Blue Mountain, VK3/ VS-015

On Thursday 19th November 2015 we had planned to activate Langi Ghiran summit and State Park, just outside of Ararat.  But it was shaping up to be a very hot day, so on Wednesday night in the motel room, we decided to alter our plans and activate four SOTA summits instead: Blue Mountain; Point 756/Pyrenees; Mount Lonarch; and Ben Nevis.  Yes four summits instead of one.  Sounds crazy, but they were easier to access than Langi Ghiran which I have climbed before which takes a bit of time and effort.  I didn’t really fancy climbing Langi Ghiran in the heat of the day.

So it was a bright and early start on Thursday morning and off to our first planned summit, Blue Mountain VK3/ VS-015.  In fact we were on the road by just after 6.00 a.m.  It was already a very warm morning and very humid.

Blue Mountain is located in the Pyrenees Range, about 50 km north west of Ararat, and about 212 km north west of Melbourne.  The summit is 772 metres above sea level and is worth 1 SOTA point.  I have activated the summit previously, back in September 2013.  For more information on that activation, please see my previous post at…..

https://vk5pas.org/2013/09/14/blue-mountain-vk3-vs-015/

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We headed north west out of Ararat along the Pyrenees Highway.  The imposing figure of Mount Langi Ghiran was clearly visible to our right.

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As we drove a little further along the Pyrenees Highway, Ben Nevis came into view.  This was to be our fourth and final SOTA peak for the day.

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We then reached the turnoff to Glenlofty.  There is a brown sign here, ‘Pyrenees Ranges’.  We turned left and travelled along the Landsborough-Elmurst Road.  This is beautiful country here, with the road crossing the Wimmera River and also the Glenlofty Creek.

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We then reached the turn off on the right for the Glenlofty-Warrenmang Road.  This iunction is well signposted.  We turned right here and commenced travelling east.

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Below is a view from the Glenlofty-Warrenmang Road looking up towards the Pyernees Ranges.  The explorer and surveyor, Major Thomas Mitchell was the first European to have travelled through the district during his 1836 journey of exploration.  The ranges reminded him of the Pyrenees mountains in Europe where he had served as an army officer.  Hence, the name he gave the mountains here in Victoria.

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As we were travelling along the road I noticed a Black Kite sitting up in a tree just off the road.  He stayed there just long enough for me to snap a couple of photographs, before flying off.

The Glenlofty-Warrenmang Road makes a very sharp dog leg left a few km’s up from the Landsborough-Elmhurst Road.  It then travels north following the Glenlofty Creek and into the Pyrenees State Forest.  For more info on the Pyrenees State Forest, please see…..

http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/225755/FS0036-Pyrenees-State-Forest.pdf

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We then reached the intersection with the Glenlofty-Warrenmang Road, Main Break, and Blue Mountain Track.  We turned left onto the Blue Mountain Track and commenced our ascent up to the summit.

I would not recommend going too far along the Blue Mountain Track if you don’t have a 4WD.  The first section is fine, but it then becomes quite rough with some very high mounds on the track for washways.  A conventional vehicle would not be able to clear these.

We travelled passed the Landsborugh Flora and Fauna Reserve and we then reached the intersection of the Blue Mountain Track and Barkly Track.  We turned left and continued along the Blue Mountain Track. passing the Landsborough Ridge Track.  According to the maps, the summit is just to the south of this intersection.

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We set up the gear and I was on air and ready to go by 2140 UTC (6.40 a.m. Victorian local time).  Much earlier than my post on SOTAWatch, but as mentioned we wanted to avoid the heat of the day.  For this activation I ran the Yaesu FT-857d, about 30 watts, and the 20m/40m linked dipole, which I supported on the 7 metre squid pole.

I called CQ on 7.090 and after repeated calls I had no answers.  Fortunately we had mobile phone coverage so I spotted myself on SOTAWatch.  It wasn’t long before I had my first taker and commencing to call CQ again after spotting.  It was Gordon VK2TGC with a very strong 5/9 signal.  Gordon gave me a 5/9 and I breathed a sigh of relief, as it appeared the 40m band was working after all.  I was then called by Ron VK7VDL who was also 5/9 (and 5/9 received), followed by Gerard VK2IO (5/8 sent and 5/6 received).  My fourth and qualifying contact was with Trevor VK5PTL from Crystal Brook in the Mid North of South Australia (5/8 both ways).

It was very quiet on the band with very few callers and no callers at all from VK3.  It was very apparent that the close in propagation was not working at all.  I worked a further 4 stations” Cliff VK2NP, Brett VK2VW, and Rick VK4RF/VK4HA.  But despite numerous further CQ calls I had no callers.  So I lowered the squid pole and removed the links in my dipole and headed off to 14.310 on 20m.  I called CQ numerous times but again, no takers.  So I spotted myself again on SOTAWatch and commenced calling CQ, but still no responses.  I tuned across the 20m band and the only signal I head was that of VK4BR on 14.200 who was talking to a VK2 who was virtually unreadable to me.

