Northern Victoria 4 summits trip

Hi all,

I’ve fallen a little behind in maintaining my blog, so I will try to catch up over the next little while.

On the 19th of July, I headed up to Bendigo and gave a SOTA talk at the Bendigo Amateur Radio and Electronics Club. There was quite a lot of interest. I had previously telegraphed my intention to go out and activate a few summits the next day. A few guys from the club looked past the not so good WX forecast, although chances were it would be cold with a few showers, rather than heavy rain.

Joining me on this trip was:

  • Phil VK3BHR
  • Ray VK3YAR – who also kindly put me up on the Friday night, and
  • Col VK3LED

As it is a little while since the actual activation, I can’t remember everyone who accompanied us.

Mt Kerang VK3/VU-010

Proceedings opened with this nice little summit. The summit requires access over private land, and look at the following photo of the gate as to how to make the necessary arrangements:

Access gate to Mt Kerang

Access gate to Mt Kerang

Ray had already arranged to obtain a key, so we were able to drive to the summit. It is a walk for an hour or so if vehicle access cannot be arranged.

The summit itself is quite open. We proceeded down the north side to lose about 30m vertical and then turned around to head up, making sure we had carried all of our gear with us.

Here’s a few pics of proceedings from the summit:

Inverted V mounted on the trig point at the summit of Mt Kerang

Summit of Mt Kerang

Phil VK3BHR operating at Mt Kerang

Phil VK3BHR operating at Mt Kerang

The interesting thing about Phil’s rig is that it is a self-built, self-designed rig. Might be a bit heavy for some SOTA work, but impressive nonetheless.

Mt Korong VK3/VU-012

Next up was Mt Korong, after a quick stop at a fish and chip shop. This is on a public reserve, however there is not a maintained track to the summit. The forest is reasonably open. There are some nice views from this summit.

Looking south west from Mt Korong

Looking south west from Mt Korong

My end-fed half wave on 40m, plus the 2m colinear were in action at the summit.

Antennas at Mt Korong

Antennas at Mt Korong

The terrain is quite open lower down, so the best bet might be to park at the main car park. There is a track marked on some maps, but this is very faint and we did not follow it. Nonetheless, it is likely to be easier to head straight up from the car park, rather than trying to traverse in along the ridge from the west. This is a good mountain for those not so experienced in off track walking to get started.

Mt Tarrengower VK3/VN-023

After Mt Korong, the guys were looking for an easy one. There is a sealed road to the top. We parked down a little, and did a little trip down a valley to ensure we were low enough to be out of the activation zone on the way to the top.

Proceedings were similar to Mt Korong, with my end-fed, the 2m colinear and Phil using an inverted V on 40m.

Operating at Mt Tarrengower

Operating at Mt Tarrengower

Mt Ida VK3/VU-009

With that, I bid my Bendigo friends farewell, and headed for Melbourne, but via Mt Ida. I expected to get there well after dark and would try activating on 2m only. Access to this summit is quite easy in taking the road nearly all the way to the top. It looks to be within 25m vertical of the top, so dropping about 10m from the car park would be advised. The road in from the Northern Hwy can be a little easy to miss in the dark when coming from the south.

It was fully dark during this activation. I operated from on the corner of the fenced area using the 2m colinear. A highlight of this activation was a 2m FM contact with some enhancement with VK2KRR near Wagga Wagga.

With that, I packed up and headed back to Melbourne.

Regards, Wayne VK3WAM

4 Summits in the Yarra Ranges

Hi all,

With all the fast and furious SOTA action going on in recent weeks, it was time to get out and clock up a few more points, lest I eventually lose my VK SOTA activator lead, but hang on, SOTA’s not supposed to be competitive, right?

Mt Richie and Mt Donna Buang form a summit pair that are quite easy to do in a day, and that’s what I did last year. This year the plan was to add two extra summits onto the day, Mt Bride and Britannia Ridge. I had not activated those last two before, but plenty of others have.

Mt Richie VK3/VC-003

This summit is accessible by a series of management vehicular tracks. There is a gate for Road 15 at Acheron Way. The large bolted concrete barrier is to stop the public driving up, but foot access is ok. The track log below shows the route.

GPS tracklog plot of Mt Richie access

Mt RIchie tracklog

The junction between road 10 and 15 is at the most southerly point on the tracklog. Turn left, and it’s about 5km walking from this point. The route involves over 500m of climbing, but it never feels too bad on the way.

I first put up the vertical, but I need to do a bit of soldering on the feedpoint as the connection was poor. The base of the loading coil seemed disconnected, I am going to have to look into this. No action on 12m with a poorly functioning antenna.

Lucky the end fed was in the bag. I took down the vertical and put up the end fed and worked a series of VK1,2 and 5 stations. Good reports. It would seem at this stage in winter in the hour or so after sunrise, sometimes there can be a large skip zone on 40m. Bernard VK3AMB reported hearing me very weakly, must have been ground wave over a 45km distance. I did not bring the 2m colinear for this summit.

My phone struggles to take photos in cold conditions, so no activation photos from here.

Mt Donna Buang VK3/VC-002

It’s next off to Mt Donna Buang with the walk back to the car and then the drive up to the summit. The last car park before the gate is 40m vertical down from the summit, so I parked here. Looks a little strange with other members of the public parking at the summit itself, but it ensures my final access is non motorised. I set up near the lookout tower with the 2m colinear and the end fed both on the squid pole at the same time.

2m colinear and half wave end fed on the 7m squid pole at Mt Donna Buang near the lookout tower

Operating at Mt Donna Buang

The only implication of this set up with a 2m coax run from the feedpoint to the radio is the need to move about 5m when I want to move from 2m to 40m. Aside from that, it worked well. I used the Wouxun HT on 2m FM, and the FT-817 on 2m SSB and 40m.

Mt Bride VK3/VC-009

Mt Bride was my third summit of the day. With things running nicely to schedule, I decided to activate both on 2m and 40m at this summit. I used Mt Bride Rd off Old Warburton Rd. A road branches off to the left just under 2km from the summit. It’s a bit rough, but I got the Prius up without any real difficulty. I parked the car at the crest of this road and found the walking track branching off a little further along.

