Mount Bryan, VK5/ SE-001

On Wednesday afternoon, my wife Marija and I headed north after finishing work in the city of Adelaide.  Our destination was Burra, about 160 km north of Adelaide, in the Mid North of South Australia.  Our intention was to activate Mount Bryan summit for the UTC rollover for the New Year.  In the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program, activators are awarded points for activating a summit every calendar year.  So this was a unique opportunity to get to the top of Mount Bryan and be awarded the 8 SOTA activator points for 2014, and then a further 8 activator points for 2015, when the new UTC day ticked over (10.30 a.m. South Australian local time).

Screenshot 2015-01-03 06.52.05

map courtesy of

Our accomodation for the night was the Burra Hotel.  This little pub offers affordable accomodation.  Although not The Ritz, the room was clean and tidy, and the hotel staff were very friendly.  I stayed here back in 2013 when I last activated summits in the area.  After booking in, we had a walk around the Burra township, which is a pastoral centre and historic tourist town.  Burra actually commenced its life as a single company mining township, that by 1851 was a set of townships collectively known as ‘The Burra’.  The Burra mines supplied about 89 % of South Australia’s copper, and about 5 % of the world’s copper for about 15 years.


Unfortunately they were not serving meals at the Burra pub, so that night we had a meal at another one of the hotels in Burra, the Commercial Hotel.  The meal there was very well priced and my rump steak was cooked to perfection.  After our meal we retired to the main bar and chatted with some of the locals, whilst enjoying a few Bundy and cokes, and watching the 20-20 cricket at Adelaide Oval.  We were in bed before midnight.  Maybe that is a sign of us getting old.  God help me when I’m 60!


For more information on Burra, please have a look at ‘The History of Burra’ website at…..

Back to some info on the Mount Bryan summit.  Mount Bryan is 933 metres ASL and is worth 8 SOTA points.  It is located in the South East Region of the South Australian SOTA Association.  Mount Bryan is the highest summit in that Region.  It has previously been activated by myself, Ian VK5CZ, John VK5BJE, and Bob VK5FO.

I last activated Mount Bryan summit in July 2013.  For information on that activation, please have a look at my previous post…..

The famous Heysen trail heads up to the summit from Mount Bryan East Road.  This is about a 2 hour walk.  And it was a hot day.  Armed with some prior information, and before heading north I contacted the Wildongoleechie Hotel at Hallett, and spoke to the owner, Marie.  Via Marie, I got in contact with the land owner of the property, on which the road leading to the top of the summit is situated on.  I subsequently contacted Tony and he confirmed that we could access the summit via his property.  Contact details for Tony can be found on the SOTA notes for VK5/ SE-001.

The Wildongoleechie Hotel is very unique and well worth a visit.  Here is a link to the Wildongoleechie Hotel website…..

After leaving Burra, Marija and I travelled north along the Barrier Highway, through the little township of Mount Bryan and then on to Hallett.  We then turned right onto North Terrace and then onto Mount Bryan East Road.  We travelled north along Mount Bryan East Road and reached the intersection with Scrub Road.  We took a sharp right to continue along Mount Bryan East Road for a number of km.  Rather than turning right onto the required road, Banbury Road, we continued along Mount Bryan East Road.  We were lost.  Oh, sorry Marija…I was lost!

As we travelled along Mount Bryan East Road, we encountered numerous Western Grey kangaroos.  So it was slow going.  And we also saw a cheeky fox on the road, who wasn’t keen to move.

Fortunately we came across a fantastic farmer, who gave us directions and pulled me out of my dilema and frustration.  So, please look out for Banbury Road which runs off Mount Bryan East Road.

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As you travel along Banbury Road you will see a gate on the southern side of the road, which warns that the land is private property.  Please do NOT enter the land unless you have the permission of the land owner.  We then followed this dirt track, up through some gates, to the summit.  The track leading to the summit is not passable for a conventional vehicle.  A 4WD vehicle is definitely required as there are lots of washaways.

