I had previously driven past the Mt Strickland Spur Track (off Granton Rd, which runs south from the Marysville Rd C512) to survey the approach to Mt Strickland from the north. Granton Rd is just a few kilometers back toward Melbourne on the Marysville Rd after the turnoff to Mt Gordon. So if it had worked out it would have been an easy segue from Mt Gordon to Mt Strickland. However, upon finding the intersection of Granton and Strickland Spur Track, it was a definite 4wd prospect, and on consulting the map, I could see it was a long walk from there. It looks to be about 6 km each way. Not impossible but you need some time up your sleeve. When I returned home, I consulted Wayne VK3WAM and other Mt Strickland activator’s blogs who described driving almost to the top if you come in from Acheron Way via Feiglins Rd. So I did. The next time I was in the area. Which happened to be June 21st, the southern hemisphere’s winter solstice.
Travelling south from Marysville Rd on the Acheron Way (C507) for 8.3km, Feiglins Rd appears on the left. About 300 meters in on the right is a campsite, and it was occupied by some well rugged up campers on this particular winter solstice day. On the way up Feiglin’s Rd is the intersection with Mt Richie Rd. More on this later. Stay on Feiglin’s Rd for 7.2km. This is a good dirt road. OpenStreetMaps shows it as 4wd but it is much better than this, an easy, much-used dirt road with no obstacles. Certainly one of the better ones in the Yarra Ranges I have used. The drive climbs the east side and levels off close to the summit at the intersection of New Boundary Rd, which is equally good. New Boundary Rd is marked as MMBW Road on the OpenStreetMap. Turning left into New Boundary Rd I continued for about 1.2 km to the north side where there is a large clearing to the left of the road, just near a signposted 4wd track marked Strickland Link Track. This track is where Mt Strickland Spur Track ends up, if you took that 6km walk! The Mt Strickland summit is just a few hundred meters south in what looked like very thick regrowth.
The summit is 1068 m. Androzic showed 1049 m at this point. I set up the dipole on a stump amid thick regrowth on the south side of New Boundary Rd. There were dozens of 3 to 4 meter tall saplings, just right for tying off the dipole ends.
15 contacts in 16 minutes followed, including a S2S with Gerard VK2IO/P on VK2/CT-001. All signals good strength as I have grown accustomed to mid afternoon on 40 meters.
A real highlight was pulling Peter VK3YE portable out of the pile. He was, as he often is on a weekend, running a homebrew portable station on Chelsea Beach. He was only 5×6 but when he told me his homebrew rig used a BD139 RF output stage for 2 watts I was impressed that I had heard his portable suffix in the pileup at all. Peter has achieved a degree of fame in the QRP/homebrew community for his excellent Youtube channel and a long history of ultra-simple homebrew rigs, which he consistently uses pedestrian-mobile and pier-portable around certain of Melbourne’s bayside beaches. He is frequently mentioned on Bill Meara’s Soldersmoke blog and was interviewed by Bill in one of the podcasts (Soldersmoke #156). I initially thought he might be using a Beach 40, a 2 watt DSB transceiver with all discrete transistors up to the obligatory LM386 audio stage. But he also told me his rig used ne602s so I concluded it must have been a superhet. I emailed him to find out.
He replied saying that he was using this transceiver. A 40 meter superhet using an unusual combination of frequencies… the VXO runs on 16mhz using two paralleled 16Mhz crystals for extra VXO rubbery-ness — he claims 80 KHz no less. An IF of 8.867 MHz resulting in receiver coverage of 7050 to 7130 kHz. Not the whole band but just right for SOTA and portable work. A novel scheme that is motivated by the availability of cheap crystals and the desire to use a VXO rather than a typically old school unstable free running VFO, which, in this day and age, is bordering on unacceptable. Another nice touch was that his rig (like mine) was using NE602s. So between us there would have been no fewer than 4 NE602’s in the signal path. Great work Peter as usual!
