McCarthy Spur (VT-039) and Spion Kopje (VT-040)

 

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Noojee trestle bridge.

McCarthy Spur (VK3/VT-039) at 938 meters and 6 points is accessible from the town of Noojee, not far from this remarkable trestle bridge (above).  From the township I headed north on the C418 Loch Valley Rd, and just before leaving the town, veered left onto McCarthy Spur Rd.  This takes you over the sparkling LaTrobe River and a pleasant picnic ground on the left.  The road becomes dirt and heads up the hill within about 500 meters.  I followed the good 2wd surface for 11.7 km to the intersection with Boundary Rd.  Turning into Boundary Rd, after about 900 meters I arrived at a locked water catchment gate, just past Montane Rd on the right.  From here, the summit is not far away, but the last 500 meters on foot is slow going indeed. Glenn VK3YY’s blog had alerted me to the fact that it was not easy, by virtue of there being no track whatsoever.  He described bush-bashing to within the activation zone, and rated it a close second to North Hell’s Gate for access difficulty.

Following Glenn’s commentary I walked down Montane Rd looking for what he called ‘a wombat track’ but could find nothing.  So I chose an arbitrary spot off Boundary Rd and started bush-bashing.

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It’s not particularly steep, it is just that you end up walking through head-high bush, tree ferns, fallen logs and forest debris.  I had come prepared wearing ankle-high boots, thick long walking socks and overalls (being the best leg and body-covering gear I could find).  It was slow going, as each step took a few moments to find a footing.  I fell over several times, rolling on my back like a turtle, waiting till I came to rest before picking myself up and trying again.

There were some cleared sections of the climb underneath stands of particularly large mountain ash trees.  Here it was a case of picking through the tangle of fallen timber.  I have not been to North Hell’s Gate, but the closest summit I can compare it with is Britannia Range which I activated back in May this year.  If you plan to activate McCarthy Spur, a few hints… leave plenty of time, wear tightly laced boots, gaiters or equivalent leg coverings, empty your pockets of phones and car keys (as they may fall out), keep your pack well zipped, and take it one step at a time!  Otherwise it’s quite simple!

After about 30 minutes I found myself checking my altimeter app every few minutes to see if I had made it into the activation zone.  As soon as I was a few meters inside, I stopped at the next clearing and set up.  No mobile coverage so I called CQ SOTA on 7090 for about 10 minutes, with no response.  I began to wonder if I was getting out.  Up the band the WIA broadcast was discussing the new 60 meter allocation, so I guessed all ears were on that frequency.  Finally I tuned across a CQ from VK3FPBI (Alan near Seymour) who came right back, confirming I was doing fine with a 5×8 report.  After a chat with Alan I moved back to 7090 and traffic flowed smoothly from then on, with good reports.  It was good to meet Tim VK3IM from Mt Eliza who seemed very interested in the notion of a near quarter wave ground plane on a 9 meter squid pole.  I referred him to my write-up and the excellent material it references on the web.

Date:21/Nov/2015 Summit:VK3/VT-039 (Mccarthy Spur) Call Used:VK3HN/P Points: 6 Bonus: 0

Time Call Band Mode Notes
22:17z VK3FPBI 7MHz SSB s58, r58, Alan, near Seymour
22:25z VK3LHB 7MHz SSB s59, r47, Bill, Footscray
22:27z VK5FAKV 7MHz SSB s58, r57, Shaun
22:32z VK2VW 7MHz SSB s55, r10, Brett, Northern NSW
22:35z VK3IM 7MHz SSB s59, r58, Tim, Mt Eliza
22:40z VK3DHI 7MHz SSB s57, r56, Helmut, Packenham
22:45z VK3AFW 7MHz SSB s59, r58, Ron
22:46z VK3ARR 7MHz SSB s59, r59, Andrew, Geelong
22:47z VK3OF 7MHz SSB s59, r55, Rex
22:48z VK3PF 7MHz SSB s59, r59, Peter
22:50z VK1MA 7MHz SSB s58, r55, Matt

The walk back down was much quicker, although due care was taken.

Spion Kopje (VK3/VT-040) is 896 meters for 4 points. Rather helpfully, the sotawatch.org page for this summit provides phonetic spelling… spee-on kee-op. From Noojee I traveled toward Neerim South and after about 4 kilometers I turned right onto the C425 to Powelltown and Yarra Junction. After 7.8 km from the C425 junction I turned left onto Limberlost Rd.  This is a good 2wd dirt road.  I followed it for 9 km to the junction of Outlook Rd (on the right).  On the Outlook Rd corner there is a strip of blue tape.  I parked here and walked about 20 meters further down Limberlost Rd.  On the left there is an overgrown track which leads to the Spion Kopje summit.  I marked up the photo below with some identifying features, some faded orange track marker tape to the left and a large rounded rock to the right.

 
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VK3YY described this track as overgrown.  After bush-bashing my way up McCarthy Spur it felt like a highway.  To be fair it is very overgrown in places and it helps to look out for pieces of blue and orange marker tape.  It is only about 500 meters to the top, where the trees give way to large granite rocks.  The summit is marked by a small cairn, from where I operated.  By now the sun was up and out from the clouds, and the rock felt quite exposed — I had water but no hat!  Other than that, and picking a leech off my leg, it was uneventful from here on.

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Spion Kopje summit cairn and portable operating spot.

Date:22/Nov/2015 Summit:VK3/VT-040 (Spion Kopje) Call Used:VK3HN/P Points: 4 Bonus: 

Time Call Band Mode Notes
00:53z VK1DI/P 7MHz SSB s55, r41, Ian S2S on VK2/ST015
00:56z VK3PF 7MHz SSB s59, r57, Peter
00:57z VK3CAT 7MHz SSB s59, r59, Tony
00:58z VK7CW 7MHz SSB s59, r57, Steve
00:59z VK3ZPF 7MHz SSB s59, r43, Peter
01:00z VK3TBC 7MHz SSB s59, r57, David, Essendon
01:02z VK3RW 7MHz SSB s59, r59, Ray, Benalla
01:04z VK2VW 7MHz SSB s57, r55, Brett
01:07z VK3DAC 7MHz SSB s59, r55, Fred
01:08z VK3PMG 7MHz SSB s59, r55, Mick, Stawell
01:10z VK5IS 7MHz SSB s55, r54, Ian
01:12z VK3FQSO 7MHz SSB s57, r55, Amanda
01:14z VK1VIC 7MHz SSB s55, r54, S2S Tony on VK1/AC-048
01:15z VK1MA 7MHz SSB s59, r56, Matt, Canberra
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View to the west from just below Spion Kopje summit.

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The summit track takes you past this patch of strap fern.

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After these two summits it was home time. On the way back to the C425 along Limberlost Rd I drove past a number of huge century old tree stumps with hand cut notches, made by the earliest pioneer timber men. Men of steel. They knew what real work was.  This proved that Limberlost must follow the first rough bush tracks used by those pioneers and their bullock trains.

From the junction of Limberlost Rd and the C425 it is 13.8km to Powelltown, and 30.1km to the junction of the C 425 and the familiar B380.

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