South Gippsland and Mt Matlock

Hi all,

Continuing to catch up on this blog.

VK3/VT-029

I was heading off on a three week trip to PNG, and wanted to sneak in a few SOTA activations beforehand. On the evening of the 5th of September I headed up the Woods Point Rd to the Thompson Jordan Divide Rd. This is a good 2wd road. I headed down to point 307297 and slept there the night.

Early the next morning, I passed through the seasonal closure gate on foot. It’s about 6km from the road junction to the activation zone. The track from here would be quite passable, perhaps even by a 2wd during summer or in dry conditions. The summit is quite unremarkable, perhaps Mt Easton, a few kilometres away, might give some views of the upper end of Thompson Dam.

Station at VK3/VT-029

Station at VK3/VT-029

There are not as many SOTA chasers during the week, especially early in the morning. It was never a problem getting the number of QSOs, but not the fast pileup today.

End fed at VK3/VT-029

End fed at VK3/VT-029

With that, it was back to the car and onto the next summit.

Mt Matlock VK3/VC-001

This mountain is in the central region. It perhaps does not belong, but because the associated local government area stretches out this far, central region it is. Last year, this summit was covered in snow, but it was a more civil affair this time.

Summit of Mt Matlock

Summit of Mt Matlock

It is quite possible to drive a 2wd all the way to the top. I left the car at the road junction about 300m south of the summit, then dropped a bit of height and walked up to the summit from there.

The activation was still a little slow with eight contacts. Not too many chasing today.

As I was able to drive further than expected, I was now getting ahead of my expected time schedule. Nice to keep a bit of time up my sleeve.

Mt Toorongo Range VK3/VT-026

Next up, Mt Toorongo Range. Many have been here since I was last, this summit seems be a quite popular place during bonus season.

I was able to get the 2wd all the way up to the seasonal closure gate. From here, it’s a fairly short walk. This time, I headed up to where the road levels off, and then head off track up to the summit. Easier going than last year.

Activity from here was a little busier than my previous two summits. This year, I was only doing 40m unlike last year where the colinear had a go. Finally, I had a look from here at the final summit of the day.

Mt Horsfall from Mt Toorongo Range

Mt Horsfall from Mt Toorongo Range

Mt Horsfall VK3/VT-028

The main road going to this summit is subject to a seasonal closure quite some distance from the summit. My plan was to approach it from the south and use a 4wd track that goes up the side of the mountain. I had heard that others could not find this track, so perhaps it does not exist – it would not be the first time a marked track does not exist.

I used the Toorongo Rd from the link rd, travelling west to about 2km south of the summit. There was a track heading up from here, so I drove the car up. It was a little rough for a 2wd, but I travelled up about 800m to another junction at point 168183. From here, I tried heading north-east, but that track died out. I then tried the other track, and the tracklog is shown below:

Access to Mt Horsfall

Access to Mt Horsfall

The track starts off quite good, and makes it’s way across a creek. From there it winds up towards a lookout for a waterfall. The track is quite overgrown going through the zig zags, but still worth following. From near this lookout, I made a direct line towards the summit, going straight up. The forest is mostly passable, there’s a few tricky bits to try to avoid. I also picked up a leech or two, so wearing gaiters is a good idea. The off track section can be as short as 700m, so it is not too bad.

There are some good views up top, overlooking the forbidden forest of the Upper Yarra.

Looking into the Yarra valley from Mt Horsfall

Looking into the Yarra valley from Mt Horsfall

Even though there were a few clouds around, the rain held off until I was back in the car and driving home. Nice one ­čÖé

Due to the large grassy area, I chose to use the trig point to mount the antenna.

End fed antenna on the trig point at Mt Horsfall

End fed antenna on the trig point at Mt Horsfall

The end-fed is the ol’reliable. It, again, was not as busy as a weekend SOTA activation, but lots of good strong signals.

With that, it was time to head for home. Back in the car, well before dark.

Regards, Wayne VK3WAM

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SOTA activations of Mt Matlock VK3/VC-001 and Mt Toorongo Range VK3/VT-026

Hi all,

It’s been three and 1/2 weeks since my last SOTA activation, so it’s time to get out there. Can’t let all the others have the fun.

