Mt Donna Buang (VK3/VC-002) and Mt Ritchie (VK3/VC-003)

A clear winter’s day was forecast on August 5th 2016 and with arrangements made I headed out early to Mt Donna Buang VK3/VC-002 with plans for Mt Ritchie VK3/VC-003 afterwards.  I left Melbourne’s eastern suburbs by 0710 and arrived at Donna Buang around 0845 to a frosty, clear, cold and calm summit, distrubing no fewer than 5 lyre birds on the final few kilometers before the car park.  A bonus for getting up there early was spectacular morning sunrays cutting through the mountain mist.

The summit was frosty and cold in the sunlight.  Not another car on the road, no wind, about 3 or 4 degrees C, perfect morning activation conditions.  The only potential problem was whether 40 meters would behave.

Last time I was here it was late afternoon in April on a Sunday, the car park was full, people and kids everywhere, so I walked into the forest, and operated out of sight and earshot from the crowd.  No crowd this time.  I eyed off the lookout tower.  No nearby megawatt comms dishes.  No wind.  I had the vertical with me.  So why not try activating from up there?

The corner of the tower deck allowed for easy strapping. With centre-loaded vertical up I dropped one radial over the edge, which hung vertically against the side of the tower. So the antenna must have looked like a half-wave dipole mounted vertically. Not sure what the proximity of the steel tower would have done but when the reports started coming back from VK2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 it certainly did no harm. Forty was in fine form. This was like an activation of a year ago, no noise, strong signals, good reports, lots of chasers. Here’s the table:

Date:04/Aug/2016 Summit:VK3/VC-002 (Mt Donna Buang) Call Used:VK3HN/P Points: 8 Bonus: 3

Time Call Band Mode Notes
23:23z VK5WG 7MHz SSB s59, r57, Nev
23:30z VK2IO 7MHz SSB s59, r54, Gerard
23:35z VK5PL 7MHz SSB s57, r57, David, Barossa
23:40z VK3CAT/M 7MHz SSB s57, r56, Tony, mobile
23:45z VK3AFW 7MHz SSB s59, r57, Ron
23:46z VK5IS/P 7MHz SSB s56, r54, Ian, Barossa
23:47z VK3PF 7MHz SSB s57, r53, Peter
23:48z VK7CW 7MHz SSB s53, r41, Steve
23:49z VK2SK 7MHz SSB s59, r57, Markus
23:50z VK7ALH 7MHz SSB s56, r56, Ross
23:51z VK4RF 7MHz SSB s58, r59, Rick, Brisbane
23:52z VK4HA 7MHz SSB s59, r59
23:54z VK7LH 7MHz SSB s56, r56, Ross
23:57z VK2XXM 7MHz SSB s55, r52, Robert
23:58z VK2NP 7MHz SSB s59, r55, Cliff

Date:05/Aug/2016 Summit:VK3/VC-002 (Mt Donna Buang) Call Used:VK3HN/P Points: 0 Bonus: 0

Time Call Band Mode Notes
00:01z VK2NP 7MHz SSB s59, r55
00:02z VK4RF 7MHz SSB s59, r59
00:03z VK4HA 7MHz SSB s59, r59
00:04z VK5HS 7MHz SSB s59, r59, Ian, Renmark
00:05z VK7CW 7MHz SSB s57, r53
00:06z VK2IO 7MHz SSB s57, r55
00:07z VK3PF 7MHz SSB s55, r53
00:08z VK5WG 7MHz SSB s55, r55, on his MST txcvr
00:09z VK2XXM 7MHz SSB s54, r51

Mt Donna Buang makes for an excellent SOTA 10-point summit, combining an RF-free lookout tower, direct line of sight back to Melbourne, great views, and easy access. It is well worth getting here early, preferably on a weekday to have it to yourself.

Next, off to Mt Ritchie, 8 points so another winter bonus summit, only about 15 minutes drive away along the dirt portion of Acheron Way.  This summit is different, in that it requires a moderately demanding 15 kilometer walk, 7.5km each way.  I left the car parked at Road 15 and Acheron Way at 11:01am.  The walk is about 3.5km up Road 15 to the junction of Road 10, which runs up again, then along a ridge, then a final ascent to the top.  Both roads are good 4WD tracks and easy walking, but the length of the walk should not be understimated.

The SOTA Finder app on my smartphone came in handy.  It shows straight line distances to the nearest SOTA summits.  When your path to the summit is relatively straight, SOTA Finder tells you how far you have to go.  When I snapped the screen below I was 4.1 km south of Mt Ritchie.  Smith’s Hill loomed behind me, but it’s in the water catchment area and off limits.

Up on the ridge, at about 900 meters, some of the eucalypts are enormous.  Many of these monsters are hollowed out at their enormous base, and look to have been damaged near the tops, from wind and lighting.  Without knowing anything about these trees, I would guess that they are several centuries or more old.  The Ada Tree (north-west of Noojee, nearest to McCarthy’s Spur VK3/VT-039) with a base of 15 meters is 300 years old.  The Mt Ritchie saddle trees are probably 8 to 10 meters around the base.

I kept moving in a steady plod, and arrived at the summit as 12:57pm, making the walk up 1 hour 56 minutes after taking only a few short breaks.   At the summit, a large tree had fallen across Road 10.  I used it as an operating table, strung the dipole, and got on air at 13:17pm. Again, good conditions on 40, 11 contacts with VK’s 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7.  Reports from the two VK3’s were well down (4×3, 4×1) so NVIS refraction was almost non-existent.  Nearest station worked was Rob VK4AAC/3 portable at Erinundra National Park (East Gippsland), VKFF-0158.

Date:05/Aug/2016 Summit:VK3/VC-003 (Mt Ritchie) Call Used:VK3HN/P Points: 8 Bonus: 3

Time Call Band Mode Notes
03:17z VK7CW 7MHz SSB s59, r57, Steve
03:19z VK5WG 7MHz SSB s59, r57, Nev
03:20z VK4RF 7MHz SSB s57, r55, Rick
03:21z VK2NP 7MHz SSB s59, r57, Cliff
03:22z VK4HA 7MHz SSB s57, r55, Rick
03:24z VK2IO 7MHz SSB s59, r58, Gerard
03:25z VK2XXM 7MHz SSB s55, r56, Robert
03:26z VK1MBE/2 7MHz SSB s55, r58, Andrew on VK2/SM-052 Bald Mountain
03:28z VK4AAC/3 7MHz SSB s57, r43, Rob at Erinundra N.P. VKFF0158
03:31z VK4CPS 7MHz SSB s57, r42, Paul
03:33z VK3LED 7MHz SSB s55, r41, Col

The return walk was faster, done in about 90 minutes. With 15 kilometers behind me and 24 points secured it was time to drive home for the evening’s activities.  Mt Ritchie is recommended if you are looking for a steady, long-ish bushwalk in a beautiful part of the Yarra Ranges.

One thought on “Mt Donna Buang (VK3/VC-002) and Mt Ritchie (VK3/VC-003)

  1. Andrew VK1AD says:

    I wonder if anyone has attempted to ‘load’ up the tower from the top handrail? Nice pictures Paul and a terrific read.
    Andrew VK1AD

    Liked by 1 person

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