I was looking around for a winter bonus summit, and Allen, VK3HRA was heading to Mt. Timbertop, VK3/VT-073, so I asked if he would mind company. The weather for Saturday was looking pretty good after a run of very cold weather.
I departed home at 5:45am and met Allen in Mansfied at 8am. As there was a lot of snow around earlier in the week, we dropped into a ski hire store for snow shoes and were advised that there wasn’t much if any on Mt. Timbertop. After driving though Merrijig we took the Howqua Track to the Timbertop car park. It is a short although steep walk to the summit at around 2km distance and 400m altitude gain. We arrived at the summit just on 10am and there was hardly any snow, making the hike up trouble free. I put up a spot on 50.175 MHz and had no luck, while Allen put up the 40m End Fed. The summit was quickly qualified and we realised that we were way ahead of schedule.
Options were considered, and I suggested Gears Hill, VK3/VE-122 which had not been previously activated as we slipped and slid down the hill back to the cars.
From Timbertop car park, the navigator said it would be about an hours drive to VE-122. This summit is on private land and can be reached via Cambatong and then Gears Hill Rd, although Gears Hill Rd. is a private road.
Each properties’ title has a narrow strip of Gears Hill Rd. down to Cambatong Rd. Some years ago, we had a house at the top of Gears Hill Rd. that now turns out to be in the activation zone for VE-122. If we still owned it, it would have made interesting SOTA activating!
I knew the neighbours and checked with them if they would mind us coming up their road and operating radios from the road. They were fine with it and asked us to come over later for a catch up. My GPS started acting strangely at this point, Allen also has a Garmin Etrex 30 and his was fine. After carefully figuring out the activation zone, we parked just outside it and just to be sure, we walked down the hill and back and found a convenient pine post to strap the squid pole to. The summit was quickly activated, and summit summit contacts were made with Andrew VK1NAM on Mr. Stromlo, Ian VK3TCX on Mt. Elizabeth and David VK3IL on Mt. Stirling. After a few contacts, I headed over to catch up with the couple that owned the property next door. Their house has amazing views to all the mountains just like our old house did. A bit later, Allen came over and after a chat we thought we better keep moving to the next summit.
On the way to Gears Hill VE-122, we had driven around unactivated Wombat Hill, VK3/VE-124 and made a mental note to investigate further later on. Wombat hill is also on private land, and the road does not get into the activation zone.
We drove back to Bunstons Rd. and looked for properties that might have access to the summit. There were a couple of houses, but no one was around to ask. We had pretty well given up, when Allen suggested we head up a road that led to two other properties.
Allen went up and found that the road went for quite a while and finally came to a house where there were some people on the verandah. Allen explained what we were up to (which is not that straight forward) and they happy for us to drive to the summit and play radio. The only request they had was for us to take a couple of rocks to the summit cairn.
I left my car near their house and we took Allens car across some land to the summit while avoiding some very strange looking cattle.
Once at the summit, it wasn’t very clear how we could lose 25m altitude easily. We ended up climbing over a barb wire fence and making our way down a blackberry infested path to get out of the activation zone.
Back at the summit, the End Fed was put up and good signals rolled in from VK1,VK5, VK7 and VK3. The cattle were getting a little impatient with us, so we thought it best to pack up. We went back to the house, thanked the owner for allowing us access to the summit. He was pretty animated and offered us a beer, but we had another summit to conquer! Walking back to the car, I could see one of the cattle relieving an itch on my car. Thinking of those huge horns, I ran over waving arms and he bolted, but amazingly, no scratches, just a polished bit on the front guard. Relieved of no damage, we then drove off to the last summit, the Paps.
Last time we were at the Paps, the road up was pretty washed out and took careful manoeuvring to avoid bellying the car out. This time the road was much better apart from a few spoon drains. We parked the cars about 50m elevation or so down from the summit and walked up. Activation here is straight forward, the squid pole was bungied to a tree and signals on 40m were quite strong all around. Views were great and it was pleasant operating as the sun was going down. It was about 5:40pm or so when we left the Paps.
All in all a successful day out with 8+3+6+6+4 = 27 points. Thanks Allen.