Ben Nevis, VK3/ VS-009

Our fourth and final activation of the day was Ben Nevis, VK3/ VS-009, which is located about 29 km east of Ararat, about about 8 km east of the little town of Warrak.

I have also activated this summit previously, back in September 2013.  For more information on that activation, please see my previous post at…..

https://vk5pas.org/2013/09/14/ben-nevis-vk3-vs-009/

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Above:- Map showing the location of Ben Nevis.  Map courtesy of google maps.

It was starting to really heat up, so this was going to be a quick activation.  We travelled through the Mount Cole State Forest and then onto Mount Cole Road, and then Ben Nevis Road (also referred to as McGuiness Road).
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It is a nice drive up to the summit with some very thick forest on either side of the road.  The imposing figure of Lang Ghiran can often be seen through the trees.  The road leading to the summit is dirt but is very well maintained and easily passable by 2WD.

Once at the top of Ben Nevis you are rewarded with some amazing views, particularly out to the west.

Sadly, this is a very noisy summit.  There is a large communications and fire spotting tower on the summit and powerlines.  I should have remembered from my previous summit, but it was incredibly hot, and I was very keen to set up and get off the summit.

The shack for the afternoon consisted of a moss rock for a chair and a larger moss rock as a desk.  I ran the Yaesu FT-857d, 30 watts and the 20m/40m linked dipole, supported on the 7 metre telescopic squid pole.

I had a strength 7 noise floor on 40m at times and it made it very difficult to pull out any of the weak stations.  So I’m sorry to anyone that was calling who didn’t make it.  My first caller after calling CQ on 7.090 was Tony VK7LTD with a very strong 5/9 signal.  This was followed by Brett VK2VW who was a strong 5/8, then the ever reliable Adrian VK5FANA, followed by Col VK3LED.  I worked a total of 18 stations on 40m from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5, and VK7.

I then moved up to 20m where I worked a total of 7 stations in VK2, VK4, and VK6.  This included a contact with John VK6NU (5/3 sent and 4/1 received).

It was getting way too hot and I decided that it was time to pack up after just 30 minutes on Ben Nevis.  I had a total of 25 stations in the log, and the summit had been qualified.  As I was packing up, I heard a voice from above yelling out “have you worked enough DX?’.  I looked up and it was the gentleman in the fire spotting tower.  We had a quick chat, as much as you can, when you are talking to someone about 20 metres up in the air.  When asked if he knew anything about the hobby due to his DX comment, he replied that he had seen and heard amateurs on the summit previously.

We headed back in to Ararat where we enjoyed a quiet night in the motel room.

The following stations were worked:-

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Mount Lonarch, VK3/ VS-013

After leaving Point 756/Pyrenees, we headed off to our third SOTA summit for the day, Mount Lonarch, VK3/ VS-013, which is located about 40 km north of the town of Raglan, and about 185 km north west of Melbourne.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Mount Lonarch.  Image courtesy of google maps.

I have activated Mount Lonarch previously, back.  For more information on that activation, please have a look at my previous post at…..

https://vk5pas.org/2013/09/14/mount-lonarch-vk3-vs-013/

We programmed the summit into the GPS and commenced our journey to Mount Lonarch, along Main Brea through the Pyrenees Mountains.  But this was abruptly brought to a halt by a fallen tree across the road.  We were able to move some of the branches of the road, but the remainder of the tree was just too heavy to lift and move.  And a chainsaw was the last thing Marija and I had thought about bringing along on our trip.  So with some recalculations don, it was back along Main Break that we had to travel.  It was certainly the long way around to get to the summit, but we had no choice.

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We eventually got back on to the Pyrenees Highway and travelled east until we reached the Lexton-Ararat Road, we we turned right and travelled south until we reached Ampithreate Road.  As we travelled south along Ampitheatre Road, Mount Lonarch came into view across the farming land.

DSC_0353We then reached Mount Lonarch Road and turned right here until we reached Tower Road, which takes you directly up to the summit.

Mount Lonarch is 788 metres above sea level and is worth 4 SOTA points.

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Above:- Aerial shot showing Mount Lonarch amongst the scrub and the forest.  Image courtesy of google maps.

Sadly there is not much of a view from Mount Lonarch.  Well, not from the ground anyway.  The summit is very heavily wooded.  But there is a fire spotting tower hit which sits high above the tree line.  And it was manned on the day we were at Mount Lonarch due to it being a very hot day.  Unfortunately the fire spotter did not come out of the comfort of the air conditioning to say hi.

I set up just to the west of the fire tower.  There was a nice little tree stump which served nicely as a shack desk whilst I sat in a deck chair.  I secured the 7 metre telescopic squid pole to the stump with the assistance of two octopus straps.  For this activation I again ran the Yaesu FT-857d, about 30 watts and the 20m/40m linked dipole.

I found this to be quite a challenging activation.  Not from an access point of view, as Mount Lonarch is very easy to access.  But propagation conditions were very poor.  I started off calling CQ on 7.090 and my first contact was with regular SOTA chaser and park hunter, Adrian VK5FANA.  Adrian was only 5/5 but was perfectly readable as there was no man made noise on the summit.  I received a 5/4 signal from Adrian, well down on what I normally receive.  Adrian was kind enough to let me know that Tony VK3VTH was higher up the band and was portable in a park.  So off I went to find Tony before more of the SOTA chasers started calling me.

