VK3 – Mt Donna Buang and Mt St Leonard

Monday 30 November 2015.  I’m in Melbourne for a family gathering held on Saturday evening.  As luck would have it, my wife talked of a shopping day for Monday, which presented me with an opportunity to be as far away from Ringwood shopping center as is humanly possible.  With my wife commandeering the Skoda, my brother-in-law offered to drive his 60 Series Toyota 4WD (non-turbo diesel) known fondly as ‘The Barge’ to Mt Donna Buang VK3/VC-002 and Mt St Leonard VK3/VC-006, both summits are within the Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-556.   We left Croydon at 9 am with a plan to be operating from Mt Donna Buang at 10:30 am (2330 UTC).   The Barge didn’t miss a beat, cruising up Mt Donna Buang Road in 3rd gear.  Anyone that knows about Series 60s would know of the pleasure to own a non-turbo diesel, I wish had one 🙂

My plan for today is to activate both peaks on 6 and 10m as potential multipliers for the SOTA 6 & 10m Challenge, the only slight problem, (not to be underestimated) today is a working day and my chances of finding keen SOTA chasers on 6m 50.150 MHz will be slim to zip, zilch, zero!  I posted alerts 24 hours earlier so I’m hedging my bets for 6 and 10m contacts with Tony VK3CAT possibly portable or mobile and Ron VK3AFW at his home QTH in the southern suburbs of Melbourne.  Why Tony and Ron? Well 12 months ago I activate Federation Range VK3/VN-029 on a working day and on that day both Tony and Ron responded to my SOTA spots for 6m 52.2 MHz and 10m 28.495 MHz. Putting aside the risk of not making contacts on 6 & 10m, I should pick up 4 chasers on 40m to qualify each summit for 14 activator points.

Mt Donna Buang VK3/VC-002 1259 metres ASL 8 points

Mt Donna Buang is a drive-up summit with vehicle parking available close to the lookout tower.  Weather conditions on the summit were much cooler than expected while Melbourne suburbs are expecting a warm to hot day with a max of 33 degrees C.    At the summit I chose a picnic table in the shade as the operating position.  The summit temp was close to 10 degrees C, a picnic table in the sun would have been a better option!

Radio Gear:  Yaesu FT-817ND powered by a 2.2 Ah 3S LiPo and a Yaesu  FT-60R HT
Antennas: Homebrew 6m coaxial 1/2 wave vertical and a link dipole for 6/10/20/40m
SOTA Spotting: iPad fitted with a Telstra SIM. Telstra mobile phone reception proved reliable at both peaks.

Started the activation at 23:30 UTC on 6m 50.150 MHz USB and to my utmost pleasure the familiar voice of Tony VK3CAT/M answered shortly after my first spot.  Signal reports were 5-7 each way, I continue calling on SSB for 15 minutes without any further contacts.  Next I posted a spot for 52.525 MHz FM and Tony called in using a VX-7R HT for a second contact this time standing on what I think was the roof of his truck or perhaps the roof at a work site, not quite sure which one?   Nevertheless signal reports were 5-1 each way, not bad for a portable HT at 5 watts into standard HT antenna.  Thanks Tony for helping me qualify the summit as a multiplier for 6m.  😉

At 23:55 I posted a spot for 28.480 MHz this time I received two calls from SOTA chasers in North America, Jeff W6JP and Thomas W7RV.  I completed a 5-1 valid contact with Jeff but not with Thomas.  Thomas if you are reading this post I called you several times without success.

On 40m band conditions were good with 13 chasers including three S2S contacts:  Rob VK2QR/P for a 1st activation of The Dargals VK2/SM-025, Brian VK3MCD/P at Mt Tarrengower VK3/VN-023 and Phil VK2JDL/P at Mt Burngoogee VK2/RI-016 near Holbrook off the Hume Hwy.   After chatting with Ron VK3AFW on 40m we went on to make a successful contact on 6m 50.150 MHz.

Finally, I made a random call on 2m FM 146.5 MHz using my FT-60R HT and to my surprise Bill VK3LHB responded from Footscray 70km at 212 degrees, also portable.  🙂

6 and 10m Challenge points:  2 unique callsigns and 1 summit multiplier  🙂

VK1AD SOTA shack at Mt Donna Buang

VK1AD SOTA shack at Mt Donna Buang summit.  Don’t be fooled by the sunlight the temp on the summit was close to 10 degrees with a steady cool breeze at 15 – 20 km/h.

6m 1/2 wave vertical and a HF link dipole for 6/10/20/40m

left to right: HF link dipole for 6/10/20/40m and a 6m 1/2 wave vertical

Mt St Leonard VK3/VC-006 1012 metres ASL 6 points

The walk to the summit starts from a locked gate off Monda Road.  The ascent is 99 metres over 1.5 km taking 22 minutes.  A relatively easy walk along a vehicle track used by maintenance crews and the observer in the fire lookout tower.

