Three summits near Ballarat

Hi all,

To ensure that the brownie point balance was kept in check, I did not plan a multi-day SOTA adventure this Easter. I did, however, get leave to activate three summits near Ballarat, all which I had activated before.

After my troubles with antennas on the March long weekend, I decided that I would repair the random wire with high grade wire near the BNC adapter. The antenna had failed by the wire simply tearing at the adapter. My solution was to solder about 1cm of the wire on, and use tape to try and give greater physical support to the wire, so that the load is not borne at one particular spot. I also reinforced the counterpoise wires in a similar fashion. The photo below (if you click on it), shows the changes to the random wire (you may need to zoom in on the KX1).

Mt Buninyong VK3/VC-018

I had not activated this summit since 2012. My previous activation used my original setup of the 8 segment aluminium pole vertical. I had not used verticals for a while now, but when I do, I rely on a squid pole to give physical support to a wire going up – a squid pole is more convenient. For this activation, it was the random wire. Here is a look at the setup I used here:

Station at Mt Buninyong

Station at Mt Buninyong

I headed up the road and parked in the activation zone. There is a walking track heading down the hill from the carpark near the lookout tower. I used this to leave the activation zone and reenter it for my final nonmotorised access to the summit.

For these activations, I used the shorter 4.7m squid pole. For local contacts, it makes little difference between using the shorter squid pole or the longer 7m one. I was keen to give the shorter pole a bit of a workout, as I have a trip upcoming to the states. The shorter pole fits in the luggage I plan to take. The larger pole does not, so the shorter pole looks like it will go. I also had an eye on what I might do at the end of the year on the Lord Howe Island trip.

Another eye on the US trip/Lord Howe Island was not to use an external power supply on these three activations. I used only the NiZn internal AA cells, with no LiPOs in the car or anywhere else to go grab if something went cold. My station is simply the KX1 box, the wire and the squid pole. The whole lot is under 1kg. This is my planned US station.

The KX1 has little difficulty tuning the antenna on 20/30/40. The pattern remains that the most amount of power is developed on 20, then 30 then 40, with 40 being generally around 1 watts on a 10.5V supply. The typical report I receive is 559. 40 remains a reliable band for close in contacts. If I can self spot, then getting 4 CW contacts quickly on 40 is just about guaranteed these days.

Getting the good reports on the NiZn batteries shows that this minimal setup works.

As for my broken end-fed, it would appear that the problem there is that the toroid inside has physically broken due to the rumble tumble of many activations (eg hitting the ground when being quickly uncoiled). The matchbox is closed, but looking at people on the internet who sawed it open, the only thing that could make the rattling noise that I experienced is broken pieces of the toroid. I am still working out how to repair it. Considerations are:

  • For CW activations on the KX1, I think the random wire does as well or better than a EFHW in an inverted V formation with a 7m squid pole in the middle. The EFHW might perform better on a bigger squid pole, but here I am using a 4.7m squid pole with the random wire. The key advantage of the random wire is that there is no feedline – the antenna itself connects directly onto the BNC connector of the KX1. There will be no feedline losses.
  • For the FT-817, I lose the inbuilt KX1 tuner and that is losing a whole lot of convenience. My options are either the EFHW (at least on a 7m pole), or use a vertical if I am after DX. I think dipole based antennas (doublets, etc) are going to be cloud warmers, just like the EFHW, unless I can genuinely get them up higher – eg putting a doublet on two 10m squid poles, one at each end. Ian, VK5CZ introduced me to the SOTAbeams EFHW tuner for 5 watts. I think I would base a new end fed on this matchbox. It gives the option of a counterpoise, which my old end fed did not have. Matchboxes like this are really a convenience thing, as the matchbox itself can be homebrewed without much difficulty.

So, I think I’ll leave the old end-fed for now, and hopefully get around to building a new one based on the SOTAbeams end fed matchbox.

Mt Warrenheip VK3/VC-019

Mt Warrenheip was more of the same. A sealed road goes to the summit area. I parked in the activation zone, but at the eastern end of the road (final turn before the summit) and then walked down the ridge to exit the activation zone, turned around and reentered it.

This activation was again on the short 4.7m squid pole and the random wire. One thing about this setup is that it is quick to put up and tear down.

