High Country Happenings

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A wet day at Lovicks Hut

Nan and I were involved in running a TLCCV trip over the weekend of the 19th and 20th of March. Our initial role was as “Advance Party” on the Friday (18th) – setting up camp and a fire wood supply. The trip participants led by Michael Martin would arrive from Mansfield on the Saturday afternoon. This gave us some time out and you guessed it? A chance to revisit some of my favourite SOTA summits.
Like life in general, things do not always go according to plan!

Right on our 7:00 AM departure, the long awaited weather change hit, and with a vengeance. Strong winds followed by heavy rain. Nan & I headed out through the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, deciding to fuel up in Lilydale as the fuel station was on the correct side of  the road for us. This would lead us taking the Melba Hwy off the Maroondah Hwy; a departure to the norm as we usually by-pass Lilydale and head direct for Yarra Glen.

Well, whilst fueling up, a parade of SES and police vehicles with bells and lights roared past us and, as we were soon to discover, closed off the Melba Hwy due to fallen trees.
OK, looks like we go through Healesville where, we stopped for breakfast at one of the many Cafes before continuing up the Maroondah Hwy to Alexandra via the Black Spur.
It looked like this road had also recently been closed as there was a number of recently cleared trees along the road plus recent debris still on the road. Anyway, we made it through to Alexandra and then onto the Melba Hwy and Mansfield without incident.

The on and off drizzle continued as we headed south on The Howqua Track through Sheepyard Flat then onto Brock’s rd and Bluff Link rd onto the Bluff track and into Lovicks Hut. Glad I had aired down the tyres as the going was slippery at times on both clay and rock surfaces. Got the tent up without it or us getting too wet. Had a late lunch in the relative dryness of Lovicks Hut. The rain varied from drizzle to nothing and then down pour for the rest of the afternoon. The planned activation of Mt. King Billy was abandoned leaving a faint chance of activating the closer and easier Mt. Lovick instead.
This did not eventuate as the rain held up until early evening.
I did manage to cut some fire wood and, when the rain finally stopped, we were able to get a camp fire going. Time for a scotch then cook dinner on the BBQ.
Early to bed (8:05 PM) heavy rain and wind all night. Coleman Instant Tent nice and dry inside.

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Mt. King Billy looking south

7:30 am, finally exited the tent. Cold outside, 2 degrees C. Fog and cloud but the rain seemed to have cleared. Breakfast and coffee then a drive out to King Billy.
Wow, this section of track is getting rougher each year. Lovicks Hut is at about 1450 metres and located in a relatively protected saddle. The track to King Billy climbs a series of rocky steps to 1650 metres from where the AAWT joins in. From this point, it is a relatively easy walk with some rock hopping to the summit cairn at 1716 metres. A few metres west of the cairn are some stunted trees that are suitable to attach a squid pole to. Nan headed back to the car whilst I was still setting up. WX was cold, windy with fog & drizzle at times but not enough to pull out the new Bothy Bag.

Summit Information for VK3/VE-016, King Billy No 1 – 1716m, 10 points

Activation date 18/03/16.
Phone coverage off Mt. Buller is very good.
Walk time from King Billy Saddle where the AAWT heads off to Mt. Magdala is an easy 15 minute walk albeit the rocks can be slippery if wet.
Ascent is from 1635 to 1716 metres over 700 metres.
Activation time 37 minutes. WX Cloudy, some fine drizzle and medium wind gusts.
Fact sheet, of the 13 activations of this summit, 8 have been by me, making it my number 1 summit. Yet to chase it!

I had alerted to start on 80 metres CW then move up to 40 metres, the propagation had not been great  previously for NVIS on 40m.
First call had me working Peter VK3PF with good signals and then nothing else.  Moving to 40 metres CW produced another 4 contacts into VK2, 5 & 7. SSB on 40m produced S2S contacts with Al and Andrew (VK1RX/2 & 1AD/2) both on VK2/SM-027 followed by contacts to VK5 and VK1. Note the absence of VK3 stations!
Activation finished up 15 minutes prior to UTC, back to the car and then a hot coffee with Nan back at Lovicks as well as getting a camp fire established.

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Sunday, On the road just west of Mt Lovick with Mt. Buller in the back ground.

