Hallett Hill, VK5/ SE-003

During the week I had planned a 4 summit – weekend activation with Ian VK5CZ.  The 4 summits were all located in the mid north of South Australia, about 200 kms – 250 kms north of my home.  Ian lived a little closer in beautiful Clare, a great wine growing region, so I decide to stay with Ian and his wife Halima for 2 nights over the weekend.  The 4 summits would push me into the 90 point bracket as an activator.

So Friday afternoon after my 2 park activations at Mt Magnificent Conservation Park and Finniss Conservation Park, I packed up my gear and headed north to Clare.  I travelled up Main North Road through the wine growing towns of Auburn, Leasingham, Watervale, Penwortham, Sevenhill and arrived at Ian’s place at Clare, late afternoon. I enjoyed a good meal at Ian and Halima’s, and a quiet night playing on the radio and having a chat.

Ian and I got up nice and early on the Saturday morning at about 5.30 a.m. and enjoyed a cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs and then loaded the car and headed north to our first activation, Hallett Hill, VK5/ SE-003.  We travelled along the Clare-Farrell Flat Road to Burra, and then north on the Barrier Highway to the little town of Mount Bryan.  The sunrise was spectacular, despite the temperature being very nippy.

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Mount Bryan which is located at the northern end of the Mount Lofty Ranges, was named after the nearby peak, Mount Bryan, which was discovered in December 1839 by Governor George Gawler.  He named it in honour of Henry Bryan, a young man who became lost and perished of thirst during Gawler’s expedition.  Mount Bryan was once the heart of a thriving farming community, including some of Australia’s best known Merino sheep studs.  Today it has a population of about 130 people, with the most prominent building being the old pub, the Mount Bryan Hotel.

After leaving Mount Bryan, and travelling north along the Barrier Highway, we could clearly see the two towers on the top of Hallett Hill, amongst the wind farm.

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Hallett Hill is 758 metres above sea level and is worth 4 points.  It is situated in the Hallett Range amongst a wind farm, about 5 kms north west of Mount Bryan.  The wind farm which is one of five in the area, is referred to as Hallett 2 Wind Farm, and is also known as Hallett Hill Wind Farm.  It was completed in late 2009 and consists of 34 Suzlon turbines each 2.1 MW, giving an installed capacity of 71.4 MW.  It produces enough energy to power about 40,000 homes.  In December 2010, AGL Energy Limited identified that under certain wind conditions tones from the wind turbines were audible at the nearest residence.  Resonance dampers have since been installed to address this tonality issue with the wind turbines.  Noise testing has confirmed that this permanent acoustic treatment has fixed the tonality issue.

The summit is located on private property owned by Bill Gebhardt.  Bill is a very friendly fella, and allowed us access.  Please contact him prior to entering onto his land.  I have placed his contact details on the SOTA site.

To gain access to the summit, travel through Mount Bryan on the Barrier Highway, and then turn left onto Petherton Road, about 3 kms north of the town.  Travel up Petherton Road heading west, and on your left you will see an unlocked entrance gate to the windfarm.  Please shut the gates as you find them, as there are sheep grazing & lambing on the property.

Ian and I drove along the dirt access road which was in very good condition and parked the car down hill from the summit, and then walked about 1 km up to the actual summit.   The weather was atrocious on the top of the range.  It was extremely cold (probably below 0 degrees C – wind chill) and the wind was vicious (most likely over 60 kph).  Ian and I both agreed this was the windiest and coldest summit we had activated.

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We got to the top of the summit and I set up at what was left of the trig point, just 3 blue painted metal poles amongst a pile of rocks, which afforded a little bit of shelter from the unrelenting wind which was absolutely belting in from the west.  Ian set up close by, also sheltering behind some rocks.  I used one of the blue upright poles to secure the squid pole.  This was the first time I had to use 3 octopus straps to secure the squid pole in place.

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I operated first and put a call out on 7.090 on 40m SSB.  The first cab off the rank for the day was Nev VK5WG who had a ‘cracking’ signal as always.  I then spoke with Tony VK3CAT who was operating QRP with just 5 watts.  Tony had a beautiful 5/8 signal.  Half way through my third QSO with Warren VK3BYD, I heard a terrible cracking sound coming from behind me and ended up with my squid pole on top of me.  Unfortunately it had completely snapped off in the wind !

Lesson learnt……if you are going to secure your squid pole to a solid metal object such as a pole in very windy conditions, try to secure the squid pole on the opposite side from where the wind is coming.  After looking at my squid pole secured to the metal pole, it appeared to Ian and I that it had no flexibility and it snapped off at the weakest point, at the top of the metal pole in the very severe wind.

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So Ian and I tried to put it together as best we could but it didn’t last long, as the wind was so severe that the squid pole snapped again.  Again it was pulled down and resecured to the pole, and luckily it lasted me for the duration of the activation.  But it certainly had seen better days and wasn’t going to be accompanying me on any more SOTA trips.  Another one is on order from Haverfords in NSW.

I had some good QRP contacts whilst on top of the hill.  As mentioned Tony VK3CAT using just 5 watts had a good strong 5/8 signal.  I also worked Ian VK3FD who was QRP with a great signal, Andrew VK2ONZ, and Andrew VK4DNA who was QRP with just 5 watts (5/2 signal but perfectly readable).

I would encourage more people to try QRP out of interest as ‘Chasers’, because as Andrew VK1NAM has pointed out previously, on the top of most of these summits the noise floor is non existant.  So if you can hear me, I will more likely than not be able to hear you quite well.  It is always a thrill to work QRP to QRP.

I also managed one Summit to Summit QSO with Mike, VK3XL/p, who was operating from VK3/ VG-099.  Mike was 5/5 and I received 5/9 back from Mike.

I ended up with a total of 27 QSO’s on 40m SSB into VK1, VK3, VK4, & VK5.

Ian then took over after the UTC roll over and had a further 14 QSO’s, whilst I went for a walk and explored the hill.  There are terrific views from the top in all directions.  I find it amazing that every hill is different, with varied challenges and views.  I think that for me is one of the attractions of SOTA.

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I worked the following stations:- Nev VK5WG; Tony VK3CAT/qrp; Warren VK3BYD; Ron VK3AFW; Mal VK3AZZ; Max VK3MCX; Peter VK3FPSR; Tom VK5EE; Brian VK3MCD; Rhett VK3GHZ; Nick VK3ANL; Glenn VK3YY; Bernard VK3AMB; Allen VK3HRA; Col VK5HCF; Ian VK3FD/qrp; Andrew VK2ONZ; Andrew VK4DNA; Ian VK3TCX/m; Ed VK2JI; Ernie VK3DET; Rob VK2FROB; Leon VK3VGA; Brian VK5FMID; Al V1RX; Ian VK3TB/p; and Mike VK3XL /p (SOTA).

Time to pack up and head off this freezing blowy hill, and on to the next summit….New Campbell Hill VK5/ SE-007, about an hour’s drive away to the north west.

I have posted a You Tube video of the activation of Hallett Hill.

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