Mount Clear and Beyond; The true story!

Plan for the Christmas and New Year Break is to tackle three summits along the AAWT. Two I have done previously being the Knobs and the High Cone and the third, Mt. Clear will be a new one for me.
These are fairly rare summits, the Knobs previously activated twice and the others only once. I had phone access on the Knobs, none at the High Cone and uncertain about Mt. Clear.
An alert is out for Wednesday 28th of December 00:01 hrs utc and the order of summits is as per the alert. May rely on the RBN Hole and APRS to assist spotting. WX is forecast to be hot and windy but 10 degrees cooler on the hill tops than in the Valley.
Limited time for each activation. An all Elecraft activation – reasonably band and mode agile.

The Knobs

The Knobs

Will be travelling with Nan, Allen VK3ARH and Glenn VKYY.
Camping out on the trail and putting our new gear purchased for the N.A expedition to good use.
Will have to update the Sota Gear page to reflect some more of the gear. I have updated the pack to the Osprey Atmos 65 litre variant medium frame. Nan has the Osprey Aura 65 litre small frame pack.
A map of our travels can be found on the link below.
Will have APRS working via the SPOT3 Tracker aprs.fi/vk3cat-13

mt-clear-and-beyond (Click on the link on the new page for the pdf map)

Update 29/12/2016

Nan and I left home early on Boxing Day morning (6:30 AM to be precise) and had a good and clear run. Breakfast at Yea in the wet lands reserve (no toilets) before continuing to Mansfield (ample toilets – tourist information, rail trail and main shopping strip!) and further through Merrijig to the start of the Howqua Track.
First observation of the track was it had been recently graded so I opted not to lower the tyre pressures. This proved to be a good call as the track and then Brocks Road beyond it were all in excellent shape and we could comfortably cruise at 60kmph in the Landcruiser (disclaimer – drive to the conditions and yours / cars ability!) There was very little traffic and we were able to nab our desired campsite on the north branch of the Jamieson River.
Set up the tent, had some lunch then off to get some fire wood on the Low Saddle Rd.

Now with the camp established and camp fire going, the WX decided to change with a colossal thunderstorm hitting us. I had not yet put up our tarpaulin shelter so we threw this over the tent awning and waited it out.
WX cleared in time for dinner and, with the tarpaulin now up, we had a dry spot for our table and chairs. We were going to get good use from this!

27/12/16.
Cloudy day interspersed with occasional dry patches but mostly drizzle.
Heard from Allen VK3ARH on 2 metres from 8 Mile Gap. Severe WX forecast for the 29th and that it would just be him and us.
Met up with Allen at the camp site and determined to head off in the morning as planned so long as the WX was OK.

28th/12/16
Up before 7:00 AM, hearty breakfast and coffee. In Allen’s Subie the intrepid three drove over to Knobs / Mt. Clear Rd; ending up parking in a small creek side campsite a kilometre or so prior to the start of Knobs track due to the deteriorated condition of this road. We were on the climb up Knobs track by 8:30 AM and climbed steadily for 2 hours before reaching the AAWT, a short break then up to the Knobs by 11:20 AM.

20161228_0855051

Steep climb up the Knobs 4WD track

VK3/VE-040 The Knobs 1495 metres.
Very strong gusty winds from the north west. Allen set up his EFHW with MTR and I, the KX3 – travel doublet and mini squid pole. The angle of the pole is testament to the wind and the antenna would not have been more than 2 metres off the ground!
I ended up waiting for Allen to finish activating to avoid interference. Got a handful of CW contacts including John ZL1BYZ and a couple of SSB contacts that included an S2S with Matt VK1MA on VK2/sw-027. Allen headed off to find Nan whilst I packed up. Last contact 01:20 hrs utc (12:20 PM local).
Good phone access from Mt. Buller.

It is a rocky descent off the Knobs, firstly on a spur then a lovely wide and grassy ridge until the approach to the High Cone where things get a bit more serious. The AAWT has two options at The High Cone, either over the top or around the north west side. We left Nan and the packs at the junction and headed to the summit some 120 metres up the hill.

20161228_1022311

Only 168 vertical metres to go!

The High Cone VK3/VE-240 1488 metres.
A short activation using Allen’s EFHW and the KX3. Winds still strong and we shelter on the south side below the summit. Beginning to rain.
A handful of contacts on 40m CW and a couple on 40m SSB for good measure then a quick get away.
Slow going with the chasers. Propagation is not great. Activation time 47 minutes. Still no phone access here.
Met back with Nan then headed towards Mt. Clear.

20161228_103823

Snack time. Real Sota Activators do not stop for lunch!

Our rate of progress was slower than expected and the times provided to me from some trek notes were impossible to get anywhere close to. Nan, Allen and Myself called it a day in a small grassy saddle on the south side of Mt. Clear where we set up camp. The time was now 7:00 PM. We had our meal then fell into bed as the sun set.

