This weekend was a ski lodge work party weekend at Mt Hotham. I drove up on Friday afternoon and arrived in a snow storm – a rather early one! Thankfully the weather improved significantly over the weekend.
Being the last work party for the season, the jobs were done by Saturday night, so I decided to spend Sunday activating some of the surrounding summits while the tracks were still open. Reading the reports of the Hotham weekend in February organised by Brian VK3BCM, I decided to do a similar route out to Mt Sarah for a series of mostly drive-up summits. I ended up covering around 130km on gravel roads and 4WD tracks and getting back to Hotham in the dark!
I set off early, heading first to Twins Jeep track (a 4WD-only track) which starts near the junction of the Great Alpine Road and Dargo Road. I drove past The Twins and VK3/VE-023, saving them for winter, and on to Mt Murray (VK3/VE-025) as the first summit for the day.
Mt Murray is mostly clear with just a few trees for supporting squid poles. It didn’t take long to qualify with most of the action on 80m.
The Twins Jeep track continues down to Selwyn Creek Rd. The section between Mt Murray Logging Rd and Selwyn Creek Rd is steep and muddy in spots and was a bit of a challenge to get up, so approach with caution. To avoid this section, you can turn down Mt Murray Logging Rd and follow it until it meets up with Selwyn Creek Rd, but this adds a 10km detour. Once on Selwyn Creek Rd, it’s easy 2WD driving all the way to Mt Sarah (about 25km) via TeaTree Range Rd.
Mt Sarah (VK3/VE-032) has a large open summit surrounded by trees (it’s a helipad). There is a reasonable track right up to the summit, but probably best to leave 2WD cars on the main road and walk a couple of hundred metres.
Setting up here was easy with a convenient tree to support the squid pole and plenty of space for 80m antennas. Contacts were plentiful on 40/80/20m with the lower bands best for locals and 20m good into New Zealand.
Peter VK3PF suggested that since I’d driven this far, I should continue on to an infrequently activated summit VK3/VE-023, just 13 km further along TeaTree Spur Track. The road here is less well travelled and is an easy 4WD track with an access track right up to the summit (another helipad). There is less space here than Mt Sarah, but still quite an easy activation. I netted 7 contacts on 80/40/20m including a S2S with Ian VK5CZ on VK5/SE-007.
I retraced my path back along TeaTree Range Rd and continued up Selwyn Logging Rd (2WD) and Mt Selwyn Rd (2WD) to the junction of the Mt Selwyn Summit track. Here, it became 4WD only (and there is a gate here that’s locked in winter). The summit track is only about 700m long, so quite walkable if needed.
I drove to within about 50m of the summit where there is an extremely steep and heavily rutted muddy climb to the peak. I decided it was beyond my 4WD experience/comfort level, so parked and walked the final section.
The summit of Mt Selwyn (VK3/VE-049) is open, but fairly small. There’s room for antennas and suitable trees to hold up squid poles. I made a fairly brief activation here as it was getting late in the day and I had quite a long drive back to Mt Hotham. I qualified it with 8 contacts again across 80/40/20m bands.
There are two more 8 point summits near Mt Selwyn, but with harder access and I had run out of time to attempt them. I headed back to Mt Hotham using the detour I mentioned above to avoid a steep and muddy section of Twins Jeep Track – given the late hour, I didn’t want to have to perform a recovery!
By the time I approached the Great Alpine Rd, it was getting dark and I arrived back at Hotham around dinner time, glad to be off gravel roads!
It was a long, but good day out with four new summits for me.