On Saturday afternoon (7th March 2015) I drove around the corner to the Mount Barker Caravan Park and met up with Tom VK5FTRG who was staying at the park for a few nights. Tom is from Millicent in the South East of South Australia and was in the area with his family. Tom got a ‘leave pass’ and we headed for nearby Mount Gawler VK5/ SE-013 so that Tom could undertake his very first SOTA activation.
Tom and I headed north through the Mount Lofty Ranges and into the recently bushfire devastated Sampson Flat region. A total of 38 houses were destroyed during this fire which raged for a number of days in early January 2015 (2nd January – 9th January). The fire blackened more than 12,500 hectares (31,000 acres). To give you an idea on the size of the fire, have a look at the image below. It is an overlay of the fire on the city of Adelaide. It really puts the size of this fire into perspective.
image courtesy of http://www.reddit.com/
And below is a video of the scar that this fire has left on the landscape.
The trig point for Mount Gawler is located on land owned by Noel and Anne, who have always kindly allowed amateurs access to their property. A few weeks after the fire I visited Noel and Anne to see how they were travelling. Fortunately their house was spared during the fire. At the time of my visit to Noel and Anne, I was very saddened to see the state of the area. What was once beautiful native forest, was gone, including the beautiful Mount Gawler Forest. But Tom and I were very pleased to see a lot of regrowth just a month or so later. There is a long way to go, but at least many of the gum trees were starting to show regrowth, and what was completely black parched land, was now starting to show some green.
I had phoned Noel, earlier in the day seeking approval to operate from the trig point. So when Tom and I arrived at Noel’s property, he had kindly left the gate open for us. As this is an easy summit to access, Tom and I employed the ‘walk out and walk back in’ method. We got all our gear together and then walked south down one of the gullies for a few hundred metres and then climbed back up hill again into the activation zone.
We then set up at the trig point, supporting the 7 metre squid pole in a squid pole holder with the assistance of an octopus strap. For this activation we ran my Yaesu Ft-857d and the 40m/20m linked dipole (inverted vee). For Tom, we obviously ran at 10 watts, and whilst I was on air I used just a little under 40 watts. To power the radio I used a LiFePo battery.
We made ourselves comfortable on some large moss rocks which are located at the trig point and Tom started calling CQ, after I had spotted him on SOTAWatch. It wasn’t long before Tom had his first SOTA pile up going. And I enjoyed sitting back watching Tom in action. The only time I picked up the mic was to get a Summit to Summit contact with Gerard VK2IO who was on top of Canoelands, VK2/ SY-001, just north of Sydney.
After Tom had played on 40m a bit, I put out a few quick calls on 40m and worked 7 stations in VK2, VK3, & VK4. We then lowered the squid pole and removed the links in the dipole, and then re-erected the squid pole. I was hoping to work a bit of DX and in particular some of the DX SOTA activators that were heading out that afternoon/evening. I tuned around the band and soon found Barry M0IML calling CQ from Cheriton Hill, G/ SE-015, which is located in southern England. Barry was an excellent signal, but unfortunately he was being knocked around by contesters. That weekend was the ARRL DX Contest. Netherless, Barry was an excellent 4/8.
I then worked Mike 2E0YYY who was portable on SOTA peak, Gun, G/ SP-013 in the Southern Pennines Region in England. Mike also had a very good signal. He was 5/7. Not quite as strong as Barry, but still a very good copy. The 20m band seemed to be in very good shape.
And my third DX Summit to Summit contact was with Tom M1EYP who was on top of The Cloud, G/ SP-015, also in the Southern Pennines Region of England. Tom also had a good strength 7 signal, but he too was being beaten up by the contesters, so I could only give him a 4/7.
I then went to 14.302 and called CQ and my first taker was Nigel VK5NIG, ‘Mr Mount Gawler’ himself. Nigel lives in relatively close proximity to the summit and is a regular activator of Mount Gawler. Nigel was kind enough to spot me and this resulted in a steady flow of callers from Europe, the United Kingdom, the USA, and Japan. All had excellent signals. I also managed my fourth Summit to Summit contact for this activation. This time with John VK6NU who was portable on Mount Randall, VK6/ SW-039, in the South West of Western Australia.
In about 30 minutes on 20m I managed a total of 38 contacts into VK2, VK5, VK6, USA, Japan, England, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, Russia, and Latvia. I was very happy, and handed the mic back to Tom, who worked a number of stations back on 40m. Whilst Tom was on air, I headed down and said hi to Noel.
Tom and I then enjoyed a quick snack on the summit and enjoyed a spectacular sunset, before packing up and heading off to the Bedford Hotel at Woodside where we took part in some liquid refreshment.
Tom worked a total of 30 stations on his very first SOTA activation.
I worked the following stations:-