To Hell and Back

Sunday the 24th of January 2016 finally provided an opportunity to continue my desire to activate some more of the summits closer to Melbourne for both uniques and complete.
Today it would be South Hells Gate, North Hells Gate and Mount Gentle Annie. I had been to South Hells Gate and Gentle Annie back in my trail bike days and 4WDing in the 1980’s and 1990’s so it has been a long time between visits. North Hells Gate would be a new experience.
My plan was to activate them in the above listed order but sometimes the best made plans go awry.
Woke sunday morning to the sound of drizzle, not unexpected and much the same as yesterday where it cleared to be fine and sunny by the middle of the day. Headed out at 7:10 AM, 10 minutes later than my self nominated time. Hardly any traffic. Clear patches then more drizzle as I headed east on the Princess Highway towards Jindivick.
Took the C421 (Sands Rd) turn off just past the fuel station off the M1 and linked up to the Old Princess Hwy then Jacksons Track on which I continued until turning left at Stolls Rd. A note here is that further along Stolls Rd, it becomes private property so you need to take the Dug Out Track on the LHS at the road closed sign and gate. Good gravel road, continue until reaching South Hells Gate Track (reasonable 2WD but deteriorates rapidly on the descent to Quartz Creek Rd – slippery in the wet, which it was!)
My initial plan was to follow Allen VK3HRA (now VK3ARH) and park in a clearing on the South Hells Gate Track and take a redundant logging trail cross country to Robertson Creek Fire Line which crosses the summit. I had a look around, then headed down by car to the start of Robertson Creek Fire Line for a look down there. The track looked quite greasy so best not to drive up it, so, back up South Hells Gate and then a walk.20160124_111635[1]
This turned out to be a waste of time. There were numerous tracks fitting the description in the immediate area and I quickly got quite wet, so, back to the car and back down the hill then a walk up Robertson Creek Fire Line to the summit of South Hells Gate. The walk was really quite easy, a little steep towards the top where it also became rutted and very slippery. Can’t really advise 2WD access here and anything with less than mud tyres should avoid in the wet as the track is clay based.
Set up on the side of the track at the summit, opposite a big rock. I set my ground sheet up as a shelter for protection from the misty rain that was enough to be a nuisance and get the log book wet. 20160124_105241[1]

Summit Information for VK3/VT-059
South Hells Gate – 582m, 2 points
Association: Australia – Victoria Region: Victoria – West/South Gippsland
Latitude: 37 58 41 S, Longitude: 145 51 28 E
Phone coverage was good. Activation period 23:12 to 23:47 hrs utc – 35 minutes.

Set up by 23:07 hrs utc. The 40m band sounded quiet, as did everything else. A quick check of the antenna showed all was good. I put a spot out and at 23:12 worked Mark VK1EM followed by Peter VK3PF and Michael VK2CCW on 40 CW then nothing!
I re-spotted on 80 metres CW and promptly worked Ron VK3AFW and Allen VK3ARH. I had posted in my alert that I would use 80 metres in NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave) propagation was poor – which it was!

Looking up Robertson Creek Fire Line

Looking up Robertson Creek Fire Line

Next followed a spurt on 6 metres with 4 reasonably local stations worked on SSB plus Peter VK3ZPF on 10 metres SSB.
Finally a quick burst on 40 metres SSB (& CW for Gerard VK2IO) before calling it quits following the last contact with Ian VK5IS at 23:41.
2 more summits to do plus I had a bit more packing up to do than normal due to the ground sheet.
Very slippery on the way down. Kept upright – just, the walking poles helped. Heavy clay build up in the tread of my walking boots.

I had intended to visit North Hells Gate next but abandoned this in the hope a little more time could be beneficial with improving the weather conditions. So, Mount Gentle Annie was to be next.
Following from the junction of Robertson’s Track and South Hells Gate to Quartz Creek Rd, i turned left into Quartz Creek road followed by right (North) into Forest road that leads direct to Gentle Annie Saddle.
I drove part way up Gentle Annie Track before reaching a section that was a bit steeper and greasy with red clay and ruts. Being on my own, not wanting to risk a solo vehicle recovery, I reversed back down and then walked all the way up. This was about a kilometre and whilst steep in some section, was comparatively easy albeit slippery in spots.

