My last Summits on the Air ((SOTA) activation for Friday 3rd October, 2014, was Brownhill Range, VK5/ SE-004, which is located about 212 km north of Adelaide, and about 5 km south east of Jamestown, in the Mid North of South Australia. I last activated this summit in July 2013, so another 4 points as a SOTA activator were there for the taking.
Access to the summit is via Seven Trees Road. Turn onto the Booborowie Road, from the Wilkins Highway (Jamestown to Hallet Road). Travel about 5 km south along the Booborowie Road and you will see The Willows Road, on your right. Travel west along The Willows Road until you reach the T junction with Seven Trees Road. Turn left onto Seven Trees Road. Diagonally opposite the power plant, you will see some double gates with various signs on the gates including ‘Unauthorised access. Tresspassers will be prosecuted‘. This is the access point to the summit. The summit is located on private property, so please obtain permission prior to access.
The Brownhill wind farm consists of 45 Suzlon S88 turbines each of a rated 2.1 megawatt (MW) for a total of around 95 MW. It is adjacent to an existing 180 MW gas fired peaking power plant. The wind farm construction was carried out by Suzlon Energy Australia Pty. Ltd. This site utilises an innovative rock anchor solution to support the turbines using only one third of the concrete and reinforcement required in traditional foundations.
I travelled up the dirt road towards the top of the hills, through some gates, and then south along the ridge line to reach the remnants of the trig point. If you do access this summit, please remember to shut the gates, as cattle are kept in the paddocks amongst the wind turbines. The trig point now consists of three blue painted poles set amongst a clump of moss rocks. The views from here are truly grand, with a 360 degree panorama of the surrounding countryside. To adhere to the ‘activation zone’ rule for SOTA, I parked my car down the hill and walked up to the trig point.
Much to my displeasure, the trig point was absolutely alive with flies and bugs. Not really sure why. I guess they just wanted to call it home for the afternoon, and join me in a SOTA activation. Even the ‘Aerogard’ didn’t keep them away! The photo below is looking south east from the summit, and you can clearly see the very active flies and bugs, which were relentless!
I ran the little Yaesu FT-817nd again for this operation, running just QRP, 5 watts. My antenna was the Band Hopper 20m/40m linked dipole which I supported on the 7 metre squid pole. I used one of the trig point poles as an anchoring point for the squid pole, securing it with some octopus straps. Fortunately, the breeze had dropped and it was beautiful late afternoon on the summit. This was in stark contrast to my previous activation of this summit in July, 2013, when there was a howling westerly wind blowing.
One other thing different this time around, was that the noise floor was very low. Last time I activated this summit, there was a terrible squealing noise on the band, apparently generated by the wind turbines. But fortunately, the band was very quiet today.
Prior to calling CQ, I checked my phone and saw that Brian VK3MCD, was portable on SOTA peak, Mount Stanley, VK3/ VE-126, near Beechworth in north east Victoria. So I turned the radio on and tuned to 7.085 and there was Brian with a very nice 5/8 signal. After working Brian ‘summit to summit’, I tuned down to 7.080 and put out a CQ call and was greeted by Tony VK3CAT. This was followed by Larry VK5LY and my fourth qualifying contact was with Greg VK5ZGY who was mobile at Mount Gambier in the South East of South Australia.
The regular crowd of SOTA chasers then called in, from VK1, VK2, VK3, and VK5. Band conditions appeared to be quite good, with very good signals coming in locally from VK5, and from the eastern states. However, there didn’t seem to be the same number of SOTA chasers as normal. However, it was a weekday, and most people in Australia were either still at work or about to finish work.
After working a total of 21 stations on 40m SSB, I lowered the squid pole and removed the links from the dipole and then raised the squid pole back to its 7 metre limit. I was keeping a close eye on SOTAWatch on my iPhone and saw that there were a number of intended SOTA activations from the United Kingdom and Europe. So I was hoping for some ‘DX summit to summit’ contacts whilst I was on Brownhill Range.
One of those was Klaus DF2GN, who was portable on SOTA peak, Hohenkarpfen, DM/ BW-074. I saw Klaus had been spotted on 14.130, so I tuned down the band to that frequency and heard Klaus well, with a very good strong 5/8 signal. Klaus had posted that he was suffering from high VSWR when operating higher in the band, and thus the reason for being all the way down here. However, there was clearly no issue with Klaus’ antenna, as his signal was very strong. My only problem was, Klaus had a big pile up going, from both Europe and Australia. I called a number of times but just couldn’t break through the Australians calling him. After about 10 attempts, I heard Klaus come back to my call. Elation! Klaus gave me a 5/7 signal report, which I was very pleased with considering my 5 watts.
