On the first weekend in Spring, I found myself once again at Mt Hotham taking my daughter to her regular FreeSki programme. In the preceding few days, Spring had expressed itself in the form of heavy rain which did much damage to the snow cover and so I was only luke-warm about the prospect of skiing. Being in the heart of the mountains, my thoughts of course turned to SOTA. I had already activated Mt Hotham and Mt Loch this season, so decided to head further afield. I activated Mt Livingstone last year and knew it was a straight forward activation. Nearby is unnamed summit VK3/VG-030 which would be a unique for me. I also eyed Mt Phipps, the only 10 point summit near Omeo and decided to try for that one first of all.
With my daughter safely in the ski programme at 8:00am, I headed for Omeo and Cassilis Rd that looked to be the fastest approach (least 4WD tracks). I turned onto Upper Livingstone Rd and quickly encountered the first problem for the day – a flooded road.
Time for Plan B. I headed back towards Omeo and drove up Mt Livingstone Rd as far as the locked gate. From here it’s a 2km easy walk up the access road to the summit. For more details of what there is to see at Mt Livingstone, see my post on the last time I activated it here.
This time, the weather was fairly inclement. It was drizzling with low cloud and a significant breeze. I had packed for this and took my tent with me as well as waterproof jacket and pants.
Setting up the tent was a little challenging in the wind and with the soft muddy and rocky soil, but I soon had shelter for the radio and myself and the EFHW set up on the squidpole tied to a convenient star picket.
The tent is a Tarptent Notch which uses hiking poles for support and in this case was set up without the inner mesh tent, but with just a Tyvek groundsheet to keep me and the equipment out of the mud.
As you can see in the photos, there is just enough room for one person, a pack and the radio gear to fit comfortably inside.
Switching on the radio to 40m, there seemed to be a reasonable amount of activity, so I spotted and called CQ. I had a steady stream of callers over the next 30 mins with the summit well and truly activated with a total of 15 unique call signs logged.
Pleasingly I also worked Sid ZS5AYC and Adele ZS5APT S2S on VK4/SE-115 and also Mitch VK3XDM on VK3/VT-030 for some more summit to summit points.
I tried 20m, but had no takers today, so decided to pack up and move on to my next summit – VK3/VG-030.
This unnamed summit has been activated a few times and has a rather overgrown 4WD track going all the way to the top. I was driving our Subaru Outback, which has some 4WD capability, but doesn’t have particularly high clearance and only road tyres, so I wasn’t sure how far I’d get up this track. With no recovery gear other than snow chains and a tyre compressor, I knew I’d have to be careful to make sure I always had a back out option.
The turn off to this track is off the Great Alpine Road not far west of Mt Livingstone Rd. It is not signposted, but does have a sign indicating that it is a firewood collection area. There are two tracks heading off from this point and you need to take the right hand one.
The track has much re-growth both in the centre of the track and encroaching from both sides. Some of the centre re-growth was up to the top of the bonnet! The track is a mixture of soil/rock and some muddy sections, but no deep mud. Taking my time, I was able to get the Subaru within about 300m of the summit. At that point, there was a large stump in the track that I decided not to risk the sump on and walked the rest.
The track goes on past the summit, but there’s a reasonable sized clearing well within the activation zone. As the summit is forested, I used a throw-bag to get the antenna hung from a tree branch. I set up and was on air by about 1pm, but under a Bothy Bag to protect the equipment from the odd passing shower.
Spotting on 40m produced an avalanche of callers! Propagation on 40m was clearly working well. I broke my own record for contacts with a total of 35 over 45 mins! Contacts were both local and interstate with VK2/3/4/5/7 represented. A very satisfying session.
I finally satisfied all comers and packed up just as the sun finally came out.
The return trip was as careful as the trip in given the vehicle limitations, but I made it back to the highway unscathed and returned in time to meet my daughter at the end of her ski programme.
A worthwhile SOTA day netting 22 further points.