Mount Hotham Expedition

23/02/2017

The weekend of the 25th and 26th of February was fast approaching. I had intended to head up to Hotham on Friday morning with Nan but due to circumstances, headed up on Thursday afternoon in the Caddy instead.
Heading north up the Hume Freeway, the first port of call was Myrtleford where I finally caught up with Warren VK3BYD, we had quite a lengthy chat in the park and a show and tell with our various equipment.
It was then up to Mt. Porepunkah VK3/VE-098. This is an easy 2WD drive up to the fire tower site.  Access was from One Mile Creek road off the Great Alpine Road. Navigation is straightforward but for an unmarked intersection where one needs to veer left over a creek followed by a hard right rather than follow the track heading up the hill.
My arrival was timed to be after the 7:00 PM knock off time of the resident fire watcher so as to avoid any conflicts or interference.

VK3/VE-098, Mt Porepunkah – 1185m, 6 Points

Excellent Telstra mobile reception here.
With the light beginning to dim, I first set up my new 160 metre vertical followed by the heavier duty doublet and squid pole for use on 80 metres. I was on air and ready for Ron VK3AFW’s 80m CW practice session.

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This is a great site and was very RF quiet on 80 & 160m

I easily qualified the summit on 80m CW with regulars VK3AFW, VK3BYD, VK2IO, VK7CW and also VK3MEG. As for 160 metres, I tuned to 1825 kHZ and had a 599 both ways contact with VK7CW and 559 to both VK3BYD and VK2IO.
With no further chasers on CW, I was pleased to hear VK2TB Tom located between Sydney and Dubbo and VK2PH Mark in Sydney, both of who I contacted with 55 reports. With the summit now qualified on 160 metres, it was a late dinner whilst monitoring 80m SSB. Last contact was Peter VK3PF on 3.600 mHz @11:04 hrs utc.
I packed up all the gear with the aid of my head lamp then set up my new S2S comfort plus mattress in the back of the caddy and then retired for the night.
Great day and night views from this summit.

24/02/2017
Breakfast at 7:00 am in mild conditions before heading down to Porepunkah township then up to Mt. Buffalo.
If you ever wondered about the name Mt. Buffalo, view the range from the “Snow Road” not far out from the Hume Freeway.

I stopped past the parks office on the way up for a look. The parks staff thought I was a working sub-contractor. Little traffic on the road at this time, a few cars and also push bikes.
Knowing the Horn activation site to be very tight, I first headed there before it became too crowded.
Good Telstra mobile coverage from both summits.

VK3/VE-014, The Horn – 1723m, 10 Points

The horn consists of a sharp and pointy rock outcrop with a viewing platform at its top. The walking track access leads to a metal stair case. I measured that the start of these stairs is just inside the activation zone.

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Good view of the Hump from here

Being the only person up there, I set up on the observation platform. The squid pole strapped to a corner post, one leg of the doublet hanging vertically down the granite rock cliff and the other leg strung out and tied to the hand rail lower down the steps. I made sure all my gear was stowed out of the way and tied to the rail where possible after loosing the squid pole cap over the edge.
My activation period was 48 minutes. I had a few visitors who, from my appearance, thought I was carrying out some research work.
I started in 15 metres and first contact after much trying in the log was W4HBK, Bill in Florida followed by a booming John ZL1BYZ.
VK3PF, VK2UH & VK3HRA were worked on 80m cw , VK2IO on 40m cw and VK5 WG and FANA plus VK3WRL/P (Ben on the Moroka River) on 40m SSB.

VK3/VE-019, The Hump – 1695m, 10 Points

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An easy 1.5 km walk from The Hump / Cathedral car park which also sports a drop toilet. Started on 40m CW and had an instant reply from Phil VK2FGBR in Newcastle. It took another 30 minutes and two band changes to get the second and further qualifying contacts on 20m CW. 599 reports to VK4, 519 to VK6 (side of antenna) and finished up back on 40m SSB with an S2S with Paul VK3HN on Mt. Nelse.
Activation time 60 minutes for 8 contacts. Excellent Telstra mobile coverage. Lots of bicycle traffic on the way back down. Next shopping in Bright then to Hotham!

Whilst in Transit to Mt. Hotham, I received a phone call from Allen VK3ARH who was also en route but via Ulrich Point on the Mt Buffalo range. We compared ETAs and I decided to activate Mt. Loch to try and pick up the S2S points.

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

Great phone access from this summit. Line of site to Mt. Hotham. The walk is an easy 3.5 or so kMs mostly along a 4WD track that runs past the summit. All is above the tree line and exposed but for possible cover from buildings associated with the ski tows.
WX was clear but closing in from the south. I set up on the north side of the summit cairn in clear conditions but was soon enveloped in fast moving damp cloud and fog. The space immediately behind the cairn created a sort of vacuum from the prevailing conditions.

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WX can change quickly!

Good going with 30 activator points for the day!

Great night at the Lodge. Present over the weekend were Brian VK3MCD, Ron VK3AFW & Ruth, Alan VK3FABT, Allen VK3ARH, Paul VK3HN, Glenn VK3YY & Sarah, Ken VK3KIM and Peter VK3PF

25/02/2017

VK3/VE-002, Mt Feathertop – 1922m, 10 Points

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This is the one that I had come for. Rather than running around picking up a multitude of high value summits, I was keen to venture to the second highest peak in Victoria. Allen VK3ARH was to be my companion again and, after a hearty breakfast at the Lodge, we were on the Razorback Ridge by 8:00 AM. By the looks of the carpark, we would not be alone.
The weather was perfect. A slight breeze and a bit overcast with some fog / low cloud at times (cleared whilst at the summit). In our travels we met a U3A group from Bairnsdale plus numerous Football teams from both Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance (not a ball in sight). There were also a number of extremely fit trailrunners. With 14kG in the pack, this was definitely not for me!

