I had not activated the two 10-point peaks on the Baw Baw Plateau during 2017 and was keen to do so before the end of the year. I had also never visited Talbot Peak and so wanted a new one too. The opportunity presented itself with good weather forecast on Boxing Day and the following day and so I quickly hatched a plan for an overnight hike to pick up both summits.
I left home about 7am on Boxing Day with the family all still in bed. It was an easy run down the Princes Highway to Moe ahead of the Boxing Day exodus from Melbourne. I was at the Mt Erica car park by 9:30. My one concern with this trip was the pack weight. It was 23kg leaving the car park and I knew this would make the first climb up to Talbot Peak hard work given the 470m vertical climb. The weight was due to taking both my KX3 and my new SodaPop radio for it’s first outing together with 4 litres of water and all the camping gear.
The weather was almost perfect – partly cloudy with only a very light breeze and around 18 degrees. I headed off and was soon sweating despite the mild weather. The hike up was uneventful apart from encountering what I think was a reasonably sizable Alpine Copperhead snake. After allowing me to take its picture, it slithered off into the bush and let me pass.
It’s 5.2 km to Talbot peak and took 2 hours to get there with a couple of breaks.
I set up right next to the trig point on Talbot Peak and was immediately greeted by a cloud of March flies and mosquitoes – thankfully Bushman’s repellent works well! I suspended my EF80-10 antenna from the trees as this summit is fully forested, and set up my Christmas present – a Helinox Chair Zero (510g total weight) to make for a comfortable operating position.
There is reasonable phone coverage here (Telstra) and I was able to spot fine. I spotted on 7.032 CW and was soon greeted with a stream of callers sending at a comfortable speed around 10 WPM which this CW beginner was able to cope with. After 7 CW contacts, I changed to SSB and worked another 10 callers across 80, 40 and 20 m.
After a short lunch break, I packed up and headed for Mt St Phillack – 7.5 km away with some further ups and downs – in fact about 300m of climbing despite the two summits being of similar height. It took just short of 2 hours with the pack on.
Setting up at St Phillack was straight forward, again suspending the antenna from a tree branch in a low inverted-V configuration.
Operating here was very different due to the poor phone coverage. Data coverage was minimal, and hence the usual spotting apps wouldn’t work. While I could get SMS sent, I couldn’t get the SMS gateway to spot me for some reason. I called on both 40m and 20m CW for some time with no response, then tried SSB on 80, 40 and 20m with no luck.
I finally asked Glenn VK3YY to spot me via SMS which he did and then managed to work five callers, four of which were from ZL on 20m. So I finally qualified the summit after nearly 2 hours!
Packing up, I headed to my planned camp site at Camp Saddle (this is at the junction of the Australian Alps Walking Track and the track to Mt St Gwinear). I set up my hammock and tarp and ate dinner with more mosquitoes and March flies.
Retiring to the hammock, I had a peaceful nights sleep with only the sounds of the bush – and those annoying mosquitoes – to lull me to sleep. I was trying out my new hammock quilts too and they kept me toasty warm given the mild night (minimum of 11 degrees C).
I woke early (soon after 5:00 am) to the dawn chorus of birds, but dozed until about 6:30. After breakfast, I packed up and started the 11.5 km hike back to the car around 7:45, retracing my steps from the previous day. I was back at the car about 11:30 with a few breaks to refill water bottles (there’s a good stream that passes under the path near Talbot Peak) and chat to other walkers.
The weather for this trip was perfect and so a very enjoyable outing with a decent amount of exercise as well. This trip has taken me to a total of 31 summits and 328 points for the year, my biggest SOTA year by far. Only 278 more points to join the herd, maybe 2018?