VK3 High Country Trek PT.2

 

Sunday morning at Diner Plain and the rain was still bucketing down, nothing to do but cook breakfast (fruit toast) and try to salvage the day. Since it was no longer possible to gain access to the nearby summits, I decided to take a drive towards Omeo about 40Km from Diner Plain. I reluctantly packed the SOTA equipment and set off  at 11:00am. About 12 Km from Omeo the weather started to clear, there was light rain however I could see the clouds dissipating, my luck was about to change. A quick check of the GPS showed I was close to VK3/VG045 Mt. Livingstone. I set the GPS to track towards the summit and continued.

Mt. Livingstone VK3/VG-045

Mt. Livingstone road runs off the Great Alpine road B500. It is approximately 8km from OMEO.

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I turned onto the gravel road and drove until  reaching a locked access gate, 4WD was not required . I parked at a small clearing to the right of the gate.

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There are no signs on the gate, however this is an Air Services Australia site containing an operational VHF Omni Directional Radio Range. (VOR)  and LF Non-Directional Beacon (NDB).         (VOR). This is a type of short-range radio navigation system for aircraft, enabling aircraft with a receiving unit to determine their position and stay on course by receiving radio signals transmitted by a network of fixed ground radio beacons. It uses frequencies in the very high frequency (VHF) band from 108 to 117.95 MHz. (NDB)  http://www.casa.gov.au/SCRIPTS/NC.DLL?WCMS:OLDASSET::svPath=/pilots/download/,svFileName=ndb.pdf  For more information on chasing NDB’s, Andrew VK1NAM has posted a great page with lots of information it can be found here: http://ndbchasing.wordpress.com/

The road continues from the gate for 500 metres as gravel, then the remaining kilometre is bitumen. Nearing halfway towards the summit there is the first of the navigational beacons, a low frequency NDB. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA At the summit the road divides around the VOR site. As it happens this is a great location to setup the SOTA station, it’s within the activation zone and far enough from the VOR equipment to prevent interference.

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Perfect! A handy post to strap the squiddy with a seat and operating bench.

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VHF Transmitting antenna

This site also supports the local UHF CB repeater and mobile phone transmitters. There are plenty of RF noise generators nearby. Fortunately the location for my SOTA shack had very little noise.

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After setting up, I heard Peter VK3PF working a pile up, I immediately thought there was an opportunity for a S2S contact, however as it happened Peter was activating a National park not a summit.  After  contacting  Peter, I moved to another frequency and it wasn’t long before I made a S2S contact with Allen VK3HRA/P on VK3/VG-029 Mt. Seldom Seen, followed a little later by Adam VK2YK/P on VK2/HU-024.  I managed another 9 contacts before the activity died out. Having now activated four out of a possible ten planned summits for the weekend, I was reasonably happy especially since the weather conditions had been so poor. After packing up I walked back to the vehicle (1.5Km) and drove on to OMEO for some lunch. There is a great Bakery at Omeo, what can I say? Thank goodness for SOTA and all the walking! OMEO would make an ideal base camp for a weekend of SOTA activity. There are many summits within easy reach of the town. One such summit is Sam Hill.

Sam Hill VK3/VG-049

Leaving Omeo the Great Alpine Road (B500) turns to the right, at this point I continued straight ahead along Day Avenue until meeting the Omeo Highway (C543.) Approximately 2km along the Omeo Highway, Connelys Road appears on the left. Unfortunately not realising Connelys Road would take me to the summit, I continued a further 9km until reaching the Bingo-Tice Road.

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Bingo -Tice Road. (Ignore vehicle orientation)

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I took the Bingo-Tice gravel road and followed it for 3.3km where I came to the first of five property gates. This is a gazetted road, asking permission to drive through the properties is not required. Just remember to leave the gates as you found them.

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I continued passing through gates at the 3.9, 4.8, 6.4, and  7.6km marks. Finally at 1.2km past the last gate I found the access road to the summit on my left.

Summit Access road on left

Summit Access road on left

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View looking towards summit access road.

