Mount Lofty summit VK5/SE-005 & Cleland Conservation Park

I had already activated Mount Lofty summit VK5/ SE-005 which is within the Cleland Conservation Park.  In fact Mt Lofty was my 2nd ever SOTA activation way back in March 2013, when I first started SOTA.  And I activated it for a second time in May 2013.  So there were no SOTA points up for grabs by me.  But the temperature on Wednesday (6th November) had reached 35 degrees C, and it was going to be a magnificent evening.  Additionally, the 7.130 DX Net was on, and my main inspiration was that the Barefoot Table Net was having a special QRP night that evening.  So off to Mt Lofty I headed.

I had contacted John VK5BJE earlier in the day whilst he was activating the Port Gawler Conservation Park, and asked John if he would like to come along and do a joint activation.  John sounded really keen and I arranged to call him later in the day, which is exactly what I did on the way to the summit.  When I called I found that John was enjoying a nice cold beer at the Stirling Hotel, waiting for his lovely wife Jenny.  But he did agree that he would meet me up at the summit at about 7.00 p.m.

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So I continued on my way to Mount Lofty, with some thoughts…..’should I do the summit, or join John for a nice cold beer‘.  The summit activation won……..just !  Upon reaching the summit I set up on the eastern side of the main car park, amongst the scrub.  I had operated from this exact spot during my 2nd Mt Lofty activation in May, 2013.  It is a bit more of a secluded position, away from all the tourists and lovers enjoying the view of Adelaide near the obelisk.  It is an excellent take off point out to the east, through the trees.  I found a Telstra cable sign which was ideal to attach the 7m squid pole to with some octopus straps.


After turning on the little Yaesu FT-817nd, the noise floor was very low.  There were quite a few strong static crashes however.  My first contact of the evening was with Al VK1RX (5/9 both ways).  This was a real thrill for me, because band conditions on 40m have been really poor into the eastern states.  Particularly the further afield states, like NSW & the ACT.  And things only got better from there, because my second contact was with Andrew VK1NAM, who also had a good strong 5/8 signal coming in from Canberra.  I received a 5/7 signal report from Andrew.  Things were looking up !

My third contact was with my old mate Larry VK5LY who was at the home of Ivan VK5HS, both enjoying a nice cold beer after a hard days work.  I was very envious.  And my fourth contact was with regular Parks Hunter and SOTA Chaser, Brian VK5FMID, from Mount Gambier.

This was followed by a steady flow of Chasers from VK1, VK2, VK3, and VK5.  The band conditions were really great.  Conditions even allowed me to make contact with Tom VK5EE in Mount Gambier, who was QRP with 5 watts, and a terrific QSO with Ben VK3FTRV, who was running QRP with just 2.5 watts.  My 3rd QRP to QRP contact was with Bill VK2YKW who was QRP 5 watts, using his Wouxon X1M and an inverted vee dipole.  I had intended to try 20m for the further afield VK’s, but 40m was performing so well, I decided to stay there.

After 30 minutes of operating, I decided to stretch the legs and go for a walk up to the main lookout area near the obelisk.  The obelisk, known as Flinders Column, was constructed in 1885.  Its primary function was that of a Trigonmetrical Survey Station.  There are spectacular views of the Adelaide metropolitan area, and out to the east through the Picadilly valley, from the lookout.

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I headed back to the operating spot and had a tune across the band.  Soon after, at about 7.00 p.m. I received a call from John VK5BJE, asking me “where are you ?”  I gave John some directions, and he soon joined me at the operating spot.  John made himself comfortable and took over the reigns of the mic, whilst I enjoyed sitting back relaxing watching John in action.  It wasn’t long before John had his own steady flow of Chasers & Hunters.  This was John’s third SOTA activation.  It appears he had been bitten by the dreaded SOTA bug.  It is worse than Dengue fever !

After working Bernard VK3AMB, John QSY’d down 5 kc, as we were experiencing QRM from T33A, the DXpedition on Banaba Island, DXCC-320, and IOTA OC-018.  He had come up and was operating on the same frequency and sadly he was not hearing us.


