Sealers Cove camping

Hi all,

I’ve been to Sealers many times – first time as a Grade 6er on a family trip to the Prom.

In March of 2011, there was a major rain event at the Prom, where about 300mm of rain fell in 24 hours. Much of the Prom was then closed, and the Sealers Cove track was closed for around 2 years. This was my first look at this track after the rain event. I had been in other parts of the prom and had seen creek beds gorged out, so I was expecting some interesting sights.

A good deal of the track had to be rebuilt. This is a look at the switchback section west of Windy Saddle:

Sealers Cove track at the switchback

Sealers Cove track at the switchback

The top soil was all cleaned away, back to the bare rock. Further down the hill, it looked like about 5m of soil had been removed.

The old Ferny Glade does not exist. The track was rerouted about 150m downstream from the old site, but there is no point going there – what remains of it can be seen from where the track now crosses the creek. The whole site slid down the hill. A big gully of about 10m of soil was removed. The track now heads down to the creek and then climbs on steps back out again to rejoin the old track.

Sealers Cove itself is as beautiful as always:

Sealers Cove beach

Sealers Cove beach

We crossed the creek at low tide, I was able to walk through the river without taking my boots off, and my feet remained dry.

We had time to head up to the lookouts near Horn Point. With the clouds coming in over the Cathedral Range, it looked quite wild. The Prom can be moody!

Clouds over the Cathedral from near Horn Point

Clouds over the Cathedral from near Horn Point

We stayed overnight in the Sealers camp site, and headed back towards the Telegraph Saddle carpark. This time we crossed the creek about halfway between low and high tide. The crossing was about 70cm deep. I would estimate it gets up to about 1.5m at high tide – you would have to either wait or float the packs across.

All in all, a nice 2 day trip for the family – and I then got to go up Mt Oberon for a little bit of Summits on the Air.

Regards, Wayne

Solar Panel for USB devices

Hi all,

It is a significant challenge on extended trips to keep devices such as my Samsung Galaxy S2 mobile phone charged. I carry spare batteries and have even begun using high capacity batteries that make the phone less slim-line. However, no matter how big the battery, it is going to run out sooner or later. Tricks like turning the device into flight mode, ensuring bluetooth is off and using apps like Juice Defender do lead to longer run times but all things come to an end.

The biggest demand when using the phone in the field is running GPS applications – especially if having track logging on. Trekbuddy is lighter on the juice than Androzic, but both certainly consume. Also, if I am in mobile range and on a Summits on the Air activation, I try to also use an APRS app on the phone so people can track my progress towards the summit so they then have some idea when I am likely to come on air. I need a solution if I go on a week long SOTA trip and I would still like the phone alive at the end.

Solar Charging Panel

On a trip last year with Glenn VK3YY, I saw him using a small solar panel on the top of his pack. I looked around on ebay, but most USB solar charging devices really are just a (not always so) big external battery with a small solar panel. I would think many of the panels would be around 1 watt or even less.

Glenn alerted me to a 2W 6V solar panel on ebay. The seller provided a Schottky diode and a female USB socket. Upon receiving it, I soldered the diode and the socket on, and found the voltage was 6V up to 6.5V in the sun. The phone refused to recognise it.


Separate to this, I purchased a 12V to 5V regulator with a USB socket. This was so I could charge phones in the car, but also in the field off LiPO batteries. I put Anderson Powerpoles on the 12V side. Here’s a pic of the device:

12V to 5V (USB) regulator

12V to 5V (USB) regulator

This device works quite well with a 12V input. My experience with similar buck regulation devices is that they tend to hold the output voltage even when fed something only a small greater input voltage, meaning that I should be able to get 5V out with 6V in. I removed the USB socket from the solar panel and made up a about 5cm of conductors to put a set of Anderson Powerpoles on. I left the Schottky diode in place, so that the solar panel would not be exposed to any voltage coming up the other way.

I put a small amount of duck tape on the outside of the panel to protect the edges, and here is the finished product:

Completed Solar Panel with Anderson Powerpole connector

Completed Solar Panel with Anderson Powerpole connector

Testing even in fairly low sunlight showed that the phone accepts charging from this setup. I’ll have to see how it goes in the field on a trip, but it is looking good. I’ll be interested to see if I get something like the 2W out of this panel in good sunlight – however being near winter, we might only really know in 6 months.