GPX tracklog screenshot of Mt Bride access

Tracklog to access Mt Bride

Someone had recently rode a dirt bike up here. Might have been “fun” with some of the low hanging branches!

I activated on the track as it was well in the activation zone, perhaps less than 5 vertical metres from the highest point.

Activating using a squid pole on the track near Mt Bride summit

Activating at Mt Bride

I again mounted both the colinear and the end fed on the squid pole. It’s working well. I was unable to get the full four contacts on 2m, but there was the usual pile on 40.

Britannia Ridge VK3/VC-011

Conditions up to this point had been quite sunny, but the clouds started rolling in. It was time to get this last activation in place. I accessed it by continuing to drive along Mt Bride Track until reaching the base of a track that goes up a spur towards the summit. Mt Bride Track is fine in a 2wd. The track going up the summit would need a much more capable vehicle. It’s about 200m down and 1300m away from the summit, so it is not a long walk.

GPX tracklog screenshot of Britannia Ridge access

Tracklog to Britannia Ridge

I headed up to where the track levelled off before going off track up to the summit. I did not look too closely at the map, but the track perhaps does not quite get in the activation zone. My way back down to the track was quite more open. Look to leave the track about 50m before it levels out at the top.

My operating site was quite cramped, and for this reason I did not put up the colinear and the end fed at the same time. I commenced operating on 2m. I did some coordination on VK3REC as I had no mobile signal. I worked 2 stations on 2m FM, and Bernard VK3AMB put out a call to see if anyone else was around and perhaps SSB might be a go. I tried getting Marshall VK3MRG, but I could just hear him and there would be little chance he could hear me on 5 watts. Just after pulling down the colinear, another station announced on the repeater that they had my signal booming into them, but they could hear nothing on the 2m 1/4 wave. Bernard himself could hear nothing on the 1/4 wave, but 57 on the colinear. It certainly makes a difference.

I put up the end fed and worked the usual pile on 40. Interesting that 40 was still open locally late in the day after being closed even an hour after sunrise on Mt Richie.

With that, packed up and got back to the car just a little after sunrise. A nice productive 30 point day, and the uniques count was expanded by 2.

73, Regards, Wayne VK3WAM
South west of the summit

2013 Grampians Queen’s Birthday trip Part 3

Hi all,

This is a continuation of 2013 Grampians Queen’s Birthday trip Part 2.

The final day of this three day trip took place on Queen’s Birthday holiday, a Monday. The plan was to activate three summits down the southern end of the Sierras. They were all new summits for me, although others (e.g. Allen VK3HRA) had been here before.

Signal Peak VK3/VS-014

This summit is at the northern end of a rise that also takes in Mt Abrupt VK3/VS-011. The plan was to take the walking track up to where it climbs onto the top, then make my way north off track to Signal Peak. The track has been recently recut due to heavy rains causing landslips. Access is via this track, climbing up to beneath the cliffs. The last landslip is the place to leave the track and head straight up. It’s only about 20m vertical to get to the saddle at the top.

Here’s a tracklog:

Signal Peak tracklog

Signal Peak tracklog

On the way up I took a path a little bit to the east of the return path. The return path is better. From the saddle, it even makes sense to stay in the easier forest, which will drop a bit of height on the western side, but may make for faster progress. It is not worth going too far down though.

It could be possible to aim from where the track reaches its most northern part and head north west towards the more northern saddle. It appears that it could be passable, but even if it is, I don’t think it would be overall any easier than the route I took.

The scrub is so, so. I would rate it medium. It’s high hundred meters per hour terrain, and most of the boulders can be missed. There’s even some open sections where you can actually get a stride happening.

It was very windy up on top, and there was one bird taking advantage. It looks smaller in the photo, but it must have been less than 20m away up in the air:

Eagle drafting at Signal Peak

Eagle drafting at Signal Peak

I was able to make reasonable time and get up to the summit and get on the air well before the UTC midnight cutoff, which was the plan. I operated using the end-fed using the FT-817 on 40m. Batteries were my 18650 cells x3 contained in a 20mm PVC pipe, which is my usual QRP setup. I worked the piles both sides of the UTC midnight change over, plus some nice summit to summit contacts.

I have had these 18650 cells before I got my LiPOs and still use then instead of the LiPOs. They are reasonabily conveneint, but if someone is getting started in SOTA, then a 3S LiPO pack is a better choice. I use these, because a) I already have them (the main reason) and b) they are almost as conveinent as the LiPOs. The main drawback is that they only have about 1200mAh real capacity vs the labelled 2400mAh capacity. These are UltraFIRE’s but they are ebay rip-offs. I actually have two geniune UltraFIREs, and they appear to have something very close to the label. It seems almost impossible to get the real thing off ebay I’m afraid. It’s much easier to order LiPOs from HobbyKing and not have to worry about this stuff!

Here’s the end fed in operation:

End fed at Signal Peak

End fed at Signal Peak

Mount Abrupt was waiting to the south:

Mt Abrupt from Signal Peak

Mt Abrupt from Signal Peak

Mt Abrupt VK3/VS-011

I headed back to the track from where I left it and then proceeded south up to the Mt Abrupt summit. It was quite popular today, and I wonder what people thought of the large backpack and the large pole (squid pole) that I was carrying. I operated about 20m away from the trig point to keep my presence a little lower key as people came and went. There are certainly great views from up here:

Signal Peak and the Sierras from Mt Abrupt

Signal Peak and the Sierras from Mt Abrupt

Next, looking south to the final summit I was to climb today. It looks so small from here:

Mt Sturgeon from Mt Abrupt

Mt Sturgeon from Mt Abrupt

While up here, it was sunny, so I pulled out the small solar panel and started charging the phone with it. Today, I was using the 3500mAh batteries, and they had only come down to 80%. They certainly go much further than any of the other batteries I have for the phone. In about one hour of charging, the panel had put them up to 89%. Of course because of the larger capacity, it takes longer to charge. It seems like I am getting most of the 2 watts of the panel into the cell.

With the activation finished, it took just over an hour to get down to the car from the summit and onwards to Mt Sturgeon, the last summit of the day and the trip.

