Marilyn Monroe


What the heck has Marilyn Monroe got to do with Radio and Communications?
A very good question to ask.
Read on….

With Nan being a NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) member, I could not ignore the invitation to nip up to Bendigo to view the Marilyn Monroe Exhibition held at the Bendigo Art Gallery. We have been to most of the similar events held here and they have been a good day out with the exhibition followed by lunch.

We had an early start from home, the weather was inclement but arrived with some time to spare in Bendigo prior to the 10:00 am opening. Being able to pre-purchase tickets for a nominated time certainly helps avoid the queues. At an earlier event, we had spent some hours queued up in the hot sun waiting to get in. Lessons have been learnt!

Anyway, we enjoyed the exhibition. Turns out Marilyn was no dummy when it comes to business and marketing. She was also a tiny woman going by her dress size. Lots of sound and movie clips on offer including “Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend

We had a stroll through the shops and noted that it seemed quieter than previous times and a number of shops were closed or gone completely.Lunch was had at a cafe across the road. Nan & I have been together for too long as, again, we both independently ordered the same meal! Over lunch, the rain bucketed down. Not looking promising for the afternoon’s activities?

VK3/VN-016, Mt Alexander – 741m, 4 Points

Located to the east of the Calder Fwy on the way home, it was but a slight deviation – made longer by some road works on McIvor road requiring a detour via Harcourt. The approach was straightforward along Joseph Young Drive to a T intersection where you turn right to reach the summit just a short distance away. There is a well constructed stone cairn at the summit but I elected to activate from near the T intersection as it would be a bit more out of the way and possibly RF quieter?
The activation zone looks quite vast and the south Trig point would also be inside the zone.
Also, noticed lots of moss & lichen on the road on the way up. Looks like it is cold in winter and also slippery! No problems this time in the mighty VW Caddy.
Commencing the ascent, we could not see the summit for the clouds. The rain had stopped but I was prepared to use the new Bothy Bag.


Mt. Alexander Summit Cairn

Was not too bad once at the top and things only improved!
Mountains are this cats best friends!

Phone coverage Excellent
RF noise – none to speak of.
Drive up summit and lots of places to activate from.


Date:30/Apr/2016 Summit:VK3/VN-016 (Mt Alexander) Call Used:VK3CAT/P Points: 4

Time Call Band Mode Notes
04:11z ZL1BYZ 14MHz CW John 599, 599 great sig
04:13z RM7KW 14MHz CW Victor 559, 579 Russia
04:14z VK7CW 14MHz CW Steve 349, 449
04:19z ZL3CC 14MHz CW Andrew 559, 589
04:24z US7QQ 14MHz CW Alex 339, 339 Ukraine
04:27z RA6LO 14MHz CW Pavel 549, 569 Russia
04:32z VK2IO 10MHz CW Gerard 579, 559
04:35z VK3ARH 10MHz CW Allen 539, 579
04:38z VK2UH 10MHz CW Andrew 329, 329 Tnx
04:41z VK5CZ 10MHz CW Ian 579, 559 solid
04:43z VK5LJ 10MHz CW Laurie 599, 599
04:45z VK3PF 7MHz CW Peter 579, 579
04:47z VK3BYD 7MHz CW Warren 579, 599
04:51z VK1MA 7MHz SSB Matt 5×9, 58
04:52z VK5WG 7MHz SSB Nev 5×9, 57
04:53z VK3FPSR/M 7MHz SSB Peter 5×5, 52
04:53z VK3FQSO 7MHz SSB Amanda 5×5, 52
04:54z VK3FIRM 7MHz SSB Mike 5×9, 58
04:55z VK2EXA 7MHz SSB Greg 5×8, 56
04:56z VK5FBAA/M 7MHz SSB 5×7, 55
04:56z VK3SQ 7MHz SSB Geoff 5×9, 59

A slightly different method of operation this time. First checked out the band propagation then tried 20 metres first. Scored well with my first east European chasers plus ZL & VK7.
Followed this up with some further afield (plus local) VK contacts before hitting the usual 40 meter hustings.

Quite happy with the results in about an hours worth of activation time.Packed up and proceeded back to the Calder Fwy near Elphinstone.
Only hiccup was the traffic through King St in Melbourne CBD. This seems to be a worsening problem with even the off ramps from the Westgate Fwy (if taking the Bolte Bridge or Western Ring Rd / Geelong Fwy) presenting major traffic congestion at most times.


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Andrew Hill & CruiserKhana

The TLCCV CruiserKhana was on again 15th to 17th Of April at the club property just out of Yarck north east of Melbourne off the Melba Highway.
Once again I was running the communications systems with Michael Martin; based on UHF CB and Motorola Digital Radios.
The competition stared on the Friday night with an optional night drive, finishing by midnight so needed to have the system up and running by 6:00 PM.

Well, as per last year (but this time April rather than March) I headed up early on the Friday morning; breakfast at Yarra Glen then north into the King Lake N.P. Andrew Hill is accessed from Gordon Bridge Rd. The turn off comes up quite quickly once over Mt. Slide and it is a hard left hand turn at the intersection with the Melba Hwy onto the gravel road.
Head south down Gordon Bridge Rd. and cross the infant Yea River, not far past the Yea River, the road swings to the west and, passing Moore Ct on the left, turn right at Mountain Creek Track which is about 1 kilometre from the bridge.
Mountain Creek track is closed to general traffic about 150 metres in off the Gordon Bridge Rd. There is a large clearing suitable for car parking.


From here, unless you are an authorised person, it is foot travel only. Walk around the vehicle gate and over Mountain Creek to the intersection of Andrew Hill Track. Turn right and start heading up!
At first the fire trail heads south east, following the contours of the hill but then the climb up the spur is steady from 400 metres up to 625 (according to the sign) metres at the summit. (Note the listed height, must check this next time but I believe it is wrong!)
The distance from Mountain Creek is listed as 2.2 kilometres and this took me a solid 1/2 hour albeit one break to take a work phone call.

Summit Information for VK3/VN-020. Andrew Hill – 675m(?), 2 points

Phone coverage is excellent.
The summit activation zone is at the junction of Andrew Hill Track and Dusty Miller Track.
Sign post good to support a squid pole.
Activation time 55 minutes. plus 10 minutes for set up and again to pack up.
Starting off on 40 metres CW, I quickly qualified the summit; contacts with Nick VK2AOH, Steve VK7CW, Rick VK4RF and Gerard VK2IO.
As it seemed the NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave) was not happening, I moved down to 80 metres CW but nobody worked here. I then tried 30 metres CW and could weakly hear Nick VK2AOH but not well enough for a confirmed contact.
Thinking that 10 metres could give me a chance to work back into nearby Melbourne, I spotted my self on CW and was instantly rewarded with Ron VK3AFW/M a solid 569. Surprisingly nobody else was heard.
15 and 20 metres provided the same result as 80 metres so I finished up back on 40 metres but this time on phone. A cross mode and park to park contact was had with John VK5BJE/3 and VK3PF, VK2XXM, VK2JDS/M and VK5FANA were also in the log.
Better results than last year. Maybe being 1 hour later due to the end of daylight savings was a help. On that occasion, all on 40 metres I struggled to get 3 x CW and 3 x SSB plus 1 x 2 metre FM contact off the hand held.

