Voyage Français en 2017

Heading to France today. New specific Blog Page link.

Nan and I will be spending our time in Provence whilst Cameron & the Cats manage the home front.

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New page Added

sehenswurdigkeiten-in-chile-10Patagonia Expedition 

The link to this page will be a work in progress.

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Bogongs Beckon

Allen VK3ARH BLOG of this trip.

Maps used Garmin Topo Australia & New Zealand V5
Spatial Vision Bogong Alpine Area Outdoor Recreation Guide. bushwalking.
More detailed trip notes.Bogong Alpine Area Trek April 2017

Many thanks to Allen VK3ARH for instigating this trek and to Warren VK3BYD for local knowledge support. GPX file available on request.

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160 metres and amplitude modulation

The first of April was not only April Fools day but also the first planned 160 metre activity day which coincided with AM day.
First to explain:
160 metres is a medium wave amateur band located just above the standard AM broadcast band. It presents many challenges for the home station, yet alone  portable operation. Antenna size, efficiency and propagation work against the portable operator.
Antennas tend to be big. Significant height is required for horizontal wires.
Short vertical antennas are not efficient; worse still due to ground losses.
Propagation, other than local ground waves, requires night time operation.

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Having previously trialed my 160m vertical on Mt. Hotham, I selected Mt. Mitchell on the Black Range near Buxton as my summit of choice based on:
Previous experience.
Drive up summit.
Good phone coverage.
Adequate space.
Not a busy area.
Not too far from home yet decreasing the distance to those north of me.

I have found the most direct access to be via the Maroondah Hwy to Narbethong and then take Plantation Rd then the Black Range Rd (both dirt) which takes you right into the activation zone. Turning off at Jackson’s Break track leads to a large clearing at the junction of what used to be Kelly’s road (now overgrown). This clearing was what I was aiming for, unfortunately it was already occupied with bee hives. Bugger! A look further along Jackson’s Break track came to naught for a suitable location so I crept past the bees down Kelly’s road, over a fallen tree and set up; the tent being on a raised section just above the road and the antennas just in front on the edge of the road. I did wander further down to determine if there would be much traffic, no problems with that & I would hear the chainsaws hours before anyone got to me.
The antennas used were the standard 20 metre extended double zepp doublet and the top loaded 160 metre vertical. With the later, I needed additional spread on the top hat / guy wires to obtain a perfect match on 1825 khz.

First contact was S2S with andrew VK1AD/P on VK2/ST-036 via 80 metres SSB. This was 75 minutes later than my alerted time. What followed proved interesting, especially as I made no 40 metre SSB contacts,
Main operating window was between 04:12 and 08:40 hrs utc.
19 x S2S contacts (includes duplicates) in a total of 35.
160 metres x 16, 80 metres x 10m 40 metres x 5, 30 metres x 3 & 20 metres x 1.
Best DX was on 30 metres later Saturday night and early Sunday morning working VK6RZ, ZL3CC & JF1IRW (Japan) on CW. I worked VK6NU on 20 metres, VK3GGG/P in the Grampians on 80 metres AM. Best 160 metres was to VK2IO/P 725 km away north of Sydney. Most novel was a cross band contact with VK1MA (CW / SSB/ dot counting)
A cold night and chilly morning. Worked the JA at 21:30 hrs whilst in my sleeping bag. Put out a number of calls on 160m, I know that they were heard but went unanswered.

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With the sun now out (Daylight savings ended), I had last nights left over pasta for breakfast plus 2 hits of coffee then took time to get everything packed up dry and tidy. My thought was to activate Mt. Dom Dom on the way home and alerted the same on Sotawatch.

Other 160 metre activity day blogs.
Allen VK3ARH
David VK3IL
Paul VK3HN

Mt Dom Dom is off the Maroondah Hwy and is accessed by Dom Dom Rd at the Black Spur followed by a scrub bash through logging re-growth. There is heaps of room to park where Number 8 road intersects. Number 8 road provides access to Mt. Vinegar but access of late due to logging has been a problem. To my surprise, the gate was open so I ventured forward towards Mt. Vinegar, getting all the way to a second gate (locked) that is only 150 metres (10 vertical metres) outside of the activation zone. (Walked without gear to the summit to determine where the activation zone commenced)
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Setting up with the doublet on the side of the road, my first contact was S2S with David VK3IL/P on Mt. King Billy VK3/VE-016. I had activated this one 8 times but my first chase today.
I activated for just over an hour using 40, 80 and 15 metres. Very pleased to work 3 more JA stations on 15m CW including an S2S with JF1NDT (JA/KN-021). I did spend some time trying to get JP3DGT and Andrew HL1ZIH (Korea) both operating from summits on 15 metres.
Better yet, all today’s contacts were QRP 5 watts due to low battery voltage!

FYI, Fire tower picture site. Many of our summits, including Mt. Dom Dom have or had fire towers, even if they were only trees.

Next on the agenda is trek with Allen VK3ARH on the 22nd of April in the Bogong Alpine Area. Stay tuned.

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Mount Hotham Expedition

23/02/2017

The weekend of the 25th and 26th of February was fast approaching. I had intended to head up to Hotham on Friday morning with Nan but due to circumstances, headed up on Thursday afternoon in the Caddy instead.
Heading north up the Hume Freeway, the first port of call was Myrtleford where I finally caught up with Warren VK3BYD, we had quite a lengthy chat in the park and a show and tell with our various equipment.
It was then up to Mt. Porepunkah VK3/VE-098. This is an easy 2WD drive up to the fire tower site.  Access was from One Mile Creek road off the Great Alpine Road. Navigation is straightforward but for an unmarked intersection where one needs to veer left over a creek followed by a hard right rather than follow the track heading up the hill.
My arrival was timed to be after the 7:00 PM knock off time of the resident fire watcher so as to avoid any conflicts or interference.