73, Regards, Wayne VK3WAM

VK1 wilderness trip

Hi all,

I went out on an extended 4 day walk this last weekend. The aim of the trip was to visit a series of remote wilderness areas in the Bimberi Wilderness. This area contains many high value summits in the VK1 / ACT area for Summits on the Air, and my plans were to activate 10 of these summits.

Mt Ginini VK1/AC-008

Mt Ginini is located about halfway down the western side of the ACT border with New South Wales. There is a road coming in from Canberra, and another through the Brindabellas from Tumut. Coming from Melbourne, the Tumut access route was the one I chose, and the road is sealed, except for about 30km. It is a good high standard gravel for the rest. Some of these sections are steep, but some seal has been put down for the worst parts. Due to this, even in poor weather, this road could still be passable in a 2WD. Mt Franklin Rd can be accessed from these roads, and this goes through several gates (locked in winter) through to the summit. One can drive right to the top, so I turned around and drove down about 50 vertical metres to ensure I was well out of the SOTA activation zone.

I put up the 2m colinear, which was attached to the fence of the Air Services Australia site. The metal did seem to affect the feedpoint impedance of the antenna a little, but it still worked quite well. I put out a call on a repeater that services the VK1 area, VK1RGI. This repeater itself is located at Mt Ginini. A number of stations came back, most of which would become like old friends over the coming days.

Here’s a look at the peak in the late dusk light:

Late dusk light at Mt Ginini summit

Mt Ginini

With that, and a few big days ahead, I drove down to the track head near the summit for access further south. I camped there the night for a early 6:45am departure the following morning.

Mt Gingera VK1/AC-002

This summit is the most accessible 10 point summit in VK1. Access is via a continuation of Mt Franklin Rd as a MVO track. It’s about 5km to the start of a walking track that heads up to the summit. I dropped my phone on the track, and that was my camera – so no photos. I did recover it on the way back down – so at least there are more photos to come. I did at least get a picture of Pryor’s Hut.

The summit has a few small boulders plus some low snow gums, so it was reasonably sheltered from the wind. There are good views to the south west from here, with Mt Jagungal clearly visible. I remember doing an activation of that mountain a few years ago, but those were pre-SOTA days. It awaits my return when SOTA comes to VK2.

Again, the 2m colinear worked well here, and the VK1 chasers came up quick after a call was put out on VK1RGI. The feedpoint impedance of the 2m colinear was back to normal, with the FT-817 showing zero SWR bars most of the time.

Mt Ginger Ale VK1/AC-007

This summit is also accessible from what is now the Mt Franklin fire trail. Apparently this track is to be upgraded for fire management purposes, but I do not imagine that it will be opened to vehicles.

There is no track to the actual summit. I walked to a point about 700m south of Blackfellow’s gap, where the track stopped climbing and dropped my pack there. The top of my pack can be used as a small day pack, so I had my radio gear in there for the climb up to the summit, using the squid pole as a walking pole. It’s not as good as a real walking pole as a walking pole.

It’s about 260m vertical climbing through light scrub to the summit. There’s a few false tops along the way. Here’s a pic taken near the summit:

North east from Ginger Ale

North east from Ginger Ale

I worked Andrew, VK1NAM from VK1/AC-021 on the way up, just before UTC midnight, and then again summit to summit from the top. Again, the colinear worked a treat as it would until near the very end (it still worked, it just was a little sore from the beating it was to take)

I could hear VK3AFW calling for me on VHF CW, but he could not hear me. It was still a highlight to hear such a DX signal coming in.

Bimberi Peak VK1/AC-001

Next up was the ACT’s highest summit. First on the agenda was to draw water, which I did so at the junction of Laura Gap Trail and Mt Franklin Fire Trail. The next item, how to access the summit. Options were: 1) to take Leura Gap Trail up to the gap from the junction of Mt Franklin Fire Trail, 2) to go straight up from the junction, or 3) go about 1km to the east on Leura Gap Trail and take the next spur up. I went for option 2. I still am not sure about how options 1 or 3 would go. It was thick going with different types of scrub transitioning at 1400m and then some real rocky progress at around 1700m. This really slowed me up. Above 1700m, it’s clear. By that stage, I was quite tired and was experiencing cramping. I had to take it slow and easy up to the summit, set up the tent and then activate the summit, again using the colinear on 2m.