Mt St Leonard GPS track log

Mt St Leonard GPS track log

Mt St Leonard track profile

Mt St Leonard track profile

This is my 2nd visit to Mt St Leonard, for my last visit in October 2013 I found a position on the south side of the compound where the reported QRM on 40m was low but not entirely eliminated.  A bigger issue then was Pager interference on 2m FM.   Today, and only for the convenience of supporting the 6m vertical antenna I have set up close to the lookout platform. As suspected the QRM on 40m was S8, which made hearing chasers with weak signals almost impossible.   On 20m the QRM noise floor was S3 while on 10 and 6m the noise level was low.    An advantage of this summit is both antennas had an uninterrupted line-of-sight view of Melbourne and surrounding suburbs.

Started the activation at 0300 UTC, 30 minutes earlier than planned, a possible summit to summit contact will be Rob VK2QR at VK2/SM-030 with an alert for 0330 UTC. I plan to wait for Rob before posting a QRT comment.  Chasers on 6m 50.150 MHz USB were Ron VK3AFW followed by Tony VK3CAT this time mobile.  Reception via the 6m vertical antenna was good, 5-9 from Ron and 5-5 with Tony.  Thanks Ron and Tony for taking the time to respond to my CQ SOTA call, very much appreciated, another multiplier in the bag.  🙂

On 28.480 MHz Ron answered my CQ SOTA call followed by Kevin VK3VC in the outer-eastern suburbs. Signals from Ron and Kevin were 5-9 via the link dipole.  I continued calling on 10m for the best part of 10 minutes, all quiet on 10m.    I wonder if the number of chasers on 6m and 10m may have been higher had I activated both peaks on Sunday?  I will never know.  😎

40m reception was clearly a problem, chasers who’s signals were above the noise floor or readable within the noise were Col VK3LED, Ray VK3NBL, Nev VK5WG and Gerard VK2IO.     Rob VK2QR/P checked in from Inkbottle Hill VK2/SM-030 in the Snowy Mountains region for a S2S contact, well done Rob on activating a new peak, two uniques in one day!  Rob’s signal was a solid 5-9, well above the local noise.  On 20m 14.310 MHz Dave VK4DD called in with a 5-7 signal to earn an easy 6 points for his chaser log.

The duty officer on fire-watch was Richard VK3KCQ.  Richard took a break to check out the radio gear and antennas.  Great to meet Richard, it’s a shame the site has sooo much QRM impacting HF and VHF amateur bands.   o_O

6 and 10m Challenge points:  1 unique callsign and 1 summit multiplier for a total of 121 callsigns and 24 summits.

VK1AD SOTA shack at Mt St Leonard

VK1AD SOTA shack at Mt St Leonard.  Conditions here were warm to hot in the afternoon sun.  A good lathering of SPF sun block was in order.

Operating position on the grass area adjacent to the lookout platfrom

Operating position on the grass area adjacent to the lookout platform (former fire lookout tower)


History of the original fire lookout tower

History of the original fire lookout tower.  The current fire lookout platform is incorporated into the main tower and sits well above the commercial antenna arrays. See pictures at an earlier post October 2013.

Lookout platform

Mt St Leonard Lookout Platform a former fire lookout tower.

Next VK3 Trip

My next trip to Melbourne will be on Saturday 19 December.  My SOTA plans for Sunday 20 December 15 include Mt Ritchie VK3/VC-003 on 6 & 10m and possibly Federation Range VK3/VN-029. I look forward to hearing native Melbournians on 6 and 10m.  Now you have a reason and the opportunity to construct a temporary 6m 1/2 wave dipole. 🙂


6 thoughts on “VK3 – Mt Donna Buang and Mt St Leonard

  1. Andrew. I was on the roof of a house giving an estimated height gain of 5 metres. I tested previously with Mt Dandenong repeater. 6m ssb was a suprise as in a driveway with buildings along side. Antenna was not yet tuned but had done so with Mt Stleonard. Good to have you and the summits in the log. From Mt. Dandenong on 6m FM only 3 or 4 contacts in 30 minutes of calling. On 6m, and to get better results best to spot on vklogger and call briefly on 50.110 and nominate a clear qsy freq above 50.150. A pet hate of mine is those who operate on 50.115 or 120. In strong Es can get massive bleed over that can wipe out weak real dx signals. Cheers Tony.

    • Hi Tony, thanks for the note on vklogger and the finer points of Ops on 6m. I will organise an account for vklogger.
      I plan to be in Melbourne 19 to 21 Dec with SOTA plans for Sunday 20 Dec. Had a chat with Glenn VK3YY yesterday, he mentioned he qual the summit on 6m. 🙂

  2. Hi Andrew, a great effort but bad luck on the second US station. I hope you do well on the 19th December especially on VHF.

    John D

    • Hi John thanks for the note. I trust you are back in the radio shack with opportunities to chase Parks and Peaks. Cheers Andrew VK1AD.

  3. Was nice to work you, especially the AD callsign

    Will say, when I worked Mt Donna Buang, I used the same bench on the same seat even.

    Phil VK2JDL

    • Hi Phil, good location and perfect for a SOTA ‘family’ outing. Picnic tables are great when you can strap the pole to a table or bench seat leg, however like the tables at this site some tables have an overhang (first world problem) which makes supporting the pole a little tricky particularly when the wind is blowing. Ah the challenges of SOTA 🙂

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