Pilot Reef VK2/SW-021 and Granite Mtn VK2/SW-015

13th March 2015

I’ve activated both of these Summits a couple of times previously and love the country around there, so it wasn’t a hard decision to go and visit them again.

The Summits I had on my to-do list were, for the most part, in the Victorian high country around Mt Hotham, but that area was going to be impossible to get around on this particular weekend due to a major cycling event. These are becoming all too frequent and cause untold disruption on the roads; it’s hard to think of another sport that causes so much aggravation to so many non-participants. The benefits to the local economy must be substantial or I’m sure the residents wouldn’t put up with it.

My dad always used to say, “cyclists! Pah! They’re a bloody menace!” He was a grumpy old bugger but perhaps he had a point.

Anyway, I digress (as usual).

We set out to visit Granite Mountain first, but about a kilometre up the Maragle Power Line road we caught up with a posse of horse riders making their way at a slow walk up towards the Summit. Rather than cause consternation by attempting to pass through them, we decided to turn around and visit Pilot Reef first. So we headed back to Elliott Way and followed it to the Black Jack logging trail.

We were pleased to discover that someone has taken a bulldozer to the Nurenmerenmong Road, and has cleared out all the vegetation that on our previous visit we found encroaching on the trail. It’s now a wide, smooth road although the surface is loose, dusty dirt and would quickly turn to porridge if it rained. It needs a bit of traffic to compact it a little.

Pilot Reef VK2/SW-021

The Summit of Pilot Reef is just off to the side of the trail, in a nicely cleared area in which there is a fenced compound for an automatic weather station. The compound was unlocked and the gates wide open, and the AWS was not in evidence. It’s a mobile set-up and isn’t always there.

I decided to use the FT-817 and link dipole for this activation. Conditions on 7MHz weren’t that fantastic and NVIS wasn’t much in evidence, but I started up on CW and soon qualified the Summit, including contacts with Allen VK3ARH on VK3/VC-032 and Warren VK3BYD/2 on Wereboldera.

I had a go on SSB as well and picked up a few more contacts, including a couple of S2S with Andrew and Al on their Mt Campbell expedition and VK7LTD/P on The Needles.

I was determined to try at least one other band so called CQ on 10MHz for a while, but that only produced one contact, with Peter VK4QC.

Stations worked on 7MHz CW:

VK2AOH, VK4RF, VK4HA, VK2GAZ, VK3ARH/P (S2S VK3/VC-032), VK2AFA, VK7CW, VK3PF, VK2IO, VK3BYD/2 (S2S VK2/SW-043),

Stations worked on 7MHz SSB:

VK1AD/2 (S2S VK2/ST-011), VK1RX/2 (S2S VK2/ST-011), VK7LTD/P (S2S VK7/WC-054), VK2HRX,

Stations worked on 10MHz CW:

VK4QC,

Granite Mtn VK2/SW-015

We retraced our tracks to Maragle Power Line rd and continued on to the Summit, this time encountering no other traffic on the road. We discovered that there was a team of contractors working on the old Air Services building on the Summit, though we didn’t find out what they were doing. They were making a lot of noise though, so we left them to it and moved a little further down the road.

I put up the link dipole again, intending to use the same set-up as for Pilot Reef, but when I keyed up the FT-817 it showed the SWR right off the end-stop. Something was clearly wrong with the antenna, but I didn’t have the tools or the time to sort it out. So I pulled it down again, packed up the FT-817 and got out the Barrett 940 instead, running a long wire antenna up into the tree above me and out to the squid pole with another counterpoise wire lying on the ground.

After all that fun and games I was a bit late getting on the air, and the Telstra 4G signal wasn’t quite good enough to get a spot out. Still, I made a couple of SSB contacts with Gerard VK2IO and Peter VK3PF and they put up spots for me, so I soon had a string of chasers calling me.

I was pleased to make a S2S contact with VK3EHG/P on Mt Disappointment – not a disappointment at all!

Stations worked on 7MHz CW:

VK3EHG/P (S2S VK3/VC-014), VK2IO, VK3XU, VK4RF, VK4HA, VK3ARH, VK2AOH, VK2YW, VK3WE, VK2AKM,

Stations worked on 7MHz SSB:

VK7VDS, VK3PF, VK2IO, VK3WE, VK3LED, VK3FPSR, VK3MRH,

Conditions weren’t fantastic but I made plenty of enjoyable contacts, so the mission was well and truly accomplished.

On the way back down, we stopped by a most impressive bramble thicket and collected a couple of kilos of blackberries. They were beautifully ripe and very sweet, though it’s disturbing to see how they have completely taken over the bush. There was no sign of spraying or any other control measures, but they have such a foothold now that any attempt to get rid of them would probably be futile. We might as well make the best of it and make lots of blackberry jam!

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