APRS coverage excellent with the newly commissioned VK3RHO digi-repeater and Telstra 3G/4G once out of the valleys.
View from Mt Howwit to The Razor and the Viking. This was typical of the views for the weekend, stunning.
Spent the weekend with Glenn VK3YY and David VK3IL.
The aim was to tackle five 10-point summits before the weather turns and the winter road closures (Victoria Seasonal Road Closures) makes access next to impossible.
The weather (Mountain Weather) was holding and initial plans for the weekend of the 19th cancelled due to work so the 26th it was. Watched the forecasts and took Friday off. The week was spent packing and checking equipment. The plan was to base ourselves at MaCalister Springs Camping ground. This will give us ‘easy’ access to Howitt Plains. The Vallejo Ganter hut and toilet facilities are excellent and spring water at MaCallaster Springs. We still have to carry in camping equipment as can not rely on access to the hut. Thanks to FaceBook (Australia Hiking & Bushwalking) I was able to confirm that the spring was active so no need to carry lots of water just to bring water filter. Still carried enough water to support return trip so with radio gear, tent, sleeping bag and matress, food, spare clothing, harsh weather clothing and first aid kit the pack came in just under 20Kg. Despite the brilliant weather you have to be prepared for harsh conditions.
This is the Alpine. You have to take responsability for your own saftey.
Friday up normal and down to meet David VK3IL and Glenn VK3YY at Glenns place to take Davids 4WD up .Friday was spent driving up to Mt Howitt car park then walking out the 4Km to the camping ground. We arrived at the hut before dark. We were able to use the hut so setup and proceeded to watch the sunset behind the crosscut and have some tea.
Early rise. We packed day packs ensuring enough water and food for the walk. rationalised the radio equipment to ensure we had full redundancy. No desire to spend two days getting to a summit to discover the battery is flat. Packed up the sleeping gear as can not expect to have access to the hut again. After filtering water we headed off. Walked through Mt Howwit (too early for chasers!) and out to Mt Margorie. The weather was perfect. Had to stop to take photos of summits in the mist. The walk out to Mt Marjorie is 6Km. It took us three hours. I was the slowest of the pack or as I prefer to frame it, enforcer of time to take in the views.
Glenn VK3YY declaring ownership of all he surveys.
David VK3IL and Glenn VK3YY on Mt Marjorie with Mt Buller in the background. Despite the conditions still had to hike back and activate Mt Howitt so no leisurely activation here. 40m was poor so we used 80m and worked all comers. Once completed packed up and headed back.
Seriously, this is excellent. We made it to Mt Howitt in perfect conditions. The walk back David and Glenn were off like rabbits but we made it comfortably to the summit with couple of hours up our sleeve. Then basically sat on top of Mt Howitt with 40m of wire and modern HF transceivers playing SOTA. Worked a treat. Getting cold but no rain. Qualifed on SSB then David worked the pile up.
Once all comers were worked we were all comfortably qualified so packed up and headed back to the hut at MaCalistor Springs. The weather was fine but the temperature dropping. Did not want to be out in the dark and still had over 2Km back to camp so the intent was to proceeded with haste. Its a great walk into the camp as basically down hill. I have been here in harsher times so appreciated the conditions.
Got back with time to collect water from the springs. Again no issues with supply. We had to share the hut as there were two other walkers there. This was welcome as they had the fire going and it was quite cosy inside. Still heaps of room. They had been out taking photos and reported excellent conditions as well as the presence of shooters. No issues nor late nights as it a case of eat and head to bed. It had been a big day. We were fortunate to secure the mezzanine level of the hut. The windows in the hut provided a magnificent view of the nearly full moon during the night.
Up early again and this time after breacky and tea, packed all the equipment up and heading back to the car. Our companions were up and gone. The walk out is straight forward as once you are up as it is across the top of the ridge back to the car.
Once ready to go the car decided it was not. It was not a case of flat battery more of a case of incorrect voltage. Well the fix involved a LiFe battery and 20 minutes of standing in the sun which I did not mind, we were off and headed down down Howitt road.
