Three Private Summits VK3/VC-017, VK3/VC-012 and VK3/VC-013
Not having enough time to travel across the the Alpine for a end of bonus period jaunt and keen to get out to play radio, I decided to tidy up some local summits.
These are on private land and each only activated a single time.
20092017 – VK3/VC-017 – The Jim Jim
The Jim Jim is on private land behind Mt Macadon.
My method of finding owners for private summits is to start as close to the summit as I can and start asking. It does not take long to find who to ask.
A review of maps show that the ‘Hanging Rock Winery’ is the closest buildings to the site. So in this case started with phone calls to the winery.
Contacted the Winery and hit pay-dirt first go. After a brief chat with the owners access was secured. Had to go into the cellar and let Andrew the manager know but no issues.
Looking for ward to testing a 20/30/40 trapped end fed halfwave that I had just made. The summit is nIce and clear and flat so setup. However, the battery was flat and the KX3 shut down. This was surprising as had charged two nights earlier and normally get a couple of activations out of the internal Eneloop batteries. I had not brought a spare up. There was spare gear in the car but decided to try with the 2M handie as it was a nice day and I had time.
Qualified on 2M, picked up a Merlot and Shiraz Mourvedre Grenache and made it back to the train station to pick up my daughter and head home.
08102017 – VK3/VC-012 Black Range.
Drove across and started the tried and proved plan of starting as close to the summits as I can. Approached a farmer at the base of the summit. He was not the owner but knew who is. The owners live in Melbourne. He would pass my details on and I will receive a phone call. More to do here to secure access. Expect to have to chase access as not all people take the SOTA summit access quest as seriously as it should be treated. Current plan is to return in two weeks and go back to the initial contact seeking further information. May activate Organ Pipes for KRMNPA & WWFF whilst in the area.
08102017 – VK3/VC-013 – Mt William
With access for Black Range off the cards for today proceeded to drive to Mt William. Applied the same rules and headed for the closest building according to Google maps. Drove up Staffords Lane as maps indicated it was a through road. It is but not the main access road as turned into a red steep track quickly and has gates across the top. It did look like an easement but decided not to go through the gates as it is not a good position to be negoating access from. Quite steep and great views,
Obvious could not access summit without crossing private land and that this was no the road to the building I had initially targeted so returned back to the main road and drove down and turned into the first farm off Pyalong Road. There was a new house which was avoided and proceeded up to a farm house.
Bingo. Meet Noel. Hppy to chat and so it appears there are three owners of the summit. One who owns the top which holds a coms tower, another that owns the part coming from the east and Noel who has the land from the north. Noel had no issues with allowing access across his land so decided to go from his side
Noel recommended that I avoid Staffords Rd due to it being steap (yes confirmed that!) instead to head back down Pyalong Road, into West Goldie, across Red Gat to turn into William road and eventiually Hockings Rd. Proceeded as instructed and parked the car at the other end of the easement as saw no reason to push through the gates. Walked across then up towards the summit staying on Noels side. Setup in once in the zone but off the top. Nice clear spot but compromise so not expecting brilliant results.
Setup the EFHW 20/30/40 . Quite activation and had to go to 80m to secure local contacts. The internal tuner in the KX3 tuned the end fed to secure 80m contacts. The intent of the antenna is for use with MTR where weight is going to be an issue. Picked up a a S2S with VK3CAT Tony on VK3/VC-002 Mt Donna Buang again on 80m. Spent an hour calling on each band and packed up and back at car well before the rain came down.
Have not heard back from the owners of VK3/VC-012 Black Range so will plan a trip to activate WWFF Organ Pipes National Park (VKFF-0627) and VK3/VC-007 Mt Macedon and go back to request additional contact information.
20082017 – VK3/VC-018 Mt Bunnyiong
VK1 SOTA activation day and a test run for miniHFPA HF Packer Amp.
Noticed the alerts going up for VK1 2017 Winter SOTA Party so decided to go to local summit to play SOTA one what looked like a reasonable day to go out. Propagation recently has been terrible for NVIS so decided it was time to test my newest toy, a miniHFPA HF Packer Amp. This is a 35 watt linear amplifier designed for portable operations.
