Activated across 31 December 2013 and 1 January 2015
With a small window of opportunity to get away for some SOTA activating in the new year, the plan was set. My two daughters had no option but to come along for the adventure as my wife had to work. The initial plan was to work Briarty Hill both sides of the UTC New Year and then head off to Bald Hill and then set up camp in the vicinity to also activate Mt Terrible Spur and Mount Terrible the following day. After these summits, we could also knock off a few more easy summits if lucky, with gentle persuasion and cooperation from the girls who dreaded the idea.
Camping gear and equipment were all packed in the Triton on New Years Eve to enable a smooth getaway in the morning. After breakfast we were on the road at 7.30am. Deserted roads meant we had an easy run with the kids nodding off in the back seat due to lasting well past midnight on New Years eve. We arrived at the car park with plenty of time to walk to the summit without annoying insects and heat of the day upon us. We walked a very pleasant trail that switched back and forth through a shaded gully up to the summit. We soon reached the road along the ridge and with a further 15 minutes walking were in the activation zone. We selected a site within 100 metres of the tower and strung the doublet across the road. An occasional waft of diesel fumes from the generators powering the mobile phone and various communications infrastructure was noticeable whilst operating.
I tuned up on 40 metres and logged my first S2S contact at 2253 with Compton VK2HRX on VK2/CT-012. I then moved up to 7.100 Mhz which was clear and started calling. Within seconds I was swamped and worked summit after summit along with other portable operators at favourite campsites, national parks and so on. Contacts were quite constant after the initial rush and quietened down for about 15 minutes before the UTC New Year.
Once the New Year arrived, I held my frequency and worked 10 SOTA stations straight in as many minutes. The following 30 minutes settled down to a comfortable pace with seven more S2S stations worked.
I packed up after almost two hours of continuous operating with some very satisfying results. I worked 41 contacts before the New Year with 18 unique summits. Two Andrews (VK1DA and VK1NAM) being the only two operators I worked from the same summit of VK2/SM-049.
When the New Year rolled over I worked a total of 29 contacts with 16 unique summits.
As we were walking back down to the car, the heat of the day was kicking in and the weather forecast looked like it was going to live up to expectation. So I negotiated a deal with the kids to spend the next couple of days camped by the Big River, instead of dragging them up and over hills in dust and heat in the strange pursuit of other SOTA activators. Two days of Total Fire Bans and the obvious dangers of this sort of weather made the choice easy. I was able to keep the radio monitoring and was able to work SOTA stations as they appeared with ease, taking a dip in the river, staying cool and playing with the kids. The drive home on Saturday began with a final swim at our campsite after we were packed up. We then drove in the vague direction of home, via the Acheron Way and Warburton where we stopped for lunch at the bakery. This was followed by another swim in the Yarra, the lure of many SOTA summits passed on the way, not enough to entice me to alter course.
Much credit goes to my two girls that accompanied me on this expedition with little choice. They weren't keen initially but did end up enjoying the time we had. The enjoyment for me this time was not from hitting as many summits as possible, but to sit back and relax a bit. The fact that I only activated a 1 point summit on this trip did not worry me. The number of S2S contacts and the pleasure of portable operating more than made up for any perceived lost opportunities. Thanks to all the other SOTA operators and stations worked.