Over the first weekend in April I went to Mt Hotham as part of our ski club 50th anniversary celebration. This provided a great opportunity to get a few SOTA activations in when I could either convince the group to go in the right direction, or alternatively escape! On Sat there was general interest in a 4WD expedition up Blue Rag Range and since my 4WD experience is pretty close to zero, it was a good opportunity to activate Blue Rag Range in the company of some experienced 4WDers.
Blue Rag Range (VK3/VE-015)
The Blue Rag Range track was graded during the 2013 fires as part of the fire control activities, so is apparently a lot easier than it used to be. However it was still challenging for me.
Arriving at the trig point, it was misty with occasional light drizzle, so the views were non-existent. I hoisted my pack onto my back and headed back down the track for the requisite 25m vertical and back, under the quizzical gaze of the onlookers.
I had an interested audience while I set up, whilst trying to explain what SOTA was about. Most were already familiar with 2-way radio from their 4WD expeditions and a couple had VKS-737 HF radios in the car which they were able to tune to listen in on the activation. Not sure I sold any on getting their licenses, but it was useful educational exercise.
I warned everyone that I would get very busy once a spot went up on SOTAWATCH and not to wait for me to finish.
The plan was for us to separate with the rest of the party heading off another track while I went back to Mt Blue Rag with my daughter for the next activation. Thirty minutes and 23 contacts later (including 2 S2S with Matt VK1MA on VK1/AC-023 and Rob VK2QR on VK2/SW-039) I finished huddled under an umbrella to keep the drizzle off the radio.
At this point, my daughter decided that she’d had enough radio and demanded to go home! I knew it would end badly if I tried to cajole her into a bush-bash to the next two summits I had planned, so I took the sensible course and drove back to the lodge at Mt Hotham.
That unfortunately killed the possibility of getting three summits in for the day and I decided to skip Mt Blue Rag this trip.
VK3/VE-024 (near Mt Freezeout)
After dropping my daughter back at Hotham, I headed back down the Dargo road to the picnic table near Mt Freezout.
The plan was a simple hike to VK3/VE-024 via the summit of Mt Freezout as recommended by Peter VK3PF. I’d thought it would be about a 20 min hike, but I underestimated the amount of bush-bashing required and it turned into about 40 mins and 1.6km. The re-growth is moving quite well following the fires and it probably won’t be too long before this becomes quite a challenging activation. The worst part is from the picnic table up to the top of Mt Freezout. From there to VE-024 is more open.
The top of VK3/VE-024 is quite open with lots of burnt trees to choose from to hold up a squid pole (all are too small for a throw-bag deployment).
I quickly set up the station complete with chair and table. These are very light units from Helinox that pack up very small and attach to the sides of the pack easily. They make operating a pileup much more comfortable. I used my modified KN-Q7A with a 40m EFHW to work 30 stations over the next 30 mins including a S2S with Marshall VK3MRG on VK3/VC-014 (Mt Disappointment). I received a number of compliments on the signal quality which is very pleasing given the work I’ve put into improving the performance of this radio. Interestingly, I managed both activations on a single 2200mAh 3S LiPo and it still had nearly 50% left at the end.
It was 5pm local by the time I’d finished the session and so I wasted no time in packing up and heading back to the car as I didn’t want to be bush bashing in the dark with no torch.
It was a pleasing day’s activations with two more 10 pointers in the bag, some 4WD excitement and a good bush walk. Thankfully no blisters or broken equipment given the plan to do an overnight to Mt Feathertop the following day.