Summit Information for VK3/VE-020, Mt Lovick – 1684m, 10 points

Activation date 19/03/16.
Phone coverage off Mt. Buller is very good.
There is room to park one 4WD at the base of the sign posted walking track. The walk time is only 5 minutes; 20 metre ascent and maybe 100 metres to walk. Must do some precise measuring next time as the road is also possibly just inside the activation zone (but not a suitable operating location).
8 activations of this summit, 4 by me but I have chased this one!
WX slightly better than Mt. King Billy. Wind stronger!
Activation time 28 minutes

With the camp fire blazing at Lovicks Hut and the rest of the TLCCV group scheduled to arrive around 3:00 pm, I had a narrow operating window for Mt Lovick. The track from the hut to mountain is easy 4WD but requiring low range and reasonable ground clearance (like all of the tracks in this area!)

I set up at the cairn which is right at the top of the access track, just a little off to your right. Plenty of room to set up an antenna. The actual summit is quite broad so offers lots of operating locations; depending on the WX and, if clear, the best views which are off the escarpment to the south.

Worked VK7CW, VK2IO/P (s2s), VK3ARH & VK3BYD/P (S2S) ON 40m CW and Peter VK3PF on 80m CW. Unfortunately a VK2 station missed out as their signal overloaded my speaker which was cranked up to hear any weak stations.
Quick pack up and back to the hut where the others had just arrived. With plenty of hands, we then gathered up the fire wood I had cut up earlier then I took them for a short drive back towards King Billy (Helicopter Spur) where there are good views across to Buller, Stirling, Cobbler and Speculation. Then back to our camp site, warm fire, hot coffee then the usual stuff that goes with camping.

Mt Cobbler from near Mt Lovick

Sunday morning: Brisk start but everyone was ready to depart by 9:00 am.
Back up the track past Mt. Lovick to a location not far past on the main road that provides terrific views to the north and south. Nice to see all those Sota Peaks – Lovick, King Billy, Mt Clear, High Cone, Knobs, Buller, Stirling, Cobbler etc. Following this a brief look at the Bluff hut.

Tony at the Bluff Hut

Tony at the Bluff Hut

From the Bluff hut it was down the 16 mile Jeep track to Pikes flat on the Howqua river for morning tea. (Avoid this track if wet as it is steep, some ruts and clay based.) Continuing on, further stops were had at Bindaree Hut and Falls before heading up Bindaree Rd to the circuit Rd and then Monument track to the Monument and Clear Hills Track to Mt. Stirling. (Steep, rocky and a good challenging track with great views once on the top) Lunch at Mt. Stirling.

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Morning Tea at Pikes Flat

Summit Information for VK3/VE-011, Mt Stirling – 1749m, 10 points

Activation date 20/03/16
Phone coverage off Mt. Buller is excellent.
Activation time 13 minutes
5 minute stroll up the track from the road where there is ample parking spaces. The road would be very close to being inside the AZ?

Cat on Stirling

Calling CQ SOTA on 146.500

My second activation of this summit.
I made us a quick lunch, then, as the temptation was too great, I took the VX7 up to the summit and tried to activate the summit on 2 metres, having already put out a spot.
Unfortunately this came to nought so, as some of the others is the group had climbed the adjoining summit past the cars and I had not nominated a departure time, I quickly grabbed the HF gear and set up part way up the hill.

Spotted for 7.032 CW but the bands seemed quite dead. Found VK2IO/P on SSB for a S2S on phone and CW. Another SSB contact with VK5HSX then CW withVK7CW and a surprise S2S with VK3AFW on Mt. Dandenong VK3/VC-025 (S519, R539)
Not too bad for an opportunist activation with poor propagation!

Gathered the troops and headed back down to the Circuit Rd near Howqua Gap then on to Mirimbah where our TLCCV trip concluded.
Home time!