I located Tony on 7.144 calling CQ from Colquhoun Regional Park VKFF-0962 with a beautiful 5/9 signal.  This was a new park for me and I was very pleased to get Tony in the log.  I then headed back to 7.090 and started calling CQ again.  My CQ call was answered by Marc VK3OHM who was initially a 5/5 but completely faded away within a matter of seconds.  We were unable to complete the contact.  Col VK3LED then called in and although weak (5/3), we were able to make a contact 95/1 received).  This was followed by Peter with a refreshingly strong 5/8 signal (5/7 received).

I was then called by Cliff VK2NP who was a fair signal, but unfortunately Cliff did not come back to my response.  But I did manage to get Cliff in the log, just 2 QSOs’s later (5/3 sent and 5/1 received).  Cliff informed me that I was 5/7 a few minutes earlier when he had called, but that I had completely faded away with QSB.  This seemed to be the pattern of the afternoon.

I worked a total of ‘unlucky’ 13 stations on 40m before heading off to 20m.  I was hoping it may be a little better there.  But I was to be sadly disappointed.  My only contact on 20m was with John VK6NU in Western Australia (5/1 both ways).  So I headed back to 40m for one last quick listen before going QRT.  And it was to be just 2 further stations that I would put in the log: John VK2YW, and Ivan VK5HS.

After 45 minutes on the summit I had a total of 16 contacts in the log.  Disappointing conditions, but the summit qualified netherless.  It was off to our fourth and final summit of the day, Ben Nevis.

The following stations were worked:-

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Point 756/Pyrenees, VK3/ VS-013

Our second activation was to be Point 756/Pyrenees VK3/ VS-013, which is situated off Main Break in the Pyrenees Mountains, north west of Ararat.  The summit is just a short drive from Blue Mountain.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Point 756/Pyrenees VK3/ VS-013.  Image courtesy of google maps.

Point 756/Pyrenees summit is 756 metres above sea level and is worth 4 SOTA points.
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After travelling back along the Blue Mountain Track, we continued south east along Main Break, travelling passed the Glenlofty Track on our right, and then Hardy Track and then Sanderson Track on our left.

As we travelled along Main Break, we were rewarded with some nice views out across the Pyrenees through the trees.

Just before reaching Black Range Road, which runs off to the right as you are travelling down Main Break, you will see a track running off to the left.  This is how we accessed the summit.  This track is impossible if you have a conventional vehicle, but we engaged long range 4WD on the Toyota Hi Lux and crawled up the track which is rocky and quite steep.  Please note that if you have reached Cameron Track, you have travelled too far south along Main Break.

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Above:- Aerial image showing the location of the summit just on the eastern side of Main Break.  The track running off to the right of screen is Black Range Road.  Image courtesy of google maps.

We actually travelled a little too far along Main Break and turned around at Black Range Road.  The photo below shows us facing north on Main Break.  The arrow indicates the dirt track just around the corner which takes you up to the activation zone of this summit.
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We soon reached a clearing and what appeared to be a logging track.  We walked just a short distance with the gear and started setting up.  I ran the Yaesu FT-857d, about 30 watts, and the 20m/40m linked dipole.  I used a fallen log as a bench.

I was ahead of schedule and was ready to go by 2345 UTC (8.45 a.m. Victorian local time).  I commenced calling CQ on 7.090 and my CQ call was answered by Adrian VK5FANA at Arthurton on the Yorke Peninsula (5/8 both ways).  Next up was Lee VK2LEE in Scone who was a very strong 5/9 and reciprocated with a 5/9 for me.  This was followed by Gerard who was also 5/9, and then Ian VK5IS, again with a 5/9 signal from Beetaloo Valley in the Mid North of South Australia.  The 40m band appeared to be in good shape.

I worked 11 stations in VK1, VK2, VK3, and VK5, before the UTC rollover.  After the UTC rollover my first contact was with Tom VK2KF in Kandos in New South Wales.  This was followed by John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga and then Ron VK3MRH.  I worked a further 14 stations on 40m before heading off to 20m

I called CQ numerous times on 20m, but unfortunately there were no takers, so I headed back to 40m.  When I arrived back on 40m, John VK2YW called in again and kindly spotted me on SOTAWatch.  But I only managed a further 5 contacts into VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK7.

After about 50 minutes on the summit, I had a total of 33 contacts in the log.  Time to move on and head off to the next summit, Mount Lonarch.

The following stations were worked:-

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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…..

Click to access 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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Mount Elephant, VK3/ VS-047

After leaving Mount Leura, we travelled north out of Campberdown along the Campberdown-Lismore Road, passing through the little areas of Chocolyn, Kariah, and Larralea, Our destination was Mount Elephant, VK3/ VS-047, which lies at the foot of Derrinallum.  This was to be our second SOTA summit of the day.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Mount Elephant.  Image courtesy of Open Street Map.

Mount Elephant is a perfect breached scoria cone which last erupted appproximately 5,000 to 20,000 years ago.  As such it is amongst the youngest volcanoes in Australia.  The land on which the summit is located had been privately owned by the Eldridge family since European settlements.  It had been heavily grazed, and ravaged by bushfires in 1944 and 1977.  The summit was known as Swagman’s Lighthouse, a landmark for pioneers to navigate their way throughout western Victoria.  In December 2000, the Eldridge family offered the Mount for sale by auction.  The Derrinallum and Lismore communities rallied and the Mount was purchased by the community.