VK3/VC-032

My final activation for the weekend was at this unnamed summit. Bush Search and Rescue Victoria are having a training day the following month just down the hill from here. My part is to operate a GPS based rogaine training exercise, so I met up with the organisers to do a reccy of the proposed course. After finishing up with them, I headed up the summit, and basically did the same thing as at Mt Warrenheip.

All three of these summits are nice easy summits to get started for those nervous about taking the SOTA activation plunge. Even CW activations on 40m are straightforward these days if you can self spot. If you can’t, its getting a lot easier as well.

I tested the voltage of the NiZn AA cells after the three activations. They started at 1.8V per cell, and were about 1.77V at the end of the day. They can clearly handle these activations and have plenty of left over capacity. Given that NiZn batteries prefer shallow cycles rather than deeper cycles, I would be using them as recommended. Running on these NiZn AA cells gives me most of the developed power I get when I operate using external LiPOs. It would be far ahead of using 1.5V non rechargables – the 1.5V is only when they are full – when they are about 50%, it’s 1.3V (that would be 7.8V total). Stories on the internet about the KX1 suggest that at around 7.5V, the KX1 is typically only generating 300 to 500mW. If I used NiMH, they quickly settle to 1.2V for 7.2V total for 6 cells. This is close to the KX1 low voltage cutoff – Elecraft don’t recommend running the KX1 on 6 NiMH cells, but if I did – it would be true QRPp activating. QRP does interest me, but I perhaps are not so much into the QRPp thing. As it currently stands, the NiZn cells are an excellent internal power solution for the KX1.

So, not too bad getting 3 summits in, although none of them are new uniques for me. Still, it had been a month since my last activation, so you have to take them when they come.

Regards, Wayne VK3WAM

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2013 John Moyle Field Day

Hi all,

The John Moyle Field Day is a Amateur Radio contest conducted once a year. It, along with the VHF/UHF field days represent the four major line of sight frequencies based contests in Australia. The John Moyle field days (JMFD) also have a substantial HF component that is not present at all on the VHF/UHF field days, and while it also allows activity right into the mm bands, typically operators are exiting stage left at 23cm or 13cm.

It’s a good contest for backpack portable because of the 6 hour section. It also rewards repeat contacts on CW and Digital modes, unlike the VHF/UHF field days. I am finding that I am able to operate chasing contacts nearly the whole 6 hours rather than lots of CQ’ing.

Mt Torbreck VK3/VN-001

Last year I participated in the JMFD from here, and I decided to do the same again this year. Mt Torbreck is the closest 10 point SOTA summit to Melbourne. It has no commercial radio equipment on the summit and is not accessible by road. There is only slight obstruction into Melbourne, so with a reasonable antenna, one can work HT stations on 2 and 70cm. The JMFD has a distance component, and Mt Torbreck is a good distance away to get many Melbourne contacts into the higher point distance bands. A number of JMFD stations also head southwest and west from Melbourne for the field day and this means that those contacts are high value. The EMDRC normally activate Mt Cowley as VK3ER for this contest and Mt Torbreck has LOS to Mt Cowley, about 222km away. Incidentially Mt Cowley is VK3/VC-022, but VK3ER drive to the top and use generators for their high powered station, so they are not a SOTA contact.

Mt Torbreck is accessible by a 2km walking track which climbs about 300m from the car park to the west of the summit. The walking track is steep and good shoes or boots are a plus. It takes about 50 minutes to climb up and 40 back + extra if carrying a lot of weight. I was carrying a lot of weight on this trip.

Equipment

I normally plan to make two trips up because I have too much stuff for one trip. The stuff to be carried up includes:

  • Yeasu FT-897 all mode rig
  • Yeasu FT-817 all mode QRP rig
  • 2 squid poles for a 2m and 70cm colinear antennas
  • 6 1.5m al segments to make 3 times 3 metre poles for various antennas
  • A turnstile antenna for 6m. This uses four 72cm M10 al segments with M8 taps to screw in 4 more 75cm segments to form two dipoles that are perpendicular horizontal polorization. There is an effective ugly balun for 6m near the feedpoint with a female UHF connector
  • A quadruple quad antenna for 2m, which comprises of 10 al segments. There are two fiberglass poles about 50cm long to mount at the bottom and the top. This goes through a 2 PVC pipes that join together so that they are just over 2m long. This is mounted on the pole by a small al segment to offset it, and a bit of sticky tape to provide a shunt to ensure that the PVC remains vertical
  • A similar setup on 70cm but here I have two quadruple quads
  • 12 Turngy 3S 5000mAh LiPos. I put 3 in parallel x 2 in series when using them, so I effectively have two rounds of this
  • A 12V down DC-DC converter sitting on the output of the LiPo array
  • 3 Turngy 3S 2.2mAh LiPo packs to power the computer for a while
  • A laptop with a supply that takes a 12V input
  • 12 18650 lithum ion cells in 4 lots of 3 in series. Each one can be used to power the FT-817 for a while – my typical SOTA power setup
  • A pile of Anderson Pole terminated power cables, including four 1 to 3 Y cables
  • A collection of LMR195 and LMR400 cables. The 195 cables have either BNC or UHF connectors. The LMR400 are all N connectors. I also brought up a pile of converters. I typically use UHF on 6m and BNC/N on 2 and 70. The FT-897 has a UHF connector for HF/6 and an N connector for 2/70. The FT-817 has a UHF and a BNC connector which can be configured through the menus
  • A one man tent to keep me out of the sun and the forecast showers
  • A MiniVNAPRO and the extender to do some tests on the antennas to ensure all is ok
  • Some plyers, shifters and other misc equipment to do any small repairs to equipment if that proves necessary
  • A collection of HT radios for 2 and 70. The idea being to use these for FM on 2 and 70 for at least some of the contacts to save power
  • Some headphones
  • A CW touchkeyer
  • A Signalink USB for digital modes, plus my Phone/Digital interface for a backup if required

For those who follow my SOTA activations, you would realise that this is far more than I normally take. You may realise why two trips are needed. Practically this means walking UP then DOWN then UP the mountain before the start of the contest, then DOWN then UP then DOWN at the end.

The setup

Upon arrival after the first accent, I put up the tent and piled the stuff in. Carrying all that LMR400 cable, the FT-897 and the 12 LiPOs certainly was a lot of weight and it took 1:10 to get up. I headed back down and got the remainder of the stuff, and it took 40 min down and 50 min up. First was getting the squid poles up. My 2m colinear has seen a lot of SOTA action, and a little stub I made up for 144.1 works well. Very low SWR – nice one. I use it without the stub on 146.5, with SWR around 2. With the stub for 144.1, 146.5 has a SWR around 3.

The 70cm colinear is short, with the good oil around 455MHz. I planned a stub for this to get 439 at least in the game, but I was not successful. There will be more about this in another blog post in the future, but for now I could not effectively use this colinear – what a shame because this was going to be the main game on 70cm vertical. I put up one of my whip antennas on the squid pole about half way up and fed it LMR400 cable back to the radio.

Next up was the 6m turnstile. This is pretty quick to put up. This is not a gain antenna, but it is enough to put me in the game on 6m and it can break up quickly to go in a pack. It gives an SWR below 1.5 at both 50.15 and 52.15

Here’s a pic of the 6m antenna in the foreground with the two squidpoles in the background, plus the operating tent. You can see the trig point to the right in the trees:

Operating location at Mt Torbreck with a 6m turnstile, plus 2 & 70cm colinears on squid poles

6m turnstile, plus 2 & 70cm colinears

The 2m quadruple quad was next. Last year I had two of these in an array, but they were too phyisically heavy to put up, so I jury-rigged up one. This year I did not bother with an array, just going for one with some work to mount it more effectively. There’s a pic below. It was well below 1.5 SWR at 144.1 and around 1.7 at 146.5.

2m quadruple quad at Mt Torbreck

2m quadruple quad at Mt Torbreck

I had thought of trying a longer pole but I would need to use stronger materials. Another idea is to mount it on a squid pole. I’ll think about this for next year, but this will be asking a lot more of the squid pole than a wire inverted V, end fed or a vertical on HF. Why a quadruple quad? Because it is roughly equivalent to a 15 element yagi, especially if I can get it off the ground a bit more.

Finally it was the 70cm quad-quad array. Here’s the pic:

Array of 70cm quadruple quads on Mt Torbreck

Array of 70cm quadruple quads

One of the quads didn’t work so well, and time was running short, so I simply used the other one. Their feedpoint impedance is reported low at about 25 ohms. I’ll need to look into this some more, but I wanted to get operating at around 1:30 to 1:45pm so off I went.

