Monday 26 December 2016, Boxing Day public holiday. I’m in Melbourne (VK3) for a family Christmas gathering. Today I have a leave-pass from the Boxing Day shopping chaos which my wife and my sister consider to be more entertaining than a 14 km trail hike in temperatures of 30 to 32 degrees C. Personally I find a walk in the Australian bush far more satisfying than a day in an overcrowded Bourke Street shopping mall, moving on…
Two years ago I set my sights on Mt Ritchie in the Yarra Ranges National Park. During visits to my family in December 2014 and 2015 the days I had planned to activate Mt Ritchie turned out to be total fire ban days, known locally as severe fire warning days. By way of explanation VK SOTA activators follow a voluntary code of not venturing in to the Aussie scrub on days declared by the Bureau of Meteorology as a total fire ban day whether they be severe or worse catastrophic fire warning days. Seriously, why put yourself in harm’s way and potentially put others in danger too? Besides following a voluntary code, in most jurisdictions National and State Parks are closed on days of high fire danger meaning the entry to such parks is illegal during a declared fire ban day.
With two aborted activations under my belt I was confident today’s plans would not be circumvented by a third fire warning day, the alternative, a day shopping with the XYL looked worse! Earlier in the week the forecast for today was 33 degrees C. Yesterday the revised forecast was 32 degrees C (89.6 F) but with the chance of storms and lightning strikes around the Yarra Ranges, just what I don’t fancy being a lightning conductor! Come on SOTA Gods give me a break..
This morning before leaving home I checked the CFA and Emergency Victoria websites for information on fire warnings and National or State Park closures. All clear! I’m carrying ample food and 2 litres of water and I have an extra 5 litres in the car.
I left my sister’s home at 7 am arriving at the intersection of the Acheron Way and Road 15 at 08:05 am, a 65 minute drive, traffic was light.
Mt Ritchie VK3/VC-003 1255 metres ASL, Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-0556
The weird and wonderful height bands for different VK SOTA Associations. In VK3 Mt Ritchie at 1255 metres (4117 feet) ASL is an eight (8) point summit while in VK1 Mt Tennent VK1/AC-025 at 1384 metres ASL is a four (4) point summit and Mount Naas VK1/AC-029 at 1250 metres ASL, only 5 metres shorter than Mt Ritchie is a two (2) point summit. Don’t try to make sense of it, it will do your head in! 🙂
To the summit walk. The ascent starting from the Acheron Way, following Road 15 then Road 10 is 548 vertical metres (1800 ft) over 7.5 km (4.6 miles) taking 2 hours and 10 minutes. The descent duration was quicker at an expected 1 hour and 40 minutes. 😉
Mt Ritchie track profile
A small water dam is a feature within the SOTA AZ
Photos: © Copyright 2016 Andrew VK1AD
Pictures of my adventure starting from the Acheron River passing under the Acheron Way
Next I was somewhat surprised to find a shallow dam within the AZ. This feature is not mentioned in earlier activator’s blogs. As I approached the dam I thought to myself this is a likely haven for snakes.
50 metres further on from the dam surprise a Copperhead snake! The Copperhead is Australia’s 7th most venomous snake, whose venom is capable of killing an adult human. The snake kept still and a watching eye on me as I manoeuvred my way around the rear of the snake
At the summit, checking out the grassy field for snakes!
My SOTA station equipment: FT-817ND set to 5 watts output powered by a 2.2 Ah 3S LiPo battery. Antenna is a homebrew linked EFHW Inverted V for 21.300, 18.140, 14.310, 10.130 an 7.090 MHz. For 2m 144 to 148 MHz my antenna is a homebrew 2m SlimJim made with heavy duty 300 ohm ladder line.
First SOTA chaser on 144.2 MHz USB was David VK3IL operating portable from Phillip Island 105 km south-west of Mt Ritchie. David was using a KX3 with a 2m module at 2.5 watts output feeding a homebrew 2m SlimJim, a great result David for 2.5 watts and both of us using 2m SlimJim vertical antennas. 😉 This contact will feature in my VHF/UHF distance record page. I called on 2m SSB for a further 10 minutes, no takers, where were the VK3 chasers on 2m SSB?
Post UTC day change now 26 Dec 16, I qualified the summit on 20m working John ZL1BYZ, Ian VK5IS, Jacky ZL1TZW and Bill VK5MBD. 🙂
Summit to Summit QSOs. Andrew VK1MBE operating from Mt Ainslie in Canberra, Andrew VK1DA/2 operating from Mt Mundoonen near Yass and Nick VK3ANL/4 operating from Mt Ninderry on the Queensland South Coast. Andrew VK1DA was conducting propagation experiments with two separate FT-817s. Our first QSO signal reports were S56 R31 followed by S58 R31. On each occasion my signal received Mt Mundoonen was 3-1 while Andrew’s signal improved by 2 S-points between 817 #1 and 817 #2.
My last QSO from Mt Ritchie was with Ron VK3AFW on 2m simplex 146.5 MHz FM, thanks Ron. I had arranged to work Glenn VK3YY on 2m FM, unfortunately the mountainous terrain put an end to that arrangement. 😦
Extract from VK1AD SOTA Activator Log: 26 December 2016 – Mt Ritchie VK3/VC-003
|23:49z||VK3IL/P||144MHz||SSB||David S52 R58 144.200, Phillip Island 105 km|
|00:02z||ZL1BYZ||14MHz||SSB||John S59 R41|
|00:02z||VK5IS||14MHz||SSB||Ian S59 R55|
|00:03z||ZL1TZW||14MHz||SSB||Jacky S59 R41|
|00:06z||VK5MBD||14MHz||SSB||Bill S58 R53|
|00:09z||VK5WG||14MHz||SSB||Nev S55 R31|
|00:14z||VK7CW||7MHz||SSB||Steve S59 R41|
|00:15z||VK2GKA||7MHz||SSB||Karl S58 R53|
|00:17z||VK5MBD||7MHz||SSB||Bill S59 R56|
|00:17z||VK1MBE/P||7MHz||SSB||Andrew S2S VK1/AC-040 S53 R51|
|00:18z||VK1DA/2||7MHz||SSB||Andrew S2S VK2/ST-053 S56 R31|
|00:22z||VK1DA/2||7MHz||SSB||Andrew S2S VK2/ST-053 S58 R31 (changed radio)|
|00:25z||VK5FANA||7MHz||SSB||Adrian S55 R53|
|00:50z||VK3ANL/4||14MHz||SSB||Nick S2S VK4/SE-105 S51 R34 South Queensland|
|00:52z||VK3EQ||14MHz||SSB||Rik S59 R56|
|00:53z||ZL2AJ||14MHz||SSB||Warren S58 R31|
|01:00z||VK3AFW||144MHz||FM||Ron S59 R45 146.5 FM 70 km|
A view at ground level