Bryces Plain does not require hiking in. Access via a 4WD track off Howit Road to an open summit shared with comms and weather equipment.
Glenn VK3YY and David VK3IL on Bryces Plain. This one photo is mine as I’m not in the picture.
Clean activation as even chairs were deployed. Setup up Davids antenna. You can see the size of the device in the photo again worked a treat and we qualified on 40m again working all comers.
During the activation a National Parks Ranger turned up. This was surprising as Sunday. He was looking a bit agitated and once he understood we were harmless radio nutters he explained that he was looking into illegal shooters. There are deer hunters in the park as its in season and regulated. We didn’t have any rifles nor intended to kill anything so he left us to play radio.
Kellys road was closed but we had already decided to park high on Howitt Rd as checked it out the area on the way in. There are no great spots just a good one. Could see the summit, crossing point and were coming in high so all good. This was a walk in wonderland. We found and followed a track and it to the summit, well not quite but close.
It is a very large activation zone on a very open summit you can see it from the road as only a couple of k’s. Both I and Glenn had been before. Glenn with Wayne VK3WAM and was aware of a track. The idea is to cross the marsh and head up the valley following the creek line but high turning right to head up to the summit at a suitable place.The vegetation is fine. Its not trying to kill you. Can see why its a favourite of the skiers.
We went in high to avoid the marsh and followed the edge looking for a track. The track is on some maps and once located a easy run.
Once in a clear spot we setup up Davids EFHW antenna. This proved to be a excellent performer. The Alpine summits have more that enough room for the 40m of wire and having 80m available is essential. Worked all on SSB and headed back the track to Davids 4WD. Followed the track to the clearing of the valley. Came out lower and hit the marsh early. The bridge is broken and only acts as a marker but still a good spot point to cross what can be a very wet area.
Mt Tambortitha (VK3/VT-011) was on the agenda however decided to leave as we would not have qualified and made it back down in daylight. It was still 8 hours drive home for me from here so happy to leave Mt Tambortitha for another day and get home before tomorrow.
APRS from 2M FM coverage in this area is now excellent with packets being relayed through the newly commissioned digirepeater VK3RHO on Mt Hotham.
Great trip in what was perfect conditions. Lots of fun with capable experienced operators. This is SOTA. Looking forward to doing it again.
26.5m 80/40/20/10 EFRW
Went with 49:1 on a FT82-43 toriod with 3:24 ratio and a 120pf 500v mica cap (that was what I had) with 26.5M of wire.
Intentionally selected a length with no half waves. 26.5 m = 87 feet. (https://udel.edu/~mm/ham/randomWire/)
http://www.qrpkits.com/sota.html with 19.5 m wire and counterpoise
Trap 20/40 Dipole based on SOTABeams pico traps – https://www.sotabeams.co.uk/pico-traps-kit-pair/
Trapped end feed also based on pico traps.
QRPGuys Portable Tri-Band Vertical Antenna – https://qrpguys.com/qrpguys-tri-band-portable-vertical-antenna
Looking for a DX antenna for S2S evenings. A 20m vertical appears to be the answer.
This will rock for 20 and 30 but doubt 40 will be much chop.
Got the switches 2m off the ground.
Had to keep the forth radial as it reduced swr, actually it flattened it. So three radials one down each guy and the forth just hanging down. Actually except you need the squid pole its quite a compact sturdy antenna.
Spreed the anti with clear acrylic
Tuned each segment with the VK5JST tuner. Also ordered the W8TEE and K2ZIA Antenna Analyzer – https://qrpguys.com/w8tee-k2zia-antenna-analyzer
I’ve had my eye on Mt Bogong for a while now. My previous SOTA visit to Mt Bogong only secured a single contact so wanted to revisit and qualify. Also Mt Bogong is the highest peak in Victoria. Given the warmer and drier weather that normal recently (Its incredible that are still some denying Climate Change. grrr) decided this was the time to go.
