Oladdie Hills, VK5/ NE-068

My first planned activation for Saturday, 10th August, 2013, was Oladdie Hills, VK5/ NE-068.  The summit is located on private property and is situated about 22 kms north of Orroroo.  It is about 5 kms east of the little town of Eurelia.

I got up at 6.00 a.m. to a nice warm hotel room, but outside the temperature was below zero, and there was a severe frost.  After a warm shower and breakfast and preparing my gear, I headed outside to the cold, and waited for Ian, VK5CZ who was driving up from his home in Clare.  Despite it being bitterly cold, there was a spectacular sunrise.  And just across from the pub there was a noisy mob of corellas in a gum tree, obviously trying to wake up everyone in Orroroo.

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Orroroo is a small town in the southern Flinders Ranges, about 270 kms north of Adelaide.  It has a population of about 543.  “Orroroo” is generally accepted as being derived from the Aboriginal “oorama” – “rendezvous of the magpie”, although others believe it to mean “early start“.  My accomodation for 2 nights was the Orroroo Hotel (highly recommended – good food, cheap accomodation, cold beer, and friendly licencees).

After Ian arrived at the pub to pick me up, we headed first to Tank Hill lookout at Orroroo, before making our way to the summit.  Water is gravitated from the concrete tank at the “lookout” to the town.  From the tank there is normally an excellent view over the artesian basin in the valley of the Walloway plain, the reservoir and the township of Orroroo.  However the whole area this morning was fogged in and it was bitterly cold.

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Ian and I then travelled north, out of Orroroo, along RM Williams Way.  The road was named after Reginald Murray Williams, widely known as just ‘R.M.’, who was an Australian bushman and entrepreneur who rose from a swagman to a millionaire.  He became known for creating an Australian style of bushwear recognised world wide.

The Oladdie Range stretches for quite some distance, north – south.  We accessed the summit via private property off Hooper Road.  It was quite a significant drive across paddocks (about 4 kms) until we could go no further in the 4WD, and then a 4 km walk to the summit.  The drive is strictly 4wd, as the terrain is very rocky in parts and you are required to cross several significant creek beds.

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The walk to the summit was quite pleasant.  The fog had partially lifted although there was still quite a bit of very low lying club.  But the good thing was that the sun was out.  There was not a cloud in the sky.  The countryside here in the southern Flinders Ranges was very green and lush, due to recent very heavy rainfall.  As a consequence the sheep were looking in very good condition.  Remember this is private property, so please shut all gates.

Ian and I walked through some fairly thick scrub enroute to the summit.  The ground is also very rocky.

Ian and I saw dozens of kangaroos and euros on our way to the summit.  I was recently asked in an e-mail by Ed, VK2JI, as to what a euro was ?  The Euro is also referred to as the Common Wallaroo “Macropus robustus”.   They are smaller in size to Red or Grey kangaroos.  They are also of ‘high’ country, and have a distinct preference for ‘high’ places, and are typically found on rock ledges, escarpments, stony ridges and in fact anywhere where they can get a good view of their surroundings.     

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As is almost always the case with this SOTA activity, the hard walk was rewarded with spectacular views in all directions.  Orroroo is visible down to the south, and the little towns of Walloway, Eurelia and Carrieton to the west.  Down to the south west, the imposing Mount Remarkable was able to be clearly seen.  Out to the east you could clearly see Black Rock Summit and Depot Hill.

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There are no trees on the top of the summit, but I did find a nice fallen log which looked just right as a ‘shack’.  I used the log to secure the 7 m squid pole, and stretched out the 40m/20m linked dipole.  My transceiver was a Yaesu FT-817nd on the 5 watt output setting.  Ian found a nearby dead tree which he used to secure his squid pole, and his chair for the morning was a pile of moss rocks.  Ian also used his home brew linked dipole and his Elecraft KX3 transceiver.

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My first QSO of the morning was with David VK5KC who was operating from “The Shack” belong to the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Society (AHARS).  I then worked David as VK5BAR, the AHARS club call.  My 3rd QSO was with old time mate Scott, VK7NWT with a good strong signal.  And my 4th qualifying contact was with regular ‘Chaser’ Nev, VK5WG with his normal 5/9 +++ signal.  This was followed by the regular pile up of SOTA chasers.

This was a fun activation.  I spoke with Andrew VK2ONZ, who was operating QRP.  Andrew is a regular and keen QRP operator.  He was my 8th contact on top of the hill, so following working Andrew I called for more QRP stations, and what was to follow, was a constant stream of QRP ‘Chasers’ which was really pleasing to hear.  And they all had terrific signals on top of Olladie Hills.