Decided to a to build a lightweight amplifier that can be backpacked to sites and be powered by a light weight LIPO 3S battery. Did look at commercial options. There are several out there a assembled Chinese unit and there are several kits available from eBay but appeared not to have adequate filters and lacking harmonic suppression. Glenn VK3YY describes building a unit based on W6JLs designs. There are a lot of kits around which would be more accurately described as harmonic generators.
I went for the HF Packer kit. I have decided to build as much as I can and not being a electronics engineer more that happy to assemble kits. The new 35w kit was announced and I put my name down for a unit. Not the cheapest options but was expecting a unit that was well designed and meet the conditions of my licence
The build went well. The biggest issue I had was using unleaded solder. My fixed temp iron was not hot enough. A new variable iron fixed the issue and the build progressed. Once completed had issues completing the testing process. The issue came down to incorrect marking of the RF ports. Once addressed (Thanks David) the device leapt into action.
So going from 5w to 35w output is a gain of 8.45dB. Given 6dB is a S point expecting an additional 2 sS points for my signal reports. VK7CW and VK2YW gave me a 599 with the amp in use.Off top a great start. Later without the amp in use I received a 559 from VK2WP. None of the contacts were soliciting reports as my CW is only good for making contacts not setting up experiments. Pre roll over SSB contact with VK1CT received 59 and post received 45. No one described poor signal so very happy with results.
At 717grams it won’t be a frequent addition to SOTA activations but when conditions are not good and the trek supports the additional unit and battery 35W it will be available.
The 4500mAh 3S 30C LIPO was at 80% after hour of use. Time for new batteries so will be going for a 2500/3000 mAh unit.
So the next is to develop a suitable antenna. Used a trapped 20/40 unit based on SOTABeams 100w traps for this activation.This unit is too heavy for SOTA however so looking at options.The AMP is rated at 35W for 60/40 & 30/20m bands. Will need a resonate antenna to avoid carrying a tuner so looking at a EFHW (End Fed Half Wave) instance. There is a lot of information out there. David VK3IL page describes a similar quest he went on and a search of the SOTA forum search pointed me towards HB9TVK. Thinking of using T80-6 for traps and a T140-43 for the matching transformer, RG178 coax and lightweight wire. Yes looking at grams here and the trap weight has to be trimmed else the wire will sag too much and can’t be seen on a summit with a sagging antenna!
More on antenna as options are finalised. Also will be building a CW radio for wet harsh conditions. Ordered the QRP-Labs single-band 5W CW transceiver kit and will build into a waterproof case.
Parked at the gate of Road Fifteen off Acheron Road. Got out, grated up and got on with the walk,
Mt Ritchie is a great walk. Your are walking down a maintained road that is seasonally shut. No issues with navigation or rough areas just a case of keep going up until you reach the summit.
Using a Garmin VirbX and still getting use to it. The mountain is square just my mount is not aligned.
Not as much snow this year as previous. The summit is a clear open space with signs to use as squidpole mount and enough room for a long antenna. I took 41m end fed as expecting the use of 80M given recent conditions.
Looking down the antenna here to the operating position. 41m end fed. The KX3 tunes it to everything. 9 contacts. All CW. Two S2s. First for the day with VK5CZ on VK5/NE-082 and after a lot of work with VK4JAZ on VK4/SE-117. This contact demonstrated the value of CW. It was marginal at best but we managed to get through. Two 80m contacts to work the local CW enthusiasts. Despite being 10℃ and being a ‘sunny’ day the wind was chilling and kept rugged up. Spent an hour on the summit and decided it was time to head home picking up another summit on the way.
VK3/VN-030 Mt Strickland
After reading Paul VK3HN blog I added Mt Strickland to the list for the day. Had been up and yes it was was a clean run.
Headed back down Acheron Road to turn right into Feiglins road to Mt Strickland.
Operating position on Mt Strickland. This is a open summit with enough room for the biggest antenna. I ran up the 20/40 dipole as was intending to qualify and keep heading home.