VK3/VE-098, Mt Porepunkah – 1185m, 6 Points

Excellent Telstra mobile reception here.
With the light beginning to dim, I first set up my new 160 metre vertical followed by the heavier duty doublet and squid pole for use on 80 metres. I was on air and ready for Ron VK3AFW’s 80m CW practice session.

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This is a great site and was very RF quiet on 80 & 160m

I easily qualified the summit on 80m CW with regulars VK3AFW, VK3BYD, VK2IO, VK7CW and also VK3MEG. As for 160 metres, I tuned to 1825 kHZ and had a 599 both ways contact with VK7CW and 559 to both VK3BYD and VK2IO.
With no further chasers on CW, I was pleased to hear VK2TB Tom located between Sydney and Dubbo and VK2PH Mark in Sydney, both of who I contacted with 55 reports. With the summit now qualified on 160 metres, it was a late dinner whilst monitoring 80m SSB. Last contact was Peter VK3PF on 3.600 mHz @11:04 hrs utc.
I packed up all the gear with the aid of my head lamp then set up my new S2S comfort plus mattress in the back of the caddy and then retired for the night.
Great day and night views from this summit.

24/02/2017
Breakfast at 7:00 am in mild conditions before heading down to Porepunkah township then up to Mt. Buffalo.
If you ever wondered about the name Mt. Buffalo, view the range from the “Snow Road” not far out from the Hume Freeway.

I stopped past the parks office on the way up for a look. The parks staff thought I was a working sub-contractor. Little traffic on the road at this time, a few cars and also push bikes.
Knowing the Horn activation site to be very tight, I first headed there before it became too crowded.
Good Telstra mobile coverage from both summits.

VK3/VE-014, The Horn – 1723m, 10 Points

The horn consists of a sharp and pointy rock outcrop with a viewing platform at its top. The walking track access leads to a metal stair case. I measured that the start of these stairs is just inside the activation zone.

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Good view of the Hump from here

Being the only person up there, I set up on the observation platform. The squid pole strapped to a corner post, one leg of the doublet hanging vertically down the granite rock cliff and the other leg strung out and tied to the hand rail lower down the steps. I made sure all my gear was stowed out of the way and tied to the rail where possible after loosing the squid pole cap over the edge.
My activation period was 48 minutes. I had a few visitors who, from my appearance, thought I was carrying out some research work.
I started in 15 metres and first contact after much trying in the log was W4HBK, Bill in Florida followed by a booming John ZL1BYZ.
VK3PF, VK2UH & VK3HRA were worked on 80m cw , VK2IO on 40m cw and VK5 WG and FANA plus VK3WRL/P (Ben on the Moroka River) on 40m SSB.

VK3/VE-019, The Hump – 1695m, 10 Points

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An easy 1.5 km walk from The Hump / Cathedral car park which also sports a drop toilet. Started on 40m CW and had an instant reply from Phil VK2FGBR in Newcastle. It took another 30 minutes and two band changes to get the second and further qualifying contacts on 20m CW. 599 reports to VK4, 519 to VK6 (side of antenna) and finished up back on 40m SSB with an S2S with Paul VK3HN on Mt. Nelse.
Activation time 60 minutes for 8 contacts. Excellent Telstra mobile coverage. Lots of bicycle traffic on the way back down. Next shopping in Bright then to Hotham!

Whilst in Transit to Mt. Hotham, I received a phone call from Allen VK3ARH who was also en route but via Ulrich Point on the Mt Buffalo range. We compared ETAs and I decided to activate Mt. Loch to try and pick up the S2S points.

VK3/VE-005, Mt Loch – 1865m, 10 Points

Great phone access from this summit. Line of site to Mt. Hotham. The walk is an easy 3.5 or so kMs mostly along a 4WD track that runs past the summit. All is above the tree line and exposed but for possible cover from buildings associated with the ski tows.
WX was clear but closing in from the south. I set up on the north side of the summit cairn in clear conditions but was soon enveloped in fast moving damp cloud and fog. The space immediately behind the cairn created a sort of vacuum from the prevailing conditions.

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WX can change quickly!

Good going with 30 activator points for the day!

Great night at the Lodge. Present over the weekend were Brian VK3MCD, Ron VK3AFW & Ruth, Alan VK3FABT, Allen VK3ARH, Paul VK3HN, Glenn VK3YY & Sarah, Ken VK3KIM and Peter VK3PF

25/02/2017

VK3/VE-002, Mt Feathertop – 1922m, 10 Points

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This is the one that I had come for. Rather than running around picking up a multitude of high value summits, I was keen to venture to the second highest peak in Victoria. Allen VK3ARH was to be my companion again and, after a hearty breakfast at the Lodge, we were on the Razorback Ridge by 8:00 AM. By the looks of the carpark, we would not be alone.
The weather was perfect. A slight breeze and a bit overcast with some fog / low cloud at times (cleared whilst at the summit). In our travels we met a U3A group from Bairnsdale plus numerous Football teams from both Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance (not a ball in sight). There were also a number of extremely fit trailrunners. With 14kG in the pack, this was definitely not for me!

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Looking north on the Razorback

The trek is some 23 kilometres return along the mostly exposed Razorback. The first section provides an option of following the ridge top or skirting around the east side (which is what we did). The trek is undulating and generally down hill (100m over 5 km) then up ( 160m over 5km) to the Bungalow Spur track junction leading to Federation Hut with a final push (160m over just over 1 km) to the twin peaked summit.

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Federation Hut

The north peak is 1 metre higher than the south peak and we set up a short distance north of this highest point in a relatively clear and quiet area.