Date:21/Jun/2015 Summit:VK3/VN-030 (Mt Strickland) Call Used:VK3HN/P Points: 6 Bonus: 0
|05:16z||VK2GKA/P||7MHz||SSB||s59, r59, VK2/IL-005 Karl|
|05:17z||VK2LX||7MHz||SSB||s59, r58, Grant, Canberra|
|05:25z||VK2NP||7MHz||SSB||s59, r57, Cliff, Picnic Point, Sydney|
|05:27z||VK3PF||7MHz||SSB||s59, r59, Peter|
|05:30z||VK3EK||7MHz||SSB||s59, r59, Rob, Bairnsdale|
|05:30z||VK2XD||7MHz||SSB||s59, r58, Jeff, Wagga|
|05:31z||VK1DI/P||7MHz||SSB||s57, r58, Ian, VKSS857|
|05:32z||VK5IS||7MHz||SSB||s58, r54, Ian, Beetaloo|
|05:33z||VK2IO/P||7MHz||SSB||s58, r57, S2S VK2/CT-001, Gerard|
|05:34z||VK3YE/P||7MHz||SSB||s54, r56, Peter on Chels3a Beach with 2 watts homebrew|
|05:34z||VK3ANL||7MHz||SSB||s59, r59, Nick|
|05:35z||VK3ARR||7MHz||SSB||s58, r56, Andrew, Geelong (enjoying your blog!)|
|05:35z||VK3LED||7MHz||SSB||s58, r57, Col, Bendigo|
On the way up to Mt Strickland I had noticed Mt Richie Rd to the right. So on the way back down I followed it to see how close it would get me. After about 3 or 4 km I came to a locked gate and a sign announcing that the area was accessible to loggers only. Without looking at a map it was obvious that the summit was a long walk away so I turned the car around to have a go at Mt Vinegar instead.
Mt Vinegar VK3/VC-005 was to be my second and final summit on this winter solstice. From Feiglins Rd I traveled further south on Acheron Way for about a further 4.7 km. Then right into Mt Vinegar Rd. There was an open gate just in from Acheron Way. I drove in but pretty soon the dirt track became too soft for my little city 2wd so I parked about 300 m in and walked from there. I note that VK3WAM used Caters Gap Rd. The walk from Acheron Way up to the Dom Dom-Donna Buang trail is about 25 minutes and straightforward. There is a beautiful flowing creek just to the right of the track for some of the way which would be refreshing on a summer’s day. The junction with the walking track is well marked. I followed Road 8 to the left and up a long hill.
Further up the track there is a recent signage and a dam for fire fighters. The summit is about 20 minutes further on.
At about 800m elevation the 4wd road heads on around the north side of the summit but I could see a cleared way direct up the final ascent, over fairly open ground and in what looked like a former fire break or clearing between the tall timbers. I left the track and walked up the open hillside. It was good walking despite walking through an area of frosty ground which crackled under foot.
At the top where the track levels out there are some marker posts which I notice some other activators have used for a squid pole support. I walked on a bit further to find the north face has been logged. I checked the maps and it looked as though this was the absolute summit. Android confirmed this, so I strapped the squid pole onto a convenient stump and setup the dipole.
Winter solstice was about to have its way with me, as the light dropped quickly. By the time I got on air, with a self spot, the ionosphere had changed. The short skip that so reliably delivers Q5 signals from my 5 watts and a dipole was gone. I called and called. Nothing. Tuning around the entire band was dead. A couple of VK QSOs were going, not strong, and even the big heterodynes above 7200 were almost absent. More calling and eventually, despite two self spots, I eeked out five contacts.
Date:21/Jun/2015 Summit:VK3/VC-005 (Mt Vinegar) Call Used:VK3HN Points: 6 Bonus: 0
|07:37z||VK2CCW||7MHz||SSB||s59, r58, Michael, South Newport (?)|
|07:44z||VK4AAC/5||7MHz||SSB||s57, r51, Rob, Kangaroo Island|
|07:48z||VK4DNA||7MHz||SSB||s59, r59, Andrew, Brisbane|
|07:49z||VK5WG||7MHz||SSB||s55, r31, Nev|
Remarkably, I got 5 and 8-9 from the interstate stations to the north, VK2CCW and VK4DNA in Brisbane. Vk5WG, Nev, who I have worked from summits as much as any other chaser, popped up and gave me 3 x 1. Which suggests an opening due north and probably nowhere else. I wonder what 6 meters was doing. At the same time as the poor propagation conditions were playing out both the light and temperature were dropping. With the summit qualified I packed up under torch light, and commenced the walk back down.
I descended off the main road in the same way as I had ascended, using Androzic tracking which assured me that I was going down almost exactly the way I had come up. It really worked very well. On a couple of occasions I could see I had strayed from my ascent path on the Androzic trace. By moving about 10 meters left or right and watching the traces converge I knew I was placing my feet on the same ground as before.
Once I got back on the road it was all easy walking. When I got back to the car, I loaded in the pack and squid pole, and took a moment to look up. It was cloudless and freezing. The stars, framed by the overhead canopy, were magnificent.