The walk down was only about 5 minutes quicker. Take care as the fire trail is clay based and is slippery in places when wet.
Coffee and a bite to eat back at the car then off to Yarck.


Looking down on the competition area from the top of Latimer’s Track

TLCCV is Toyota Landcruiser Club of Victoria.
Whilst running the communications, I was able to do some chasing as I had the KX3 set up. Many asked why we were using morse code to communicate with the competition area?
Had some good contacts, working Warren VK3BYD on CW from all of his summits. Stuffed up 1 CW contact with Ian VK5CZ/P when I was trying to send CW and work the UHF radio at the same time. Called Ian Gerard. On the Sunday I was lucky enough to work Warren ZL2AJ on ZL1/BP-159 thanks to a quiet environment.

Cheers from Tony VK3CAT

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High Country Happenings


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.


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.


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.


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


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!


The Chute Stanley’s Name Spur


Old logging track or Mt Thorn Rd?


Cross Cut Saw & Mt. Howitt from Mt. Thorn


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) 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.)”


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!


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.

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.

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Sota Gear

This page is related to equipment that I have used for my activating. Previous postings refer to the Elecraft KX3 and how it has performed thus far. The main antenna used has been an open wire fed …

Source: Sota Gear

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Mount St. Leonard and Mount Toolebewong

After chatting with Ken VK3KIM on Friday night at the MDRC club meeting and again at home on Saturday, a short notice joint activation was planned for Sunday.
The WX forecast was OK so late Saturday afternoon, everything was confirmed for a leisurely  departure from Kens house (a near neighbour) at 9:30 AM.

The traffic at this hour was a little heavier than anticipated so we were a little behind our ETA. Heavy fog / damp cloud out from Healesville had me thinking I could be deploying the new Bothy Bag! See Sota Gear for my equipment updates.

Summit Information for VK3/VC-006

Mt St Leonard – 1012m, 6 points

But no, on entering the activation zone, the sun broke through, or rather we ascended through the cloud base into a clear and sunny day. Not much of a view thaoug except for the tops of cloud.
As Ken was going to try VHF from his hand held first, I set up close to the summit hoping that the QRM would not be too bad (It ranged from tolerable to horrible)
Ken had some success on 2 metres FM into Western VK3 plus an S2S with Allen VK3ARH on VK3/VC-032 near Ballan.
My first contacts were 40m SSB  with Andrew and Al (VK1AD/2 & VK1RX/2) on VK2/ST-011 and Allen VK3ARH. This was followed by 5 CW contacts of which a very weak VK3BYD/2 was worked for another S2S on VK2/SW-043 Reports were peaked 419 so not great propagation.
Went to 15 metres looking for a JA activators and chasers. 3 solid contacts were had from VK4 plus local VK3 stations.
There was a DX station calling that sounded like having an N, S, 7 & P in their call but I just could not get enough of their signal out through the QRM. Tried 12 meters but nothing heard.

Post Script 16/03/16 – it seems that the callsign was probably NS7P – Phillip in Oregon. On a quite summit this would have been an easy contact. 
Quietest operating position at VC-006 (but still offering a VHF path to Melbourne) is at the most southerly point of the access road where there is a walking track to Donelly’ Weir. This point is about 10 metres vertical from the summit. The disadvantage here is that it can be very cold – as I found out on a previous early morning activation. No sunshine and numb fingers on the paddle!

Whilst Ken was using the KX3 on SSB, I went for a stroll to the look out with my VX7R. I worked Ron VK3AFW with patchy reports then was surprised with a VK4VDX (Roland) in Logan city. Not bad for 5 watts. Using a clone of diamond (SRH-940) top loaded tri band rubber duck antenna.
No luck with contacting Peter VK3PF on 6 or 2 metres FM. There was some inversion and I think we may have been in the duct and signals from those below were attenuated. This could go some way to explaining Ron’s low signal.

Plenty of distractions were had. Ranging from an explanation of what we were doing to discussions on back packs.


We packed up in good time then headed back to the car which was still in the cloud.

Healesville was in full sunshine and busy. Grabbed a roll for lunch at the bakery (not Beechworth) then  headed up the road to Toolebewong. My Garmin 2927 with standard base map was completely lost where as Garmin topo V5 was fine.

Summit Information for VK3/VC-033

Mt Toolebewong – 735m, 4 points

Ken & I set up in a clearing just before the Private Road sign and just above the Telecommunications site.
Band conditions were now much better on 40m  and a string of 11 CW contacts were had plus Andrew and Al again but this time on VK2/ST-016.
Ken took over on SSB as I organised some tea and coffee. We also worked Tony VK7LTD/P on VK7/WC-065 ON 40m SSB.
Time to head home.
The activation site was in some shade from the now full sun but there were plenty of mozzies about and blood was drawn. Tried 15 and 20 metres but nothing heard on these bands at all!

Home by 6:00 pm. BBQ dinner to cook.

Thanks Ken for the company.


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Hotham Highlights

Mt Hotham Ski Village – the Peninsula Ski Lodge was our home away from home for an extended weekend of the 19th through to the 21st of February 2016.
A considerable effort in organisation from Brian VK3MCD & Kathy produced an excellent time for all who participated.

For Nan and I, it began with a 7:00 am start from home – heading east along the Princess Fwy towards Bairnsdale and then north to Omeo.
First stop was a yummy breakfast at  the Fozigobble Cafe in Yarragon, followed by fuel in Traralgon (should have waited until Bairnsdale as there was a price war going on with diesel down to 89 cents per litre!).

North from Bairnsdale, passing the QTH of Robbie VK3EK then following the Tambo River through twisty mountains and open plains to Omeo
Lunch at Omeo’s Twinkles Cafe where my freshly made chicken & salad roll was bigger than Ben Hur and then up through Dinner Plains to Mt Hotham.
Whilst in transit near Omeo I worked Andrew VK1MBE/3 and spoke with Glenn VK3YY back at home in Melbourne.

For us, we skipped past the Hotham Heights village and the Mt Hotham Summit (VK3/VE-006) to reach the Mt. Loch carpark where we caught up with Brian VK3MCD following a quick chat on 2 metres. Nan & I donned the back packs and headed up the 3.5 km trail to the summit of Mt. Loch VK3/VE-005. Stunning views along the way and particularly to the north from the summit cairn.

The walking route follows Machinery Spur rd for most of the way then, just north of a point adjacent to the cairn, a foot track heads east then south for a very short distance to the top.