The contest

It started lightly raining about 12pm, so I was a little reluctant to keep the MiniVNAPRO out in the elements. A few mad dashes and doing some analysis on the computer. My plan with the computer was to run it on the three 2.2Ah LiPOs directly until they were flat and then run it on the main supply for an hour. I could then run the computer on its own batteries for the rest of the time without them running out by the end. This worked well, but the 2.2Ah LiPOs gave me more time than expected. Nice to get more than you expect! When the LiPO monitors were reporting individual cells on the 2.2Ah batteries down to 3.55V, I pulled the computer out.

The whole 6 hours of operating was quite fast and furious. Most of the action was on phone, but VK3ER had a digital setup, at least on 6 and 2. They also had CW on 6/20/70 so there was some good triple dipping. I used Fldigi for PSK, and was more comfortable using it in the end in my one man tent lying on my side trying to type on a computer with the pouring rain outside than what I was in the middle.

I was also glad I brought the headphones, because the rain was very loud in that small tent. During the worst periods, I would mainly use the vertical antennas, which the main gun was the 2m colinear. The little whip at the end of the LMR400 cable on 70 was just no match for the 2m colinear. I need to get that 70cm colinear going for next year, these babies are just too good to ignore. The colinear being omnidirectional on the horizontal plane was good during the pouring rain because I did not need to get out of the tent to adjust anything. Same goes for the 6m turnstile (although it’s not a gain antenna). Gain on 6m might be a little hard to do given it needs to fit in a backpack along with everything else.

There was a 2 hour sunny period during the middle of the contest. This allowed me to get a bit more relaxed and I made more use of the quadruple quads. Towards the end it was raining again, but I really wanted some nice juicy contacts north into VK2, and my 2m q-quad was able to get them.

As for power, I already mentioned that the 2.2Ah LiPOs powered the computer well. I ended up not even using half of the 5Ah LiPOs, the first set of 6 were only 80% used at the end, with cell voltages around 3.75V. The “knee” on these is at 3.65V where the voltages start to fall away more quickly. I was hammering away with FM at 50 watts on 2m, but the LiPOs and the 12V regulator powering everything were stone cold. Not even lukewarm. This was a contrast to last year because my old 100 array of 18650 cells could not handle it. The LiPOs are just so much better for this usage.

Come 7:30pm it was finish time. I ended up not even turning on the HT’s. I barely used the FT-817, which is a major change from last year, where because of power constraints, I made most FM contacts on the HTs, and used the FT-817 for a fair amount of the rest. This year, the FT-897 was used for every scoring QSO. Did I mention that half of my big LiPO’s were not even touched? 🙂 I just had to make sure that at least 4 QSOs were at 5 watts so I could keep my QRP SOTA activator’s endorsement intact.

Packing up

So contest finished, and it was time to go home. Too much stuff there to just leave it – although the thought did cross my mind as to what would happen if I just walked down the mountain with all that stuff still up there! It was raining again and it took about an hour to pull down all the antennas. With all the wet conditions, I needed to be careful getting the fragile computer back down the mountain, so I thought I’ll go easy on the weight on the first trip, but still enough to hopefully not have a tonne of weight on the second. One thing I’ll need to make sure of next time is to split up some of the LMR400 cable on the trips because this stuff is heavy.

I left on the first trip down at 8:30, left the car to go back up at 9:20, packed up the tent and did my final checks to make sure nothing was being left and departed Mt Torbreck at 10:20pm for the last time. I arrived at the car at 11:15. It was slow the last time with the heavy pack and the slippy wet conditions on the way down. At least it had stopped raining. I was very tired for the drive home and needed a 15 min powernap in Healesville to keep things safe. My wife thinks arriving home at 2:30am is crazy but it was a very good day with 92 contacts and over 1440 JMFD points.

Regards, 73, Wayne VK3WAM

BSAR Practice, 6 SOTA summits and Kieth Roget

Hi all,

Recently back from a 5 1/2 day trip up to near Mt Pilot for a Bush Search and Rescue Victoria training weekend and a six summit activation trip.

Chilton/Mt Pilot National Park

The Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award is focussed on working stations in or working from National Parks. The basic award requires 15 parks to be activated or worked for VK3’ers, 10 for other operators in VK, and 5 for DX operators. Over time, I intend to activate all 45 national parks.

My current status is shown on this Google map.