One other interesting contact was with John, VK5AJQ, who was using the call sign of VK5BP.  He was operating from ‘Woodhouse’ scout camp in the Adelaide Hills.

I worked a total of 30 stations in 30 minutes on 40m SSB in VK1, VK2, VK3, & VK5.

The following stations were worked:- David VK5KC; David VK5BAR; Scott VK7NWT; Nev VK5WG; Andy VK5LA; Tony VK3CAT/m; Ed VK2JI; Andrew VK2ONZ/qrp; Col VK5HCF/qrp; Terry VK5ATN/qrp; Glen VK3YY/qrp; Peter VK3PF/qrp; Fred VK3JM/qrp; VK3OHM/qrp; Ernie VK3DET/qrp; Phil VK3BHR/qrp; Wayne VK3WAM/p (SOTA); Brian VK5FMID/qrp; John VK5BP; John VK5AJQ; Larry VK5LY; Andrew VK2UH; Steve VK3MEG; Ian VK3TCX; Rik VK3KAN; Matt VK1MA; Mark VK1MDC; VK3DEE/m; & Rob VK2FROB.

A good fun activation, but not without its associated issues.  The signal reports on my last 5 contacts dropped dramatically.  Upon checking the antenna, I found that the connection point from the coax to the BNC plug was faulty.  The coax is RG174, so it is very lightweight and thin.  I think the stress placed on the preterminated point at various windy SOTA activations, has finally taken its toll.  Something to look at before my next set of activations.

I have posted a video of the activation on You Tube.

Black Rock Conservation Park

After arriving in Orroroo and booking into the Orroroo pub, I enjoyed a few bundy & cokes, and a beautiful kangaroo schnitzel.  This pub is a terrific little country hotel which was built in 1877.  Warren & Liz Campbell are the licencees and they took on the oepration of the hotel just 18 months ago.  They opened up the accommodation at the hotel, which had not been in operation for about 25-30 years.

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After dinner, I decided to drive 25 kms east out of town to the Black Rock Conservation Park.  Access to the park is via the Paratoo Road.  The park is 170 hectares in size and has excellent examples of the flora of the area, and is dominated by the Black Oak and Bluebush.  The park has several creek beds with steep banks which are perfect nesting places for Red-back Kingfishers and Rainbow  Bee Eaters.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to see those because it was dark when I arrived.  But below is a picture of what a Rainbow Bee Eater looks like.  They are a spectacular bird.

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I found an access gate at the south eastern end of the park, which unfortunately was locked.  So I put on my headlamp and walked into the park with my gear and my deckchair.  I used a permapine log fencepost to prop the radio on and set up my 40m/20m dipole on the 7m squid pole.

I tuned across 40m and could not hear any VK’s at all.  I could hear quite a lot of North American DX but knew that with my meager 5 watts and dipole, I would be pushing the proverbial uphill.  So I booked in to the 7.130 DX Net.  Unfortunately conditions were not great, but I did work Roy VK7ROY; Andy VK4TH in Kingaroy; John VK2FALL; Ian VK2IW who was qrp; and John ZL2BH.

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The contact with Ian, VK2IN was particularly rewarding though.  Ian was using just 6 watts and a vertical whip in the lounge room of his house.  He was a good 5/4 signal and I received a 5/7 signal report back from Ian.

I also would like to thank John ZL2BH for his persistance.  John and I tried about 6 times during the net to get through to each other, but to no avail until the very end.  John was an excellent 5/8 signal and my signal when he first heard me was also strong.  But by the time we got to call each other the band conditions had changed and we could not make it.  But on our 7th attempt my signal had come back up out of the noise and we managed a good quick QSO, with 5/8 exchanged both ways.

I could hear all of the DX on the net, including William FO5JV in French Polynesia, Bill W1OW in Massachusetts, Juan YV1FPT, and ZL’s.

But sadly, as is the case almost every night on this DX Net, the Indonesians were causing massive QRM.  They were playing music, laughing, and burping.  There is no doubt that they can hear stations on the DX Net, but they simply do not seem to care which is a real shame.  Something really needs to be done to fix this ongoing problem.

At the end of the net, I headed back to Orroroo and enjoyed the rest of the evening watching the AFL and the cricket on TV before getting a good night’s sleep for the next day’s 2 SOTA activations.

Next time I come to this park, will be the day time, so that I can explore the park a bit.

Mount Brown Conservation Park

My 2nd activation of Friday 9th August, 2013, was going to be Richmond Hill, VK5/ NE-089.  But by the time I had driven the 4 horus from home to Quorn, and then negotiated the hard climb at The Devil’s Peak, I was running out of time to get back to Quorn to pick up the key for my proposed Saturday afternoon activation of Stokes Hill, VK5/ NE-050, and then drive the 100 odd kms over to Orroroo for the night(where I had booked accomodation for the weekend).

