VK5 SOTA and Parks symposium

On Sunday 9th March, 2014, the inaugural VK5 SOTA & Parks symposium was held at the Guides Hall at the location of the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Club (AHARS) clubrooms at Blackwood.  A total of 32 people attended the symposium.  The pleasing aspect was that the majority of those attending had never activated a SOTA peak nor a National or Conservation Park.


The day kicked off at 9.00 a.m. with a welcome by Tony VK5KAT, the President of AHARS.  The four pre morning tea presentations were as follows…..

  • An overview of SOTA’s progress in VK5 & VK overall – Ian VK5CZ
  • Tips for activators/hunters of the VK5 Parks Award – Larry VK5LY
  • Overview of World Wide Flora & Fauna (WWFF) – Paul VK5PAS
  • Using lithium phosphate chemistry batteries:a beginners perspective – John VK5BJE


We enjoyed a morning tea break, and then further 5 presentations as follows…..

  • The failed attempts at an end fed wire antenna – Ian VK5CZ
  • SOTA for the beginner – Stu VK5STU
  • Spotting & alert programs – Nigel VK5NIG
  • What is prominence ? – Paul, VK5PAS
  • SOTA & Parks transceivers – John VK5BJE


Following the presentations, there was a 20 minute question and answer session, and this was followed by the closure of the symposium by Tony VK5KAT.  We all then enjoyed a BBQ, kindly cooked by David VK5KC and Nigel VK5NIG.  Great job fellas.


Attendees included the following…..

  1. Chris VK4FR/5
  2. David VK5AAH
  3. Steve VK5AIM
  4. John VK5BJE
  5. Doc VK5BUG
  6. Ian VK5CZ
  7. Andrew VK5CV
  8. John VK5EMI
  9. Charles VK5FBAC
  10. Rick VK5FGFK
  11. Louis VK5FLY
  12. Rex VK5FRCP
  13. Norm VK5GI
  14. Greg VK5GJ
  15. Graham VK5GW
  16. Gordon VK5GY
  17. Stef VK5HSX
  18. Tony VK5KAT
  19. David VK5KC
  20. Les VK5KLD
  21. Craig VK5LI
  22. David VK5LSB
  23. Larry VK5LY
  24. Nigel VK5NIG
  25. Roy VK5NRG
  26. Paul VK5PAS
  27. Paul VK5PH
  28. Stu VK5STU
  29. Trevor VK5TW
  30. Arno VK5ZAR
  31. Ian VK5ZIM
  32. Gerard VK5ZQV

I would like to say THANKYOU to the following, for helping me in preparing this successful day…..

  • David VK5KC & Nigel VK5NIG (BBQ)
  • David VK5KC & Roy VK5NRG & others (for setting up the hall).
  • the presenters…Ian VK5CZ, Nigel VK5NIG, Stu VK5STU, Larry VK5LY, & John VK5BJE.
  • Special thanks to Ian VK5CZ for travelling from Clare, and Larry VK5LY for travelling from Renmark.
  • John VK5EMI for the photographs.
  • My wife Marija, for shopping for morning tea & the BBQ.

And thank you to everyone that attended.  There was so much interest, that this is going to become an annual event.  Next year, we will most likely hold talks in both the AHARS clubrooms & the Guides Hall.  In the AHARS clubrooms we will have talks on the very basics of SOTA and the Parks Awards (for the beginners), and in the Guides Hall, we will have more specific presentations on a variety of topics.

Mount Lofty VK5/ SE-005 and Cleland CP

After our little activation at the Belair National Park, Larry VK5LY and I headed over to the nearby Mount Lofty summit.  I have activated Mt Lofty many times before as it is very close to my home, but this was Larry’s first time to Mt Lofty, which is also located within the Cleland Conservation Park.  So this was a ‘double whammy’ activation for both SOTA & the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award.

Mount Lofty is 727 metres ASL and is worth 4 SOTA points.  Mount Lofty summit is located in the Mount Lofty Ranges ‘Adelaide Hills’, and is just a 20 minute drive from the city of Adelaide.  Each year more than 350,000 people visit the summit to enjoy the breathtaking and panoramic views of the city of Adelaide.  There is a restaurant and a cafe at the summit, and also a visitor information centre.


Mount Lofty was first climbed by a European, when in April 1831, explorer Collet Barker climbed the peak.  This was almost seven years before the city of Adelaide was settled. The summit was named by the famous explorer, Matthew Flinders, on the 23rd February 1802, during his circumnavigation of Australia.


View of the city of Adelaide from the summit (Photo courtesy of WIkipedia).


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

We set up in my favourite spot on the eastern side of the summit, away from all the tourists at the restaurant and the lookout.  It can be really busy there.  The advantage of the eastern side of the summit is that there is also a lot of shade under the tall gum trees.  And it was a warm afternoon, with the temperature reaching 35 degrees C, and any shade was appreciated.


We set up my 40m/20m linked dipole, inverted vee, using the 7 metre squid pole.  Larry and I brought 2 radios with us for this activation.  The Yaesu FT-817nd for the local contacts on 40m (running QRP 5 watts), and the bigger Yaesu FT-450 with a bit more power (running 30 watts), for trying our luck on 20m with the DX.  But with the FT-450, also came the heavier load.  Because this is an easy summit, it was not so taxing, but still involved lugging the extra kg’s into the activation zone.  Nethermind, both Larry and I agreed that we needed the exercise.

 IMGA0034_2      IMGA0038_2

Larry started off on 40m on 7.090, and was soon welcomed with a pile up.  Larry’s first contact was with Richard VK5ZRY who was still portable in the Ramsay-Way Conservation Park on the Yorke Peninsula.  This was a great start to get a ‘park to park’ contact for the VK5 Parks Award.  Many of the ‘normal suspects’ called in from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK5, to say ‘g’day’ to Larry.  Conditions were very good, with excellent signals from all parts of the country.

We also worked a Summit to Summit with Doug VK2FMIA, who was portable on VK2/ NT-008.  This is an un named summit in the Northern Tabelands region of New South Wales.  The summit is 1,456 metres and is worth 10 SOTA points.  Doug (who is a very keen Parks activator) had a very nice 5/6 signal coming in to Mount Lofty.


Larry’s backside was starting to get numb, and he wanted to stretch his legs.  So this was a good opportunity for us to swap operators, and to venture over to 20m.  We saw a SOTAWatch spot for Klaus DF2GN, who was portable on a summit in Germany.  In fact Klaus was sitting on the top of Rainen DM/BW-042.  Both Larry and I worked Klaus (a genuine 5/9 both ways).  Klaus’ signal was very strong all the way from Germany to the Adelaide Hills.  This was Larry’s first ever DX summit to summit.  I also worked Klaus and this was another first….my first ever DX summit to summit.  Larry and I were both very excited about this contact.

Rainen is 1,006 metres above sea level and is worth 10 SOTA points.  It is located in the Bathe Wuerttemberg region of the Low Mountains German Association.  It is near the little village of Schomberg.


We then chose a quiet spot on 20m and started to call CQ.  I say ‘quiet’, but it didn’t stay like that for long.  The 20m band was very busy, and it was only within a minute or 2, and we were getting QRM from nearby stations.  However, not much we could do, and we continued to battle on calling CQ.  We soon got a pile up going from Europe & the UK and worked stations in England, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Slovak Republic, and the Czech Republic.  We were also called by Gerard VK2IO who was mobile with a very strong 5/9 signal.  Other VK’s to call in included Matt VK2DAG, Andrew VK2UH, and John VK6NU in Western Australia.  It is always nice to get a VK6 in the log, because they are a long way away from the rest of Australia.  For anyone reading this outside of Australia, it is nearly 4,000 km from Perth in the west, to Sydney in the east.


Larry and I then saw a spot for Mike 2E0YYY, who was portable on Shining Tor G/SP-004 (559m ASL & 2 SOTA points).  Mike was my very first ever SOTA contact a few years ago, so I was very keen to work Mike.  I had spoken to Mike a number of times whilst he was on a summit.  But that was while I was at home.  Never whilst I was sitting on the top of a summit.

3 peaks04

Photo courtesy of http://www.walkthehills.co.uk

So Larry and I headed off to 14.328 and there was Mike, with a nice 5/6 signal.  We gave him a call and got through first time, with a 5/5 signal report being returned by Mike.

Whilst operating we had a few interested onlookers.  Some of those were even brave enough to approach us, to find out what we were up to.  This included a couple of British tourists who were extremely interested to hear that we were working all the way back to their homeland.  We also had a young lady out bushwalking with her children, and they were very interested in what these 2 strange guys were doing in the bush with a squid pole and talking strange lingo.  It is always pleasing to have a chat to people and passing on information to them on this unique and very interesting hobby.

After working Mike 2E0YYY, we ventured to 14.323 and called CQ again, working a further 12 DX stations in the USA, England, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands.  And not forgetting Paul VK2KTT who was a very strong signal.

It was starting to get a bit late, heading towards 7.00 p.m. local time, and we had strict orders from our wives to be home by 7.30 p.m. for dinner.  Yes, we are good husbands !!  It was very frustrating, because we still had European & UK stations calling us.  But it was time to pack up and head home to the girls, a few bottles of red, and home made lasagne.

Larry and I had a total of 55 QSO’s in the log, including 2 S2S DX, and 31 DX contacts into the USA, Europe, & UK.

The following stations were worked by Larry:-

Richard VK5ZRY/p; Peter VK5KPR; Ian VK5CZ; Roger VK4YB; Glenn VK3YY; Adam VK2YK; Steve VK3FSWB; Rod VK2TWR; Tony VK3CAT; Peter VK3PF; Peter VK3FPSR; Marshall VK3MRG; Matt VK2DAG; Matt VK1MA; John VK2YW; Andrew VK2UH; Ian VK1DI; Doug VK2FMIA/p (summit to summit); DF2GN/p (summit to summit); and Mike 2E0YYY/p (summit to summit)

The following stations were worked by me:-


Belair NP with Larry

On Sunday, 9th March 2014, the first VK5 SOTA & Parks symposium was held at the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Society clubrooms.  And Larry VK5LY from Renmark in the Riverland, was one of the guest speakers.  So it had been arranged that Larry and his lovely wife Di, would be guests at our house on Saturday & Sunday nights.

Larry & Di arrived at home on Saturday afternoon, and while the girls went shopping, Larry & I headed back out again to Belair National Park (I had been there earlier in the day).  Larry had not activated this park before and was looking to qualify it for both the VK5 Parks Award and for WWFF.

This time I headed for Sheoak Road at Crafers, which is a higher part of park, and we entered the park at Waverley Lodge.  Larry and I walked down the track a short distance and set up in the bush under some large gum trees.  It was a warm day, approaching 35 degrees C.  We used my 40m/20m linked dipole and Yaesu FT-817 on the 5 watt setting.


Because I had activated the park earlier in the day, I sat back and relaxed in the deck chair in the shade, while Larry played on the radio.  Larry’s first contact with with Gerry VK5NMG at beautiful Moonta Bay.  This was followed by Richard VK5ZRY near Port Vincent on the Yorke Peninsula.  Richard told us that he would head over to the Ramsay-Way Conservation Park, just a short distance from home and give us a call.  In fact, Richard advised that he had previously owned the land that this Conservation Park is located on, but had sold it to the Government to be declared as a CP.

I found this to be really interesting, with Richard explaining to us some history of the park.  I had activated Ramsay-Way CP last year for the VK5 Parks anniversary weekend.


Again, the band seemed to be in very good shape, but it was hard going to fill out the log with very little activity.  Larry & I spent about an hour in the park and managed to get 11 contacts.  Anyway, we were happy with this.  We had achieved a park to Park with Richard, and Larry had got his quota of 10 QSO’s, so he had qualified the park for the VKFF award.  We decided to head over to nearby Mount Lofty summit and Cleland Conservation Park.

The following stations were worked:-

Gerry VK5NMG; Richard VK5ZRY; Ian VK5IS; David VK5LSB; David VK5KC; Peter VK5KPR; Andy VK5LA; Ron VK5VH; Richard Vk5ZRY/p; and Nigel VK5NIG.

Belair National Park

On Saturday morning, 8th March, 2014, I headed over to the Belair National Park, to do an activation for both the VK5 Parks Award and WWFF.  This was my first activation of Belair NP for 2014, so it was 2 extra activator points for the VK5 Parks Award.  And I needed to try to get a few more QSO’s to head towards 44 for the global WWFF award.