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Twin Peaks of Mt. Feathertop

Using my KX3 and Allen’s 40/20m trap dipole in inverted V format biased north / south, we both easily qualified the summit using CW, SSB and many S2S contacts on 2 metres FM with our fellow “Hotham Expeditioners”
We had made excellent pace on the way out and were ahead of schedule. Our activation continued in now warm sunshine for nearly an hour over lunch before packing up and heading back to the car.
Travel time was 3:15 out and 3:25 back, the return leg also being in much warmer conditions.

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From whence we came

Chaser contacts on 2 metres FM were had with Ken VK3KIM on The Hump and Glenn VK3YY on Mt. Loch
Excellent Telstra mobile coverage. line of Site to Mt. Hotham.
Used nearly 3 litres of water on the trek. Carried clothing layers, extra food and a Bothy Bag incase of a WX change.

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Showing practically the full route to Feathertop

VK3/VE-006, Mt Hotham – 1861m, 10 Points

Final summit for the day after a much needed shower and rest up at the Lodge. Allen and I headed up to the summit only to find the gate locked. This is normal and there is usually no private vehicle access unless otherwise arranged (as was our case). This meant another 1.5 km up to the tower for the keys then back again. Allen set up his 40/20m dipole and I the 160m vertical and we went to work whilst also partaking the odd drink and bite to eat.
Operating conditions were quite cold with a brisk southerly blowing.
160m was very noisy but I did manage to qualify with VK3BYD (Wangaratta) and VK2IO (Sydney) plus both Allen and Ron off the mountain.
As with Mt. Porepunkah, ground conditions were different to home requiring the use of the KX3 tuner to present a nicer antenna match.
Group photo then down to the very busy pub for dinner.
Excellent Telstra mobile coverage on Hotham.

26/02/2017
Later start this morning whilst plans were made.
I accompanied Brian and Paul to revisit Mt. Tabletop over near Dinner Plain. This is a lovely 10km return walk across the JB Plain then into the snow gums down to Tabletop creek before ascending up past some rocky outcrops to the plateau of Mt. Tabletop.

VK3/VE-028, Mt TableTop – 1593m, 10 Points

Excellent Telstra mobile coverage.
Set up using the short squid pole ( to which I further broke the top section) and doublet. With 3 HF stations operating there was some mutual interference. Qualified on 40m CW and worked ZL1BYZ on 15 and 17 metres plus VK6NU on 20m CW. 80m provided better NVIS propagation than 40m but I was surprised to have a good albeit low signal contact with Rhett VK3WE on 15m CW.
Activation period 1 hr over lunch. Unsuccessful S2S attempt with JF1NDT/1 on 15m
The return trek to the car is a bit slower being more up hill and also a bit warmer. Decided to finish the day with a drive up between Dinner Plain and Omeo.

VK3/VG-030, VK3/VG-030 – 1321m, 8 Points

Good Telstra mobile coverage. Drive about 30 minutes towards Omeo from Dinner Plain. The turn off on the north side of the road is not marked and is just short of 1km from the Mt. Livingstone rd.
Turn hard right (north) at the track junction immediately once off the Great Alpine Road and proceed along a 4WD track (relatively easy but requiring ground clearance and good tyres if wet – becoming overgrown so expect some scratches). Proceed first north then north west on the track that follows the ridge for about 2.7km where a track joins in from the left (west). Take this track and proceed south west for 700m into the activation zone. Brian parked out of the zone as it was becoming a bit overgrown with limited opportunities to turn around. (Ref access VK3PF)

Set up on the track. With the still broken squid pole the summit was qualified with contacts on 40 and 80m CW. HF propagation was very poor but for Es (Sporadic E) on 10m with  Stuart VK8NSB operating VI8BOD (Bombing of Darwin special event call) putting in a cracking signal.
Activation time just under the hour (last contact 0523 hrs) then back to the lodge by 5:10 pm (06:10 hrs utc)

With a number of the group having departed for home, it was a quieter night at the lodge with many points discussed over a glass or two.

27/02/2017
Depart for home in lovely clear conditions around 9:00 AM. Numerous photo stops. Home by 2:30 PM – beating both the evening peak plus school pick up.
Noticeably warmer at home!

My Stats:
8 summits, 74 activator points, 146 chaser points and 105 S2S points.
Walked 46 kilometres.
Best DX was W4HBK in Florida
Worked VK2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & good copy of VK8BOD on 10m plus ZL1 & ZL2.
Used CW, SSB and FM modes.
Could not complete an S2S with JF1NDT/1 (229)
I found 17m to ZL worked better than 15 or 20m @00:30 hrs.
Tried all bands 160 through to 2 metres with the exception of 12 metres.
Sota gods appeased with 1 x broken squid pole, 1 lost 2m hand held and a Subaru head gasket.
Further reading VK3CAT 2016VK3ARH, VK3HN

 

 

 

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A quiet weekend ?Jobs in the shack!

January 2017:
A major change in the shack has been a new Realistic DX 160 receiver that I inherited middle of 2016. This was timely as I had just removed the FRG8800 as it had no rx on AM or SSB.
The DX160 is practically mint condition with speaker and am quite pleased with the on air performance. Certainly beats hands down the Realistic DX300!
Well, the FRG8800 was relegated to the work shop. It was not long out from there due to the flashing display / PLL lock repair.
This was August 2016 and, although having looked at it a number of times and working through circuit diagrams, I was yet to determine the fault.
Yesterday I had some luck and it was so simple. I noticed a cable connector to the front control board was unplugged (how had I missed this? I probably caused it in the first place!) and plugging it in got things working. 🙂

Next problem was where to put it as the DX160 was now in the FRG8800 location. Nan did not want a receiver in the family room and for some reason the bedroom was out of the question!20170122_144142

Receivers: Realistic DX 300, Yaesu FRG7, Yaesu FRG8800 with FRT7700 & FRA7700, Realistic DX160, Sony ICF-SW7600GR, Realistic Pro 2006 & Pro 2010. Mostly old but still working. Bought the DX300 as I could not afford a FRG7 at the time.

