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.
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.
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.
The shack at Mt.Hotham
Squiddy with Dipole at the ready.
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.
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!
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.
Along the trail there is a small monument dedicated to Charles Derrick.
Nearing the summit only 900m to go!
Looking toward the summit, still a small amount of snow laying around.
Finally the track to the summit. Or so I thought!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Satellite image for the 15th.