On Friday evening, 20th December, 2013, I headed up to Mount Lofty summit, which is only 20 km west of home. Well, I actually had the luxury of a chaufferred ride up there by my wife Marija, who dropped me off and then headed back home. Marija didn’t fancy sitting on a log in the bush, holding hands, and listening to me talking on the radio, so she dropped me off and we organised for her to come back over and pick me up later. Now thats a dedicated wife. I think she may have had plans of leaving me on the summit !
Mount Lofty summit is also located within the Cleland Conservation Park, so it qualifies for the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award as well as SOTA. I have activated Mount Lofty & Cleland Conservation Park, 3 times before, but my motivation for the activation was that the 7.130 DX Net was holding a special Christmas edition of the net. So I decided to do something a bit ‘novel’ for the net and head up to the summit.
After Marija dropped me off, I set up in my favourite spot on the eastern side of the summit, along a walking track in the bush. This is a quieter location, away from the obelisk, the cafe, and the tourists. There is a convenient Telstra sign there which is great to secure the squid pole to. The weather conditions were not the best. The temperature had dropped from a very hot 40 deg C down to about 25 deg C and the wind had really whipped up and was very strong. Every time I heard a crack or a creak, I was looking up to make sure it wasn’t a gum tree limb about to come crushing down. And out to the east of me there was plenty of shower activity.
I set up the linked dipole to 20m first, and my first contact was with John VK2YW who had beautiful strong signal coming in from Wagga Wagga. This was followed by Tom VK3EO who also had a very strong 5/9 signal from Swan Hill. Normally the VK3 fellas don’t come in all that well on 20m, but Tom certainly had a magnificent signal. Andrew VK1NAM then called in from the ACT with his normal good solid signal. And thanks to Andrew as well for spotting me on SOTAWatch. And my fourth contact was with another VK3….Marshall VK3MRG, who had a beautiful strong signal.
I was hoping that some of the Western Australia SOTA Chasers may call in, and sure enough Mike VK6MB came up. It was good to get Mike in the log, because I can only imagine how hard it must be all the way over there in Western Australia to get 20m SOTA / QRP contacts. So that’s why I have been trying to make a concerted effort to get onto 20m more often during any SOTA or Parks activation. I have mentioned it before, but I think us Aussies take distance/s for granted down here in this big country of Oz. It is about 4,000 km from Sydney to Perth (east to west), and a little over 3,000 km from Adelaide to Darwin (south to north). They are big distances. The map below will give you a good idea of the size of Australia compared to Europe. And we regularly call VK3 – VK6 contacts…a local QSO !
I was also hoping that a bit of DX might call in, and to my surprise (with the help of Andrew’s spot on SOTAWatch), Michael DJ5AV called in with a booming 5/9 signal. I received a 5/5 signal report back Michael, who has recently been chasing a lot of the Australian SOTA activators. My second DX contact was with Colin G4UXH. This was much more of a challenge. I could hear Colin very well (5/6) but he was struggling with me (3/2).
I then looked down the band to 14.156, hoping to speak to a few of my friends in the UK, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand, who gather there every day for a chat. I spoke to John EA7BA (5/9 sent & 5/4 received). I could clearly hear Terry G0VWP, but sadly he was unable to hear me. This was a real shame, because Terry is a SOTA enthusiast. I could also hear Billy, GI3NVW, but unfortunately I wasn’t quite making the grade with him. He could hear me, but that was about it.
After working 11 stations on 20m I was running out of time, so I switched over to the 40m band and initially called CQ on 7.090 and worked Nev VK5WG, Allen VK3HRA, and Tony VK3CAT. All had very nice signals.
I then QSY’d to the 7.130 DX Net. Sadly the Over the Horizon radar was extremely strong and this made conditions very difficult indeed for me to work any of the DX that was on the net with my flea power of 5 watts. I tried calling Brian ZL2ASH who was a good signal, but sadly he couldn’t hear me through the radar. I normally make the grade quite easily with Brian when I am portable/QRP, but not this night. William FO5JV was coming in very strong, and despite the fact that I had worked him previously whilst portable/QRP, I decided not to call, simply because of the radar.
I did take a little bit of video which I have placed on You Tube, which shows the radar in action…..
After working 6 stations on the net (in VK2, VK3, & VK7), I announced that I would QSY down to 7.110 and work anyone who might like Mount Lofty & Cleland Conservation Park. The weather had deteriorated dramatically, and Marija had arrived and was waiting for me in the car, so it was a case of getting any interested ops in the log and moving on. The weather had dropped from 40 deg C earlier in the day, down to about 13 deg C on the summit, with drizzly rain and strong gusty winds. I did manage to work a few more stations in VK2, VK3, VK4, & VK5, (including Andrew VK2FAJG, operating QRP with 4 watts) before packing up and heading back home to the warmth of home.
By the end of the activation, I had a a total of 26 stations on 20m SSB and 40m SSB in the log.
The following stations were worked:-
John VK2YW; Tom VK3EO; Andrew VK1NAM; Marshall VK3MRG; Ed VK2AFY; Mike VK6MB; Michael DJ5AV; Gerard VK2IO; Colin G4UXH; Glenn VK3YY; John EA7BA; Nev VK5WG; Allen VK3HRA; Tony VK3CAT; Andy VK4TH; Ron VK3IO; Richard VK3IDX; Dennis VK2HHA; Paul VK7CC; Roy VK7ROY; Colin VK4FAAS; Urey VK3ATA; Luke VK3HJ; Iva VK4HG; Rod VK5FTTC; and Andrew VK2FAJG (QRP 4 watts).
Despite the weather, and the fact that it was no extra points for me for either SOTA or the VK5 Parks Award, this was a good fun evening.