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Above:- Contour map of Mount Elephant.  Image courtesy of http://www.mountelephant.com.au

As we drove along the Campberdown-Lismore Road, the summit was clearly visible in the distance.  This is quite flat country, but Mount Elephant dominates the 3rd largest Volcanic Basalt Plain on Earth and can be seen for 60 kilometres in all directions.

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We then turned left onto the Camperdown-Derrinallum Road, and a few kms down the road, we entered the little town of Derrinallum, which only has a population or around 270 people.  There isn’t much here at all.  But I did see a quaint little pub which I had already earmarked for a quick drink after the activation.

An interesting fact about Derrinallum is that on 12 April 2014, the town became the centre of Australia’s biggest explosives clean up, after an explosion rocked the town. A local, Glenn Sanders, also known as ‘The Colonel’, who was an explosives expert and professional mechanic detonated his house which rocked the town and was heard over 15km away. The explosion left the town isolated for a number of weeks.

We then drove out along the Hamilton Highway for a short distance, until we found the turnoff to Mount Elephant.  But excitement quickly turned to disapointment, as we found a locked gate and a sign which read that the summit was only open on Sundays from 1.00 p.m. til 4.00 p.m.  Bugger!  I wondered how the hell I had missed that, as I had checked out the Mount Elephant website prior to leaving on the holiday.

Fortunately, there were some contact numbers on the sign for the Mount Elephant Committee of Management.  We telephoned one of the Commitee members, Lesley, who kindly drove out and met us at the gate.  She was extremely friendly and quite interested in what we were doing.  We followed her up in the 4WD to the carparking area, and then collected all of our radio gear, as she had offered to drive us up a little higher.  This sounded great, as it was a very warm day.  Lesley drove us up to the next gate and Lesley told us that this was as far as we could go by vehicle and we would need to walk the remainder of the way.

This is where all the fun started.  On a mild day, this would be quite a nice walk.  But it was hot!  And the grass on either side of the track was very high.  So Marija and I were very cognisant of making a lot of noise to try to scare off any potential unwanted visitors, in the way of snakes!

After quite a climb in the heat, and avoiding any snakes, and stopping regularly to remove the grass seeds from our shoes and socks, we made it to the top of Mount Elephant.  There, we were rewarded with some amazing views of the surrounding countryside.  In the distance you can see Mount Buninyong near Ballarat, and the Grampians between Dunkeld and Stawell.  We could also see our previous summit, Mount Leura near Campberdown.

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Unfortunately there was no shade on the summit.  There are no trees here on Mount Elephant.  All that is at the top is the trig point marking the 339 metre above sea level point, and a small old rainwater tank.  The tank afforded some shade, but not a lot.  There is a small satellite receiver on the trig point, which is used for local GPS tractor guidance systems.

I secured the 7 metre telescopic squid pole to the rainwater tank with the aid of an octopus strap while Marija ran out the legs of the dipole.  For this activation I had brought along the Yaesu FT-817nd and ran 5 watts.
Screenshot 2015-12-10 22.00.16Above:- Aerial view of the summit showing our operating spot.  Image courtesy of google maps.

I headed for 7.090 and called CQ and this was answered by Robin VK5TN in Mount Gambier with a very strong 5/9 signal.  Robin gave me a 5/7.  This was followed by a call from Ron VK3VBI (5/9 both ways), then Brian VK5FMID in Mount Gambier (5/9 sent and 5/8 received).  And my fourth qualifying contact was with Tony VK5FTVR at Strathalbyn (5/7 sent and 5/6 received).  The 40m band seemed to be in pretty good shape.

I worked a further 13 stations from VK2, VK3, and VK5, before I was called by Tony VK3VTH who was operating portable from the Lake Tyres State Park, VKFF-0761.  Tony was my last caller on 40m.  And I was pleased there was not a pile up as this was a very hot summit and I was looking forward to that drink in the hotel.

So we lowered the squid pole and removed the links in the 20m/40m linked dipole, and I called CQ on 14.310.  This was answered by Rick VK4RF/VK4HA, followed by Brett VK2VW, Gerard VK2IO, and finally John VK6NU.  I was very pleased to be able to get John in the log.  Although not strong (5/1), he was perfectly readable due to the non-existant man made noise on Mount Elephant.

We spent just 30 minutes on the summit.  I had a total of 23 stations in the log.

The following stations were worked:-

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We then commenced the climb down along the Borbidge walking track to the the carpark at the base of the Mount.

After about 25 minutes we reached the carpark and some welcome shade.  The quarry situated at the carpark provided scoria for the nearby rail line to Ararat from 1911 to 1916.

After getting back to the car and downing 2 litres of water each, we headed off to the Mount Elephant Hotel.  This was without a doubt, one of the hardest one point summits I have activated.  Mostly due to the heat, making it a challenging little walk.

After a few quiet ales at the hotel, we drove north out through Mingay and Skipton on the Lismore-Skipton Road, until we reached the Western Highway at Beaufort.  We then drove west and into Ararat and booked in to our motel.  Marija was a little exhausted as you can see from the photograph below.

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References.

Wikipedia, 2015, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derrinallum&gt;, viewed 10th December 2015

Mount Leura VK3/ VS-050

We had three planned activations for Wednesday 18th November, 2015.  They were all hilltop activations for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program.  They being Mount Leura, and Mount Elephant whilst on our way to Ararat, and One Tree Hill, once we had reached Ararat. We had booked in to stay for two nights at Ararat.

Our start to the day on Wednesday morning was breakfast at one of the cafes on the foreshore at Lorne.  It was a beautiful warm morning, and it was very relaxing, enjoying the cooked breakfast, the freshly squeezed orange juice, and a hot coffee, whilst enjoying the view.

We left Lorne, and headed out along the Deans Marsh-Lorne Road, through the magnificent Great Otway National Park.  We had a 100 km drive ahead of us until we reached our first summit, Mount Leura.  We were rewarded with some nice views of the countryside as we exited the north western side of the Otway Ranges.

We continued north, on to the little town of Deans Marsh and then travelled on the Birregurra-Deans Marsh Road until reaching Birregurra.  We then travelled north west along the Warncoort-Birregurra Road until we reached Warncoort, where we turned left onto the Princes Highway.  This took us through Colac and on to Campberdown.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Mount Leura.  Image courtesy of google maps.

As we drove towards Campberdown we saw a little hill which we assumed to be the summit.  Wrong!  The summit came and went and looked way too close on the GPS to be Mount Leura.

We continued on towards Campberdown and saw another summit which again we assumed to be Mount Leura.  Wrong again!  This turned out to be another false alarm.

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Mount Leura, VK3/ VS-050, and the adjacent Mount Sugarloaf are part of a large volcanic complex known as the Leura Maar, which was formed over 20,000 years ago, following a series of major volcanic eruptions.  Mount Leura is 310 metres above sea level, and is worth 1 SOTA point.  The summit is located in the third largest volcanic plain in the world.  Mount Leura is believed to have last erupted between 5,000 and 20,000 years ago.  The name Leura, means ‘big nose’ in local aboriginal dialect.

For more information on Mount Leura, please see the following website…..

http://www.mtleura.org.au/

We accessed the summit via Mount Leura Road which is on the south eastern side of Campberdown.  Prior to heading up the hill we reached a welcome sign for the Mount Leura and Mount Sugarloaf Reserves.

We drove to the carpark at the top of Mount Leura Road.  There are some great views from here of the surrounding countryside.  There are also some very good interpretive signs.

We set up at a conveniently provided table and benches adjacent to the carpark.  We used a fencepost to secure the 7 metre telescopic squid pole, with the handy octopus strap.  It was quite a warm morning and unfortunately there was no shade.

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I was set up and ready to go by 2330 UTC (8.30 a.m. Victorian local time).  I commenced calling CQ on 7.090 and this was immediately answered by Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninsula with a strong 5/8 signal.  This was followed by Peter VK3PF with a very strong 5/9 signal, and then Ivan VK5HS who was also 5/9 from the Riverland region of South Australia.  My fourth and qualifying QSO was with Tony VK5FTVR at Strathalbyn, south of Adelaide with a strong 5/8 signal.

It was a weekday so I didn’t expect to be swamped by callers.  But I was pleasantly surprised to have quite a good steady flower of SOTA chasers from VK1, VK3, VK5, and VK7.  Band conditions were very good with all signals between 5/7 to 5/9.

I worked 17 stations on 40m prior to the UTC rollover, and then a further 10 stations on 40m on the new UTC day.

I then took a break from the radio and went for a short walk up to the trig point on the summit and admired the views of Campberdown and the surrounding countryside.

We were able to see our next SOTA summit in the distance, Mount Elephant, VK3/ VS-047.

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I returned to my operating spot and lowered the squid pole and removed the links in the dipole so I could operate on 20m.  I headed to 14.310 and called CQ a number of times, but unfortunately I only had two takers.  They being Gerard VK2IO and Andrew VK2MWP.  Some QSB was noted on their signals.

We packed up the gear and headed in to Campberdown.  I was satisfied with a total of 29 contacts in the log, and a unique SOTA summit as an Activator.

The following stations were worked:-

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Once back in Campberdown we visited the Campberdown Visitor Centre which is located in the old courthouse.  This is an excellent tourist centre and the volunteer on duty was extremely helpful and friendly.  She clearly had a great love for her town.  We did not have a lot of time, but we did take a quick drive around the town to admire some of the heritage buildings, and we had also been encouraged to go for a drive out to the two volcanic lakes.

We then drove out to the deep volcanic crater lakes, Bullen-Merri and Gnotuk.  Bullem-Merri has a maximum depth of 66 metres and is clover leaf in shape, indicating that it was probably formed by two overlapping maar volcanos.

Below is a view of Mount Leura from the Campberdown-Cobden Road.

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After leaving Campberdown, we headed off to our next SOTA activation, at Mount Elephant, near the little town of Derrinallum.

 

References.

Wikipedia, 2015, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Leura&gt;, viewed 10th December 2015.

Mount Cowley VK3/ VC-022 and Great Otway National Park

On Monday morning, 16th November 2015, after breakfast, Marija and I headed west out of Apollo Bay along the Great Ocean Road.  Our first stop of the day was Maits Rest which is about a 15 minute drive west of Apollo Bay.  We had passed Maits Rest on the way in to Apollo Bay on Saturday, but didn’t have enough time to stop.  And we had passed it again on Sunday on our way out to the Great Otway National Park.  So this was third time lucky for us.

Maits Rest has an easy self guided circuit walk through magnificent rainforest in the Great Otway National Park.  A wooden boardwalk has been built over the tree-fern gullies and moss covered roots.  The walk is 800 metres in length and starts and finishes at the carpark just off the Great Ocean Road.  It is well signposted.  Many of the trees here are up to 300 years old and this is something not to be missed if you are driving along the Great Ocean Road.  The area was named after former forestry patrol officer Maitland Bryant who used to rest his horses here during patrols of the area.

We then travelled back along the Great Ocean Road and back into Apollo Bay. Along the way we were rewarded with some great views out to the east of Apollo Bay

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We then went to Marriners Lookout, which is located atop a hill on the northern outskirts of Apollo Bay.  Access is via Marriners Hill Road which runs off the Great Ocean Road.  There is an easy 10 minute walk from the carpark to the lookout area.  The lookout is actually on private property and has been kindly opened up by the land owners.  The lookout is also a popular take off point for hang gliders.

We then continued north west along the Great Ocean Road and soon came across the rather unusual collection of stones on the beach.  Obviously strategically placed there by passers by over the years.  So we couldn’t help ourselves.  We stopped and each carefully placed a rock on the top of an existing pile.

Our next stop was the Carisbrook Waterfalls near Sugarloaf, about 16 km east of Apollo Bay.  It is just a short 15 minute (300 metre) walk to the waterfalls from the carpark just off the Great Ocean Road.  At the end of the walk there is a viewing platform set across the valley from the falls.  Carisbrook Falls are one of the highest falls in the Otway Ranges, but they do not fall vertically.  Rather, they rush 50 metres down a diagonal rock face.  Unfortunately the lookout is a long way from the waterfall itself and you cannot see all 7 tiers of the waterfall.

We then stopped briefly at the Cape Patton lookout, which is about 5km on the Apollo Bay side of Kennet River.  The lookout offers spectacular views of the coastline.  The cliffs here are some of the highest along the Victorian coastline.  Cape Patton was named after Vice Admiral Phillip PATTON by Lieutenant James GRANT on the Lady Nelson in 1800.

We then stopped off to have a look at the memorial to the Godfrey, just north of Separation Creek.  The Godfrey was a barque which was built in Greenock Scotland in 1861.  It was sailing from San Fransisco and was bound for Melbourne when it was wrecked at this site in March 1891.  Fortunately there was no loss of life.  However, in three separate boating accidents, five men drowned during salvage operations.

We stopped a number of times along the way for some photo opportunities and to view the amazing coastline.  This included Artillery Rocks, which was named after the cannon-ball concretions in the Cretaceous sandstone outcrops here.  We also stopped at Mount Defiance Lookout.  There is also an information board here re William Buckley, who was an English convict who was sentenced to 14 years and transported in 1803 to Australia.  Soon after arriving Buckley escaped, and made his way along the coast.  He was given up for dead and lived in an Aboriginal community for around 32 years.  It is believed that due to Buckley’s amazing survival, the term ‘you’ve got Buckley’s chance’ originated.

Our next stop was the Sheoak Falls.  It is a quick easy 10 minute walk to the falls.  Although the water across the falls does not fall a great distance, the water passes over a dark rock face into a deep waterpool, within a natural amphitheatre.  It is a very pretty location.

We continued on to Lorne and booked in to our accomodation which was the Chatby Lane Luxury Apartments.  These are very nice apartments in a quiet and scenic part of Lorne.

http://www.chatbylane.com.au/

We unpacked and freshened up and made sure all the radio equipment was ready for out intended activation at Mount Cowley for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program.

After leaving the motel we headed out to Teddy’s Lookout, which is at the end of George Street, Lorne.  It is just a short walk to the lookout which offers spectacular views of the St. George River and the Great Ocean Road coastline.  We could see our intended destination, Mount Cowley, off in the distance.

On the way out to Mount Cowley we called in to Erskine Falls, about 10 km out of Lorne.  There is a walking trail and steps down to the falls which cascade over one of the highest drops in the Otways.  These are very beautiful falls.  But beware!  It is easy going down, but the steps down are very very steep and coming back up is a real calf burner.  There are warnings at Erskine Falls about the walk back up.

Mount Cowley, was to be our third SOTA activation for the trip.  Mount Cowley, VK3/ VC-022 is  660 metres above sea level and is worth 2 SOTA points.  There is a very large fire and communications tower on the summit, so Mount Cowley is quite distinguishable in the Otway Ranges.  This is one of three fire spotting towers in the Otways.

Screenshot 2015-12-09 18.18.34

Above:- Map showing the location of the summit, south west of Geelong.  Image courtesy of google maps.

The summit is located about 18 km by road, west of Lorne.  But remember, these are windy roads through very dense rainforest, so there is a lot of wildlife, which further slows down travel time.

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Above:- Map showing the location of the summit, west of Lorne.  Image courtesy of google maps.

After leaving the Erskine Falls we travelled out west along Erskine Falls Road until we reached the Benwerrin-Mount Sabine Road.  We turned left here and drove south until we reached Garvey Track.  This track does appear on some maps as the Mount Cowley Track.  In any event, the track is well signposted and also is signed ‘Mount Cowley’.

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The track is fine for conventional vehicles and is well maintained.  It was slow going, but that was only due to the amount of wildlife that was out and about.  There were a lot of kangaroos.

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We drove up the track about 1.5 km until we found a small dirt road leading to the summit.  You cannot miss this because of the large telecommunication tower at the summit.  If you were looking for great views from the summit, forget it.  The summit is densely wooded and there are very few views of the surrounding countryside.

I set up on the south eastern side of the tower.  There was plenty of room to stretch out the 20m/40m linked dipole.

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I was on air and ready to go by 0615 UTC (4.15 p.m. Victorian local time).  I could not get on to 7.090 as the Kandos Net was still operating on 7.093, so I went down a little lower to 7.088 and started calling CQ.  My first taker was Andrew VK2UH with a beautiful 5/9 signal.  This was followed by Mark VK7FMPR, then Col VK3LED, and my fourth and qualifying contact was with Brett VK3FLCS.

It wasn’t long before I had a mini pile up going, with callers from all over eastern Australia in VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5 and VK7, all with very good signals.

After working a total of 35 stations on 40m I lowered the squid pole and removed the links and then re-erected the squiddie and headed off to 20m.  I called CQ on 14.310 and it wasn’t long before I had my first taker on 20.  And it was my good mate Peter VK4AAV from Caloundra.  This was followed by a handful of callers from Europe: F1BLL in France, I5FLN in Italy, and DK0EE in Germany.  But despite many CQ calls, I had no further takers.  It was still a little early for long path 20m propagation into Europe.

I headed back to 40m for one last listen before going QRT.  This time I called CQ on 7.144 and this was answered by Dennis VK2HHA (5/9 both ways), followed by Rod VK3OB (5/9 both ways), and then Ron VK3MRH (5/9 both ways).  The 40m band was certainly working well. I worked a further 6 stations before deciding it was time to pack up and head back in to Lorne.

Whilst on the summit I had a few noisy visitors.  But they weren’t tourists, nor were they maintenance people.  They were kookaburras and Sulphur crested cockatoos.

So after about 90 minutes on Mount Cowley, I had a total of 48 contacts in the log.

The following stations were worked:-

Screenshot 2015-12-09 18.14.28

 

References.

Visit Victoria, 2015, <http://www.visitmelbourne.com/&gt;, viewed 9th December 2015

World of Waterfalls, 2015, <http://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/&gt;, viewed 10th December 2015

Only Melbourne, 2015, <http://www.onlymelbourne.com.au/place-names-coast-of-victoria#.VmkXcuOGRBc&gt;, viewed 10th December 2015

Coastal Stays, 2015, <http://www.coastalstays.com/mt-defiance/&gt;, viewed 10th December 2015

Crowsnest Lookout, VK3/ VS-049

After leaving Port Campbell National Park, Marija and I headed south east along the Great Ocean Road.  Our first stop was Loch Ard Gorge.  There are three easy walks here and we undertook two of these.  The walks give you the opportunity of discovering the areas natural features and also its very interesting history.  There are a number of interpretive signs to be viewed, including a number relating to the wreck of the Loch Ard.

The centrepiece of the Loch Ard Gorge precinct is Loch Ard Gorge itself.  This is the site of the shipwreck of the clipper ship, Loch Ard, which ran aground on 1 June 1878.  It had 54 passengers aboard, only two of which survived the disaster.  They being 15 year old Tom Pearce, and 17 year old Eva Carmichael, whom he rescued.  They both sheltered at nearby Thunder Cave on the night of shipwreck.

We had read a lot about the wreck of the Loch Ard whilst at Warnambool, and had viewed a large amount of memorabillia relating to the Loch Ard.  We had also attended the ‘Shipwrecked’ Sounds and Laser Show at the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village.  I purchased an excellent book at Flagstaff Hill entitled ‘The Loch Ard Disaster’, written by Jack Loney.  It is an excellent read.

Screenshot 2015-12-08 20.47.42

The Razorback is one of the interesting rock formations at Loch Ard Gorge, and consists of a limestone stack that stands in a cove that is constantly subjected to the forces of wind and water erosion of the mighty Southern Ocean.  Wave energy channelled along the side of the stack carves the deep smooth grooves just above sea level.  With one wave every 14 seconds, there is a lot of erosion over a year, a century, or a thousand years.

There are also two limestone stacks called ‘Tom and Eva’, which are remnants of what was once the Island Arch.  They are named after the two survivors of the Loch Ard disaster.  The Arch collapsed in 2009 and occurred at dawn with just a handful of tourists nearby who heard the rumbling and the crash.

Another interesting formation is the so called Salt and Pepper shakers.

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We then took the walk to Thunder Cave.  And this is very appropriately named.  As you walk along the path towards Thunder Cave, you can hear the distinct sound of what appears to be thunder.  Clearly it isn’t thunder, but in fact the powerful force of the waves crashing into the limestone.

We then walked to the nearby cemetery, where we viewed a memorial to the Loch Ard disaster victims, and also some of the original headstones, including that of the family of the Carmichaels who perished during the sinking of the ship.

We then stopped off at the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre and took the underpass, underneath the Great Ocean Road, to the boardwalk for the Twelve Apostles.  Now this was a busy place.  It was absolutely packed with tourists from Asia, Europe, and North America.  At times it was very slow going along the boardwalk.  I wonder how many photographs are taken here each year.  I suspect it would be millions.