Here’s looking north from about 1750m altitude:

Looking north from Bimberi Peak

Looking north from Bimberi Peak

I did finally make the summit itself:

Camping and operating from Bimberi Peak summit

Camping and operating from Bimberi Peak summit

And here’s the view in the very late light.

Looking north from Bimberi Peak summit at late dusk

Looking north from Bimberi Peak summit

Mt Murray VK1/AC-003

And so the tour continues. I aimed to leave on first light and headed down, first a little to the west of the spur, but I made my way back on. The trick would be to leave south east, not south from the summit. It was good progress with light to medium forest down to Murray Gap. Much easier going than the previous day. Down there, I met some campers who were planning on ascending Bimberi Peak. Parks management had recently put a new sign in to mark Murray Gap, and hid the old one in a few trees:

Old sign for Murray Gap

Old sign for Murray Gap

I then headed straight up towards the summit of Mt Murray from there. It was steep, but the forest was open, so it was good progress right to the top. Here’s a view from the summit:

North east from Mt Murray

North east from Mt Murray

I then headed south east to a marked stream to get some water and then headed towards Yaouk Gap. The scrub started getting bad at around grid ref 632463, and it was just short of 2km of scrubby stuff which took about 2 hours to get to Yaouk Gap. Not looking good for Mt Scabby tonight.

Mt Scabby VK1/AC-005

From Yaouk Gap, this could be accessed by traversing along the ACT/NSW border which goes along Scabby Range, or heading south into NSW on Kennedy’s Rd – although I am not sure if some of this is on private land. Maurice Luton Trail proceeds parallel to Scabby Range and gets within 2k of the summit (but all the climbing still needs to be done). The climbing part is a moderate to heavy scrub bash all the way up. Going along Scabby Range is worse, some parts in there were not good at all, with progress down to 500m/hour. With so much time lost, I had to give up on activating Mt Scabby on the Saturday, instead aiming to make camp near water and activate the summit first thing the following morning. I ended up getting into the head waters of the Cotter River, just below the summit at 8:30pm and made camp there, well after dark.

The next morning, it was just a short walk up from camp to the SOTA summit.

Here’s a look at where I camped:

Camping underneath Mt Scabby

Camping underneath Mt Scabby

There was a VHF DX net on 144.2 that morning. I could hear many VK3 stations, but I could not work any of them. There were a few distant VK2’ers that went in the log, aside from the usual. I could not hear VK3HRA, but VK1NAM worked him on aircraft enhancement that morning.

Mt Kelly VK1/AC-004

Onward we go to Mt Kelly. Progress here was faster than yesterday, with odd scrubby sections, but mostly open. Here’s looking north from the Mt Scabby area towards Mt Kelly:

Mt Kelly from near Mt Scabby

Mt Kelly from near Mt Scabby

There is a lake marked at 688430, but it was dry. I had planned to camp here, lucky I didn’t. There was some water about 500m to the south, and likely water 500m to the north west.

From there it was moderate going up to Mt Kelly. Progress seemed to be faster on the western side of the ridge. There were some nice views from the summit:

South east from Mt Kelly

South east from Mt Kelly

After the activation, again using the 2m colinear, I headed down the eastern slopes of Mt Kelly. The scrub was thick in places, but it is easier going down than up. There was a large open area between Mt Kelly and Mt Namadgi called Rotton Swamp. It was not really a swamp, and the water I got from there was quite nice.

Mt Namadgi VK1/AC-006

From Rotton Swamp, it was time to head up Mt Namadgi. There seemed no obvious good way up, and the scrub was simply shocking in places, with progress down to a metre a minute at times. After about 2 hours of scratches, bashing and feeling exhausted, I found a large rock face to start heading up. The last 100m vertical was very steep, but progress was much faster than the scrub lower down. With significant time lost, I decided not to get out the colinear for this activation, instead activating simply using the handheld with it’s 1/4 wave antenna on FM only. This was more than enough.

I got this nice view of Mt Burbridge and “Rotton Swamp” on the higher slopes of Mt Namadgi:

Mt Burbidge and Rotton Swamp from Mt Namadgi

Mt Burbidge and Rotton Swamp from Mt Namadgi

Mt Scabby can be seen in the above pic, in the centre but in the distance.