Mt Sturgeon VK3/VS-035

The car park for this is at the junction of the Grampians Rd and Victoria Valley Rd. One can head along Victoria Valley Rd and either park at the start of a 4wd track, or even head up it for 300m (quite good even for 2wd) to get closer. This shaves about 1/4 of the walk, but not any of the climb up to the summit.

It’s a surprising 300m that needs to be gained on the climb. It’s not really steep, but quite consistent on the way up. I was running a little behind schedule, so I made my way up quite quick. Always good fitness work, this SOTA stuff. From up top, I saw a control book associated with the Sierra Terror, the event that had been running over the weekend. Made me wonder what happened to the two people lost on the first day. No BSAR callout yet, so that means that things were likely to be ok.

Here’s the tracklog of my path up:

Mt Sturgeon tracklog

Mt Sturgeon tracklog

I operated a few metres from the main lookout. It was still quite windy. It took the usual 15m or so to get through the pileup and then I packed up and headed back home. Not before having a look at the views:

Victoria Valley from Mt Sturgeon

Victoria Valley from Mt Sturgeon

On the way down, I met one of the marshals from the Sierra Terror. The two lost people had been found, but on the afternoon of the next day. They walked out. Seems like they got lost at the point where the track crosses a creek about 2km or so from the road. They had made themselves a bush shelter overnight. Also the Sierra Terror is an event that has only been running over the last few years and has more than 150 people involved now. It it to raise money for Dunkeld community facilities. Good on them.

It was back to the car, and driving home after a very rewarding weekend.

Wayne VK3WAM

2013 Grampians Queen’s Birthday trip Part 1

Hi all,

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:

Track log to Twin Peaks and Mt Lubra

Track log to Twin Peaks and Mt Lubra

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:

South from Twin Peaks

South from Twin Peaks

Here’s looking east-south-east towards Major Mitchell Plateau:

Major Mitchell Plateau from Twin Peaks

Major Mitchell Plateau from Twin Peaks

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:

Twin Peaks and Mt Lang from Mt Lubra

Twin Peaks and Mt Lang from Mt Lubra

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:

GPS tracklog from Mt William Rd to Red Man Bluff

GPS tracklog from Mt William Rd to Red Man Bluff and return

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:

Towards Halls Gap from Red Man Bluff

Towards Halls Gap from Red Man Bluff

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:

Tracklog from Mt William upper car park to summit

Tracklog from Mt William upper car park to summit

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

Wayne VK3WAM

4 summits, Mt Despair to Mt Disappointment

Hi all,

Mt Despair to Mt Disappointment would suggest to me that summit namers in Victoria needed to cheer up, but it was a good day for me – without despair and disappointment.

Mt Despair VK3/VN-013

First up was Mt Despair. I headed off early in the morning, hoping to get to this summit about an hour after dawn. I made my way through the Murrindindi forest using Sylvia Creek Rd to Murrindindi Rd and tried to go up Dindi River Rd. This looked quite boggy and had deep water puddles, so I thought it safer to go try the next road. I got to 733525 and turned left on to the road there. It had the large bluestone logging track stones, but I could travel up this road with care. I made my way to 722529. I did not try to go south and then west along the road as it continued, but went up the Horseyard Creek Rd on foot. A full 4wd could get up here, but with lots of scratches.

At 714542, there is a foot track that heads over the hill to the north. I took this, but I suggest there is little point as it is quite overgrown. Progress would be faster using the tracks to the west. Mt Despair Rd is very good grade, but the gate at the south end was closed. It looks like other roads to get there are higher standard, so aiming for point 710543 in a 2wd should be possible with a shortish road bash to the summit from there.

Weather was a bit drizzly, and I got completely wet through the wet overgrowth on the foot track. I set up about 200m south of the summit to try and save a little bit of time. The summit area itself is quite flat and there was nothing to see. Here’s the operating location off the side of the road.

Operating location at Mt Despair

Operating location at Mt Despair

Radio gear at Mt Despair

Radio gear at Mt Despair

I operated using the end-fed to try and save some time. It’s fast to put up and take down with the two spindles that I use to store it with. Due to my longer walk in/out than planned I headed off quickly to get back to the car, and head towards Mt Hickey.

Mt Hickey VK3/VN-015

This is a popular area for campers, trail bike riders and other state forest users. I came in from the east on Fairview Rd. This becomes Main Rd. I made my way along this to the junction with Mt Hickey Rd at 382853. This is easy 2wd driving. I parked just inside the activation zone, walked down a bit and then up to a flat area on the peak to the east of the main summit at 366839 to keep away from the reported noise there. Worked quite well. There was a little trail bike noise to contend with from time to time.

The weather had improved by the time I got here. The low cloud and drizzle was replaced by partially cloudy conditions and no rain. The forest around here is certainly much drier than around Mt Despair.

One nice pickup was VK3EHG on a 2m HT from Flinders Peak VK3/VC-030. I don’t think he was expecting any summit to summit action. He was apparently using just a HT himself with a basic antenna. I was only using a 1/4 wave on 2m, so no nice colinear to suck in the signal here. Still, nice to pick him up from here! It’s radio line of sight, but not without some obstruction getting in the Fresnel zone. Radio Mobile says that the worst fresnel is 0.2 – still positive but there is some attenuation. Distance was 107km.

Here’s the operating location:

Operating at Mt Hickey

Operating at Mt Hickey

Mt Piper VK3/VN-028

It was then off to Mt Piper. This is accessed from Jeffeys Lane at 224792, itself off Broadford-Kilmore Road. The track is a little rough, but quite passable in a 2wd. A car park is located at the base of the summit, and it’s walking the whole way up. The track is well marked. Near the base, a old 4wd track crosses the walking track. It is quite possible to turn right and use the vehicular track to go up. It makes its way up most of the way to the summit and stops about 25 vertical metres from the top. The “car park” there could fit only 2 or three cars, I can see why they closed it. The walking track is well marked to the top and generally follows a zig zag pattern. It is therefore not as steep as the vehicle track route.

