Two SOTA activations. Hyde Hill & McCarthy Spur

Today I went in to the Yarra State Forest to activate two SOTA summits, VK3/VC-008 Hyde Hill and VK3/VT-039 McCarthy Spur.

Tree across the road

Before heading out I checked the access instructions on sotawatch where Wayne, VK3WAM, had provided directions based on his activation back in April 2012, exactly 12 months earlier.

On the way in along Big Creek Rd I found a tree had fallen overnight and I needed to clear some of it out of the way so I could get past.

I followed Wayne’s directions and stopped where he suggested and looked up at all the heavy undergrowth that was between me and the top of the hill.

Always wanting an easier way in I headed a little further along the road and, to my surprise, one side of the hill has been logged in the past couple of weeks.

When an area is logged the valuable timber is cut out and taken away to the mill and the left over timber, along with the under growth, in scraped up into one place and burnt leaving a large clearing punctuated with burnt stumps and rocks.

What this has done is cleared the way from the bottom of the hill at either Big Creek Rd or Black Sands Rd to nearly the top. No undergrowth at all for the first 400 metres.

I went up the west side from Black Sands Rd and stopped where the clearing meets the dense bush. I checked my GPS and the maps in Androzic and found I was about 28 vertical metres down from the summit. Too far away to be in the activation zone. So into the bush I went. The undergrowth here is quite thick and progress was now much slower. I walked in until I was clearly in the zone. I was walking in shorts and got a couple of scratches along the journey.

Operating position at Hyde Hill

I knew the going would be tight today so I had brought my radio gear in a smaller backpack than normal so I could get under and between trees easily. The smaller pack meant I couldn’t bring my squid pole so I took along my throw weight to get a rope in the tree to lift the centre of the antenna. It took me about 20 minutes to get the linked dipole antenna up. A bit longer than normal but I had plenty of time so it wasn’t a problem.

No problems getting QSOs with many chasers as well as four other SOTA activators on air. Left the hill one hour and twenty minutes later with 36 QSOs including 6 summit contacts, some before 0000 UTC and some after.

From Hyde Hill I followed directions from Peter,  VK3PF, around to McCarthy Spur.

Here there is no easy way in. It’s just really really heavy undergrowth with an occasional rock to help you out. I wore my waterproof over-pants to give my legs some protection. Most of the way in was walking carefully on rotting branches and piles of bark, about 20 – 30 cm off the ground. Occasional the timber I was walking on would break and I’d drop into the undergrowth. Like Hyde Hill, a few scratches were gained along the way.

Operating position at McCarthy Spur

Once I was in the activation zone I started to set up in the confined cramped area.. The antenna was difficult to lay out as the bush was so dense I struggled to get the wires out the full length of the 40 metre elements. The apex was about 3.5 m up a tree. This is not ideal and QSOs were slow to start with but in the end, after nearly two hours on the hill I had 19 QSOs in my SOTA logger.

After the first 30 minutes the QSO rate slowed significantly, and normally I would have packed up and headed off but there were two summit to summit opportunities planned for the afternoon.

Antenna in tree

Unfortunately Allen, VK3HRA, was surprised at the effort required for his second activation and, thinking it would take more hours than he had available, left the summit for another day. Allen came up on air from his car to let me know he was going home.

I continued to work stations for about another hour waiting for Kevin VK3KAB to come up from Mt Ritchie. I packed up at 2:30 pm, not having heard from Kevin. Once back in my car I called Glenn, VK3YY who told me Kevin had run out of time and wouldn’t be activating today.

I had thought if I had enough time at the end of the day I would re-activate Spion Kopje which is not too far away from McCarty Spur, but I headed off home instead.

Taking a day pack was a good idea for getting through the dense forest and I think I’ll do it more often.

Next time I go activating I’ll be sure to take both large and small options with me.


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