Rik, VK3KAN had planned a 4 summit SOTA activation for the 13th April and called on Friday to see if I would be interested in coming along. I was in Sydney and due home late on Friday but certainly would be keen to go.
Summits planned were North Hells Gate, Spion Kopje, Gentle Annie and South Hells Gate. The weather was looking reasonable although quite windy.
North Hells Gate VK3/VT050
The access to North Hells Gate is from Proposh Rd which would have been accessible in a 2wd during the conditions that we experienced. The road ends about 700m before the summit of North Hells Gate. There is no track to the summit. There was one some time ago but the bush fire regrowth has completely and utterly devoured it. Intuitively it seemed best to bush bash in from a short cleared area just before the end of the road. We found out on the way out that the further cleared area at the end of the road was probably a slightly better option.
The bush regrowth was extremely thick and progress was slow. We could not see where we were going and relied on GPS/Compass the whole way until we hit the remains of a forest track about 100m before the summit. The grass that was growing between the saplings was like rope and every now and then it stopped you dead and you had to lift your boot on top of it and squash it down. Somewhere along the bush bash, my squid pole must have been snagged and fallen from my pack. Its a little strange that I didn’t notice it because it sits in a pocket on the side of the pack and is strapped further up the pack although there was lots of pushing and squeezing over and under trees. It must have taken an hour to get to the summit.
Once at the summit, Rik put up his squid pole and I connected the end fed half wave for 7MHz and we quickly made activation contacts. As we were running behind schedule, we operated for about 10 minutes and packed up. We made about 7 contacts each. The wind was howling through the trees and we had some light rain.
We also made 3 summit to summit contacts with VK3ZPF, VK3HRA and VK1RX.
On the way down we firstly attempted to retrace our way in so that we could have a look for the lost squid pole, but it soon became evident that our path in had been swallowed up by closing scrub so there wouldn’t have been much chance of finding it. It also looked like a better option to follow the remains of the track from the summit for a less dense way out.
It turned out that the following the remains of the track was no better than the way in, as the track was completely consumed by bush and we ended up hacking our way out again. Compass and GPS again were used for the way out. An hour and some scratches later we were at the car.
Spion Kopje VK3/VT043
After leaving North Hells gate we traveled back to the junction and headed up Tarago road and then Phasmid Ridge Track towards Spion Kopje. We progressed a fair way down Phasmid Ridge Track and found that it had been re-aligned in several places. There were several other tracks that left and joined the track making it difficult to be sure we were on the correct one. The track deteriorated steadily as we progressed with large drains and washouts making it difficult. Rik did a great job in negotiating some very deep drains and washouts on steep ground but eventually we came across one that was just too difficult. At this point Rik turned the car around in a very tight and steep spot and we decided to abandon it. Reading Peter, VK3ZPF’s notes, a more accessible route would be from the northern side from Limberlost Rd, although the extra travelling would have not made it possible to do it with the other summits planned.
Gentle Annie VK3/VT078
We headed back to the junction and up the Gentle Annie track. The track becomes 4wd not far from the junction with deep drains across the steep track. Rik negotiated the drains and we kept going for about 1km or so and made it all the way to the summit. As SOTA rules dictate that you must enter the activation zone without a car, we loaded up our stuff on our backs and walked down the hill a generous 25 metres in altitude and then walked back up. There is a leaning trig point at the top and this was used to support the squid pole which held the EFHW antenna on 7MHz.
There was a convenient boulder just off the side of the track where the FT817 was set up. We had several 4wd vehicles and many trail bikes come through while we were there. We explained what we were doing to one lot that seemed vaguely interested.
After about 20 minutes of operating, we had 11 contacts each including 3 summit to summits with VK3ZPF, VK1RX and VK3HRA. Some lunch and we were on our way again.
South Hells Gate VK3/VT059
Back down to the junction and then Forest Road south until we hit the Quartz Creek Road turn off which heads east. The road is 2wd most of the way until South Hells Gate Track and the junction of Robertson Creek Fireline. We headed up the 4wd section of South Hells Gate Track to the highest point but couldn’t see a track to the summit. We moved the car down the hill back from where we came and found a hacked up track where the authorities had gone to great lengths to ensure the track was impassible by 4wd. The track had many deep holes and boulders on it. The holes could become dangerous to walkers when the scrub takes over. We headed off on this track but after a short while found that it intersected with Robertson Creek Fireline, which goes over the summit. Back to car we went and drove up Robertson Creek Fireline (4wd). This road is very steep and with many deep drains. Somehow we made it up the road (with Rik using car inertia and some clever maneuvering and parked almost at the summit again. In accordance with SOTA rules, we packed out stuff on our backs and headed down the hill a generous 25 metres altitude and walked back up.
The squid pole was set up in the bush to make sure our antenna was well clear of the road in case any trail bike riders came through.
Rik made a contact on 2m from a boulder for extra height and we both made about 6 contacts each, mostly on 7MHz..
We waited a little for Peter, VK3ZPF who was heading for Britannia Range and also Alan, VK3HRA just in case he was about to activate. Nothing heard, so packed up and headed for the car.
As soon as we turned the radio on in the car we heard Peter calling from Britannia Range!
All in all a great day out in the hills. The internal LiPo pack int the 817 still with lots of charge left.