29/12/16
Light rain overnight and early morning. Up and about by 7:00 AM and away at 8:20 AM in light rain that became more persistent as the day went on. Unable to see Mt. Clear due to rain and cloud. Evidently this is not an uncommon experience. Allen and I set up on the Eastern leeward side of the summit whilst Nan unbeknown waited for us at the top. Visibility and wind was such that we could neither see nor hear each other.
Back at the activation site, Allen had set up my doublet antenna and the KX3 was put into action. CW only as the microphone was safely tucked away in a dry bag. Thanks to earlier SMS communications with Warren VK3BYD, an alert had already been posted and a few chasers were patiently waiting for our activation to commence.

Mt. Clear 1695 metres.
We had the minimum 4 contacts each inside of 10 minutes then a quick pack up and away. We did not bother to work each other so we both await a future activator for the complete!
Back on the summit cairn at 10:16 AM, the start of the MVO 4WD track via a steep and rocky descent by 11:25 AM where I found some water.
This 4WD MVO – management vehicle only – track traverses beneath the steep craggy north west side of Mt. Clear before joining a spur that is often clear and grassy; boggy in places before steeply dropping down towards Clear Creek. There are a series of switchbacks; much of which were heavily covered with wet regrowth. The going here was wet and slow. Little forward progress is made due to the lay of the track.
Finally, where Mt. Clear track supposedly heads north west, it in fact runs south east towards the Clear Creek. At this point it joins Mt. Clear Rd and follows the namesake creek in an easterly direction before meeting up with the bottom of Knobs track. The marked continuation of Clear Creek Rd along side Clear Creek no longer exists. From memory, it was formed during logging works in the 1980’s and has since not been maintained. I believe this is also true for the section of Mt. Clear Track that used to join onto Mt. Clear Rd closer to where our car was parked.  I once traveled the MT. Clear track in its Entirety from King Billy by trail bike in 1983.
Finally back at the car at 3:30 PM.

mt-clear-trek-elevation

AAWT Junction at 4km, The Knobs at 5.5km, High Cone Saddle at 9km, The Square Top at 13.5km, Mt Clear at 17.5km, MVO 4WD track at 19.5km.
Ran out of batteries not far off the end.
Trek Stats. 
Heights, time and distances are rounded and are guidelines only

  • Time on the go including breaks and activations but excluding overnight camp – dinner and breakfast: 18.5 hours.
  • Distance travelled including some deviations: 30 kilometres. Note here that neither Allen nor myself found the section of the MVO track that is allegedly a part of Clear Creek track that heads north east to the Clear Creek Rd. Instead, the MVO track follows the route of a path that runs in the complete opposite direction.
  • Carpark to AAWT – 4km, 483m ascent, 2 hours.
  • AAWT to the Knobs – 1.7km, 13m descent & 168m ascent, 50 minutes.
  • The Knobs activation time 68 minutes. (Too long!)
  • The Knobs to the High Cone -3.5km, 181m descent, 176m ascent, 2 hours between activations.
  • The High Cone to where we commenced the sidle around the Square Top – 2.75km, 45m descent, 160m ascent,  1hr & 40 minutes.
  • High Cone Activation time 47 minutes.
  • To where we hooked onto the AAWT (sidle track route becomes very scrubby and extreme side gradients) – 1.2km, 55m ascent, 1hr & 10 minutes. We joined the AAWT in a saddle north east of the first peak. In hindsight, probably better to take the pain and climb this first scrubby peak but we did save 20 metres of ascent and descent!
  • Point above to our camp beneath Mt. Clear 1km, 20m ascent, 164m ascent, 30 minutes.
  • Camp to Mt. Clear Activation site –  1.25km, 225m ascent, 55 minutes (+spent 30 minutes setting up & finding where Nan was)
  • Mt Clear Activation time 10 minutes.
  • Ascent to Mt Clear from Activation site – 0.5km, 10m ascent, 8 minutes.
  • Mt. Clear to 4WD MVO track – 2.1km, 266m descent, 55 minutes.
  • 4WD track to car- 10.5km approximate, about 60 metres of ascents (single longest is 40m) and 625m descent, 4 hrs.
This is a remote, rugged and often wild environment. Weather conditions can change without warning. Navigation can be difficult. Water can be scarce. Maps are not accurate and information is unreliable.  Travel prepared!

mount-clear-trek-map

Rather than the more direct grey line back to the car, the MVO track continues south from the end of the red track line (where the batteries went flat) to cross clear creek and link to the main road close to where the Knobs track begins to climb up out of the valley.

Thanks to Nan and Allen for their company an support.

Reference VK3WAM, VK3ARH

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  1. Pingback: 06012017 – VK3/VE-050 & VK3/VE-026 | VK3ARH

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