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

Excellent phone coverage. Line of site to Mt. Hotham.
Activation time 1 hour.
19th Feb 2016

A well earnt rest at Mt. Loch

A well earnt rest at Mt. Loch

For what was going to be a common theme over the weekend, I qualified the summit within 3 minutes on 2 metres with the VX7R. S2S contacts with Andrew VK1AD/3 and Adan VK1FJAW/3 then with the rest of the crew either at the lodge or on their way to it.
I found Andrew VK1MBE/3 on 40 metres for another S2S then concentrated on CW, working 5 x VK3 chasers on 40 metres, Ian  VK5CZ on 20 metres and best DX for the day John VK6NU on 15 metres. A “last calls” on 2 metres FM gave the summit to 3 more local chasers in transit to the lodge.
Time to pack up and head back to the car.
WX fine, sunny, strong winds when in the open. Temp mid 20s.

Shortly Nan & I were back and set up at the Lodge. For Nan, the lure of the Spa was too great! For me, there were plans to be made and faces to put to some of the call signs who I had not previously  met. Pre dinner drinks followed by a fresh pasta meal admirably prepared by Kathy finished off a great night. Plans made for an 8:00 am departure on Saturday.

Saturday 20th Feb. UTC date 19/02/16 19:30 hrs.
Rise and shine, shower and egg, toast and coffee for a hearty breakfast.
This morning would see Nan, myself, Allen VK3ARH and Amanda (xyl Compton VK2HRX) heading out in the Cruiser in company with Andrew VK1AD and Adan VK1FJAW in the Yeti to Mt. Table Top. The morning brought heavy fog to the summits with poor visibility as we headed south to JB Plain which is 1/2 a kilometre north of Dinner Plain.
We parked in the dedicated parking area and set off on the walking track across the damp grass of the plain. Nan and Amanda blitzing the way forward with me initially at the rear as I nearly forgot the squid pole. The going was quite damp and I was glad of the Sea to Summit Quagmire gaiters I purchased for the prior Hells Gate adventure.
I think we managed the walk in under an hour which was a surprise. The walking track which is well marked has a long descent from JB plain to the head waters of Table Top creek in a saddle before a few undulations then short climb up through some rocks to the large flat summit. We spread out to limit RF interference and got to work.

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

Excellent phone coverage.
Line of site to Mt. Hotham and Dinner Plain if not for the fog!
Activation time nearly 2 hours.
19& 20th Feb 2016

I started off with a 2 metre S2S with Ron VK3AFW and followed this up with 4 further S2S contacts on 40 metres SSB before switching to CW where 7 contacts were had on 40, 30 and 20 metres into VK2,3 & 4.
We had all but departed the summit prior to the UTC roll over when signals were heard from other activators on 2 metres so we hung back for 3 additional S2S plus ensured we worked our own summit. In hind sight, we should have also done this on the way up in the prior UTC day. This is a quirk of SOTA operations here in our part of the world!



Walk back was slightly more arduous with less downs and more ups but still made good time, the fog now cleared from JB Plain showing huts we had not been able to see earlier.
Fresh coffee and Lunch at the Lodge. Yumm!
Nan decided to stay put whilst Allen and I headed towards the Dargo road at Mt. Saint Bernard. Amanda, Andrew and Adan (A cubed) headed out to Mt. Loch.

 Mount Table Top

 The Twins – 1702m, 10 points VK3/VE-017

Phone Coverage excellent.
Line of sight to Mt Hotham.
Activation time 23 minutes.

I headed off after lunch with Allen VK3ARH who, having previously activating this and our next summit, knew not only where to go but also what we were in for.
Access to the Twins is quite straightforward. Head towards the Dargo road at Mt. Saint Bernard and at this point, take the track on the left immediately just past the Dargo rd. This is the Twins Rd (Seasonally Closed) and it is a relatively good gravel road with a few moderately steep sections but should be driveable in an AWD with suitable ground clearance.
The Twins rd provides a good view of the “lower twin” as you approach from the east. At a saddle, the Australian Alpine Walking Track (AAWT) departs from the road and heads straight up a steep spur. Our route kept us on the road that winds to the north of the Twins summit and, at about the most northerly point, there is parking for a vehicle where the old “Twins Jeep Track” heads up a spur to the cairn at the top.
The going is still reasonably steep and consistent for most of the way. The car park is at about 1485 metres and the track 1 kilometre with a slight plateau at 1650 metres.

I set the HF station up at the trig point but mine and Allens first contacts were on 2 metres FM with S2S from Andrew VK1AD and Adan VK1FJAW who were both on Mt. Loch. Following this, I hit the key with 6 x 40 metre and 2 x 20 metre CW contacts. With a further summit intended plus the activities scheduled for Mt Hotham in the evening, we did not hang around for too long. Having Allen assist in the station set up and pull down certainly sped things up.

Allen VK3ARH

Allen VK3ARH


VK3/VE-023 – 1646m, 10 points VK3/VE-023

Phone coverage excellent.
Line of sight to Mt. Hotham.
VE-023 is just a kilometre south west from the Twins and the AAWT descends directly from the Twins to a saddle at 1380 metres then straight back up. Allen and I did not take this route!
Firstly, we had a look at access to the spur to the west of the summit of VE-023. The going here along the AAWT looked much easier but there just wasn’t anywhere to park. I am told that there is a water tank located on this section of the AAWT. It was a long 1.7km trip in reverse back to the saddle located at the base of VE-023 and The Twins.
I did not take the squid pole on this activation. Allen had his HF setup but we hoped just for a quick VHF activation.
We started heading straight up the spur and then followed a trail of sorts that appeared to offer a better gradient heading west. When this trail appeared to be taking us away from our destination we just scrub bashed through low scrub and loose shale back towards the main spur and summit.
The ascent is quite severe. Within 400 metres you climb 266 metres without any let up.
It actually was not too bad, 35 minutes on the way up and 15 minutes on the direct route back down. This included a massive slip on some loose rock where I sliced my hands on the sharp rocks.
Five S2S contacts plus Allen whilst he was on the way down.
Activation time 8 minutes.

The Twins from VK3/VE-023

The Twins from VK3/VE-023

Following our return to the car, I cracked the bottle of chilled water I had been keeping in the fridge. Tasted better than the best champagne!
Back to the lodge, a quick shower and change of clothes as we both were a bit on the nose and then back in the car with Nan and up to Mt. Hotham for pre dinner activation and drinks.

The way down from VK3/VE-023

The way down from VK3/VE-023

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

Phone coverage excellent.
Thanks to Brian VK3MCDs CFA contacts, we were able to drive to the summit.
Phone coverage is excellent.
The view is wonderful.
Activation time 30 minutes.


After first getting the table and chairs, wine glasses and our bottle of French Champagne out, I then set up the HF station – trying to get some separation from Andrew VK1AD’s station. This sort of worked!
Here is the log.

