Continuing the theme of hiking instead of skiing with the poor start to the snow season in 2015, I decided to re-visit Mt Loch and Mt Hotham for the third time. Staying at Mt Hotham, both of these summits are easy to do and so have become regular visits.
After dropping my daughter at ski school, I drove to the Mt Loch car park and set off to the first peak (VK3/VE-005). It was a fine day, but quite cold early in the morning with a light wind. The hike is quite straight forward as there is a 4WD track that traverses the edge of the Hotham ski resort and passes quite close to the summit.
As you can see from the photos, there was very little snow for this time of the year (compare to my last activation of this summit). I only wore hiking boots and left the skis and snow shoes at home. Whilst the walking was fairly easy, the temperature was quite cold at just below zero. However I soon warmed up with the hike.
The summit of Mt Loch is marked by a stone cairn with a hollow steel pipe in the middle of it. As in previous visits, I used this as a convenient mount for the squid pole supporting the EFHW. It was actually a bit harder to climb with no snow and you have to be careful not to disturb the rocks – with good snow cover it’s easy enough to create some snow steps to reach the top.
Whilst it was a sunny morning, the cold wind was enough to bring out the Bothy bag for the activation resulting in a very comfortable operating spot.
I had no trouble qualifying on 40m despite being mid-week.
Below is the track and stats for the walk to Loch and back.
I was comfortably ahead of schedule departing Mt Loch and headed straight back to the car park and then up Mt Hotham. For this activation, I decided to go all the way to the actual peak near the fire tower (which of course is closed up in winter.)
Here there is a large stone marker structure at the actual peak which provided some good shelter. The wind had picked up considerably by now and the Bothy bag was essential for warmth. I tied off the squid pole to the trig marker and found that the ground was hard enough (frozen and rocky) to need nail pegs to hold the ends of the antenna.
Activating in the winter, I’ve found that carrying both snow pegs and nail pegs to be very useful to cope with the range of ground conditions. Sometimes there are suitable rocks to hold the end of antennas, but sometimes there’s nothing at all. When the ground has a deep snow cover, snow pegs or something that works in a similar manner (like SOTA Beams winders) are really essential.
I again easily qualified the summit on 40m with several week-day regulars.
The other interesting feature of the summit of Mt Hotham is that it is the home to VK3RHO. The repeater is housed in the base of the fire tower and the antenna is attached to the side of the adjacent comms pole.
Packing up just as my hands were starting to get REALLY cold, I hiked back down the mountain to the car and was back at the lodge in time for lunch, so an efficient 26 points.