Mt Misery, Mt Kooyoora and Mt Bealiba

Hi all,

Up in Ballarat for a few days with the (out)inlaws. Without implying anything, its nice to slip away for a bit of SOTA action, especially to gain some new uniques.

Mt Misery VK3/VS-024

This is a summit that I have had my eye on for some time. It can be seen easily from the Western Highway between Ballarat and Ararat. Allen VK3HRA had activated it last year, so I was keen to follow and get it in the log. I gave one of the owners a call, and gained permission.

Access is via the Beauford-Waubra Rd. Stop at the Mt Misery Quarry sign NNE of the summit. You need to have arranged permission to proceed beyond this point. If the gate is open, don’t just enter anyway as you might find yourself locked in – which might be a problem if your car is on the wrong side of the gate, aside from the SOTA rules.

I met Chris, one of the owners, on the day. He is an old time farmer who doesn’t farm any more. He runs a fencing business but is looking to enjoy life a bit more.

I left the Prius near the hut about 300m NW of the summit. Chris was spending time working on bikes nearby. From there it was a straight forward climb up to a knoll to the west of the summit, and then a short steep section to the summit itself. There’s a trig on top and I operated from there.

At trig of Mt Misery VK3/VS-024

At trig of Mt Misery

The antenna tuned at the bottom part of the 40m band, so I operated from there. 40m on CW in VK is getting reliable enough for 4 SOTA contacts fairly quickly. I also operated on 30 and 20, which give better access for VK5 and northern VK2. I was hoping for some DX, but not today.

On a clear day, a lot can be seen up from here, so Chris tells me, and I have no reason not to believe him. For today, there was a nice view of inversion clouds at Mt Cole.

Looking towards Mt Cole from Mt Misery

Looking towards Mt Cole from Mt Misery

For those wanting access – here’s the sign:

Mt Misery quarry sign

Mt Misery quarry sign

Ring the first number on the sign for Steven and he can give you the relevant details from there.

Mt Kooyoora VK3/VU-007

I had first planned on doing this summit on a trip in July, but it was not to be then. The forecast for today was for showers and for conditions to be cooler. This was a good thing, because while Ballarat was 20 degrees today, here was 30. The showers did not really happen either.

I accessed from Mount View Rd from the south. Turning left off this at 409472 allows a short drive up (turn left at the next junction) to 1100m from the summit at the Crystal Mine carpark and its mostly off track from there heading northwards. The land falls for a few hundred metres, but not much. It then climbs up about 120 vertical metres to the summit. It is fairly easy off track walking. A big squid pole can be a mild annoyance, but I’ve took my 7m pole through far worse than this.

The antenna preferred to tune at the top end of 40, so I operated from there. It was nice to get a s2s with Peter VK3PF, but it was Xmode to get it. Seems funny to send a 59 signal report using CW, but I thought it better not to try to rate Peter’s voice tone – what would we rate it on? 1 for really angry to 9 for really happy?

Ian VK5CZ sent me a photo of his outdoor operation, so I sent him a photo of the shack:

Operating at Mt Kooyoora

Operating at Mt Kooyoora

The 7m pole is nice, but it does not really add a whole lot of antenna improvement vs operating on the lightweight 4.7m pole. I think what I will do is plan to use the 7m pole where I am expecting either a walking track or easier off track access to the summit, and take the smaller pole where more challenging walking is expected.

I also might prepare a 1/4 wave counterpoise for 40, but I might only take it and use it where using 7200 to 7300 is expected to be an issue – eg where a band plan either discourages using CW there, or the band plan has the force of law and prohibits it, or it’s a country that does not have 7200 to 7300 at all (eg the UK).

It’s a lot browner up here than last week in the Victorian High country:

Looking south from Mt Kooyoora

Looking south from Mt Kooyoora

Mt Beiliba VK3/VN-026

Last summit of the day was Mt Beiliba. Last time I was here, it was also the last summit but it was pouring with rain. Thought I better leave it. Now, conditions were far more pleasant.

In accessing this summit, it pays to have a good map. There are many roads in the State Forest area that go all over the place! Good access can be had by taking the Beiliba range track turning left off Log Bridge Trk at 354234 and then turn right at 353231. I tried taking Log Bridge Trk further, but ended up parking at 346233, which left me a 350m easy off track walk on very open forest to pick up Beiliba Range track, just as it started to get steep. No matter, it really just cost me 350m as there is no way I would the Prius up the steep section. I would think a low range 4WD would be required.