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The very first European to sight what is now known as Mount Bryan was the explorer, Edward John Eyre (1815-1901).  He explored the area in July 1839.


Above- Edward John Eyre.  Courtesy of

The area was next explored in December 1839, by Lieutenant-Colonel George Gawler (1795-1869) the second Governor of S.A. & Captain Charles Sturt (1795-1869), and their party.  This included a young man called Henry Bryan, in whose honour, Gawler named the summit.

NPG 3302,Charles Sturt,replica by John Michael Crossland     George_Gawler

Above- Cptn Charles Sturt & Gov Gawler.  Courtesy of 

In 1842, the Colonial Surveyor, Lieutenant Edward Frome (1802-1890) , further explored the area and he erected a cairn on the summit.  He is reported to have been the first European to have climbed the summit.   Frome later visited the area, at which time he climbed the summit and made a number of sketches.


Above- Edward Frome.  Courtesy of

Below is a sketch of Mount Bryan by Frome.

Screenshot 2015-01-03 12.24.44

courtesy of

It never ceases to amaze me, the stupidty of some people and organisations.  And here is another very sad example.  Mount Bryan summit later became a Government Water Reserve and in 1970, the S.A. Water Authority demolished Frome’s historic cairn, to make way for other engineering works.  A piece of South Australia’s history gone forever!

But there are always saviours.  In 2002, Glen Tiver, erected the current cairn in memory of his forebears and early explorers.  Tiver’s forebears owned the property called ‘Rupera’, which encompassed Mount Bryan and its environs.

In December 1839, Governor Gawler and Captain Charles Sturt set out ‘to examine the land along the Murray river, with the hope of finding fertile country; and also to determine the capabilities of river and lake for inland navigation’.  We know a lot about this expedition due to the efforts of Sturt’s biographer, Beatrix Sturt, who was also Sturt’s daughter in law.  Sturt informed her directly re the expedition, and she also had access to all of his private papers.

The expediiton was first discussed by Gawler and Sturt in November 1839.  They proposed to cross Lake Alexandrina from Currency Creek, near the present town of Goolwa.  They were to proceed up the Murray to the Great Bend, and then return overland to Adelaide.  The expedition party consisted of Governor Gawler, his 15 year old daughter Julia, Captain Charles Sturt and his wife Charlotte, Eliza Arbuckle who was Charlotte Sturt’s maid servant, Henry Inman Superintendent of Police, Henry Bryan a house guest of Gawler, WIlliam Pullen the Colonial Marine Surveyor, Arthur Gell who was Gawler’s Personal Secretary, John Craig Aide to Gawler, Isaac Hearnshaw Aide to Gawler, and local aboriginal interpreters.  

Screenshot 2015-01-03 08.09.21

Above:- Map of Gov Gawler’s expedition to Mount Bryan in 1839.  Courtesy of

The Party set off from near present day Goolwa, and sailed in 4 little boats across Lake Alexandrina from Currency Creek, and proceeded up the Murray River to current day Morgan.  After their arrival on Tuesday, the 10th December, at what was described as the ‘Great bend’ in the river at Morgan, they set up camp at the entrance of Bryan (Burra) Creek.  The following day on Wednesday the 11th December, Gawler, Sturt, Inman, Craig, and Bryan, set off on horseback with a week’s provisions and 2 barrels of water to explore the country.

It was at approximately 12 noon on the 11th December, 1839, on a small hill to the north east of the campsite, that Gawler saw a mountain in the distance and immediately named it Mount Bryan after his young friend, Henry Bryan.

However by the first night, when about ’32 miles’ from the river, it was discovered that the barrels had leaked and much of the water had evaporated in the extreme heat.

