Talbot Peak and Mt Saint Phillack 2014

Hi all,

Talbot Peak VK3/VT-010

After a BSAR search on Mt Bogong that involved a great deal of snow shoeing, I decided to head off myself to pick up this pair. I have previously activated them in the late season in 2013, as well as in 2012. There was a late season dump in 2012, but there was little snow in 2013. Not so this time. I proceeded first to Talbot Peak and parked the car at the Mt Erica car park. There was patchy snow at the car park and conditions were quite icy. So, with snow shoes in the pack, off I went. The patchy snow continued up to Mushroom rocks and about 100m above them. After that, the coverage was getting up to about 20cm, which is where I put the snow shoes on. The path was still fairly easy to make out, with the trench in the snow, although coverage was complete enough to see little or nothing of the ground.

I proceeded to the trig point at Talbot Peak and activated from there, using some closed cell foam to sit on the snow and a bothy shelter to keep me warm – indeed it does a good job of that.

Operating at Talbot Peak

Operating at Talbot Peak

Here’s the antenna at Talbot Peak:

Antenna at Talbot Peak

Antenna at Talbot Peak

Operation was on 20/30/40 using the random wire. The random wire was tuned using the inbuilt tuner of the KX1. I used the shorter 4.7 squid pole, and indeed it is the squid pole I use on most of my activations these days. The whole setup seemed to work fine on the snow.

It was certainly easier getting here compared to 2012 where I was only in boots. Snow shoeing certainly makes more of the high country in winter accessible, although the usual cautions apply – sufficient and appropriate wear to stay warm in cold/snow and high winds, sufficient navigation skills to operate in white out conditions where visibility is 10m or less, etc.

Mt Saint Phillack VK3/VT-006

So with Talbot Peak in the bag, I headed back to the Mt Erica carpark, down to the sealed road and and onto the St Gwinear car park. This car park is higher than the Mt Erica one, but as it is on the northern side of the Baw Baws, it had less snow, with no real snow on the road. There was about 5cm of snow on the toboggan runs, and the ski trails were ski-able to the carpark. I headed off up the main run, noting that access is not permitted without either skis or snowshoes. So in these kind of conditions, walking in boots means no summit access.

The coverage was mostly complete, but remained thin even onto the plateau. I always like the look of the area up here:

Near Mt St Gwinear

Near Mt St Gwinear

Coverage started to build as I hit the AAWT and was about 50cm at the summit rock cairn:

Operating at Mt St Phillack

Operating at Mt St Phillack

I used the same setup as Talbot Peak. All in all, a very enjoyable pair of summits, and different to do it on snow.

Regards, Wayne VK3WAM

Mt Saint Phillack and Talbot Peak 2013

Hi all,

It was off to the hills again on October 5 with an attempt to pick up some late bonus SOTA points before the end of the bonus point season. I chose Mt Saint Phillack VK3/VT-006 and Talbot Peak VK3/VT-010 as two 10 pointers that could be done together.

Mt Saint Phillack VK3/VT-006

It had been quite windy in the lead up to this trip and I was concerned that access to Saint Gwinear might be prevented by fallen trees. Clearly a number had come down but had already been pushed out of the way. I think I need to bring at least a handsaw in future just to give me a few more options, especially if a tree falls down during the day to prevent you from getting out again.

Conditions were warmer this year than last, even after recent snowfalls. There was no snow at all at the car park, with patchy snow seen up top. It was still only patchy at the summit. I headed up the main trail from the car park, using the Gwinear bypass. There was basically no snow on the track until up on the plateau.

SOTA station at Mt St Philliack VK3/VT-006

SOTA station at Mt St Philliack VK3/VT-006

Antenna at VK3/VT-006

Antenna at VK3/VT-006

It was also far more pleasant operating this year than last. There was the possibility of a few showers, but conditions stayed sunny for most of the time.

Talbot Peak VK3/VT-010

With conditions quite open, I decided to head to Talbot Peak directly from Phillack using the Alpine walking track (AAWT). The track falls down below 1300m between the two peaks, and there was no snow at all at the lower altitudes. The track was still quite wet from recent snow melt. I was wearing only light runner style boots, so these got quite wet. These days, I avoid boots unless I am going to be carrying a decent pack, or I expect conditions to be sporting enough to consider using gaiters.

It was good progress to Talbot Peak. It had patchy snow, like Saint Philliack. Again I went for a quick 40m activation on SSB. I met a few groups coming through from the Mt Erica car park, so clearly the road through to there was still open.

With that, it was time to head back to the Gwinear car park and an easy run out. A nice day for 26 SOTA points. I got a nice open view of the Thompson Valley on the way out, which was a nice contrast to the clouded in experience last year.

Thompson Valley from near Mt Saint Gwinear

Thompson Valley from near Mt Saint Gwinear

Regards, Wayne VK3WAM

Licola BSAR callout and SOTA activations

Hi all,

I had been planning to do a number of SOTA activations on Saturday the 13th of October to take advantage of the closing SOTA seasonal bonus period. I had been aiming to try out a squid pole, but an SMS on my mobile on Thursday (11th) changed all that. A school group was needing assistance near Licola. They were further up in the mountains, on the Wellington Plains.

Bush Search and Rescue Victoria callout

Given that I planned to be in Gippsland for the Saturday, I arranged to get picked up by the BSAR bus near Morwell, rather than in Melbourne, saving a trip at the end back to Melbourne, and then to immediately drive back in the same direction. I thought that it would be likely that the rescue callout would be wrapped up by Friday evening, especially as the school group’s location was already known. This did rule out taking up the squid pole as I had not got it ready. Instead, I’ll use the end fed suspended in trees.