There are two high points, Mt Beiliba and a point north of there, about 400m away. All of it is in the activation zone. I actually went to the designated summit and operated from there.

As par for the course, the antenna liked the top end of 40m more. There is enough interest to get a CW activation done on weekends quite quickly on 40 these days. It feels much better than even the early days of SSB SOTA.

With that, and late for dinner, time to go home.

Wayne VK3WAM

Three summits before the rain

Hi all,

It’s taken a few days to put this posting up, but it is always nice to revisit activations.

VK3/VW-013 West of England Range

I was up in Ballarat staying with the inlaws for most of the Melbourne Cup long weekend. I have generally taken advantage of getting away during one of the days of these trips to get a few activations, and there are many SOTA summits within a reasonable driving distance of Ballarat to choose from. At this stage I have not yet activated them all, so I can add to my SOTA uniques count. It will be interesting to see what happens after Jan 1 when points for previously activated summits become available for activators again.

The West of England Range is a north south range which is mostly protected by the St Arnaud Range National Park. It is at the northern end of the Victorian Pyrenees. This range is named after the Pyrenees in France/Spain/Andorra for some supposed likeness that I have yet failed to see…..

Anyway, there is a 4WD track that heads north south along the range. Parts are 2WD. I accessed the summit from Redbank using the Barkly-Redbank Rd which is quite passable in a 2WD. I turned onto Centre Rd, but could only go about 100m before needing to park the car and continue on foot. There was about 200m of overall climbing, counting a few ups and downs to continue north along Centre Rd to get to the summit. Here is a look near the operating location:
Near operating location at VK3/VW-013

During operation, I had a 4WD go past, plus some dirt bikes. Conditions were actually quite poor, but I did not have too much difficulty getting the required contacts. It was getting gloomy and a sharp rain shower started, so it was time to pack up. On the way back to the car, a convey of 10 4WD vehicles went by. Obviously a popular spot.

VK3/VW-016 West of England Fire Tower

After heading back to Redbank, I headed up to Stewart Mill and used Teddington Rd to access Centre Rd again, south of the summit. Centre Rd is still quite rough for a 2WD, but I was able to get about half way to the summit, and walked the rest. I was a little closer than what I was at VK3/VW-013 earlier in the day. I operated about 50m NW from the fire tower:
West of England fire tower

Here is the operating gear:
Operating location at West of England fire tower

I had line of sight to the Grampians from here and Allen VK3HRA was activating VK3/VW-002. He was armchair copy with a HT on 146.5FM. Conditions on 40m had improved significantly from what they were at VK3/VW-013, aside from S7 QRN from a noise floor around S1, S2.

I also gave my phone radio interface a go on both 40m and 20m while I was here. It seems to work well on 40m, but it is having a little difficulty holding the PTT open on 20m. Interesting that it is band dependent. My tests on 2m at home showed no problems. I think I will change a few component values to increase the current at the base on Q2, the PTT grounding transistor. This should fix this problem.

After this, it was back to the car for a trip to Mt Moliagul for the third activation of the day. This would involve more unsealed roads, so the car was going to get dirty again.

VK3/VN-024 Mt Moliagul

After travelling for about 45 min, I arrived at the road heading up the mountain. The Google map is a little inaccurate, with the road heading up the mountain a little east of where marked on the map. After sorting this out, I headed up. The road is a little rough, but quite passable in a 2WD in dry conditions. The public road goes all the way to the top, but I parked at a flat section about 40 or so vertical metres below the top, safely out of the activation zone. From there it was just a short walk up to the top where I found a nice spot to activate:
Activating Mt Moliagul

Conditions were similar here to VK3/VW-016. Good signals, but a high level of QRN. It was also getting windy, and a change was arriving when it was time to pack up. I struggled to hold the squid pole up in the wind while I was trying to retract it. Overall, I was quite pleased with the activation, plus the two earlier with 6 SOTA points in the bag when it was time to pack up and head back down. I had one last summit to try for, Mt Bealiba VK3/VN-026, but it had started to rain. We would need to see how this one goes.

VK3/VN-026 Mt Bealiba

This summit is in a Box Ironbark forest with a very open forest floor. I used a road branching off Goldsborough Rd, which got within about 1km of the summit. There are likely 4WD tracks that go all the way up. It would only be a 15 min dash across the very open forest to get up to the top, but given the rain and my lack of wet WX gear, I thought I might give this one a pass for today. Unfinished business for another time.

With that, it was time to head back to Ballarat. 3 out of 4 is better than 2 out of 3 and Meatloaf reckons that ain’t bad.

Regards/73, Wayne