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Looking north on the Razorback

The trek is some 23 kilometres return along the mostly exposed Razorback. The first section provides an option of following the ridge top or skirting around the east side (which is what we did). The trek is undulating and generally down hill (100m over 5 km) then up ( 160m over 5km) to the Bungalow Spur track junction leading to Federation Hut with a final push (160m over just over 1 km) to the twin peaked summit.

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Federation Hut

The north peak is 1 metre higher than the south peak and we set up a short distance north of this highest point in a relatively clear and quiet area.

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Twin Peaks of Mt. Feathertop

Using my KX3 and Allen’s 40/20m trap dipole in inverted V format biased north / south, we both easily qualified the summit using CW, SSB and many S2S contacts on 2 metres FM with our fellow “Hotham Expeditioners”
We had made excellent pace on the way out and were ahead of schedule. Our activation continued in now warm sunshine for nearly an hour over lunch before packing up and heading back to the car.
Travel time was 3:15 out and 3:25 back, the return leg also being in much warmer conditions.

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From whence we came

Chaser contacts on 2 metres FM were had with Ken VK3KIM on The Hump and Glenn VK3YY on Mt. Loch
Excellent Telstra mobile coverage. line of Site to Mt. Hotham.
Used nearly 3 litres of water on the trek. Carried clothing layers, extra food and a Bothy Bag incase of a WX change.

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Showing practically the full route to Feathertop

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

Final summit for the day after a much needed shower and rest up at the Lodge. Allen and I headed up to the summit only to find the gate locked. This is normal and there is usually no private vehicle access unless otherwise arranged (as was our case). This meant another 1.5 km up to the tower for the keys then back again. Allen set up his 40/20m dipole and I the 160m vertical and we went to work whilst also partaking the odd drink and bite to eat.
Operating conditions were quite cold with a brisk southerly blowing.
160m was very noisy but I did manage to qualify with VK3BYD (Wangaratta) and VK2IO (Sydney) plus both Allen and Ron off the mountain.
As with Mt. Porepunkah, ground conditions were different to home requiring the use of the KX3 tuner to present a nicer antenna match.
Group photo then down to the very busy pub for dinner.
Excellent Telstra mobile coverage on Hotham.

26/02/2017
Later start this morning whilst plans were made.
I accompanied Brian and Paul to revisit Mt. Tabletop over near Dinner Plain. This is a lovely 10km return walk across the JB Plain then into the snow gums down to Tabletop creek before ascending up past some rocky outcrops to the plateau of Mt. Tabletop.

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

Excellent Telstra mobile coverage.
Set up using the short squid pole ( to which I further broke the top section) and doublet. With 3 HF stations operating there was some mutual interference. Qualified on 40m CW and worked ZL1BYZ on 15 and 17 metres plus VK6NU on 20m CW. 80m provided better NVIS propagation than 40m but I was surprised to have a good albeit low signal contact with Rhett VK3WE on 15m CW.
Activation period 1 hr over lunch. Unsuccessful S2S attempt with JF1NDT/1 on 15m
The return trek to the car is a bit slower being more up hill and also a bit warmer. Decided to finish the day with a drive up between Dinner Plain and Omeo.

VK3/VG-030, VK3/VG-030 – 1321m, 8 Points

Good Telstra mobile coverage. Drive about 30 minutes towards Omeo from Dinner Plain. The turn off on the north side of the road is not marked and is just short of 1km from the Mt. Livingstone rd.
Turn hard right (north) at the track junction immediately once off the Great Alpine Road and proceed along a 4WD track (relatively easy but requiring ground clearance and good tyres if wet – becoming overgrown so expect some scratches). Proceed first north then north west on the track that follows the ridge for about 2.7km where a track joins in from the left (west). Take this track and proceed south west for 700m into the activation zone. Brian parked out of the zone as it was becoming a bit overgrown with limited opportunities to turn around. (Ref access VK3PF)

Set up on the track. With the still broken squid pole the summit was qualified with contacts on 40 and 80m CW. HF propagation was very poor but for Es (Sporadic E) on 10m with  Stuart VK8NSB operating VI8BOD (Bombing of Darwin special event call) putting in a cracking signal.
Activation time just under the hour (last contact 0523 hrs) then back to the lodge by 5:10 pm (06:10 hrs utc)

With a number of the group having departed for home, it was a quieter night at the lodge with many points discussed over a glass or two.

27/02/2017
Depart for home in lovely clear conditions around 9:00 AM. Numerous photo stops. Home by 2:30 PM – beating both the evening peak plus school pick up.
Noticeably warmer at home!

My Stats:
8 summits, 74 activator points, 146 chaser points and 105 S2S points.
Walked 46 kilometres.
Best DX was W4HBK in Florida
Worked VK2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & good copy of VK8BOD on 10m plus ZL1 & ZL2.
Used CW, SSB and FM modes.
Could not complete an S2S with JF1NDT/1 (229)
I found 17m to ZL worked better than 15 or 20m @00:30 hrs.
Tried all bands 160 through to 2 metres with the exception of 12 metres.
Sota gods appeased with 1 x broken squid pole, 1 lost 2m hand held and a Subaru head gasket.
Further reading VK3CAT 2016VK3ARH, VK3HN

 

 

 

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One thought on “Mount Hotham Expedition

  1. Enjoyed reading your account Tony and thanks for your company on Sunday.

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