VK7/SC-008 – Grey Mountain & VKFF 1149 – 28 March 2016

Easter weekend – time for a combined SOTA and VKFF activation. This is a reprise for the author who activated Grey Mountain (VK7/SC-008) back on 20 January 2015 by walking in from the other direction. I have since found out that you can drive up to the gate at the base of the Mountain and walk the last (steep) kilometre up to the summit.

The track starts on Cradoc Hill Rd (between Huonville and Cygnet) heads up to the Cradoc Hill Abattoir where you go straight on along Bells Rd and this comes to a four way junction (5 way if you count the powerline easement) head up the track to the right of the powerline easement and the track rapidly becomes a (steep in sections) four wheel drive track. This track eventually comes to a tee junction with a locked gate on the track up Grey Mountain. The other track takes you into the Snug Tiers Nature Recreation Area (VKFF-1149) and ends up at the end of Van Morey Rd in Margate via some challenging 4WD tracks!


Track up to Grey Mountain looking South East toward The Neck on Bruny Island.

Weather was good with some grey rain clouds threatening in the NW. We setup at the Trig point and deployed the hootchie which nicely fits the base of the trig point. Reuben wanted to try his recently homebrewed portable 2m yagi and the author started on 40m. Conditions were fair and some contacts with other parks and amateurs (VK1, 2, 3, 5 & 7) made.


Trig point Hootchie with Reuben VK7FREU operating on top of Grey Mountain.


Linked dipole and 2m portable yagi next to the impressive commercial antenna array.

We then moved to 15m and made two contacts into VK4 and called for a little while but alas no one else. We headed back to 40m and made a summit to summit with VK1RX/2 and VK1AD/2 (thanks) and a few more contacts with VK3, 5 & 7. Reuben made some 2M FM contacts with the portable yagi but we need to do more work to get it higher and away from ground effects.


Panorama from South to North.

We were watching the rain roll across the surrounding hills and decided to call it quits and head back to the car. On the way back down Reuben spotted some very interesting beetles on the side of track.


Iridescent blue beetles on the track.

With the author’s original activation and this activation we almost have the requisite 44 contacts for the VKFF and had fun reactivating the summit for SOTA.

Thanks to all who contacted us.

Hear you on a summit soon.

73, Justin, VK7TW

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VK3/VW-020 – Mt Zero – 10 February 2016

On a recent driving trip back to my home state of VK5 I decided to break the trip and activate a summit on the way. A quick look at the SOTA map and Mt Zero seemed a logical option. At the end of the Grampian Mountain range it is easily accessed just after Dadswells Bridge (the big Koala!) along the Wonwondah-Dadswells Bridge Rd, on to Winfields Rds and then Mt Zero Road and follow the signs to the Mt Zero Picnic area.

The day I chose put me at the picnic area around 11am and it was already 30 degrees centigrade! Plenty of water, hat, sunscreen and covering and I set off along the very well marked track.


Sandy track up Mt Zero

The track heads up through the sandstone rocks and is easy to follow with yellow triangles painted on the rocks marking the track. It is steep toward the end with natural sandstone steps. The direction cairn is the first feature you come to and further along the ridge line is the trig point. Caution is required on top as there is a scary cliff face that you are next to along the ridge line. I decided to operate from the cairn as there was a tree I could velcro the squid pole to and it was within the activation zone.


Direction cairn commemorating Major Mitchell who explored this area

I started on 40m and scraped up four contacts as conditions were not good. I then move to 15m and called CQ for about 15 minutes and out of the noise came AI0L Mark from Colorado with a 5/7 5/7 contact. This proved to me propagation is always open….to somewhere! We talked for a short while and completed the contacts and I called but no one else came back on 15m.


Panorama from Trig point in 180 degree to ridge line toward Flat Rock


Panorama in other direction showing the olive plantation

I went back to 40m and conditions had improved and I worked VK2, 3, 5, & 7 including Murray VK7ZMS/3 who was on the Spirit of Tasmania with me and was helping to drive to Port Douglas with a mate, thanks Murray.


Looking toward Flat Rock from Mt Zero – huge monoliths of sandstone.

With 13 contacts and the temperature in the middle of the day rising I decided to call it quits and made my way back to the car and continue driving to South Australia. I had lunch just down the road in Horsham and was in Adelaide by about 7pm. I slept well that night…HIHI.

Thanks to all who contacted me.

73, Justin, VK7TW


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VK7/CH-020 – Mt Rufus – 26 January 2016

Australia Day 2016 saw Reuben VK7FREU, XYL Helen and myself VK7TW rose early and head off to Derwent Bridge at the start of the Derwent River. Derwent Bridge is 174km (about 2.5 hours)  along the Lyell Highway which ends up at Queenstown on the West Coast of VK7 (Tasmania).

