Black Range State Park, VKFF-0751, 15th April 2016

On Tuesday 12th April we had a family day. In the morning we walked to MacKenzie Falls. I recommend this splendid walk if you are able to visit the Grampians. The Falls are not far from Halls Gap and there are various turn-around points if you don’t think the walk to the bottom is for you!

The path to the base of the Falls

This photo shows the track down to the base of the Falls.

MacKenzie Falls 1

This photo shows MacKenzie Falls from the base and the bridge to the other side of the stream composed of five large rocks.

Regulations 1

Three homo sapiens and a canis lupus

This photo shows three homo sapiens and a canis lupus sharing a bench.

Which living being cannot read? See the tail hanging below bench second from the left!

Thursday the 14th of April was the last day together with our Sydney family. They began the return journey on Friday morning. On Thursday we enjoyed some non-radio activities in and near the Grampians.

We travelled to Great Western to visit the Seppelt Winery where we had lunch and tasted a few wines. After lunch the family, including my xyl, left to do some more walking while I took the tour of the underground cellars. This facility is to close mid year. I had never visited it before and I am sure pleased I did. After the tour we (three visitors) were invited to try three sparking wines, two whites and a shiraz. They were excellent.

MJD underground

Various bottles

This photo shows the various bottle sizes used to package sparking wines. Most of them have names from the Old Testament (Jewish Scriptures).

My last activity on Thursday afternoon was to visit Mick, VK3PMG and VK3GGG. Mick is an active amateur who has risen through the ranks from F call, intermediate call and now full call, is a park activator and a very successful chaser/hunter. We arranged this meeting earlier and after an hour and a half it was time to go. It was great to see Mick’s shack and antennas and talk about our love of the hobby.

On Friday morning our Sydney family began the journey home. We decided to visit the Black Range State Park, VKFF-0751. Black Range State Park is located West of the Grampians National Park. We accessed the Park near the corner of Cherrypool and Black Range Roads. While the Park has recently suffered the ravages of a wild fire, where we entered the Park was untouched by fire. We found an excellent clearing and only had two visitors while we were there. We had a number of maps including the Black Range Self Drive Tour map which was quite helpful.

MJD at Black Range 2

I enjoyed this activation a great deal. While chasers were a bit slow to find me initially I was soon working a steady stream of amateurs. Here are the call-signs of the chasers.

I began the activation at 00:48 on 7.095 with:


VK3CM Thanks to Brenton for inviting me to take the frequency.



This was a dual mode contact: VK3BYD/P transmitted CW and I replied in SSB. Warren was activating VK3/VC-020 in VKFF-0264.







VK4RF  s55 r52 & VK4HA




VK2YK/P2  in VKFF-0195




VK3ARR/P7 on VK7/SC-001










VK3GGG, Mick with his new call-sign

















VK6MB 51s r35

I then moved to 14.310

VK6MB 59s 58r

VK6NU s55 r55

I spent about half an hour listening around on 20 metres. There were some strong stations around 14.150 to 14.250, but I would not be competitive with 10 watts and a dipole. I did not work work any further stations on 20 metres and moved back to 40 metres and had a further two contacts:

VK5KC/P s59 r59 David was portable at the Overland Corner ready for the Riverland Group’s meeting on Saturday and Sunday as was VK5IS (04:40z) , Ian was also s59 r59. I enjoyed a total of 51 contacts. My equipment on the day was an FT897, set for 10 watts and linked dipole.

Thanks to all the chasers who helped make this such an enjoyable activation.



Mount Zero, VK3/VW-020 & Grampians National Park, 13th April 2016

SOTA Summit, Mount Zero, VK3/VW-020, is within the Grampians National Park, VKFF-0213. I have activated the Grampians National Park a number of times. Here is a link to my last activation:

I wanted to activate a second summit in the Grampians National Park. I have previously activated Mount William. Mount Zero is worth one point to the activator, and it is a much harder one point to earn, than the one point earned at nearby Mount Arapiles! However, I did not think that the walk and time spent on Mount Zero would keep two active Grandchildren busy (as well as their parents). So the family, including my xyl, Jenny, all went rock climbing at Hollow Mountain. This suited me as Hollow Mountain car park to the Mount Zero car park is only a further two or three kilometres, but over a badly corrugated road.

Jayden Hollow Mountain 2

The photo shows our six year old (nearly seven) grandson near the top of the cliff. The organiser of the rock climbing experience said her youngest climber was aged four and her oldest in her/his eighties. All three women (three generations) in the party abseiled down the cliff. Congratulations to them. JCD photo

In preparing for this activation I read a number of blogs from other amateurs who have successfully activated the summit. They were all helpful. However, my only reservation about the advice given was that I did not adequately consider the age differences between them and me. I am a few years older than all of them! The walk is rated at medium. I would rate it as hard. The track is marked with yellow triangles and, towards the summit, additional markers. I had trouble on the return journey missing markers near the end of the track. I thought I would find my own way back to the car park though the bush and I was only one hundred metres out! So that was no great drama. I did not feel in the mood to retrace my steps by climbing back up the track to see the markers. The car park, or rather vehicles in the car park, are visible on the return walk so I knew I was close to the target.

Another message I received from the blogs, and also over the air with am amateur who has previously activated Mount Zero, is that the summit area is small and very exposed. As there were walkers, climbers and ‘boulderers’ on the mountain I chose to activate from a ledge just below the summit. I wondered what the persons were who were carrying something looking a bit like a single bed up the mountain?  I stopped and had a exposition from a young chap so equipped! The ‘mattress’ is a safety device for when you fall! He was a ‘boulderer’!

I was given until about 13:30 local time to complete the activation and return to Hollow Mountain car park. However, I was given a reprieve via a phone message from my xyl who indicated that the family’s climbing experience would take longer. That was bad timing as I was already on the way down!

Here is my log for the activation:

Mt Zero Log 1

I should point out that the contact at 01:26z with Warren, VK3BYD/P was dual mode, that is he used CW and I responded in SSB. How did Warren know to do this? Well I have had contacts from home in CW using my CW call, VK5PF. I did not have any CW gear on the summit – that will come!

Also the contacts at 01:33z with VK2UHI/P , Steve and his son, Thomas, VK2FTES/P were summit to summit and park to park as Steve and Thomas were activating Mount Kosciusko, VK2/SM-001 and VKFF-0269. Logs in the SOTA data base cannot be edited and the other choice is to delete the log and start again!

My SOTA gear

Once again I wish to thank all the chasers who helped make this activation so enjoyable.

Was all the effort worth one SOTA point! Absolutely yes! I recommend the walk.