Travel notes:
The route taken by the TLCCV contingent was along Brocks Rd to the 8 Mile Gap and then down to the Upper Jamieson Hut area to Carin Creek Track up to Lovicks Hut.
This route is 2WD in good weather up to Cairn Creek track. From here on it is 4WD and subject to seasonal road closures both on Carin Creek Tk and Brocks Rd.
There were a number of trees requiring a chainsaw to clear them on Brocks Rd near the Low Saddle Rd and also on Cairn Creek Rd.
Brocks Rd from Low Saddle Rd becomes more and more a 4WD track.
Bluff Link Rd is 2WD to the Bluff track. From here, both the Bluff Track and Bluff Link Rd are seasonally closed and 4WD only.
The Bluff track past the Bluff Hut to Lovicks Hut gets progressively rougher without being too difficult. From Lovicks Hut to King Billy saddle there are significant rocky steps to climb. There are a number of great viewing points all along this track.
16 mile Jeep Track is steep, clay based 4WD only and seasonally closed.
Nice camping and pit toilet at Pikes Flat. The 16 mile track from Pikes Flat to Bindaree Hut is easy 4WD. Only the Howqua river crossing may cause access problems for a 2WD vehicle.
Bindaree Rd, Circuit Rd are 2WD but can be slippery if wet. Trees can be down at any time. Seasonally Closed.
Note access via the Circuit rd to this area (through the Mt Buller / Stirling Alpine Resort area is closed off on midday Friday prior to the Queens Birthday weekend.
Monument Track and Clear Hills Track to Mt. Stirling are full on 4WD requiring low range and good suspension and tyres. Expect rock steps, clay, steep inclines, tight bends and great views.
Monument Track and Clear Hills Track to Mt Stirling are seasonally closed. The Clear Hills Track between the monument to Mt. Stirling and down to the Circuit Rd at the Howqua gap are closed from the 1st of May to the 30th of November each year.
DSE Information:

The High Country adventure continues over Easter

The Plan:
1. Activation of Mt. Thorn (VK3/VE-042), a previously un-activated summit located between Mt. Buller and Mt. Howitt.

2. Look at possible access to the Pimple (VK3/VE-057).

3. Check out the view from Mt. Speculation (VK3/VE-022)

4. Look at the old Wonnangatta Rd. Get a glimpse of the Razor & Viking

5. Investigate the start of the Buffalo Divide Track (aka Abbeyard – Cobbler Lake Rd). VK3/VE-103

6. Activate Mt. Buller on the way home.

Summit Information for VK3/VE-042, Mt Thorn – 1468m, 8 points

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Mt. Thorn Cairn looking to the East

Activation date 26/03/2016.
In summary. The trek is close to 4.1 kilometres.
Total Ascent of 360 metres and a descent of 75 metres.
The climb took 2.25 hours with a further 10 minutes to set up and take some photos.
Descent 1:40
Excellent phone coverage.
Activation time 1:20

I had been aware of Mt. Thorn (and the Pimple) for years. In Easter of 1988, Nan and I thought we would visit the Cross Cut Saw section of the AAWT. To do this, we took our old Series 2A SWB Landrover into the Upper Howqua River and drove up a Logging road Called Queens Spur road. The travel was not difficult with only 1 large fallen tree to negotiate. We were able to drive over this 3/4 metre log by making a ramp on either side of it. We were driving right under the “teeth of the saw” and passed the crest of Stanley’s Name Spur and continued towards the Queens Spur. We had hoped that the King River here would have some water in it but it was as dry as…., thus we about faced and set up at a previously used camp site along the Howqua at Pikes Flat.

Landrover 16 Mile Jeep Track

My old landrover a little stuck coming up the 16 Mile Jeep Track 1988

The following day (Saturday), we headed back up to Queens Spur and climbed (bush bashed) up Mt. Buggery and then south along the saw towards Mt.Howitt. With time pressing on, we did not quite make it to Mt. Howitt so we turned back and headed to Pikes Flat.
Our intention was to try out a roast beef in our new camp oven. We learn’t a valuable lesson here. You can’t rush a camp oven. The beef was incinerated so dinner consisted of bananas and Easter eggs!
Research into the area was done using the Victorian Mountain Tramping Club (VMTC) Howqua & Jamieson River Map (current version is 2000) and John Siseman / Algona Press publications of The Alpine Track and Wonnangatta Moroka National Park. (Disregard the heights specified in this book as they are way out!)

Returning to the present – 2016
Easter and 28 years later, a lot has changed but some things remain the same. I still love this area of Victoria. The Hills and rivers remain, many of the tracks do not. The body is probably just as fit if not fitter than then but more affected by aches and pains. The Old Landy is well gone having been replaced 3 times by successive Toyota Landcruisers (Beyond my budget in 1988!). Left home at 5:30 AM. Cats and Nan still in bed. Arrived at Mansfield at 8:15 AM, a quick bite and cup of coffee then out by 8:30 AM. WX is mild and the sky clear. Mt Buller is ominously beckoning in the distance!

