Welcome 2016

That time of year again, when a Sota activator can gain points for the same summit when the activation transgresses the UTC new year rollover!
With milder wx than the 40 degrees on New Years Eve, I planned to finally complete a loop planned for November incorporating Mt. Torrongo Range, Mt Horsfall and McCarthy Spur via the full length of the 40 Mile Break track and Boundary Rd. (More on the travel details later)

Summit Information for VK3/VT-026

Mt Toorongo Range – 1257m, 8 points

Association: Australia – Victoria  Region: Victoria – West/South Gippsland
Latitude: 37 49 47 S, Longitude: 146 6 57 E

View from near the Toorongo Tower

View from near the Toorongo Tower

20160101_093812[1]

Operating location Mt. Toorongo Range

Phone coverage is excellent., activation period 2.5 hours (31/12/2015 22:29 hrs to 01/01/2016 01:01 hrs utc)
I had activated this summit with Ron VK3AFW last year. This time I decided to first check out the fire tower lower down on the range prior to parking on the main track back up the range where a discrete 4wd track heads roughly south east towards the main ridge line. This track is shown on the Garmin Base Camp Oz Toppo map.
The main road here is on the 1200 metre contour so an elevation gain of at least 32 metres is required to access the activation zone. I took the 4WD track towards the ridge and then took a path of least resistance west towards the summit. I think that this route may have been somewhat easier as I did not have to revert to crawling on hands and knees like a wombat to burrow under the scrub but, even so, it was far from a simple and direct ascent due to the still required scrub bashing.

I set up above the 1240m contour line on the north east of the summit in a relatively clear area amongst the rocks that enabled me to set the antenna up where the higher HF frequency  radiation lobes would be biased north plus get some good performance to the east and west on 20 metres. No shade unfortunately and lots of March Flies!

Activating was a mix of self spotting and sticking on a frequency and chasing those already spotted. Thus prior to UTC I had 23 contacts as follows:
17 x S2S VK2, VK3, VK5, VK6,VK7 & JA.
10 x CW on 80, 40, 20 and 15 metres.
11 x SSB contacts on 40, and 20 metres.
2 x FM contacts on 2 metres via the VK7R best of which was to Andrew VK1MBE/P on the Horn 113 kilometres.
Best DX – VK6NU/P on Mt Randall 20 metres SSB 2775 kilometres and JS1UEH/1 on Tomiyasan 15 metres CW (519, 519) 8276 kilometres.

Post UTC I followed a similar procedure but did notice odd and deteriorating band conditions over the next hour.
17 x S2S contacts to VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5 and VK7.
5 x CW contacts on 40 and 20 metres Surprised to work Wayne VK3WAM/P on VK3/VS-021 on 20m CW (529, 429)
16 x SSB contacts on 40, 20, 10 and 6 metres
2 x FM contacts on 2 Metres.
Best DX VK6NU/P on 20 metres and a 5×9 report from JH7RTQ on 10 metres

Departing the activation area, I decided to head directly down  to the road and see what that was like! Working with gravity it was not too bad although I did have one fall.
I consider my approach path was overall easier.

 

Summit Information for VK3/VT-028

Mt Horsfall – 1131m, 6 points

Association: Australia – Victoria  Region: Victoria – West/South Gippsland
Latitude: 37 46 20 S, Longitude: 146 2 50 E

40 Mile Break Track

40 Mile Break Track

Phone coverage excellent.
Activation time 40 minutes.
Vehicle access to the summit

I was here with Ron VK3AFW in November 2014. That time Ron activated in the large clearing right at the summit and I went a little further along the track towards the west in order to get some station separation. I went back to this location again, this time for some shade.