Here’s the view looking north from Mt Namadgi:

North from Mt Namadgi

North from Mt Namadgi

Before dropping off the summit plateau, I found this interesting Aboriginal site, which you can read the sign for yourself:

Aboriginal initiation site on Mt Namadgi

Aboriginal initiation site on Mt Namadgi

Interpretive sign at Aboriginal initiation site

Interpretive sign at Aboriginal initiation site

With that, it was a drop down into the next valley to camp for the night. It was tough going to get started, but then the forest moderated. It was not open forest, but certainly less bad than what had been experienced earlier. It was good to have a little rag chew with Matt VK1MA on the VK1RGI repeater from inside the tent after another long hard day.

Mt Mavis VK1/AC-011

Next morning, up to leave at first light and to climb Mt Mavis. The first part of the climb was semi-open forest, but it didn’t last. The top of the mountain was not open, with heavy thick scrub, with lots of dead wood to make it harder. I ended up activating on a large bolder.

Activating at Mt Mavis

Activating at Mt Mavis

The colinear showed some signs of wear and tear at this activation, with a short developing. I was able to massage it to keep it working. The fix will be straight forward, by further reinforcing the joins on the 1/4 wave aluminium pole that joins at the feedpoint. It is this section, rather than all the soldered inner conductor to shield solder joins, which takes much of the physical stress, both in deploying the device, and during the large amount of scrub bashing that had been going on. I also secured the coax using some tape against the other end of the 1/4 wave pole to reduce the stress on this connection, and that had failed. I’ll just use more tape to make it physically secure, but still, this thing had preformed well – it still did this activation here – and it had taken an incredible amount of physical punishment.

A note about the squid pole. I had long lost the rubber stop at the end, but had replaced this with a rubber foot for chairs that Bunnings sells. That works much better for scrub bashing. I also put the squid pole in a 1m 50mm PVC pipe to protect it, and given all the scratches on this pipe, it is doing it’s job! I have reinforced the top and bottom of the largest squid pole section with tape. Even with all the scrub punishment, the squid pole shows no sign of harm.

After the activation finished, it was time to get out. I had hoped to work Micheal VK1XYZ from Bimbiri Peak s2s, but it was not to be.

Here’s a last look at the top:

Summit area of Mt Mavis

Summit area of Mt Mavis

Getting out meant dropping down from the summit, aiming for grid ref 744501 in the valley. I ended up working Michael from Bimberi Peak after 45 min of descending. I was very surprised about this because I was on the wrong side of Mt Mavis from him. It was a weak but readable signal. I also expected to lose the VK1RGI repeater, but did not lose it at any time. It was weakest at Murray Gap (with Bimberi Peak in the way), but still 1 watt from the HT from there could easily open it, I’m sure 5 watts would be readable.

It took nearly three hours to get down, with heavy scrub nearly the whole way over a 600m drop. The valley was easy going, with good water in the river. The track also goes up the valley further than marked on my map. I picked it up at around 750496. It crosses the (then small) river twice, but ends up on the western side of the valley heading downstream. Here’s a look at the lower valley:

Large open valley

Heading home down the valley

From there it was not long before Andrew VK1NAM and myself caught sight of each other. He had come to pick me up and ferry me back to the car. It was a change of plan from the original, but neither AC-006 or AC-011 would have been possible without it.

It was quite a big trip, with some days having nearly 12 hours of walking, but the summits are in the log, the views in the memory and taken with the camera, and that’s what counts.

Regards, 73 Wayne VK3WAM

Postscript: Equipment review

I took up three 2.2Ah LiPOs and used just short of two of them. One activation was done on the internal battery, which was used up about 50%. The Mt Ginini activation was done using a 18650 Lithum Ion pack, which I generally use on QRP activations, but that was not far from the car. I did that to keep the three LiPOs fresh for the pack carry part. The radio was a FT-817, generally operated at 5W.

I used a Wouxun HT for my comms to the VK1RGI repeater. By the end of the trip, I had gone through two 1400mAh packs, and had started on a 1700mAh pack. Most of the time I had this on 1 watt for the repeater, and 146.5 FM simplex at 5 watts. I really only used it on Mt Namadgi for actual activations, plus a few ones to chase others while I was transiting between peaks.

Sorry to the VK3 guys who might wanted to have got these summits. I would not carry a yagi for horizontal polorisation into this country. I did have the end-fed for 40m, but time did not permit putting it up.