Access: Head to Mansfield, 196 km from home and 2.75 hours in light traffic. Follow the Mt. Buller Rd to Mirimbah (20 minutes / 35 km) which is also the entry point to the Mt. Buller and Mt. Stirling resort. Fees payable during the snow season. Immediately past the resort entry point, take the Mt. Stirling Rd on the left. There is a park here that has public toilets. I used this location to air down from highway pressures to something more akin to what is needed for dirt roads and tracks. In this case the BFG 285/75/16 mud terrain tyres were set to 28 pounds.
Follow The Mt. Stirling Rd to Telephone Box Junction – 15 minutes / 8 km (TBJ) and then follow the southern circuit rd to Howqua Gap – 10 minutes / 7 kms and beyond to Bindaree Rd 20 minutes / 12 kms.
A further 1km past Bindaree Rd on the right is the Mt. Thorn Rd. No sign post but once had a rough sign saying Mt. Howitt. Not 100 metres in off the Circuit Rd is a small clearing that can be used for parking or even a rough camp. “No water”.
Garmin Maps and VMTC indicate some sort of walking track along Stanley’s Name Spur. You will be both disappointed and surprised!

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The Chute Stanley’s Name Spur

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Old logging track or Mt Thorn Rd?

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Cross Cut Saw & Mt. Howitt from Mt. Thorn

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The Activation:

Departing the car at just after 10:00 am, I headed down the Mt. Thorn Rd, noting that it would not be difficult to drive down but there being close in side bushes and some rocks and ruts which would require 4WD and some ground clearance.
I walked down to an obvious saddle on the spur for 560 metres and  where the road continued downwards on the west side of Stanley’s Name Spur. There were signs of foot traffic heading off the road to my left through some tight re-growth so, with fresh memories of North Hell’s Gate, I headed in.
The going was pretty easy with the re-growth only consisting of a narrow patch close into the road. There were faint signs of a path from time to time heading up the very steep spur (more like the side of a hill!) for 480 metres and 135 meter ascent where the first knoll was breached through an obvious chute.
From here, the walking was easy going, picking up a foot track at times, through some light to moderate scrub, keeping to the crest of the spur but for a number of deviations around fallen trees. On approaching what I hoped would be a final steep push, I began to notice the foot track I was on had definitely been a vehicle track at some time past and there could also have been some logging activity. A little further on I came across an old logging rd that looked in reasonable condition. I suspect that this is the Mt. Thorn Rd (shown on VMTC as being overgrown). This logging rd appeared to have once been graded to just past this point before becomming a steep but clear 4WD track up the spur to the next crest (130 metre ascent in 600 metres)
From this point on, any signs of the fire track vanished and progressed through light scrub and a semi defined foot track to the summit cairn a further 1.3 km away and 70 metres further ascent. The summit has light to medium cover with limited views – better if one ventures off to the sides.

The activation started on 40 metres CW. with 8 contacts in good time into VK1,2,3,5 & 7. I also had 22 x 40 metre SSB contacts into VK1,2,3,5 & 7 including S2S with Russ VK2BJP/3 ON VK3/VE-023 (near The Twins),  Marc VK3OHM/P on VK3/VN-012 and VK2WU on VK3/VE-019.
DX contacts to Japan on 15 metres CW JS1IFK and S2S JP3DGY/3 on 10 metres CW.
This last contact took a number of repeats and was completed at 0238 hrs UTC (1:38 PM). I was back at the car at 3:25 PM. This makes 1 hour and 40 minutes for the descent which included a walt further to the east and photo opportunities.
My return route was the same as my ascent. That the Mt. Thorn rd. may lead to the point I found on the spur needs to be determined at another time. It may be suitable for a well equipped 4WD vehicle to my intercept point but not any further as it petres out before reaching the top. Maybe a trail bike perhaps?
A note on the descent from the first knoll (first one climbed with the chute) the easier going tended to push me to north east of my ascent path on another spur which ends in a gully and down hill from the desired location of the Mt. Thorn Rd access point. I ended up coming out on the rd through the re-growth within metres of my assigned mark.

I had spent longer on the summit than planned due to the chase of JP3DGT/3 so I was keen to push on towards Mt. Speculation; but first was objective 2!

