On the weekend of the 3rd and 4th Feb 2018 I joined about 18 others at Brian VK3MCD’s now annual VK Mt Hotham SOTA weekend, starting with a night on Mt Buffalo camping at Lake Catani the night before, and with some activations at Falls Creek on Friday. With the summits at Mt Buffalo (The Horn, The Hump) and Falls Creek (Mt Nelse, Mt Cope), then 2 days four wheel driving, I accumulated 124 activator points. A productive long weekend!
Contacts from North-East VK3 back to Melbourne are quite unreliable on HF at the moment, there is a large skip zone a lot of the time, and as expected most 40m QSOs from the Alpine region were distant VK3s and interstate. Two meter FM contacts filled the close-in NVIS gap, and these QSOs with others in the group pulled us through on some of the summits — one of the many advantages of activating a local alpine region en masse. Doing our best to synchronise our timing on summits also maximised S2S opportunities.
I tried out my latest ‘Summit Prowler’ homebrew rig, 5 watts SSB and CW, on 6 bands (160 to 17m). A post on ‘first signals’ with the rig on the bench is here. Since then I’ve (mostly) finished it. It worked well, furnishing typical CW and SSB SOTA signal reports across to ZL, VK1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Most reports were Q5 and strengths 3 to 9. I made SOTA contacts on 20, 30, 40 and 80m with this rig. Antennas used were a homemade 40m center-loaded squid pole vertical and a linked dipole for 20, 30 and 40, now with 80m extensions. A blog post on this scratch built rig will follow soon. It is ‘posed’ in a lot of the pictures, complete with clear plastic transparency top cover taped on… as usual, I was rushing to get it sufficiently finished to use on this big weekend of radio and SOTA, and had not cut and fitted its permanent aluminium sheet top panel.
On Saturday I traveled with Peter VK3PF and passengers Allen VK3ARH and Glenn VK3YY (a small herd of Mountain Goats apart from yours truly). Peter drove and navigated us to 5 summits — VK3/VT-023, Mt Sarah (VK3/VE-032), Mt Selwyn (VK3/VE-049), VK3/VE-064 and Mt Murray (VK3/VE-025). Peter’s knowledge of the summits and navigation options is impressive. The day culminated in everyone meeting on Mt Hotham summit (VE-006) for drinks, nibbles, and an activation. I put up my linked dipole with 80m extensions and with Summit Prowler-IV, tried to get my first 80m activation (I got three contacts, the band was flat top to bottom, so I had to revert to 40m for the fourth).
On Sunday I travelled with Compton VK2HRX, another accomplished 4WD man and Mountain Goat. Travelling in a convoy of two behind VK3PF and VK3ARH, we activated three 10-point summits to the east of Mt Hotham, Mt Misery Range (VK3/VG-008), VK3/VG-009 and finally Davies Plain (VK3/VE-010) . Davies Plain in Kosciuszko National Park is the furthest we got, just 5km from the NSW border, and only activated once before (by Compton in 2013). It was 2 hours of dirt road driving each way including some rugged 4wd tracks but a real experience, as I have only ever done 4wd-ing on these SOTA weekends.
The digs on Mt Hotham (Anton Huette ski lodge) was perfect for this group, individual rooms with bathrooms, large shared kitchen, a shelf in a commercial fridge each. We brought our own dinner Friday night and went to the Hotham pub Saturday night.
In the evenings we sat in the lounge and made plans for the next day. Peter VK3PF held court on 4wd tracks, best approaches and other pertinent advice. It was all most congenial.
The SOTA points are of course the main incentive but the chance to stay on Hotham in the summer, go to these remote mountains with experienced guides and travel with some fascinating blokes is equally a part of the value of this weekend. It was great to see non-ham friends of some activators coming along to enjoy the mountains and company.
Here’s a summary of my three days in the mountains, first weekend of February 2018.
|Thu 1/2||The Horn (VK3/VE-014)||11||10|
|Fri 2/2||The Hump (VK3/VE-019)||14||10|
|Fri 2/2||Mt Nelse (VK3/VE-004)||13||10|
|Fri 2/2||Mt Cope (VK3/VG-001)||4||10|
|Sat 3/2||Mt Sarah (VK3/VE-032)||9||10|
|Sat 3/2||Mt Selwyn (VK3/VE-049)||10||8|
|Sat 3/2||Mt Murray (VK3/VE-025)||5||10|
|Sat 3/2||Mt Hotham (VE-006)||4||10|
|Sun 4/2||Mt Misery Range (VG-008)||6||10|
Thanks to Brian VK3MCD for offering, arranging and hosting the 3rd Annual Mt Hotham SOTA weekend. This event has become a highlight on the VK3 SOTA calendar and the increase in attendance and the general camaraderie and enthusiasm expressed by the group evidences how much we all enjoyed it.
Thanks also to Peter VK3PF for sharing his knowledge of summits, tracks and approaches, and the other off-road drivers, a few too many to call out. Thanks to the chasers who tolerated us activators passing the microphones around, and to everyone who attended and made this event a success once again.
To slightly rephrase the immortal words of the late Juan Antonio Samaranch, this was surely ‘the best Hotham SOTA Weekend ever‘. Until next year…