Drove up Monday night and camped at Mountain Creek camping ground. This is about 15 km east of Tawonga, which is down the road from Mt Beauty 10 km down Mountain Creek Rd or where the Alpine NP starts. Even during the week there was several other campers already present. Decided not to head up to Mt Emu but to secure a spot and prepare for a early start.
Up at 6:30, fed and watered so headed down Mountain Creek Rd to the start of Staircase Spur.
This was very much a autumn activation. Smoke in the air, sunny and 26.8. Gain 1291m in height over 7Km. The view from the summit was spectacular,
Since then my hiking and radio equipment has been slowly upgraded. I repacked my gear with a view of reducing weight, given its a long uphill walk and to ensure I had the minimum amount of gear needed to be safe. Despite the weather I still carried a storm jacket, emergency shelter, first aid (sprains a real risk here) 3.5L water, food and had new mid weight Alpine hiking pants. Love a Katmandu sale. Also carried spare antenna, battery and MTR. The equipment has improved. All this came in at 7Kg including pack.
For this activation the antenna was selected to have no moving parts. >The intention was to support 40M and to be able to tune 80M. >Used 20m of wire into a 9:1 UNUN. Not perfect but the tuner in the KX3 would compensate and 80M was to support local chasers so 1/4 wave should suffice. The summit is open with no trees to use but does have snow poles running across the top. This would support the 7m squid pole which was strapped to the pack. No issues with the length of the pole on the the walk as clear with no bush and definitely no off track excursions.
The antenna and tuner worked treat however the KX3 would not transmit at 15w with the 4S Lifo battery (another 425g carried up). At the time I assumed the antenna match was not good enough or that the UNUN was having trouble with 80M. After the activation I tested the setup at home to reveal one of the spades in the power pole connectors had slipped in and was not making contact. Not the antenna, bad connection.
Qualified on 40M CW and secured an 80M contact with VK3PF. Called on 2M and APRS worked all through via VK2CPR-1 but no contacts.
Meet a couple on the summit who informed me the Eskdale Spur Track was open. This leaves you with 4Km walk from higher starting point. I can’t comment of AWD access but can confirm there is enough space at the start of the Staircase to park a car off road, if your early enough.
Overall a great day and possibly the best time of year to be up on Mt Bogong.
VK3/VG-002 – Mt Cobberas Number 1
VK3/VG-010 – Blue Hill
VK3/VG-007 – Rams Head Range
VK3/VG-012 – Brumby Hill
all in WWFF Alpine National Park (VKFF-0619)
Running out of local summits so setting my eyes on VG (Gippsland). The plan is to camp at Native Dogs Flat off Limestone Road. Straight forward access and a good site to base from to activate the surrounding summits.
Had been in the area November 2014 with VK2TWR Rod and in parallel ridge lines (Davis Plain) during the recent Hotham weekend.
Left mid Friday to avoid the Easter traffic. Headed through Melbourne to Bairnsdale and then to Buchan to turn into Limestone Road. Return trip was through Omeo to Bairnsdale and back down the A1 through Melbourne and then home. Popped in on Peter VK3PF on the way back. Needed a break from driving and the coffee was welcome.
It is a long trip. APRS coverage was the usual poor once away from repeaters. Phone coverage in this area is limited to 3G once on the summit , if lucky.
Saw Wallabies, snakes, deer, brumbies and a Owl. There were the expected nutters on the road and surprisingly no booze busses.
VK3/VG-002 – Mt Cobberas Number 1
Drove down Limestone Track turning into Cobberas Track to the defined walking track to the Cobberas. Followed the waking track (orange triangles) as bit over 6K. Clear walk but easy to wander off track due to the brumby tracks in the area.
Heard VK1AD Andrew on 2M once on the summit. Gave him a call and the battery went flat. Ahh yes I did take the HT out the other day listening to the CFA and no did not charge. Did want 2M to keep an ear out for Wade VK1MIC but he lack of battery put an end of 2M for the weekend.
