I left home shortly after 4.00am with my radio equipment and camping gear as the plan was to be on the summit of Mt Cope around 11.00am local time to make a number of S2S contacts. I met up with Allen in Myrtleford and we continued in convoy to The Mountain Stream camp site below Mt Bogong and then continued on in my car to Mt Cope.
Whilst in the area I also wanted to activate Mt Bogong and catch another couple of 10 point summits in the Mt Buffalo National Park and be on one of these summits either side of the UTC New Year to have a shot at double points before heading home. Over the next couple of days there was likely to be a good number of activators about to increase the S2S tally.
Activated 30 December 2013
We arrived in good time at the car park and after sorting out our gear and slapping on sunscreen we set off on the 1.5 km walking track to the summit. We were able to find our spots to both set up with some shade and rocks to use as a bench. Allen set up his FT-897 for 2 metres SSB with a portable beam and I set up my FT-817 with the vertical HF antenna tuned for 40 metres.
My first contact was an S2S with Tony VK3CAT on VK3/VE-016 a few minutes past the new UTC day. This was the first of a good bag of a total of 13 S2S contacts out of a total of 28 logged contacts. We were on the summit for a while and eventually worked the Canberra crew with the special callsign VI100ACT on Mt Kosciuszko before packing up and heading to Mt Nelse.
Activated 30 December 2013
The walk to Mt Nelse was around 5 km one way from the car park. We could have parked a bit further up the hill but it was already crowded with vehicles so we set off along the road and climbed the last part to the summit off track. Mt Nelse is a barren summit with a very battered old trig tower and a rock cairn with a length of plumbing conduit sporting a lost snow glove. No shelter from the elements but very good 360 degree views on this clear day.
Allen set his antenna up using the trig for support and I simply spiked the vertical antenna into the ground and rolled out the counterpoise and worked 40 metres. I was on air for around 25 minutes and worked a total of 13 stations including 2 S2S contacts with Peter VK3PF on VK3/VE-023 and Rod VK2TWR on VK2/SM-039.
Activated 30 December 2013
We were able to drive to the summit of Mt McKay quite easily via the very dusty Mt McKay Road. Upon reaching the top we grabbed our radio gear and headed down outside the activation zone and back in. There is a shelter with benches inside ideal to set up on and I went for this option to stay out of the wind that was picking up since being on the previous summit. I suspected that we were going to get clobbered by various RF noise from all the comms gear sharing the peak with us and this did prove to be the case with S7 background noise to cope with.
None the less my first contact was an S2S once again with Peter VK3PF this time from VK3/VE-081. This time I logged a total of 15 contacts in 18 minutes. Allen set his antenna up around the other side of the shelter using it as a partial windbreak and worked 20 metres. By this stage it was time to reach into the esky and pull out a couple of beers before packing up and heading back down to the camping ground where we had left Allen's car for the day.
Allen hit the road home while I pulled out the swag and set up for a quiet night with my own fire place and seating area to spread out. I set up the radio to have a listen around and before dinner had a 2 way QRP contact with Anthony VK3YSA/ZL holidaying in New Zealand and about to embark on a cruise. I had a relatively quiet night as I wanted to start the climb to Mt Bogong reasonably early before the heat of the day would make tougher.
Activated 31 December 2013
Another walker who we conversed with on the way back from Mt Nelse suggested that with the warm weather forecast that I make a reasonably early start for the climb to the summit of Mt Bogong to avoid the heat.
My gear was packed and I had a good breakfast and left from the Mountain Creek camp site shortly after 7.30 am for the 2 km walk to the start of the Staircase Walk. This section can be driven in a 4WD crossing several shallow streams to the start of the Staircase depending on the seasonal opening of the road. The climb to the summit from here is only 6 km but the track is aptly named and rises consistently to the first level area at Bivouac Hut, a good place to take the backpack off and rest awhile.
I worked 27 stations in a little over an hour all on 40 metres with only one other summit station logged, Tony VK3CAT in VK3/VE-012. I was aware that Wayne VK3WAM was on another summit but with only CW capability from his end and my lack of morse skills, unfortunately I couldn’t count this as another S2S contact.
After getting back to the car I rested for an hour or so before heading back into Mt Beauty to get a few supplies and head towards the Mt Buffalo National Park to camp New Years Eve and climb The Horn and The Hump the following day. I was fortunate to find a camp site at the Catani Lake camping ground which had signs saying all sites were fully booked. A polite chat with the ranger and I had a small spot to myself to roll out the swag for the night. I was able to have a good shower and relax but didn't last to midnight for the New Years celebrations. I was pretty stuffed after Mt Bogong and was asleep around 10.00pm.
Activated 31 December 2013 & 1 January 2014
After a leisurely start in the morning I headed to The Horn and set up the antenna on a corner of the railing of the viewing platform. Shortly after getting on air it started to rain lightly. I unfurled my light weight tarp covered the radio and worked 21 stations before the UTC New Year. 13 of these were S2S contacts. The activity on air was frantic as working both sides of the UTC New Year allowed activators to take advantage of getting double points for the summit. Once the time rolled over into the New Year I worked another 9 of the 12 stations logged were S2S contacts. With the weather not looking to improve I pulled down the antenna and packed my gear to head off to climb my last summit for the day, The Hump.
Activated 1 January 2014
This is my second visit to The Hump, the first being on 6 October 2013 when I worked the summit both sides of the UTC rollover and also got 3 bonus points for a winter activation. The drizzling rain returned on my walk to the summit and already being close to the top I was prepared to sit it out if required before setting up my equipment. Regardless this was going to be a quick activation. I set up the antenna first after considering a sheltered position for the gear and self. I set up the radio in a sheltered rock ledge and tied my tarp up between two large rocks that also provided a comfortable reclined seating position.
It was indeed a short activation. Only 4 contacts in 4 minutes as the rain arrived. My second contact was with Ron VK3AFW mobile on his way home from activating more summits due to the rain. I also received a text message from Allen VK3HRA telling me not to wait for him to appear on another summit because he had also called it a day due to the weather.
After packing up the rain cleared but it was still visible around me and I could have done another summit on the way home but after bagging six 10 point summits in three days and earning an extra 10 points on The Horn and a respectable number of S2S contacts, I called it time.
Thanks to all the stations I worked over this Christmas and New Year period. Most of the time I didn't have reliable mobile phone or data coverage and could not post alerts or self spot but with the amount of SOTA activity around that did not matter.
Hope to work you from another summit soon.