Recently at home, due to the removal of a neighbour’s tree, I was forced to reinvent the general purpose HF wire antenna.
This antenna started off as an 80 metre dipole and then a doublet, supported by the tree on the nature strip and the tree overhanging our back yard.
Well, after 10 years, the council wanted the wire out of “their” tree due to a complaint – new next door neighbour / builder / developer who also took a dislike to the roof mounted antenna array.
Mk11 version had the same antenna become a loop, sort of a horizontal delta loop that happened to be resonant on 40 metres. It did tune on 80 metres but not as effective as the previous flat top. This was not a major problem as 80 metres was (and still does) suffer from major qrm most of the time so I tended not to use it.
I probably got 10 years out of this configuration.

Mk111, thanks again to new neighbours / builders / developers saw the tree replaced with a very attractive heritage green metal pole 5.5 metres high mounted in the very back corner of the property – a match to the opposite corner. This time, instead of a loop, I have run a stub down from what was once the centre position of the loop and am experimenting on performance on 160m, 80m as well as other bands (have a tri band yagi for 20, 15 & 10m plus 6 elements on 6m). This is a work in progress.

FYI, the open wire feedline is made up of split figure 8 flex and uses sheet flooring joining strips as spreaders. The separation is 100mm and length 27 metres.
Each original 17.5m leg has been extended by 5.5 metres (23m) that runs across the back of the property with the stub hanging down from the middle and horizontally along the fence rail (not easily accessible from either side). The vertical drop is about 4 metres and horizontal about 8 metres.
I will continue to experiment with the length and orientation of the stub.

antenna-tree

Next project is to repair the feedline to the 2 metre yagi!
To do this, I will have to lower the mast. Not too bad, just remove the rotator which is mounted inside the roof and then use the brake winch to lower the mast inside an internal wall: thus lowering everything by 2.7 metres. Just have to get motivated and also pick some stable WX. March perhaps?

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Mount Clear and Beyond; The true story!

Plan for the Christmas and New Year Break is to tackle three summits along the AAWT. Two I have done previously being the Knobs and the High Cone and the third, Mt. Clear will be a new one for me.
These are fairly rare summits, the Knobs previously activated twice and the others only once. I had phone access on the Knobs, none at the High Cone and uncertain about Mt. Clear.
An alert is out for Wednesday 28th of December 00:01 hrs utc and the order of summits is as per the alert. May rely on the RBN Hole and APRS to assist spotting. WX is forecast to be hot and windy but 10 degrees cooler on the hill tops than in the Valley.
Limited time for each activation. An all Elecraft activation – reasonably band and mode agile.

The Knobs

The Knobs

Will be travelling with Nan, Allen VK3ARH and Glenn VKYY.
Camping out on the trail and putting our new gear purchased for the N.A expedition to good use.
Will have to update the Sota Gear page to reflect some more of the gear. I have updated the pack to the Osprey Atmos 65 litre variant medium frame. Nan has the Osprey Aura 65 litre small frame pack.
A map of our travels can be found on the link below.
Will have APRS working via the SPOT3 Tracker aprs.fi/vk3cat-13

mt-clear-and-beyond (Click on the link on the new page for the pdf map)

Update 29/12/2016

Nan and I left home early on Boxing Day morning (6:30 AM to be precise) and had a good and clear run. Breakfast at Yea in the wet lands reserve (no toilets) before continuing to Mansfield (ample toilets – tourist information, rail trail and main shopping strip!) and further through Merrijig to the start of the Howqua Track.
First observation of the track was it had been recently graded so I opted not to lower the tyre pressures. This proved to be a good call as the track and then Brocks Road beyond it were all in excellent shape and we could comfortably cruise at 60kmph in the Landcruiser (disclaimer – drive to the conditions and yours / cars ability!) There was very little traffic and we were able to nab our desired campsite on the north branch of the Jamieson River.
Set up the tent, had some lunch then off to get some fire wood on the Low Saddle Rd.

Now with the camp established and camp fire going, the WX decided to change with a colossal thunderstorm hitting us. I had not yet put up our tarpaulin shelter so we threw this over the tent awning and waited it out.
WX cleared in time for dinner and, with the tarpaulin now up, we had a dry spot for our table and chairs. We were going to get good use from this!

27/12/16.
Cloudy day interspersed with occasional dry patches but mostly drizzle.
Heard from Allen VK3ARH on 2 metres from 8 Mile Gap. Severe WX forecast for the 29th and that it would just be him and us.
Met up with Allen at the camp site and determined to head off in the morning as planned so long as the WX was OK.

28th/12/16
Up before 7:00 AM, hearty breakfast and coffee. In Allen’s Subie the intrepid three drove over to Knobs / Mt. Clear Rd; ending up parking in a small creek side campsite a kilometre or so prior to the start of Knobs track due to the deteriorated condition of this road. We were on the climb up Knobs track by 8:30 AM and climbed steadily for 2 hours before reaching the AAWT, a short break then up to the Knobs by 11:20 AM.

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Steep climb up the Knobs 4WD track

VK3/VE-040 The Knobs 1495 metres.
Very strong gusty winds from the north west. Allen set up his EFHW with MTR and I, the KX3 – travel doublet and mini squid pole. The angle of the pole is testament to the wind and the antenna would not have been more than 2 metres off the ground!
I ended up waiting for Allen to finish activating to avoid interference. Got a handful of CW contacts including John ZL1BYZ and a couple of SSB contacts that included an S2S with Matt VK1MA on VK2/sw-027. Allen headed off to find Nan whilst I packed up. Last contact 01:20 hrs utc (12:20 PM local).
Good phone access from Mt. Buller.