I got a nice pic from near the top of the 4wd track (Mt Hickey is in the background):

Broadford from the 4wd track on Mt Piper

Broadford from the 4wd track on Mt Piper

Here’s a similar view from near the top:

Broadford from the summit of Mt Piper

Broadford from the summit of Mt Piper

The summit area was quite nice to operate from. I again used the end-fed and used the trig point to mount the squid pole:

Squid pole antenna mounted on the trig point

Antenna mounted on the trig point

Mt Disappointment VK3/VC-014

My final summit of the day was Mt Disappointment. I came in on Main Mountain Rd which becomes Disappointment Rd. I parked the car up from the hut at 352563. The last part of the road is marked as a 4wd track in Forest Explorer, but it is a high quality 2wd track.

The activation area is quite large, so I felt no need to bush bash to the summit itself. Apparently there is a track that goes there from the hut further down, but I was inside the last 20m contour line. I estimate about 10m vertical down from the summit.

I was hopeful for some DX, so I set up the vertical antenna. The Kp index was 5, so there was a Geometric storm, but you never know. In the end, I only got local contacts, but it was nice at least to get someone on 30m CW.

Here is a look at the operating location:

Operating at Mt Disappointment

Operating at Mt Disappointment

With that, and it getting dark, it was time to head back home. Another 13 SOTA points in the bag. With these activations I have now moved to 102 unique VK3 summits, 111 overall.

On this trip, I tried out the solar panel that I had put together recently. It worked ok, but I am going to use some tape to attach some short rope to connect it to my pack a little better. At Mt Piper, it was able to charge the phone about 6% in 30m. This is a little lower than a powered USB connection, but not bad for winter sun and a few clouds.

Regards, Wayne VK3WAM

Mt Terrible and The Paps

Hi all,

Again, another chance to head for the hills. It is now getting a little more challenging to find summits within a reasonable distance of Melbourne that I have not activated before. There are only a few nearby ones that I have not yet activated at least once. Aside from the ones on private land, it is starting to get a bit scrappy. I have to travel further for fresh summits.

Today the plan was to go up the Mt Terrible Track as far as I could safely drive the 2wd car and activate Mt Terrible Spur VK3/VE-134, Mt Terrible itself VK3/VE-067, Bald Hill, VK3/VE-137 and The Paps VK3/VE-204.

Mt Terrible Spur VK3/VE-134

I decided to sleep at home and make an early start at about 4am and head up to make this summit just after sunrise. I arrived at Bald Gap at about 7:15 and started up the track. The track climbs steeply, and I was not able to get the car up the hill. It *might* be possible in a 2wd, but an AWD would have made it. It was only about 50m further where the road levelled off. So, out with the gear and I walked up to the summit. Of course, I always was going to have to walk the last bit anyway, but this would mean a long walk to Mt Terrible (and back).

Because of the impending 25km return walk, I activated this summit quickly, working the pile up and then moving on. Here’s a pic of the operating location:

Operating location at Mt Terrible Spur VK3/VE-134

Operating location at Mt Terrible Spur VK3/VE-134

Mt Terrible VK3/VE-067

Now on foot, I tried to walk the 12.5km one way trip as quickly as possible. There were two other stations planned to be on, Marshall VK3MRG and Allen VK3HRA. Only one of these eventuated, and I was not at the summit on time. I ended up being a little late for my scheduled start time, but in order to not be very late for the following summit, I dispensed with putting up the vertical and used the end fed instead. When starting, my SWR was quite high, and I suspected this was because the Inverted V was not quite a V with the two sides pushed by trees to be close together for the first metre or so. I lowered the antenna by two segments on the squid pole and this worked quite well.

After working the pile up, it was QRT and back from where I came in order to activate Bald Hill.

Mt Terrible had a hut, but this has burnt down now (seems like it was a fire in the fireplace that got out of control – plenty of campers seem to like their fires a little too big.

Burnt down hut at Mt Terrible

Burnt down hut at Mt Terrible

There is also a lookout tower at Mt Terrible with some comms gear on board:

Lookout tower at Mt Terrible

Lookout tower at Mt Terrible

Bald Hill VK3/VE-137

After a walk of the 12.5km back to VK3/VE-134 and then about 1km to the car, I had a quick bite to eat and then headed towards Bald Hill. I thought I might have to walk the whole way up, but I drove up to see how far I could get. I got most of the way and elected to stop before a ditch. The car could have got through for clearance, but it would have been too steep. Anyway, I was only about 200m from the summit, so this was a good place to get out anyway.

On walking up, the HT came alive on 2m with Marshall VK3MRG from Spion Kjope VK3/VT-040. I tried to work him, but the battery went dead. When I got to the summit, I pulled out FT-817 and called, but nothing heard. It was then time to setup the vertical and try to work the guys on Norfolk Island.

I started out working the pile on 40m, but signal reports were down. I then switched over to 20m to work the Norfolk Island guys, and noticed that I had the full tapped loading coil on when I was on 40m. No wonder signals were down on 40 with that big coil overloading the antenna. I was able to work both VK3CBV/9 and VK3QB/9 but they had to stop the pile trying to call them to get the QSOs. They are both keen to collect the chasing and summit to summit points. I had a nice SSB QSO with WA7JTM, which was easy going. It is difficult to get into Europe QRP, but the western parts of W seem much easier with a DX antenna. VK9NT have shown that if one can get their dipole 20m off the ground, then it works well DX. I might not want to carry a squid pole that big into the scrub!

In the end, I did work Marshall on VK3/VT-040, but he had to hang around there longer than perhaps he had planned.

The Paps VK3/VE-204

My final summit of the day was The Paps near Mansfield. I had looked at doing this summit before, but did not know the legalities of access. The road goes across private land, but I got a message last week from Warren VK3BYD, and the Parks Victoria ranger that the public is free to use this road, but the gates need to be left as found (generally closed). There is a gate both on the main highway and at the reserve end of the private land. The road across the private land is badly eroded, but a 2wd can be driven across it with care. The road has a few moments in the reserve, but I was able to drive the 2wd up to the beginning of the final climb up to the summit. I left the car here. The final climb is about 90 vertical metres up to the summit.

The road leaves the highway as marked for The Paps Rd in Forest Explorer. There is a sign on the highway with an arrow at this point.

