Mt Hotham and Mt Loch – 10 July 2013

I was staying at Mt Hotham with my family for a week of skiing in the July school holidays, so decided to take advantage of the nearby 10 point peaks (plus a 3 point bonus in winter) for my first SOTA activations.  This trip was also triggered by Allen VK3HRA seeking company for some alpine activations on the SOTA Yahoo group. I had some experience visiting both peaks on cross-country skis and was more than happy to show Allen the way in return for him showing me the ropes of a SOTA activation.

We picked the day based on the weather forecast as there are plenty of days when the weather would make it very dangerous to venture out to Mt Loch (white-out, blizzards etc!) The day turned out to be perfect weather with clear blue skies and almost no wind. It was warm enough that we only needed a light skivvy and gloves (although we carried plenty of additional layers as the weather can change quickly).

The first peak was a quick trip up to the summit of Mt Hotham (VK3/VE-006) which is not far from the car park and set up Allen’s dipole and FT817. We quickly had plenty of contacts to qualify the summit for both of us including an S2S with Mitch VK3FMDV/P and VK3FABY/P on Mt Stirling.

Me operating at the summit of Mt Hotham


We packed up and then skied and snow-shoed across to Mt Loch (VK3/VE-005). This took a couple of hours with a brief pause at the car park.

Mt Loch has a stone cairn at the top which has an old metal pipe stuck in the top of it. It happens that this pipe was exactly the right size to hold a squid pole, so setting up the antenna couldn’t have been much easier! This time, we used my linked dipole (from SOTABeams) which proved very easy to set up as the ends of the dipole can be held in snow using the wire winders provided as snow pegs, so no separate pegs necessary!

Mt Loch cairn showing the convenient squid pole mount. Note the ice on the pole – imagine the weather that caused this!

We initially tried my KN-Q7A rig and could hear stations well, but they could not hear us. Subsequently I discovered that I had mis-tuned the final BPF in constructing the rig and it was only putting out a few mW. We connected Allen’s FT817 and then both qualified the summit.

Me operating at Mt Loch – foam pads make sitting in the snow much warmer!

The return trip took a similar time, so the whole expedition took most of the day, but we couldn’t have asked for a better day! The alps on a sunny day in winter have breathtaking views and crisp, clean air that makes the effort to get to the summits well worthwhile.

Thanks Allen for helping me get off the mark!