It is a rocky descent off the Knobs, firstly on a spur then a lovely wide and grassy ridge until the approach to the High Cone where things get a bit more serious. The AAWT has two options at The High Cone, either over the top or around the north west side. We left Nan and the packs at the junction and headed to the summit some 120 metres up the hill.

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Only 168 vertical metres to go!

The High Cone VK3/VE-240 1488 metres.
A short activation using Allen’s EFHW and the KX3. Winds still strong and we shelter on the south side below the summit. Beginning to rain.
A handful of contacts on 40m CW and a couple on 40m SSB for good measure then a quick get away.
Slow going with the chasers. Propagation is not great. Activation time 47 minutes. Still no phone access here.
Met back with Nan then headed towards Mt. Clear.

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Snack time. Real Sota Activators do not stop for lunch!

Our rate of progress was slower than expected and the times provided to me from some trek notes were impossible to get anywhere close to. Nan, Allen and Myself called it a day in a small grassy saddle on the south side of Mt. Clear where we set up camp. The time was now 7:00 PM. We had our meal then fell into bed as the sun set.

29/12/16
Light rain overnight and early morning. Up and about by 7:00 AM and away at 8:20 AM in light rain that became more persistent as the day went on. Unable to see Mt. Clear due to rain and cloud. Evidently this is not an uncommon experience. Allen and I set up on the Eastern leeward side of the summit whilst Nan unbeknown waited for us at the top. Visibility and wind was such that we could neither see nor hear each other.
Back at the activation site, Allen had set up my doublet antenna and the KX3 was put into action. CW only as the microphone was safely tucked away in a dry bag. Thanks to earlier SMS communications with Warren VK3BYD, an alert had already been posted and a few chasers were patiently waiting for our activation to commence.

Mt. Clear 1695 metres.
We had the minimum 4 contacts each inside of 10 minutes then a quick pack up and away. We did not bother to work each other so we both await a future activator for the complete!
Back on the summit cairn at 10:16 AM, the start of the MVO 4WD track via a steep and rocky descent by 11:25 AM where I found some water.
This 4WD MVO – management vehicle only – track traverses beneath the steep craggy north west side of Mt. Clear before joining a spur that is often clear and grassy; boggy in places before steeply dropping down towards Clear Creek. There are a series of switchbacks; much of which were heavily covered with wet regrowth. The going here was wet and slow. Little forward progress is made due to the lay of the track.
Finally, where Mt. Clear track supposedly heads north west, it in fact runs south east towards the Clear Creek. At this point it joins Mt. Clear Rd and follows the namesake creek in an easterly direction before meeting up with the bottom of Knobs track. The marked continuation of Clear Creek Rd along side Clear Creek no longer exists. From memory, it was formed during logging works in the 1980’s and has since not been maintained. I believe this is also true for the section of Mt. Clear Track that used to join onto Mt. Clear Rd closer to where our car was parked.  I once traveled the MT. Clear track in its Entirety from King Billy by trail bike in 1983.
Finally back at the car at 3:30 PM.

mt-clear-trek-elevation

AAWT Junction at 4km, The Knobs at 5.5km, High Cone Saddle at 9km, The Square Top at 13.5km, Mt Clear at 17.5km, MVO 4WD track at 19.5km.
Ran out of batteries not far off the end.
Trek Stats. 
Heights, time and distances are rounded and are guidelines only

  • Time on the go including breaks and activations but excluding overnight camp – dinner and breakfast: 18.5 hours.
  • Distance travelled including some deviations: 30 kilometres. Note here that neither Allen nor myself found the section of the MVO track that is allegedly a part of Clear Creek track that heads north east to the Clear Creek Rd. Instead, the MVO track follows the route of a path that runs in the complete opposite direction.
  • Carpark to AAWT – 4km, 483m ascent, 2 hours.
  • AAWT to the Knobs – 1.7km, 13m descent & 168m ascent, 50 minutes.
  • The Knobs activation time 68 minutes. (Too long!)
  • The Knobs to the High Cone -3.5km, 181m descent, 176m ascent, 2 hours between activations.
  • The High Cone to where we commenced the sidle around the Square Top – 2.75km, 45m descent, 160m ascent,  1hr & 40 minutes.
  • High Cone Activation time 47 minutes.
  • To where we hooked onto the AAWT (sidle track route becomes very scrubby and extreme side gradients) – 1.2km, 55m ascent, 1hr & 10 minutes. We joined the AAWT in a saddle north east of the first peak. In hindsight, probably better to take the pain and climb this first scrubby peak but we did save 20 metres of ascent and descent!
  • Point above to our camp beneath Mt. Clear 1km, 20m ascent, 164m ascent, 30 minutes.
  • Camp to Mt. Clear Activation site –  1.25km, 225m ascent, 55 minutes (+spent 30 minutes setting up & finding where Nan was)
  • Mt Clear Activation time 10 minutes.
  • Ascent to Mt Clear from Activation site – 0.5km, 10m ascent, 8 minutes.
  • Mt. Clear to 4WD MVO track – 2.1km, 266m descent, 55 minutes.
  • 4WD track to car- 10.5km approximate, about 60 metres of ascents (single longest is 40m) and 625m descent, 4 hrs.
This is a remote, rugged and often wild environment. Weather conditions can change without warning. Navigation can be difficult. Water can be scarce. Maps are not accurate and information is unreliable.  Travel prepared!

mount-clear-trek-map

Rather than the more direct grey line back to the car, the MVO track continues south from the end of the red track line (where the batteries went flat) to cross clear creek and link to the main road close to where the Knobs track begins to climb up out of the valley.

Thanks to Nan and Allen for their company an support.

Reference VK3WAM, VK3ARH

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A last Winter Foray?

Technically Winter ceases on the 31st of August. Nature knows differently with trees already in full bloom and the days being a bit longer, a bit warmer. Still the weather is a curious beast and many a person has made a career on trying to understand it!