Park contact with VK4SMA in Mount Perry Conservation park and two ZL contacts. Headed back down to Acheron Road then into Healesville and home. Back in time for tea.
2 Summits, 2 S2S and 22K steps for the day.
08072017 – VK3/VT-010 (Talbot Peak)
In KRMNPA – 3NP-004, WWFFID – VKFF-0020, Baw Baw National Park.
This is one of the closest 10 Pointer SOTA summit to me. Taking advantage of the winter bounus period to gain another 3 points. 13 in total.
I was planning to go into the Alpine for a new site but the cold weather (well it is winter) put an end to those plans. Decided to take this site instead.
Glenn VK3YY was keen to also get out and we had both been chased off this hill three years ago due to bad weather so both keen to revisit.
VK3ARH July 2014 in different conditions.
Drove down and picked up Glenn on the way through Melbourne. We took Glenn’s car as I had already done 2hrs driving so happy to rest. The drive up was cold but no snow. Previous attempt to activation of this site was aborted due to harsh weather whoever this was to be text book.
Glenn VK3YY and myself on the way up July 2017, much better conditions.
Good access. You park at the Mt Erica car park then follow the AAWT. We hit snow half way up and whilst it was cold it was a pleasant walk as all geared up.
We are looking for Talbot Peak with is just off track and behind Mt Erica.
The summit was not as open as I remembered and had to weaved the dipole through the trees. I worked CW whilst Glenn worked SSB.
3 S2S contacts, VK1RX on VK2/SM-052, VK2HRA on VK2/CT-019 and VK3OAK on VK2/ST-039. The rest of my contacts (9) were with the usual culprits on CW being VK3CAT,VK2IO, VK7CW,VK3BYD,VK2JDR,VK5CZ,VK2UH,ZL1BYZ and VK4FW. True to the weather predictions, the morning was great but then on 13:00 the grey clouds started to drop snow. Given previous experience and as we had both qualified comfortable we packed up and headed down the the car.
Nice acivation. Worth getting up early for. Will be back next year.
Saving pennies as want a HF radio in the car so picking up local summits.
Testing gear and practicing activating in the wet conditions. This included setting up antenna (dipole v end fed) in tight positions, navigating without GPS and wet conditions.
04/Jun/2017 – VK3/VS-008 (Mt Cole)
Mt Cole has easy access however the operating environment is with heavy undergrowth so a challenge when wet. You could drive to the summit however I’m happy to walk so parked down hill and walked up. Open so easy to deploy dipole but the the ferns looked great but hide rocks, hold water and catch antenna wires making setup diffucult.
12/Jun/2017 – VK3/VS-016 (Mt Gorrin)
Mt Gorrin whilst a short walk is challenging as no defined track (the way I went) and rocky operating position.Navigation up is simple as head for the highest point however rocks in the way so have to stay aligned. Top is rock so dipole was more trouble than worth. End Fed killed it here.
Bothy bags are excellent.
The KX3 is a killer radio. Inbuilt ATU, internal battery and the CW filters make for a top quality radio in a box however it is not ready for harsh conditions.
The resonate trapped dipole is a superior antenna to an end fed. However the end fed is easier to setup as only required two points whilst the dipole requires three and a central position.
The FT817 with resonate antenna is the choice for harsh operating conditions.
Second summit that I had been waiting on access restrictions to be lifted. Had addressed Mt Difficult in January having decided not to include South Mt Difficult range at the time.
This was challenging but not Difficult. The weather provided more challenges. It was inclement on the drive up to a point where I nearly decided to abort but as I could see blue sky coming so pressed on. In the end there was rain and hail but no real wind son case of get on with it.
Drove around Mt Victory road to turn towards Wartook Reservoir to gain access to Mt Difficult road. This is a slow trip due to winding road and tourists. This was the point where previous plan to qualify this summit failed as the road had been closed due to fire damage. Not just the road but even walking down the road was off limits. However not the issue this time.
Drove down Mt Difficult road and left Subie at the base of Carters track. This track has a reputation for being a challenge for 4WDers requiring rescue however it was closed this time of the year and will provide clear quick access to the ridge line. Chinamans Road was also closed due to the fire damage but would have been a longer walk so not considered.