The summit is quite barren up top. There is some communications gear and a trig point. I set up the squid pole in a vertical configuration on the trig point. It was dark when I began to operate. The VK3 stations were in the skip zone because of the time. Perhaps the end-fed would have worked better for them, but it was nice to pick up VK5 stations, plus a VK5 in Queensland. I also have a VE2 station in the log.

Things were quiet, and I was not getting any joy in getting to Europe, so I finished up and headed home. It was a long day and I was now a little tired, but still great to pick up 24 activator points, 12 chaser points and 16 summit to summit.

Regards, Wayne VK3WAM

Pyrenees Trip

Hi all,

After my recent trip around VK1, I thought it time for something a little more conventional and a bit easier. I was heading up to Ballarat to spend time with family, but there is always some time for a little SOTA on the side. I thought I was good for two half days, but I was able to upgrade this to a day and half.


First summit up was an unnamed summit between Ballan and Daylesford. There are a number of named summits in this area, but the highest ground is a little nondescript. Nonetheless, I had not activated this summit before, so it was one to add to the collection.

Access is quite easy, as many tracks are quite a good 2wd gravel standard. The high area consists of two hill tips with a shallow saddle between them. This saddle is less than 25m vertical down from the summit, so both hill tops (and the saddle as well) are in the activation zone, making it quite large. I picked an area near the top, set up the squid pole for 40m and got down to business.

Squid pole and end fed for 40m pictured when operating at VK3/VC-032

Operating at VK3/VC-032


With this summit in the bag, it was time to check out Smeaton Hill. This is a private land summit. The owner lives in a house on the northern side of the hill. I dropped in and knocked on the door, but no one was home. End of this activation.

Mt Warrenheip VK3/VC-019

I still had enough time to swap in an alternative location. I had activated this summit the previous year, but it was still good for fresh activation points. A quick trip up, parking the car about 2/3rds of the way up. A simpler activation here than last year, just sticking up the end-fed, but no 20m CW action into Europe. Sometimes I miss the vertical, so I’ll need to get it out at some stage. It does not lend itself to doing many summits in one day, due to the setup and takedown time.

Mt Warrenheip has recently been burnt by fire, but the fire looks fairly mild. It got into the canopy of the trees, but the big trees should quickly recover.

With the activation done, my half day was up.

Blue Mountain VK3/VS-015

I then had a whole day to look at doing SOTA activations, so I thought I would try for 5 in one day. First up, Blue Mountain. This summit can be accessed from Glenlofty Warrenmang Rd, which heads through north-east to south-west through these hills. This is a good 2wd track, and about 997966, there is a 4wd track heading off to the west-north-west. This is passable in a 2wd with care. I was able to head through to 973977, where I left the car. This shaved off about 3km and was a nice little bonus. It was less than 1km from there to the summit. Here’s the operating shack:

Rig, cables and the feedpoint of the end-fed at VK3/VS-015

Operating at VK3/VS-015

And the squid pole:

End-fed mounted on a squid pole in forest at VK3/VS-015

Antenna at VK3/VS-015

One thing to note about these forests is how open they are. A stark contrast to the heavy bush bashing up in VK1 the previous weekend.

VK3/VS-018 Point 756/Pyrenees

Next up was a summit on the other side of Glenlofty Warrenmang Rd. This time it was a nice 2wd track heading up the hill, until I found a large tree across the road. Should I drive right out and come in the other side? After about 5 minutes, I thought I have to walk it – about 5km to the summit. I walked/jogged sections along this, trying to get to the summit before the UTC midnight changeover, for the eager chasers wanting to work the summit twice. I ended up on the air less than 2 minutes to go, where I worked 9 stations in the remaining time. I stayed for about 20 minutes after the UTC midnight changeover and worked most of them again.

One of the challenges of this trip was stretching the battery life over. I was using the leftovers that were unused from the VK1 trip – one 2.2Ah LiPo, plus the stock internal battery of the FT-817. This had to do all the four summits up to now, plus the 3 remaining summits. As of now, the 2.2Ah LiPO had done 4 summits, and was getting a little low, but still had a little left. The internal battery was still mostly fresh.

It’s nice to also clock up a few summits to summits (s2s) on this activation. These contacts always add a little buzz, and I’m even working my way up the s2s list here, although I really only target the activators points and especially uniques lists.

Time for another 5km march back to the car with the fallen tree. When I got there, there was another guy stuck there contemplating ringing up the local authority to get the road cleared.

VK3/VS-009 Ben Nevis

It was time to grab a quick bite and head up to Ben Nevis. This summit has a 2wd track that goes all the way to the top. I try to park out of the activation zone and walk in, rather than drive to the top and walk down and then up, where possible. There are two towers, plus a weather station up top. I headed over to a rocky area beyond that, which was a little higher.

Here’s some of the views:

Langi Ghiran and distant Grampains from Ben Nevis

Langi Ghiran and distant Grampains from Ben Nevis

Open plains NW from Ben Nevis

Looking NW from Ben Nevis

On commencing operations here, I got a first up distress call from VK3UP, who had come across a fallen motorcyclist near Mt Disappointment. It was also clear that many of the waiting SOTA chasers could not hear him. Andrew VK2UH could and he kindly took over handling the situation. Given that I was already stretching out the batteries, it was better for a home station to handle this. Andrew arranged the calling of the ambulance to help, and then had to relay comms for emergency services as they were unable to communicate themselves from the location of the accident.

I headed up 5kHz and activated the summit from there. It was a smaller chasing crowd – I presume some of the usuals were listening in to the emergency situation 5kHz down on the calling frequency. There was no problems experienced from the commercial gear up on the summit.

Here’s a look at the main tower at Ben Nevis:

Main commercial tower and fire lookout at Ben Nevis

Main commercial tower and fire lookout at Ben Nevis

Mt Cole VK3/VS-008

Mt Cole is a tricky little summit. It does not have 2wd road access, so I tried going down a rough track starting at 012668, so I could approach the summit without having to do too much climbing. This track is really too rough for a 2wd. It would have been better to park at 018667 and walk from there. Frees Point Rd could be used, but I headed up off track, basically going up the spur.

