2014 ANZAC weekend activations Part 2

Hi all,

After activating four summits the previous day in clear, but windy conditions, the task today was to activate four more in the general Mt Hotham area.

The Twins VK3/VE-017

This summit is accessible from The Twins Rd. With care, I got the Prius down this road, from the Great Apline Rd. I parked the car at the saddle immediately to the east of the summit and then headed up. The walking track is not distinct on the way up, so it is a case of find your own way. It’s navigationally easy, just head up, it’s physically not so easy, but it’s not technically difficult.

I reached the first “twin” and took a photo towards the SOTA summit.

The Twins summit from the other twin

The Twins summit from the other twin

Conditions were overcast, and there was some shower activity around. The wind had intensified overnight – at times it was strong enough to make walking difficult. I tried to stay on the lee side of the ridge to decrease the intensity.

Antenna setup at The Twins

Antenna setup at The Twins

Choice of operating location was not straightforward. There were some short snow gums just underneath the summit, but they were on the windward side. I put the squidpole up on the Trig point and operated on the lee side – but it was still very windy. Today, I would again operate the KX1 on 20/30/40 CW using the “random” wire, on the 7m squid pole. It’s proving a pretty reliable and convenient setup.

At the conclusion of operating, the piece of foam that I was sitting on blew away down the hill. I thought about leaving it, and then went to see if I could retrieve it. It was 30m vertical down the southwestern side. Whenever I got near, the wind would take it about 10m further way. It got close to a near cliff, but I got it just in time. Certainly made me work a lot harder than expected to then climb up to get the rest of the gear to go.

I headed down the hill on the western side. It would be easier to access this summit from that side than the eastern side. The road would be passable by 2wd to this side.

VK3/VE-023

My next target was a summit not far to the west of The Twins. The land drops to a saddle between The Twins and the VE-023 summit and then climbs straight up. I decided to use the Twins Rd up to the spur and then use it to access the summit. Might be a bit longer in distance, but much easier and would likely be faster anyway. There is a water tank on the spur, not far from where the road approaches the spurline.

The summit of VE-023 cloudbound

The summit of VE-023 cloudbound

As can be seen, not much could be seen from the summit today.

Due to the wind and shower activity, I operated a little to the south of the high point of the summit. The effect of this was very marginal phone coverage, not even enough to reliably send SMS. Speaking of SMS, I find that using RadioRuckSack to send them is not a great idea – if it can’t send them, it does not tell you, and then it sends them hours later when you do have coverage – and of course then they are worse than useless. I prefer to use the phone’s own SMS facility to send them – at least if it doesn’t work I can decide to retry or not.

Due to the impaired self-spotting, I worked fewer from here. The shower activity was becoming a little more persistent. I made up my mind on this trip that the time had come to get a bothy shelter. It would be ideal for conditions experienced on this summit today.

With that, I returned to the car via the Twins Rd. I decided not to follow the spur down, but make for the road more directly. It was not a mistake, but it would remain easier to simply take the spur until the road is only 30m away, rather than head down the steeper part of the hill.

VK3/VE-030

Next on the menu is this unnamed summit to the west of the Alpine Rd. It had not previously been activated. I proceeded to Buckland Gap and got the car up about 10m vertical from the main road. That was it for the Prius. At least a Awd is needed to proceed further. A high clearance 4wd could make it all the way to the summit, but for me it was typical fire trail up and down walking. Keeps you fit. As mentioned, tracks go all the way to the summit, it is an emergency helipad.

I setup just to the north of the cleared area, just in case the helipad was in need of use.

Operating at VK3/VE-030

Operating at VK3/VE-030

I operated starting on 20, then 30 (no takers) to 40 and back to 20. There was no EU pileup today, but I did get OH9XX in at the end, and NS7P for some W action at the start. The random wire is not as good as the vertical for DX, but it appears well ahead of an end fed in inverted V formation.

Here’s a picture from the helipad looking back into the Buckland River East Branch valley:

The Twins and the Buckland River East Branch valley

The Twins and the Buckland River East Branch valley

Mt Hotham VK3/VE-006

The final summit, in the twilight, was Mt Hotham. I parked the car on the side of the Alpine Rd and walked up from there. All my other activations were on the 7m pole, but knowing that my US trip is coming up I took the 4.7m pole and activated on it for this summit. I got some contacts on all three bands I tried, including four EU contacts on 20. It’s a great feeling to work people around the world on 2 watts! The interesting thing about some of these contacts is how readable I was to them. It is interesting that I am giving 319 and 419 and some of them are giving 559!

With that – and the fact it was very glum with the fading light, it was time to pack up and start the long trip back to Melbourne. My next planned activations are in the states, something to look forward to.

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.

Regards,
Wayne Merry VK3WAM