Once again it was time for the family school holiday trip to Mt Hotham. This year the snow gods had been a little kinder than last (see my winter hike last year) and actually provided about 50cm of cover. This is barely adequate for downhill skiing, but plenty for cross country and so I broke out the skis and followed a well trodden path to Mt Loch from the Loch car park.
The weather this time was largely overcast with low cloud passing through creating foggy conditions some of the time. If it had been white-out conditions, I would have cancelled, but there was sufficient visibility to make navigation easy and an improving forecast.
The trip out was a little harder than normal as the 4WD tracks that are normally groomed for cross-country skiing had not been done and had actually had a snow groomer chew up the path making the snow much harder to ski.
On reaching the summit I set up the station in the usual way. This time I’d brought my short 5m squid pole as I knew it would be sufficient mounted on top of the cairn. In previous visits, I’d used the metal pipe set into the top of the cairn as a convenient squid pole mount. Unfortunately someone has jammed rocks down this pipe completely blocking it. I managed to wedge the squid pole next to the pipe in the top of the cairn anyway.
There was a light but cold wind blowing, so I broke out the Bothy bag which kept me toasty warm during the activation.
I made a total of 10 contacts on 40m and a further 2 on 20m. The band conditions on 40m were quite poor with virtually no NVIS propagation, but adequate single hop into VK2/VK4/VK5 and VK7. I had good reports from the longer distances and only a single very weak contact in VK3 with Rhett VK3WE (received 41). On 20m I made my first ZL contact from a summit with strong signals from John ZL1BYZ. I also just managed a contact with Mike VK6MB.
After that I tried 15m briefly with no response and decided to pack up and head to Mt Hotham itself.
An hour and a half later I reached the top of Mt Hotham. This time I positioned myself on the flat top about midway between the fire tower and the Telstra comms tower where there were some convenient ski area boundary poles to attach the antenna to. The spacing was such that I could almost create a low horizontal antenna by tying off the ends of the antenna to adjacent poles.
Again I operated inside the Bothy bag for warmth and this time found that propagation had improved somewhat. I achieved 14 contacts on 40m including 4 VK3s and just John ZL1BYZ on 20m. I spent some time also trying to work Matt VK1MA on a summit in VK1, but whilst I could hear him at times, he couldn’t hear me at all.
This is the 4th time I’ve activated these two summits and each time has provided different conditions and different challenges. They are of course both very convenient summits to reach if you happen to be staying at Mt Hotham in the summer or winter.
Here are the stats for the trip:
And here is the complete profile starting and finishing at Loch car park: