Retrospective look at 15 VK3 SOTA activations in 9 days
I planned a trip to the eastern-suburbs of Melbourne to visit my parents, celebrate mum’s birthday, catch up with my kids and my sister’s family. A trip to Melbourne over a long-weekend should include one or two SOTA activations. Conveniently Canberra has two long-weekend public holidays which fall on Monday 30 Sep and Monday 7 Oct 13. The last long-weekend falls on the weekend of mum’s birthday, here is a chance to book a week of leave and pick out a few VK3 summits, which if successfully activated would add to the ‘Completed’ summit list.
So the plan involved taking leave from my job and spending 8 1/2 days running around mountain tops in the North, East and Central regions of VK3. Included in the 8 1/2 days is 1 day at the beginning and end of the trip allocated to 12 hours of driving between Canberra – Melbourne and return, including 2 SOTA summit peak activations per leg. On return to Canberra the SOTA mobile’s odometer reading indicated a trip of ~2300 km. The average fuel consumption (diesel) was 6.3 ltr/100 km.
The BOM seven-day weather forecast indicated wet and windy conditions from Monday through to Thursday, nevertheless the challenge would be accepted ensuring safety first. The trip included a coffee with Warren VK3BYD at a cafe in Beechworth, catching up with SOTA tragics at the VK3 SOTA dinner and a drop-in on Bernard VK3AMB at Kinglake. At the SOTA dinner I was chatting to Andrew VK3ARR well-known for his QRP SOTA chasing and we realised we had crossed paths at Beechworth on Saturday around lunch time. Andrew was returning to Melbourne with his family after a family gathering in Goulburn.
The planned schedule was as follows:
- Saturday 28 Sep 13 – drive to VK3, activate 2 summits Mt Stanley near Beechworth and Mt Wombat near Euroa;
- Sunday 29 Sep 13 – activate 3 summits, Mt Donna Buang, Mt Bride and Britannia Range;
- Monday 30 Sep 13 – activate 2 summits, Federation Range north of Lake Mountain and Sugarloaf Peak part of the Cathedral Range near Buxton;
- Tuesday 1 Oct 13 – activate 2 summits, Mt Torbreck and Mt Pyramid with Glenn VK3YY;
- Wednesday 2 Oct 13 – activate Mt Vinegar and Mt Gordon near Marysville;
- Thursday 3 Oct 13 – activate Mt Macedon at Macedon;
- Friday 4 Oct 13 – activate Mt Disappointment in the Kinglake NP and Mt St Leonard near Toolangi;
- Saturday 5 Oct 13 – family gathering and breakfast with mum, then off to Mt Dandenong; and
- Sunday 6 Oct 13 – return trip to Canberra and activate 2 summits Mt Strathbogie and Mt Porepunkah.
As with all good plans SOTA activators must have a plan B. On my bucket-list of must do summits is Mt Torbreck a 10 pointer and with the weather for Tuesday looking like it was going to spoil the day, I checked with Glenn if he could activate Mt Torbreck and Pyramid Hill on Monday, the better of the worst days which we did. 🙂
So did plan B and the weather work out in my favour? Almost, Plan C which was a daily revision on Plan B brought about by wild weather including heavy rain, snow, 110km/h winds and road/4wd track closures meant decisions were made on the go and on-route to distant summits. On Sunday morning in the Strathbogie State Forest I didn’t count on hearing gun shots (shot guns) quite close, I would say within 1 km of the summit while undertaking the activation. I didn’t stay long!
What did I achieve over the week? Activated 15 summits, 84 activator points, 12 seasonal points, 119 S2S points and worked my way through 183 chaser contacts. While the weather gods had made their presence known for the week, on Thursday the SOTA gods were messing around with the ionosphere just as I started the activation of Mt Macedon. I struggled for 45 minutes to make 5 contacts, 3 on HF and 2 on VHF. I was spotting each contact and pleading with chasers to be the ‘next contact’ counting down towards 4 qualifying contacts. Perhaps if it wasn’t for the quick thinking by Perrin VK3XPTV to find his 2m rig (rarely used) and give me a call on 146.5 I may not have qualified. Thankfully I did so I moved to 20m and successfully worked Tony VK3CAT on a ground wave with Tony’s beam doing the work.
Over the week of SOTA chaser contacts the most interesting (my view) was being chased by Perrin using a FT817 and a small HF loop ‘Alex-Loop’ mounted on a camera tripod. It didn’t matter which summit peak I was on, Perrin’s signal was consistently readable between 5-1 and 5-5. While working Perrin from Mt St Leonard on 20m 14.310 MHz we both had time for Perrin to conduct experiments on RX and TX. As you would expect changing the plane of the loop at right angle to my position produced a deep null. Check out Perrin’s YouTube channel for details and DX contacts made with the loop.
I missed out on Mt Vinegar and Sugarloaf Peak, both will be revisited on the next VK3 trip.
Over the next week or so I will post reports and pictures for each day’s activation. The posts for Tuesday and Wednesday activations were made last week. See recent posts.