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.