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