The BSAR practice was scheduled alongside a Victorian Rogaining Association rogaine near the Chilton/Mt Pilot National Park, so I took advantage of this by heading up the previous evening and activating the park. I used the end fed 20/40 wire, but this time, I gave my new squid pole a go. I prepared the squid pole by drilling a 1.5mm hole in the rubber stop at the end of the pole. This was enough to run a 1mm thick enamelled wire through the hole. I would then be able to wrap this around the antenna wire to secure it. It works out quite easy to put on and take off the antenna wire, but the connection is quite secure.

This was the first time I used a squid pole, so there were a few adventures in getting it up. My first attempt using a ratchet rope did not fare too well, so I just merely lent the squid pole up against a tree. The tree was much shorter than the pole – this approach worked well. I secured one end of the wire in another tree, about 1.5m off the ground, and the other end was dangling about 2m off the ground, with the feeding coax supporting it. I ran the coax (about a 10m run) through the back of the car up to the passenger seat, which I used as the operating location. This being a non SOTA activation, I can actually use the luxury of a wool covered car seat!

Here is a picture of the FT-817 in the car:
FT-817 in the car near Mt Pilot

I had only one contact, but that is all that is needed for a Keith Roget activation. Allen VK3HRA gave me 40 over 9! Not bad for a FT-817 on 5 watts!

Navigator’s dream Rogaine

After finishing up the activation, I drove on about 8km or so to where the Victorian Rogaining Association had arranged for their “Hash House” (the start finish location and where they provide food) for the rogaine. On the Friday night, this was just a few portable toilets and a few campers. It would be a very different matter on the next day – Saturday the 27th of October – when 250 people would descend on the place. Bush Search and Rescue had their own area to set up, and I was the only BSAR person there Friday night.

The following day, about 55 BSAR people were there, along with around 200 non BSAR rogaine participants + organisers, etc. The Police bus bringing BSAR people could not make it to the hash house, so a number of us had to do a mad dash to pick up the stranded passengers with our cars. In the end, we were able to complete our planning for the rogaine just in time for the pre-event breifing. I was competing with Sandra Bucovaz. We also had Peter Leech tag along as his own team had pulled out.

It all started ok, it is very important to get the first control under the belt, get the confidence happening. We had no problem with any of the controls during the day. About 4 hours in, we saw this massive Goanna. Here is a pic of Sandra looking at it:
Sandra and the Goanna

Here is a pic of Peter (on the right) and I at a control:
Peter and Wayne at Rogaine control

Our first control after dark was a maximum point value control. It was in a subtle gully (the course setter just loved those subtle features). We attacked it from above, after taking a bearing over 400m to steep ground. We would have been better taking a bearing about 20 less degrees to a flat part of ground and then coming in about 50m. There was over an hour of stuffing about until we finally got it. We really did think, do we cut our losses and get out of here, but we wanted those 100 points!

We visited a few more controls in the dark after that without any difficulty. I don’t think we were that much slower for them in the dark than what we would have been during daylight. BSAR wanted all of their teams to do some night rogaining because it helps develop search skills.

In the end, we came out with 1360 points which was 4th in the mixed (gender) category. If not for the stuffing around on the 100 point control, we might have even won the category. We would have never come first overall, as that would take beating he men like Merv Terese.

It was a quick, but substantial feed, from the food on offer at the hash house and into the tent at 1am Sunday morning. Still going to be a big day on Sunday.

BSAR practice

The VRA puts on breakfasts after rogaines that finish well into the night. This is to encourage tired rogainers not to leave and drive while tired. The result of this policy is I had a generous helping of sausages, bacon and eggs for breakfast. After this, the rogainers left, while BSAR got into search specific practice. Today was a briefing on radios, GPS units, line searching practice and a sked evacuation. I was asked to do part of the radio briefings.

BSAR use both UHF FM CB radios and VHF FM police radios. The CB radios is a class license available to the public. On most searches this is not a problem, but the public can interfere with search traffic. This has happened when a search was on a mountian top within line of sight of a major population area. Still, Police radio is a limited resource, and BSAR continue to use CB radios. They are typically used for group to group communication and intra-group. Often they ended up being used as a substitute for Police Radio. The Police radios are a Motorola 2 way radio with 5 watt capability. They are a standard issue across country police, still being analog based. There is talk of it going over to P25 at some stage, but this might be still a few years away. Most searches have support from Police Comms, who set up portable repeaters. Some searches have had two of these. Some searches have none, which means we end up on some divisional channel and get to hear about what divisional van is attending what break and enter event. Sounds exciting, but is very boring after a while and completely irrelevant to a search.

