Iced up dead snow gums provide an amazing sight against the bare ground
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.
Myself and Paul VK3HN half way up The Hump (photo courtesy Paul)
The lowering sun across the mountains
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.
The CW rigs and paddles as the Show and Tell day (photo credit: Allen VK3HRA)
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
Good snow and passing clouds
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…
The summit building with skis and pack
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.
I was up at Mt Hotham with my family for a week’s skiing in the July School holidays, and like last year decided to activate Mt Loch (VK3/VE-005) and Mt Hotham (VK3/VE-006). Both are straight forward if the weather co-operates and you are staying on the mountain. During this week, the weather was very variable and even on the Sun night, the forecast for Mon was for cloud and possible snow showers. I woke up on Mon morning to a clear blue sky and virtually no wind, so made a snap decision to go activate rather than downhill ski.
Mt Buffalo in the distance behind the Razorback (which leads to Mt Feathertop)
I had planned to take my older daughter on her first overnight hike during this weekend visit to Mt Hotham for our ski club 50th anniversary celebrations. I wrote about the first day’s activations in a previous blog post here.
Mt Feathertop is a challenging first hike, but she’s fit and strong for her 11 years and we went with my brother and his family whilst leaving my younger daughter with my wife back at the lodge. It goes without saying that I was not going to leave the radio gear behind!
Mt Feathertop seen from Mt Loch
Over the first weekend in April I went to Mt Hotham as part of our ski club 50th anniversary celebration. This provided a great opportunity to get a few SOTA activations in when I could either convince the group to go in the right direction, or alternatively escape! On Sat there was general interest in a 4WD expedition up Blue Rag Range and since my 4WD experience is pretty close to zero, it was a good opportunity to activate Blue Rag Range in the company of some experienced 4WDers. Continue reading
I last participated in the John Moyle Memorial Field Day in 2010. Then I operated from the car park at Mt Donna Buang with a generator and a multi-band vertical. This year my interest in SOTA suggested that a combined Mt St Phillack and JMMFD SOTA activation would be a good idea. Scouting the available hilltops that were 10 point SOTA summits and had a good view of Melbourne for VHF/UHF purposes narrowed the choice considerably. Mt St Phillack fit the bill well apart from the length of hike to get to it (5km). I decided to give it a shot and set about working out what I could squeeze into a backpack to give myself the best shot at a decent score in the contest. Continue reading
This activation opportunity came about for me as my daughter was running in the Eastern Metropolitan Regional relay competition at Mt Evelyn all day on 1/12. The draw turned out that she was running early in the morning and late in the afternoon with about 4 hours between races. I calculated that there would be ample time for a 50km drive to Warburton and the the top of Mt Donna Buang, a bite of lunch at Warburton and a quick activation. The weather was fine and sunny and a great day for a walk in the fresh air at the top of a mountain.
This activation had lots of firsts for me: it was my first solo SOTA activation, my first previously un-activated summit, my first decent hike in snow shoes, my first activation using my KN-Q7A and my first pileup! Mt Tabletop (VK3/VE-028) is about 10km from Mt Hotham not far from Dinner Plain village. It is a 5.8km hike starting from JB Plain car park that first traverses open flats of the plain before descending quite steeply to a valley floor, passing an alpine marsh and then climbing slowly up a ridge line to the flat top. There is forest the whole way that has been fire affected in places (particularly the top of the mountain). The trees near the top are mostly snow gums and don’t present significant hazards even burnt. In summer the hike is 1.5-2 hours each way, but I took 2.5 hours each way in snow shoes as they slow you significantly. This hike would not be practical on skis due to the density of forest.
I was staying at Mt Hotham with my family for a week of skiing in the July school holidays, so decided to take advantage of the nearby 10 point peaks (plus a 3 point bonus in winter) for my first SOTA activations. This trip was also triggered by Allen VK3HRA seeking company for some alpine activations on the SOTA Yahoo group. I had some experience visiting both peaks on cross-country skis and was more than happy to show Allen the way in return for him showing me the ropes of a SOTA activation.