 A fire wood collection sign marks the start of the track to the summit.

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Driving along the track for 600m, I came to a Y in the road and a large tree. This is the intersection with Connely’s Road. A left turn and a further 900m travel took me to the summit.

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The site is equipped with two fire watch towers and plenty of communications antennas.

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After setting up the shack at the shack, I attached the squid pole to a nearby post and fired up the radio. First contact was Robbie VK3EK followed by Andrew VK1NAM and a large pile up of chasers. I  managed a S2S contact with Glen VK3YY on VK3/VE-067 Mt. Terrible. and a total of 29 contacts. I had now activated five summits for the weekend and decided to continue to The Knocker VK3/VG-016

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The shack at the shack!

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Leaving the summit I made my way back to the Omeo Highway.

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Intersection at Omeo Highway, turned left towards Anglers Rest.

 The Knocker VK3/VG-016

It takes about an hour and a half to drive from Sam Hill along the Omeo Highway to the summit of the Knocker. The distance is only 54Km however the road consists of curves and hairpin bends most of the way. Once arriving at the hamlet of Glen Wills it is just 3km to the Summit access track.

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The track to the summit is an operational logging road, it is narrow with only a few places to pull over and allow trucks to pass. It’s advisable to use a UHF CB on Channel 40 to monitor the movement of logging trucks and call out your position. A 4wd vehicle is not required unless the track is wet.

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Fortunately the turn off to the summit is only 4km from the start of the track.

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When I arrived, the track had just been graded, it was like driving on a highway! From the link sign it is only 700m to the summit. I drove to the summit unloaded the equipment and then drove back 500m for a walk to the summit.

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I set up the shack attaching the antenna to the trig. The weather changed during the activation and became very foggy, however I managed 38 contacts and one Shack Sloth for Mike VK3XL congratulations Mike. Happy I  had six summits activated for the weekend I headed back to Dinner Plain for the night.

 The Mountain was named The Knocker during the time before the road was built, Apparently horses would pull carts over the mountain and “Knock up” their knees!

VK3/VE-023 and Mt. Murray VK3/VE-025 

Monday morning, the last day of my long weekend.  I decided to activate two summits on my way home. Heading back towards Mt. Hotham and along the Great Alpine Road, once again I turned  onto the Twins Track.

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This time I was intending to make it all the way to Mt. Murray, with a stop along the way to activate VK3/VE-023.  The track appeared to be in good condition and fairly dry considering the heavy rain of the previous two days. I wanted to investigate the camping area between the saddle of The Twins and VE-023. Once I passed by The Twins it was only a short drive to the camping area, really just a patch of grass between two summits!

VK3/VE-023

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Actually this is a fairly good place to camp, close enough to climb two summits and access Mt. Murray  comfortably in one day. Talk about a climb, VE-023 doesn’t  look like much of a climb until you start! I could see a walking trail marker in front of the summit and decided to follow the track to the top. I think that was a mistake, it was quite steep and slippery with small rocks everywhere.

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  To make matters worse, once I set up the shack I found the band conditions were very poor. I could only find 10 chasers that could hear me, some of the reports were down to 5 by 1. I did manage one S2S contact with Paul Vk5PAS/3 on VK3/VS-045 Mt. Dundas. To add insult to injury the return trip was difficult with many slips and trips whilst trying to stay upright. There may be a better way to the summit from further around the road. As I drove past on my way to Mt. Murray, I noticed a ridge heading toward the summit, it might be a longer walk however it would be easier on the legs.

Mt. Murray VK3/VE-025

The drive to Mt. Murray takes about 40 minutes  from the saddle of The Twins, or an hour from the Great Alpine road. Since there are steep inclines and declines to negotiate, a 4WD vehicle is required in all conditions.  The track is narrow with only a few places to pull over and allow oncoming traffic to pass.

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A small cairn along the track which lines up with the twins

 

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Sign near the summit parking/camping area.

The track ends at a car park/camping area some 500m from the summit cairn. Vehicle travel is restricted by a gate.