Walked 1.2Km up the track with two active creeks to arrive on the ridge line. Only 1.4Km from the summit but no tracks so here the work started.
It hailed on the way up. I was proceeding along the ridge line and decide to take cover under a rocky outcrop.
From there I could see a valley forming and hear water running. Decided to follow this creek up to the summit to avoid climbing over rocks. This proved to be a good decision as the ridge line are two parallel rocky out crops. The creek gave me clear access to the summit and also showed a cleared route back to the track.
Given the conditions I had no desire to reach e summit so once the GPS indicated I was in the zone I proceeded to setup and qualify the summit. Found a great spot with cover and enough trees to support the squid pole. Only used SSB as worked all chasers and was not prepared to stay for a long time.
Used the KX3 and short end fed. There were not a lot of options as to antenna length in this position and the propagation gods smilled on me with excellent signal reports.
A good summit that requires attention. Not to be done in extreme weather due to potential exposure but worth the walk.
22042017 – VK3/VE-003 -(Mt Fainter South)
2304217 – VK3/VE-059 – (Big Hill)
Both in (VKFF-619) Alpine National Park
Shires ID – AS3
The plan was to drive up Friday meeting Tony at the Tawonga Camping ground where we will stay overnight then to activate Mount Fainter South and Big Hill over the weekend. Mt Fainter South is a summit that again has been on my list to activate for a while whilst Big Hill is at the end of the trek and worthy of attention.
Had been in discussion with several activators as to a joint activation. The desire to go accompanied is purely for safety, not because I’m scared of the alleged big cats in the area. This is the Alpine NP and the weather can be harsh at any time with no notice let alone in in Autumn. The week previous saw a months rain in a day and 20cm of snow in the area. Not the time for solo treks. In the end Tony VK3CAT and myself decided to head up into the Bogong Alpine Area as the weekend opens for both of us. Its always a bit of a juggle to organise overnight activations with multiple activators as we all have lives and commitments.
Read many hiking blogs prior to the trip so expecting a big walk with great views but not for us. It rained Friday night and the fog stayed overnight. It did clear mid Saturday but came back for tha activation. Sunday morning was clear.
The plan was to walk the length so involved leaving Tonys car near the end of Roper Track on the Bogong Plains Rd whilst we left Subie at Pretty Valley Causeway.
We will be camping out overnight somewhere between the two summits at Bogong Jack Hut.
Activation of Mt Fainters was in the fog. The summit had the remains of what we assumed to be a trig point that was stable for supporting the squid pole. Used Tonys doublet and KX3 to activate. Once qualified it was time to keep moving as still had ground to cover before reaching the campsite for the night. We camped air Bogong Jack Hut. It was a simple operation of eat then early night.
Woke to a clear day, Went on to walk around the Big Hill and qualify.
This was on the Fire Trail. It was not a attractive as the walk across the plaines nor were there aw many opportunities for water. It was however predominately down hill which was well received.
42.7K steps for the weekend covering 30.5Km to come out at Roper Track.
It was not a hard climb or involve rocky by the end I was slowing. Coming down Roper Track proved as challenging as the initial climd due to the steepness and loose forest covering on the track. At one point we followed what we though was the route and ended in a dead end. This was also the hottest part of the trip and I was running low on water. We finally made it to Tonys car had a drink and headed up to retrieve my car.
Turned up at the base of the road to Pretty Vally Ponds only to be faced with the road closure. There was a mountain bike event on which involved parts of the road hence the closure.
This was frustrating, not the fact the road was closed, but the fact that there was no indication the day before that access will be restricted (the sign was not there) and the sign was inaccurate has it had yesterdays date on it. Fornatually a Falls Creek management unit arrived and after slight coaxing escorted us up to retrieve my car. Tony decided to go on to Mt McKay but given the view,
I decided to head home. It was a good weekend in the Alpine. Two summits in the rain, fog and sun.
Thanks to Tony VK3CAT for company and planning. Also thanks to Warren VK3BYD for input into the initial planning. This is a great area and a trip worthy of the effort, just be prepared for all conditions.