SOTA Activation 2 Summits Monday – 30 September 2013

Mt Torbreck VK3/VN-001 1516 metres ASL, Yarra Ranges Snobs Creek

Yesterday 29 September I completed a multi-summit activation in the vicinity of Warburton with the company of my sister and my two kids. Later in the day I contacted Glenn VK3YY to discuss a joint activation of Mt Torbreck and Pyramid Hill, which was previously planned for Tuesday.  The weather forecast for Monday suggested calm conditions in the morning then changing conditions around midday from the approaching low.

Winds gusts at 60 km/h were predicted for the afternoon along with possible showers and thunderstorms.  By comparison the forecast for Tuesday was much worse with rain, wind and possible snow showers above 1500 metres.    In weighing up the options and Mt Torbreck being on the ‘must do’ list, Monday was a clear winner.  I was eager to see and climb the amazing rock cairn previously seen in pictures from Marshall VK3MRG’s blog.

I met Glenn at the Beechworth Bakery car park in Healsville around 8 am.  We discussed options to take one car, luckily Glenn offered to take his car which turned out well. Glenn had packed his chainsaw and within 1 km of the car park a tree was down on Con Gap Road.  See Glenn’s post.

Glenn parked the car at the intersection of Conn Gap Road and Barnewall Plains Road.  The track to Barnewall Plains picnic area was closed.  If the gate was open the steep track and slippery conditions would make it impassable to most 4wd vehicles.  The ascent to the picnic area is 175 meters over 1.7 km fairly easy-going.  We took a break at the picnic area to re-balance the backpacks and have a bite to eat and drink.

With leg 1 of the navigation completed it was time to tackle Mt Torbreck.  The ascent to the summit is a further 350 meters over 2.1 km, very steep in parts taking 1 hour and 10 minutes to complete.  Progress along the formed track for the first 300 meters was easy until we encountered what would be best described as hundreds of snow gums flattened by a storm, possibly a micro burst.  The fallen trees were across the track slowing progress to a crawl.   We climbed over, through and around large fallen snow gums.

Arrived at the summit just after 11 am 1.5 hours after leaving the car.  In front of me was the massive rock cairn,  waiting for a new rock donation.  The custom for all rock cairns is to carefully place a new rock on the top section of the cairn.  Given the size of the cairn and it’s foundation it was easy to climb and place a new rock on top.

Fig 1:

Mt Torbreck GPS track log

Fig 1: Mt Torbreck GPS track log.  Note the track on the map is not aligned to the ground.  Glenn made the same observation.

Fig 2:

Mt Torbreck track profile

Fig 2: Mt Torbreck track profile

Stopped at Barnewall Plains picnic area for a rest

Barnwell Plains picnic area

Barnewall Plains picnic area

Mt Torbreck walking track

Mt Torbreck walking track

snow gums over the track

snow gums over the track

Snow gums down crawling through the fallen trees

Snow gums down, VK1NAM crawling through the fallen trees

At the summit

VK1NAM at the summit

Fired up the FT-817 with a 4.2 Ah LiFePO4 battery at 11:20 calling CQ on 2m with no expectation of making a 2m contact. To my surprise Marshall VK3MRG returned the call with a 5-2 5-1 report, wow a 5 watt 2m simplex contact over 88 km and high mountain ranges to obstruct the signal.  The 2m antenna is the home brew 2m Slim Jim which has a theoretical angle of radiation around 6 to 8 degrees above the horizon.  Very happy with the performance of the Slim Jim and very easy to make.


VK1NAM on the summit cairn

I continued to call on 2m while Glenn was working 40m finding Ian VK1DI on VK2/IL-001 Mt Gibraltar at Mittagong.  Glenn moved to 12m and I picked up the chasers on 40m.  I worked 9 more chasers Peter VK3FPSR, Paul VK5PAS, Larry VK5LY, Andrew VK2UH, Ben VK3FTRV, Bob VK2TMA, Ernie VK3DET, Trevor VK3LTA and Matt VK2DAG.  QRP chasers were Andrew VK2UH, Peter VK3FPSR and Ben VK3FTRV.