Hohenkarpfen summit is 912 metres above sea level, and is worth 10 points. It is an extinct volcano and is located near Spaichingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.
Image courtesy of http://www.panoramio.com
I then saw a spot for Barry, M0IML, who was portable on Dettling Hill, G/ SE-013. So I quickly tuned up to 14.327.5 and I was pleased to hear Barry coming through quite well, at about 5/4. Fortunately Barry was not quite as busy as Klaus, and it only took a few calls for Barry to respond with a 4/4 signal report for me. I was really excited…another ‘DX summit to summit’.
Dettling Hill is 200 metres above sea level and is worth 1 SOTA point. It forms part of the North Downs in Kent, a ridge of chalk hills. The summit is located north east of Maidstone, and is situated in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The name, taken from the village of Detling that sit at the foot of the hill, derives from Old English and means “hill at the settlement of the family of a man called Dyttel”.
Image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org
After working Barry I found a clear frequency on 14.295 and put out a CQ call. Much to my surprise, the first taker was Mikel EA2CW, who was portable on SOTA peak, Ganguren, EA2/ BI-055. Mikel was coming through at signal strength 5/5. Following Mikel, I received a call from Marcial, EA2BDS who was also on Ganguren, EA2/ BI-055.
Image courtesy of http://www.summitpost.org
A handful of stations followed on 14.295 including Viktor HA5LV, Paul VK2KTT, Dave VK4DD and Mike VK6MB. But I then saw a spot for Mike 2E0YYY who was portable on Shining Tor, G/ SP-004. So as it had gone a little quiet with callers, I quickly tuned to 14.285 and made contact with Mike who was a good 5/3 signal (5/3 received from Mike). Mike is the most prolific DX SOTA activator that I have worked.
Image courtesy of http://www.knowledge.me.uk
The SOTA goat app then bleated on my i-phone, alerting me to Allan, GW4VPX who was portage on Mynydd y Betws, GW/ SW-028, on 14.280. I put a few calls out to Allan before being answered with a 4/4 signal report. Alan was a good 5/3 signal coming in to Brownhill Range. Mynydd y Betws is 374 metres above sea level and is worth 1 SOTA point.
Image courtesy of en.wikepedia.com
I then went back to 14.295 and put out some CQ calls, and Adam VK2YK responded. This was followed by Hans OE7PHI. And then to my surprise I received a call from Martin OE5REO who was portable on SOTA peak, Grillenparz, OE/ OO-316. Although Martin was not strong, and was only 5/1, he was perfectly readable due to the very low noise floor on the summit. I received a 3/1 signal report from Martin. Now I was really excited. This was my 9th summit to summit contact for the activation, and my 7th DX summit to summit. Grillenparz is 842 metres above sea level, and is with 2 SOTA points. Martin was running just 10 watts into a linked dipole on a 6 metre mast.
Above: a previous activation at grillenparz by OE5REO. Image courtesy of http://oe5reo.blogspot.com.au
A number of DX stations followed from Austria and Germany. Sadly, an Italian station came up on 14.297 and was causing just too much QRM for me to continue on 14.295. So I tuned around the band and found another clear frequency on 14.191 and put out another CQ call, to be greeted by Albert S58AL. This was followed by a number of DX stations from Czech Republic, Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, and Sweden. All probably due to Albert’s efforts of placing me on the DX cluster. Many thanks Albert. There was also an original spot from OO2T (vanity call of ON5SWA). Thanks Francois ‘Swa’. Spots on the DX cluster are always extremely helpful.
I even got a call from my old mate Marnix, OP7M, who had seen me spotted on the DX cluster. I stayed with Marnix and his wife Martine, and son Goan, during my recent Europe trip. So it was a real pleasure to make contact with him. Particularly when conditions were so good. Marnix was an excellent 5/9 signal and with my tiny 5 watts I received a 5/7 signal report from Marnix.
One of the strongest signals of the afternoon was that of Steve, G0KIK. Steve had an excellent 5/9 plus signal coming in, and I received a 5/76 signal report. Steve also placed me on the DX cluster. Thanks Steve.
After the DX slowed down on 20m, I then went back to 40m and worked some of the stragglers, including Sam VK2AFA, Ian VK5CZ, Nigel VK5NIG and Rod VK5VRB.
So after 2 hours on Brownhill Range, it was time to head back to the hotel at Jamestown. I had a total of 57 contacts on 40m SSB and 20m SSB, including 9 summit to summit QSOs. I was very happy.
The following stations were worked:-
I have posted a short video on You Tube of the activation…..
Summits on the Air, 2014, viewed 7th October 2014, <http://www.sotadata.org.uk>
Wikipedia, 2014, viewed 7th October 2014, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallett_Wind_Farm>
Wikipedia, 2014, viewed 7th October 2014, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detling_Hill>