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.

Regards,
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