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The weekend of the 27th / 28th of August was forecast to be fine with Sunday now being the nicest day for a trip out. During the week had been cold and wet with snow down to low levels before fining up on Friday. The extra day should help to dry the bush out a bit.

Sunday 28th of August 6:30 AM. Our intrepid 80 Series landcruiser heads out on another adventure. The sky is clear, not overly cold. A good day to be out!

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The upper fall of Snobs Creek

One objective for the day was to keep up some training for our USA trip with some reasonable walks but not as strenuous as the 25K in a day effort. Back to an area I know quite well, The Rubicon & Snobs Creek Valley area a couple of hours north east of Melbourne.

First up a return to Pyramid Hill VK3/VN-005. A drive up in all but the winter season where the road is seasonally closed. At this time of year it is simply a case of heading south on Snobs Creek Rd to Number 5 Rd then parking at its junction with Royston Range Tk (Seasonal Road Closure gate just up the track!) Why start off on an easy summit you may well ask?
1. I wanted to determine the altitude of the remaining snow.
2. I was not sure if there would be access (read on…)
3. Pyramid Hill is the first summit along my proposed route.

Well, I half anticipated what ended up happening. There were warning signs along the northern section of Snobs Creek Rd that logging was occurring in the area and that access and roads could be restricted or closed. On walking up the 2wd section of Royston Range Tk I came across a Timber Harvesting Zone with the 4wd track across the Royston Range being definitely off limits. Got to within 500m of the summit too; Bugger! And I was right 20160828_092636on time for my proposed 23:30 hrs utc (9:30 AM) start up. So much for my schedule now!

Plan B

Proceed to Bill Head VK3/VN-004 located a short distance further south along Snobs Creek Rd.
Previously I had accessed Bill Head from the north via Conn’s Gap Rd. This requires a little bit of low range 4WD in a slippery climb from 1180m to 1270m in 600m once past Conn’s Gap. Once at the top of this incline, one is on the highest section of Conn’s Gap Rd; all that is then required is a 200m bash through logging debris and regrowth to 1300m then head south along the spur towards the 1370m Bill Head. Sounds easier than it is and I had never actually made it to the summit, rather calling it quits once inside the activation zone.

This time my access route was from the south, 1.1 km east along Conn’s Gap Rd from its junction with Snobs Creek Rd and Snobs Link Rd. This location is a relatively flat area, plenty of parking and at the start of the spur leading to Bill Head from the north. Altitude about 1130m.

Bill HeadI got out first to have a look. Some signs of logging, regrowth but not too bad and with reasonable open sections. 2.1km along the spur (all off track) to the summit. with snow from 1300m. Time took was 1hr 20 minutes (9:50 to 11:10 AM). Not sure if it was any quicker but I was at the top this time. A very large, flat and open summit with plenty of choice as to where to activate from.
That I did not fall over once leads testament that this route is a bit easier. The run along the spur was dead easy but for the snow cover on some sections that created “sink holes” when trodden on.

 

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Operational by 01:24 hrs UTC, Peter VK3PF pounced on my 80m CW call. Not sure if I had a spot out but did have APRS tracking (VK3CAT-13) operational via my SPOT Messenger.
Peter was the only 80m contact, followed by 4 further contacts on 40m CW, 6 om 40m SSB including a (ground wave?) S2S with Mark VK3ASC on VK2/RI-004.
Last contact in the log was Ron VK3AFW on 6m CW, proving that the higher HF and low VHF bands can be a substitute for the now unreliable 40m NVIS.

My descent was via a more direct route. I had intended to run a steep easterly spur down to Conn’s Gap Rd. The direction changed some what when I hit a wall of thick regrowth. The easiest path seemed to be to the north so I took that. This was a real scrub bash, helped with gravity and I took a few tumbles. Definitely not recommended for an ascent. 1370m down to 1220m in under 500 metres. It took 17 minutes.
In retrospect, I should have tried the south side of the spur instead, a 750 metre descent to 1170m but saving 1 kilometre on the road. As it was, it was 4.3 kilometres, 40 minutes of easy road walking back to the car.

Back at the Snobs Creek Road Junction, there is Snobs Link Rd to the east that heads to the main Eildon to Warburton Rd, Bullfight Track to the west (seasonally closed) and Coys Rd to the south (sometimes closed).
I took the open Coys Rd to where it intersects Federation Rd, continued generally south on Federation Rd to the Royston Gap. I continued generally south on (depending on your map) Sandstone Rd or Royston River Rd to the signed junction of Sandstone and Cambarville Rds (Note – if wanting to continue south along Cambarville Rd, a sharp right hand turn is required at this intersection as Sandstone Rd is straight ahead!

Keppel Ridge VK3/VN-006 1104 Metres
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8.8km and under 30 minutes from my Conn’s Gap Rd parking spot, I was at an ideal parking spot recommended by Allen VK3ARH on Sandstone Rd and nearly directly adjacent to the summit. Time about 1:40PM.

Keppel Ridge
The off track route to the summit is quite a slog for the most part. Starting off in the gully where the car was parked, I quickly exited both it and the tangly growth to commence a steep ascent of relatively open forest.
Steep? Starting off at 925 metres, the going is constant to 1070 metres in 450 metres taking 40 minutes. From here it plateaus out to the 1104 metre summit that is located to the north and east on the edge of a near sheer drop into the Torbreck  river valley. This last bit is an easy 270 metres and took just 8 minutes.
Got to admit of feeling a little stuffed so took longer than normal to set up.
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First in the log was Steve VK7CW on 80m followed surprisingly by Allen VK3ARH (giving Allen a completed summit!)
5 further 40m cw contacts to VK2,3 and 4. Worked VK3s LED & GRK on Mt. Macedon for an 40m SSB S2S plus Warren ZL2AJ (20m SSB) on ZL1/VK-139 plus John ZL1BYZ on 20m cw. Whilst looking for VK6, I again worked Jan OK2PDT (Czech Republic) on 20m CW long path.
Tried in vain to work Ron VK3AFW on 6, 10, 15 or 40 metres. It was now getting cool and time to head off. Last contact was at 05:36 but it was closer to 04:00 hrs utc before I headed back to the car. Roughly following my GPS track, my descent took less than 20 minutes for the 720 metre trek.