The simulated search was a line search. A line search is where a group of searches search in a line (hence the name) with the intention that the ground between each searcher is covered thoroughly. Unlike feature searching, there is no need for a subject to be able to talk or respond to calling. Line searching is much more thorough, but covers much less ground. BSAR searchers would spend less than 20% of total real search time doing line searches. Our group was searching a different area to where a (simulated) unconscious person was found. We were called over to assist with a sked evacuation. A sked is a stretcher that is also a sled. There are handles for 6 people to carry at a time, and it is hard work. In real life, if a sked evacuation was to occur over a longer distance, poles would need to be made up – and the sked kit has some saws in order for poles to be made from nearby trees.

After this, things wrapped up for the BSAR practice weekend, and it was time to head home for most.

Onwards to Mt Speculation VK3/VE-022

Given I was now in north east Victoria, I had planned to spend the next three days activating summits in the area. I had planned on a 8 summit trip, but after a hard 12 hour rogaine on the Saturday (with feet a bit sore), I thought I needed to take it down a notch. I headed off from the rogaine area and arrived at Lake Cobbler by about 4pm local. The road is a little rough on the final climb up to the lake, but still quite passable in a 2WD. I decided to park at the Lake Cobbler link track rather than by the hut at the lake itself. I then headed off for what I thought would be a 2 1/2 to 3 hour walk to Camp Creek near Mt Speculation.

It ended up being being about 3 1/2 hours as there must have been well over 100 trees fallen over the 4WD track. The track was due to open today (1st November), and no doubt 4WD’ers will be in there with chain saws to clear the road. Some of these fallen trees have trunks over 1 metre thick. It would take days to clear the road. I saw elsewhere that Parks Victoria had simply gone in with bulldozers and simply pushed the timber to one side. They might need a bulldozer to reopen Speculation Road.

Camp Creek was my water source for camping at Mt Speculation. After filling right up with 6 litres, enough for that night and most of the next day, it was up to the summit for activating. It was great local contacts, nothing DX. I again used the squid pole and the end fed wire, which was to be my setup for the rest of the trip. Here are some pics taken the next morning before I pulled down the antenna:

View 1 from Mt Speculation

View 2 from Mt Speculation

View 3 from Mt Speculation including Mt Cobbler

Mt Despair VK3/VE-043

After packing up the tent and heading off shortly after sunrise on the Monday, I used the Australian Alpine Walking Track heading north along the ridge, rather than using the old road heading north out of Camp Creek. The walking track is a little hard to follow, and I got off it a few times. It is a very steep descent heading down from the ridge to the old Jeep track heading towards Catherine Saddle. I think if I was going the other way, I would be heading through Camp Creek instead, much easier.

From Catherine Saddle, it’s back to walking track up to Mt Despair. The track is a little steep to start, but this section is quite short and it is mostly a gentle climb to the summit. A group had gone through and slashed back much of the regrowth, so the track is easy to follow. There is a number of fallen trees, but they were about every 150m or so, rather than a fallen tree every 30m disaster zone closer to Lake Cobbler.

I arrived at the summit and again set up the squid pole resting in a tree. Again lots of easy local contacts, no DX. I could hear some DX CW stations calling, but could not make out even whole characters. Seems to be a theme with this antenna. Mt Despair does not have many views, so I took no photos from here.

The Razor Vk3/VE-044

The track heads down, gently at first and then steeply to the saddle between Mt Despair and The Razor. The track at the saddle and onwards becomes much more rocky, up and down and scrambly. The fires have taken away much of the shade of this section. I don’t know if it is because I have done this track a few times before, or are more experienced, but I had little problems in following the track. There were a few sections that were badly overgrown, and it is not possible to rely only on track markers. The track makes its way up to a foothill of The Razor – a lower summit on the same ridge, before turing off towards Viking Saddle. I continued on towards The Razor. This section has had no love since the last fires and had no designated track. There is one small section of really tough regrowth, but towards the summit, it thins out. Mostly, it pays to stay about 20 metres below the ridge line as it is quite rough. I ended up operating about 15 vertical metres below the actual summit, but access up to the top was easy from there.

