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17082019 – VK3/VW-002 & VK3/VS-001

VK3/VW-002 (Red Man Bluff) in VKFF-0213 – Grampians National Park

VK3/VS-001 (Mt William) in VKFF-0213 – Grampians National Park

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VK3/VW-002 (Red Man Bluff)

Looking back towards Halls Gap over Lake Bellfield from operating position on Red man Bluff.

Access is from Mt William Road. The walk in is a short challenging 2Km. Challenging as the scrub is fierce and thick. The goal is to get onto a ridge line so as to avoid the thick gullies and to get up to the cliff line and follow the line across. Put your gloves on and pack the pack tight to get through the thick growth.

Track 001

There is a ’track’ across the top.  It is a section of the annual Serra Terror. Clear enough to follow and marked with yellow tape. Below is a section of the route from their documentation

SRtrack 001

Took 80m antenna and ran 40 odd meters of wire down the rock outcrops with the squid pole in the middle. Worked a treat with 40 and 80m contacts and a single 2M FM 

VK3/VS-001 (Mt William) 

The walk up Mt William is a 1.5Km on sealed road but steep. Left to end of day as easy and clear.

Mt William has a large flat activation zone with several comms towers. Given the easy access you could bring up elaborate antenna and supports. I go to the left between the towers so as to avoid the traffic. Once on site I pulled out the antenna to discover it had come off the winder and had transferred itself into a rats nest. Spent good 10 minutes unravelling to finally decide to cut the end off and use what I had. The KX3 tuned the 30 odd meters that was left and I secured the summit on 40 and 80m. 

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Looking towards Ararat from Mt William.

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Patches of snow on Mt William. The snow was from the weather earlier in the week but shows how cold the summit was. Also highlights micro climates as these pockets were cold. 

Overall a straight forward operation. Home on dark with 12 points for my efforts. 

03082019 – VK3/VC-003

VK3/VC-003 – Mt Ritchie – WWFF ID – VKFF-0556 

ATSonVC003

Took the ATS out to Mt Ritchie. 

This is a great summit and one I do each year.

Mt Ritchie is a good winter summit as 8 points with seasonal bonus and can be completed in harsh weather. You can access the summit from the north in summer with a 4WD but I prefer to park off Acheron Way at the gate on Road 15 and follow Road 10 to the summit. Easy clear access but the roads were not open due to several trees down. Not a issue as walking. Ive been off track in this area and its slow and wet. No need and no intent.  Didn’t take the GPS. This is not a reckless choice as used hiker app on watch;

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Its a 7k walk and all uphill to the summit. The summit is clear and open with enough room for long wire antenna. Several trees to support as well as sign posts to secure squid poles to. 

OperatingVC003

This year it was time to take the ATS out. Keen on the ATS as it supports 80m. Setting up an antenna for 80M has challenges due to the space the wire requires. A shorter length (26.8m 88f) wire and L Match Tuner has been raised to address. Whilst this setup matched 80 to 15m, it was too touchy on 80m so took a trapped 20/30/40m end fed to be sure. Really didn’t want to blow out the transistors on the first activation. 

There was light rain and cold, no snow but it was still cold. I addressed this with the proved method of layers on and still had two layers backup in the pack.These small radios do not do rain but to be fair neither does the KX3. The FT817 in its bag is best for such conditions.  Ok but 817 requires external tuners and is heavy both itself and on the battery. The KX3 is brilliant with internal batteries and tuner and lighter than 817 but not as rugged. The KD1JV devices (MTR & ATS) are small, light and efficient but requires external tuners and batteries. 

Secured the summit on 40M and CW with a P2P with VK5FLEA in Nurragi Conservation Reserve (VKFF-2247) and the usual loyal chasers. 

Happy with the performance of the radio and antenna. Called on 30 and 20 with no takers regretted not taking 80. After an hour on the summit packed up and walked back down in the light rain.

The quest for the ideal SOTA radio is ongoing ….

10062019 – VK3/VC-030

10062019 – VK3/VC-030 – VKFF-0982 In – You Yangs Regional Park 

Another close walk up the summit activation.1.7K each way for 190M elevation gain. This is the busiest summit I have found. Worse than Mt Hotham in summer.

Here is the summit marker, worn out from the traffic,

FlindersMarker

Having been here before I was expecting the crowds so took HT to activate on FM. Did post 40M CW alerts but once there, the people and grey sky made the decision to proceed with HT only easy.

An advantage to such tight summits is the car in the carpark caught and resent the APRS from the HT with no issues. Serured the summit with  5 contacts on FM. Did not secure DMR contact as it appears still have not got the correct config for simplex. 

APRSView

‘Device: Yaesu: VX-8G (ht) Last path: VK3ARH-7>SW41R5 via VK3ARH-1,VK3CV-1*,WIDE2-1,qAR,VK3RSA-1 (good)’

Proposed 2019

VK7 September 2019

Off to VK7 in Septermber.