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It’s an easy walk to the summit, with great views all around. What a shame the weather was cloudy on the day.

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Looking toward the summit from the road gate.

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I set up the equipment and lashed the squiddy to a very loose pole wedged into the cairn.

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The HF conditions had improved a little but were not great, I managed to contact 10 chasers with average S6 signal reports both ways. Unfortunately this activation had to be the last of the day since I needed to travel home. I enjoyed a great weekend despite the rainy conditions. Achieved successful activation of eight summits and got to see a great part of Australia. I will surely return in 2015 to activate those summits I missed. 🙂

VK3 High Country trek.

November 15, 2014 a mass SOTA activation had been organised for the weekend. What a great idea! It took me  a micro second to decide I needed to participate. Good, but now I needed a plan of attack. My idea was to gain the best value for the weekend and activate as many summits as possible.  I required  summits I had not previously activated, that were close together and relatively easy to access.  A quick check of SOTA mapping  revealed a visit to the Victorian High Country  may be in order. By my estimation, provided everything went to plan, I figured it would be feasible to activate 10 summits during a 3 day long weekend.  I set about looking for a suitable location for camping and a base for the 3 day operation. I decided somewhere near Mt.Hotham would be a good place to base operations.

A work colleague (4WD enthusiast) mentioned a  location where he had camped a few years earlier, it was about 5Km along the Mt.Murray trail and in his words “Its between two hills with a fantastic view” After looking at a map of the area, I found the camp ground and the “two hills” he mentioned, which turned out to be SOTA summits, VK3/VE-017 The Twins and VK3/VE-023. From here there are five nearby summits,  Sometimes you can get lucky! Armed with the directions and maps, I planned to set off for Victoria on the Friday after lunch to arrive in plenty of time to set up camp.

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The camp ground between two summits.

A few days prior to  my departure, the weather forecast predicted a cold front and thunderstorm activity across the state, conditions not  favourable for camping. The high country is one place  you definitely don’t want to be caught camping during bad weather, it can change from fine and sunny to gale force winds and freezing in an instant! Disappointed my luck finding a suitable camp location was short-lived I decided to try for accommodation plan B.

Since Mt Hotham is a winter ski resort, there is an abundance of available accommodation especially during the Spring and Summer months. I managed to find  an excellent well equipped and comfortable two-story apartment in the small hamlet of Dinner Plain.  The price was very acceptable at $83 per night. Actually after being spoilt at this location I decided to stay again next year, “blow the camping!” Since camping was now off the agenda, I left my departure until later in the day. I travelled via Albury and stopped to stock up on food and supplies, as I pulled up in the car park of Wollies a 4WD vehicle identical to mine (Isuzu Dmax) parked next to me.  I asked the driver (Dale) his opinion of the vehicle, this led to a enthusiastic conversation regarding all manner of things Isuzu 4WD related. During our conversation, Dale noticed my radio antennas and said he was  friends with a ham operator  but he could not remember his call.. At that point Dale phonned his friend who turned out to be Chris, VK2XHV and of course Chris and I had a phone contact on the 850Mhz band. Chris mentioned whilst he was not into SOTA his work colleague, Bernard VK2IB was very active. http://vk2ib.wordpress.com/ There you go what a small world!  I did eventually arrive at Dinner Plain later in the evening and managed a good sleep.

Mt. Hotham VK3/VE-006

Saturday morning early, I headed off for Mt.Hotham a 14Km easy drive from Dinner Plain. Arriving at site, I left the vehicle at the carpark directly opposite the summit and proceeded to walk  500m across the road and up to the summit.

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Carpark with Mt Hotham in the background.

I actvated the summit at 22:35Z ,First contact was Paul VK5PAS/p3 in the Lower Glennell National Park, followed by a S2s contact with  Andrew VK1NAM/p2 on VK2/SM-036. Robbie, VK3EK/p called in  later with another S2s contact from VK3/VG133. All chaser calls finished at 23:00, since I had a hour to changeover I decided to pack up and head back to the carpark and on to Mt.Loch.