A second day of extreme weather left barely a trace of water in the barrels and the situation was critical.  Smoke was seen in the vicinity of Mount Bryan and the Party assumed that this indicated the presence of aboriginals, and thus water.  Gawler later stated:-

“While contemplating the scene about us, smokes were observed to arise on Mount Bryan.  Smokes indicate Natives, and Natives indicate the neighbourhood of water.  Our casks had leaked, the bung had escaped from one of them, and the consequence was that our stock of water was just exhausted…..On the following morning, leaving Captain Sturt and Mr H Bryan in charge of our provisions and packhorses, I and Mr Inman set out in search of the Natives and water, but after toiling over the spurs and through the gullies during the morning of another hot day we could not find either.  We found an extinguished Native fire and a ruined Native hut, but that was all, and we returned to the party to say that no alternative remained but to press through the night for our station on the Murray….”

It was at this time that Sturt bled one of the remaining three horses and all partook in this desperate attempt at survival.

On Friday the 13th of December, with all of their water gone and the temperatures rising, Sturt recommended that Gawler and Bryan set off on the strongest horses to seek help.  They were about ’65 miles’ (110 kms) from the camp on the river.  It was organised that Sturt, Inman, and Craig would follow a short time later.

On Saturday the 14th of December, Gawler and his horse could not proceed any further due to the heat and lack of water.  Gawler and Bryan then swapped horses so that Bryan could ride the Governor’s horse slowly for the remaining ’12 miles’ to the camp, and Gawler would ride ahead.

By Sunday the 15th December, Gawler had reached the camp, however he had lost sight of Bryan at this time.  He was followed soon after by Sturt, Inman and Craig.  But there was no sign of Byran.

On Monday the 16th with the assistance of a local aboriginal, the group tracked the hoof prints of Bryan’s horse, about ‘five miles’ through the bush.  They located Bryan’s blankets, coat, and stockings, and Gawler’s saddle, bridle, and telescope.  On a scrap piece of paper, dated 9 p.m. Sunday 15th, Bryan had written that he ‘had been detained by exhaustion‘ but was going to the south-southeast.

Screenshot 2015-01-03 12.35.22

Above – Henry Bryan’s letter.  Courtesy of

Beatrice Sturt wrote:-

A second careful search at this spot disclosed the tree to which he had tethered his horse.  The animal on escaping had taken a course due west to the hills with his rope trailing after him, and he eventually found his way back to Adelaide.  But not search could disclose even to a native’s piercing eye any footprint or other mark in the direction indicated.  Repeated efforts were made; they examined every bush, fired at intervals, constantly shouted; but to no purpose, nor was any further trace of ‘Bryan’ ever found”.

Bryan’s horse amazing eventually made its way back to Adelaide, with its hoofs grown to enormous lengths.  And as for Bryan, he was never seen again, and has not been declared missing or presumed dead, nor has a death certificate been issued.

Gawler later wrote:-

“I never had so deep a regard for any young man that I had known for the same length of time, his character, looking at it with the severity of a Christian eye, was more faultless that that of any other individual of the same age”.

Marija and I set up the gear at the trig point.  Or what is left of the trig point.  There are now just three 1.5 metre high metal poles, painted bright blue.  I used one of the poles to secure my 7 metre squid pole to, with the use of a few octopus straps.  For this activation I used my Yaesu FT-857d, and ran 30 watts.  The antenna was the 40m/20m linked dipole.

Prior to calling CQ, I had a look around the 40m band, and worked a few Summit to Summit stations including Compton VK2HRX on VK2/ CT-012, Glenn VK3YY on Spjon Kopje VK3/ VT-040, and Marshall VK3MRG on Briarty Hill VK3/ VC-029.  I also tracked down John VK5BJE who was portable in the Brisbane Ranges National Park in Victoria.

I then proppped on 7.085 and called CQ and this was answered by Tom VK5FTRG in Millicent, and then Rob VK3EK who was portable on Fainting Ridge, VK3/ VG-114.  I went on to have 69 QSOs prior to the UTC rollover.  This included 21 Summit to Summit contacts before the UTC rollover.

