Tothill Range, VK5/ SE-010

On Saturday 18th May, 2013, I travelled up to the mid north of South Australia.  My plans were to activate 3 summits over the weekend, so after getting a ‘leave pass’ from my wife, I booked in to the Burra Hotel.  I headed off after my daughter’s netball match, journeying through the Adelaide Hills where I live, and into the mid north.

On Saturday afternoon, 18th May, 2013, I activated the first summit, the Tothill Range summit, VK5/ SE-010, about 150 kms north of Adelaide.  Tothill Range summit is 670 metres above sea level and is worth 4 points.

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The summit is located on private property owned by Mr. Peter FATCHEN of Black Springs.  I stopped by the farm house to see him prior to climbing the hill.  He is a very friendly fella and was very interested in my activities.  Peter is in his late 70’s and is still farming the land, along with his son.  Peter gave me directions on how to get to to the summit, so I headed up Black Spring Road, and then left onto the Old Burra Road.  After travelling a few kms north up the road I entered back onto Peter’s property on the right hand side (the eastern side of the Old Burra Road) and drove across the paddocks.  After driving for about 1 km I reached an old bush cottage.  The Heysen Trail commences at this point.  I kept driving down the Heysen trail to the sheep yards and the creek line, where the car would not go any further.  It is about 1 km walk from here to the base of the hill.

Once you reach the base of the hill, the view up to the top is a little daunting.  It is straight up obviously, with no track.  The side of the hill is covered in rocks and yacka, and the climb is quite steep.  The climb took about 45 minutes, with 3 quick rests on the way up.  I had quite a few interested onlookers in the way of kangaroos on the journey up.

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Once I reached the top, I walked further north along the ridgeline to reach the summit.  What really stood out was that I found that the drop away to the east was far more dramatic than on the western side.  The view from the top looking out to the east was absolutely spectacular.  I even had my own resident Wedge tailed eagle soaring above the cliff face.

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The weather that day was quite mild, but the sun had some real bite behind it, so I found a bit of shade behind a small bush, and I set up the Yaesu FT-817nd on a moss rock.  There is no shortage of rocks on the summit, so I propped up the 7m squid pole with some moss rocks.  The antenna was my BandHopper 20m/40m linked dipole.

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The first station I heard after turning the radio on was Matt, VK1MA/p, who was on the top of VK1/AC-039.  I gave Matt a shout who was a good 5/7 (with some QSB) and Matt came back to me with a 5/2 signal report.  Really thrilled to have another summit to summit contact.  I haven’t really had that many.

I then headed up to 7.095 and called CQ and ended up with quite a pile up which was really good fun.  Plenty of the usual suspects including Ed VK2JI, Ernie VK3DET, Peter VK3PF, Glen VK3YY, Marshall VK3MRG, Rik VK3KAN, Andrew VK2UH, Allen VK3HRA, Ian VK1DI, Bernard VK3FABA, A VK1RX, Andrew VK1NAM.

The sunny weather didn’t last too long, with te sun going behind the clouds, and the wind picking up, and it was pretty cold.  Probably not as cold as what the fellas in the eastern states were telling me.  There was obviously a  pretty severe cold snap over there.

My last 40m QSO was with Ian VK5CZ.  We decided to try 20m and although my signal was not as strong, we still managed to get through.  Ian was good enough to put me on SOTAWatch, so I managed quite a few more QSO’s on 20m from some of the dedicated chasers

I had a total of 55 QSO’s whilst on the top of the hill, over a period of about 2 & 1/2 hours.  They consisted of 40 stations on 40m SSB and 15 stations on 20m SSB.

I managed a bit of DX on 20m as well into the USA, Italy, France, Belgium, the Canary Islands, and New Zealand.  One of the highlights was making contact with a really good mate of mine, Marnix, OP7M, in Belgium.

It was also good to work Peter VK3NAD, and Jim VK5JW, on 40m, who were both operating QRP with just 5 watts.

Stations worked on 40 m were:- Matt VK1MA/p (SOTA VK1/AC-039); Ed VK2JI; Steve VK3MEG; Col VK5HCF; Ernie VK3DET; David VK5KC; Peter VK3PF; Glenn VK3YY; Marshall VK3MRG; Rik VK3KAN/p; Kas VK5ZKT; VK3YN; Peter VK3FPSR; Andrew VK2UH; Allen VK3HRA; Peter VK3ZPF; Ian VK1DI; Bernard VK3FABA; Brian VK3MCD; Dave VK3AZX; Al VK1RX; Andrew VK1NAM; Nick VK3ANL; Ian VK3IFM; Rod VK2ZRD; Peter VK3NAD/qrp; John VK2YW; Colin VK5FCJM; Peter VK1IRC; Adam VK2YK; Roy VK5NRG; Peter VK2NEO; Ron VK3JP; Victor VK2KVH; Graham VK5AN/p; Graham VK7ZGK; Jim VK5JW/qrp; Graham VK2HAL; Graham VK5KGP; Ian VK5CZ.