Mitchell River National Park

Hi all,

The weekend of the 9th, 10th and 11th is a long weekend in Victoria with Monday being Labour Day. It had been awhile since I had gone camping with the family, so we settled on going up to Mitchell River NP to check it out. My mum also decided to tag along. It ended up that my wife, Lindy, had agreed to play in a concert on the Sunday afternoon, so there went the family camping trip. Still I headed up with my 6 year old son, Simon and my mum, Kathleen.

We were initially undecided if we would camp at Billy Goat Bend, in the middle of the park, or Angusvale up the north. Because of car access, we decided to go with Angusvale, even though it would be more open. Kathleen was up early and decided on a campsite under some trees away from the river. We had that area to ourselves with most of the other campers settling on campsites lower down near the river.

It was a hot weekend, so we tried to do most of our active activities in the morning. On the Saturday morning, we all headed down to Billy Goat Bend and checked out the gorge that is located near there. Here are some pics:

Looking north at the Mitchell RIver from Billy Goat Ben lookout

Mitchell RIver from Billy Goat Ben lookout

Mitchell RIver a little downstream from Billy Goat Bend

Mitchell River from near Billy Goat Bend

On the road into Angusvale, there was a nice lookout that overlooked the valley. The campsite can be seen from the road coming down:

Angusvale from some nearby hills

Angusvale from some nearby hills

While staying there, we spent some time swimming in the river, and I also got the chance to head out to some nearby hills for a Summits on the Air activation. I also had the chance to operate from the park for a Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award activation.

On our last night in the park, there was some thunderstorm activity. There was a nice view of the clouds in the late afternoon light:

Clouds from Angusvale

Clouds from Angusvale

Due to the heat, we did not hang around for too long on the Monday. After packing up in the morning, it was a quick trip to Sale for lunch and then heading home before the worst of the traffic.

All in all, a nice long weekend.

Wayne Merry

The Bluff/Mt McDonald trip, New Years 2012/13

Hi all,

After getting back from a camping trip, which included a SOTA activation of Rocky Peak, I was off the next day on a planned VMTC trip to a range of high mountains to the south east of Mt Buller. The plan was to take in part of the Australian Alpine Walking Track which I had not done before. I only had two takers for the trip, so there were three of us in total. The VMTC requires four for an official club trip and we were one short, so this turned into a private trip. My plan was to activate for Summits on the Air a series of mountains that were taken in by the walk.

Getting started

The day started with a 7am pickup of a walker from the train station, and then we headed up to join another walker up in the Howqua Hills at 8 Mile Gap (506792). From here, we headed down Brocks Rd to the Jameson River. This is marked as a 4wd track, but it is maintained to a high standard, so no problems with a 2wd. We then drove up Low Saddle Rd. The standard of this road is not as high, but I was able to get the Prius to point 513754, which would take a bit off the walk on the last day. We then piled into a 4wd for a car shuffle and took the Refrigerator Gap Track up to Refrigerator Gap and the carpark for the walk up to the Bluff.

The Bluff VK3/VE-013

The Bluff is a shortish, but quite steep climb up from the Refrigerator Gap car park. Over 400m is gained from the car park over about 1km horizontal distance. Towards the top it becomes a little scrambly. I had to negotiate the squid pole a few times, but it was not too bad. The plan was to have lunch here, so my fellow bushwalkers would have their break while I operated radio. One little problem was that I did not bring anything to secure the squid pole, and there was no trees at the operating location. I used the base of a rock and my backpack to secure the squid pole, as shown:

Squid pole at The Bluff secured by a rock and a backpack

Squid pole at The Bluff

I used a Wouxun KG-UVD1P handheld radio for FM and a FT-817 for other modes. Using the Wouxun allows me to save the FT-817 batteries. Because the FT-817 is an all mode radio, its amplifier is linear, and not as efficient as the Class C amplifier in the Wouxun. I use a BNC adapter on the Wouxun, so I was able to change the antenna from one to the other radio with ease.

The activation was performed with my colinear. I decided not to do the match yet (as discussed in the linked article) as I wanted to make the stub with BNC connectors which I am waiting for an order of these to arrive. The unmatched colinear has a poor, but not unusable match. The FT-817 would reduce power a little, but this level of mismatch (between 2 to 3) would not damage the finals. I estimate it would be 4dB or so down on a fully matched performance. Still worthwhile to give it a go and also to compare its performance to when I do have it fully matched.

