VK3/VS-011 Mt Abrupt in VKFF-0213 In – Grampians National Park
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.
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.
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’.
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 ?
anyway the results are in with three P2P and solid signal reports I’m a fan of such an antenna.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
03/Mar/2019 VK3/VS-008 (Mt Cole)
03/Mar/2019 VK3/VS-003 (Mt Buangor) – VKFF-0766 In – Mount Buangor State Park
29/Mar/2019 VK3/VC-032 (VK3/VC-032)
Couple of local summits to keep the skills up. The skills requiring practice are CW and antenna setup.
You can practice CW on the comfort of the train (LCWO) but its not the same as when out in the wild. Noise, temps and are factors. The only way to improve is to practice is with live data so off I went to torture myself.
Decided to visit local summits in Mt Cole just out of Ararat. Thus was a favourite spot for camping with Scouts so familar with the area. The site is know as Mt Cole Forest but there are two seperate sites there. Mount Buangor State Park and Mt Cole State forest. VK3/VS-008 (Mt Cole) is in the State forest and VK3/VS-003 (Mt Buangor) in (VKFF-0766) Mount Buangor State Park.
Access to both sites is from Mt Cole Road. I access from Raglan and it comes out Warrak. Again its a actually a continuation of a couple of roads but basically the main road though as it is maintained very well and easy to follow. Don’t follow the GPS. Is this case the changing names create confusion where if you intending to travel through just stick to the biggest road. You can access VK3/VS-009 ( Ben Nevis) from this road by turning right at the sign directing to the TV antenna site. Not a big fan of VK3/VS-009 as its RF noisy.
Know a poor tradesman blames his tools but have been struggling with 40m recently. There is no logic to the conditions. The solution is to ensure your antenna will let you drop to 80m if required.
Top section of squid pole on VK3/VS-003 (Mt Buangor)
Have been using an ended consisting of a 27.2 m radiator and coax shield counterpoise into a 9:1 balun. The KX3 will tune a wet piece of spaghetti ( not that I carry spaghetti up to a summit) and is able to tune this setup comfortably.
Access to Mt Cole is off the main Mt Cole road turning at the sign to Ditchfield lookout turning left not right. You can also come up Frees Rd but personally prefer staying on Mt Cole road. Also you can drive to the summit as the road passes around the site. Its rough so 4WD or AWD but not 2WD. I park just off where you hit Frees Rd and walk up as less stress. Do also walk the loop out to keep it interesting.
The bracken is lush and there is a slight fear of what’s sliding underneath so setup clear of the undergrowth. In this case the squid pole was secured in the bracken to a small tree using a ocky strap with the other end aligned NS and secured to a convient tree. This was the SOTABeams Compact heavy-duty 7 m unit. This is the go to as fits packs short so convent to walk with. However heavy (1.6kg) so not used on extended walk ins. Radio operating position wa a large rock so as to be out of the bracken.
03/Mar/2019 VK3/VS-008 (Mt Cole)
It was spot on for Mt Cole. I was rewarded with three S2S on 40m. Straight forward activation and intended to pick another summit so qualified and kept moving. Once qualified and packed and back at car. I have glued a fishing swivel to the tip of the squid and the glue failed on pack down. As a result won’t use on next activation until fixed. No issues as have spares in the car so will leave and fix later not an activation tape and spit job.
Continue down Mt Cole road. You are looking for the Beerpmo walk signs. If the take the first instance you will end up 800m from the summit or keep going and turn down to Dawsons Rock. (Camp ground at end of they road) taking the first right. It looks rough just overgrown, and finish up 500m from the summit. Either way short walk so take all the stuff you want. In this instance took the 7m Haverford Squid Pole.
VK3/VS-003 (Mt Buangor)
Setup off to the left once up the summit. There are a several stumps and trees to use. In this instance used a snmall tree stump and again used the end fed. Then the pole broke.
Bottom section of squid pole on VK3/VS-003 (Mt Buangor)
The section split. It was not under extreme stress just worn. Actually a pole made from sections of two other poles that broke in different places. I have since rebuilt it with sections from a third. So used the wire close to the ground as just used the top sections attached to tree.
Two SSB Parks to Park contacts and three SOTA CW contacts. Turned back and drove out on coming out at Raglan. No desire for and home early. Straight forward two SOTA summits and a WWFF activation.
Clear summit. Can drive to the site. 2WD drive down dirt roads from Ballan – Daylesford Rd (Turn at spurge Creek) or up through Ballan via Blakeville Rd. Either way heading to Camp road on a dirt track. There’s a pub at Spargo creek and or Ballan via Blakeville Rd.
Again practising antenna setup In this case used dipole. Qualified 40m CW in minutes. Not surprising as dipole kills it for single band. If the band is open then clean operation. Also great GSM coverage so spot when ready. The AZ is becoming covered with regrowth but given the car close, I take a star picket and setup in the middle. Can qualify this site with 2M using ribbon JPOLE.