At 8.00 p.m. John and I QSY’d to 7.130 on 40m, to book in to the 7.130 DX Net, hoping that we might be able to get some exotic DX in the log.  I started off on the mic and was very fortunate to be able to work William FO5JV in French Polynesia.  William had a very strong 5/9 + signal, and I received a 5/1 from William.  I also spoke to Brian ZL2ASH in Wellington New Zealand, who also had a very strong 5/9 + signal.  I received 5/7 from Brian.   Band conditions on 40m were holding up really well, despite the static crashes becoming increasingly strong.

John then took up the operating spot, and whilst John was operating on the Net, I headed up to the main look out area to enjoy the night time view.  Surprisingly, there were not many cars in the carpark.  But what was lacking with motor vehicles, was replaced by kangaroos.  There were at least half a dozen Western Grey kangaroos roaming around in the carpark.  They appeared to be quite tame, and you could get relatively close to them.  The photo below isn’t great….it was taken on my i-phone.


Despite there not benign many cars in the carpark, there were quite a few people at the lookout, enjoying the superb view of the Adelaide lights.  After taking some photos, I headed back to the operating spot and rejoined John who was still patiently waiting for his turn to call on the 7130 DX Net.  Sadly by the time it was John’s call, the band conditions had changed, and William FO5JV, was suffering extremely bad QRM from Malaysian stations operating on the frequency.  However John did speak with Brian ZL2ASH (5/7 received by John from Brian).

John and I then booked out of the 7130 DX Net, and headed up the band to the Barefoot Table Net on 7.170.  Ian VK3VIN had advised via e-mail earlier in the day that the net for that evening would be a special QRP net.  We could hear all the participants coming in extremely well, and made contact with a number of VK3 and VK7 stations.  We did experience quite a bit of QRM from North America.  It appeared that one of the exotic DX stations from one of the DXpeditions was operating split.  And the receive frequency included 7.170.

John remained on the summit with me, for a while and then decided he should head home.  It was starting to get late, and we had experienced a really fun night.  In fact he had only reached the TV transmitter towers just down the road, when he received a telephone call from his wife Jenny.

I stayed for another 45 minutes and worked a few more stations in VK2, VK3, & VK5.  The band still seemed to be performing very well.  By the time I was ready to pack up I had a total of 40 QSO’s on 40m SSB in the log, including 2 ‘DX’ contacts into French Polynesia, and New Zealand.

Whilst John and I were operating during the evening, we could hear lots of sounds coming from the bush.  And whilst walking back to the car, along the track through the bush, I found out what was causing a lot of the noise.  There were a large number of Western Grey kangaroos.  I headed up to the lookout again, for one final glimpse of the Adelaide lights, and then back to the car.

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I worked the following stations:-

Al VK1RX; Andrew VK1NAM; Larry VK5LY; Brian VK5FMID; Tom VK5EE; Ivan VK5HS; Andy VK5LA; Adam VK2YK; Mike VK3XL; Matt VK2DAG; Peter VK3FPSR; Ben VK3FTRV; Ian VK1DI; Tony VK3CAT; Ed VK2JI; Mark VK1MDC; Shaun VK5FAKV; Peter VK3TKK; Ian VK5CZ; Bernard VK3AMB; Bill VK2YKW; Peter VK3YE-ped mobile; Don VK7DON; Paul VK5FUZZ; Brian ZL2ASH; Brent VK2MEV; William FO5JV; Ian VK3VIN; Peter VK3FPSR; Tony VK7AU; Glen VK3GMC; Joe VK3YSP; Jim VK5KOB; Bob VK2ZWZ; Dallas VK3EB; Dennis VK2HHA; Gary VK5PCM; Ian VK5KKT; John VK5TD; and Tony VK5TT.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable activation, despite the fact that I did not get any SOTA points or VK5 Parks points. The weather was spectacular, band conditions were very good, and it was great to see John having a lot of fun.

