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.
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.
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. 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.
Perfect! A handy post to strap the squiddy with a seat and operating bench.
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.
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.
Bingo -Tice Road. (Ignore vehicle orientation)
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.
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
View looking towards summit access road.
A fire wood collection sign marks the start of the track to the summit.
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.
The site is equipped with two fire watch towers and plenty of communications antennas.
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
The shack at the shack!
Leaving the summit I made my way back to the Omeo Highway.
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.
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.
Fortunately the turn off to the summit is only 4km from the start of the track.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
A small cairn along the track which lines up with the twins
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.
It’s an easy walk to the summit, with great views all around. What a shame the weather was cloudy on the day.
Looking toward the summit from the road gate.
I set up the equipment and lashed the squiddy to a very loose pole wedged into the cairn.
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. 🙂