Time Call Band Mode Notes
07:06z VK2AOH 7MHz CW Nick 599, 599
07:08z VK4RF 7MHz CW Rick 579, 599
07:09z VK4HA 7MHz CW Rick 579, 599
07:13z VK3BYD 3.5MHz CW Warren 599, 599
07:23z OK2PDT 14MHz CW 339, 339
07:23z DK4RM 14MHz CW 579, 599
07:37z ZL3CC 14MHz CW 559, 599 20m qso = qrm from ssb station

I was pleased to get some DX from EU and also ZL. I must admit not a whole lot of effort was put in due to the distractions of good company, wine and food. We packed everything up just in time as the fog began to roll up the valleys to our perch up high.
I did try 15 metres CW in the hope of working Gerard VK2IO in Japan but heard nothing – well not quite true, there was one strong signal but I was 25 metres down the hill working the summit on 2 metres as a chaser. SRI!

Back at the lodge, a scrumptious selections of curries was on offer washed down with just a few more drinks. Plans made for the following day then not a late light – off to bed.

Sunday Morning

A later start today. Boiled eggs and toast again for some substanance then on the road at 8:30 AM.
Nan & I headed back to the start of the Dargo Rd with Allen in his Subaru close behind.
Allen parked at a convenient spot at the start of the Twins Track then joined us as we headed south down the Dargo rd then west along the Blue Rag Range track.
This latter track is definitely 4WD only with steep ascents and descents plus ruts and rocks thrown in for good measure. Not technically difficult but steep. Views are magnificent. This track is seasonally closed once past the track that heads south to Basalt Knob.

Blue Rag Range – 1717m, 10 points VK3/VE-015

Phone coverage excellent.
Activation time 25 minutes.
Quite a lot of activity with visitors to the summit.

Locking East back along the Blue Rag Range

Locking East back along the Blue Rag Range

Set up to the east of the trig point on HF
Started off with 2 x 2 metre S2S contacts with Andrew and Adan.
Finished off with 6 CW qso’s on 40 metres and 2 x on 20 metres.
Band conditions were not flash.
Back along the range then to the summit of Mt. Blue Rag – it being a bit lower and much closer to the Dargo rd.

Mt Blue Rag – 1679m, 10 points VK3/VE-021

Phone coverage excellent.
Activation time 40 minutes.
HF band conditions lousy.

Date:21/Feb/2016 Summit:VK3/VE-021 (Mt Blue Rag) Call Used:VK3CAT Points: 10

Time Call Band Mode Notes
00:13z VK7CW 7MHz CW Steve 599, 599
00:17z VK2AOH 7MHz CW Nick 559, 599
00:22z VK2GAZ 7MHz CW Garry 559, 559
00:26z VK2HRX/3 144MHz FM Compton 5×7, 59 S2S VK3/VE-021 to VK3/VE-070
00:26z VK3PF/P 144MHz FM Peter 5×7, 59 S2S VK3/VE-021 to VK3/VE-070
00:35z VK2YW 3.5MHz CW John 599, 559
00:37z VK1AD/3 144MHz FM Andrew 5×9, 59 S2S VK3/VE-015 to VK3/VE-024
00:40z VK1MBE/3 144MHz FM Andrew 5×9, 59 S2S VK3/VE-021 to VK3/VE-015
00:41z VK3AGD/P 144MHz FM ADAM 5×9, 59 S2S VK3/VE-021 to VK3/VE-015
00:52z VK3YY/P 144MHz FM Glenn 4×5, 45 S2S VK3/VE-021 to VK3/VG-030 Stand on log!

Only just managed to qualify the summit on HF CW.
John VK2YW was 319 at best on 40 metres but romping in on 80.
The last contact was a surprise and interesting to compare the diamond tri band antenna on my VX7R compared to the standard antenna on Allen’s VX8R.
This could be a drive up summit. We had parked the car in a saddle a short distance off the range track and just outside of the activation zone.
In dry conditions, this location could be a nice camp site.
Back at the car, Nan & I decided to bring our Sota weekend to a close, leaving Allen to a solo activation of “Near Mt. Freezeout”(Access track off the Dargo Rd at a picnic table).
We had lunch in Harietville where it was significantly hotter than up in the hills. I did listen out for other activators whilst on the way home (5 hours) but with the band conditions remaining poor, only heard the occasional chaser.

In closing a fantastic Weekend, wonderful company, great vistas. Must visit again.
Thanks to all involved but especially to our hosts Kathy & Brian 🙂

For further reads, refer to the blogs of:

Allen VK3ARH,

Andrew VK1AD, (TBA)

Glenn VK3YY

Peter VK3PF




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Challenge Ends

The SOTA 10 and 6 metre challenge ended at UTC midnight of the 13th of February 2016. This was 11:00 am on Sunday morning in VK3.

The previous day I was involved with the VK3 SOTA symposium held at the MDRC club rooms. The SOTA gear was sill in the van, ready to go. The WX looked nice so Nan & I headed off to Flinders Peak in the You Yangs N.P. Not sure what the propagation would be like? The previous night there was good short path F1 into europe providing me with 3 new callsigns and summits on 10 metres.

Date:13/Feb/2016 Summit:VK3/VC-030 (Flinders Peak) Call Used:VK3CAT/P Points: 1 Bonus: 0
Summit Height 364 metres. Excellent phone coverage.
This is an easy run over the West Gate Bridge and Freeway towards Geelong and Little River. Takes about an hour from home to get to Table Top car park.This would also prove to be a convenient shake down for the up coming Hotham long weekend..

It is a steady 1/2 hour walk up the steps to the summit. Some track restoration was underway and there were a number of people walking, running, with dogs enjoying the fine weather and climbing to the top.


I was set up and running at 22:56 hrs UTC with a hopeful call on 52.525 FM. Surprise reply from Andre VK3MAW in Norlane for a new multiplier. Also worked Ron VK3AFW, Allen on the new call VK3ARH and later Marc VK3OHM all on 6 / 10 metres SSB. Other contacts were all 40 metres CW into VK5, VK4, VK3 and VK2 (S2S with VK2MWP)
We finished up at 23:52. Propagation was not great. Headed back to the car park for a cup of tea and Nan showed me the rock she used as a slide as a young girl. She could not resist the temptation to try it for old times sake.

My 6/10 metre challenge results are 686 activator points made up of 49 unique call signs and 14 unique summits. This puts me at the top of VK3 and a distant 8th overall in VK. Top of the Ladder being Matt VK1MA with 22044 points. Well done Matt and also Andrew VK1AD plus all others who gave it a go!

As a chaser, I obtained 1750 points made up of 35 unique callsigns and 35 unique summits that put me first in VK3 and 3rd overall in VK behind Matt VK1MA and Andrew VK1AD.