Its not a SOTA trip but will be able to get some activations  including;

 * VK7/SC-001
 * VK7/SC-045
 * VK7/SC-027
 * VK7/CH-039 in VKFF-0117
 * VK7/WC-013 in VKFF-0347

 

VK3/VE-075

Post winter.

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19052019 – VK3/VS-011

VK3/VS-011 Mt Abrupt in VKFF-0213 In – Grampians National Park

DownSerraRange

Serra Range to the north. The seasonal burns are in full flight thus making the area smoky. In the valleys so wont be an issue accessing the summits.

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Mt Abrupt is on the southern end of Serra range in the Grampians National Park. There is a defined track for access from the front. It not as bad as it looks. 6.6Km return along a busy track. Head out of Dunkeld down Victoria Valley road turning right into Grampians Road. There’s space for cars to park on Grampians Road, roughly 5km from the park sign. The track starts on the left side of road and is marked by a sign and steps. The track starts off easy and after crossing the washouts heads up to the ridge line. Straight forward walk but still raises a sweat.

You can access Signal Peak from this track. There is a marker now where to turn (54HXD1977439156) Whilst there no track to Signal Peak its a case of stay left of the ridge line and there may be tape markers left from the The Serra Terror held on June long weekend to confirm your insanity. Anyway I have been on Signal Peak previously and not interested in it so continued to Mt Abrupt.   

There were two goals for this activation, first being the short but solid walk up and second to test a doublet. 

HF Doublet

DoubletOnAbrupt

Obviously not a new design of mine. First saw a doublet in action with Tony VK3CAT.  There was some debate as to the use of coax and a bolt to stabilise the feeder but it proved to be a effective antenna combined with the KX tuner securing contacts from 80 down. From my version I now believe the bolt and coax was acting as a choke stabilising the performance of the antenna.

I decided to stick to the 88f length radiator. Its is proving to be a reasonable compromise on summits tight for space.

So this is a 26.8m (88 foot) radiator with 7m feeders ‘all band’ antenna. Ive had poor signal reports from the 26.8m end fed which has been attributed to coax losses. The end fed has a coax run to get the feed point some height. Reducing the length of the coax lead from 9 to 2m lead to RF issues and poor tuning (lack of counterpoise) so now has a 5m run. The end fed is maintaining contacts on 80 and 40 but according to the licence I have to experiment so hence the doublet. The idea of the doublet is the reduction of feeder losses and the vertical run brings the length of the antenna to ~40m. The run to the KX is heat-shrunk twisted pair with a 1:! current choke. The spreaders are dripper line with zip ties as seen on Warren VK3BYDs version. Simple cheap and worked a treat.

There is conflicting dialog on the web as to the role of the feeder in these antenna. The total length being the single length of feeder plus total length of the radiator (26.8 + 7 = 34.8m) implying  the feeder plays a minor role in radiating or length of the entire  feeder and radiator (26.8 + 14 = 40.8m).  I’ll let those smarter than me to debate this but given int is a non-resonate antenna I like the idea of 40m of wire in a compact deployment following the view of ‘as much wire in the air as you can get’. 

DoubletOnWinders

This unit tuned up on 80m find using the tuner in the KX and worked a treat.

Rolled out fine with double winders. This summit was selected given the space available the ends ended up draped on the top of the bushes when the tying failed with no noticeable impact to performance. Maybe we are getting a bit precious as to deployment given the height ?

SOTALog

anyway the results are in with three P2P and solid signal reports I’m a fan of such an antenna. 

11052019 – VK3/VW-003

VK3/VW-003 Mt Rosea in Grampians National Park (VKFF-0213) 

Mount Rosea, is at the northern end of the Serra Range. It is my favourite summit in the Serra Range not just because if has good defined access but Mt Rosea gives 360 degree views from the lookout at the summit into the Grampians. 

Mt Rosea was selected to gain practice for Alpine activations as features rock outcrops, slopes and close to home.

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Was looking at another summit (VK3/VE-075) in the Alpine however we received 96mm rain (recorded at my rain gauge) in the previous week (48mm over Easter) so decided to stay closer to home and try to avoid the water. 

This was not to be. Whilst drier that around home it was wet in the grampians. Whilst the weather cleared up the further north you headed, there were clouds looming and masking the summits. Drive up was clean and parked at the carpal off  Silverband Road. This is accesses from Mt Victory road as one way from Grampians road. No concerns with the weather, dressed accordingly once there and headed off.

Easy walk on the track. It was very wet with water courses running and wet rocks when heading up. Took under 2 hrs to cover the 4.8K to the summit.

It was a challenge to setup the end fed given the wet rocks on the summit. Also very busy with several walkers going to Mt Rosea and a couple walking through to Borough Huts so headed away from the lookout.

