Due to the number of activations on this trip, I will break these posts up into three parts, one for each day.
Over time, I am working on activating as many summits in Victoria as possible. There are some easier summits and not so easy. I have already visited many of the easy ones already, so some of the harder ones await.
On this trip, my plan was to activate 9 new summits. Seven of these were off track and in the Sierra Range of the Grampians. This range has a reputation for tough scrub. I’ve already experienced this on previous trips.
Twin Peak VK3/VW-023
Twin Peak joined the SOTA family at the start of this year. Last year, an impostor – Triple Peak VK3/VW-005 was on the menu, and I had activated this last year, in what I would would rate up there with one of my hardest activations. VK3/VW-005 is now no longer available for SOTA activations from the start of 2013.
Twin Peak is located about 1km north of Triple Peak, and I would rate it easier to get to. In my planning, I decided to access these summits from the east, rather than the west, aiming for a saddle where the maps suggest no cliffs, and then go up the side. In the case of Twin Peak, I would access the saddle to the north. There is also Mt Lubra to the north, so I would access that as well.
Here’s a screen shot of a GPS tracklog:
I headed off from the car park at the base of the Mt William walking track. A vehicle track is accessible a short distance south along the road. I headed along this until a T intersection, turned left and left the track about 20m south of there, heading generally west-south-west. You may notice that the return trip is a little more indirect, as I spent a little more time in the creeks. These have had much of their vegetation washed away a few years ago by heavy rains.
I would rate the forest as medium. It had it’s moments, but it never was really bad. My line approaching the saddle on the way up was not as good as the line on the way back.
From the saddle, I made my way up looking for access across two cliff lines to access the summit. Going about 200m further west than my approach and return from the saddle to the summit of VK3/VW-023 might avoid the cliffs all together. I made my way up in good time and set up the vertical antenna on top. I was hoping for 12m action on this trip, and got one contact. This was up in North Queensland. Good reports, which told me that the antenna is ok, but the large skip zone is not much chop. 12m for is going to rely on mostly direct wave contacts, not sky wave. Given most VK3 chasers with any 12m capability are around the Melbourne area, it will be nearby summits there that needed to clock up the 12m contacts. I still think that 12m is still a reasonable chance for DX into North America in the mornings.
After 12m, I went to 40m and worked the usual pile, both before and after UTC midnight. There has been some discussion about SOTA pileups in VK. I can generally work two to three a minute, and that is fast enough for handwriting on a pad while trying to be comfortable sitting on a rock. Of course, I never reward a station tailending before I call “QRZ”. The pile is well mannered though, and hopefully people feel they are getting worked fast enough. It’s also handy for “summit to summit” to be called, because as soon as I hear that, I call for those stations.
Here’s a view looking south from Twin Peaks:
Here’s looking east-south-east towards Major Mitchell Plateau:
Mt Warrinaburb/Lubra VK3/VW-004
With that, it was back down to the saddle to the north, and then head up to Mt Lubra. I noticed from Twin Peaks that a line of cliffs would block access going directly up from the saddle, so I would need to head to the left to be able to cross the cliff line. I was able to find this without too much trouble. It is a steep climb, but there were no real obstacle to typical Sierra Range progress of about 750m/hr. I went past the summit a little to a generally flat area about 50m beyond it and 5m down for a good spot to active.
I again set up the vertical, but had nothing on 12m. I worked the 40m pile and resolved to focus on 40m for the rest of the trip.
The tracklog shown at the top of this post shows my path back down. It is easier going downhill in medium scrub than going up. I made good time back to the car, and met a whole pile of people there who were participating in an event called the “Sierra Terror”.
Here’s looking south from Mt Lubra towards Twin Peaks and Mt Lang:
Red Man Bluff VK3/VW-002
From the car park at the base of the Mt William walking track, I headed north, and turned on to the Mt William Rd. I headed up to a saddle, and then a little more for a safer car park spot. I would then head over to the summit from here. Here is a projection of the tracklog:
The way up was in daylight, the way back about 1/3rd in daylight, 1/3rd in fading light and 1/3rd in the dark. The way back avoided most of the tough scrub, so Red Man Bluff need not be a difficult off track activation. This is the more western path shown on the tracklog, especially around the middle of the traverse to/from the summit. There is some moderate scrub to get started, but with a good line, it is not too bad. The way up was more difficult, it was slow going at times.
On Red Man Bluff, I switched over to using the end fed, as I was really now only trying for local contacts. Most were SOTA chasers, but a few from the VK Shires contest snuck in as well.
Of course there are always great views to be had:
Mt William VK3/VS-001
After getting back to the car, I drove to the end of the public road at the top Mt William car park. It’s 1.8km to the summit from here, and unlike some privilaged amateurs, I have no keys for the gate, so on foot we go. Here’s a tracklog screenshot:
It was now completely dark for the trip up and back. The lights of Stawell can be seen clearly from the summit, plus the glow of Ararat, as it is hidden behind some hills. There are some lights from the Melbourne suburbs that can be seen.
40m was no good for local contacts, even with the end-fed. The skip zone was taking out all of VK3, south east VK5 and VK2. It took quite some time to get my four QSOs. All were in either VK4 or VK6.
Next time I come up here in the dark, I might try the colinear on 2m and see if we can get some contacts into Melbourne.
I headed down to the car park and met a marshal involved with the “Sierra Terror” event. He reported that two walkers had gone missing on the walk down from the top Mt William carpark to the lower Mt William carpark. He had already walked the track in the dark to try and find them without success.
I wondered what I would do if there was to be a callout associated with that, given that my hiking overnight gear was back in Melbourne – I had no intention of using it on this trip. Regardless, it was time to get some sleep for the next two big days ahead.
This is continued in 2013 Grampians Queen’s Birthday trip Part 2