Hotham Highlights

Mt Hotham Ski Village – the Peninsula Ski Lodge was our home away from home for an extended weekend of the 19th through to the 21st of February 2016.
A considerable effort in organisation from Brian VK3MCD & Kathy produced an excellent time for all who participated.

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For Nan and I, it began with a 7:00 am start from home – heading east along the Princess Fwy towards Bairnsdale and then north to Omeo.
First stop was a yummy breakfast at  the Fozigobble Cafe in Yarragon, followed by fuel in Traralgon (should have waited until Bairnsdale as there was a price war going on with diesel down to 89 cents per litre!).

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North from Bairnsdale, passing the QTH of Robbie VK3EK then following the Tambo River through twisty mountains and open plains to Omeo
Lunch at Omeo’s Twinkles Cafe where my freshly made chicken & salad roll was bigger than Ben Hur and then up through Dinner Plains to Mt Hotham.
Whilst in transit near Omeo I worked Andrew VK1MBE/3 and spoke with Glenn VK3YY back at home in Melbourne.

For us, we skipped past the Hotham Heights village and the Mt Hotham Summit (VK3/VE-006) to reach the Mt. Loch carpark where we caught up with Brian VK3MCD following a quick chat on 2 metres. Nan & I donned the back packs and headed up the 3.5 km trail to the summit of Mt. Loch VK3/VE-005. Stunning views along the way and particularly to the north from the summit cairn.

The walking route follows Machinery Spur rd for most of the way then, just north of a point adjacent to the cairn, a foot track heads east then south for a very short distance to the top.

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

Excellent phone coverage. Line of site to Mt. Hotham.
Activation time 1 hour.
19th Feb 2016

A well earnt rest at Mt. Loch

A well earnt rest at Mt. Loch

For what was going to be a common theme over the weekend, I qualified the summit within 3 minutes on 2 metres with the VX7R. S2S contacts with Andrew VK1AD/3 and Adan VK1FJAW/3 then with the rest of the crew either at the lodge or on their way to it.
I found Andrew VK1MBE/3 on 40 metres for another S2S then concentrated on CW, working 5 x VK3 chasers on 40 metres, Ian  VK5CZ on 20 metres and best DX for the day John VK6NU on 15 metres. A “last calls” on 2 metres FM gave the summit to 3 more local chasers in transit to the lodge.
Time to pack up and head back to the car.
WX fine, sunny, strong winds when in the open. Temp mid 20s.

Shortly Nan & I were back and set up at the Lodge. For Nan, the lure of the Spa was too great! For me, there were plans to be made and faces to put to some of the call signs who I had not previously  met. Pre dinner drinks followed by a fresh pasta meal admirably prepared by Kathy finished off a great night. Plans made for an 8:00 am departure on Saturday.

Saturday 20th Feb. UTC date 19/02/16 19:30 hrs.
Rise and shine, shower and egg, toast and coffee for a hearty breakfast.
This morning would see Nan, myself, Allen VK3ARH and Amanda (xyl Compton VK2HRX) heading out in the Cruiser in company with Andrew VK1AD and Adan VK1FJAW in the Yeti to Mt. Table Top. The morning brought heavy fog to the summits with poor visibility as we headed south to JB Plain which is 1/2 a kilometre north of Dinner Plain.
We parked in the dedicated parking area and set off on the walking track across the damp grass of the plain. Nan and Amanda blitzing the way forward with me initially at the rear as I nearly forgot the squid pole. The going was quite damp and I was glad of the Sea to Summit Quagmire gaiters I purchased for the prior Hells Gate adventure.
I think we managed the walk in under an hour which was a surprise. The walking track which is well marked has a long descent from JB plain to the head waters of Table Top creek in a saddle before a few undulations then short climb up through some rocks to the large flat summit. We spread out to limit RF interference and got to work.

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

Excellent phone coverage.
Line of site to Mt. Hotham and Dinner Plain if not for the fog!
Activation time nearly 2 hours.
19& 20th Feb 2016

I started off with a 2 metre S2S with Ron VK3AFW and followed this up with 4 further S2S contacts on 40 metres SSB before switching to CW where 7 contacts were had on 40, 30 and 20 metres into VK2,3 & 4.
We had all but departed the summit prior to the UTC roll over when signals were heard from other activators on 2 metres so we hung back for 3 additional S2S plus ensured we worked our own summit. In hind sight, we should have also done this on the way up in the prior UTC day. This is a quirk of SOTA operations here in our part of the world!