First having a listen on 40 metres, I noted how quiet the band was – not good news with a solar storm now in full swing. I did hear some WX storm noise however.
First spot and call was on 10 metres SSB. This found Steve VK7CW but due to my weak signal, we switched to CW and made an easy (559, 439) contact.
Next to 40 metres where I picked up Gerard VK2IO/P and Bernard VK2IB/3 also on CW
Joe VK3YSP/P and Julie VK3FOWL/P were both strong Line of Site contacts on 40m SSB from Mt. StLeonard
Wanting to qualify the summit on CW, I switched down to 80 metres and had a solid 579 report from Steve VK3MEG and 339 from Warren VK3BYD

9 x contacts in total. VK2, VK3 and VK7.
6 x S2S from VK2 and VK3 all on 40 metres.

Time to pack up. Propagation had deteriorated even further. I now wanted to explore the remainder of the 40 mile break and Boundary Tracks down to McCarthy Spur.

 

Summit Information for VK3/VT-039

Mccarthy Spur – 938m, 6 points

Association: Australia – Victoria  Region: Victoria – West/South Gippsland
Latitude: 37 49 12 S, Longitude: 145 55 55 E

Activating from McCarthy Spur

Activating from McCarthy Spur

Phone coverage a bit patchy.
Activation time 21 minutes.

McCarthy Spur is a real scrub bash. I looked for some easier alternatives off Montane Rd but ended up back at the open gate on Boundary Rd and took the most direct line possible towards the summit and inside the activation zone.
Lots of fallen timber, low scrub, high scrub, tree ferns and rocks. I tried using fallen trees as a bridge over some of the worst areas. The trees were not that big in diameter and I did have one fall. I even straddled one and crossed over on my arse!
Finding a relatively clear space above the 920 metre contour, I set the antenna up as best possible but it could not avoid contact with all the foliage.  I used the ground stake to support the squid pole and tied the ends off to a low bush and a dead rotten tree.
After putting out a spot, I had a quick response on 40 metres CW from Steve VK7CW followed by Gerard VK2IO/p – then nothing. I could not hear anything much on SSB
Wanting to catch Nick VK2AOH/P, I spotted again on 30 metres CW and got an instant reply from Lou VK5EEE and then caught up with Nick.
Also wanting to qualify the summit for the 6 and 10 metre Challenge, I gave 6 metres a go – hoping to get a local station and avoid the poor HF propagation.
This resulted in a solid 5×9, 57 SSB contact wit Bernard VK3AV not too far away in King Lake.
That done, I thought I would try 80 metres CW and look for Warren VK3BYD. Firstly this required sorting out the antenna and, in doing so, I broke the rotten tree at one end creating a tangled mess of wire, tree and squid pole. The SOTA Gods had said “Enough!” I said – something else!
Time to pack up and scrub bash back to the car. Knowing the general direction, my descent was some what different and by no means any easier.

6 x contacts VK2, VK3, VK5 and VK7
2 x 40 metres CW, 2 x 30 metres CW and 2 x 6 metres SSB
2 x S2S on 40 and 30 Metres CW

 

DX highlight of today was again working Takeshi JS1UEH for another S2S.
It was great to get so many CW contacts of which many would not have occurred using phone.
Pleased with the 10 metre JA SSB contact and with the performance on 6 metres plus that of the VX7r on 2 metres. The extension to the doublet feeder gave good matching on 50.150 mHz

Observations were that no VK4 stations were activating and only one (VK4RF / VK4HA) was worked.
One only VK6 worked – VK6FLEW not heard and no reception to ZL
Due to the solar storm, VK1 stations when worked, were very low as were close in VK2s.

Very happy with the station performance. Battery held up well, power output did drop due to PA temperature caused by operations on 10 and 6 metres plus the direct sun. The ability for instant band changing is a great asset in portable operation.
The new Samsung S5 phone surpasses that of the previous Galaxy Nexus on the Telstra service. On days such as todat
I enjoy the challenge of portable, low power and often remote activations; of what can be achieved with basic equipment plus working with whatever the propagation conditions bring.
These conditions force us to experiment (the crux of amateur radio) trying different bands, modes, antenna systems and the like.

