The end of the winter bonus season was rapidly approaching and there was still some snow left in the mountains, so the forecast of an excellent day on Sat 26th sealed the plan to head to my closest 10 pointer that I’d not activated this year – Mt St Phillack. I was feeling fairly fit and decided that if the snow was adequate, I’d have a shot at both Mt St Phillack and Talbot Peak on the same day – it turned out to be a bit too ambitious…
I convinced my 12 year old daughter to come with me to increase her cross-country skiing experience – she was keen except for when I mentioned the 5:30am start time! We set off on schedule at 6:00am into an already breaking dawn and empty roads.
I planned on departing from Mt Baw Baw village as I knew there was little snow left on the Mt St Gwinear side of the plateau from Glen VK3YY, Andrew VK3JBL and Kevin VK3KAB’s trip there the previous weekend. I wanted to ski as much as possible to speed up the trip and have a chance to do both summits.
The trip up was via Neerim South and Noojee and the long, winding and narrow Mt Baw Baw tourist road. It was uneventful, but at one stage I noticed a car following me with a remarkably tall antenna on the front. I didn’t take a lot of notice at the time and it soon turned off, but in retrospect, I think I may have seen my last sight of Peter VK3PF’s Forester which came to an unfortunate end later that day.
On arrival at Mt Baw Baw, we signed the trip intentions book, put on our skis and headed up the Village trail which had good snow cover right from the start. The down hill part of the resort had closed the previous week despite some fresh falls of snow, so there was no one other than a few people playing with toboggans.
The skiing on the resort trails was easy with good cover and few obstacles and we made good time.
As we left the resort onto the trail to Mt St Gwinear, the going became much harder. The trail is very narrow compared to the resort trails and there were a lot more obstacles (rocks, branches, bare patches, etc.) This slowed progress considerably as my experience in back-country skiing is only modest and I found it challenging (I fell a lot!) negotiating the downhill sections of the trail carrying a 12kg pack and avoiding the obstacles. There were a couple of places we had to remove skis and walk as there was no safe way to ski.
By the time we made it to St Phillack Saddle, we were both sweating and tired and at that point I checked my watch and realised that it was not going to be possible to do both peaks with our rate of progress, so made the decision to only activate Mt St Phillack.
Soon after we were at the summit in glorious sunshine and pristine snow.
I had decided to bring both HF and VHF on this trip given the number of other activators out on nearby summits. I set up my multi-band EFHW using a throw weight into one of the snow gums and suspended my 2m Slim JIM from the apex as well. I turned on the 2m HT onto 146.500 and immediately heard Peter VK3PF talking to Tony VK3CAT and Glenn VK3YY on nearby summits. I quickly joined the impromptu net and worked all three for S2S points. They were followed by Bernard VK3AV – balcony portable pointing a beam in my direction. I had qualified the summit before even getting HF set up!
Once I set up the KX3 I heard plenty of activity with the number of activators out. I saw a spot for John VK6NU on 20m CW, tuned him in to hear a strong signal. I started to respond to his call, but found my touch keyer was not playing ball, sending random CW! I think I have an RFI problem. Having no other key with me I couldn’t work him (and no, my CW is no where near good enough to use the up/dn buttons on the mic!)
I found a clear spot on 40m on 7.095 and put out a CQ SOTA to be very quickly found by Amanda VK3FQSO. She very helpfully spotted me (I had very intermittent phone coverage) and I soon had the usual pile-up under way. I ended up working 22 chasers on 40m and 2m including seven S2S which was a record for me.
I tried 20m (which Amanda again helped me with a spot – thanks Amanda!), but had no takers, so assume the propagation was marginal.
After a couple of hours on the summit, I was conscious that my daughter was getting bored, so we packed up and set off back down the hill with some trepidation given the amount of downhill that would be involved!
It’s amazing how much snow melted between the morning and the return trip (it was a beautiful sunny day with around 8 degrees on the summit). Some sections that we’d skied over easily in the morning now required removal of skis and walking. I think that weekend would have been the last when ski touring on the Baw Baw plateau would have been possible.
We arrived back at the Baw Baw village mid afternoon somewhat sore and – in my case – bruised from the dozen or so times I fell! A beer at the village restaurant soon eased the aches and we headed for home. On the return trip we drive via South Face rd to Erica. This is a gravel road, but much wider and less winding than the Mt Baw Baw tourist road and so although a bit longer, is a much easier drive. With a stop for dinner in Moe, we made it home by about 8:30pm. Another great day in the mountains!
Trip data for anyone planning a similar adventure