Yesterday (Sunday 12th January, 2014), my wife Marija and I headed up to Mount Gawler, VK5/ SE-013, which is just outside of the little town of Kersbrook. This is about a 45 minute drive through the Mount Lofty Ranges ‘Adelaide Hills’ from our home at Mount Barker in the central Adelaide Hills. The weather was beautiful….about 30 deg C…..not the dreaded 40 deg C temperature that we have today and for the next 5 days !
I activated Mount Gawler summit in 2013, but this is a new calendar year, so I can start revisiting these summits for more activator points. We drove through the Onkaparinga Valley and then on to Lobethal. And from there up through the beautiful Kenton Valley to the little town of Gummeracha. As we were driving through this beautiful area I realised why I lived here and not down in the rat race of Adelaide. From Gummeracha we headed to Kersbrook.
Kersbrook is a lovely little town, which is surrounded by the rolling hills of the northern Mount Lofty Ranges. It was during the early 1830’s that settlers established farms in the Kersbrook area because of those relatively gentle slopes. Having said that, Checker Hill is not all that far away. This hill is extremely steep and is very popular with cyclists who like a challenge.
In 1841, John Bowden, manager of the South Australian Company’s dairy farm at Hackney, near Adelaide, purchased a 32-hectare (79-acre) section in the Adelaide Hills, and named it Kersbrook, after the Cornish farm where he was born. By 1844, Bowden was recorded as having “800 sheep, 62 cattle, one horse, 13 pigs, 16 acres (65,000 m2) of wheat, eight acres of barley, plots of oats, maize and potatoes and a fruit garden”.
The settlement of Kersbrook was created by William Carman, a blacksmith working at a copper mine near Williamstown. Carman took advantage of the area’s location on the busy road to the Barossa Valley. In 1851 Carman built a travellers inn called the Wheatsheaf Inn. By 1858, a group of settlers had arrived in the area, and Carman gave some of his land to them to build a town. Maidstone was the preferred choice of name for the settlement, after his home town in Kent in England. Many years later, in 1917, the town was officially renamed to Kersbrook as this was the name used by local redidents and referred to the original ‘Kersbrook’ farm of John Bowden.
Mount Gawer summit is just a short drive from Kersbrook, out along Kent Road, and then south on Mount Gawler Road, passed Mount Crawford Forest. Mount Gawler is 541 metres ASL and is worth 2 SOTA points. The summit itself is nowhere really near the town of Gawler. In fact Gawler is about 25 km further to the north. The summit was named after Lieutenant Colonel George Gawler, the second Governor of South Australia.
As I have mentioned before in the post of my first activation of Mount Gawler, the summit is located on private property. There is a trig point which is visible from the road. However if you don’t want to annoy the land owner, Noel, there are quite a few points on the side of Mount Gawler Road that are well within the ‘activation zone’. And that is where I decided to set up this time. Smack bang, right out the front of Noel’s property.
After erecting the squid pole, I had to take it down and move it a little further toward’s Noel’s fence line, because it was getting tangled in the gum tree branches overhead. But I got that sorted and found some shade out of the warmth of the afternoon sun, and made myself comfortable.
I turned the little Yaesu FT-817nd on to 40m and there was Greg VK2FGJW portable on Black Mountain, VK1/ AC-042, with a very strong signal. This was a great way to start the activation with a summit to summit QSO. I often struggle with hearing Greg from my home qty, but there were no problems at all with his signal on Mt Gawler. The noise floor here was virtually zero, and Greg’s signal was particularly strong.
After speaking with Greg, I then moved down to 7.090 and put out a CQ call to be greeted by the usual hoard of hungry SOTA chasers from VK2, VK3, & VK5. There were quite a few QRP callers in amongst this group, including Peter VK3PF, Tony VK3CAT, Kevin VK3VEK, Alex VK3AMX, Andrew VK3ARR, and Richard VK5ZRY.