Part way up Gentle Annie Track

Part way up Gentle Annie Track

I set up close to the trig point, no shelter required this time although there was an intrigued group of trail bikers.

20160124_132440[1]

Summit Information for VK3/VT-078
Gentle Annie – 670m, 2 points
Association: Australia – Victoria Region: Victoria – West/South Gippsland
Latitude: 37 57 1 S, Longitude: 145 48 5 E
Good phone coverage. Activation period 0140 to 0210 hrs utc – 30 minutes.
Calibrated the GPS altimeter on arrival.
Change of tactics this time and self spotted on 6 metres SSB for contacts with Karl VK3LN in Riddles Creek and Peter VK3PF in Churchill.That done, I looked at 10 metres but the band seemed dead.
Next was 40 metres CW with 6 contacts and 40 metres SSB with 5 – including an S2S with Julie VK3FOWL/P on Mt. Warrenheip VK3/VC-019. Signalson 40 metres had improved slightly from earlier in the day but were still suppressed. CW was much easier than SSB for the better part.
First contact 01:40, last contact 02:10.
Back down the hill and a quick bite prior to North Hells Gate!

Summit Information for VK3/VT-050
North Hells Gate – 693m, 2 points
Association: Australia – Victoria Region: Victoria – West/South Gippsland
Latitude: 37 57 46 S, Longitude: 145 51 41 E
Phone coverage was OK. Patchy at time probably due to all the wet foliage surrounding my operating position.
Activation time 15 minutes. 04:35 to 04:50 hrs UTC.

There is considerable documentation on this summit from Peter VK3ZPF, Wayne VK3WAM, Glenn VK3YY and most recently Allen VK3ARH. It is all very relevant but seeing is believing!
From Gentle Annie Gap, it was easy to follow Proposch Rd first north then east south east. A little before reaching Peter VK3ZPF’s end of 2WD access way point, I veered off to the right to have a look at another road that my map said intersected a proposed fire track to North Hells gate. Reaching a saddle on this track, I could see where a trail along the ridge may once have been, whether it was logging or something else I will probably never know but I very quickly discounted this for a means of access. Too far and too overgrown.
Next to the designated carpark where Proposch Rd proper ends and a lesser road or track veers off to the right – continuing in much the same direction before a hard right hand bend then heading up in a southerly direction. The going was easy by foot and with a good stone surface, would be quite easy in a 4WD of even a 2WD with suitable ground clearance. Pre-walk preparation. Absolutely everything was locked up inside the pack. Nothing in the pockets. Zippers all closed and secure. Wallet and car keys secure in zipped up shirt pockets. Compass in pants side pocket, GPS in hand, secateurs in back pocket.
Wearing long sleeved shirt, long pants, hat, walking boots and long gaiters.

20160124_161441[1]
This stony trail reaches a plateau of sorts then abruptly dog legs left and right, eventually heading down hill to the north side of the North Hells Gate Summit. Google Earth suggests it is a dead end, possibly at a creek which then heads north into the Tarago river. I did not go down this far but did proceed to approximately opposite the summit to the south in case a direct approach was possible. I was not overly surprised that this did not eventuate. I had lost too much height and the gradient was steep. The undergrowth looked exceptionally thick. Back towards the saddle then left (south east) into the scrub.
Could not see the summit but, from the GPS and map, whilst still on the road, I took an estimated compass bearing and distance to the summit before heading in. The GPS worked fine while out in the open but others had reported issues when further in. I was about to experience this!