Summit Information for VK3/VE-057, The Pimple – 1391m, 8 points

Not yet activated.
From the Circuit Rd & Mt. Thorn Rd Junction, continue NNE to Speculation Rd. (Straight ahead if heading to Craig’s Hut, otherwise, turn right at Speculation rd 2.5 km from the Mt. Thorn Rd. Close to another 2 km west along Speculation Rd is a sharp LH bend with a track heading off on the right. This track is what remains of the Upper King Rd and ends in a small clearing some 600 metres south of Speculation Rd where there is a derelict bridge. There are signs of foot traffic fording the creek to the right of this bridge but I did not pursue it any further. Both Garmin & VMTC maps indicate the Upper King Rd continuing south west on the west side of the King river for a further 1.5 to 2.0 kms before reaching the left and right branches of the King River. The maps indicate roads once followed the right branch in towards Stanley’s Name Spur and the left branch to near King Spur & Mt. Koonika.
Ref Wonnangatta Moroka N.P 1985  #15. Mt Speculation pages 93-98. Here the walk has descended the AAWT from Mt. Buggery and climbed Queens Spur to the Pimple.

“Descend the spur heading north, then north west.
3.5km: Junction of the left and right branches of the King River. Ford the Right branch(on your left) to the huts and road on the far side.”
It is doubtful that the huts and certainly the road still exist.
Further research told of a walking group mostly walking 3 km in the river before reaching the circuit rd. Relevant extract of the trip report by bernieq (30/01/2014) www.bushwalk.com is set out below.

“(After a hasty lunch at the base of the climb to the Pimple, beginning now to fall behind schedule, we set off for the summit, the final 100m being very steep indeed. At the top (heavily treed and limited views) we decided to take the main spur down to the confluence of L and R branches of the King River – the plan to drop off the right-hand side seemed a little too steep and slow-going.
The change in plan was justified and our pace picked up, making the River in good time. However, no suitable campsites meant the day was not over – another 3km beside (actually, mostly in) the river. Notoriously slow travel, the King River was pleasantly cool and the water very welcome, but we began to think we’d not make the cars before dark. We pushed up onto the more open slopes and for a while the going was better but thickening vegetation and blackberries slowed us again to less that a km per hour.)”

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Upper King River Rd

The ascent from the river crossing is 490 metres in the 3.5 km.
Easier access may be the long back route from the Upper Howqua camping area following the Mt. Howitt Feeder track to the old Queens Spur Logging Rd then following this to Queens Spur where access to the east to Mt. Buggery or west to The Pimple could be had. I reckon this would either be a big day trip or an overnight one. More work required.

Summit Information for VK3/VE-022, Mt Speculation – 1666m, 10 points

Activation date 26/03/2016
1.2 km & 40 minutes from the carpark to the summit.
Ascent is 166 metres.
Excellent phone coverage.

Speculation (Mt. Spec) was reached by continuing along Speculation Rd to where it meets  up with the king Basin Rd. It is good 2WD up to this point.
I had departed from the Mt. Thorn parking area by about 3:35 PM.
At 4:10 PM I was at the Speculation Rd and Little Cobbler  Track junction (13km) and at 4:27 PM I was at the Speculation and Cobbler Lake Track junction (3km). This short 3km section is quite rough and rocky. It used to be known as “The Stair Case” being solid rock steps requiring adept driving and wheel placement to walk your vehicle up the steps without damage. Close to 10 years ago, some bright government appointed spark thought it best to rip out the rocks. The result now is a mess of loose rocks and I believe to be a bigger obstacle to the old stairs.
Anyway, continue south east (great views of Mt. Despair and the Razor) along Speculation Rd until reaching a closed gate and car park to the left. The time was now 5:00 PM and I estimate the distance from the Cobbler Lake Rd to be 13 km.

20160326_171520I parked in the car park and set up my swag on the edge of the road (would not be getting any vehicles going past as the road is VERY closed). There is also a protected campsite just down the hill and to the north of the carpark complete with fire place but it was easier for me to be next to the car. Water is available from the creek (Camp Creek) crossed on a tight bend just before reaching the carpark. Opposite the carpark (south west) is a signed walking track heading to the AAWT and Mt Speculation. The sign said 1.2 kilometres and 20 minutes for the 166 metre ascent but it took me close to twice that. I did have to stop and admire the stunning views plus catch my breath more than a few times – plus chat to other walkers who were wondering why I was taking a fishing rod to the top of a mountain!