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The shack at Mt.Hotham

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Squiddy with Dipole at the ready.

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View across to Mt.Feathertop.

Mt. Loch VK3/VE-005

Back at the carpark it was time to head away from Mt.Hotham towards Mt.Loch. Upon arrival at the Mt.Loch carpark you are greeted by an  information shelter. There is a day book where you can log the details of your journey. Date of travel, people in party, destination and expected time of return.

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The shelter has information regarding the type of trail, the grade of difficulty and the expected travel time. I had an easy 3.5Km, one hour walk to the summit. It would be great if all summits had such information!

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Information signs at the trail head and a suggestion box with Mt.Loch in the background. I walked around the snow making water storage area and continued along the track toward the summit.

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Along the trail there is a small monument dedicated to Charles Derrick.

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Nearing the summit only 900m to go!

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Looking toward the summit, still a small amount of snow laying around.

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Finally the track to the summit. Or so I thought!

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Actually this track has a small sign laying on the ground requesting people not access the summit via this route. I continued along the trail to another signpost which is closer to the summit cairn. A quick stroll up the rocks to reach the summit.

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My first contact (01:06z) was Andrew VK1NAM/p2 on  summit VK2SM-033.Andrew had just completed his last contact and was moving on to 20metres. So he handed the frequency over to me, or was that threw me to the lions! Hi Hi. By this time of the day the bands were well and truly crawling with summit activations, National Park activations and of course chasers looking for both. I must say everybody was very courteous and patient taking their time to call in and log my activation. Congratulations to all operators. I managed S2S contacts with Robbie VK3EK on VK3/VG133, Phil VK3BHR on VK3/VN016, Peter VK3FALA on VK3/VG114, Ron VK3AFW on VK3VC/031, Ian VK3TCX on VK3/VG114,Bernard VK2IB on VK2/SC025, Peter VK3PF on VK3/VG153 and Tony VK3CAT on VK3/VC005. By the time all chasers and contacts had be exhausted is was 02:33Z. Time to pack up and try for another summit. On the way down I came across a black snake sunning itself on the trail. Once I approached it slithered away into some ground cover.

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After an hour I made it back to the carpark, signed out of the logbook and decided I would have time to access another summit. I loaded the equipment into the vehicle and headed toward The Twins trail.

The Twins VK3/VE-017

The Twins trail is about 10mins drive from the Mt.Loch car park along the Great Alpine road. The track appears to the left next to the Dargo High Plains road.

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There is a sharp switchback near the start of the trail. I followed the trail  until reaching the National Parks gate. A 4WD vehicle is required.

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The trail is subjuct to seasonal road closures. The road is narrow and two vehicles have trouble passing easily. It’s always a good idea to carry UHF CB and call out on CH40 for oncoming vehicles. Since the trail was open I  continued along the ridge until reaching the twins summit in front of me.  I drove past the summit to my left until reaching  a hairpin turn in the road. I parked here.  At this point there is an old 4wd track leading up to the summit. There are many fallen treess across the track and it  is quite a climb. I walked along this track until reaching the summit where the wind was in full force.

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Once on the summit I decided to head back down the activation zone to seek shelter from the wind. I managed to setup the squid pole on a nearby tree and set about activating at 06:22 Z. My first contact in the log was MAtt VK1MA followed by S2S contacts with Robbie VK3Ek on VK3/VG133, John VK2YW on VK2/SW015, Gerard (CW, he forgot his mic) on VK2/IL001, Andrew VK1NAM on VK2/SM053, Tony VK3CAT on VK3/VN030 and Peter VK3PF on VK3/VG041. A rather quick activation finishing at 06:51Z. The weather had started to change with light rain so after a good days activating it was time to head back down the track to the vehicle and home. Made it back to Dinner Plain just as the rain started bucketing down, wind squals were nasty too. It rained all night,  the result, no access to wet trails and no ten summit activation weekend . At least I managed three summits before the rain.

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Satellite image for the 15th.