Early this morning I headed off to Crafers and met up with John VK5BJE. John and I had organised an introduction day to SOTA & the Parks awards, with a planned SOTA activation at Mount Lofty, followed by a parks activation at Belair National Park. The day was targeting those amateurs who had an interest in SOTA & parks activations, but for whatever reason had not previously completed an activation, or for those that wanted to pick up a few more operating tips.
We met at the Crafers bus interchange just before 8.00 a.m. and we were soon joined by a group of keen amateurs. It was a very chilly morning, but the weather gods were smiling down on us, as the heavy rain from Saturday had disappeared and although the sky was grey and overcast, the weather was generally fine. (As I type this, it has recommenced raining here at Mount Barker, so we were very lucky!). I was also moving a bit slow after my neighbour’s 50th birthday party last night and the consumption of a little too much red wine.
John and I spoke briefly to the group about our respective introductions to SOTA and parks activities, and this was followed by some tips on portable operation. Of the group, about 50 % had never conducted a SOTA or parks activation, so John and I warned them about pile up management and general operating tips.
At 8.30 a.m. we headed off in convoy, just up the road, to Mount Lofty summit, VK5/ SE-005 which is also located within the Cleland Conservation Park. So apart from being a SOTA peak, it also qualifies for the VK5 Parks award. We parked our cars just inside the main gate to the Mount Lofty summit, and then walked a few hundred metres down a track through the scrub, which leads out to the east. This track leads to the spot where John and I have operated from previously. It is away from the crowds at the obelisk and the restaurant, but is well within the activation zone. So for those that showed a willingness to get on air, we did the ‘walk out, walk back in method’. We walked out of the activation zone and then back in, after walking downhill for about 600 metres.
Because we had a number of willing hams, lugging gear was not a problem. So we decided to share the load, and to take a few of the comforts from home, including a small fold up table and chair. Our operating equipment was a Yaesu FT817nd, 5 watts output and a 40m / 20 m linked dipole, supported on a 7 metre squid pole. The transceiver was powered by small SLAB batteries.
First in the ‘hot seat’ was Patrick VK5MPJ, who is one of the younger members of the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Society. Well, Patrick didn’t really volunteer….it was more a case of Patrick being pushed into the operators chair. Conditions appeared to be very good, and as we warned, Patrick was soon greeted with a pile up and had his first SOTA activation under his belt.
Tony VK5FTVR was next up. Tony is recently licenced and is enjoying retirement. This was Tony’s first ever SOTA and parks activation, and he performed admirably and also qualified the summit. Next up was David VK5NQP with his mascot, a little goat, which can be seen in the photographs below. David has activated parks previously, but I believe this was his first ever SOTA activation. Well done David.
Mark VK5FMRK then followed. Again, Mark is just recently licenced, and considering he had the preying eyes of all his peers on his on air performance, Mark did a great job and qualified the summit. Chris VK4FR/5 then hopped in the driver’s seat, followed by Graham VK5GW. This was the first SOTA activation for both Chris and Graham. I think they may have been bitten by the bug. Keith VK5OQ then qualified the summit. You may recall Keith’s recent article in AR magazine re activating SOTA peaks in the Falls Creek area.
Not sure how it happened, but the boys encouraged me to warm up the operator’s chair for a short time, as did John VK5BJE, and Nigel VK5NIG. And our final SOTA activator was Steve VK5AIM. Again, this was Steve’s very first SOTA activation, although he has been active in the VK5 Parks Award. Steve won the ‘biggest mascot of the day’ award with his kangaroo which can also be seen in the photographs below.
After completing our activation of Mount Lofty just after 11.00 a.m. local time we headed over to the Belair National Park, which was just a short 10 minute drive to the south. We entered the park via Sheaok Road, and set up in a little clearing, about 500 metres down the track off Sheaok Road. Belair National Park qualifies for both the VK5 National & Conservation Parks award, and the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.
Again we set up the 40 m / 20 m linked dipole and initially used John’s Yaesu FT857 on the 10 watt setting. John displayed to the guys his LIFePO4 battery with powered the radio, and passed on some tips re the various batteries. We then moved to the Yaesu FT-450 and 40-50 watts, with the transceiver being powered by a 44 amp hour power pack. The extra power made our signal just that little bit more readable considering that it was now lunch time, and the 40 m band was going to sleep.
Again Patrick was first up in the ‘hot seat’, followed by Mark VK5FMRK, then Tony VK5FTVR, Keith VK5OQ, and Steve VK5AIM. A few of the guys managed park to park contacts with Bob VK5FO who was activating Morialta Conservation Park, and David VK5NQP who was activating Charleston Conservation Park. As Bob and David had activated parks before, they decided after Mount Lofty, to head of to Montacute and Charleston to give the new guys an opportunity of having a ‘park to park’ contact for the VK5 Parks award.
The following amateurs took part…..
- Tony VK5FTVR
- Mark VK5FMRK
- Victor VK5KAB
- Chris VK4FR/5
- Graham VK5GW
- David VK5NQP
- Patrick VK5MPJ and his Dad
- Bob VK5FO
- Ray VK5RR
- Steve VK5AIM
- Keith VK5OQ
- Nigel VK5NIG
Many thanks to John VK5BJE for helping me out with the day. And also thanks to Nigel VK5NIG @ Mr Mount Gawler, for helping out at Mount Lofty. A lot of the guys walked away from the day, amazed with what 5 watts and a simple little antenna can achieve.
I would also like to say thank you to the many patient SOTA chasers and park hunters that called the activators today. It was a big learning curve for many of the activators, and I would imagine it would not be easy performing to a crowd behind the mic.
Also thanks to the fellas who turned up this morning to brave the elements. It was a pretty chilly day, but fortunately we dodged the rain which is the most important thing. From feedback provided, I think everyone enjoyed themselves.
We are planning on running a similar day in Spring later in the year, so we hope to see some new faces at the next activation day. I think we all learned today, that there are never ‘silly questions’ and it is all about giving it a go and learning from each other.