It certainly does perform. I know some think that I would be better off with a Yagi, but for this kind of walking, this colinear does hit the spot. I tried it against a few repeaters and would give it at least 15dB ahead of a quarter wave whip antenna. One repeater was very scratchy on the quarter wave, I could barely break the squelch, but with the colinear, it was nearly (not quite) full quieting. Being omni-directional on the horizontal plane is also a bonus.

In the end, I was able to work into Melbourne, and looking back at the results, I was about 5dB down on what I would have expected from an optimised colinear. I think I’ll gain most of that with the match. I was also working a few stations well away from Melbourne.

Here are some pics from The Bluff:

Looking west from The Bluff

Looking west from The Bluff

Looking east from The Bluff

Looking east from The Bluff

Mt Lovick VK3/VE-020

After lunch, it was time to head off The Bluff and head for Mt Eadley, Bluff Hut and then Mt Lovick. There are two tracks marked passing Mt Eadley Stony, but we only found the higher track. The Bluff Hut has been rebuilt after the 2006 fires, but is not used as part of the cattle muster as cattle are now banned from the Alpine National Park. It was fairly late in the day when we made Mt Lovick and we camped almost right on the summit, far enough away for some dirt to put tent pegs in.

Camping at Mt Lovick

Camping at Mt Lovick

I tried 2m again from here. I was able to complete 2 QSOs using FM, and then 1 contact with VK3AFW using CW. I then went to 40m to get the last contact required for activation – plus a pile more.

Here are a few late evening pics from the summit:

Looking east towards the King Billies from Mt Lovick

The King Billies from Mt LOvick

Looking south west towards The Nobs and Mt McDonald from Mt Lovick

The Nobs and Mt McDonald from Mt Lovick

Mt Clear VK3/VE-018

Up the next morning, Sunday the 30th. We left about 9 and headed for the King Billies. Our first water stop was from the headwaters of the Jamison River, just underneath Picture Point at 634832. I treated the water with the SteriPen Adventurer (a UV treatment), another walker, Adrian used tablets, while the third, Clive, drank it untreated. I still reckon that the chances of getting sick are low, but because I have been sick from drinking high country water, I don’t take that chance.

We arrived at King Billy No 1 and had lunch there. I wanted to save my operating capacity (i.e. batteries) for summits that I could get SOTA points for, so this went begging. I activated this earlier in the year, late at night and in the fog. I was able to see my old operating location, just underneath the summit. Here’s a look at Mt Magdela (Marjorie VK3/VE-012) and the Cross Cut Saw to the left from King Billy No 1 VK3/VE-016.

Looking east at Mt Magdela from King Billy No 1

Mt Magdela from King Billy No 1

With lunch done, we followed the quite indistinct path to King Billy No 2, and then lost the path and made our way to the road junction at 650812. From here, there is a management vehicle track (with trees fallen over it) heading down towards Mt Clear. We drew water at 642787 and made our way to the base of Mt Clear. The management track leaves to the west, and the start of the walking only track is a little unclear. This is at 627766. From here, the track climbs quite steeply, but not quite as steep as the track up The Bluff. Still a good effort for late in the day. We arrived at the summit and camped within a few metres of the summit.

I attempted activating VK3/VE-018 on 2m, but had no success either on FM or SSB. It was then over to 40m using the end-fed, where there was no difficulty. With the end-fed, 40m is the old reliable.

Here’s a pic of Mt Buller, Mt Sterling, Mt Lovick (closer) and Mt Cobbler from Mt Clear. All of these mountains are SOTA summits.

Looking north west from Mt Clear

Looking north west from Mt Clear

The Nobs VK3/VE-040

The next day, it was up for an 8:30 walking start. First task of the day was to get a water top up. I only had a small amount left, and some of the party was dry. We obtained this at 617729, where the creek was about to descend rapidly down the side of the mountain. From there, it was following the indistinct path down from Square Top and towards High Cone. High Cone appears to have exactly 150m prominence, so it will become a SOTA summit someday, but it is not one at the moment. There is a bypass track around High Cone, so we took this. It’s more of a route as the track is quite indistinct. It follows just above a set of small cliffs. One gotcha with this mountain is where the spur comes down, the track continues to contour around. We headed down the spur at that point for about 15 minutes before we realised our mistake. We then worked our way around to the right spur, but this took more energy and time. It was a late lunch when we arrived at the Nobs.

