The Horn VK3/VE-014

12th January 2014

Summer 2013/14 looks like being a record-breaking season both in terms of highest maximum temperatures and the number of days over which these high temperatures are being sustained. With a forecast for another stinker on the cards, my lady and I were looking for somewhere cool where we might get some relief, however temporary, from the scorching temperatures. The Victorian high country can usually be relied on to be a few degrees cooler than the plains and so we naturally looked that way.

A few minutes with the SOTA map produced several Summits that we hadn’t yet visited, including no less than four in the Mt Buffalo National Park. Of these, The Hump and The Horn looked like being quite easily accessible and at around 1700m ASL we expected relatively cool temperatures up there. Both of these Summits had been visited by a constant stream of SOTA activators during the festive season just past, but nobody had an alert for them this weekend.

We hadn’t visited the Mt Buffalo NP before, and we were duly impressed by its dramatic scenery. So much so that we took our time exploring on the way up, including a stop for lunch at The Gorge day visitor area. We reached the Cathedral picnic area with about 20 minutes to go until activation time. It’s about a 1.5km climb up from here to The Hump, so after a quick recce we decided to leave that one for next time and go on to The Horn.

There is a seasonally locked gate between The Hump and The Horn, open at this time of year of course but winter activators would have to park there and walk about 5km. With the gate open you can drive right to the base of The Horn, and it’s a short but steep walk up to the summit viewing platform from there.

It seemed that quite a lot of people had the same idea as us and there was a steady stream of walkers going up to, and coming down from, the summit. After a recce we decided that operating from the summit viewing platform wasn’t going to work because of the constant comings and goings, so we decided to set up a little way down. We found a comfortable spot in some rocks beside the track where we could operate without the risk of passers-by tripping over us. There was even a dead tree close by which was perfect for hanging the link dipole on. Unfortunately there was no shade, so even though the air temperature was quite comfortable the risk of sunburn was extreme due to the elevated UV levels. We decided this would be a quick activation, with no hanging around to try different HF bands or modes.

The 7MHz band was fairly quiet, with just a little QRN away in the distance. When I set the FT817 to 7.090 I found it occupied by Marshall, VK3MRG operating from VK3/VC-019, so I quickly made contact with him and then did a swift QSY down 5kHz where a minor pile-up ensued. In about 25 minutes of operating I worked VK3PF, VK3FPSR, VK3ARR, VK3BHR, VK3AMB, VK3BYD, VK3AFW, VK3CAT, VK3DET, VK3YAR, VK3OHM, VK3YSP, VK5PAS, VK1DI, VK3CVF, VK3ANL, VK2JI, VK3FQSO, VK2MOP and VK3TKK all with excellent signal reports at my end, though several of them were having difficulty hearing me.

The sun was by now beginning to feel uncomfortably hot, so we quickly packed up the gear and went down for a cool drink and a blast of air conditioning in the car. We did some more exploring on the way down and found ourselves very impressed by the many rock structures along the way. We spent quite some time wandering around “Leviathan”, a huge boulder that lies propped precariously on the rocks; this very impressive feature is worth a visit if you’re at all interested in geology. We’ll be going back to the Mt Buffalo NP, no doubt about that.

Lessons Learned on this trip:

  1. Even if it is the middle of summer, you still need proper bush-walking gear to move around safely in these mountains.
  2. The air temperature may feel cool but the UV levels are extreme at this altitude. Long sleeves, a hat and sunblock are the order of the day.
  3. Tourists always want to stop and chat, so be prepared to take a break from operating to explain what you’re doing.
  4. Don’t go just to play radio. Allow time to enjoy the scenery as well.

(Pics coming when I download them from the camera…)

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