A quick cup of coffee and snack, then home by just after 7:00pm with a stop to pick up some takeaway from our favourite Indian Restaurant in Ormond

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A not so beautiful sight off Cambarville Road

Note to activators: Phone coverage quite good on all summits with the Galaxy S5 phone which is way better than the previous Galaxy Nexus.

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25Ks for the day!

I had a leave pass for Saturday the 13th of August. Nan was involved with her quilting groups “Quilt Show” so I headed out to an area I know quite well.
The plan for this trek was to see how I coped with a long hike with some 15kg in the back pack; all in preparation for our USA trip and hopefully a return to Europe next year.

As Nan had the Landcruiser, I was relegated to the VW Caddy. A very nippy work van but it does not like corrugated roads that much as all the gear in the shelves flies about.
Well, on an earlier trip to Mt. Strickland, I recalled the Acheron Way was bitumen and, on consultation with my maps, remained so nearly all the way south from Narbethong to the trail head that we use to walk up to Mt. Ritchie.
Google maps showed bugger all difference between getting there via Warburton (96 km and 1hr: 45 minutes) and Narbethong (109 km and 1hr: 50 minutes) both measured without traffic.
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So, at 6:30 am Saturday morning, with chainsaw, shovel and recovery mats, I headed out to the Acheron River where it crosses the Acheron way at the junction of Road 15.
I started my walk at 8:28 am and by 9:01 am was at the road 15 / road 10 track junction, a distance of 2.2 km and elevation gain of 357 metres. WX was misty up to the track junction. A short break for a snack and a drink then onwards and upwards. 5.3 km and an elevation gain of 352 metres.

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This second section is a really pleasant undulating walk. I spied 2 Lyrebirds and a Kangaroo. I was now in pleasant sunshine up until I approached the summit where the cloud / mist came back to visit me – making it quite chilly.
I was on the summit at 10:20 am exactly on schedule and could see via Sota Spotter that Warren VK3BYD was already activating.
Took a little longer than planned to set up due to the cold; Time for the “I” gloves! Sent out some automatic CQ calls on 7.032 without reply and was about to send Warren and SMS when I heard his reply. First contact S2S!
Got 5 more on cw then tried 30 metres without luck. finishing off on 7.090 ssb with a further 6 contacts.

First contact 00:41, last 01:04 hrs utc.
Commenced the return trek at 11:20 am, and was back at the road 10 / 15 road junction 53 minutes later; and back at the car right on 12:40 pm making it 1hr: 20 minutes for the return journey and 30 minutes quicker than the ascent.

A quick bite and a coffee then a short 2.8 km drive to where Mt. Vinegar road intersects the Acheron Way (car park on the side of the track)
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Departing just after 1:00 pm, I had hoped to be at the road 27 / road 8 junction in about 30 minutes. This was not the case; it taking 46 minutes to traverse the 2.5 km and 173 metre ascent. Not sure if this was a result of having just completed the 15 km Ritchie Trek, not having had enough time for lunch to have kicked in or a combination of the two by I felt pretty knackered; and I was only 1/2 way there!

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The next 262 meter elevation gain was spread over 1.8 km as I deviated off the main road and took the more direct fire break route straight up the main ridge line. This was steep going and a mistake. Finally made the summit by 2:35 pm and was on air 10 minutes later from just on the edge of the logging coup; the squid pole supported by a handy timber post. Funnily enough, I was not far off my alert time, having used up the time gained on the Mt. Ritchie descent on climbing Mt. Vinegar.

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Just off the summit trying to avoid the gusty wind!

A quick activation, 40 metres only with 5 cw and 6 ssb contacts. Finished lunch while operating.
First contact VK3PF AT 04:47 and last VK7ALH at 05:05 hrs utc. Gave out a couple of RD (Remembrance Day Contest) numbers.
Like Mt. Ritchie, the descent was much quicker.
The descent commenced at 3:22 pm and I kept to the main road rather than taking the fire break. The road route from where the fire break intersects is 1.1 km from top to bottom whist the firebreak length is 642 metres with an elevation change of 138 metres.
Back at the road 27 /road 8 junction at 3:46 pm and at the car by 4:14 pm: my descent time more akin to the anticipated ascent.
More coffee and a snack then homeward bound; 2 minutes prior to my scheduled 6:30 pm

For the record:
Total walking was 25 km. Ascents and descents each a little over 1000 metres.
Walking time approximately 5.5 hours making the average speed 4.55 km/h.

Screenshot 2016-08-15 22.26.00.pngClick to view map

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VK1 SOTA Party

The 6th / 7th of August 2016 was the 4th holding of this popular event. I have participated in the past three, not having completed my KX3 kit in time for the first in 2013.
These activities see a large number of activators and activations planned and on this occasion there were around 30 activation alerts from VK8, VK5, VK4, VK3, VK2, VK1 and ZL.
The main objective for activators, apart from qualifying the summit with 4 contacts, is to maximise the number of summit to summit (S2S) contacts.

A bit of experience and planning can help reach the objectives.
Select a summit that is not too difficult to reach; possibly one that you have previously activated.
The summit should have good phone coverage. The ability to see who is where plus self spot is practically essential.
As the main activity will be between 23:00 hrs and o1:00 hrs utc, make sure you arrive on the summit and are ready to activate on time.
Be comfortable. This time I was able to set up in some sunshine. If the WX is to be inclement, look at summits with shelter or take your own.
It may be worth putting a bit more effort into the antenna orientation; particularly for higher bands and DX opportunities.
Have fully charged batteries, both radio and phone.
Take a SOTA watch alert print out with you.