Stayed on summit for an hour. Picked up S2S with VK1AD on VK1/AC-008 and a P2P with VK3ZPF Peter from WWFF Yarringa Marine Marine National Park (VKFF-0957).
Did get off track on the way back but not enough to cause grief. Great site worth the walk.
VK3/VG-010 – Blue Hill
Headed back down Limestone Rd and parked Subie near Boughyard Creek bridge. Not a lot of spots out of the way and there was road work at the time. My route was based on David VK3IL activation notes. The scrub was right forward with fallen trees, soft under growth however a lot of Brumby poo around. Being aware that will be coming back in dark tried to avoid the rocks and tracked from clearing to clearing. Took a bit over an hour to reach the zone.
Once in the zone I weaved 42m of lightweight wire through the tree limbs and a 5m travel pole as support. This is a EFHW using a 1:49 matching transformer based on information in facebook. The KX3 smooths it out and away you go. I was ready by 18:30 but lacking the ability to spot and wanted to qualify on 160 CW so put out a few calls but waited on 1.832 for the others to come up. Keen to qualify and get off the summit. It was a good night to be out. Full moon, no rain just great piles of Brumby poo to deal with. Just after 19:00 contact was made. Bernard VK2IB/3 and Warren VK3BYD how were on VK3/VE-006 (Mt Hotham) with a kite antenna. David VK3IL portable from Philip Island up next giving him a complete. Then Peter VK3PF on VK3/VT-049 and final contact with John VK2YW. As soon as qualified I packed up and headed back down to the car in dark. Came prepared with LED spot and head torches. Uneventful (thanks) trip back to car not face planting into the Brumby poo or taking a knee out in the rocks to get back to camp after 21:00 for tea and some Stones Mac.
VK3/VG-007 – Rams Head Range
Came up Rams Horn Track off Limestone Road. This is a 4WD track that Subie handled in low range. The ruts were the only issue. Parked with a clear km or so to the summit through clear scrub. Couple of rocks to go around but no issues. The summit is a rocky out crop. Went with 20m end fed between my rock and a tree on another. Qualified on 80m in 15 minutes so packed up and headed back. Still had a big drive ahead of me.
VK3/VG-012 – Brumby Hill
Nunniong road was the worst in the area. Whilst Rams Horn Track and Cobberas Track had ruts big enough to eat Subie the corrugations and rocks on this road were a joke. I develop a horrible noise in the frount.
Access to Brumby Hill is easy. Nunniong Road brings you to the zone. I walked down Forlorn Hope Track a 100m or so as wanted to be in the Buchan Wilderness Zone. Setup on a nice bit tree with 20/40m dipole. 12 contacts in 15 minutes all on 40m. 40m was alibi and a great day to be put.
Went back down Nunniong road cursing the corrugations heading to Omeo. Still working out the area so keen to secure petrol and get a better look under the car. Found the plastic trim was loose so a couple of zip ties and a meter of go fast tape later started the trip back home.
Dropped in on Peter VK3PF on the way back. I had time and needed a coffee. Peter had a great brew and once caffeinated up headed home to arrive 20:00.
Great weekend. Perfect weather. Will be back for more summits in the area.
VK3/VC-032 – Unnamed local summit
The VK JA ZL – EU S2S organising committee (Andrew VK1AD, Mike 2E0YYY and Ed DD5LP) selected Saturday 10 March 2018 for the third annual SOTA VK – EU S2S evening.
This annual event has grown beyond VK – EU with ZL, JA and even Canada posting alerts. These are well supported as S2S contacts are always prized.
I activated VK3/VC-032, a local 4 pointer that is close to my QTH, very convenient given the late kickoff (0630 UTC).
The bands were active with stations from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, as well as the UK, Germany, Russia, Austria, The Slovak Republic, Rumania and Spain.
Used trapped 20/40 dipole with the 7M squid pole as an inverted V. The KX3 had a 4S battery so 15w.
