Despite a forecast for less than average weather, Kevin, VK3KAB and myself headed off to the area around Mt. Skene to activate some different summits. The weekend was also the same one for the John Moyle Field Day, so there would be no shortage of activity on the radio bands.
We headed off at 6am on the Saturday morning in warmish weather and travelled via Taralgon and Licola to the Jamieson Rd. to our first summit, Mt. Shillinglaw, VK3/VT-068. The Jamieson Rd. becomes gravel a few km out of Licola although it looks like there was more new bitumen than last time. This summit is not accessible in winter due to road closures, so there is no point saving it for the winter bonus period. Access is very straight forward. We parked on the side of the Jamieson Rd. where there is a segment of the Australian Alpine Walking Track that leads to the summit. The walk in is only about 1km.
By the time we arrived at the summit at 10:20am local, the wind had become quite strong. Kevin set up on 40m and I set up on 20m. As it was windy, the heavy duty squid pole was erected with a switched dipole. Mike, VK6MB was worked on 20m, but not much else. The squid pole then blew over. There were lots of chasers on 40m and the summit was easily qualified.
We headed back down the track to the Jamieson Rd., which was a lot quicker than the way up. Back in the car we drove further up the road to the Lazarini Spur Track in the direction of un-named summit VE-091. Kevin had “unfinished business” with this summit due to a previous attempt from the other end of the track. The track was signed as 4wd, but it was pretty good driving in the dry with only moderate ground clearance needed in a couple of spots.
There were a few trees over the road, but most were cut or you could veer around them. From the Jamieson Rd., it is about 11km to the most convenient set off location for VE-091.
The walk to the summit is about 800 metres with a bit of scrub bashing. We followed the line of least gradient which took us in path shown.
Once setup, there were ants all over everything and I just gave up getting them off and put up with the odd bite. There were lots of JMFD contesters on the band which made it easy to get contacts. A summit to summit was made with Andrew, VK1NAM on VK2/SC-050. We only used 40m here as the operating location was a uncomfortable. We must have spent half an hour trying to get Kevin’s dipole out of a tree where it was badly snagged on a dead branch.
Off into the distance we could see storms building on the weather radar, but it looked like we had a few more hours before it would reach us.
Back at the road, we went to the Jamieson Rd. and turned north towards Mt. Skene. We arrived at Mt. Skene for a look while there were nice views.
The plan was to drive to Mt. Sunday from here and return to Mt. Skene to camp overnight and maybe work some DX in the evening. From the Jamieson Rd., some 21km to the north of the Lazarini Spur Track we arrived at the Mt. Sunday Rd. turnoff. The first half of the trip on Mt. Sunday Rd. to the river was pretty good 2wd. After the river, the name changed to Mt. Sunday Track, and the road became 4wd with lots of spoon drains and occasional deep ruts. Going was very slow at times. We came to a fallen tree blocking our path, so Kevin fired up the chainsaw.
Time was marching on and it was clear that we did not have a lot of daylight left and there was a storm front maybe an hour and a half away.
A bit further down the track we came up against another larger fallen tree. This one would take a bit more work and we had to think about whether we could walk to the summit in daylight. We eventually decided to bail out, despite only being a few km from the summit. At this point we would not make the summit and return to the car in the light.
At about 6pm we arrived back at Mt. Skene with the wind blowing and a bit of drizzle. The storm was now quite close, so we put up the tents quickly in a place where they would not be hit by fallen trees. After the tents went up, it started to rain more heavily.
By the shelter of the car we made dinner hoping that the rain would pass. The rain just got heavier and then the lightning started, dashing hopes of getting a squid pole or two up. (we didn’t want to become toast). So we could activate the summit at some time, we collected all our radio stuff and walked out of the activation zone in the rain and returned to the tents. My boots and pants were soaked after this. The rest of the night was spent counting the seconds between the lightning and the thunder and wondering why we had camped on the highest summit in the area. The wind gusted up many times in the night pushing the tent fly into the tent and causing a bit of a leak.
The next morning it was foggy and relatively calm, so I sprung out at about 6:00am and put up the 40m EFHW. Several JMFD contacts were made and then the SOTA regulars popped out of the woodwork around 7:45am. Mike, VK6MB was worked on 40m which is a first for me on 40m. On 12m conditions were good to the USA. I worked N4EX and W7RV in Arizona before Peter, VK3PF popped up.
The temperature must have dropped below freezing as Kevin had ice outside his tent. The car thermometer read 2 degrees when we left.
As the weather had turned and limited our options we thought the best plan would be to head south and activate Connor Plain, Mt. Selma and Mt. Useful. Normally we would have kept these summits for the bonus period in winter, but now our options were limited to these lower peaks rather than the Tamboritha Rd. peaks. Two peaks are quite close to the South Rd., and Mt. Selma is a short drive off the South Rd. These three were covered in this post.
At Connor Plain, VT022, we parked to find a herd of cows blocking the track to the summit. It looks like a farmer dumped a lot of hay up the track for the cows and so they weren’t too keen on moving. We tried to find a better path to the top as there was now a lot of fire regrowth compared to the last trip. We followed a 4wd track part of the way but it was taking us in the wrong direction, so we headed bush towards the summit.
A summit to summit was made with VK2HRX on VK2/IL-017 and a host of other contacts on 40m. We had plenty of options here for setting up with lots of clear space.
The next summit was Mt. Selma. When we arrived at the parking spot at the base of the jeep track to the summit, it was starting to rain. We had lunch and walked up the track to the summit. I thought to try a minimal activation here just using the “cute little antenna”. Kevin took the full dipole along. By the time were were at the trig point, it was hailing and cold. I climbed in the bothy bag and put the whip section of the little antenna through the breather hole. Four contacts were quickly made to activate, but signals were weak.
By this time, Kevin had put up the squid pole and operated on 40m with much stronger signals. The dipole was probably 6 S points up on the loaded whip, which is of course to be expected.
The last summit for the day was Mt. Useful. As it was raining, we parked at the top for a quick getaway and walked out of the activation zone and back in again. We heard a loud voice asking what we were doing and looked up to see a guy on the tower. I explained what we were up to as crazy as it sounded to him. We quickly set up the squid poles and sheltered in bothy bags out of the rain. I started a summit to summit contact with VK2IO on 40m but signals suddenly dived. After much calling, I looked through the bothy bag window and saw the antenna had fallen down. I went out to fix the antenna and the tower guy came over for a chat. It was raining steadily and he didn’t think there was much chance of fires, so he was leaving. The antenna was fixed and the contact completed. Swapping to 12m saw contacts with VK6MB and VK3PF. It didn’t take much convincing to pack up and get out of the rain.
A great few days in the hills and 50 points, but not without its challenges! Thanks Kevin!