I have placed a video on You Tube of the activation…..

Black Hill Conservation Park

Yesterday morning (Wednesday 6th November, 2013) I had the man from Murrays Pest & Weed Control come to spray the house, so I had to disappear from home for a while.  What a great excuse !  So I decided to head out and activate the Black Hill Conservation Park.  The temperature was expected to reach 35 degrees C, and it was already a beautiful warm morning outside.

I drove out from Mount Barker and passed Cleland Conservation Park and into the fruit orchard area of Piccadilly and Ashton.  This is a beautiful part of the Adelaide Hills where apples, pears, cherries, lemons and many other fruit is grown.  I then turned on to Montacute Road which disects the Black Hill Conservation Park and the adjacent Montacute Conservation Park.  There are spectacular views of the surrounding valleys and the park from the top of Montacute Road.


The Black Hill Conservation Park covers an area of about 684 hectares and is situated about 10 km north east of Adelaide.  It features the low shears which give Black Hill its name.  As you view the park from the plains of Adelaide, the hills appear to be black in colour, and this is due to the sheoaks.  I was raised as a child at Felixstow in the north eastern suburbs and Black Hill was clearly visible from our home.  The foliage of the sheoaks gradually matures to a dark rusty, almost black colour, as summer progresses.

The park has spectacular scenery of rugged ridges and a wide variety of native animals including kangaroos, koalas, and echidnas.   The park also has an array of bird life, including the threatened, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren.   I saw quite a few Eastern Rosellas and Rainbow lorikeets whilst I was in the park.


The park also contains a wide variety of flora that offers a stunning display of native flowers in spring.  The vegetation represents both savannah type woodland with herbaceous understoreys and sclerophyllous open forest.  The park contains large South Australian Blue Gums and Red Gums, as well as vulnerable and precious under storey species including a large number of delicate and colourful orchid species and the Mount Lofty Daisy.

I accessed the park via Maryvale Road at Athelstone, after travelling down Montacute Road.  There is a DEWNR regional office here and a carpark for the public.  This where I parked and walked down towards Fifth Creek where I set up.


I used a huge fallen gum tree to secure the 7 m squid pole to, with the use of some octopus straps.  The fallen tree also made a great bench, and there were quite a few conveniently placed large gum trees which provided some shade from the already very hot sun.  This was also alongside a small creek which had quite a bit of running water.  But because of the heat, I was ever vigilant of snakes, particularly Red bellied black snakes, which love the water and feed on frogs.  Although they are a dangerous snake, no deaths have been recorded from bites by Red Bellies.  The venom causes blood-clotting disorder and muscle and nerve damage, enough to knock you off your feet, but rarely deadly.  Nethertheless I did not want to encounter one.

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In recent weeks, I had been having problems with the VSWR on the dipole, but this time when I ran it through the antenna analyser, everything was fine.  So the mystery increases.  As I was setting up I had sent out an SMS message to some of the regular Hunters to advise them that I was in the park.  I put a call out on 7.100 and there was ‘Ol faithful Hunter’ John VK5BJE with a great signal, and this was followed by another regular Parks Hunter, Brian VK5FMID.  Another south east ham, Tom VK5EE then called in.

Conditions seemed to be quite good, but there was just no activity on the 40m band at all.  I called and called and finally Ernie VK3DET with a terrific 5/9 signal came back.  This was followed by Chubba VK5FCLK who wanted to know all about the VK5 Parks Award.  He was very keen.

After my QSO with Chubba, I put out a number of CQ calls but sadly there were no takers.  I tuned across the 40m band and there were no stations at all.  So, I decided to QSY to 20m and I put out a number of CQ calls there, but there were no takers.  The temperature had increased to over 30 degrees C, and the flies were relentless, so it was time to pack up and head home to the comfort of the air conditioning.

Just a handful of Hunters from this park on 40m SSB.  The following stations were worked:-

John VK5BJE; Brian VK5FMID; Tom VK5EE; Ernie VK3DET; and Chubba VK5FCLK.