Weather was better than last year however propagation average. CW worked JA fine. Picked up VK3 & VK6 S2S SSB.
Heard no ZL and nothing from Canada or South Africa so maybe next year. Heard and called HB9DQM/P CW and SV2RUJ/P SSB but failed to secure a contact.
Thanks to the organisers, its a fun event and I will be back next year for more.
3rd Annual Mt Hotham SOTA Summit
VK3/VE-006 Mt Hotham
VK3/VG-008 Mt Misery Range
VK3/VE-010 Davies Plain
This is the third year Brian VK3MCD has hosted the now annual VK Mt Hotham SOTA summit.
I’m keen on this weekend for several reasons. The first is you get to spend a weekend with like minded SOTA folk. Second is staying in Hotham during summer allows for clear access to remote mountains too far for a day trips from home. After three years we are starting to go further afield to activate new summits however have a broad pool of experience to draw from to select and gain access to summits. This event has become a highlight on the VK SOTA calendar and the increase in attendance and the enthusiasm expressed by the participates evidences how much we all enjoyed it
I took the opportunity to activate The Horn in WWFF Mount Buffalo National Park on Friday. I have never been to this site in good weather and wanted to enjoy the view as apposed to hiding from it.Previous attempts include a successful activation in July 2013 during snow and a failed attempt in July 2014. These conditions are a lot easier. Drove down to the end of Mt Buffalo Road and climbed the 800 odd meters to the summit. Took 7m squid pole as had planned to cast the long wire over the edge. Didn’t quite work that way so ran the wire from the fence line across the top. Took a lot of photos of the summits in the distance due to the excellent conditions. Also took advantage of the signage there taking references photos to align the pictures later.
Worked VK3YY Glen & VK3IL David returning from their Razor-Viking Wilderness adventure as well as Ron VK3AFW mobile. After qualifying the summit and taking enough photos I decided not to activate the other summits in the park but to head up to Hotham so as not to have a late night. Meet up with VK3HN Paul on the way up. I stopped to take photos and he picked the car with antenna was heading the same way. This was good as whilst I had the details of accommodation (This year we were based at the Anton Huette ski lodge) will admit apart from charging batteries the week before, booking and paying the deposit I did not spend a lot of time preparing so was not exactly sure where it was. One of the advantages is the ability to book leave early.
Friday night consisted of fine tuning plans and catching up with friends that whilst I talk to most weekends, only meet annually at such events.
My agenda was to prioritise the activation of new summits to gain completes. Peter has acquired a nice Ford Ranger 4WD and was happy to get out into the tracks so we teamed up.
The first group consisting of VK3PF,VK3HN,VK3ARH and VK3YY were up and headed off to activate VK3/VT-023 (VK3/VT-023),VK3/VE-032 (Mt Sarah), VK3/VE-049 (Mt Selwyn), VK3/VE-066 (VK3/VE-066) and VK3/VE-025 (Mt Murray). The plan was to drive down to Mt Sarah however changed on route as we laised with the other groups and confirmed times. In the end is was a case of driving past Mt Sarah to start from VK3/VT-023.
So off we went, back down to the intersection of Dargo High Plains Road and then onto Twins Road. This track is generally rough and narrow. We drove past the The Twins and VK3/VE-023 then around the side of VK3/VE-064 via Twins Jeep Track finally onto Selwyn Creek Road. from there is was sourh down Selwyn Logging Road turning into Tea Tree Range Road to arrive at VK3/VT-023 in time for S2S fun.
There were other explorers out in the bush so when we arrived on site there were still parking and antenna placement considerations. You can’t setup the dipole across the road. You can’t park on the road.
Peters new 4WD addressed the terrian with full comfort.
VK3YY Glenn & VK3PF Peter working ZL on VK3/VE-049 Mt Selwyn from Glenn’s cute antenna whilst I was still getting the dipole up. The antenna is directly connected th the KX2 with a counterpoise and operated ‘Walki Talkie’ style.