So rather than heading straight to Orroroo , I decided to drive down the Richmon Valley Road a few kms from The Devils Peak, and activate the Mount Brown Conservation Park.  I had activated this park before as part of my Mount Brown SOTA activation back in May, but it was such a beautiful spot, that I decided to activate the park again and hopefully allow some of the VK5 Parks Award ‘Hunters’ to get a new park.

I entered the Mount Brown CP off Richmond Valley Road, and I parked the car at a large rainwater tank and shelter, and then walked over to a large fallen gum tree limb and set up my gear there. This was at the base of my proposed SOTA activation, Richmond Hill.  It was really frustrating !  I could see the hill, smell the hill, and taste the hill, but I just didn’t have the 3 hours free to climb the hill, activate it, and get back down.  Oh well, plenty of time in the future.

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Mount Brown CP is situated about 14 kms south of Quorn.  The only access is via Richman Valley Road, which runs south out of Quorn.  The Mount Brown summit which is located in the park, is at 964 metres altitude, and is one of the highest peaks in the South Flinders Ranges.  Mount Brown CP is a former forest reserve and is comprised of undulating country with a variety of cover grading to rugged ridges with open woodland and scrub.  It is named after Robert Brown who was the naturalist aboard Matthew Flinders’ Investigator.

I used my yaesu FT-817nd on the 5 watt setting and my 40m/20m linked dipole.  I secured the squid pole with an octopus strap to the squid pole holder, and then made myself comfortable on the log and put out a call on 7.090.  There were plenty of moss rocks to secure the legs of the antenna.

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My first contact was with Col VK5HCF who was QRP, using just 5 watts.  This was followed by a steady flow of ‘Hunters’ for the next 30 minutes.  It was great to get both Ron VK3AFW and Rik VK3KAN, who were both mobile with good signals.  Other than Col who was QRP, I also spoke with Greg VK3FKAA who was operating QRP with 5 watts.  Greg had a great 5/8 signal, and with my little set up I received a 5/9 in return.  It’s always great to work QRP to QRP when activating a park or a summit.  The noise floor is normally non existant, so 100 watts or more isn’t required by Chasers / Hunters in most instances.

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I enjoyed the sunshine and worked a total of 15 QSO’s on 40m SSB in 30 minutes.  I was really happy with this, packed up and headed off to collect the key from Quorn, and then off to my accommodation at Orroroo about 100 kms away.

The following stations were worked:- Col VK5HCF/qrp; Larry VK5LY; Nev VK5WG; Brian VK5FMID; Ron VK3AFW/m; Ed VK2JI; Colin VK3UBY; Ernie VK3DET; John VK5BJE; Rik VK3KAN/m; Rob VK2FROB; Greg VK3FKAA; Tony VK3CAT; John VK5FMJC; and Ron VK3JP.

The Devil’s Peak, VK5/ NE-080

I had planned on activating four SOTA peaks with Ian VK5CZ on the weekend of the 10th & 11th August.  So early on Friday morning (9th August 2013), I left home in the Adelaide Hills and travelled north towards Quorn, about 365 kms north from my home (about a 4 hour drive).  I needed to collect a key from Quorn for the planned Saturday afternoon SOTA activation of Stokes Hill, north of Orroroo, as the summit is located on private property.  And it is a good drive from Quorn to Orroroo.  In fact a distance of about 91 kms.  So I decided to activate 2 SOTA summits whilst I was in the Quorn area on Friday, including The Devil’s Peak, VK5/ NE-080, in the southern Flinders Ranges.

As I travelled north on the Augusta Highway towards Port Augusta, I could see the imposing figure of Mount Brown to my right.  I had climbed this a few months earlier with my wife Marija.  And I could also see my first climb of the day, The Devil’s Peak with its distinctive shape.  But unfortunately  you cannot access this mountain range from the west and need to travel all the way around to the eastern side.

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Devil’s Peak is 665 metres above sea level, and in the native aboriginal Adnyamathanha language means ‘eagle’s nest‘ or ‘soaring eagle‘.  The Devil’s Peak was so named by the European settlers, as it appeared that it was the devil lying on his back looking skywards.

Once I reached Stirling North, just south of Port Augusta, I turned right to travel west towards Quorn, along the Hawker-Quorn Road.  This is a beautiful drive and follows part of the world famous Pichi Richi railroad, which runs between Quorn and Port Augusta.  Pichi Richi Railway is an operating museum, operating regular heritage steam train journeys on the oldest remaining section of the famous narrow-gauge old Ghan railway.

