We now had just 2 days of the trip left. It was day 15 (Saturday 18th November 2017) and we we had two planned activations for the day, both summits for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program. We had a 205 km journey ahead of us to our next stop for one night, the town of Ararat.
After breakfast at Jacqui and Des’ s house in Melbourne we hit the road at about 10.00 a.m. Victorian local time. We headed out of Melbourne on the Western Highway and to Rockbank where we had arranged to meet Peter VK3TKK at a local servo/McDonalds outlet. It was great to catch up with Peter and we spent about half an hour chatting and sharing a few laughs.
Marija and I then hit the road and continued our journey west on the Western Highway towards our first activation of the day, Mount Cole VK3/ VS-008. which is located in western Victoria, about 179 km west of Melbourne and about 19 km north west of Beaufort.
Mount Cole is 886 metres above sea level and is worth 4 SOTA points. It had been activated seven times previously, most recently by Allen VK3ARH. Mount Cole was created about 390 million years ago when hot magma pushing up from deep beneath the earth, but failing to break though, crystallised to form granite rock. Mount Cole is known as ‘Bereep-bereep’ in the local Beeripmo balug aboriginal language meaning ‘wild’.
Explorer, Major Mitchell was the first European to explore the area during his 1836 expedition. Settlers soon moved in to the area with timber harvesting commencing during the mid 1840’s by using axe and cross cut saw. The use of steam powered mills commenced in 1856. By 1889, demand from the goldfield towns for building materials, firewood and railway sleepers led to thirty mills operating within the region until 1904. In 1918 the Forests Commission was established and it was soon after that the Mount Cole State Forest was closed for timber harvesting. In 1947 timber harvesting was reopened by the Forests Commission. In the 2000’s timber harvesting was significantly scaled back and is largely a by-product of land management activities.
Large native trees including Messmate, Manna Gum, and Blue Gums can be seen on the wetter southern half, while woodland species such as Yellow box and Red Stringybark grow to the north. Plants such as the rare Mt Cole Grevillea can be found in a few locations, as can native orchids and a plethora of wild flowers.
More than 130 species of birds can be found in the Mount Cole State Forest. Native animals include kangaroos, wallabies, echidna, koalas and possums.
Marija and I headed out of Beaufort on the Main Lead Road, then the Raglan-Elmhurst Road, and then Mount Cole Road. The summit soon came into view.
We had to pull right off the road at one stage as an oversize truck was coming in the opposite direction, loaded with a very large excavator.
We soon entered the Mount Cole State Forest, and started making our way up towards the summit.
We turned on to Frees Point Road and then the Mount Cole Track. The track here was very steep and very rocky. At one stage Marija got out of the Toyota Hi Lux and did a reccy to make sure we could get up the track. Our big concern was that if we struck any difficulties there would be no room to turn the vehicle around. Anyway, much to Marija’s horror I suspect, we continued up the track, very slowly, in low 4WD in the HiLux.
We soon made it to the top and the GPS told us we were within metres of the actual summit point. There weren’t many options here to set up as the scrub is so thick. So we decided to set up on the track itself, as we didn’t expect too many visitors on the summit. In any event we would be able to hear them coming.
Once again Marija and I shared the mic for this activation, and left the power output at 10 watts PEP, as it was just too hard going in and out of the menu. We called CQ on 7.095 and this was answered by Geoff VK3SQ with a strong 5/9 signal, followed by Peter VK3PF, Tony VK3CAT who also used the club call sign of VK3APC. We had qualified the summit.
Marija then decided that she would take a break for a while and explore the summit. I took charge of the mic and logged a further 21 stations on 40m from VK3, VK4, VK5 and VK7. This included two park activators, Michael VK3FCMC/p and Mark VK3MDH/p who were activating the French Island National Park VKFF-0622. Marija also logged Michael and Mark. I had a number of VK5 stations calling, but my apologies, signals from South Australia were so low, that I had real difficulty picking out the calls. The only VK5’s logged were Ian VK5IS in the Mid North, and David VK5PL in the Barossa Valley.
I then moved down to the 80m band and called CQ on 3.610. This was answered by Mick VK3GGG who was a strong 5/9, followed by Geoff VK3SQ. And to finish off the activation I called CQ on 14.310 on the 20m band where I logged 4 stations from VK2 and VK7.
Marija worked the following stations:-
I worked the following stations:-
Marija and I packed up and headed back down the bumpy and rocky track. Based on info from Nick VK3ANL, we did not do the loop, as apparently the other side is even worse. So we did a 7 point turn and went back down the way we came up
We headed off towards our next activation, Mount Lonarch, enjoying the view as we headed down off Mount Cole.
We stopped off briefly to have a look at the old Raglan school building, which is now a private residence.
State of Victoria, Department of Sustainability and Environment, 2012, ‘Forest Notes, Mount Cole State Forest’.
Summits on the Air, 2017, <http://www.sota.org.uk/Summit/VK3/VS-008>, viewed 2nd December 2017