Position Activator
6m & 10m Callsigns 6m & 10m Multipliers Points
1 VK1MA 501 44 22044
2 VK1AD 320 47 15040
3 VK1FJAW 188 39 7332
4 VK1DA 191 36 6876
5 VK2IO 174 37 6438
6 VK1RX 112 18 2016
7 VK2JDL 34 22 748
8 VK3CAT 49 14 686
9 VK1DI 47 13 611
10 VK3YY 46 11 506
11 VK1VIC 47 10 470
12 VK1MBE 37 8 296
13 VK1EM 22 6 132
14 VK3PF 17 7 119
15 VK2MWP 11 7 77
Position Activator
6m & 10m Callsigns 6m & 10m Multipliers Points
1 VK1MA 46 61 2806
2 VK1AD 44 60 2640
3 VK3CAT 35 50 1750
4 VK1MTS 33 36 1188
5 VK1DA 33 34 1122
6 VK2IO 27 35 945
7 VK4RF 19 49 931
8 VK1FJAW 29 31 899
9 VK5WG 17 42 714
10 VK3AFW 21 32 672
11 VK1DI 21 28 588
12 VK1EM 15 30 450
13 VK1RX 20 22 440
14 VK3PF 16 22 352
15 VK2MWP 15 21 315

All up. the results proved 10 metres in particular can provide excellent Es propagation plus F1 and F2 at QRP levels. 6 meter Es were less common and no other modes except ground waves were used. That said, the 6 metre ground wave can be very useful as al alternative ot 40 metres when the latter’s propagation is poor. It does help if the home station at the other end has a decent antenna system.
The challenge also showed the tight propagation foot prints on both bands and it was noticable by SOTA Watch that here in VK3, our F1 propagation window was significantly smaller than those further north. Also, in VK3, we were mostly too close for reliable VK1 and VK5 propagation and there was little to no activity from VK4 which is the most reliable distance.
That said, I did work into VK5 and VK1 on both 10 and 6 metres from home (using yagi antennas)

As an activator, I wanted to see how I went using the standard SOTA gear. Thus, just the KX3 at up to 10 watts and the doublet or the VK7R hand held with triband antenna. It did OK and was fun to determine the best radiation pattern angle off the antenna.
Will see what the next challenge may be!

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To Hell and Back

Sunday the 24th of January 2016 finally provided an opportunity to continue my desire to activate some more of the summits closer to Melbourne for both uniques and complete.
Today it would be South Hells Gate, North Hells Gate and Mount Gentle Annie. I had been to South Hells Gate and Gentle Annie back in my trail bike days and 4WDing in the 1980’s and 1990’s so it has been a long time between visits. North Hells Gate would be a new experience.
My plan was to activate them in the above listed order but sometimes the best made plans go awry.
Woke sunday morning to the sound of drizzle, not unexpected and much the same as yesterday where it cleared to be fine and sunny by the middle of the day. Headed out at 7:10 AM, 10 minutes later than my self nominated time. Hardly any traffic. Clear patches then more drizzle as I headed east on the Princess Highway towards Jindivick.
Took the C421 (Sands Rd) turn off just past the fuel station off the M1 and linked up to the Old Princess Hwy then Jacksons Track on which I continued until turning left at Stolls Rd. A note here is that further along Stolls Rd, it becomes private property so you need to take the Dug Out Track on the LHS at the road closed sign and gate. Good gravel road, continue until reaching South Hells Gate Track (reasonable 2WD but deteriorates rapidly on the descent to Quartz Creek Rd – slippery in the wet, which it was!)
My initial plan was to follow Allen VK3HRA (now VK3ARH) and park in a clearing on the South Hells Gate Track and take a redundant logging trail cross country to Robertson Creek Fire Line which crosses the summit. I had a look around, then headed down by car to the start of Robertson Creek Fire Line for a look down there. The track looked quite greasy so best not to drive up it, so, back up South Hells Gate and then a walk.20160124_111635[1]
This turned out to be a waste of time. There were numerous tracks fitting the description in the immediate area and I quickly got quite wet, so, back to the car and back down the hill then a walk up Robertson Creek Fire Line to the summit of South Hells Gate. The walk was really quite easy, a little steep towards the top where it also became rutted and very slippery. Can’t really advise 2WD access here and anything with less than mud tyres should avoid in the wet as the track is clay based.
Set up on the side of the track at the summit, opposite a big rock. I set my ground sheet up as a shelter for protection from the misty rain that was enough to be a nuisance and get the log book wet. 20160124_105241[1]

Summit Information for VK3/VT-059
South Hells Gate – 582m, 2 points
Association: Australia – Victoria Region: Victoria – West/South Gippsland
Latitude: 37 58 41 S, Longitude: 145 51 28 E
Phone coverage was good. Activation period 23:12 to 23:47 hrs utc – 35 minutes.

Set up by 23:07 hrs utc. The 40m band sounded quiet, as did everything else. A quick check of the antenna showed all was good. I put a spot out and at 23:12 worked Mark VK1EM followed by Peter VK3PF and Michael VK2CCW on 40 CW then nothing!
I re-spotted on 80 metres CW and promptly worked Ron VK3AFW and Allen VK3ARH. I had posted in my alert that I would use 80 metres in NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave) propagation was poor – which it was!

Looking up Robertson Creek Fire Line

Looking up Robertson Creek Fire Line

Next followed a spurt on 6 metres with 4 reasonably local stations worked on SSB plus Peter VK3ZPF on 10 metres SSB.
Finally a quick burst on 40 metres SSB (& CW for Gerard VK2IO) before calling it quits following the last contact with Ian VK5IS at 23:41.
2 more summits to do plus I had a bit more packing up to do than normal due to the ground sheet.
Very slippery on the way down. Kept upright – just, the walking poles helped. Heavy clay build up in the tread of my walking boots.

I had intended to visit North Hells Gate next but abandoned this in the hope a little more time could be beneficial with improving the weather conditions. So, Mount Gentle Annie was to be next.
Following from the junction of Robertson’s Track and South Hells Gate to Quartz Creek Rd, i turned left into Quartz Creek road followed by right (North) into Forest road that leads direct to Gentle Annie Saddle.
I drove part way up Gentle Annie Track before reaching a section that was a bit steeper and greasy with red clay and ruts. Being on my own, not wanting to risk a solo vehicle recovery, I reversed back down and then walked all the way up. This was about a kilometre and whilst steep in some section, was comparatively easy albeit slippery in spots.

Part way up Gentle Annie Track

Part way up Gentle Annie Track

I set up close to the trig point, no shelter required this time although there was an intrigued group of trail bikers.


