Mt Ritchie (VK3/VC-003) was the last of the Yarra Ranges summits not activated during my burst of activity a few months ago, so I took an afternoon and evening to get up there to complete the set. Having dealt with Saturday morning domestics, I did not leave the suburbs until 3.30pm, a late start. I knew it was a fair walk from the gate but I decided to press on, knowing I would be walking down by torchlight, and hoping that daylight savings would make most of the walk in twilight.
I followed Glenn VK3YY’s narrative, from Warburton I took the C509 Acheron Way towards Mt Donna Buang. After 7.5km at the Rainforest Gallery I followed the dirt road (C507) for a further 10.8 km to the junction with Road 15. This is where the Acheron River goes under Road 15. It was flowing with a fair gush and made a sweet sound. From the eastern suburbs it took around 1 hour 40 minutes to this point.
The gate here is locked. As Glen describes, from here the track takes you it is 2.4 km up a steep section to the junction of Road 15 and Road 10, where you turn left, following Road 10 all the way to the top, a further 4.8 km. So about 7.2 km each way.
This really is beautiful Victorian alpine country. Roads 15 and 10 are wide and in good condition, probably in part due to the locked gate, and are cleared on either side, as you walk the whole time under a canopy of massive mountain ash. It reminded me of why I like visiting these Yarra Ranges mountains.
The Road 10 along the ridge section is long with a few steeper grades, but overall it is mostly manageable. The ridge at about 950 meters is particularly nice. The road goes along the central clearing with a selection of truly massive forest giants, many with burnt out or rotted out bases big enough to walk through. I am not sure of the logging status of this part of the Yarra Ranges but I assume these old boys will be left alone. It is worth the walk just to see this gallery of centuries old eucalyptus trees.
Being spring the forest floor was green and I noticed with the occasional drift of native flowers including orchids and native violets.
One more thing to report on this leg of the ascent — I disturbed several adult feral or wild deer. As soon as the beast saw me it turned an ran, emitting a loud honking noise to warn it’s friends. I tried to get a shot of him but wasn’t quick enough. It was about the size of a pony but taller and slimmer, but not as big as a horse. It had dark brown fur with a slightly bushy tail. The distinguishing feature was the antlers. I can see from this Herald-Sun article from last year that it’s an ongoing problem. This was the first time I have seen a large animal on the way to a summit. With any luck a mountain goat will be next.
Eventually Road 10 levels off at a large rounded summit with lots of trees but no clear views. I made it from the gate in 1 hour 23 minutes. There were several points to secure a squid pole. I chose this one next to a convenient tree stump. Androzic showed 1231 meters, within the activation zone. Conditions were near perfect, no wind, just the sound of the bush, and a temperature of around 20 degrees. One advantage of these late activations is that sometimes you get the best of the late afternoon conditions up on the summit.
At power-up the band was full of weak but intelligible Europeans all chasing numbers in some contest. Copy on some of them was good. Unable to spot, I started CQ SOTA on 7095 to drum up some business. Without the spot it was a case of call CQ multiple times, then work a caller, one at a time. No pile up but 6 good QSOs.
|07:54z||VK5MJ||7MHz||SSB||s59, r59, Mal|
|08:00z||VK2FNYN||7MHz||SSB||s57, r59, Chris in his tractor on his farm at Nyngan central NSW|
|08:05z||VK3DAE||7MHz||SSB||s59, r57, Dean, Lal lal|
|08:10z||VK7ZR||7MHz||SSB||s59, r47, Ross, south of Hobart|
|08:16z||VK5FMID||7MHz||SSB||s57, r57, Brian|
|08:18z||ZL1KAN||7MHz||SSB||s57, r57, Mike, Lake Taupo|
Some highlights included Chris VK2FNYN who was sitting in his header (tractor cab) in the paddock in outback New South Wales. And my first ZL from a summit. All good reports received. The vertical’s low radiation angle probably helps with the inter-state and DX contacts.
Leaving the summit at 7:32 pm and with 7.4 km to walk I kept the pace up. Back at the junction of Road 10 and 15 I had a break, and continued back down Road 15 with the torch in hand. About 1.5 km down the track something dawned on me. Where was the squid pole? Answer… leaning against the signpost back at the junction. So around I turned and plodded back up the hill to retrieve it, cursing my absent mindedness all the way. The return walk, including re-tracing, took 1 hr 45 minutes. So my total walk was more like 18 or 19 km due to my forgetfulness.
On the way back down for the second time I consoled myself. Things often don’t go exactly as you expect on activations. At least I got the points. No injuries and no strains, not even a mossie bite. And anyway, far worse things can happen. At least my car didn’t explode in flames.