In the lead up to these activations, I had been keeping a close eye on the weather, and could not but help notice that there had been snow to lower levels. It would seem like my first true on snow activations were on their way. I had also done some work on the antenna setup as described in other posts on this blog.

Mt Matlock VK3/VC-001

First up was Mt Matlock. There is 4WD access to this summit, but I only have a 2WD, so I parked it on the Warburton Woods Point Rd. On the way up from Reefton, I wondered when I’d start to see the snow. There was significant snow from about 1000m. I had parked the car at 1200m altitude, about 1.5km from the summit.

Parking the Prius on the Warburton Woods Point Rd with 10cm snow coverage

It took about 30 or so minutes to climb up to the summit. The summit has a fire tower with a few comms on it, but no mobile phone services. The trig point is nearby, as can be seen in this pic:

Mt Matlock summit with 10cm snow cover

I setup the station to the left of the picture shown above. I was about 100m from the comms tower. I was interested to see if there were any issues with noise from the tower and as it turned out, there were none detected.

The 8 segment vertical was setup as shown below:

My portable vertical antenna at Mt Matlock VK3/VC-001

This was my first opportunity to try the new Ugly Balun and connecting the ATU directly to the feedpoint. In times past, I have used two baluns and about 4m of twin line between the ATU and the feedpoint. I had the twin lead and baluns on hand, just in case. After ensuring that the connections were nice and tight, I used the antenna on 40 and 20. It seemed to work well, including getting some contacts from VK3AFW and VK3PF who were inside 200km. Contacts further out were easy QSOs on 40m. Unfortunatly, there was no DX for me into the US. I wondered about this, but found out after I got home that none of my SMS spots made it on to sotawatch. I could hear plenty of CW at the bottom of 20m, but there was nothing around 14.061 and 2. It seems that most are content to wait for a spot on sotawatch and will not go hunting.

This is a look at the ATU, which is a Z11Pro 2, and the Ugly Balun at the feedpoint:

Antenna feedpoint with Z11ProII and Ugly Balun

Mt Toorongo Range VK3/VT-026

It was time to head off to my second activation. I was able to get the car to about 2km from the summit, which is much better than the 6km that I was expecting. After a walk of about 40 minutes, including about 150m off track, I arrived at the summit. Clearly someone else had been here as there was a rock cairn at the top. It is interesting that this place does not have a proper summit name, even though it is higher by about 10 metres than Mt Toorongo, about 800m to the south west.

There about 5cm of snow coverage here, a little less than Mt Matlock. The weather had also improved, and as can be seen in my two antenna pics, continued to improve as the day went on. It was still only about 1 degree C, but without any wind, it was actually quite pleasant. Before I started, I noticed marks in the snow, which I suspect a wallaby had made:

Suspected wallaby footprints

The vegetation made running all eight radials a little tricky, so I started out with 4, and that is how it stayed. The RD contest had started and this meant that 40m was very crowded. This is where it gets challenging to operate QRP. People either cannot hear you, or do not care that there is a weak station around. They come on frequency and start calling CQ CONTEST. I did not spend a huge amount of time on 40 today. I also found out later that again, I had no spots on sotawatch.

2m was more fruitful. Most contacts here were contest contacts, but it is always interesting to be operating on a mountain in the middle of nowhere and get contacts upwards of 200km away with either a HT 1/4 wave, or my twin lead jim slim for 2m.

As the day wore on, I began to think that it was time for some DX. I put another spot for 20m CW, which did not work, and started calling. I got a contact with KG7E, and he spotted me. Welcome to the pile up! I almost forgot what a SOTA CW pileup can be like. It was good to again put DJ5AV and G4SSH in the log, among others.

The day was drawing late now, and I did not desire to walk back the whole way in the dark, so I packed up around 5pm. A most enjoyable day. If you are reading this and do not know CW, it is not easy to learn, but it is worth it. These SOTA CW pileups are a great deal of fun.

Conditions on 20m HF were quite good today, but I still feel that I am about 2 to 3db ahead on 20m using the ATU and the Ugly Balun than the two 4:1 current baluns and the twin lead. Both setups do not have any evidence of common mode currents and RF at the radio.

I’ll leave you with the two antenna pics showing the improving weather from VK3/VT-026. Regards, Wayne VK3WAM

Antenna at VK3/VT-026

Late sun at VK3/VT-026