The BSAR bus arrived at the Gippsland pick up at midnight and we then proceeded to Licola to pick up some gear. After that, we headed up towards McFarlane Saddle, but I presume someone had by then reached the group and we returned to Licola by about 3am.

Check out our hotel room for the night:
Sleeping in the Licola CFA shed

Here is a pic of the BSAR group at Licola:
BSAR group at Licola

Further details about this callout can be obtained from the BSAR website.

In the mid morning, we were stood down and returned to Melbourne, or in my case, the car near Morwell.

Mt Hooghly VK3/VT-049

With an afternoon now free, I thought I might pick up a bonus SOTA activation, but leave my Baw Baw activations to Saturday as planned. I first gave Peter, VK3PF a quick call to find out the situation concerning VK3/VT-049 and then headed up. I operated from near the trig point.

VK3/VT-049 trig point

I strung up the end fed in some trees. The feed point was near the ground. I noticed that if I lifted this up about a metre from the ground, SWR was very low, but at the ground it was about 2. I worked Peter VK3PF on VK3/VN-003 and a few other stations. I then packed up and looked to activate something else further south.

South Gippsland attempts

I made my way down to the Grand Ridge Road with a view to look at Mt Fatigue VK3/VT-057. The northern access road near to this summit was closed, so I looked to come from the west. This may be possible, but needs a high clearance vehicle. I was not in the mood for a longer walk, so I thought I would try for Lay Hill VK3/VT-077 instead. There is a road that approaches the summit, but the highest point is still about 35m below the top. The actual summit is on private land, so this was not going to happen today.

So with that, it was time to have some dinner, catch up with Peter VK3PF for a chat and head out to Mt St Gwinear for the two planned activations on the Saturday. There was no one in the Gwinear car park overnight. The temperature was about 2C overnight with some patchy snow around the car park, which is just under 1300m elevation.

Mt St Phillack VK3/VT-006

This summit is the highest point on the Baw Baw plateau. There are many summits on the plateau, but only one other point has enough prominence to qualify as a SOTA summit, and I was heading there later. To first access VT-006, I headed up the jeep track, and then used the Gwinear bypass track. Snow was around 10cm cover and dry at this stage, rising to about 20cm at the rock shelter. I then headed up Phillack, where there was about 50cm coverage near the top. I operated about 30m away from the summit high point to the south west. Here is a pic taken about 200m further down from the operating location:

On Mt St Phillack VK3/VT-006

I set up the end fed antenna, but my SWR was around 2 to 2.3. Not a great match, and the snow on the ground and in the trees perhaps is a significant contributing factor. Also it sounded really deaf, any QRN was quite low down. Not a great sign. I worked Peter VK3PF, but my signal to him was quite weak. This would have been a ground wave contact – there was LOS to his QTH. No other takers on 40m even though there was lots of calling. I made a nominal effort on 20m, but could see that this was not going to give much joy. I then went for 2m, and Peter helped call around on a few repeaters to drum up some contacts for me. I only had a 1/4 wave whip on a HT for 2m, but it was enough. Time to trudge back to the car, rather than continue with the original plan of accessing Talbot Hill VK3/VT-010 via the Australian Alpine Walking Track from the rock shelter. Too much snow for that.

I noticed on the way that the snow was much more wet lower down now, and there was hardly anything left back down at the car park. The weather had been quite poor, but there were some signs that it might improve, so I thought I would give Talbot Hill a go from the Mt Erica carpark instead.

Talbot Hill

After arriving at the Erica car park, I headed up, past Mushroom rocks, where the first hints of snow were seen. Ummm, not such a good sign as these are around 1200m altitude, and I still have to climb up another 300m to Mt Erica and then Talbot Hill. As it turned out, there was more snow coverage to lower heights here than around Gwinear. Still, it was the right decision to approach Talbot Hill from this direction, given its much closer proximity to the Erica carpark than St Gwinear’s carpark. Also I was familiar with the track from a BSAR search here last year. I did wonder why Mt Erica had to be a little lower than Talbot Hill, as the track crosses Mt Erica first. Have to trudge on.

The track was a little hard to follow. Another 20cm of snow, and it would not be possible to follow it, rather you would have to just proceed in its general direction and ensure your navigation skills were up to scratch. Here is a typical section of track (can you see where it is?)
AAWT near Mt Erica

I ended up operating from near the trig point on Talbot Hill. The AAWT does not actually go past the trig point, skipping it about 20 metres away. Still it is quite easy to find. Proceed up the track until it stops climbing, turn south west and you should see the trig point. I proceeded a little past the trig point to be on the right side of the hill for 2m operations.
Trig point at Talbot Hill VK3/VT-010

After a quick four contacts, again assisted by Peter VK3PF doing the repeater ring around (and he even did my logging for me from the comfort of his Churchill QTH), it was time to turn around and head back. At least with a HT only activaiton, it is real easy to get started and to pack up!

The weather had again turned nasty with continued snow falls on top and rain once below about 1400m. I did stop to take a quick photo of the Mushroom Rocks:
Mushroom Rocks near Mt Erica

I was glad to get back to the car and into dry clothes, but by then the rain had stopped! Tis the way it goes.

Regards.
Wayne VK3WAM