Given the lateness, I decided that I would only do 40m on the summit. I activated the summit quickly, but disturbed a large number of insects nesting in a tree where I was setting up the squid pole.

Mt McDonald VK3/VE-026

From The Nobs, it was a quick drop down along the still at hard to follow at times track towards a 4wd track. We headed along this to where the walking track leaves it to head up Mt McDonald. We needed water for the night camp, and so we headed down the 4wd track to get water. We got it from the second creek at 543729, but we had to go in about 10m from the road and burrow into what was almost a little cave to get it. This took quite a lot of time, and meant we would get to the top of Mt McDonald very late in the day. It was a lot of effort getting up, and the effects of the long day were definitely having an impact. We lost the track at one point and tried to sidle around the side, but this was very hard work, and felt dangerous. I then climbed up a very steep section to regain the track that was on the tops. If climbing Mt McDonald from the east, try to stay on top of the ridge if you don’t know where the track is.

We arrived with about one hour of light left at the summit. I was pretty exhausted, but I still wanted the SOTA points for all this effort. I setup the tent and then the amateur radio station:

Camp site and operating location at Mt McDonald

Camp site and operating location at Mt McDonald

The views from all the summits that I had visited so far on this trip had been spectacular, but a great deal of the southern high country can be seen from Mt McDonald, including Mt Donna Buang, Mt Torbreck, Mt Baw Baw, Mt Abrupt, Mt Alexander (near Bendigo), Mt Hickey, Mt Buller, Mt Howitt, Mt Cobber, plus most stuff around Licola. Here’s a view looking back towards The Nobs and Mt Clear:

Mt Clear, Square Top, High Cone and The Nobs from Mt McDonald

Mt Clear, Square Top, High Cone and The Nobs from Mt McDonald

It was a great way to see out 2012 with the views we had from up there.

Mt Sunday VK3/VE-050

The final summit for the trip was Mt Sunday. The SOTA program works on UTC time, and a summit can be activated for points basically once a year. There was an opportunity to activate this summit twice, before UTC midnight (11am local) and then after. It was break camp at 6:50am to give myself a chance to do this. The other guys were completely disinterested in the radio part, but appreciated walking in the cooler time of the day. It was about an hour in that I realised that I might not make it to Mt Sunday in time, so I had to burn rubber. I walked very quickly down the track – which was easier to follow on this side of the mountain. I made Low Saddle at 506678 and left my pack there. The top of my pack converts into a little day pack, so there was enough room for the FT-817, the end-fed cable, a coax cable, the microphone, a notepad and a bottle of water, a LiIon battery and that’s it. It was time to head up Mt Sunday. The track is a little indistinct to get started, but then was easy to follow. It has also had the fire regrowth slashed back. This might have been quite difficult to follow two years ago, but is changed now.

I arrived, after a hard climb, at 10:45am. I operated north-east from the summit, about 15 to 20 vertical metres down. The summit has lots of trees, recovered from the fire at the very top, but burnt to a crisp elsewhere. I hung up the end-fed in the regrowth saplings and began to operate 5 minutes before UTC midnight. I was able to get 7 contacts in that 5 minutes, three of them in 1 minute. I felt like a contest station there for a bit. I continued to operate after 11am local, but it was far more relaxed. It was also nice to work VK3AFW and VK3PF who where both activating summits on both sides of UTC midnight. 4 lots of s2s! At 11:30 it was time to pack up and start the long trip to the car. I arrived back at my pack at 12:20pm which had a note from the others that they left to head for the car at 11am. I was an hour and 20 minutes behind.

It took another 4 hours and 20 minutes to walk the 11.5km to the car. I had a lunch break, but I was very low on water. I found water in several creeks. The first was a little desperate and I am very glad I could UV treat it. The others tasted better. The effects of the previous day had again caught up with me, plus the big effort to get to Mt Sunday in time. I was pretty tired when I got to the car at 4:40pm. I started 1:20 behind, but lost another hour to them. They could not keep up with me earlier, but now I could not even nearly keep pace with them!

After that, it was a shuffle back to the other car at Refrigerator Gap underneath The Bluff. I realised I had left my CW keyer at Mt Lovick, a day’s walk behind, but Adrian agreed to drive up there as it is close to the 4wd track. That track certainly is for 4wd only. He was eyeing off the place for future family camping visits, but I am thankful that I was able to retrieve the keyer.

