Monthly Archives: August 2016

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!



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!


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.



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

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.

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


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.
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.

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)
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!

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.


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.


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


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.


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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