Wayne, VK3WAM had an ambitious plan to activate 5 (plus 1 optional) summits in the Alpine National Park over a 3 day period. All the summits are SOTA 10 points summits, it sounded like a great idea with 60 points in total possible. Wayne, Kevin (VK3KAB) and myself headed off on Thursday evening in Kevin’s 4WD and arrived at Muttonwood Camp alongside the Wellington River at the entrance to the park about 9:30pm.
The plan for Friday was to activate 2 summits (Mt. Tamboritha and Mt. Reynard) and a possible third (Bryces Plain) if time permitted. Bryces Plain would be very easy.
Mt Tamboritha VK3/VT-011 1509 metres
On Friday morning, we headed off up the Tamboritha Rd to Tamboritha Saddle and found that we could save some time by driving a little way up Dingo Hill track (4WD). A couple of km up the road we could go no further due to road condition and parked. We put on the packs and headed off up a rough track to to the summit of Tamboritha.
We didn’t have a lot of fuel in the car so it looked very tight as to whether we would have enough for the small amount of car travel in the park.
A few km later we found our way to the summit which was fairly large with lots of dead trees for antennas.
The summit is 1509 metres high, so it makes for a 10 pointer.
Kevin set up his buddypole (which needed a tune), Wayne set up his vertical with tuner and ugly balun. I set up a half wave end fed dipole using a 7 metre squid pole as the centre support. It wasnt long before we all made the 4 qualifying contacts each.
Most contacts were on 7MHz but at the end, we made one on 146.5MHz from myself out of the activation zone to Wayne. Just after this contact, someone else from the Latrobe Valley came up on 146.5MHz and worked Wayne.
One the way down out of the activation zone I wasn’t too sure whether I was on the correct track and as it turned out I wasn’t, but the other guys also came the same way.
Mt Reynard VK3/VT-002 1710 metres
After returning to the car, we headed off to Mt. Reynard (1710 metres). After passing through Arbuckle Junction, we found a 4WD track just before the closest point to Reynard from the Howitt Rd. This track didn’t get us much closer, but it gained us a bit of height. The walk up Mt Reynard was mostly bush bashing and following the odd pad that petered out. It was a fairly steep hike and lots of fallen trees made the progress slow in places.
It was really warming up when we arrived at the summit. There were ants everywhere on the summit, we just couldnt get away from them. In the end I just let them crawl all over the rig and hoped not too many got inside. I set up the half wave end fed again, Wayne set up the vertical and Kevin, the buddipole.
Soon after calling cq on 7MHz, we had quite a few contacts, a few of the usual chasers which was great. I gave a call on the 146.8 repeater and asked for a qsy to 146.5. We had two contacts on 146.5 and found that the Waynes Wouxon was receiving better than the Baofeng. After a dust down to get all the ants off our stuff, we headed back down and managed to find a rough track that steered us away from the tree fall, although that track petered out and landed us on a ridge with a steep drop. After a short walk along the ridge, we found a way down and emerged close to the car on the 4WD track.
As we had made up a little time during the day, we decided to head up to the last (optional) summit for the day, Bryces Plain. This summit doesn’t really feel like a summit as it has a very broad peak and access is just off the Howitt Rd. Fuel was looking decidely low at this point but we went ahead anyway hoping that we could get back to Licola rolling most of the way and minimising fuel consumption.
Bryces Plain VK3/VT-004
The sun was getting rather low by the time we arrived at the track that leads to the peak of Bryces Plain. As the track has a very gentle climb, we wanted to be sure to be parked out of the activation zone, so we parked just up the track from the junction of the Howitt Rd. As we walked up, the comment was made that we could probably just activate where we were as we were inside the zone, but like all the other summits, something kept us walking and we operated from the top! There is a communications facility at the high point with a large solar array.
It was about 7pm local by the time we were on air. Again it was great to see the SOTA diehards like VK3PF, VK3JY and VK5CZ etc. as contacts. After about 45 minutes of operating, we left as the sun set.
It was a nice place to watch the sun go down. We headed off down the track and made for the camp for the night, Mc Farlanes Saddle. By the time we arrived there it was well and truly dark, so it was a pitch the tents in the dark get some food and hit the sack after a bit of a chat.
Trapyard Hill VK3/VT-005 1598 metres
We decided to have a later than planned departure for Trapyard Hill on the Saturday morning due to the late arrival at camp. The plan was to firstly head to Trapyard Hill with only SOTA kit in our packs with water and food. The heavy stuff was left at the camp and later we would return, pack our backpacks, and leave for Picture Point Range.