Hotham SOTA Summit 2019
The fourth Hotham SOTA Summit again organised by Brian VK3BCM and hosted at Huette Lodge, Mt Hotham. This is a great site with summits aplenty. The weekend starts on Friday with the drive up. We are talking nearly 6hrs from home so need to break it up with a couple of activations. Decided to stay away from Mt Buffalo this year so picked two sites just off the main roads.
01/Feb/2019 VK3/VU-002 (Mt Wombat) in VKFF-2403
Just off the Hume highway through Euroa. Its a clean drive up as has a CFA lookout and several comms towers on site. Drove up and parked the car in the clear so the bloke in the tower can see no issues. Went past the aviation site and ran up the end-fed down the edge. This end-fed is a none resonate 27.2m long light weight with a 9:1 unbalanced to unbalanced (unun) based on Andrews work. The shorter antenna is intended to be long enough to tune 80M whilst also compact enough to fit tight sites. I have a 40m long one with 64:1 matching unit based on Davids work, that works a treat but needs a lot of room. The shorter unit was ideal on this site. Whilst there is open area you have to setup heading down a slop so the compact was run up with the 7m squid pole and with the wire running away from the comms sites heading down the edge. This was not to avoid noise but to stay in the clear and so not to be perceived as a threat to the sites. Quick activation with S2S (VK2IO on VK3/VG-004 and VK3BCM on VK3/VE-005) a chat with the CFA bloke in the tower to find out what the fires were up to. Back down and onto the highway to continue.
Had the car on 40m and picked up CW contacts with VK3HN and VK3PF on the way up.
I had been on this site before so know its a rabbit warren. Plantation roads are dynamic at the best of times. I called Warren VK3BYD as he had been recently and had a track to follow. I could hear activations from the car and able to contact VK1MIC & VK3PF from the HT. There were CW spots coming through so ran the endfed up and picked up VK1DA and VK2IO S2S CW, the best SOTA contact. Once worked the other activators out had a contact with VK3EQ and headed back down as wanted to keep moving to be at Hotham in light.
Arrived at the lodge to meet up with regulars (Peter VK3PF,Alan VK3FABT, Brian VK3BCM, Ron and Ruth VK3AFW, Compton VK2HRX, David VK3IL, Glenn VK3YY, Leigh VK3SG, Phil and Kathy VK3BHR and Ken VK3KIM) and new attendees being Andrew VK1DA, Gerard VK2IO, Wade VK1MIC, Adele ZS5APT and Sid ZS5AYC. It was great to catch with old and new friends. Rik VK3EQ was also in the area. Some off these people I have had regular contacts with going back 6 years and finally meet in the flesh. The conversation quickly turns two planning as many had activated on the way up and Saturday is always a early start to maximise opportunities whilst in the area. Summit to Summits are the goal so timings have to be clear. There were maps a plenty and some smooth lemon based drink.
Early to bed as early start.
Saturday went out with David VK3IL, Glenn VK3YY and Phil VK3BHR in Davids 4WD. We headed off to Omeo down Alpine Road towards Mt Nugong.
01/Feb/2019 VK3/VG-018 (Mt Nugong)
Mt Nugong is a drive-up summit basically following Nunniong Road off Bindi Rd. As there is a communications tower on site the road is good quality.
This was an activation of real hams as Phil setup his hand crafted 40M SSB radio for HF and Glenn deploying his home made 2m antenna for 2m contacts.
Glenn VK3YY with Phil VK3BHR using 2m yagi.
I secured S2S with other activators in the area including VK3EQ on HF and with VK3KIM , VK3PF and VK2HRX on 2M.
Could see the Timbarra fire in the distance. Didn’t affect Mt Nugong nor Bindi or any of our planned activities but we were watching. (35km SSW of Corryong North of Timbarra and Buchan and west of the Gelantipy Road between Gelantipy and Murrindal Fire Not yet under control Sat 9th Feb)
Keeping on time is essential to maintain alignment with the other parties so we packed up and headed to Mt Bindi. This involved heading back and along Nunniong Road, then north to Sawpit Road. Then following Granite Flat Link Track to Escarpment Track, then north to reach to Mount Bindi Track.
02/Feb/2019VK3/VG-017 (Mt Bindi)
I ran up the KX and 27.2m end fed down the road on Mt Bindi to secure CW contacts including a S2S with VK3PF and with regulars including VK3BYD, VK7CW and VK5CZ. Another S2S with VK3EQ was secured on 2m. Once qualified again we kept moving to try and keep aligned with the other groups.
Phil VK3BHR on Mt Bindi
We headed back to Nunniong Plains Track via Sawpit Road and Lake Hill. Lake Hill trk was the roughest we experienced and would be a challenge in the wet but not a issue in current conditions. Once on Nunniong Road took the advice from last night and headed up the longer way but quicker route to eventually head down Jam Tin Flat. Worked out we missed the turn to the summit once ran out of hills so turned back and down Blue Shirt to an open wide AZ.