We called into the Walker Registration at Lake St Clair (parks pass required) and registered the short walk from Rufus Canal Rd via Gingerbread track to Mt Rufus and then back to Lake St Clair via Mt Rufus track. We also checked the track wasn’t closed due to the fires.

Then we went through Derwent Bridge and west down the Lyell Highway 8.6km to the Rufus Canal road. Head down the Rufus Canal Rd about 2km until a bridge and just after the bridge there are painted poles marking the track on the eastern side of the road. This is the start of the Gingerbread track. It was already smoky from the West and NW coast fires.

The walk in along the Gingerbread track to Mt Rufus is about 6.5km and is a series of rises to button grass plains then around the Spur and across to Gingerbread Hut and then a steep ascent to Mt Rufus.


Button Grass plain – yes it’s marked with road markers – nice and reflective!

Gators were essential walking through button grass and some muddy patches. It was mostly dry though. This is normally a muddy and wet track! We came across a Copperhead snake skin that was not very old as it was still flexible and estimate it would have been at least a 1.2m snake with a 16cm circumference in the middle of the skin. Fortunately we didn’t see the owner of the skin!


Copperhead snake skin (300mm ruler) estimate over 1.2m with tail and head included.

The first landmark was Joe Slatter hut which is looked after by the Wellington Ski Club. This hut is large and sleeps 14 in bunks. It is well looked after, we signed the log and continued on.


Joe Slatter Hut – sleeps 14 – great hut

Vegetation varies from Myrtle Forest to Tea tree forest, button grass plains, pandani groves, low scrub to cushion plants and alpine vegetation up the top.


The last saddle up to Gingerbread Hut then up to Mt Rufus.


Gingerbread Hut

This hut is much smaller and would sleep 4-5 at a squeeze upstairs in the roof – emergency accommodation only – signed the log book and followed the snow poles up to Mt Rufus, this was steep in sections.


Panorama looking back down the Mt Rufus ridge line whilst descending the Mt Rufus Track

On top is a large stone man-made square cairn that can be seen from way off. Plenty of spots to plant the squid pole and setup and operate. There were many people passing through doing the Mt Rufus Circuit down to Shadow Lake who were interested in what were doing. Reuben and I each made 10 contacts from around Australia on 40m. We tried 15 & 10m but had no-one come back so after 45m on summit we decided to make our way back. Thanks to all who contacted us.

Mt Rufus straddles the Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. We decided to give out Wild Rivers VK Flora and Fauna Award (VKFF) numbers – VKFF-0185.


Mt Hugel through the Smoke

Mt Hugel is the closet summit and is only 2.5km away but it’s a steep climb and has to be negotiated from the Northern slopes up from Shadow Lake and Little Hugel. The smoke was thick and the other summits were a distant silhouette.


Mt Rufus escapement with Little Hugel and Lake Solitude in middle background. Mt Olympus in the background.

The Mt Rufus track from the Summit to Lake St Clair is 7.5km and is a constant descent starting with Alpine vegetation, low scrub, snow gums, tea tree, pandanis, sword grass and Myrtle forest.


Ancient Myrtle Forest – really dry!

It took us about 3 hours to walk out and were back at the carpark with Helen about 4:30pm. Thanks to Helen and all who contacted us. Another great SOTA activation and another first peak activation in VK7. 2.5hours back along the Lyell Highway and we slept well that night 😉

Hear you on a peak somewhere!

73, Justin, VK7TW


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VK7/SC-002 & 006 – 31 December 2015 – 1 January 2016

The UTC year changeover holds special significance for SOTA activators! It’s SOTA Double Points Day…HIHI.

Reuben VK7FREU and myself setoff early for Collinsvale and then into the Myrtle Gully track (starting 0639). Unfortunately, part way up the track Reuben VK7FREU wasn’t feeling to flash and he decided to abort. Fortunately his mum was able to pick him up. Reu has been fighting off an upset tummy and went off to the Doctor after that. Thanks Reu and Mum for letting me continue on.

I continued up to the Collins Cap Fire Trail seeing a White-lipped Snake on the track just before the trail. I then walked across to the East-West Fire trail. There was low cloud over Collins Bonnet the whole day.


Looking along the Collins Cap Fire Trail toward Collins Bonnet in cloud

Managed to get to the Collins Bonnet track at 0805. Headed up through the cloud to the trig point. Cloud was thick enough so you could only just see the next snow pole through the cloud!


Rock hopping in the clouds – Collins Bonnet track and you could only just see the next snow pole indicating the track!