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I set up right at the top and just to the side of a rock outcrop. I strapped the squid pole to a snow gum and ran out the wires of the doublet in what turned out to be an unintentional NE/SW orientation. A spot was put out and Steve VK7CW was the first chaser in the log on 40m CW at 0707 hrs UTC (6:07 PM local time). 15 x 40 meter CW contacts were had to VK1, 2, 3 & 4. I worked my first SOTA 40m DX with a contact to WW7D also on 40m CW 339 both ways. I also had 4 x 40 meter SSB contacts to VK1,3& 5 including S2S with Marc VK3OHM now on VK3/VC-002 Mt. Donna Buang. Moving to 20 metres, I called out QRL on 14.062 and noted a tune up signal as I was transmitting (full break keying). I put out a spot and called CQ and was promptly called by Kurt HB9AFI/P on Sota Summit HB/BE-123. Reports were 539, 559 with Kurt running a KX2.
Bedlam hit before we had even finished our contact with EU stations calling over Kurt and me and each other. I did not have the time or inclination to deal with this so was pleased to hear John VK6NU 539 / 519 at 0754 UTC
I packed up in the failing light and made it back to my camp for a cold beer and a pre-prepared Indian curry dinner. I slept well!

Easter Sunday

No sign of the Easter Bunny this morning. Actually, not much sign of anything as the mountain side was buried in fog.

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Wonnangatta rd

I dragged my self out of the  Swag at 7:30 AM. Coffee, breakfast and a general tidy up from the previous days activities. Rolled up the sleeping bag but left the swag in place with the hope of some sunshine later to dry it out a bit (to whit it did!). Also checked the maps, GPS and Spot tracker. There was extremely poor phone coverage at the camp site. I tried to get an alert out to no avail. A text message to Peter VK3PF also failed to send.
This morning I would head to Mt. Despair. I had two choices:
1: Climb back up to the saddle below Mt. Spec then follow the AAWT down a spur that becomes very steep to the Wonnangatta Rd. (Shorter and with views).
2. Follow the meandering Wonnangatta Rd to where it intersects the AAWT and proceed to Catherine Saddle.
I chose the second option. Less climbing, hopefully less fog and, due to that fog, there would be bugger all views from the spur anyway!

The Wonnangatta Rd from Camp Creek winds progressively down from 1500 metres to the Catherine Saddle at 1235 metres over a distance of 4 kilometres. I had departed Camp Creek at 8:50 AM and had reached Catherine Saddle by 10:10 AM. A short break was had at Catherine Saddle, talking to some walkers returning from walking the Viking Loop. I also took the opportunity to strip off some layers; being my new rain jacket and a vest.
From here the AAWT climbs steadily, but with a short respite in a small saddle, to 1464 metres over a distance of 1.8 kilometres. I reached a small Cairn at the summit by 11:10 AM, thus 1 hour from saddle to summit.
I set up the squid pole to a tree on the side of the track close to the cairn and began the activation.

Summit Information for VK3/VE-043, Mt Despair – 1464m, 8 points

Activation date 27/03/2016
Phone coverage very unreliable.
Camp Creek to Summit 5.8 kilometres. 2:20.
Descent 265 metres over 4.0 km, ascent 229 metres over 1.8 km
AAWT easy to follow.

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Mt Despair

I started off on 7.032 CW. Without alert or spotting facilities, I was not surprised to receive a wall of silence on 7.032 CW. A quick look on the 40m phone section spied Peter VK3ZPF operating portable from the French Island Marine Park VKFF 0950. Peter kindly put out a CW spot for me and I was in business.
8 x 40m CW contacts ensued plus 1 s cross mode (ssb/cw) and a further 3 contacts on 40m ssb including an S2S with Tony VK1VIC/P on VK3/AC-035.
Matt VK1MA was able to spot me on 20m CW and I did hear John VK6NU 319 but a 2 way contact failed.
Being unable to spot nor see if there was anyone else about, I left the gear set up and went for a walk north and east of the summit to grab a closer up view of The Razor.
Back at the station, tried 15m CW but nothing further eventuated so I packed up.

I returned via the same route. Time 2:07 for the 5.8 kilometres in reverse but this time with the sun out – I was searching for what ever shade was available.
Back at Camp Creek. a quick pack up of my swag then back along Speculation Rd to Cobbler Lake Rd. then Abbeyard Rd to my next summit.

