My wife had expressed a strong desire to spend up big in Daylesford post-Christmas. Daylesford is a charming town, but I must admit I either spend my time in the Book Barn or the bookshop in Vincent St, or following my wife around through many and varied shops, some interesting, others boring. But, with the Andrews activating Mt Kosciuszko VK2/SM-001 with the special callsign of VI100ACT, I figured I had an out, maybe 30 minutes of activating I could throw in the direction of VK3/VC-032, an unnamed summit about 10-15km south east of Daylesford.
There are two ways of getting to this summit from Daylesford, either by the Spargo-Blakeville Road to the south of Daylesford (coming off the right of the Ballan-Daylesford Road that leads to the Western Highway from Melbourne), or via the Daylesville-Trentham Road heading east of Daylesford. As you can see, there has been plenty of thought gone into naming the roads around here, and it should be of no surprise that the highest point in the area has no name. I personally took the Daylesford-Trentham Road. It’s marginally shorter (a minute or two) according to Google Maps, but also worked nicely for me as I could drop the family in Daylesford and keep going out on the same road.
After about 8km, you turn south onto South Bullarto Road, then stay on that until it becomes Camp Road. The road does veer a few times, but you just stay on the main bit and eventually it becomes Camp Road. Camp Road rapidly turns into a forest road, complete with a sign warning you that it’s a forest road with blind corners, blind crests, slippery road surfaces, etc. In short, don’t do 100. Having said that, my family car had no problems; I just did about 60 for most of it. I found the car was a little squirrely going into a few corners, but I never felt out of control. I had to physically restrain myself from using the handbrake to drift around a few of the corners though. Vintage rally country. I took it a bit quicker on the way back and still had no troubles. Just the constant desire to use the handbrake.
The summit is about 5km down the road, or a bit over 9km from the turnoff onto Bullarto Rd, if you are using your odometer or following along at home. You will pass a number of tracks on both your right and your left as you drive along the road. This is the Wombat State Forest, and has many nice walks in it. I’ve spent a bit of time on the Blackwood side of the Forest, but less so on the Daylesford side (this was my first trip in that area).
Close to the destination, on the right, you will come to Balt Camp. This site is the remains of a camp set up for Baltic immigrants that came to Australia in the 50s as refugees, back when we put them to work, rather than just locking them up on a small Pacific Island. All that is left is two chimneys and the foundations.
Balt Camp (and this section of Camp Road) is on the Lerderderg Track, part of the Great Dividing Trail, and this track passes right over the summit we are about to activate. We could park the car here and walk into the activation zone easily, but instead, I drove further, out of equal parts curiosity and laziness. Eventually, you will reach the Pumphouse Track on your left, Pine Track on your right and will be able to see the Great Dividing Trail heading off in a south east direction to your left. As you crest this hill, there is a good area off to the left hand side to park the car.
This whole area is within the activation zone, so I grabbed my gear and continued walking along Camp Road to clear the activation zone. I used a copy of the Vicmap 1:30000 Topo series to work out where the activation zone is. According to Vicmap, the summit is 878 metres. I walked down the road until I encountered Bannerman Track (signed). This is at below the 850m contour, and therefore outside the activation zone. I recommend heading south on Camp Road as the other approaches all require longer walks to clear the activation zone. (If you aren’t aware, you can buy $2.50 A4 1:30k Vicmaps online, delivered as a PDF. Very handy if you prefer your sources canonical)
Once back at the top of the hill, I headed north. There is a track that leads up to the Lerderderg Track. The high point is along this part of the track, according to Vicmap (by a whole metre). I found a track marker that was beautifully set up to attach a squid pole to, and strung up the dipole. By this stage, I had taken about 45 minutes from Daylesford, and it was almost 20 past 11. I’d told my wife I’d be about an hour and a half, so I had, by that measure, about a minute to activate. Fortunately, I’m terrible at maths when I need to be.
I found Marshall VK3MRG on VK3/VG-001 for my first contact, a summit to summit. I also heard him working Ron VK3AFW, but I wasn’t able to work Ron. That would come later. Trying to find a free frequency on 40m at that point in time was hard. There were many activations going on. I tried 7090 first, which, although silent, was occupied by Rod VK2TWR setting up on VK2/SM-022. We swapped reports, and I realised I’d chased two 10 pointers for my first two contacts. Nice, beats chasing from home.
I went up 5 in search of a clear frequency and found Gerard VK2IO on VK2/HU-093 for another S2S and another point. I headed up another 5 in search of a clear channel and found Peter VK3PF on VK3/VE-025 for another 10 points. I worked him, and then Allen VK3HRA came on to work me. Allen was on the same summit as Marshall, so no extra points for me, but 4 more for him. No sooner had Allen worked me than Tony VK3CAT broke in to work me from VK3/VE-016. Another 10 points, and I was popular. I had qualified the summit at this point, all with S2S contacts, and I hadn’t found a clear frequency yet.
I jumped up another 5 and there was Ron VK3AFW, still on Mt Buller VK3/VE-008. He was chatting to a few people but once they cleared off, I worked him for one more S2S and another 10 points. 51 points in 20 minutes. Ron was about to move to 6m, so he kindly left the frequency to me and I put out the call. I worked 13 more stations, the usual crowd, plus a few new calls I hadn’t heard before. About halfway through, Phil VK2FPJR called for a Summit-to-Summit from VK2/IL-004. We gave each other 4 points. By that time, Marshall had come back thinking I was a new station, and we were all waiting for the Andrews to appear. I was running out of time, so I QSY’d up to 20m and put out a call.
I had hoped to work VK6, and I cranked the power to try get there. I was probably capable of 30W or so at that point on the battery, but I heard no VK6 unfortunately. Faint whispers of something in there, but that may just have been my imagination. Mike VK6MB posted a spot saying I was in the noise, but no joy. I might start on 20m next time to utilise the full battery power, and leave 40m to the end. I did work Nev VK5WG and Matt VK2DAG on 20m, as well as a random chaser, Neil VK5ZEE. Neil was portable in his front yard (!) escaping some QRM and heard my CQ.
I jumped to 15m briefly and heard a few JA stations talking. I understood about half of it when it didn’t fade to nothing; it seemed to be a regular sked between JA and a JA-native VK4. By this time, the clock was ticking and I didn’t bother putting up a spot. The antenna was also a little higher on SWR on 15m than on 40, so I knew I wouldn’t get as much power out. I packed up just as my wife texted me saying “Are you done?”
In all, I worked 20 stations on 40m, and 3 on 20m, 8 of those S2S. The S2S haul in particular was phenomenal. I wouldn’t have chased that many from home, so I was lucky. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to work VI100ACT or get some more Andrew-to-Andrew contacts. I missed them again over dinner, so that opportunity appears to have passed.
I can highly recommend this unnamed 4-pointer. I would like to propose a new name, one of either “Near Balt Camp”, to recognise the refugees that helped build the nation post-war, or the less romantic “Lerderderg Track apex”. Either is an improvement on VK3/VC-032, and should do more justice to what is an RF free site. Zero clouds in the sky, a sunny but cool day and no noise, people or cars, other than the gentle rumble of the odd aircraft passing overhead.