It was time then to head for Mansfield and a much needed feed. Never has a bottle of soft-drink tasted so good.

Wayne VK3WAM

Upgrading a camping lantern

Hi all,

My family goes car based camping a few times a year. I also go pack carry camping as well, but that requires a different set of gear. A number of years ago I purchased a 7W fluorescent camping lantern. It has worked well, but now the battery is cooked. Here’s a look at the box of the product.

Wild Country 7W camping lantern

Designed to fail

The cheaper – and not so cheap – lanterns can often have a poor design that can lead to early failure because they do not treat the internal battery appropriately. These units are often supplied with an internal sealed lead acid battery (SLA). My one had a 4Ah 6V battery. This can power the lamp for about 3 1/2 hours. One problem is that SLA batteries should not be cycled more than 50%. They also should be stored fully charged. The 50% cycle means that this lantern should have only been used for 1 3/4 hours on a full charge, and then it needs recharging. No mention of that in the small manual that came with the lantern.

The second problem is that the charging circuit built into the device does not charge the Pb battery in a way that is according to spec. The charging voltage is too high. It’s going to cook the battery a little bit on each charge.

So now I have a lantern that does not work. Should I just throw it away?


The rest of the lantern seemed ok, it just didn’t have a working battery. I could have just bought a new battery from the supplier, but they charge more than the cost of a new lantern. So, I thought I would replace the battery with something that was more suitable.

Firstly, I have been using LiPo packs in Amateur Radio applications – powering a low and a moderate power radio. A 3S – 3 cells in series pack has a voltage of 10 to 12.6V. Too high for this lantern directly, but it could be converted to 6V. I found some LiPos at Hobbyking that would do the trick.

Hobbyking 2200mAh 3S1P Turnigy

Three of these fit into the battery area of the lantern quite snugly. I cut the main cable to a short run and used JST-XH connectors, which are shown in the picture above, as these connectors are the same on my other LiPo’s – makes it easy to charge on the chargers that I already have.

Having three of these inside, with 6VDC regulation, gives me capacity over 3 times the old battery, but I can use nearly the whole cycle, so it is really 6 times the capacity.

I grabbed a DC converter off Ebay that outputs 6V up to 3A. The lamp draws about 1.2A, so that is easy going for this converter.

I would not be using the existing charging circuit. It was no good for the Pb battery, and it certainly would be no good for these LiPo packs. I could make use of the LED in the lantern that indicates when the lantern is charging. Instead, I would use this LED to indicate that the voltage in the LiPos was good. The 6V converter would work with an input voltage of 7V, which would mean the LiPo packs driven down to an average of 2.3V per cell – far too low. Instead, I would use this LED to indicate when the packs were getting flat, at around 11V or just a little under. The LED would be on when the battery was ok, and go off when not.

I needed a simple circuit to drive the LED. From the LiPo voltage source, I fed a 470ohm resistor and then three Zeners. I selected three, because the breakdown voltage of around 11V was what I needed, and I had these on hand. Three of these zener diodes, each with a breakdown voltage of 3.6V, in series gave me what I needed. The current on the zeners would be about 3mA – set by selecting the 470 ohm resistor. Connected between the Zeners and the resistor is the base of a 2n4401 transistor, with the LiPo voltage on it’s collector. From the emitter of the transistor, I had a 1K resistor. This would have typically about 9V across it, meaning a current of about 9mA. This was in series with the LED, which has it’s own 2V drop. So from the LiPo voltage, the transistor would have a drop of around 2V when the LiPo pack was fully charged, falling to zero when flat, plus just under 9V for the resistor and 2V for the LED.

This circuit was put onto some veriboard and put into the lantern’s battery compartment. It is shown below and the DC converter is immediately beside it. Below is the factory built charging circuit that is now unused.

Unfortunately, I mixed up one of the JST-XH connectors on one of the LiPo packs, with the plastic housing having wrong polarity. I made one of the associated connectors to match it, and marked them both with tape so I don’t use it for the other packs. I’ll just have to live with it.

After all of that, it was time to turn it on. Works well – very pleased with the outcome. Now, I can safely use the lantern for about 11 to 12 hours between charges, rather than under 2 hours. This has turned into an upgrade rather than a repair of the lantern.

Wayne Merry