 

In no time at all I was in the thick of it. Visibility was poor due to the thick undergrowth with trees up to 50mm in diameter being so tightly packed that it was a squeeze to get through with the back pack. By this time, I was also back into cloud & mist.
My first intention was to try and locate Peter VK3ZPFs easier return route that I had saved as a track on my GPS as well as other possible alternative routes.
My GPS soon proved to be practically useless. Loosing satellite lock and pointing me one way for a minute and in the opposite direction the next. Was I going around in circles? Very possible as it was near impossible to see not only where I was going but also where I had come from. Add to this – vines that would form an impenetrable webb, grass that could cut, fallen and logged timber that was extremely slippery and mostly not being able to see the ground.
The going would become easier at times with the way cleared due to a fallen tree or the remnants of one. I felt that I was heading too far south and was loosing height. I was also completely saturated but for my boots (thanks to the new quagmire gaiters). I then, by the compass, pushed more to the east north east that soon appeared to have me gaining in altitude. Watching the GPS map for contour readings, it appeared that I was getting some satellite coverage.
Seeing that I was now above the 660 meter contour, I pushed on up until I had an elevation reading of 670 metres. That would do. In the zone (JUST) but no summit.
I set up the doublet in a very tight and narrow clearing amongst the scrub. The squid pole strapped to a tree, and the top in a very steep inverted V format and 1/2 the wire still on the winders lying on what constituted the ground. From leaving the gravel road, it has taken me nearly an hour to get into the zone.
Let the activation begin!

Reappraisal of priorities. First qualify the summit as quickly as possible.
Started on 40 metres SSB,  Bagged 4 contacts between 0435 and 0438 including a surprise S2S with Nic VK3ANL/P on Mt Buller VK3.VE-008.

Next to gain a multiplier for the 6/10 metre challenge.
Worked Ron VK3AFW on 6 metres CW, could hear Peter VK3PF calling on SSB but very low down. With the antenna set up, I was surprised I got 1 contact!

Next to qualify on CW.
Back to 40 metres and 4 contacts, this time a S2S with Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/SY-002.

The objectives achieved, it was now time to get out. I had some concern both with the time that it had taken me to get to where I was plus the navigation. I endeavoured to try and stick to the crest of the ridge and head down towards the gravel road. Not wanting to miss the road completely, I then made a slight course alteration and headed a little further north, confirmed with an increase in the down hill gradient. It was with much relief that I stumbled out onto the gravel road come track a 100 metres or so further on from where I exited. This proved quite a bit quicker than the route in.
For the way out, I was able to get a GPS reading on the way point I had set where I departed the gravel road. From where I was, I was able to get both a GPS and compass bearing. The exit route seemed much more direct. I am certain now on the way in I was going in circles relying on the GPS compass bearing then not being able to get a fix for a magnetic compass bearing.

Will I return. Initially I thought no way. But now, I reckon yes, in the right conditions and maybe with company, I would like to complete the journey and reach the summit. Time will tell but one thing is for sure, I certainly gained a lot of experience with this one.

Neck and face post “vine attack”
Other “injuries” being leech bites.

Mere Flesh Wound!

Mere Flesh Wound!

Reference Allen VK3ARH

Reference North Hells Gate

North and South Hells Gate, AKA The Gates of Hell!

Hells Gate in Canada. Access is much easier!

Hells Gate in Canada. Access is much easier!

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Categories: Uncategorized | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “To Hell and Back

  1. Well done Tony for pushing on and at least getting to the activation zone. All that have been before you, including some fool who has been there twice, have done it alone.

    I still don’t think there is an easy way in and the easy way out is just an illusion as you are heading down and away and that always seems easier than going up into the unknown.

    I’m going to try and get back up there before the Queen’s Birthday road closures kick in.

    • I think you may be correct Peter. The known versus the unknown perhaps? Still, an interesting experience with the “senses” handicapped!

  2. North Hells Gate, thats one tough summit!!!!

  3. VK2TWR

    Good run for you Tony I agree on not going back I have a short list of Summits done once and that’s it
    they have to be special to bother going back to is my feeling
    thanks for the report
    73 Rod

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