FYBO day: Unnamed Summit VK3/VE-241 and Lockhart VK3/VE-144

26th June 2016

A fine weekend coincided with the FYBO (Freeze Your Butt Off) contest organised by Ian VK5CZ and the temptation to go out and activate a couple of Summits, work some S2S and join in the FYBO event was too good to be resisted. I considered going for one or more 10-point Summits in the Victoria North East (VK3/VE) region but, after doing a recce a couple of days beforehand and driving up into the snow on Mt Buffalo, I decided that discretion is the better part of valour and I’d stay below the snow line. I don’t much like being cold, and up there it most certainly was cold!

Fog in the valley

Fog in the valley

So, a quick look at the SOTA Mapping page, and a choice of available Summits was made. I decided to revisit the Eskdale Spur track, taking in three possible Summits along the way. I knew that track would not be subject to seasonal closure and that it would probably not be too boggy or affected by fallen trees, despite the recent wild weather.

Sunday 26th June dawned bright and very cold, with a hard frost here in Albury. It was going to be cold on the Summits, so particularly appropriate conditions for FYBO. As expected there was a fair bit of fog in the valleys and it was quite dense as we drove up from Lockharts Gap to the ridge line, but as we approached the Eskdale Spur track we came out above the clouds and could look down on them filling the valleys on both sides of the ridge.

The trail up to the first Summit was a little muddy and there were assorted branches and bits of foliage down on it, but there was nothing that would stop us getting through. The trusty Hilux got well splattered with mud but then it’s a 4WD and all self-respecting 4WDs should get a good coating of muck every now and then, otherwise why not just drive a Corolla!

Unnamed Summit VK3/VE-241

We arrived early at the unnamed Summit VK3/VE-241 and so we put the billy on and made a cup of tea before setting up. It was a chilly 3 degrees up there but the sun was breaking through and the tea was good and hot so we felt quite comfortable. There was a tree with a handy branch overhanging the trail, so I lobbed a line over it – got it on the 4th attempt, I was out of practice – and hauled up the wire antenna for the Barrett 940. After perusing the IPS propagation forecasts I expected conditions to be a bit ordinary, so chose to use the Barrett 940 with its 20W transmitter instead of the FT-817 with its 5W.

I was delighted to discover that not only did I have a 4G signal on the iPhone but also SOTA Goat had, for no apparent reason, suddenly started working again and would post a Spot for me. So I duly did that and got started on 7MHz CW at about 10.30 local time (00:30 UTC) – too early for the FYBO event but I was ready to go, so got cracking.

As expected, conditions were pretty ordinary and there was no NVIS happening on 7MHz though I did work stations in VK4, 5 and 7 at good strength. A spot came up for a JA station on 18MHz but I couldn’t hear anything from him at all. On 14MHz there appeared to be a US contest on, and I could hear a lot of USA stations calling on CW but they weren’t all that strong so I didn’t try a call to any of them. I made a few FYBO QSOs after 0100 UTC before closing down to move on to Lockhart.

Stations worked on 7MHz CW:


Stations worked on 7MHz SSB:


Lockhart VK3/VE-144

Having spent about an hour and a half on the first Summit I was getting a bit cold, so decided to pack up and move on to Lockhart. It’s only about 4km down the trail but a few minutes in the ute with its heater going full blast was a delight, and by the time we arrived my toes had almost thawed out. The temperature was still hovering around 3 degrees and I decided to set up and get on the air quickly, as I didn’t want to exceed the 60 minute interval between QSOs for the FYBO event.

Once again conditions on the air were a bit ordinary and there was no NVIS in evidence, but I started well enough by working a few stations further away including Nick VK2AOH/P who was braving the snow on Mt Bindo. Now I bet that was real FYBO territory up there! As time went on conditions improved until around 1300 local/0300 UTC the closer stations in VK3 started to come through and I finished up with a good run on 7MHz SSB.

I noted a spot from John VK6NU and went looking for him, but could barely hear him down in the noise. I could tell he was there but signals were just not strong enough for a QSO.

I tried 18MHz with no takers – not sure if there was nobody there or if I just wasn’t being heard.

The USA contest was going full bore on 14 and 21MHz so I didn’t attempt to elbow my way into the fray on either of those bands.

I was considering moving to 10MHz when my co-pilot said she was cold and I realised that I was, too. So we considered our options and agreed that sitting there shivering wasn’t much fun and that if we went to another Summit it wouldn’t be any warmer there, so we decided to call it a day at that point.

Stations worked on 7MHz CW:


Stations worked on 7MHz SSB:


In the FYBO event I made 21 contacts over a period of 130 minutes, and there were three duplicate QSOs so my total claimed score was 21 x 130 x 3 = 8,190 which I was very happy with. It was cold, of course – it was FYBO after all – but a lot of fun and I was very pleased to have taken part.