First setup the hootchie over the trig point to keep the wind and moisture from the clouds off everything. Temp was about 17 degrees so not cold! It was interesting in the cloud as the ground and trig point were not wet however anything at a cooler temperature condensed water.


Hootchie using the Trig point

Standing in the cloud my polar fleece would progressively become white with small droplets of water. The vertical coaxial feed line to the antenna and squid pole was dripping with water.


Water from the clouds condensing on the coax.

Made many contacts (in 2015) mostly with other summit stations around Australia leading up to 1100 when in UTC time it became 2016. I then proceeded to contact many of the same stations. Ended up with two pages of contacts. That was an easy 20 activations points! Thanks to all who contacted me.


Set off from Collins Bonnet back down the East-West then Collins Cap fires trails back to Collins Cap and was on summit at 1349. Collins Cap was free from low cloud and setup the antenna and started making contacts.


Collins Cap selfie – no cloud therefore no hootchie required – just sunscreen HIHI

Radio conditions were a little more challenging and I tried a few different bands to rouse up about half a page of contacts. At our last activation of Collins Cap a week earlier – ten metres was excellent and we made many contacts. Unfortunately this time 10m propagation was fantastic into VK4  (5/9+ both ways) however I only made a couple of contacts. Proved to me that propagation is always open to somewhere however there may not always be people listening!!


Panorama on Collins Cap looking toward Collins Bonnet which is still in cloud.

Started down about 1548 and was back at the car at 1700. All up about 11km of walking and climbing. A great day of SOTA’ing and the weather was perfect – not too hot, wet or cold.

Thanks to all who activated on the UTC changeover and the many chasers. Another successful SOTA activation.

73, Justin, VK7TW

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VK7/SC-006 – Collins Cap – 27 December 2015 Reprise

With the UTC year change over looming large Reuben VK7FREU and I decided to reactivate Collins Cap given neither of us have activated it in 2015.

The reason was two fold – firstly we needed to time how long it took us to walk the Myrtle Gully track from car park to East-West fire trail and secondly to activate Collins Cap in 2015 prior to reactivation on 1 January 2016.


On Collins Cap Fire Trail about to head up the track to Collins Cap.

On UTC year change over we are intending to activate Collins Bonnet (VK7/SC-002) and we did not want to take the Myrtle Gully – Collins Bonnet track as last time it was very overgrown and you were pushing through scrub for about 40% of the hour long walk!

There are two alternate routes – East-West fire trail or come in on the Big-Bend to Tom Thumb Track. Given we want to activate Collins Cap again in 2016 on the way back from Collins Bonnet – the East-West Track was the logical choice. It is slightly longer but a much easier walk.


LtoR: Collins Bonnet and Trestle Mtn with Collins Cap Fire trail.

It was great weather and it was a pleasure to walk. The wind on top of Collins Cap was cool and we setup the Hootchie (for the first time!) and sheltered behind it. There are plenty of small trees on top that you can lash the squid pole to.

We had lunch and then started operating on 40m and conditions were difficult and thanks to those who persisted. We did make a S2S with Matt VK1MA/3 which was excellent. Reu then suggested 10m and that was a great choice with many stations from VK2, 3, 4, 5 & 7.


Panorama – LtoR: Hobart, Mt Wellington, Collins Bonnet and Trestle Mtn.


Panorama – LtoR: Mt Wellington, Collins Bonnet, Trestle Mtn and Mt Marian.


Panorama – LtoR: Trestle Mtn, Mt Marian, Mt Charles and rain over New Norfolk.

A great half day walk and activation and thanks to all who contacted us and we are looking forward to our UTC year changeover activation.

Speak to you soon from a summit somewhere.

73, Justin, VK7TW

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VK7/NE-026 – Knockup – 28 November 2015

My wife is a harpist and had rehearsals in Launceston in Northern Tasmania. Whilst she was rehearsing, Reuben VK7FREU and I decided to see what SOTA summits were available for a “quick dash”.

A month ago we surveyed  Knockup however did not have a high clearance vehicle and the rain was falling heavily so, we gave up and decided to try again later.

The 28th November was more successful. Heading out of Launceston on the road (A3) to Scottsdale you go past Myrtle Park and Targa and head up into the Sideling Range. On a hairpin junction you find a forestry track – Weelaty Road (sign posted) that heads into the Sideling Plantation. A short way up this road there is a cross road where you turn into Eagle Road (-41.27361, 147.41533) this is a rough forestry track that need a reasonably high clearance vehicle but doesn’t need 4WD.