Summit Information for VK3/VE-103, VK3/VE-103 – 1161m, 6 points

Activation date 27/03/2016
Poor phone coverage but did manage to get a spot out.
Operating position right on the summit in a clearing off the main track.
Squid pole set up on a ground stake in the clearing.

A drive up summit. Steep and 4WD required. Some loose shale plus a sheer rock surface on one tight up hill corner that could cause traction problems if wet and slippery. Limited locations to turn around.

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Abbeyard Track

Time from Camp Creek was just over the hour.
Monitoring 7.090 SSB on the way up, I heard Glenn VK3YY begin an activation of VK3?VT-034 so I grabbed Glenn and set up an S2S once I was operational. I worked 4 stations in total on SSB and had a pile up on 40m CW with 14 stations worked in 18 minutes.
With time marching on and the spotting difficulties, I did not try any other bands (maybe I should have tried 20m as some unable to hear me on 40m could have been monitoring 14.062?)
Anyway, back down the track and onto Little Cobbler Track, Speculation Rd and the Circuit Rd where I pulled in and camped at the Mt. Thorn car park 1:15 later at 6:00 PM. No reliable phone coverage on the way; unable to place any further alerts.

Summit Information for VK3/VE-008, Mt Buller – 1805m, 10 points

Activation Date 27-28/03/2016
Excellent phone coverage.
Car to summit 20 minutes, 500 metres 120 metre ascent

After a comfortable night in the swag followed by breakfast, I hit the road by 8:30 AM. I noted to my self that I had neither seen nor heard anybody since passing a camp on the King River the previous afternoon. I was surprised at this as, being Easter, it is one of the busiest times around here. Take note that mid week or normal weekends within the season you could be very much on your own! Note: Geelong Grammar School Timber Top Campus are active Wednesdays and Thursdays to avoid the crowds.
By 8:53 I was at the Howqua Gap / Corn Hill Rd junction (13 km). Corn Hill Rd is a relatively easy 7.3 km 4WD track across to Mt. Buller. It is rocky in places.
I was at the Mt. Buller summit car park by 9:20 AM (23 km from Mt. Thorn car park). Getting the gear together and confirming the details of my alert sent via Matt VK1MA, I set off to the summit which is a 120 metre ascent over nearly 500 metres taking around 20 minutes.

I was set up and running on 7.032 CW just prior to my 23:00 UTC alert time and promptly worked Peter VK3PF and a string of 12 further stations from VK2,3,4 & 5. This included a S2S with Gerard VK2IO/P on VK2/CT-012
40m ssb 22 further contacts that included S2S with Al & Andrew on VK2/ST-042, paul VK1ATP.2 on VK2/ST-006 and Andrew VK3BQ on VK3/VW-022
Only one 20m CW contact and that was with Simon VK3SIM in the Melbourne northern suburbs

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Packed up just after UTC, down to the car where I aired up the tyres to highway pressures. Got my lunchtime sandwich out from the fridge plus other supplies and headed for home.
Easter traffic on the way home was horrible, adding over an hour to the trip and in some cases sitting stationary in a 100km zone. The overtaking lanes as such slowed down the traffic rather than making it flow better and the imposed 80kmph speed limit between Molesworth and Yea due to it allegedly being a high crash zone (there was a nasty fatal roll over a couple of years ago) was probably responsible for a number of nose to tail incidents.
Managed a few SOTA chases on the way home.

Thorn to Spec Graph

Mt Thorn Graph

Mt Despair Garmin Map

Mt Thorn Garmin Map

Mt Thorn Map

Despair Graph

Camp Creek to Mt. Despair Graph

20160327_181835

Parting Pic. The morning after!

Additional travel notes.
Pretty much all access to the areas covered over Easter are closed from the Thursday after Queens Birthday to the week preceding Melbourne Cup weekend.
Cobbler Lake via “Bennies” on the Rose River plus the Abbeyard – Lake Cobbler track are not subject to seasonal closures but access may be affected by weather and road conditions.
As previously commented. The Circuit Road is closed from midday on the Friday immediately prior to the Queens Birthday weekend.

Thanks:
To Warren VK3BYD for advice over the phone and Blog
To Allen VK3ARH for his Blog on the same area.
To Peter VK3PF, VK3ZPF and Matt VK1MA for spotting and alerts.
To other activators for S2S and of course the chasers.
Tony.

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