Summit Information for VK3/VT-078
Gentle Annie – 670m, 2 points
Association: Australia – Victoria Region: Victoria – West/South Gippsland
Latitude: 37 57 1 S, Longitude: 145 48 5 E
Good phone coverage. Activation period 0140 to 0210 hrs utc – 30 minutes.
Calibrated the GPS altimeter on arrival.
Change of tactics this time and self spotted on 6 metres SSB for contacts with Karl VK3LN in Riddles Creek and Peter VK3PF in Churchill.That done, I looked at 10 metres but the band seemed dead.
Next was 40 metres CW with 6 contacts and 40 metres SSB with 5 – including an S2S with Julie VK3FOWL/P on Mt. Warrenheip VK3/VC-019. Signalson 40 metres had improved slightly from earlier in the day but were still suppressed. CW was much easier than SSB for the better part.
First contact 01:40, last contact 02:10.
Back down the hill and a quick bite prior to North Hells Gate!

Summit Information for VK3/VT-050
North Hells Gate – 693m, 2 points
Association: Australia – Victoria Region: Victoria – West/South Gippsland
Latitude: 37 57 46 S, Longitude: 145 51 41 E
Phone coverage was OK. Patchy at time probably due to all the wet foliage surrounding my operating position.
Activation time 15 minutes. 04:35 to 04:50 hrs UTC.

There is considerable documentation on this summit from Peter VK3ZPF, Wayne VK3WAM, Glenn VK3YY and most recently Allen VK3ARH. It is all very relevant but seeing is believing!
From Gentle Annie Gap, it was easy to follow Proposch Rd first north then east south east. A little before reaching Peter VK3ZPF’s end of 2WD access way point, I veered off to the right to have a look at another road that my map said intersected a proposed fire track to North Hells gate. Reaching a saddle on this track, I could see where a trail along the ridge may once have been, whether it was logging or something else I will probably never know but I very quickly discounted this for a means of access. Too far and too overgrown.
Next to the designated carpark where Proposch Rd proper ends and a lesser road or track veers off to the right – continuing in much the same direction before a hard right hand bend then heading up in a southerly direction. The going was easy by foot and with a good stone surface, would be quite easy in a 4WD of even a 2WD with suitable ground clearance. Pre-walk preparation. Absolutely everything was locked up inside the pack. Nothing in the pockets. Zippers all closed and secure. Wallet and car keys secure in zipped up shirt pockets. Compass in pants side pocket, GPS in hand, secateurs in back pocket.
Wearing long sleeved shirt, long pants, hat, walking boots and long gaiters.

This stony trail reaches a plateau of sorts then abruptly dog legs left and right, eventually heading down hill to the north side of the North Hells Gate Summit. Google Earth suggests it is a dead end, possibly at a creek which then heads north into the Tarago river. I did not go down this far but did proceed to approximately opposite the summit to the south in case a direct approach was possible. I was not overly surprised that this did not eventuate. I had lost too much height and the gradient was steep. The undergrowth looked exceptionally thick. Back towards the saddle then left (south east) into the scrub.
Could not see the summit but, from the GPS and map, whilst still on the road, I took an estimated compass bearing and distance to the summit before heading in. The GPS worked fine while out in the open but others had reported issues when further in. I was about to experience this!


In no time at all I was in the thick of it. Visibility was poor due to the thick undergrowth with trees up to 50mm in diameter being so tightly packed that it was a squeeze to get through with the back pack. By this time, I was also back into cloud & mist.
My first intention was to try and locate Peter VK3ZPFs easier return route that I had saved as a track on my GPS as well as other possible alternative routes.
My GPS soon proved to be practically useless. Loosing satellite lock and pointing me one way for a minute and in the opposite direction the next. Was I going around in circles? Very possible as it was near impossible to see not only where I was going but also where I had come from. Add to this – vines that would form an impenetrable webb, grass that could cut, fallen and logged timber that was extremely slippery and mostly not being able to see the ground.
The going would become easier at times with the way cleared due to a fallen tree or the remnants of one. I felt that I was heading too far south and was loosing height. I was also completely saturated but for my boots (thanks to the new quagmire gaiters). I then, by the compass, pushed more to the east north east that soon appeared to have me gaining in altitude. Watching the GPS map for contour readings, it appeared that I was getting some satellite coverage.
Seeing that I was now above the 660 meter contour, I pushed on up until I had an elevation reading of 670 metres. That would do. In the zone (JUST) but no summit.
I set up the doublet in a very tight and narrow clearing amongst the scrub. The squid pole strapped to a tree, and the top in a very steep inverted V format and 1/2 the wire still on the winders lying on what constituted the ground. From leaving the gravel road, it has taken me nearly an hour to get into the zone.
Let the activation begin!

Reappraisal of priorities. First qualify the summit as quickly as possible.
Started on 40 metres SSB,  Bagged 4 contacts between 0435 and 0438 including a surprise S2S with Nic VK3ANL/P on Mt Buller VK3.VE-008.

Next to gain a multiplier for the 6/10 metre challenge.
Worked Ron VK3AFW on 6 metres CW, could hear Peter VK3PF calling on SSB but very low down. With the antenna set up, I was surprised I got 1 contact!

Next to qualify on CW.
Back to 40 metres and 4 contacts, this time a S2S with Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/SY-002.

The objectives achieved, it was now time to get out. I had some concern both with the time that it had taken me to get to where I was plus the navigation. I endeavoured to try and stick to the crest of the ridge and head down towards the gravel road. Not wanting to miss the road completely, I then made a slight course alteration and headed a little further north, confirmed with an increase in the down hill gradient. It was with much relief that I stumbled out onto the gravel road come track a 100 metres or so further on from where I exited. This proved quite a bit quicker than the route in.
For the way out, I was able to get a GPS reading on the way point I had set where I departed the gravel road. From where I was, I was able to get both a GPS and compass bearing. The exit route seemed much more direct. I am certain now on the way in I was going in circles relying on the GPS compass bearing then not being able to get a fix for a magnetic compass bearing.

Will I return. Initially I thought no way. But now, I reckon yes, in the right conditions and maybe with company, I would like to complete the journey and reach the summit. Time will tell but one thing is for sure, I certainly gained a lot of experience with this one.

Neck and face post “vine attack”
Other “injuries” being leech bites.

Mere Flesh Wound!

Mere Flesh Wound!

Reference Allen VK3ARH

Reference North Hells Gate

North and South Hells Gate, AKA The Gates of Hell!

Hells Gate in Canada. Access is much easier!

Hells Gate in Canada. Access is much easier!