I also spoke with Andrew VK1NAM and Al VK1RX, who were doing a joint activation of Bimberi Peak, VK1/ AC-001. This is the highest mountain in the ACT, at a height of 1,913 metres ASL. Although there was some QSB on their signal/s, Andrew and Al were a very good copy on Mount Gawler. This is the first time that this peak has been activated on HF. Wayne VK3WAM has activated it previously, but only on 2m. Andrew & Al’s efforts are appreciated as I believe they had to walk about 25 km return on this journey. Not a bad effort guys !
Glen VK3YY also called in, portable from Wilsons Promontory National Park in Victoria. Glen was a good solid signal, and it was great to be able to work another Victorian National Park for the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA).
After working a total of 39 stations on 40m SSB, I decided to head over to 20m. But this meant a walk back to the car to drop off the FT-817nd and lug back the bigger and heavier Yaesu FT-450 with me, with my newly purchased 44 amp hour battery pack which is also heavy. Mount Gawler is an easy summit to access, so I decided to take along this gear with me so I could operate with a bit more power. I won’t be doing this again in a hurry. My back is killing me !
I plonked myself on 14.300 and put out a CQ call. My first contact on 20m was with Ed VK2JI who was on SOTA peak, VK2/ HU-093. Nice to get a summit to summit with Ed, on 20m this time. To my surprise, my 4th contact was with Paul KI4MNZ in Kentucky, USA (5/8 both ways).
I then was able to make contact with both John VK6NU and Mike VK6MB over in Western Australia. Both were down a little bit in signal strength, but I was able to copy them both well through all the European QRM. It is always good to get John and Mike in the log, as they often miss out on all the Australian SOTA action on 40 m SSB.
Max IK1GPG then called in with a good strong signal. And this was followed by Manuel EA2DT who was a little weaker, but still very workable. But things then dried up as far as the DX was concerned, and some QRM came up on the frequency. I later found out from Adam VK2YK that it was a European SOTA activator looking for me. Sadly their signal was 3/3 at best for me and they were totally unworkable.
I QSY’d to 14.263 and again put out a CQ call. Paul VK2HDX responded with a beautiful 5/9 signal from Sydney. I was Paul’s 1st ever SOTA contact.
I worked a little bit more DX including Franc ZL1SLO in Auckland NZ, Clay I4LEC in Italy, Joe HL5KY in Korea, and Jim JA2NCVM.
The sun was setting, my stomach was grumbling, my wife was getting impatient, and I was in desperate need for a beer, so we packed up the gear and headed for home. Making sure we dodged the kangaroos and emus on the way back home. There are a lot through this area, and we certainly saw a lot as we drove back home at dusk.
I worked a total of 61 stations on 40m & 20m SSB.
The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-
Greg VK2FGJW/p (SOTA); John VK5BJE; Peter VK3PF; Nev VK5WG; Tony VK3CAT; John VK2YW; Phil VK3BHR; Amanda VK3FQSO; Peter VK3FPSR; Glenn VK3YY/p; Andrew VK1NAM/p (SOTA); Al VK1RX/p (SOTA); VK3FB/p; Peter VK5KPR; Brian VK5FMID; Ron VK3AFW; Warren VK3BYD; David VK5NQP; Nick VK3ANL; Allen VK3HRA; Joe VK3YSP; Adam VK2YK; Wolf VK5WF; Gerard VK2IO; Kevin VK3VEK; John VK5FTCT; Larry VK5LY; Mark VK3PI/p; Alex VK3AMX; ANdrew VK2UH; Jeff VK2XD; Ed VK2JI/p (SOTA); John VK5DJ; Andrew VK3ARR; Matt VK5WMT; Richard V5ZRY; Ian VK5CZ; Tom VK5EE; and Stu VK5STU.
The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-
Ed VK2JI/p (SOTA); Paul VK2KTT; Marc VK3OHM; KI4MNZ; John VK6NU; Mike VK6MB; Max IK1GPG; Ernie VK3DET; Manuel EA2DT; Adam VK2YK; Paul VK2HDX; Gerard VK2JNG/p; Roger VK2GHB; Brian VK2UT; ZL1SLO; Andrew VK1NAM/p (SOTA); Clay I4LEC; Joe HL5KY; Iva VK4HG; Kevin VK6GT; Phil VK5SRP; and Jim JA2NVM.