Upon reaching the township of Quorn I then travelled south along the Richman Valley Road.  This is the only way to access The Devil’s Peak, Mount Richmond, and Mount Brown summits.  The road is dirt but is in good condition and easily passable by 2wd traffic.  I travelled south along the Richman Valley Road, following the Capowie Creek.

After travelling about 5 kms out of Quorn, you will see a brown sign on your left saying “Devils Peak 6.2″ and a dirt road to your right.  At the start of this dirt road you will also see a brown coloured sign saying “Devils Peak Walking Trail” and another brown coloured sign which reads “Devils Peak Walking Trail Fire Ban Season 1st Nov to 15th April“.

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Travel west along this dirt road for a few kms and you will then reach an unlocked gate with two signs.  One is a yellow sign reading “Dry Weather Road Only” and a brown sign which reads “Commencement of Devils Peak Climb 1.5 km“.  Remember, The Devil’s Peak is on private property, so please respect any signs, and please close all gates.

After travelling through this gate, continue south along the dirt road, and you will then reach a parking area.  There is at least one other gate at this spot, but this is the furtherest point you can go via vehicle.  You need to park your car here and walk the remainder of the way to the top of the summit.

The bushwalk up to Devil’s Peak is steep in places and is recommended for experienced and fit walkers.  There are signs warning of this.  And although the walk is only 2.6 km return, do not be fooled.  This is not an easy walk.  It may take one-and-a-half to three hours for the return journey (not including rest periods and periods for enjoying the view).  The walk is well worth it, with spectacular panoramic views at the summit of the Spencer Gulf, Port Augusta, Quorn, and Wilpena Pound on a clear day.

The Devil’s Peak Walking Trail is closed from 1 November to 15 April each year due to fire danger season.

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The first 1 km walk along the track is quite easy.  It is the last 300 metres that are hard and give the impression of 3 km rather than 300 m.   There is a well marked track but it is rocky, particularly as you get towards the top.  There were quite a few beautiful wild flowers that I saw as I headed up.  About 500 metres into the climb you pass through an area of native pine trees and quite amazing rock formations.

The Devil’s Peak supports a wide variety of wildlife including euros, grey kangaroos, echidnas, emus, and a large number of reptiles including snakes.  There is also a large variety of birds including eagles.  I did see a few euros as I were climbing, but they were camera shy and didn’t want to stick around for a photo.

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Once you reach the top of the ridge line, there are very good views out to the east and west.  And if you are feeling really brave, you can climb to the very top of the summit itself.  Do not attempt this unless you are confident.  This part of the climb is quite difficult.  You need to scamble over large rocks and make your way through narrow gorges, and then pull yourself up a rock ledge to get to the very top.  But it is well worth it as the views are amazing.

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If you do climb to the very top you will be rewarded by amazing views in all directions.  The top of the summit is 700 million year old hard weather resistant Pound quartzite.  There is a sheer cliff face on the eastern side, so please be careful not to venture too close.

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It is impossible to set up at the top as there is virtually nothing to connect your squid pole or antenna to.  The actual summit is very exposed and is all rock except for a singular dying small tree.  So I decieded I was going to be blown off the cliff face, and I set up just below the summit.  I used a large rock to get out of the wind, which was blowing a gale.  I secured the squid pole to the base of a small shrub and a moss rock, using some octopus straps.  And I then strung out the legs of the dipole and connected them to some trees.  There wasn’t a lot of room to move and not a lot of clearance for the dipole.

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I turned the radio on to 7.090 on 40 m and put out a call, and my first contact of the day was with Brian VK5FMID in Mount Gambier, who was patiently waiting for me.  This was followed by Peter VK3PF, Larry VK5LY, and Brian VK3MCD.  This was followed by a number of the regular chasers.  Only one QRP contact on this summit and this was with Col VK5HCF, down in Mount Gambier, who was using just 5 watts.  Col’s signal was down compared to usual, but he was still very readable  (5/2 both ways).

After 30 minutes of operating I ended up with 15 QSO’s on 40m SSB into VK2, VK3, and VK5.

The following stations were worked:- Brian VK5FMID; Peter VK3PF; Larry VK5LY; Brian VK3MCD; Peter VK3FPSR; Col VK5HCF/qrp; Rob VK2FROB; Tony VK3CAT/m; Warren VK3BYD; Ed VK2JI; John VK5FMJC; Graham VK5WK;  Colin VK3UBY; Nev VK5WG; and Rhett VK3GHZ.

I found this to be quite a strenuous climb and weather conditions were not great.  It was extremely windy, and fortunately the squid pole survived.  But I was really happy to have reached the top, and even happier to get 15 contacts on a Friday lunch time.

I have posted a video on You Tube of the activation.