With only a few weeks until the winter road closures commence, I had the opportunity to spend Mother’s Day in the alps near Mt Hotham and reach the 500 point half-goat level. I spent the Saturday at a ski lodge work party at Mt Hotham which conveniently located me in the heart of the alps for an early start on Sunday morning. I specifically wanted to target those summits that would be inaccessible over winter and leave the more accessible ones for the bonus period. I also needed to be back in Melbourne Sun night, so went for 3 drive-up (mostly) summits accessed via Blue Rag Range track.
The motivation for this trip was a proposal on the SOTA_Australia mailing list to attempt some 160m summit to summit contacts. Originally I was thinking of using my kite antenna, but soon realised that the evening was likely to be the preferred operating time and so a kite may not be such a viable option. I rapidly put together a loaded vertical antenna and planned for a night out on the top of Mt Lovick which appeared to be drive up. It didn’t quite work out as I thought, but I still achieved most of the objectives of the weekend.
Andrew VK3JBL floated the idea of a long weekend in the southern end of the Alpine National Park with Glenn VK3YY and I in January. It was a great opportunity to activate several summits that were new for me with good company and for me to give my new SOTA chariot (Ford Everest equipped for off-road) a workout, so I was in.
The plan was to drive up on Friday morning commencing with Mt Tamboritha then tackle Bryces plain. Day 2 was to be Mt Howitt and Mt Reynard with the 3rd day picking up Trapyard Hill and one of the rarely activate 8 pointers further east. The plan partly worked… Continue reading
Again looking for more interesting activities than skiing in poor spring snow cover whilst my daughter was in a ski programme, I decided to have another shot at The Twins and VE-023 during the bonus season. I activated both these last year and know it was a solid walk given the winter closure of Twins Track. Last year the activation was before any significant snow had fallen, so the ground was quite bare. This year, it was at the end of the season and so snow became a consideration (but as it turned out – minimal). Continue reading
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. Continue reading
At the end of the Victorian Inter-schools skiing competition week at Mt Buller, I convinced my daughter that it was time to do some cross-country skiing at the neighbouring Mt Stirling resort. We packed up at Mt Buller on Sun morning and headed across to Telephone Box Junction car park on Mt Stirling. There was no sign of snow at the car park, so I had a quick chat to the ski patrollers and they said that it was at least 2km from the carpark to snow and that Mt Winstanley – the target for the day – may not have much snow at all! At that point I decided to leave the skis in the car and hike instead. Continue reading
I was up at Mt Buller for the Victorian Inter-schools ski racing where my daughter was competing. Of course I had to escape for a couple of hours to activate it as in previous years!
Access in winter is quite straight forward as the Summit chairlift goes to within a few hundred meters of the summit itself. The last ascent though is fairly hard work in snow conditions wearing ski boots. Continue reading
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 end of the winter bonus period was upon us and I was determined to get a few more 13 point summits this year. I had been eyeing off a few unactivated summits in East Gippsland and managed to get a leave pass for a whole weekend for the last weekend before summer rules applied. I had read Peter VK3PF’s blog on this area when he visited last year and decided to tackle a few of the summits he mentioned. The initial plan was Mt Seldom Seen on the Fri night on the way up, three summits on Sat and three or four summits on Sun leading to a possible 109 points for the weekend. The reality was 950km driving for just 3 summits qualified and 35 points! Continue reading
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 was up at Mt Buller for inter-school snow sports trials which of course provided an ideal opportunity to activate it for the second time. Last year, I activated it on just 2m FM using a hand-held, but as I recounted in my blog entry, that took 2 hours to secure the needed contacts. Hence this year, I resolved to take the gear for a 40m activation.
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.
With very little snow at the beginning of the 2015 season, there was no incentive to go skiing, but the lack of snow also meant great hiking conditions! I was staying at Mt Hotham for the 2nd week of the school holidays and decided with generally fine weather and a leave pass with both kids safely in ski school to attempt two summits I had not previously activated – The Twins and VK3/VE-023 – both 10 point summits.
In Summer, The Twins and VE-023 are fairly straight forward activations as you can drive a car up Twins Track to the saddle between the two peaks and make two relatively easy hikes up each summit. Winter is very different – even with no significant snow cover.
Our annual ski holiday to Mt Hotham was planned for the 2nd week of the July school holidays. However the weather had not been co-operating and there was very little snow by the time we were due to head up the mountain. Hence, the urgency to get to the mountain was not great and I managed to negotiate a side trip to Mt Buffalo on the way up. Mt Buffalo has two SOTA summits (The Hump and The Horn). However, the road to The Horn is closed to vehicles in winter leading to a very long walk. Hence I only planned to do The Hump this trip.
It was around 3:00 by the time we got to the beginning of the track to The Hump. There was some snow around, but most of the track was clear making for easy walking. About half way up I came across a guy and his son walking down. He was carrying a squid pole! Given the lack of places to fish on the top of The Hump, I had to ask whether he had just done a SOTA activation – it was Paul VK3HN. It’s the first time I’ve run into another activator by chance and it was great to put a face to the call sign.
I’ve had my eye on this peak for some time, but wanted to find an opportunity to do it with an experienced 4WD driver to lead as the track is challenging for a novice. The opportunity presented itself on the occasion of our ski lodge work party at Mt Hotham. The start of Gun’s track which goes all the way to this peak is about 10km towards Harrietville from Mt Hotham village, adjacent to the old ticket resort entry ticket box. Continue reading
Blue Rag Range (VK3/VE-015) is in the Victorian High country and this was my second activation. It is only accessible in summer as the road and track needed to get to it are closed during the winter months. My first visit a year earlier was my first serious 4WD experience with a group of others – see earlier post. This time I went with just the family. Continue reading
Allen VK3HRA had organised a Show and Tell day to compare SOTA equipment near Rubicon. I was keen to see some of the CW paddles that both Allen and Warren VK3KS were using for SOTA CW activations. We spent the morning near the camp ground at Rubicon comparing toys. Lots of interesting gear and a good chance to try out the Palm mini and Palm pico paddles. It was also interesting to compare the HB1B, MTR, MTR2 and ATS4 CW rigs.
I also picked up ideas on attaching guy cords to antenna wires and rigging antenna wires to squid poles which I’ve implemented in the latest versions of my EFHW antenna. Continue reading
My excuse this time was inter-schools cross-country races. My older daughter was competing in her first cross-country race at Mt Buller on the Sun, so I convinced her that a training run up Mt Stirling on the Saturday would be good preparation. I’d checked the trail map and it looked about 5km from Telephone Box junction to the summit. However, I hadn’t checked the profile…
This activation was opportunistic while I was up at Mt Buller for some skiing with the family. The weather was outstanding with blue skies and only a light breeze. The snow season has begun fabulously with over a metre of snow at Mt Buller by mid-July – quite exceptional compared to recent years.
You can get a sense of the amount of snow from the build-up around the summit building in this photo.