02/Feb/2019VK3/VG-011 (Mt Nunniong)
David VK3IL, Phil VK3BHR and Myself qualifying VK3/VG—011 on 2M. Photo Glenn VK3YY
02/Feb/2019VK3/VG-012 (Brumby Hill)
Retrace back to Jam Tin Flat Track, then north along Nunniong Road to Limestone Road which passed through the AZ of Brumby Hill VK3/VG-012. Brumby HIll is a clear site. The road is in the AZ but setup behind the gate to be safe. Phil ran up HF and it was quite. 2M as also quite with Glenn deploying the beam again. Then the other sites came up and it was on for all. Four S2S on unique sites and HF payed off as chased by regulars VK5PAS,ZL1BYZ,VK5IS & VK4TJ. Day coming to an end and we still had work to do.
02/Feb/2019VK3/VG-022 (Mt Pendergast)
We had had a big day with but Mt Pendergast was too good to drive past. The intent was for a quick activation as we had two hours drove to get back to Hotham for the evenings activities. Its is a clear but steep drive up to the comms site. By this part of the day the boys had had enough of me and kicked me out on the road out of the AZ and so were able to gaining contacts as soon as they got to the summit. I also need the walk to stretch my back and get the step count up. Glenn got his beam out and by the time I got there they were chasing the boys on VK3/VG-014. Qualified and started the trip back.
02/Feb/2019VK3/VE-006 (Mt Hotham)
VK1DA’s 4 element 23cm beam. Photo David VK3IL
M\BY the time we got there then summit was rocking. Ron had HF up, Wade was playing with FT8, Andrew had setup a 23cm station (1296.150 SSB) so I jumped at the opportunity to secure microwave S2S with Andrew VK3JBL on VK3/VN-001Mt Torbreck and Crompton VK2HRX on VK3/VE-030.
Rik came in from the wild and after snacks and a bear that turned up from nowhere , we headed back down to The General for dinner.
Again once back at the lodge we discussed the next day and out came the radios for show and tell. Plans were made, timings confirmed and off to bed for another big day.
02/Feb/2019VK3/VE-005 (Mt Loch)
Its was a busy site. I was the second for the day. Rick and Paul were up and gone early. I was the afternoon shift as thinking of being there for UTC rollover. Rick and Paul got out there and qualified in 1:18 (TBV) I was slighlty slower but not by much and didn’t have a snake to deal with. Its a great walk to a clear site with a perfect antenna mount.Great activation qualified before getting the pack off. Total of 24 contacts, 8 distinct S2S sites, 40/80M CW contacts and killer views.
The weather was amazing. Typical Alpine conditions, needed the jacket on the walk out, jumper on site and sunscreen on the way back.
Thanks again to thanks to Brian and Kathy for hosting another memorable weekend in the Victorian Alps. I will be back next year for what has to be the premier SOTA activation fest in VK.
27012019 – (VKFF-0775) Werribee Gorge State Park
Another local park.
Decided to go out to verify a antenna and the cars APRS config. Updated the frequencies for the radio in Subie in preparation for upcoming Hotham weekend. Wanted to be sure APRS was still correct.
Between Ballan and Bacchus Marsh.
I came down Ingliston Road with is Ironbark Road out of Bacchus. Sealed until the park access. Car park open with enough room for several cars so would support full size antenna. The site has full strength 4G service due to the upgrade of service alone the train line.
Setup in the carpark and squeezed out 10 contacts. 5 SSB then 5 CW so the mix is improving.
Ultimately will be trying to qualify VKFF on CW (10 contacts) but at the present happy to gain any contacts. Secured Park to Park contacts with VK2IO in VKFF-2650 and VK4HNS in VKFF-0719.
Intended to test an end-fed but had left an adaptor behind and no desire to rip cable apart so just used vertical and called it a day.
12012019 – (VKFF-2233) Winter Swamp Nature Conservation Reserve
Working through local parks . This one is in Ballarat itself.
The KMZ file (VKFF-2233) shows the site clearly. Access from the north is more challanging than expected. The Skipton Rail trail is of no value.
There is a gate and walking track from Blink Creek Road which is off the new bypass. The gate is locked but does allow for people access. It was hot so I was looking to operate as close to the car as possible if not from the car so decided to try from Lucas Lane.
Lucas Lane is off Remembrance Drive. Down the service road and in behind the caravan park. This brings you to a car park within the boundary of the park. The sign has been vandalised but position clear.
Operated from the car hiding from the heat. Using FT891 into vertical. Rewarded with 4 CW contacts with the highlight being VK3WRL on CW from VK3/VG-011 in VKFF-0619. Two Park to Park contacts with VK4HNS at VKFF-0065 and VK6MB in VKFF-0164.
Nice clean activation on a hot day.