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Welcome 2016

That time of year again, when a Sota activator can gain points for the same summit when the activation transgresses the UTC new year rollover!
With milder wx than the 40 degrees on New Years Eve, I planned to finally complete a loop planned for November incorporating Mt. Torrongo Range, Mt Horsfall and McCarthy Spur via the full length of the 40 Mile Break track and Boundary Rd. (More on the travel details later)

Summit Information for VK3/VT-026

Mt Toorongo Range – 1257m, 8 points

Association: Australia – Victoria  Region: Victoria – West/South Gippsland
Latitude: 37 49 47 S, Longitude: 146 6 57 E

View from near the Toorongo Tower

View from near the Toorongo Tower


Operating location Mt. Toorongo Range

Phone coverage is excellent., activation period 2.5 hours (31/12/2015 22:29 hrs to 01/01/2016 01:01 hrs utc)
I had activated this summit with Ron VK3AFW last year. This time I decided to first check out the fire tower lower down on the range prior to parking on the main track back up the range where a discrete 4wd track heads roughly south east towards the main ridge line. This track is shown on the Garmin Base Camp Oz Toppo map.
The main road here is on the 1200 metre contour so an elevation gain of at least 32 metres is required to access the activation zone. I took the 4WD track towards the ridge and then took a path of least resistance west towards the summit. I think that this route may have been somewhat easier as I did not have to revert to crawling on hands and knees like a wombat to burrow under the scrub but, even so, it was far from a simple and direct ascent due to the still required scrub bashing.

I set up above the 1240m contour line on the north east of the summit in a relatively clear area amongst the rocks that enabled me to set the antenna up where the higher HF frequency  radiation lobes would be biased north plus get some good performance to the east and west on 20 metres. No shade unfortunately and lots of March Flies!

Activating was a mix of self spotting and sticking on a frequency and chasing those already spotted. Thus prior to UTC I had 23 contacts as follows:
17 x S2S VK2, VK3, VK5, VK6,VK7 & JA.
10 x CW on 80, 40, 20 and 15 metres.
11 x SSB contacts on 40, and 20 metres.
2 x FM contacts on 2 metres via the VK7R best of which was to Andrew VK1MBE/P on the Horn 113 kilometres.
Best DX – VK6NU/P on Mt Randall 20 metres SSB 2775 kilometres and JS1UEH/1 on Tomiyasan 15 metres CW (519, 519) 8276 kilometres.

Post UTC I followed a similar procedure but did notice odd and deteriorating band conditions over the next hour.
17 x S2S contacts to VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5 and VK7.
5 x CW contacts on 40 and 20 metres Surprised to work Wayne VK3WAM/P on VK3/VS-021 on 20m CW (529, 429)
16 x SSB contacts on 40, 20, 10 and 6 metres
2 x FM contacts on 2 Metres.
Best DX VK6NU/P on 20 metres and a 5×9 report from JH7RTQ on 10 metres

Departing the activation area, I decided to head directly down  to the road and see what that was like! Working with gravity it was not too bad although I did have one fall.
I consider my approach path was overall easier.


Summit Information for VK3/VT-028

Mt Horsfall – 1131m, 6 points

Association: Australia – Victoria  Region: Victoria – West/South Gippsland
Latitude: 37 46 20 S, Longitude: 146 2 50 E

40 Mile Break Track

40 Mile Break Track

Phone coverage excellent.
Activation time 40 minutes.
Vehicle access to the summit

I was here with Ron VK3AFW in November 2014. That time Ron activated in the large clearing right at the summit and I went a little further along the track towards the west in order to get some station separation. I went back to this location again, this time for some shade.

First having a listen on 40 metres, I noted how quiet the band was – not good news with a solar storm now in full swing. I did hear some WX storm noise however.
First spot and call was on 10 metres SSB. This found Steve VK7CW but due to my weak signal, we switched to CW and made an easy (559, 439) contact.
Next to 40 metres where I picked up Gerard VK2IO/P and Bernard VK2IB/3 also on CW
Joe VK3YSP/P and Julie VK3FOWL/P were both strong Line of Site contacts on 40m SSB from Mt. StLeonard
Wanting to qualify the summit on CW, I switched down to 80 metres and had a solid 579 report from Steve VK3MEG and 339 from Warren VK3BYD

9 x contacts in total. VK2, VK3 and VK7.
6 x S2S from VK2 and VK3 all on 40 metres.

Time to pack up. Propagation had deteriorated even further. I now wanted to explore the remainder of the 40 mile break and Boundary Tracks down to McCarthy Spur.


Summit Information for VK3/VT-039

Mccarthy Spur – 938m, 6 points

Association: Australia – Victoria  Region: Victoria – West/South Gippsland
Latitude: 37 49 12 S, Longitude: 145 55 55 E

Activating from McCarthy Spur

Activating from McCarthy Spur

Phone coverage a bit patchy.
Activation time 21 minutes.

McCarthy Spur is a real scrub bash. I looked for some easier alternatives off Montane Rd but ended up back at the open gate on Boundary Rd and took the most direct line possible towards the summit and inside the activation zone.
Lots of fallen timber, low scrub, high scrub, tree ferns and rocks. I tried using fallen trees as a bridge over some of the worst areas. The trees were not that big in diameter and I did have one fall. I even straddled one and crossed over on my arse!
Finding a relatively clear space above the 920 metre contour, I set the antenna up as best possible but it could not avoid contact with all the foliage.  I used the ground stake to support the squid pole and tied the ends off to a low bush and a dead rotten tree.
After putting out a spot, I had a quick response on 40 metres CW from Steve VK7CW followed by Gerard VK2IO/p – then nothing. I could not hear anything much on SSB
Wanting to catch Nick VK2AOH/P, I spotted again on 30 metres CW and got an instant reply from Lou VK5EEE and then caught up with Nick.
Also wanting to qualify the summit for the 6 and 10 metre Challenge, I gave 6 metres a go – hoping to get a local station and avoid the poor HF propagation.
This resulted in a solid 5×9, 57 SSB contact wit Bernard VK3AV not too far away in King Lake.
That done, I thought I would try 80 metres CW and look for Warren VK3BYD. Firstly this required sorting out the antenna and, in doing so, I broke the rotten tree at one end creating a tangled mess of wire, tree and squid pole. The SOTA Gods had said “Enough!” I said – something else!
Time to pack up and scrub bash back to the car. Knowing the general direction, my descent was some what different and by no means any easier.

6 x contacts VK2, VK3, VK5 and VK7
2 x 40 metres CW, 2 x 30 metres CW and 2 x 6 metres SSB
2 x S2S on 40 and 30 Metres CW


DX highlight of today was again working Takeshi JS1UEH for another S2S.
It was great to get so many CW contacts of which many would not have occurred using phone.
Pleased with the 10 metre JA SSB contact and with the performance on 6 metres plus that of the VX7r on 2 metres. The extension to the doublet feeder gave good matching on 50.150 mHz

Observations were that no VK4 stations were activating and only one (VK4RF / VK4HA) was worked.
One only VK6 worked – VK6FLEW not heard and no reception to ZL
Due to the solar storm, VK1 stations when worked, were very low as were close in VK2s.

