Alan VK3XE
Amateur radio adventures

Yarra Ranges Winter Bonus

I’d been intending to make the most of the VK3 SOTA winter bonus, but life kept poppping up and interfering with my plans, but the stars aligned for me to head out up some hills and talk to some people. Early start as I woke up unintentionally at around 4am, tried to go back to sleep for a bit, and decided to make the most of it, to the point I was in the Yarra Valley around sunrise, and over an hour ahead of my original plan

Mt Donna Buang


I arrived at Mt Donna and was the first car in the carpark. A nice frosty morning to show me I have very little experience of SOTA in winter (one day I’ll have to learn to deal with snow while activating). Started out on 20m and got two ZL contacts fairly quickly, and a very weak VK3PF, but given how close we were (maybe 100km?), not such a surprise.

        Frost on the grassy area on the Mt Donna summit

        Frost on park bench with tranceiver, clipboard for logs and associated station accessories setup

Moved to 40m expecting I could get a second contact with VK3PF, but no luck there. Did manage to get a few more contacts, including Roly ZL1BQD, which felt full circle given he was my first outside VK phone contact, back on Mt Donna last year.

Really struggled with my gloves to operate my pencil for logging, and was very hard to operate the G90. Definitely a topic for further tinkering. Much easier than trying to use my phone for logging though, and when the sun started melting the frost in the trees above me on to my log, was happier using paper that survived just fine.

Mt Vinegar


Parked at the gate at the end of Mt Vinegar Rd where it meets Archeron Way, and started climbing. I’d misunderestimated how much work 500m of climbing would be. Turns out, it was a lot of work, but I pressed on. About 100m past the gate was a tangle of trees I had to climb through, with the added bonus that there was a good bit of water flowing underneath them, no idea how I kept my feet dry.

After that no large trees, but plenty of tree litter to make nice tripping hazzards for a good part of the hike up.

        Tree litter covering the track

Walking up at one stage reminded me of riding along the O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail about 5 or 6 years ago, until I realised that was literally just around the other side of Mt Donna from where I was

This section reminded me of the O'Shannassy Aqueduct

Eventually made it to the activation zone, the summit according to Sota Goat was a little further east of the track, but definitely downhill from the track. Strapped the squid pole to the ‘NP’ marker other activator’s notes had mentioned.

I had phone coverage, but no data. Started calling CQ on 7.090 to hold frequency while I sent an SMS, but VK2IO grabbed me on my second CQ before I’d even had a chance to (the VK summits/parks community are a great bunch that I certainly appreciate). Peter VK3PF looked up the Yarra Ranges park boundary for me, and it turned out I was maybe 5m outside the boundary (you want to be on the west side of the track probably at the tree line)

Clocked up my 4 contacts in less than 10 mins from my first CQ, but always like to hang around a little longer if possible. Spoke to VK3DNS who had an alert up for VK2/VS-054, but they were still enroute. Quickly flipped over to 20m, two ZL stations, but propogation wasn’t the best.

Of course the hike back down to the car was still a good bit of effort, the weather kept changing so I’d add a layer to stay warm, but then the wind would die off and I’d get sweaty again

Mt Strickland


My original plan was to activate Mt Ritchie, but Mt Vinegar taken a lot longer than planned, and I was concerned I was too worn out to safely make the decent, so ducked up to Mt Strickland, a nice quick drive up along Felgins Rd from Archeron Way.

Use some logs that were lieing about to support the squid pole, and seen VK3DNS & VK3BQ were now on summit. Tried hard to work VK3DNS on 20m but my signal was far too weak for them to catch my callsign.

Jumped to 40m, quickly got 5 in the bag as the wind was already picking up and making things rather chilly, then as no 6 was calling, heard the end of someone calling “summit to summit”, got VK3DNS & VK3BQ. Had a quick scan around 40m to see if there were any parks being activated. There were some lighthouses, but the CQ responses were coming quick, and I wasn’t cutting through. One quick scan around 20m, got VK3XV working a lighthouse, before calling it a long day and making the trek home again as the sun was setting