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After the Twelve Apostles, we continued on towards Apollo Bay, where we had booked in to stay for two nights.  The Great Ocean Road soon leaves the coastline and heads inland, passing some fantastic rainforest areas including the Otway Forest Park.

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We continued on to Apollo Bay and booked in to our motel, the Beachcomber.  As was the case with all our accomodation up until this point, we were very impressed with the room, and the owners were very friendly.

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After unpacking, we then headed for our intended activation for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) prorgam, at Crowsnest Lookout, VK3/ VS-049, which is located just a short drive from Apollo Bay.  Crowsnest Lookout is 345 metres above sea level and is worth 1 SOTA point.  This was to be a brand new summit for me.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Crowsnest Lookout.  Map courtesy of google maps.

To access the summit, we took Cawood Street which runs off the Great Ocean Road in Apollo Bay.  We headed west and then continued along Tuxion Road, passing the turn off to Claewen Retreat.  A little further up you will come to a T junction.  To your left you will see a small communications tower.  The summit is to your right.  Although many maps show that Tuxion Road continues on, it actually doesn’t.

Screenshot 2015-12-08 19.59.38

The drive up to the summit from Apollo Bay is very scenic.  You pass through some beautiful wooded areas and are rewarded with some amazing views of Apollo Bay.

We parked the 4WD and walked a short distance and started setting up the station.  We used a post and wire fence to secure the 7 metre squid pole, with the assistance of an octopus strap, and then tied off the ends to the fence.  I rested the Yaesu FT-857d up on the top of one of the fence posts, and alternated between kneeling and standing for this activation.

Screenshot 2015-12-08 19.59.18

Above:- Image showing our operating spot.  Image courtesy of google maps.

I started calling CQ on 7.090 and my first taker was Nev VK5WG who was an excellent 5/9 signal.  This was followed by Adam VK2YK, Gerard VK2IO, and then Compton VK2HRZ.  I had qualified the summit.  My seventh caller was Warren ZL2AJ from Dannevirke on the North Island of New Zealand, who had a very strong 5/9 signal (5/6 received).

About half a dozen QSOs later I was called by Rex VK3OF who was portable in the Murray Sunset National Park, VKFF-0373 (5/9 both ways).  And this was followed by a call from Norm VK3XCI who was operating portable from Hattah Kulyne National Park, VKFF-0231 (5/9 both ways).

Whilst operating Marija was approached by a couple out for a walk.  They turned out to be from the Netherlands and were staying at the nearby Claewen Retreat.

I went on to work a total of 21 stations on 40m and then QSYd to 20m where I commenced calling CQ on 14.310.  My first taker there was Fran OK7WA in the Czech Republic, followed by Luciano I5FLN, and then Max IK1GPG, both in Italy.  Sadly it started to drizzle with rain, and I was toying with the idea of going QRT.  Fortunately Marija ran over with some cover for me which I hid under with the transceiver.

I continued to work into Europe, but sadly we had to make a very hasty retreat off the summit as it started raining quite heavily.  I am sorry to those that were still calling.

This was a real shame as band conditions on 20m seemed to be pretty good.  I had a total of 34 QSOs in the log from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, VK6, VK7, Czech Republic, Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Thailand, and Spain.

The following stations were worked:-

Screenshot 2015-12-08 19.54.37

 

 

References.

Explore Great Ocean Road, 2015, <http://exploregreatoceanroad.com.au/&gt;, viewed 8th December 2015

Mount Clay VK3/ VS-051

After two enjoyable nights in Portland, it was time to continue our journey further east.  So it was a relatively early start on Wednesday 11th November, 2015.  We were to travel to Warrnambool that day, and activate SOTA summit Mount Clay in the morning.

Mount Clay is about 30 km north east of Portland, and is very easy to find.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Mount Clay.  Image courtesy of googlemaps.

We travelled north out of Portland along the Princes Highway through Portland North, Allestree and then Narrawong.  Just before reaching Tyrendarra, we turned left onto Mount Clay Road and travelled north west until we reached Tower Road.

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Above:- Map showing the location of Mount Clay, to the north east of Portland.  Image courtesy of google maps.

There were some good views of Mount Clay as we travelled along the Princes Highway.  All of the telecommunications gear on top of the summit, makes the hill very distinguishable.

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We continued west along Tower Road, travelling passing the State Forest on the northern side of the road,  We then turned left onto Angelino Road and travelled a short distance south.

It was slow going as there was plenty of local wildlife out and about.

At the end of Angelino Road, which is a no through road, you will reach a locked gate.  And I mean a locked gate.  There is a plethora of padlocks on the gate.

It was at the gate that we set up.  You are well within the activation zone at this location.  The trig point is clearly visible from here.  It is from this spot that I previously activated the summit.

I last activated Mount Clay summit back in November 2014, as part of the 2014 SOTA Spring Activation Weekend.  For more information on that activation, please see…..

https://vk5pas.org/2014/11/30/mount-clay-vk3-vs-051/

Screenshot 2015-12-04 13.59.42

Mount Clay, VK3/ VS-051 is 186 metres above sea level and is worth just 1 SOTA point.  But I have long given up reaching the lofty heights of Mountain Goat, and now just participate in the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program exclusively for fun.

