. One road quickly ends to the north east of there. The other goes over the top and heads south towards recent logging activity. I went up this and packed at the ridge top. There was an old track that I then used heading east from here. Distance to summit about 1km. This heads near point 584 at grid ref 992980. It continues east-nor-east down a shallow saddle and up again. I followed my nose a bit, and some tracks headed off and ended. I would head back and try to stay on the ridge. I was at about 220m bearing 140 from the top where I left the faint track I was on. I was to find out, I should have stayed on it a bit longer, I reckon it gets about 100m from the summit bearing 150 degrees (or from the summit head 330 degrees).
So as it stood I had about 220m of bush bash. There was some long grass and vine plants around that made it tough going. None the less, I got to the top and found a track goes to the top. Talking to others who had been here, this track goes nowhere, so I did not try to find out where it went.
I again activated on the 2m colinear. After finishing up, I headed north east. This was a bad move as the country drops away quickly and the vines and grass are far worse here. It was real tough going. Given Glenn VK3YY had lost his squid pole around this place, I was very concerned about losing mine. I had got about 200m with a bearing of 190 degrees to the summit, where I realised that I had gone too far east and needed to head west-nor-west and gain some height again to get back on the track. The forest did ease up, but I spend about 1 hour of needless bush bashing (all for an extra 200m!). At least it helps make you fit. I found my old track about 30m closer to the summit from where I left it on the way in, and noticed that it made its way from around here up almost straight for the summit. Being at the summit before, I know it does not go the whole way, but I suggest that future access should go along this track, go to the end, take a waypoint, and there could be less than 100m bush bash to the summit. Use the waypoint on the return trip.
South Hells Gate VK3/VT-059
So back to the car (much faster when on the tracks), and I attempted to find my way to South Hells Gate. First try was the logging road at the end of Proposch Rd. It heads underneath North Hells Gate, about 1km from that summit (west and then south west). Most of this side has been recently logged, and access across it would be quite fast, but I headed back to Forest Rd and made my way down that. There’s a track near Ryson Creek which I tried, but the start was too steep for the Prius. I then headed down to Bullock Link Track. It also looked steep, so it was time to park the car and walk it. About 4.5km and about 440 vertical metres to climb. It took about 55 minutes to walk this. This 4wd track would only be considered double diamond. It was hard to walk in some places, and somehow people are able to get 4wd cars up here!? I know they can ’cause I met a few using the track on my walk.
The summit itself has an activation zone about 500m long. I activated a little to the south-west of the marked summit, about 5m down from the top. Again, of course on 2m FM, but it looked like the HT battery was going to last the day, so I was now at 5 watts.
Dingo Ridge VK3/VC-028
The final summit of the day was a little 1 pointer kinda on the way home. 1 point, but also 1 unique for me, as I had not activated this before. When it comes to uniques, 1 pointers are worth as much as 10 pointers. After conferring with Peter VK3ZPF, I decided not to approach this summit from the south, but instead to approach from the west-nor-west using Lupton Track. This would be about a 5km walk. It took me about 55 minutes to do the walk in. I headed off with about 15 minutes before sunset, so it was pretty dark when I arrived. I needed to stop about 200m before I hit the junction with Dingo Ridge Track to get the headlamp on to read a sign. I activated at the track junction.
The first three contacts were quite quick, but then it was into a long period of calling with no responses. Bernard VK3FABA found someone else for me to work VK3UFO. I could here him fine, but he could barely hear me on FM. No SSB here. We had to be innovative to get the call-signs and reports exchanged, but it was done directly, with Bernard relaying any other information aside from these to make it easier. Calling Victor Victor Victor Victor, Kilo Kilo Kilo Kilo, 3 3 3 3, Whisky Whisky Whisky Whisky, Alpha Alpha Alpha Alpha, Mike Mike Mike Mike did seem to work. My received report was 2 and 1.
With that, and conditions totally dark now and windy, it was time to head for home. 5 summits all new uniques for me, and 11 points for a full SOTA day out.
Sorry no pics, but I did test the phone camera back at home and it worked fine. Hope it does not play up again on the next misty day out.
Regards, 73, Wayne VK3WAM