VK1AD ON THE TRACK FROM TABLE TOP

VK1AD ON THE TRACK FROM TABLE TOP

Walk back was slightly more arduous with less downs and more ups but still made good time, the fog now cleared from JB Plain showing huts we had not been able to see earlier.
Fresh coffee and Lunch at the Lodge. Yumm!
Nan decided to stay put whilst Allen and I headed towards the Dargo road at Mt. Saint Bernard. Amanda, Andrew and Adan (A cubed) headed out to Mt. Loch.

 Mount Table Top

 The Twins – 1702m, 10 points VK3/VE-017

Phone Coverage excellent.
Line of sight to Mt Hotham.
Activation time 23 minutes.

I headed off after lunch with Allen VK3ARH who, having previously activating this and our next summit, knew not only where to go but also what we were in for.
Access to the Twins is quite straightforward. Head towards the Dargo road at Mt. Saint Bernard and at this point, take the track on the left immediately just past the Dargo rd. This is the Twins Rd (Seasonally Closed) and it is a relatively good gravel road with a few moderately steep sections but should be driveable in an AWD with suitable ground clearance.
The Twins rd provides a good view of the “lower twin” as you approach from the east. At a saddle, the Australian Alpine Walking Track (AAWT) departs from the road and heads straight up a steep spur. Our route kept us on the road that winds to the north of the Twins summit and, at about the most northerly point, there is parking for a vehicle where the old “Twins Jeep Track” heads up a spur to the cairn at the top.
The going is still reasonably steep and consistent for most of the way. The car park is at about 1485 metres and the track 1 kilometre with a slight plateau at 1650 metres.

I set the HF station up at the trig point but mine and Allens first contacts were on 2 metres FM with S2S from Andrew VK1AD and Adan VK1FJAW who were both on Mt. Loch. Following this, I hit the key with 6 x 40 metre and 2 x 20 metre CW contacts. With a further summit intended plus the activities scheduled for Mt Hotham in the evening, we did not hang around for too long. Having Allen assist in the station set up and pull down certainly sped things up.

Allen VK3ARH

Allen VK3ARH

 

VK3/VE-023 – 1646m, 10 points VK3/VE-023

Phone coverage excellent.
Line of sight to Mt. Hotham.
VE-023 is just a kilometre south west from the Twins and the AAWT descends directly from the Twins to a saddle at 1380 metres then straight back up. Allen and I did not take this route!
Firstly, we had a look at access to the spur to the west of the summit of VE-023. The going here along the AAWT looked much easier but there just wasn’t anywhere to park. I am told that there is a water tank located on this section of the AAWT. It was a long 1.7km trip in reverse back to the saddle located at the base of VE-023 and The Twins.
I did not take the squid pole on this activation. Allen had his HF setup but we hoped just for a quick VHF activation.
We started heading straight up the spur and then followed a trail of sorts that appeared to offer a better gradient heading west. When this trail appeared to be taking us away from our destination we just scrub bashed through low scrub and loose shale back towards the main spur and summit.
The ascent is quite severe. Within 400 metres you climb 266 metres without any let up.
It actually was not too bad, 35 minutes on the way up and 15 minutes on the direct route back down. This included a massive slip on some loose rock where I sliced my hands on the sharp rocks.
Five S2S contacts plus Allen whilst he was on the way down.
Activation time 8 minutes.

The Twins from VK3/VE-023

The Twins from VK3/VE-023

Following our return to the car, I cracked the bottle of chilled water I had been keeping in the fridge. Tasted better than the best champagne!
Back to the lodge, a quick shower and change of clothes as we both were a bit on the nose and then back in the car with Nan and up to Mt. Hotham for pre dinner activation and drinks.

The way down from VK3/VE-023

The way down from VK3/VE-023

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

Phone coverage excellent.
Thanks to Brian VK3MCDs CFA contacts, we were able to drive to the summit.
Phone coverage is excellent.
The view is wonderful.
Activation time 30 minutes.

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After first getting the table and chairs, wine glasses and our bottle of French Champagne out, I then set up the HF station – trying to get some separation from Andrew VK1AD’s station. This sort of worked!
Here is the log.