 

This was another tough portable activation.  Not because the summit was difficult to get to.  In fact it is quite the opposite, as this is a very very easy summit.  The difficulty was the band conditions.  Again, they were very very poor.  I called and called CQ for many minutes until my first caller came back.  That was Adrian VK5FANA who was a good 5/6 signal from the Yorke Peninsula, west of Adelaide.  Adrian also gave me a 5/6, but it was very noticeable that there was major QSB on both of our signals.  My second caller was Cliff VK2NP who was 5/5 and gave me a 4/1.  Next up was Gerard VK2IO who was very low down (5/1) and responded with a 3/2 for me, with again huge QSB on both signals.

I continued to call CQ for the next 5 minutes but sadly I had no takers.  The fourth and qualifying contact for a successful SOTA activation was proving to be very elusive.  As it was a Wednesday morning, I knew that the Riverland Radio Group Net would be on 7.115, so that is where I headed.  Sadly I could not hear Ron VK5MRE, the Net Controller.  Not even a peep from Ron!  But I did manage to work Dennis VK2HHA who was a good strong 5/8.  As Dennis was my fourth contact, I breathed a sigh of relief, as the summit had been qualified.

I then moved back to 7.090 and called CQ again and this was answered by Greg VK2MTC, followed by Brett VK2VW, and then Nev VK5WG.  But that was the end of callers on 40m.  Numerous CQ calls went unanswered, so I decided to head up to 20m.  Sadly, it was no better there.  Despite spotting myself on SOTAWatch, I had no callers on 20m.

Netherless, I had qualified the summit and decided to pull stumps and pack up the gear.  I had noticed a tradies van at the summit, so I decided to walk over to see if they would mind if I took some photos from the eastern side of the summit.  As it turned out, it was Norbert VK5MQ from Mount Gambier, who was doing some work at the summit.

After a bit of a chat with Norbert I walked back to the 4WD where Marija was patiently waiting.  The photo below shows the view back to the gate on Angelino Road from the tower installations.

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It was off to Warrnambool.  And it was slow going again as we left, as we had a number of local onlookers.

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Not the greatest of SOTA activations in history.  Only 7 contacts in the log.  But still, the summit had been qualified.

The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-

Screenshot 2015-12-04 13.47.56

Mount Flakney VK2/ RI-025

On Saturday morning (24th October 2015) I had a little time to kill.  The SOTA & Parks gathering didn’t kick off until 12.30 p.m.  So I decided to head to Mount Flakney, VK2/ RI-025 for a quick summit activation for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program.

Mount Flakney is 536 metres above sea level and is worth 2 SOTA points.  The summit is situated about 27 km by road, south of Wagga Wagga.  I headed out along Mitchell Road and passed the Wagga airport.

Screenshot 2015-10-31 09.33.34

I continued south on Gregadoo Road and then turned right onto Big Springs Road.  I was hoping it was going to be a good omen, because as I drove towards the summit I passed a paddock full of goats.

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As I drove along Big Springs Road, the summit became visible, with the communications tower on the top.

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I then reached Flakney Road on my right.  This is a narrow dirt track which has a ‘No through road’ sign and a cattle grid.

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I travelled a few kilometres up Flakney Road, passed one property and then another, and then reached another cattle grid with a private property sign on it.  So I decided to play it safe and I headed back to the second property where I spoke with a very friendly lady.  She informed me it was fine to drive up to the summit, so long as I closed all the gates.  She also told me to be careful.  I questioned her about the road, but she replied it wasn’t the road to the top that was the issue.  About one week earlier, two fugitives who had shot at the police had been in the adjoining property.  And they were still at large.

So armed with that information, I continued on Flakney Road to the top of the summit.

Screenshot 2015-10-31 09.36.04

I reached the first gate which was nice and easy to open.  There were already some nice views out to the east from this point.

I then reached the second gate.  Now this one wasn’t so easy.  The chain was incredibly tight.

 

But I got through and made it to the summit.  I parked the car in a clearing just off the track down from the summit and walked a short distance up to the trig point which is where I set up.  I ran the Yaesu FT-857d, 30 watts and the 40m/20m linked dipole for this activation.

I was set up and ready to go on air at 2120 UTC (7.20 a.m. NSW local time).  I called CQ on 7.098 and my first contact was with Fred VK3DAC, followed by Steve VK3FSPG, Brian VK5FMID and then Craig VK3WAR.  Everything else from here was a bonus.  I had about 15 stations in the log, when a couple of VK4’s came up onto the frequency.  They were quite low down but very readable.  Perhaps they couldn’t hear me, but I was surprised they couldn’t hear the stations who were working me.

After 50 minutes on air I had a total of 33 stations in the log on 40m from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5, and VK7.  All with good signals.  This included a contact with Peter VK3PF who was portable in nearby Livingstone National Park, VKFF-0292,

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I then decided to try my luck on 20m.    But I only worked 2 stations there.  They being Bob VK2XXM and Col VK5HCF.  So I headed back to 40m and booked in briefly to the Riverland Radio Club Net on 7.115 and said hello to Ron VK5MRE, the net controller, and the rest of the gang on the net.

I decided it was time to pack up and head back to Wagga Wagga for a freshen up and then off to the SOTA & Parks gathering.

I had a total of 36 stations in the log.

The following stations were worked:-

Screenshot 2015-11-04 12.17.07