I have activated Belair NP previously and have talked about this beautiful park in other posts.  But very briefly, it is located about 13 km south east of Adelaide and is about 835 hectares in size.  Belair NP was the first dedicated National Park in South Australia, having been established in 1891.  About 250,000 visitors enjoy the park each year.

map adelaide

My ever faithful wife Marija came along, who enjoyed a bush walk through the park, whilst I played on the radio.  I set up near Pines Oval 2 just off Pines Oval Road.  Marija became all sentimental, because this is where we had our engagement party years ago.  Plenty of fond memories and lots of stories from that day which probably should not be mentioned here !

00Belair copy

I set up my 40m/20m linked dipole on the top of the 7m squid pole, and for this activation I used by Yaesu FT-450, and ran 30 watts.

Band conditions seemed extremely good, however, there were not many stations on the 40m band at all.  My first contact was with Rod VK2ZRD who had a very strong 5/8 signal, with a 5/8 coming back to me.  This was followed by one of the regulars, Col VK5HCF down in Mount Gambier (5/9 both ways).  And then Nick VK3ANL called in with his QRP 5 watts with a nice 5/8 signal.  I also worked Ian VK3VIN, and David VK5NQP.  But the surprise call came from Neil VK8ZCU who was mobile 30 km south of Alice Springs with a very nice 5/7 signal from his mobile.


I kept calling CQ for a while but there were no takers, so I headed down to the Riverland Radio Group Net where I spoke with Ron VK5BRL and a further 7 stations, including Col VK5FCDL/2.

After the UTC rollover I headed to 7.095 and called CQ and was called by Roy (VK5NRG) who was operating VK5BAR at the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Society clubrooms at nearby Blackwood.  This was followed by some of the regular Park Hunters including Nev VK5WG, Tim VK5AV, Bernard VK3AMB/m, and Don VK5NFB.  New to the park’s log was Murray VK5BWA.


Things really slowed down on 40m, so I headed over to 20m and called CQ for about 5 minutes but there were absolutely no takers.  I think this is due to the fact that we have no audible alert system for the parks, like SOTAGoat and Rucksack Radio.  This is something we really need to work on.  So I tuned across the band and heard quite a few USA guys but their signals were down a bit so I didn’t bother calling.  But I did find John VK5TD calling CQ who was incredibly strong, so I had a chat with him.  I then worked felix VK4FUQ in Ingham in Queensland with a beautiful 5/9 signal, and then Ron VK6KRC who was a good 5/7 into Belair NP.

IMGA0023_2     IMGA0009_2

After about 90 minutes in the park, it was time to pack up.  I had a total of 24 QSO’s in the log.

The following stations were worked before the UTC rollover:-

Rod VK2ZRD; Col VK5HCF; Nick VK3ANL; Ian VK3VIN; Neil VK8ZCU/m; David VK5NQP; Ron VK5BRL; Grant VK5VGC; John VK5NJ; Dennis VK5LDM; Tim VK5AV; Daniel VK5DF; Col VK5FCDL/2; and Keith VK5ND.

The following stations were worked after the UTC rollover:-

Roy VK5BAR; Roy VK5NRG; Nev VK5WG; Tim VK5AV; Murray VK5BWA; Bernard VK3AMB/m; Don VK5NFB; John VK5TD; Felix VK4FUQ; and Ron VK6KRC.



National Parks South Australia, http://www.environment.sa.gov.au

Talk at Whyalla ARC

On Wednesday 26th February 2014 I headed up to Whyalla (about 400 km from home) to deliver a presentation on SOTA, the VK5 Parks Award, & WWFF to the gents from the Whyalla Amateur Radio Club and a few members  who had made the journey from Port Augusta.


So after work on Wednesday I headed down to the airport and flew up to Whyalla where I was met by my brother in law, who then dropped me off at my mother in law’s house.  They both live in Whyalla, which is where my wife Marija was born.

After a hearty Crotian meal (I think I put on an extra 5 kg), I headed to the meeting which was attended by a small but very keen group of amateurs.  The talk was split into 2 sections.  The first was on SOTA, and then after some coffee and cake, I spoke about the VK5 Parks Award and the World Wide Flora & Fauna program.

Thanks to Alex, VK5ALX for asking me up.  Alex has told me that the talk has…..

stimulated a lot of interest in both activities.  I have heard a couple of members chatting away on 2 mfrs about setting up suitable portable kits so expect to hear them on air before long“.

That is great to hear.