Upon reaching the top, I put up the end fed as usual, but then noticed that the UHF connector had come apart – basically a break in the centre conductor near the crimp joint through repeated stresses over time. I put the other end of the coax into the end-fed match box for a secure connection and got out the pocket knife to do something at the radio end, and this is what I came up with:

Coax stripped back going directly into the UHF connector on a FT-817

Jury rig job to get on the air 40m without a connector

It was a bit fragile, especially if I moved, I might have moved sticks, grasses or whatever that would affect the connection. I had to break here and there, but I got the activation done.

Time was pressing on, but the power side was still holding up. I had the chance for one last activation, after returning to the car and finding out I had not trashed it on that rough 4wd track.

Mt Lonarch VK3/VS-013

The final activation of the day was a nice easy one. The road goes all the way, but it actually goes past and loops back. I parked about 40m vertical down from the top and “bush-bashed” over to the summit. It was not real bush-bashing because the forest is quite open with a grassy forest floor. Again, I had to rely on the jury-rigged cable to bring the activation home, but it worked.

I also walked out with around about 45 minutes of operating time still up my sleeve. The 2.2Ah LiPO could have still been used for another 1/4 of an hour and the internal battery was only about 2/3rds used. So 7 summits out of one 2.2Ah battery plus a bit of internal battery top up is not bad going! Total operating time would have been over 3 hours with still 3/4 of an hour in the bag.

It is interesting these days to work 40m. Certainly there are some nice decent pile-ups happening, but operators are waiting in turn. Hopefully we keep things going well in conducting the dog-piles and the chasers are patient with new activators who perhaps might not be used to having 5 stations answer their CQ all at once. It is still a far cry from the days early last year where one could activate a summit for SOTA, and call CQ for an hour and have no one come back. Things are better these days.

Nice to get 7 summits, with 6 new ones in. I’m now only three new summits away from 100 unique summits.

73, regards, Wayne VK3WAM

SOTA activations of VK3/VG-107 and VK3/VG-121

Hi all,

On a recent trip to Mitchell River National Park, I had the opportunity on the Sunday to head out and activate a couple of Summits on the Air peaks that were nearby (but not actually in the park). Both VK3/VG-107 and VK3/VG-121 are on a ridge that comes in towards Angusvale, which is where we were camping. I headed out alone, but intended to be back before a late lunch.


This is an unnamed summit that is to the north and east of the Dargo road. I approached from the east, although there may be closer access from the west. There is a 4wd track heading along the ridge. A proper 4wd with reasonable clearance and low range would be needed to access the summit along that route, but the west access may be better. I found a track that loops underneath to the south of the summit that looked quite high grade, almost 2wd. I did not follow this, so I don’t know if it is that standard all the way to the road.

The 4wd track follows the contours that are quite up and down. It was about 9km from where I parked the car on the boundary of the national park to the summit, which included passing VK3/VG-121, which I activated on the return. Conditions at the start of the day were quite mild, but the heat started building up. I had hoped to activate the summit on both sides of UTC midnight, but it became clear that I would not make it in time, due to both a late start, and slower progress as a result of the constant ups and downs. In the end, I desired most to get the 4 activator points rather than worrying about maximising summit to summit points from double dipping on UTC midnight.

Here’s a pic from where I activated, just a little down from the summit on the north-east side:

Activating VK3/VG-107

Activating VK3/VG-107

SOTA has certainly come along. Gone are the days of calling CQ for 20 minutes without anything coming back. Now, I can expect a few waiting for me, and then at least 10 more stations responding to “QRZ, QRZ” along the way. If the band is at least a little open, getting a summit activated on 40m is not too much of a challenge these days. On the positive side, it is good to see the increasing numbers of both activators and chasers. A number of chasers are getting tempted to activate.


With the increasing heat, I felt I needed to get moving back towards the car, and VK3/VG-121 was along the way. I am glad I passed it on the way out, as this meant less walking in the heat of the day. I was also a little low on water, because of the heat. I arrived a little later than planned and set down to operate on 40m using the end-fed, just like my earlier activation on vk3/vg-121. Again, the activation went quite quickly with plenty of stations calling. One station remarked that SOTA is quite good for F-calls. Some F-calls have observed that many people do not answer their calls, presumably because of their F-call license. On SOTA, there are no such problems. It is pleasing to see that SOTA is changing the culture of Amateur Radio for the better.

Speaking of F-calls, Rob VK3DN introduced me to Aldo VK3FADG. He was freshly licensed and was with Rob and others from the EMDRC who were holding an Amateur Radio exhibition over the weekend. I completed Aldo’s first SOTA QSO, which was also his very first Amateur Radio QSO. He was so fresh he did not know yet what QSO or 73 meant (QSO is a conversation and 73 is best regards for those who don’t know 🙂 ). Again, good to see that SOTA is out there being noticed, and even attracting people to Amateur Radio.

While up there, I learned that Peter VK3PF had acquired the 1000 chaser points to become a Shack Sloth. Congratulations Peter on Slothdom, and enjoy the ice block. I could have done with an iceblock today!

There were still stations calling more than 1/2 an hour later, but I knew it was 50 minutes back to the car, and I was out of water. Time to get out of there. I took a quick pic near the summit looking west from where I had come from VK3/VG-107:

Looking west from VK3/VG-107

Looking west from VK3/VG-107

When I got back to camp, I drunk more than 2 litres, so I certainly needed some more water!

73, regards, Wayne VK3WAM

SOTA One year anniversary

Hi all,

It’s been a little over one year since SOTA started in Australia, first with VK3 in February 2012. To celebrate, the Morrabin and District Radio Club agreed to host a gathering for us. We will do this close to the actual anniversary at the start of February in future, but this year it turned out to integrate with their usual Saturday morning meeting towards the end of the month.

Ron VK3AFW gave a demonstration of various antennas and activation options to a large gathering that was close to filling the club’s meeting room. It was a great turnout with most of our VK3 activators present, along with Andrew VK1NAM who was in Melbourne for family reasons. He was able to join us for most of the meeting.

After Ron’s presenation, it was out to the nearby parklands to set up a variety of SOTA stations. I brought along a MiniVNA Pro and used this, along with Blue VNA to have a look at what activators are using out there.