Very happy with the station performance. Battery held up well, power output did drop due to PA temperature caused by operations on 10 and 6 metres plus the direct sun. The ability for instant band changing is a great asset in portable operation.
The new Samsung S5 phone surpasses that of the previous Galaxy Nexus on the Telstra service. On days such as todat
I enjoy the challenge of portable, low power and often remote activations; of what can be achieved with basic equipment plus working with whatever the propagation conditions bring.
These conditions force us to experiment (the crux of amateur radio) trying different bands, modes, antenna systems and the like.


Mt. Toorongo from just north of Neerim Junction


Travel Notes

Departure from East Brighton at 6:10 AM. Head east via Wellington Rd, Mulgrave Freeway and Princess Freeway / Hwy to the Noojee turn off at the old Cobb & Co Robin Hood. 50 minutes to the Garfield North Rd (Dingo Ridge Access) and 1 hour to the Robin Hood.
Neerim South (fuel and shops available) is 1 hour 15 minutes from home and Neerim Junction a further 10 minutes along the road.
Noojee is 1 hour 35 minutes from home. General store, hotel and camp ground. Water Wheel walk 10 minutes

Noojee Area Map

From Noojee
Taking the Mt. Baw Baw Tourist Rd, proceed past the Mt. Toorongo falls rd to the intersection of the Noojee / Moe Rd at Icy Creek (10 minutes). The narrow winding bitumen road gets narrower and even more winding from here with no lines marked.

Balantines Saddle 18 minutes from Noojee.
Link Rd 33 minutes from Noojee.
Mundic Rd 42 minutes from Noojee.
Mt. Toorongo Rd. 48 minutes from Noojee
Mt. Toorongo Fire Tower 53 minutes from Noojee (Summit access parking is 5 minutes back along the road in the direction that you came from.
Summit access parking at 4WD track in slight gully. Track heads north east away from the summit. (Approximately 44 kms from Noojee)

Mt Horsfall

Back track along Mt, Toorongo and Mundic Rds to Link Rd.
Continue on Link Rd towards the Toorongo Rd,
Toorongo Rd, veer left and north west than take the sign posted 40 mile break track (seasonal road closure gate – (Open 30th October to mid weekend after Queens Birthday long weekend)
This is also known as Road 20.  19 minutes and 6 kilometres from the Mt. Toorongo Range Summit Car Park. (Time and distance reference now from here.)
Follow the 40 mile break that is a good dirt and gravel road / track. Easy high range 4wd. Possible in the dry with a high clearance 2wd. I did use low range just to get out of first gear on occasions. Ignore Rd Number three that is an alternative access route if the first gate is closed. Ron and I used this in 2014. 12 minutes, 5 kms
Mt Horsfall summit and Trip. Yarra Ranges N.P 27 minutes, 17 kms.

The 40 Mile Break continues much the asma and is quite pretty traversing the Yarra and Latrobe river divide through stands of Vic Ash. Beware of Logging!
At the west end, ignore North Lock Rd, Petershank Rd and an un-named Rd at 1 kM intervals.
I continued to the locked gate of Boundary Rd where it enters the Yarra Catchment area. 18 minutes, 9 kms from Horsfall or 52 minutes, 26 kms from the start of the 40 Mile Break

Start of Boundary Track – heads south into a Water Catchment area. (seasonally closed 1 May to 30 November) at the junction of Radford Rd.20160101_150535[1]
From this gate, the southern gate and vehicle park for McCarthy Spur is 12 kms, 25 minutes south along Boundary Rd.
Boundary Rd is a very good gravel and dirt road but, like all such roads, watch out for loose surfaces on the bends.

From the south gate on Boundary Rd, I took The McCarthy Spur Rd then Camp Creek Rd south to the Noojee Poweltown Rd and where the road from Neerim Junction joins up  at the bottom of the big hill. This is 18 minutes, 12 kms from the south gate on Boundary Rd.20160101_150532[1]
Both roads are good gravel / dirt.

90 minutes from here to home in light traffic.

Vehicle used 80 series HX80J Toyota Landcruiser (Normally aspirated Diesel) Mud tyres fitted.
Always drive to the conditions. Times will vary due to road, weather vehicle conditions plus driving experience in those conditions.
It is always advisable to carry a chainsaw, some recovery equipment and a fire extinguisher.
Observe road closures, Timber Harvesting Zones and Logging UHF CB channels.
Other traffic will include logging trucks and motor cycles plus 4WD vehicles.

Mt. Toorongo Tower

Mt. Toorongo Tower


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VK3CAT on Dingo Ridge

Summit Information for VK3/VC-028
Dingo Ridge – 425m, 1 point.
Excellent phone coverage, activation time about 1 hour and 45 minutes for 35 contacts.

Time for another local summit, this time Dingo Ridge. I had a look at access the other week when leaving VK3/VC-037 but decided the shorter route via the Garfield North and Petigrew roads as described by Peter VK3ZPF was a better option.
All roads were well signposted. I could even put an address of 100 Petigrew Rd into my Tom Tom Navigator for directions and timing. With the weather starting to get hot (40 degrees on new years eve!) I decided to get there as quick as possible but still had to pick up some gear for my air-conditioner project at home.

I arrived at the end of the road where there is a gate into private property that is a wildlife for nature reserve straight ahead and a track of sorts to the left.
This track is signed a little further along as being “Private Property, No Vehicles”. Being a walker, no problems! 20151229_100333[1]






The track was possibly an old management vehicle track for most part with some deviations along the way. It is now used 20151229_100403[1]predominantly by horse riders and SOTA activators. This track is reasonably steep and I was glad that it was not too hot – high 20s. I met some horses coming down and was very happy for a rest while they negotiated their way past me. The track still retains some of its vehicle based origin in parts and in others is a single file trail through the not dense undergrowth. It took me about 35 minutes from the car to the end of the track where it intersects with Lupton Rd with Dingo Ridge Track only a few metres to the east and where I set up my station.

Note that this track is by far easier than that to Mt. Little Joe or Briarty Hill & maybe akin to Andrew Hill.

As per my alert, I arrived a short time prior to UTC and was able to work Matt VK1MA/3 on Mt. Macedon on both 40 and 10 metres for a S2S and 6 / 10 metre challenge contact; qualifying the summit on 10 metres prior to UTC with locals plus a surprise Es contact with VK5FANA Adrian. My antenna was more aimed to the north east for 10 metres.


Post rollover I worked Matt VK1MA again but this time on 6 metres despite my antenna not tuning as well as it should (since taking the bolt choke balun out – has been fixed by increasing the feeder length slightly). I also qualified the summit on 30 metres CW and had some good short Es with the regular VK1 crew before finishing up with the regular chasers on 40 metres with acceptable NVIS propagation.

I did try 20 metres and 6 metres without any further contacts.
I also had a walk a little way along the Lupton and Dingo Ridge Tracks to see if there were any views (none that I saw).

The walk down was much quicker than the way up. By now the car was in full sun and I was quite war. Air-conditioner on and back home (about 90 minutes) to continue my air-conditioner project.


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