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.
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“.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.