After an absence of several months, except for a cheeky activation of Mt Buller, I was keen to get out for a proper day of SOTA and claim some more winter bonus points. I had also picked up my new Palm Single paddle the previous day.
The original plan was to activate Mt Torbreck in the morning and then tackle a much shorter and easier summit in the afternoon, being Pyramid Hill. Despite many things going right, things didn’t quite go to plan.
I left the house only 15 minutes behind my hoped for departure time, and I was able to enjoy one of the more pleasant, though not often mentioned, aspects of SOTA – empty roads and no traffic. An easy drive to the Rubicon State Forest and shortly after 10am I was parking at the base of the Barnewall Plains road. Spent way too long faffing about and putting gaiters on the wrong way around and then putting hem back in the wrong way again, before setting off.
I was in two minds about taking the snow shoes. I’d checked nearby Lake Mountain webcams and there was still clearly snow at a similar altitude to Mt Torbreck, but whether there was enough to warrant the shoes was debatable. Since I was ascending fought from the south, they went on the bag, and slip-on spikes (used for running on snow) went in the bag. I felt rather ridiculous on the initial climb up, but taking both turned out to be a wise decision.
Only one new tree down on Barnewall Plains road which was a big difference from last year.
At the picnic area there was plenty of wildlife out.
First saw snow somewhere above 1400m and not long after found the going very slippery. My hiking boots were unable to get much grip on the ice/snow and efforts to dig into it were not effective. Out came the slip-on spikes and these improved matters significantly though it was still tough going over the steeper sections.
Not along after the above the cover became more complete and there was enough space to put snowshoes on speeding progress dramatically.
An hour later than originally planned I started on 20m with a single contact on SSB to John VK6NU at the NCRG club rooms. Very nice signals from their beam. I could hear Matt VK1MA very low down, but he could not hear me. No usable short skip.
Switching to the MTR, a single CQ on 40m yielded a qso with Tony VK3CAT and a nice stream of chasers after he spotted me. My own RBN skimmer picked me at 37db SNR and conditions were much improved over the previous day. After working the cw crowd, with a few new calls on cw, I switched back to the FT817 and wrapped up on SSB, also with quite a few new (to me) calls.
Given the time, I skipped any other bands and headed back down. The clouds put on an impressive display throughout but never closed in.
An easy walk out with only one fall, and I even found my lost cap for the squid pole. I then proceeded to lose and find it twice more…
On the walk down Barnwell plains road, I came across a dog, I believe a Jack Russell, who gave me a good look and took off into the undergrowth. I called the ranger today and he’s going up tomorrow to have another look. Did not see or hear anyone else up there so I presume it’s lost. Apparently this is a common occurrence.
The plan was to activate Pyramid Hill being a relatively easy summit and quite close by, however I was stopped a short distance along the No. 5 track by this sign:
Having detailed my plans to my wife, and no phone reception, I was not about to deviate from the plan to attempt the other two nearby 8 pointers so headed out, stopping at the spectacular Snob Creek Falls. A phone conversation with Tony VK3CAT resulted in a time efficient plan-b which was Mt Gordon VK3/VN-027 for 4 more points and my first multiple activation outing.
Again, a nice stream of chasers on 40 cw including one mobile cw qso, followed by 40 ssb and 20m SSB with contacts into vk6 and vk4. This included a rag chew with Phil VK6ADF/P who was in Nambung National Park, which is better known as The Pinnacles. I was rather tired and feeling a bit ragged on cw so didn’t try 20 cw looking for DX, despite the band seeming open. 40m was also wide open with DX, tough to find a free frequency for SSB.
Not a bad day with a nice walk in the snow for 17 points.