Eagle Rd heads up past a quarry to a tee junction (-41.27272, 147.4067) sign posted Eagle No.1 and Eagle No.2 – we parked the vehicle at the tee junction off the road and walked the 10 minutes up the summit along a rough bush track which could be driven with a 4WD.


Track up to summit – easy walk/drive

There is a solar powered microwave link tower on the summit and plenty of spots to operate from. Whilst finding stones to pile around the base of the squid pole I came across a Copperhead skin.


Nice Copperhead skin fortunately the former occupant was not seen!

We setup and was listening to a conversation on 40m with VK2HRG on Mt Mogood and suddenly the receiver in the FT-817 went deaf. I thought this was a antenna issue and we checked everything and nothing wrong – low SWR on transmit too – thinking the band was dead I put out a call and about a minute later got a mobile phone call from Peter VK3PF confirming something was wrong! I was getting out but not able to receive.


Reuben VK7FREU operating next to microwave link tower

I was about to do a factory reset on the FT-817 and suddenly I was hearing signals again. It’s a mystery!! We started making contacts I ended up with 9 contacts on 40 and 15m including a S2S. Reuben put out calls on 146.5MHz but was not able to raise anyone so, we shared 40 & 15m. Thanks to all who made contact with us.

Time was running out and we had to be back in Launceston to pick up Helen so, we packed up and headed back to the car.


Panorama looking toward Mt Barrow from Knockup

A great day and a nice quick activation in the Sideling.

Hear you on a summit someday.

73, Justin, VK7TW


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VK7/SW-008 – Hartz Peak (reprize) – 3 October 2015

It was the VK7 SOTA first birthday weekend – VK7 is the baby of VK SOTA Associations and the weekend of the 3-4 October 2015 it turned one!

Reuben VK7FREU and I decided to do Hartz Peak again and take advantage of the seasonal bonus before it disappeared. Saturday October 3, 2015 was chosen and as it turned out it was 29 degrees Celsius and the wind was something to behold! I know Tasmania (VK7) is in the “roaring 40s” and this day the wind was a real challenge.

We drove down to Geeveston and headed along the Tahune Air Walk road until you get to the intersection and turn left to the Hartz National Park. They had graded the road since we were there a year ago and that meant a much smoother drive into the park. Note: you require a Parks Pass for this one. As we drove into the temperate rain forest the temperature dropped to a nice consistent 15 degrees C.

Reuben holding hat with Hartz Peak ahead.

Reuben holding hat with Hartz Peak ahead.

Parked at the carpark, completed the walkers book and headed off. The wind was not too bad along the duck board section, had a snack break at Ladies Tarn and could see snow ahead.

Ladies Tarn with patches of snow visible ahead.

Ladies Tarn with patches of snow visible ahead.

Snow still on track on the ascent to Hartz Pass.

Snow still on track on the ascent to Hartz Pass.

Hartz Pass ahead with Ladies Tarn just visible.

Looking back down on Hartz Pass with Ladies Tarn and snow just visible.

Once we hit Hartz Pass – it was blowing a gale – a few times poor Reuben was blown sideways. Hartz Pass is open to the South West and you get the full force of the wind. It was really draining on energy levels and many stops for water were had. I was also feeling the effects of wind burn on my face and lips.

We got to the activation zone and setup the antenna on the leeward side of the summit to try and get some protection from the wind. The first contact was a summit to summit using a 2m handheld to Tony VK7LTD on Mt Wellington. We then moved to HF and proceeded to work the pileup.

In activation zone looking East with Mt Snowy and small tarns visible.

In activation zone looking East with Mt Snowy and small tarns (Arthur and Emily) visible.

The above panorama was our view from our operating location with Mt Snowy and Arthur and Emily Tarns (LtoR) and looking out the the Huon River in the top left hand corner.

I made 11 contacts mainly on HF 40m with some 20m contacts into VK2 and VK5 at the end. Reuben VK7FREU made 15 contacts on 40m and 2m. We only had the squid pole collapse once due to the wind just as we were making a S2S contact with VK3PF. It was a challenging activation! We had lunch and decided to head back fortunately now with a tail wind!

On the descent - Lake Hartz in distance.

On the descent – Lake Hartz in distance.

We detoured into Lake Esperance and there were white caps on the lake indicating that we still had reasonable winds!

White Caps on Lake Esperance indicates how windy it was!

White Caps on Lake Esperance indicates how windy it was!

It is an incredibly beautiful area and unique with button grass plains as far as you can see.

Button grass plains panorama on the way back to start.

Button grass plains panorama on the way back to start.

Thanks to all who contacted us or tried to contact us and thanks to all who activated and chased on the VK7 SOTA First Birthday.

Till the next summit…..

73, Justin, VK7TW.

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