20160101_165827[1]

Mt. Toorongo from just north of Neerim Junction

 

Travel Notes

Departure from East Brighton at 6:10 AM. Head east via Wellington Rd, Mulgrave Freeway and Princess Freeway / Hwy to the Noojee turn off at the old Cobb & Co Robin Hood. 50 minutes to the Garfield North Rd (Dingo Ridge Access) and 1 hour to the Robin Hood.
Neerim South (fuel and shops available) is 1 hour 15 minutes from home and Neerim Junction a further 10 minutes along the road.
Noojee is 1 hour 35 minutes from home. General store, hotel and camp ground. Water Wheel walk 10 minutes

Noojee Area Map

From Noojee
Taking the Mt. Baw Baw Tourist Rd, proceed past the Mt. Toorongo falls rd to the intersection of the Noojee / Moe Rd at Icy Creek (10 minutes). The narrow winding bitumen road gets narrower and even more winding from here with no lines marked.

Balantines Saddle 18 minutes from Noojee.
Link Rd 33 minutes from Noojee.
Mundic Rd 42 minutes from Noojee.
Mt. Toorongo Rd. 48 minutes from Noojee
Mt. Toorongo Fire Tower 53 minutes from Noojee (Summit access parking is 5 minutes back along the road in the direction that you came from.
Summit access parking at 4WD track in slight gully. Track heads north east away from the summit. (Approximately 44 kms from Noojee)

Mt Horsfall

Back track along Mt, Toorongo and Mundic Rds to Link Rd.
Continue on Link Rd towards the Toorongo Rd,
Toorongo Rd, veer left and north west than take the sign posted 40 mile break track (seasonal road closure gate – (Open 30th October to mid weekend after Queens Birthday long weekend)
This is also known as Road 20.  19 minutes and 6 kilometres from the Mt. Toorongo Range Summit Car Park. (Time and distance reference now from here.)
Follow the 40 mile break that is a good dirt and gravel road / track. Easy high range 4wd. Possible in the dry with a high clearance 2wd. I did use low range just to get out of first gear on occasions. Ignore Rd Number three that is an alternative access route if the first gate is closed. Ron and I used this in 2014. 12 minutes, 5 kms
Mt Horsfall summit and Trip. Yarra Ranges N.P 27 minutes, 17 kms.

The 40 Mile Break continues much the asma and is quite pretty traversing the Yarra and Latrobe river divide through stands of Vic Ash. Beware of Logging!
At the west end, ignore North Lock Rd, Petershank Rd and an un-named Rd at 1 kM intervals.
I continued to the locked gate of Boundary Rd where it enters the Yarra Catchment area. 18 minutes, 9 kms from Horsfall or 52 minutes, 26 kms from the start of the 40 Mile Break

Start of Boundary Track – heads south into a Water Catchment area. (seasonally closed 1 May to 30 November) at the junction of Radford Rd.20160101_150535[1]
From this gate, the southern gate and vehicle park for McCarthy Spur is 12 kms, 25 minutes south along Boundary Rd.
Boundary Rd is a very good gravel and dirt road but, like all such roads, watch out for loose surfaces on the bends.

From the south gate on Boundary Rd, I took The McCarthy Spur Rd then Camp Creek Rd south to the Noojee Poweltown Rd and where the road from Neerim Junction joins up  at the bottom of the big hill. This is 18 minutes, 12 kms from the south gate on Boundary Rd.20160101_150532[1]
Both roads are good gravel / dirt.

90 minutes from here to home in light traffic.

Vehicle used 80 series HX80J Toyota Landcruiser (Normally aspirated Diesel) Mud tyres fitted.
Always drive to the conditions. Times will vary due to road, weather vehicle conditions plus driving experience in those conditions.
It is always advisable to carry a chainsaw, some recovery equipment and a fire extinguisher.
Observe road closures, Timber Harvesting Zones and Logging UHF CB channels.
Other traffic will include logging trucks and motor cycles plus 4WD vehicles.

Mt. Toorongo Tower

Mt. Toorongo Tower

 

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