Labour day long weekend part 2

After my activations the previous day, my plan was to activate four mountains along a ridge, starting with VK3/VE-152, then VE-116, then VE-108, finishing up at VE-106.

VK3/VE-152

I started off fairly early in the morning from the Granny’s Flat campsite. The track I was planning to use on the map went through private land and was not available. It was not clear on the forest explorer map, but I guessed that there would be access to the spur track from here, and this proved to be the case. First was a river crossing:

Jamieson River crossing at Granny's Flat

Jamieson River crossing at Granny’s Flat

After crossing the Jamieson River, it was steep climbing on foot on a 4wd track up on to the ridge. It was hard going, up and down. I was glad I was off in the early part of the day while it was still cool.

The 4wd track approaches, but does not enter the activation zone, so I headed up to about 10m underneath the summit and set up the 40m end fed on the 7m squid pole. It was a bit temperamental, giving some very high SWR readings, on what is normally a very reliable antenna. I did get it to settle down and activated on 40 and 20 untuned. I used the KX1 tuner on 30, and it had little difficulty – however I got no contacts here. It was nice to at least get 2 DX contacts on the end-fed on 20, N1EU and EA2DT.

VK3/VE-116

This summit is quite a bit higher than VE-152, but first I have to head down to the saddle between them. It was about a 400 vertical metre climb up from there to the summit. About 300m of this was on track, with the last 100m off track, heading up the spur to the summit. This climb was quite difficult, and perhaps my fitness was a little lower than what it used to be. A few bike riders and 4wds went past, amazed that anyone would walk the track – “it’s hard enough to ride/drive” they said.

There were some moderate views between the trees on the summit. It is not heavily forested but no clear views. I again set up the end fed, but it only presented high SWR. Lucky I brought the random wire, but then I found that the wire had broken off the BNC adapter. The wire is quite thin and thus fragile. I held it in place with a finger to ensure that I could actually activate the summit. I went off the air a few times during the activation while doing this, and the squid pole also came down a few times. Not my most pleasurable activation! I at least got it done with 5 contacts on 40. Not too much time to do other bands so I could try to stay on schedule.

VK3/VE-108

Again, this summit was higher, but first I have to descend from VE-116 to the saddle. I headed north east down the spur and met the road about halfway down to the saddle. The climb took some time – the previous climb up VE-116 had taken a lot out of me. The 4wd track goes right through the activation zone on this summit, so that was a bonus. Once up the top, I decided that the fourth summit for the day: VE-106 was beyond me for today. I would not have had enough food or water to get there comfortably, plus I was tired.

I ended up operating mainly on 40, with only token efforts on the other bands. I could not spot, so I relied on chasers being able to pick me up. I held the random wire in here by using a rubber band! It worked much better than trying to manually hold the wire onto the BNC adapter terminal, like what I did at the previous summit. One shame here was heavy QRM on my VK1SV contact. Another station would transmit over him (he was fairly weak to me). The QRM station was about 579. They would time their transmissions only at the time when he was sending his report (and trying to zero beat him as well – so there was no doubt it was deliberate QRM specifically targeting our QSO) and then stop. When I asked for a resend a couple of times, they kept doing the same. I don’t get what the point of it is. Anyway, I had enough confidence in what report VK1SV had sent to log his report, so Mr QRM missed out on scrubbing the contact.

With that, it was time for about a 4 hour walk back to the campsite and a good overnight snooze.

VK3/VE-191

My next summit was a hill to the south of Jamieson. A track heads up from the town, approaching from the Northwest. It was a moderate grade, with only a few short steep sections. A softroader could have got up here with care. I enjoyed walking this track after the previous day’s work. I made my way up to the summit, just a little off the road. The road itself goes through the activation zone.

I took a photo of my jury-rigged random wire antenna at the KX1:

Jury-rigged antenna on the KX1 at VK3/VE-191

Jury-rigged antenna on the KX1 at VK3/VE-191

I had no takers on 20/30, so with enough contacts, I headed back down the hill.

Mt Terrible Sput VK3/VE-134

My two final summits of the trip were summits that I had activated before. The first was Mt Terrible Spur. First, on the way up was a nice view of the Goulburn arm of Lake Eildon.

Lake Eildon near Jamieson

Lake Eildon near Jamieson

Last time I was here, I drove the Prius, and could not get it up the hill. This time I was driving the Camry, and I got this 2wd up the Mt Terrible Road to the VE-134 summit area and parked a little out of the activation zone. It was another straightforward activation, using the random wire antenna on the 7m squid pole. The 1/4 wave counterpoises I have for 20/30/40 all seem to work well, and the KX1 can generally tune the antenna comfortably down the bottom of the 40m band. I am still getting about 1-1.2 watts output on an input voltage of about 12.3V from LiPOs and 0.8-1w on 10.4V from the NiZn batteries. There is some power being lost across the tuner on 40. The effect is less on 20 and 30.

Bald Hill VK3/VE-137

The final summit was Bald Hill. I was not able to get the Prius up last time, but the Camry made it with relative ease. I had to stroll out of the activation zone and back in again and setup at the highest point I could find. My rubber band jury rig antenna connection was still working, and I worked a number of stations on 40, and VK6NU on 20.

My plan to fix the random wire antenna was to use a higher grade wire for the connection to the BNC adapter, and solder on the thin wire to the higher grade wire (perhaps about 5cm of thick wire). This should help, because the highest level of stress on the wire is at the connector. It is twisted and turned as the radio is moved about.

All in all, it was a great long weekend, with 13 summits activated, 11 new uniques for me and 5 summits first time SOTA activated.

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