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.
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 Picchu
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.
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
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!
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.
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