Despite the close proximity of Glenn’s EFHW and my 40m 1/2 wave dipole, there was no RF interference from each others transmission.

Glenn VK3YY

Glenn VK3YY

SOTA operating position

SOTA operating position

The BOM forecast for strong winds was close to the mark.  The winds picked up flexing the squid pole to a point where the taper friction sections un-locked causing the pole to collapse.  With the pole down there was little point persisting with the activation.

summit cairn

summit cairn and strong winds

Packed up the gear and started the journey back down the mountain just after 12:00.  The return trip to Barnewall Plains took 48 minutes, we were back at the car 1 hour and 15 minutes after leaving the summit.  The fallen trees were just as difficult to climb through as they were on the way up.

View to Lake Eildon

View to Lake Eildon

Pyramid Hill VK3/VN-005 1314 metres ASL, Rubicon State Forrest

Leaving Con Gap road we headed SE along Snobs Creek road to the track intersection at No. 5 Track.  No. 5 track is a logging track leading up to Royston Range track, suitable for 2wd vehicles.  We didn’t encounter any logging trucks on the track.

From Royston Range track the ascent to the summit is 140 meters over 1.2 km taking 35 minutes on an easy going track.

Fig 3:

Fig 3: Pyramid Hill GPS track log

Fig 3: Pyramid Hill GPS track log

Fig 4:

Fig 4: Pyramid Hill track profile

Fig 4: Pyramid Hill track profile

Royston Range track gate.  Perhaps there was a problem with unauthorised access to some of the tracks.

how to stop illegal vehicle entry

how to stop unauthorised vehicle entry

The summit had been logged and burnt making conditions very messy with charcoal everywhere.

burnt summit of Pyramid Hill

Burnt summit of Pyramid Hill.  VK3YY’s EFHW antenna

Set up the FT-817 on convenient stump at elbow height and secured the squid pole to a tree laying on the ground. Started the activation just after 4 pm working 14 contacts over 20 minutes. Ian VK1DI had relocated to VK2/IL-005 on Mt Alexandra waiting for the opportunity to work Glenn and I as a S2S, Ian was a solid 5-8 both ways.

Chasers were Peter VK3FPSR, Ron VK3AFW, John VK5BJE, Mark VK3YN, Paul VK5PAS, Larry VK5LY, Matt VK2DAG, Kev VK2KEV, Glenn VK3GMC, Ben VK3FTRV, Brian Vk3MDC, Andrew VK2FAJG and Chris VK1GG mobile in VK2.  Band conditions were excellent with most signal reports at 5-8 to 5-9.

The activation was cut short by a huge gust of wind which whipped up the squid poles as though they were match sticks. I didn’t have a wind speed indicator but estimate the wind to be over 80 km/h.  My backpack and a box of bits and pieces landed 20 metres away.  After recovering the gear and untangling the antennas we packed up.  The BOM radar app was showing a storm front approaching from the east while the predicted strong gusts continued.

2 more summits for the completed list tagged and bagged.

Back at Healsville Glenn and I took a coffee break at the bakery.  Thanks Glenn for an interesting day and good company on the walking tracks and summits.  I had loads of fun and look forward to visiting the summits in 2014.

Vk1NAM operating position

VK1NAM’s operating position on a burnt stump

VK1NAM - 40m dipole

VK1NAM – 40m dipole


2 thoughts on “SOTA Activation 2 Summits Monday – 30 September 2013

  1. Hi Andrew,
    Well done on 2 more activations and good to get you in the log from both. You certainly had to endure some pretty wild weather and terrain to get there. I sometimes wonder why we do this SOTA thing ? It is a great personal challenge for me, but despite all the climbing & walking, it doesn’t seem to be working on my waistline. Too many hotels close to summits !
    Best 73,

    • Hi Paul, thanks yes we could do with one or two pubs in the Namadgi NP, all good fun
      Taking a big trek next Sunday 10 Nov 13 to Mt Clear 8.5 km walk each way. The things we do!?
      Andrew, VK1NAM

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