Time Call Band Mode Notes
07:06z VK2AOH 7MHz CW Nick 599, 599
07:08z VK4RF 7MHz CW Rick 579, 599
07:09z VK4HA 7MHz CW Rick 579, 599
07:13z VK3BYD 3.5MHz CW Warren 599, 599
07:23z OK2PDT 14MHz CW 339, 339
07:23z DK4RM 14MHz CW 579, 599
07:37z ZL3CC 14MHz CW 559, 599 20m qso = qrm from ssb station

I was pleased to get some DX from EU and also ZL. I must admit not a whole lot of effort was put in due to the distractions of good company, wine and food. We packed everything up just in time as the fog began to roll up the valleys to our perch up high.
I did try 15 metres CW in the hope of working Gerard VK2IO in Japan but heard nothing – well not quite true, there was one strong signal but I was 25 metres down the hill working the summit on 2 metres as a chaser. SRI!

Back at the lodge, a scrumptious selections of curries was on offer washed down with just a few more drinks. Plans made for the following day then not a late light – off to bed.

Sunday Morning

A later start today. Boiled eggs and toast again for some substanance then on the road at 8:30 AM.
Nan & I headed back to the start of the Dargo Rd with Allen in his Subaru close behind.
Allen parked at a convenient spot at the start of the Twins Track then joined us as we headed south down the Dargo rd then west along the Blue Rag Range track.
This latter track is definitely 4WD only with steep ascents and descents plus ruts and rocks thrown in for good measure. Not technically difficult but steep. Views are magnificent. This track is seasonally closed once past the track that heads south to Basalt Knob.

Blue Rag Range – 1717m, 10 points VK3/VE-015

Phone coverage excellent.
Activation time 25 minutes.
Quite a lot of activity with visitors to the summit.

Locking East back along the Blue Rag Range

Locking East back along the Blue Rag Range

Set up to the east of the trig point on HF
Started off with 2 x 2 metre S2S contacts with Andrew and Adan.
Finished off with 6 CW qso’s on 40 metres and 2 x on 20 metres.
Band conditions were not flash.
Back along the range then to the summit of Mt. Blue Rag – it being a bit lower and much closer to the Dargo rd.

Mt Blue Rag – 1679m, 10 points VK3/VE-021

Phone coverage excellent.
Activation time 40 minutes.
HF band conditions lousy.

Date:21/Feb/2016 Summit:VK3/VE-021 (Mt Blue Rag) Call Used:VK3CAT Points: 10

Time Call Band Mode Notes
00:13z VK7CW 7MHz CW Steve 599, 599
00:17z VK2AOH 7MHz CW Nick 559, 599
00:22z VK2GAZ 7MHz CW Garry 559, 559
00:26z VK2HRX/3 144MHz FM Compton 5×7, 59 S2S VK3/VE-021 to VK3/VE-070
00:26z VK3PF/P 144MHz FM Peter 5×7, 59 S2S VK3/VE-021 to VK3/VE-070
00:35z VK2YW 3.5MHz CW John 599, 559
00:37z VK1AD/3 144MHz FM Andrew 5×9, 59 S2S VK3/VE-015 to VK3/VE-024
00:40z VK1MBE/3 144MHz FM Andrew 5×9, 59 S2S VK3/VE-021 to VK3/VE-015
00:41z VK3AGD/P 144MHz FM ADAM 5×9, 59 S2S VK3/VE-021 to VK3/VE-015
00:52z VK3YY/P 144MHz FM Glenn 4×5, 45 S2S VK3/VE-021 to VK3/VG-030 Stand on log!

Only just managed to qualify the summit on HF CW.
John VK2YW was 319 at best on 40 metres but romping in on 80.
The last contact was a surprise and interesting to compare the diamond tri band antenna on my VX7R compared to the standard antenna on Allen’s VX8R.
This could be a drive up summit. We had parked the car in a saddle a short distance off the range track and just outside of the activation zone.
In dry conditions, this location could be a nice camp site.
Back at the car, Nan & I decided to bring our Sota weekend to a close, leaving Allen to a solo activation of “Near Mt. Freezeout”(Access track off the Dargo Rd at a picnic table).
We had lunch in Harietville where it was significantly hotter than up in the hills. I did listen out for other activators whilst on the way home (5 hours) but with the band conditions remaining poor, only heard the occasional chaser.

In closing a fantastic Weekend, wonderful company, great vistas. Must visit again.
Thanks to all involved but especially to our hosts Kathy & Brian 🙂

For further reads, refer to the blogs of:

Allen VK3ARH,

Andrew VK1AD, (TBA)

Glenn VK3YY

Peter VK3PF

 

 

 

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  1. Pingback: Mount Hotham Expedition | vk3cat

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