Endfedz EF-40/20

The Endfedz is a commercial end fed antenna for 40 and 20 rated to 100 watts. The antenna is well made and the cable is quite robust. The match box at the end is suspected to be a 9:1 balun.

The FT-817 reported no SWR at 7.09. Here’s what the VNAPro found at the feedpoint:

BlueVNA screenshot of ENDFEDZ EF-40/20


Both ends of the antenna are about 1.5m off the ground. The insulator at the far end has been moved up about 70cm. The centre of the endfed is about 6.8m off the ground at the top of a squid pole.

The interesting thing about this is that the antenna works quite well, but there is still some signal being lost. The match is only just ok right down the bottom of the band, with a SWR a little below 2. When we tested the antenna with about 10m of LMR195 between the feedpoint and the radio, we found the return loss at around 13dB. The extra loss is imposed by the cable. Not all of this loss is going to be the first 3dB, but still we are going to be burning about 30% of the TX power in the cable.

The SWR at the end of the cable was about 1.6 at 7.12MHz. The radio is at least going to want to put out most of it’s power.


Apparently the makers of this antenna stress that this setup is not a vertical with a single counterpoise. It’s supposed to be a dipole half on it’s side. Hmmmm, the conductor going up has a loading coil about a foot and half above the feedpoint, plus then further conductor above that. Seems like verticals I’ve made. The horizontal part of the dipole off the ground seems a lot like a radial to me. It’s broadly the same electrically as the vertical I’ve made, but only one radial. Verticals seem to like at least 4 radials a little in the air to work well.

Anyway, this was the initial result:

Buddistick VNAPro results before tuning


This pic shows that the antenna is resonant around 6.84MHz and has the best return loss at 6.85MHz (it is typical for best performance to be a little above resonance if the resistance is less than 50 ohms).

After moving the loading coil up a notch, we moved the resonant point to 7.05, and then played with the counterpoise to further tune the antenna.

The picture makes it look a bit worse as the range is plotted from 6 to 7.5, but the bandwidth is narrower than the end fed. Return loss tops out at about 8dB. It’s not a great match, so this thing could benefit from a tuner near the feedpoint.

This is what things looked like after a little bit of work:

VNAPro data on Buddipole after some adjustment

Adjusted Buddipole

Notice that the main reason for the SWR still remaining at about 1.8 is the feedpoint resistance at resonance of around 27 ohms.

This is after a bit more work:

VNAPro data for a Buddipole at 7.1MHz resonance

Buddipole configured at 7.1MHz

Notice that because the feedpoint resistance at resonance is well below 50 ohms, about 24 here, the best performance is frequencies a little above resonance.

This is what the above looks like at the other end of the coax, the radio end:

VNAPro data of a Buddipole plus 10m of coax

Buddipole plus 10m of coax

The 24ohms is being transformed to a little above 100ohms (but at a slightly lower frequency because the length of coax is not exactly a quarter wave length). The effects of a near 1/4 length coax can clearly be seen by comparing the two pictures.

2m SlimJim

Next up was a 2m SlimJim mounted on a 7m squid pole. As can be seen in the pic, the results of this antenna are excellent.

VNAPro results of a 2m Jimslim on a squid pole

2m Jimslim on a squid pole

It can be seen that the SWR is low across the whole band. This atnenna has a deep return loss. The low SWR means that most power is transported to the antenna. Loss there is good – it means it got radiated. At 145MHz, it is about 26dB, meaning that only a fraction of 1/100th of the signal is coming back to the radio. It’s still around 20dB at 144.1, and a still very nice 18dB at 146.5.

Homemade Endfed with a counterpoise

Now to finish off, it’s time to look at a homemade endfed. It’s interesting to compare this with the endfed that I am using:

VNAPro results of an endfed with a counterpoise

Endfed with counterpoise

While this is tuned a little high for the usual action at 7.1 and CW at 7.027, clearly the counterpoise adds value. The best return loss is around 15dB, which is a big improvement on the 9 to 10dB of the Endfed without a counterpoise. Might have to think about doing something 🙂

The wrap up

It was interesting to have a look around and see what people are up to. I missed out seeing Rik VK3KAN’s freestanding squid pole, but that’s for another day. The guys spent so much time looking at the various options out there, we even took our time getting up to the BBQ. Now: radio even over food. There is something wrong.

Regards, Wayne VK3WAM

8 summits including Mt Buffalo, Mt Feathertop and Mt Glenrowan

Hi all,

I won’t be able to go out for an extended trip this Australia Day weekend, so I planned for a 2 day trip on Friday and Saturday the 11th and 12th of January to compensate.

False start for Mt Glenrowan

It was a interesting start to the trip on the Thursday evening. One of my cars gave a maintenance warning about half an hour into the drive, and so I turned around and headed home. I then used my other car for the trip. I headed up the Hume Fwy, but on arriving at the car park, I realised that I had left my bag of radio stuff at home. No end-fed antenna, no microphone, no activation. I headed back home.

Mt McLeod VK3/VE-034

Perhaps that could have been the end of the trip, but one must be made of sterner stuff. It was up at 4am for the drive to Mt Buffalo to activate the four peaks on the plateau. Mt McLeod is one of the northern summits. It is reached using a rough 2wd track Reservoir Rd (marked Crystal Brook Rd on Google Maps) that leads off from the main Mt Buffalo Rd. There is a management vehicle track (bicycles allowed) that heads off to Mt McLeod at 800354. A bypass walking track is available for the first quarter of the way. The track skirts underneath Anderson Peak and continues NNE from there. There is a campsite at Dels Plain (with a toilet). No one was there when I got there. A nice view of alpine country from the campsite:

Dels Plain from Mt McLeod campsite

Dels Plain

From the campsite, the track becomes rougher and after about 200m is a walking track only. It is still reasonably easy on foot up to the summit. Here is the antenna on the summit, a few metres from the trig point:

Operating from the summit of Mt McLeod with an end fed antenna supported via a squid pole

Antenna on Mt McLeod

There are some nice views from this summit:

Ovens Valley looking north from Mt McLeod

Ovens Valley from Mt McLeod

Ulrich Peak VK3/VE-038

From Mt McLeod, I headed back the way which I came along the walking track, which became a management vehicle track after the Mt McLeod campsite. This track is a little up and down but not too bad. It was a hot day, so I was going through the water at a good rate. I arrived at the Anderson Peak turnoff at 788368. This was signed, but the track is a quite indistinct, and I could not follow it. I followed the spur up the hill. Anderson Peak is to the ESE of Ulrich Peak, but it would seem that the saddle between them drops down about 30m, leaving Anderson Peak out of the activation zone. I made my way through heavy scrub and a little bit of rock scrambling across the saddle and up part of Ulrich Peak. I decided to pass going to the top itself, to save some time. I operated from a point about 15 metres vertical down from the summit at about 783367. There were a lot of trees and scrub around, so it was a bit of a challenge getting the end fed up. The feedpoint was close to a rock, which affected the match of the end fed, lifting SWR up to between 1.7 and 2. Still I got away with the points. There were no views from the operating location. I did find a better way down, and found a rock cairn of the “track” up Anderson Peak. I could still not follow the track, but it does seem that the summit can be accessed without getting into the really thick scrub.

The Hump VK3/VE-019

After further retracing my steps to the car, I headed back up Reservoir Rd and made my way up Mt Buffalo Rd to between The Hump and Le Souet Peak. It’s a climb of 160m up here. There is a remarkable rock formation called the Cathedral nearby, seen here with Ulrich Peak and Mt McLeod behind on the left and right respectively:

The Cathedral from The Hump

The Cathedral from The Hump

I operated from a location to the north east of the summit, about 10 metres down to keep out of the worst of the wind.

The Horn VK3/VE-014

The Horn is effectively the summit of Mt Buffalo, situated near the southern end of the plateau. It is only a short walk up from the end of the road. The Horn is a rock formation, and a stairway and metal platform has been provided to enable non-rock climbers to access the top. This made it a bit interesting to set up my antenna system. The end-fed match did not like either end of the wire hanging off the metal railing. There was no electrical connection, but the railing in the near field of the antenna made the match terrible. I removed the feedpoint from near the railing and suspended it on some rope. This helped, and reduced the SWR from very high levels to around 2.5 to 3. Still not great, but at least I get an activation.

Here’s the station setup on the rockface:

Operating setup at The Horn

Operating at The Horn

The end-fed setup:

End-fed setup at The Horn

End-fed setup at The Horn

There were some good views from the top:

The Hump from the Horn

The Hump from the Horn

Looking south from The Horn

Looking south from The Horn

With that, it was back to the car and down to the Ovens Valley to prepare for another big day tomorrow.

Mt Feathertop VK3/VE-002

Mt Feathertop is the only true alpine style mountain in Victoria. It has many steep sides and spurs. I chose to access it via the Razorback which starts from near Mt Hotham. It is 11km one way to Mt Feathertop, so 22km in return. It took me about 2 and 3/4 hours to make the trip one way. The wind was picking up at the summit. One challenge was to work out a way of securing the squid pole with no large rocks or any trees around. Mt Feathertop is well above the tree line. I managed a configuration with the pole wedged on a small rock, but I did not raise the pole to the full height. Still it was enough to get a usable signal out there. There were a few other people on summit who wondered what I was up to. There was a much larger group at the intersection of the track with the side track going down to Federation Hut, about 30 people. They looked at that strange pole on the side of my pack and wondered what that was useful for.

Again great views from Feathertop. Much of the Victorian high country can be seen from here, as well as the Main Range in NSW. We look forward to being able to activate some of those VK2 summits in the future.

Mt Buffalo from a southern spur of Mt Feathertop

Mt Buffalo from a southern spur of Mt Feathertop

Looking north from Mt Feathertop

Looking north from Mt Feathertop

Mt Bogong, the Fainters and Falls Creek from Mt Feathertop

Mt Bogong, the Fainters and Falls Creek from Mt Feathertop

With that, it was time to head back the way I came to the carpark just underneath Mt Hotham.

Mt Loch VK3/VE-005

I headed out to Mt Loch first, to get the walking out of the way. I used an ARPS app on my phone to give people chasing an idea of when I might be on the air. The track out to Mt Loch is a bit hard on the feat, with the large aggregate used on the gravel road. I was happy to get out of the ski resort area, where the track became a little easier on the feet. It was a short activation near the summit, as the weather closed in a little and rain showers had started. Here’s a view of Mt Feathertop from Mt Loch.

Mt Feathertop from Mt Loch

Mt Feathertop from Mt Loch

Mt Hotham VK3/VE-006

Making my way back from Mt Loch, my car was parked only about 400 metres or so from the summit of Mt Hotham. I bypassed the car and headed up to the summit. I operated from just near the end of the highest chairlift on the summit. There is a fire watch tower nearby. There is also a large radio communication tower lower down. I operated from about 300 metres from here. There were some additional rain showers, so I did not operate for long. The temperature was also quite cool. I was happy to get back to the car and off the mountain.

The word about SOTA is certainly getting around. There are starting to become genuine pile-ups on SOTA activations. It’s nice to know that people out there are keen to get a contact from all of these nice places I go to.

Mt Glenrowan VK3/VE-230

Mt Glenrowan is a smaller mountain as part of the Warby Ranges. The Hume Freeway goes near it as it passes Glenrowan, about 230km from Melbourne. My route home was going past this mountain, and it was unfinished business from the start of this trip.

There are some tracks marked that approach the summit from the north east, but one of these goes over private land, and the other may not exist at all. The plan was to use Ridge Track from Taminick Gap at 293702. The car has to be parked at the gap, with the sealed road up to the nearby comms tower closed to private cars. It is a short climb up and then Ridge Rd, a gravel road, goes off to the right. This has a few ups and downs, but has a generally nice easy grade up to the summit. I was able to walk the 4.7km in about 50 minutes. The summit itself has some nice views, but I’m afraid it does not compete with what is seen from Feathertop or Mt Buffalo. I did get a nice sunset through while packing up.

Sunset from Mt Glenrowan

Sunset from Mt Glenrowan

It was time to head back to the car, with the last 30 minutes of the walk under a headlamp. Then back to Melbourne, arriving about 12:30am.

A very rewarding 2 days on the mountains.

Wayne Merry VK3WAM