The car left on the track whilst we climbed up to the activation zone. One stayed behind out of the zone and we used 2M to activate. After q quick operator shuffle, we had all qualifed the summit and were back in the car to continue on to Mt Murray.
VK3YY Glenn, VK3PF Peter and VK3HN Paul on Mt Murray. My squid pole behind for HF. Great views to the south across the Wongungurra River valley.
VK3/VE-006 Mt Hotham
One feature of the Annual Hotham SOTA Summit is that Brian organises vehicle access to Hotham, making it a breeze to activate and socialise. However drinks was not my priority, I set up the HF with KX3 and linked dipole and started calling, VK3HN Paul setup his linked dipole and Summit Prowler-IV looking for 80m contacts whilst Glenn started calling on the KX2 with whip.
Warren VK3BYD/p was still on Mt Stanley with 23 cm so Andrew and Compton deployed 23cm gear. Using the handheld and 4-element Yagi resulted in very good signals both ways allowing Warren to log 8 S2S Hotham to Stanley contacts on 23 cm FM!
We eventually packed up and headed down to The General Store for dinner before a early night as adventures to be had on Sunday.
Day Two – 04022018
On Sunday VK3PF, VK2HRX, VK3HN and myself travelled in a convoy to activate three 10-point summits to the east of Mt Hotham. First was Mt Misery Range (VK3/VG-008) where we secured an unexpected S2S with Andrew VK3ARR/p on VK3/VN-016 (Mt Alexander). On arriving at VK3/VG-008 – Mt Misery Range I pull out the GPS to discover the batteries are flat. Not an issue as have spares. However as there were four in the party and at least two other GPS devices, I decided to leave the GPS and use the Hike2 app on my Garmin vívoactive.
The device tracked and displayed our route with no issues. Given the short distances involved, it displayed on the small screen well enough to show and giving distances back to the start point. The map above downloaded from Strava shows us navigating (following brumby tracks) around the boggy area on the return trip. Whilst the screen is small and does not have a map, the track back was easy as showed distance and direction to start point. Ok this device is not a replacement for a GPS and map but did track and record the walk out and back and allowed me to be comfortable in the bush without a map and compass.
Once back at the cars we headed down Mt Misery Track then across to VK3/VG-009 in time for a S2S contact with Glenn VK3YY and Andrew VK3JBL on Mt Loch VK3/VE-005 and Leigh VK3SG on Blue Rag Range VK3/VE-015. Final summit was Davies Plain (VK3/VE-010). Davies Plain in Kosciuszko National Park is the furthest we got, just 10km from the NSW border, and only activated once before (by Compton in 2013). The 4WDs came into their own this deep into the bush. There is no way I would have gotten Subie this deep so appreciated the comfort that Peters 4WD provided.
It was 2+ hours of dirt road driving each way including some rugged 4wd tracks but a real experience. Here we are on Davies Plain 10k from NSW. I had to force the group to turn and head back so as to start my trip home that night and suspect had I not they would still be out there chasing summits on 4WD tracks.
In memory of Subies passed, this year Ron VK3AFW hosted the ‘Bust a Gasket Award.
Thanks to Brian VK3MCD for offering, arranging and hosting the 3rd Annual Mt Hotham SOTA weekend, thanks also to all the participants – the camaraderie was terrific and it was great to have like-minded company to discuss a variety of topics and finally thanks to the chasers who patiently waited for us to arrive and then who tolerated us activators passing the microphones around to ensure all qualified the summits. An event like this only works because of the efforts of ALL who participate activator and chaser alike.
This year there was on offer the ‘The Bust a Gasket’ certificate. The award is in memory of Ron VK3AFWs Subaru which blew a gasket during the previous Hotham weekend (2017).
This will be awarded to Hotham weekend activators who achieve at least 50 points on Saturday 3rd Feb 2018 (sunrise to sunset) with multipliers for S2S contacts with VK3AFW.