Again, good local contacts, but I at least got NS7P into the log with a workable signal. It was still weak, but I could at least hear real morse, rather than what I had been hearing before: a hint of a dit or a dah here and there, but nothing more. I think I will need the vertical back for real DX action!

Here are some pics from The Razor:
Operating from The Razor

Looking back towards Mt Despair and Mt Speculation:
Mt Despair and Mt Speculation from The Razor

Looking north east. Mt Bogong, Mt Feathertop and Mt Hotham are visible (if you know what to look for):
View north east from The Razor

With that, it was time to pack up and head back about 30 or so minutes to the track. Seemed easier going the other way. The Australian Alpine Walking Track heads south east from a minor hill on The Razor ridge towards Viking Saddle. This section of track had been slashed, so it was fairly easy going. It was much, much easier than last time I was here. I got into Viking Saddle and made camp. There is a track heading north east from here down to a spring. Water was flowing so it was reasonably easy water trip and I drew enough to get me through camp and the next day when I intended to return to Camp Creek.

The Viking VK3/VE-037

Up early the next morning for The Viking activation. This time, I left the tent and most of my gear, only needing to carry a first aid kit, the FT-817, batteries, misc radio gear, the antenna and the squid pole (and of course the backpack and some water) up the mountain for the activation. There is a 3m rock climb on the way up, but this is fairly easy. I did not even need to take my pack off either on the ascent, or when I descended back the same way. I arrived around 8am and then setup the squid pole almost right at the summit. Again, easy local contacts, no luck on DX. Here are some pics:

Antenna at The Viking

Part of the Cross Cut Saw, Mt Buggery, Mt Speculation and Mt Despair (lower right) from The Viking:
Mt Buggery and Mt Speculation from The Viking

Mt Cobbler (left centre) and The Razor (lower right) from The Viking:
Mt Cobbler and The Razor from The Viking

After this, I packed up, headed back down to Viking Saddle and there packed up the tent. My plan was to go to Camp Creek, back along The Razor ridge (but only on the AAWT avoiding the summit), over Mt Despair, and then using the old vehicle track from Catherine Saddle up to Camp Creek. I arrived at 4pm. I had then decided to go for a longer day and try to camp just underneath Mt Cobbler, at the junction of the track that comes up from Lake Cobbler. I estimated this might take another 3 walking hours. It would be a big day, but it would give me the convenience of leaving the tent where I camped, rather than hauling it up the mountain. I ended up doing this, after going over all of those fallen trees on the Speculation Road. There were plenty of trees on the walking track from near the Lake Cobbler track/Speculation Road junction as well. As I approached the ridge line, it was more pleasant walking, even though I was now very tired. I made camp just on dusk at the track junction.

Mt Cobbler VK3/VE-027

Next morning (the last of the trip), up early again and headed up the mountain. The summit is separated from the rest of the high part of the mountain by a small little drop. This must be crossed to get into the activation zone, but it is quite easy to do. I operated just below the summit. It was plenty of contacts, but local only. Some more pics:

The first pic has all of the summits I had activated up to now in the picture. Here I did not rest the pole up against a tree, but secured it with a ratchet:Operating from Mt Cobbler

We have Mt Buller, Mt Stirling and even Mt Torbreck poking up in the distance. I’ve shown you most of the Victorian high country on this trip!
Mt Buller, Mt Stirling and Mt Torbreck from Mt Cobbler

It was time to head back down to the tent about 40 minutes away, pack up and head down to the awaiting car. This took much longer because of the large number of fallen trees. It was nice to finally make it, but there was a fallen sign about the dangers of all of the fallen trees at the track head. No such sign at other start of the track system that I used. It is not so dangerous as just being inconvenient, but I also would observe that inexperienced people could lose the track and get lost in these conditions.

VK3/VE-103

The final summit of the trip is not far from Lake Cobbler. After about a 2km drive to a saddle, it was time to whip out the backpack again for one last climb. This was a sharp (but with some breaks) 150m climb up to the summit. This summit is directly accessible with a 4WD, but not a Prius. By this stage, I was looking for a quick activation, but in the end, I operated for about one hour on top. Peter VK3PF worked me on every summit on this trip. Also Glenn VK3YY, disappearing from work out to the car when he saw spotted on sotawatch.

A most enjoyable trip, even if a bit of hard work. I am 52 SOTA activation points heavier, and hopefully a few pounds lighter.

Regards, 73 Wayne VK3WAM