Federation Range at 1490m is the highest point in the Yarra Ranges, and a comfortable 4km walk from Lake Mountain resort, 90 minutes drive north east of Melbourne. The 24th January 2020 was planned a few weeks in advance and fortunately, the weather was favourable, the area was well clear of bushfires, and Owen VK3EAR and David VK3KR were both able to join in.
Owen kindly offered to drive us in much greater style than that to which I am accustomed. Once there, the walk up to Boundary Hut was via Royston Track, then Panorama, to Boundary Hut track. We arrived around 1.30PM.
As soon as we got to the Hut and put down our packs we noticed ants. The little black ones that crawl over everything in masses and give you an annoying little nip. I would call them ‘meat ants’ but I don’t know why, and doubt that this is a correct common name. There is plenty of coverage (pun intended) in the video so if you think you know what these little blighters are, post a comment.
I have never experienced ants as bad as this, they literally swarmed all over everything at ground level, including us. Owen operated from a foot above ground on a fallen snowgum log, to minimise contact, whereas I just toughed it out and you can see what I copped in the video.
On 40m with my W6JL 50W amp inline I worked VK3EQ on SSB 33, VK2IO on CW 329, VK3PF on CW 319. Then VK3KAI on 2m SSB to get the fourth. I think I heard VK3ARH call me on CW but couldn’t complete. For 50 watts these are very poor signal reports, even allowing for the 2pm time, so I conclude that the band really was dead.
With his KX3 and end fed antenna, Owen repeatedly cast CQs into the great inky ether on 40 and 20m SSB with no luck.
On 2m SSB David worked a string of congenial chasers, a few sounding pleased that we were giving them someone to talk to on the band. All signals were strong and easy copy to David’s homebrew 4 element yagi, on a shortened 4m squid pole, collapsible of course. The 40 year old FT290 worked perfectly. Some of the 2m guys came back to work Owen to get him qualified on the summit.
Thanks to Owen and David for a memorable day in the mountains. Next time, I hope HF works for us!