My selected summit was Mt. Mitchell, VK3/VN-012. 935 metres, 6 points and a 2wd drive up. Located on the Black Range to the west of Buxton, it is 2 hours from home and has reasonable phone coverage. It also provides options for follow up summits in the immediate area.
There is no views but the bonus is that the activation site (Black Range Rd – north past Ures Rd. TL Jackson track and note a side track <becomming over grown> that offers a clearing to activate from) is sheltered from the worst of any wind.20160807_104328[1]

Propagation was typical of recent times. No 40 metre NVIS to speak of, reasonable daytime opportunities on 80 metres and DX possibilities on 20 metres.

First contact at 23:04 was VK3HN/P on nearby (17km south) Mt. St. Leonard VK3/VC-006 and last was at 00:37 with VK5NHG/P on VK5/SE-008

Summary of my contacts.
Pre UTC 16 contacts and 10 post UTC:
80 metre ssb – 4 x S2S pre utc & 1 x S2S post utc: Total 5, S2S =5
80 metre cw – 1 x S2S pre utc, 2 x S2S  & 1 x chaser post utc. Total 4, S2S = 3
40 metre ssb – 6 x S2S pre utc, 7 x S2S post utc. Total 13, S2S = 13
40 metre cw – 1 x S2S & 3 x chasers pre utc, none post utc. Total 4, S2S = 1
20 metre ssb -1 x S2S pre utc (ZL2ATH)
VK8GM was heard on 20 metres 5×9.

Next up was Sugarloaf Peak VK3/VN-011, 950 metres and also 6 points.
Sugarloaf Peak is located 10 kilometres practically due east from Mt. Mitchell and is accessed via the Buxton to Marysville Rd – Mt. Margret Rd – Cerberus Rd where there is a carpark, toilet, camping and picnic facilities at the trail head. From here there are two options to reach Sugarloaf Peak.

The easiest is the Canyon track which is a short 30 minute / 700 metre walk and rock scramble whilst the Wells Cave route is a similar time and distance full on rock climb. I took the easier route. Reminded me a little of out time at Machu Picchu20160807_112839[1]
Sugarloaf Peak is at the southern end of the Cathedral Mountains and located in the Cathedral State Park. Phone coverage is very good and the view on a clear day is fantastic.

Plenty of people walking the trail to and the Razorback ridge beyond. Even had a drone flying overhead. They certainly make an annoying sound! cw is much sweeter!! I was on the air by 02:30 and attempted a 40 metre ssb S2S  contact with Matt VK1MA/P but whilst I could receive Matt quite well, my signal was barely readable. At about this time I noticed a tangle in my feedline but doubt that this was of much consequence; rather that the previous poor 40 metre propagation had deteriorated further.

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Wayna Picchu Peru

First actual contact in the log was Gerard VK2IO/P on VK2/ST-006 on 40 metres cw. I had two further 40m cw contacts into Newcastle and northern Tasmania plus an 80 metre cw contact with Warren VK3BYD at home near Wangaratta.
Finally caught up with Matt on 80 metres ssb and finished off with Ron VK3AFW and Ken VK3KIM both portable now on Mt. Strickland (15km south) on 2 metres fm

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Looking south to Marysville, Mts Gordon & Strickland.

Operational from 02:30 to 03:08 hrs utc.
7 contacts in the log. 4 x S2S
3 x 40 metre cw including 1 x S2S
1 x 80 metre cw.
1 x 80 metre ssb S2S
2 x 2 metre FM both S2S

Final summit for the day was Mt. Dom Dom. Convenient because it is on the way home.

Mt. Dom Dom VK3/VN-017 is 728 metres and 4 points.
It is the site of a plane crash in 1974 involving the wife of my father’s employer Dom Dom aircraft investigation summary  and more recently the mysterious disappearance of bush walker Warren Meyer in 2008. The possible scenario relating to Warren’s disappearance is a warning to us all!

20160807_161802[1]On my previous activation, due to high winds and being in the VW Caddy, I had parked at the Dom Dom Saddle carpark (toilets & picnic facilities) and walked about 1.7 km along Dom Dom Rd to where a seasonally closed road takes you over towards Mt. Vinegar.
At this point, Dom Dom Rd definitely becomes a 4WD track due to the slippery red clay surface. Approximately 250 metres from the Mt. Vinegar Rd gate along Dom Dom Rd there is a 4WD track that heads up the hill in a north east direction. This track, whilst not straight, is the clearest route towards the summit and will take you, with some deviations west up to the 700 metre contour line that is also the approximate cut line between logging and old growth.By following your nose, you can cross into the activation zone without too much scrub bashing. I had previously activated right from the summit and deemed it was not worth the effort. Nice views of the Yarra Valley and a distant Melbourne from the 700 metre mark.

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Looking south to Marysville, Mts Gordon & Strickland.


Note that this is the route that I took on the way down. My ascent was from a point a few 100 metres further east, intending to see if there was an easier route by following the logging cut line. The initial going was tough – reminiscent of North Hells Gate but soon got easier with old 4WD and animal tracks; but not as clear as the route I took back down!

Short activation, using the short squid pole and light weight doublet antenna.
Operational 0517 hrs to 0534 hrs, it taking about 40 minutes to walk and set up from where I parked the car (at the start of the second 4WD track).

8 x contacts in total including 2 x S2S
5 x 40 metre cw
1 x 80 metre cw
2 x 40 metre ssb.
Descended by the aforementioned route and home by 08:00 hrs (6pm)
Take away Indian and a bottle of wine for dinner.
Cheers all, Tony

 

 

 

 

 

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