Stations worked on 20m were Ian VK5CZ; Adam VK2YK; Ian VK1DI; Frank VK1VK; Lewis VK4LEW; Chuck AE4FZ; Max IK1GPG; James VK1DR; Andrew VK1NAM; Franc F5PAU; Theo OT4A; Marnix OP7M, Manuel EA8JK; Roy VK7ROY;  and Jason ZL3JAS.

The sunset on the way down was absolutely spectacular.  But the beer at the Burra pub was even better.  A really fun day on the hill.

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I have posted a video on You Tube of the afternoon.  It can be found at…..

Kyeema Conservation Park

I decided at late notice yesterday afternoon to go out for a drive down to Kyeema Conservation Park (CP), and activate the CP as part of the VK5 Parks Award.

Kyeema CP is situated about 60 kms south of Adelaide, between Meadows and Willunga.  It covers an area of about 360 hectares and consists of thick scrub including messmate stringybark, pink gum, cup gum and candlebark gum.  It  provides habitat for a diverse range of wildlife, including the southern brown bandicoot and the swamp rat.  I didn’t see any of those, but I did see a heap of kangaroos.  And they were pretty game, as they got within about 30 metres of me, grazing on some grass.

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The Kyeema Conservation Park has a colourful history. The area was once mined for alluvial gold for several years until it was abandoned in 1890 due to a low yield.  A few years later some of the area was cleared for pine plantations before being used as a labour prison reserve.  Following the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires, the Friends of Kyeema Conservation Park started to revegetate cleared areas of the park.  This work still continues today.

Access is off the Brookman Road (road between Meadows & Willunga) and then Woodgate Hill Road.  The views down to the south are really terrific.  There was some evidence a little further south on Woodgate Hill Road of a recent bushfire going through the park, but it appears the majority of the park was not affected.  Part of the Heysen Trail also goes through the park.

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I set up the normal operating equipment (Yaesu FT-817nd & 40m/20m dipole) in a small clearing not far from the car park on Woodgate Hill Road.

I had just set up the antenna and turned the radio on to 7.090 and I heard David VK5KC in QSO with Peter, VK3ZPF, so I quickly picked up the mic and gave them a shout, not realising that I was on the 1 watt setting on the 817nd.  Surprisingly they could both hear me very well.

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I then turned up the Yaesu to the 5 watt setting, sat back on the deck chair and watched the sun set in the west.  We had quite wet weather during the week, but by Friday afternoon the weather had cleared to the west.  This made for a spectacular sunset.

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Following the sun going down, it was initially quite mild as there was a fair bit of cloud cover.  But that disappeared soon and although this was a possitive in that the night sky and the moon were spectacular, the cold snap crept it and it was pretty chilly.  Only other bonus was that it was too cold for the mozzies !

I had some really enjoyable chats during the night.  This included catching up with Jessie, VK6JES over in WA.  I also managed quite a few mobile QSO’s which was great, including with Peter 3ZPF, Grant 5AMC who was tractor mobile in his field over on the Yorke Peninsula, Andy 5AKH up at Waikerie in the Riverland, and Wayne 7NET down in Tassie.

I also got a pleasant surprise when Andrew VK1DA gave me a shout from the top of Mount Ainslee (SOTA VK1/AC-040)  Andrew was a great signal….5/8 here with no QSB.

Just after 7.00 p.m. local time I jumped onto the 7130 DX Net on 40m and worked a few fellas there, including some DX…Bill W1OW who gave me a 4/4 from Massachusetts, William FO5JV who gave me a 5/1 from French Polynesia, Brian ZL2ASH who gave me a 5/7, Gary ZL3SV who gave me 5/9, and Chuck K9RM who gave me 5/6.  I took some video of  the net, which I’ll place on You Tube.  Gary ZL3SV has an amazing antenna…a centre fed dipole which is 640 metres long and he was absolutely rocketing in as always.

Some of the fellas were talking about conditions on 20m being really good and that the USA was coming in well, so I quickly jumped onto the Southern Cross DX Net and worked Jack W1FDY (gave me a 5/4), Larry W4VES (gave me a 5/2), and Bill W1OW (gave me a 5/4).

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Stations worked were:- Peter VK3ZPF/m; David VK5KC; Peter VK5KPR; Peter VK3PF; Brooke VK4RZ/p; Grant VK5AMC/m; Andy VK5AKH/m; Andrew VK1DA; Jessie VK6JES; Adam VK2YK; Graham VK2FPW; Wayne VK7NET/m; Bill W1OW (on 40m); William FO5JV; Paul VK7CC; Rick VK2HFP; Brian ZL2ASH; Gary ZL3SV; Chuck K9RM; Roy VK7ROY, Andy VK4TH; Don VK7DON; Dean VK2FLYS; Jack W1FDY; Larry W4VES; & Bill W1OW.

All in all a really enjoyable late afternoon and evening, with some really interesting contacts with just my 5 watts.

I took some video & photos on my i-phone which I’ve placed on You Tube.