30 APR 2017 – Mt Toolebewong, Mt Donna Buang and Mt Gordon

Having not played SOTA since Korea, and having missed a few opportunities to do so, I resolved to spend a day out playing SOTA, and, if I was going to play SOTA, I was going to get some good points and maybe a few uniques in the process. I found a path that took me via Mt Toolebewong (VK3/VC-033), Mt Donna Buang (VK3/VC-002) and Mt Gordon (VK3/VN-027) for a total of 16 points, which would get me close to 300 points for Mountain Goat.

The SOTA gods appeared to be against me when I woke up at about 10 minutes to 5am, got up, abluted and then headed back to bed for an hour or so.  Needless to say, my ability to read clocks having just woken up is not my strong point – it was 6am, not 5am, and I ended up waking up at about quarter to 7 instead.  Given I’d set myself a departure time of 7 meant I was scrambling to make up time.  I got on the road at 7:15am, which makes me feel bad when I take an hour or more to get ready of a usual morning.

In any case, with an audio book playing in the car, SOTA gear in the back, I made good time and arrived at Mt Toolebewong not much later than I’d alerted.  I followed the instructions from Paul VK3HN on the SOTAwatch summits page to get to the location, set up, watched as my antenna fell down, and then set up again.  I had fairly high SWR on 40m, and found contacts thin on the ground.  I could hear Andrew VK1AD and Al VK1RX on Mt Wee Jasper (VK2/ST-017), and it was a struggle to work them, but they got in the log before rollover for the S2S points.

I switched to 20m after the rollover, and immediately got Alex VK4TE, who was chasing LGAs, but I couldn’t give him a new one.  After that, John ZL1BYZ and Jacky ZL1WA got in the log with their usual clear signal, before I worked Tony VK3CAT on 2m FM.  A switch back to 40m and a diagnosis of the SWR problem (one of the links is a bit dodgy after travelling around the world a few times), I got Andrew and Al again for more S2S points, and had a quick chat with some of the local residents who’d heard me working Tony and came up for a chat.

I packed up, and headed up to Mt Donna Buang.  Along the way, I had a conversation with Tony about access to Mt Vinegar, and decided discretion was the better part of valour and that I’d go with Mt Gordon instead, which proved to be a good idea anyway, as Nick VK3ANL later posted he’d found the track Tony had suggested as having a locked gate on it.

The drive to Mt Donna Buang from Healesville is along a well graded dirt road for the most part, although it is sealed in some sections, and this morning, with the sun streaming through the trees illuminating the low cloud, it was a very pretty drive.  I disturbed a lyrebird and two wallabies, before arriving at Mt Donna Buang and using the convenient picnic table I’ve always used when I’ve gone there.

With the SWR problem diagnosed, and fixed courtesy of an excess of duct tape, I could no longer easily work 20m, but 40 was much more alive now, and I got VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5 and VK7 into the log in under 20 minutes, and a move to 15m got John and Jacky again, and Tony on ground wave.  A quick stint back on 40m while waiting for Peter VK3PF to arrive at his summit got Steve VK7CW, before Peter jumped in from VK3/VE-033, to go with the earlier S2S with Andrew and Al (again) and Wade VK1FWBD on Mt Ainslie VK1/AC-040.

I packed up and headed to Mt Gordon along Acheron Way.  This was slower than I’d anticipated, but didn’t really impact my timings that much, and I reached the turn-off and sent the mighty Corolla up Mt Gordon Rd.  Recent rains had made the lower sections a bit slipper with loose stones which made the traction control light come on, something I hadn’t seen before, so I guess that’s another highlight.  I arrived at the top, parked the car off the road at the comms facility and set up.  There’s a few trees to set up on, but I tried jamming the squid pole into the ground and reinforcing with stones.  This resulted in the squid pole falling onto the fence of the comms facility.  I tried again, and it fell again, this time ripping out the coax from the dipole.

A small amount of MacGuyvering (well, jamming the centre conductor into the connector and duct taping it solid) meant I no longer was comfortable raising the dipole to its full height, so I just stretched it out about a meter off the ground, with one side just lying on the ground.  Needless to say, I made 13 QSOs with great signal reports, regardless of the state of the antenna.  A highlight was a S2S with Tony VK3CTM who responded to a half-hearted CQ on 2m with the news he was on Mt Alexander VK3/VN-016.  Peter VK3PF followed up from Mt Winstanley VK3/VE-036, making me grateful I’d left the radio on 40m while I tried 2m.  5 more contacts in 2 minutes wrapped up the session and I was done and heading home.

The trip home was easy enough, other than getting stuck behind a convoy of historical army vehicles, but once they pulled over to let the 2km of cars behind them past, it was straightforward.  16 points in total, which took me to 295 points.  My next aim was to pass 300.