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40M was alive. Qualified the site in 10 min on CW including a S2S with VK1MCW on VK1/AC-048

Went off and chased the park activators picking up 2 P2P contacts (VK6MB in Heathcote-Graytown National Park (VKFF-0624) and VK4SMA Mount Barney National Park (VKFF-0338)) Spent an hour on the summit for 10 contacts and happy to pack up and the drizzle was starting to annoy me. Carefully packed up as the rocks were very slippery and I didn’t want to slip. Have to stay sharp on the way back as easy to miss a turn and end up coming out in the valley. Not a biggie as you will hit the road eventually but would be very wet in these conditions and hard going so best to stay on track.

Nice clean activation. Mt Rosea is the pick of the summits in the Serra Range. You can add (VK3/VW-009) Near Sundial Peak and (VK3/VW-007) Near Boroka Lookout if you were in the area but I was on a mission as wanted to be home to cook tea.

Will return for (VK3/VS-011) Mt Abrupt soon enough as a great site with a good walk up.

25042019 – VK3/VE-046

25042019 – VK3/VE-046 The Governor in WWFF Alpine National Park (VKFF-0619)

This was my second attempt for this summit. Previous was with Tony VK3CAT and David VK3IL coming across from Eagles Peak. We hit Cat 5 conditions and when combined with temp decided it was not worth chasing. 

This attempt will involve a longer walk but avoiding cliffs. Planned to take two days with the first spent travelling up and walking in over the first hill to camp at a site with water in the valley. 

Headed off 9:30an Wednesday and drove to Mansfield to head down to Howqua Hills. Turn right through SheepYard flat and follow  Howqua Hill track.

The path is marked ’to Castle Rock’ and ’To Upper Jamieson Hut’ (7hrs, seams optimistic). The 4km walk in steep to start with then down hill to the valley for Lickhole Creek.

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 The plan was to camp at the base of the first (55 H 443431 5880186) hill securing water as didn’t want to carry two days water in. Should the creek not be running I intended to head back and bring in water. Either way intended to camp at this spot leaving 7kms to the summit.

Camp

WateratCamp

Found a suitable place for the tent above the creek and setup before the light rain. Slept on dark surprised as the the amount of dogs in the park. You could hear at least 4 different howling. I don’t know if they were wild or from hunters. have heard the wild dogs and cats in the Cobberas but not in the Alpine before.

Up at first light and headed off at 7:00am to the Governor.

Left the tent up only taking radio, jacket and first aid gear on the walk to the summit. This reduced the load from 20kg to around 8kg with 4l water. Glad I camped as planned as whilst you could hear the water as you walked up Lickhole Creek but the blackberries got thicker until access would be  prohibitive. Whilst you could walk down the track with a good touch, there were not the camping opportunities along the way. This was a good plan and had margins for a slow walker like myself.

The track was easy to follow despite the blackberries encroching. I would not recommend walking down here in shorts. There were a couple of red triangles to reassure you’re on track but essentially a case of following the track as it weaved up the valley heading to Mt Darling. Leisurely walk that  picked up once at the base of Mt Darling. 

Once clear of the valley and the blackberries, the going was uphill so slow but a case of keep plodding. Turned and headed accross to the saddle hitting a ‘track’ to the Governor. Continued and once in the zone and in a clear area I setup the ended and started calling. 40m was not behaving, nor was the phone. Expected phone service from Buller but it was patchy and  as a result unable to get a SMS spot out. However after waking for 5 hrs I was not leaving until qualified however apprehensive and only had an hour allocated on the summit to get back in day light.

Finally qualified with 20M ZL, 40M CW and SSB contacts to finish up heading back at 13:30. 40m was hard going and we have been spoilt with spotting and the number of chasers these days.

The walk back to camp was quicker as basically down hill. Followed the track out and across to Mt Darling to head back down Lickhole Creek track. Straight forward operation. Nothing like the stress involved with heading from Eagles Peak. Made it back to my camp to be left with the final 4Km back to the car under full pack with limited day light. Made it back to the car with torch in the dark on good tracks.

No issues but will declare I was tried and had sore legs but safe and had successfully qualified a remote summit. The weather was perfect. Light rain in the night, overcast morning with clear sky around 20 max.   

Not happy with the SPOT devices coverage. Whilst a ‘OK’ message got out the night before I failed to have any tracking on the next day. It was overcast and the device was in a pocket but this was ‘normal’ usage. Recently paid the $300AUD annual subscription. This was has seen 20% increase over last 5 years and with the falling AUD$ has brought the running cost into the range of an Iridium subscription. 

Also surprised with the lack of animal life in the area. Only saw a single wallaby, one Kookaburra, a lazy lizard and two pigeons.  There is more animals at my place these days. I could hear dogs at night and there was evidence (scat) on the track so I hope the ferals haven’t killed all natives in the area. 

Overall very happy with the activation. Can recommend this as an access route. Longer than from Eagles Peak but ‘easier’ . Easy access to water at the start and trousers are essential.

Ok now there are another two summits in the area that demand respectful planning to gain….. next.