I headed back to 40m and started calling CQ again on 7.090.  This was answered by Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninsula (5/7 both ways), followed by Dave VK2JDS mobile with a good 5/7 signal.  But it was still very slow going and I managed only a further five contacts into VK4 and VK5.

To complete the activation, I removed the 20m/40m linked dipole and put up my 15m dipole and called CQ on 21.250.  Unfortunately the trend continued, with absolutely no responses.  So again I spotted myself on SOTAWatch, but this didn’t improve the silence, as I had no callers.  My only company on 15m was the Over the Horizon Radar.  Prior to packing up I tuned across the 15m band and could only hear some very weak signals coming in from Japan.

So after a rather disappointing activation with just 15 contacts in the log, we commenced packing up.  At least I had qualified the summit.  We then made our way back along Blue Mountain Track.

The following stations were worked:-

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One Tree Hill, VK3/ VS-036

Our final activation for Wednesday 18th November 2015, was One Tree Hill, VK3/ VS-036, which is located just to the north west of Ararat in western Victoria.

I have activated this summit once before, back in September 2013.  For more information on that activation, please have a look at my previous post…..

https://vk5pas.org/2013/09/13/one-tree-hill-vk3-vs-036/

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Above:- Map showing the location of One Tree Hill.  Image courtesy of google maps.

One Tree Hill is 569 metres above sea level and is worth 2 SOTA points.  It is a very easy summit to access.  After leaving the motel room we drove up Golf Links Road and then Picnic Road.  We then took One Tree Hill Road, which takes you up to the Ararat Regional Park entrance.  This park is made up of three separate blocks.  This is the Ararat Hills block which is 820 hectares in size.  The other two sections of the park are Dunneworthy block (2,670 hectares) and Bradys block (180 hectares).

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Continue along this bitumen road and it will take you to the One Tree Hill lookout.  This is not the summit though.  At the end of the bitumen and the carpark, there is a narrow dirt track.  You need to head down this track to get to the summit.  This track is definitely not suitable for a conventional vehicle.  So if you have your car, leave it in the carpark, and walk the remainder of the way to the summit.  It’s not that far and is not an onerous walk.

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Above:- Aerial shot showing the location of the summit, to the north west of Ararat.  Image courtesy of google maps.

We stopped briefly in the carpark and took some photographs of Ararat and the surrounding countryside.  There are some great views from here of the nearby Grampian Mountains, Mount Langi Ghiran, and Mount Cole.

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As we had the Toyota HiLux we drove along the track for a few hundred metres until we found a clearing off the dirt track.  We parked the 4WD there, and then walked a short distance to another clearing and set up our gear there.

Screenshot 2015-12-11 15.04.21Above:- Aerial shot showing the location of the summit, further to the north of the lookout.  Image courtesy of google maps.

The summit is quite heavily wooden with gum trees, so I’m really not sure why it is called One Tree Hill.

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I commenced calling CQ on 7.088.  I could not get onto my nominated operating frequency of 7.090 as the Kandos Net was running on 7.093.  It didn’t take long for the SOTA chasers to be queuing up to get in the log.  My first contact was with Ray VK3NBL, followed by Adrian VK5FANA, Ivan VK5HS, and then Bill VK3LY.  I was kept busy with a mini pile up with callers from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, and VK7.  The 40m band was in very good condition with excellent signal reports both ways.

I was pleased to be able to work Warren ZL2AJ, the New Zealand SOTA Association Manager.  Warren had a strong 5/8 signal to One Tree Hill from near Palmerston North on the North Island.  I also had some great QRP contacts.  They included Ian VK3BFR running 5 watts (5/8 sent and 5/9 received), and Andrew VK3JBL running 5 watts (5/8 sent and 5/9 received).

I worked a total of 46 stations on 40m before heading to 20m.  I commenced calling CQ on 14.311 and this was answered by Rick VK4RF/VK4HA with a very strong 5/9 signal.  This was followed by EA4DTV in Spain, Luciano I5FLN in Italy, and then Rudi DL3ARS in Germany.  Signals on the long path from Europe were very good.  Early on during my 20m stint, John VK6NU called in a number of times from Western Australia, but unfortunately he was not able to hear me.  But we did make it some 30 minutes later, albeit a little difficult.  I went on to work a total of 36 stations on 20m in VK4, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, France, Belgium Greece, Slovak Republic, Russia, Ukraine, England, and Switzerland.

After about 90 minutes on One Tree Hill I had a total of 82 contacts in the log.

The following stations were worked:-

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Below is the sunset out to the west as we were leaving the summit.

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We headed back in to Ararat and went to one of the local hotels only to be told that they did not serve meals on a Wednesday night.  So we headed down to Sicilians Restaurant and I am very pleased we did.  The service was excellent, and the meal was superb.  My meal was so big, I couldn’t finish it, and we needed to take some of it home in a ‘doggie bag’.

 

 

References.

Parks Victoria, 2015, <http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/ararat-hills-r.p.&gt;, viewed 10th December 2015