My first contact after the UTC rollover was with Larry VK5LY in The Riverland.  This was followed by Steve VK5SFA, and then Peter VK3PF who was portable on SOTA peak VK3/ VG-001.  I went on to work a total of 72 stations after the UTC rollover.  This included 26 Summit to Summit contacts.

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During this activation I worked a total of 23 unique summits in VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5, VK6, & VK7:-

  1. VK1/ AC-026, Booroomba Rocks
  2. VK2/ CT-012
  3. VK2/ HU-020
  4. VK2/ HU-093, Mount Elliott
  5. VK2/ RI-004, Mount Jergyle
  6. VK2/ SM-036
  7. VK2/ SM-049, Mount Tumanang
  8. VK2/ SM-053
  9. VK2/ ST-022 Wyanbene Caves Mountain
  10. VK2/ ST-036, Spring Hill
  11. VK3/ VC-002, Mount Donna Buang
  12. VK3/ VC-025, Mount Dandenong
  13. VK3/ VC-029, Briarty Hill
  14. VK3/ VG-001, Mount Cope
  15. VK3/ VG-114, Fainting Range
  16. VK3/ VN-012, Mount Despair
  17. VK3/ VN-029 Federation Range
  18. VK3/ VT-040, Spion Kophe
  19. VK5/ NE-058, Mount Ngadjuri
  20. VK5/ SE-013, Mount Gawler
  21. VK6/ SW-001, Bluff Knoll
  22. VK6/ SW-036, Mount Dale
  23. VK7/ SC-001

The following activators were worked:-

  1. Paul VK1ATP/p
  2. Andrew VK1DA/2
  3. Ian VK1DI/2
  4. Mark VK1EM/2
  5. Matt VK1MA/2
  6. Andrew VK1NAM/2
  7. David VK2CDS/p
  8. Compton VK2HRX/p
  9. Bernard VK2IB/p
  10. Gerard VK2IO/p
  11. Andrew VK2MWP/p
  12. Nick VK3ANL/p
  13. Andrew VK3ARR/p
  14. Andrew VK3BQ/2
  15. Tony VK3CAT/p
  16. Rob VK3EK/p
  17. Rik VK3EQ/7
  18. Allen VK3HRA/p
  19. Marshall VK3MRG/p
  20. Peter VK3PF/p
  21. Glenn VK3YY/p
  22. Ian VK5CZ/p
  23. Bob VK5FO/p
  24. Anthony VK6MAC/p
  25. Matt VK6QS/p

After a total of 2 & 1/2 hours on the summit, I had a total of 146 contacts in the log on 40m ssb and 20m ssb.  I had 69 contacts before the UTC rollover and then a further 72 contacts after the UTC rollover.  I also managed a total of 47 Summit to Summit contacts, with a total of 260 S2S points.  Of the 18 alerts on SOTAWatch for pre UTC rollover, I managed to make contact with 13.  And there were 5 alerts for activations after the UTC rollover.  I managed to work 3 of those.  There were many other activators who did not place an alert on SOTAWatch, that I was fortunate enough to get in the log.

This activation was a lot of fun and I will certainly try to activate another summit this year for the New Year rollover.  After getting down from Mount Bryan, we headed for the WIldongoleechie Hotel, but sadly it was closed.  So instead, we travelled back into Burra and had a feed at the Royal Exchange Hotel.  Again, this was an excellent meal at a very good price.

The following stations were worked before the UTC rollover:-

Screenshot 2015-01-02 23.49.21

The following stations were worked after the UTC rollover:-

Screenshot 2015-01-03 00.30.52

Below is a video of the activation…..


<;, viewed 3rd December 2015

Discover Murray, <;, viewed 3rd December 2015.

Wikipedia, <,_South_Australia&gt;, viewed 3rd December 2015

2 thoughts on “Mount Bryan, VK5/ SE-001

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