We headed south from Mc Farlanes Saddle for a few hundred metres and then followed a track that headed east in the direction of Trapyard Hill. The track changed direction a few times and then seemed to disappear. The Hill itself looked a long way distant. During a somewhat indirect route to the Hill, going became slow and it looked like we would blow our schedule by hours. When the trees cleared, not only was there a significant rise to Trapyard, there was also a valley to go through. After some bushbashing and finding then leaving vague tracks we had a steep climb to the top. Suprisingly we hadnt lost as much time as it seemed thanks to Wayne’s excellent navigation skills. The summit was long and narrow with large rocks. I found some rocks that resembled a seat and bench where the radio was setup. The views from Trapyard were very impressive, with the snow on Bogong in the far distance.
Wayne had the misfortune to lash his vertical to large tree trunk that decided to snap soon after, so the antenna had to be erected again. A highlight of this activation was a summit to summit contact with Brenton, VK3CBV over on Mt. Buller.
Activation time was about 45 minutes and we packed up and headed for a different return route to Mc Farlanes. We could see the Tamboritha Rd. below, so we headed for the road and then followed the road back.
Picture Point Range VK3/VT-005 1646 metres
After returning to Mc Farlanes Saddle, the tents were well and truly dried out, so we packed up camp and set off for our first summit on the trip, Picture Point Range. The packs were pretty heavy (mine was around 22kg). I had trouble with blisters at the South Point camp, so this time was armed with blister socks and new boots. We headed off south on the Tarli Karng track towards Picture Point Range. After about 3.5km, we could see the summit to our west. It was clear that it was going to be tough going with our packs, so we change plans and put our packs under a shady tree and then extracted all we would need for 2 metres, 6 metres and 40 metres. The walk up Picture point range was about 1.5km and it was getting quite warm.
At the top we found a little shade on a large rock. Wayne set up his end fed half wave for 40m and I set up a 2m/6m antenna on the 817. A call on 2m resulted in Peter VK3PF coming back and then we worked a couple of VHF/UHF field day stations. After a QSY to 6metres, we found that the 5/8th 2m 1/4 wave 6m antenna was not working very well on 6m, maybe it was tuned to the FM portion. We had enough contacts on 40m and 2m for us all to activate the summit. The signals from the VK3ER station on McGloughlans lookout was very strong some 300km away.
After about an hour of operating, we had more than enough contacts each, so we left the summit and made our way to our packs near the main track to Tarli Karng.
Wellington Plateau VK3/VT-007
We had intended to camp near Millers hut close to a creek to refresh our water supplies, but we came a cross a bush camp about a km before hand so decided to set up camp there as there was a bush toilet with a water tank. It turned out that the tank was empty though due to a broken tap. We set up camp and headed down to the creek for water. It was quite a steep decent to the creek. Both Wayne and Kevin had Steripens, ultraviolet water sterilizers that worked a treat, processing a litre in 90 seconds. After filling our containers and Wayne convincing me that I wasn’t drinking enough water, I drank all I could and we returned to camp. We had dinner in the light and a peaceful rest as the sun went down.
The next morning the light got us out of the tents early. The plan for Wellington Plateau was to leave our heavy gear in the tents and hike a little lighter to the Plateau and then after operating, head over to the Sentinels with only water and a camera.
The walk was mainly on a rough 4WD track this time with greener scenery than the open burnt snow plains. The climb to the plateau seemed to go on for ages and the sun didn’t help. Once at the top (which as you would expect for a plateau is a large summit) we set up the gear. Wayne set up first and this time Kevin set up on 6m to avoid interference which had been a problem with all of us on 40m.
It didn’t take long for all of us to get the 4 contacts each, although most were on 40m again. Kevin had one on 6m. We had very strong signals from the ACT guys. As we were packing up, I took off my glasses to read the map and lost them. This was a problem as without them I couldn’t look for them. Wayne came over and helped search and eventually found them.
The Sentinals Non-SOTA 1519 metres
We then found a shady spot for our packs and headed off to the Sentinels which overlook lake Tali Karng, some 600 metres below. It was a bit of a rock hop to the top and views worth it. Wayne ran into some bushwalking mates that had walked up the 600m climb from the lake.
Time was running out as we now had a 5 hour walk back to the car, so we headed off to get our packs from Wellington Plateau. The walk back to the tents was pretty straight forward with us drawing water from the same creek again. The tents were packed up and we started the long walk all loaded up back to the car. As far as blisters go, I reckon that the blister socks helped a lot although I still ended up with a few.
Kevin’s 4WD rolled down the hills to Licola with a litre or so of petrol to spare so all good.
A beer and a counter meal at Traralgon topped off the big SOTA weekend.
Thanks to Wayne for the great planning etc. and Kevin for transport.
Also see Alpine Park Revisited.